March 31, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Reviewer Stunned by Author’s Handwaving

David Nicholls appears to have suffered whiplash from a line in a book he was reviewing in Science,1 Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane (Oxford, 2006).  Though he liked the book in general, he said this about Lane’s explanation for how the first cell got its power generator:

The author is less convincing when he turns to the origin of life (at least he is not afraid to deal with big topics).  Citing the work of Mike Russell2 and Alan Hall, Lane states that in order to generate a primitive cell from an iron sulphide vesicle “all that the cells need to do to generate ATP is to plug an [proton translocating] ATPase through the membrane.”  Any bioenergeticist who has followed the elucidation of the extraordinary structure and mechanism of the mitochondrial ATP synthase over the past decade will pause at the word “all,” because the ATP synthase—with its spinning rotor massaging the surrounding subunits to generate ATP—is without doubt the most amazingly complex molecular structure in the cell.3   (Emphasis and footnotes added.)

After that, Nicholls had mostly praise for the rest of the book.


1David G. Nicholls, “Cell Biology: Energizing Eukaryotes,” Science, 31 March 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5769, p. 1869, DOI: 10.1126/science.1126251.
2See 12/03/2004 on theories by Michael Russell.
3The amazing structure and function of the universal ATP synthase motor has been discussed many times in these pages.  See, for instance, 01/30/2005 and 12/22/2003, and animation mentioned on April 2002 page.

If a pro-Darwinist convinced evolutionist is this surprised that a colleague would treat the “most amazingly complex molecular structure in the cell” so dismissively, what are the rest of us supposed to think?  This is the perpetual bad habit of evolutionists.  It will prove their downfall.  As the gap between life’s complexity and evolution’s explanations continues to grow, Charlie is going to look more and more like Wiley E. Coyote clinging by fingernails and toenails to both sides of a rapidly-widening canyon.

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