Bacterial Clutch Denotes Design

The bacterial flagellum has amazed observers because of its intricate and minute design. It exhibits remarkable efficiency, construction, and function in the tiny cells where it serves as a motorized propeller, moving single cells almost frictionlessly through the fluids they live in.1

Researchers already knew that these molecular-sized motors have “gears” and are reversible, liquid-cooled, proton gradient-powered, precisely assembled, and well anchored, but investigator Daniel Kearns has discovered that the bacterial flagellar motor also has a clutch.2 This “clutch” protein disconnects the drive shaft (rotor) from the motor, so that the flagellum (propeller) hangs limply. This way, the bacteria do not have to constantly swim with their propellers stuck in “drive.” They can just idle in neutral and float. Professor Kearns remarked, “We think it's pretty cool that evolving bacteria and human engineers arrived at a similar solution to the same problem."3

Now that further research of flagellar motor operation has revealed an even more specific and precise design than we were initially aware of, an evolutionary explanation for its origin is even less credible.4 It’s absurd to attribute the kind of creative power and genius that must have been necessary to invent these tiny motors to mindless “evolving bacteria.”

As brilliant as many scientists are at unraveling mysteries about the intricate operations of natural systems, they seem inexplicably obtuse when they are investigating origins. Not only does the evidence fit better into a worldview that recognizes a Creator, but the Bible makes clear that this Creator is also our Redeemer.5


  1. Zyga, L. Microswimmer propels itself with near-zero friction. Posted June 4, 2007, accessed June 20, 2008.
  2. Blair, K.M., et al. 2008. A molecular clutch disables flagella in the Bacillus subtilis biofilm. Science. 320 (5883): 1636.
  3. Microscopic “clutch” puts flagellum in neutral. Posted June 19, 2008, accessed June 20, 2008.
  4. Sherwin, F. 2007. Debating Design: The Bacterial Flagellum. Acts & Facts. 36 (9): 15.
  5. Isaiah 44:24.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer.

Article posted on July 1, 2008.

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