October 26, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Cilia Are Antennas for Human Senses and Development

The little hair-like projections on cells, called cilia, have more functions than previously believed.  A press release from Johns Hopkins University said that researchers found cilia are important for the sense of touch – particularly, for heat sensation.  In fact, cilia are implicated in at least three of the five traditional senses.
    The article explained that some people thought to have psychological problems may actually be victims of “ciliopathy” or defects in cilia formation.  Dr. Nico Katsanis said, “People with ciliopathies are often thought to have mental retardation or autism because they appear ‘slow’.  Now it appears that many aspects of their mental capacity may be just fine, they are just slow because they can’t sense things as well as other individuals.”
    Another press release from Johns Hopkins earlier in the month reported that Katsanis’ team found that cilia act like little radio antennas that control the development of the body:

Johns Hopkins researchers say they have figured out how human and all animal cells tune in to a key signal, one that literally transmits the instructions that shape their final bodies.  It turns out the cells assemble their own little radio antenna on their surfaces to help them relay the proper signal to the developmental proteins “listening” on the inside of the cell.
    The transmitters are primary cilia, relatively rigid, hairlike “tails” that respond to specialized signals from a host of proteins, including a key family of proteins known as Wnts.  The Wnts in turn trigger a cascade of shape-making decisions that guide cells to take specific shapes, like curved eyelid cells or vibrating hair cells in the ear, and even make sure that arms and legs emerge at the right spots.

Katsanis commented on the importance of this finding: “We’ve just reset a huge volume of literature under a new light.”

Exciting discoveries in the cellular realm continue apace.  Some will remember that cilia were the first examples in Michael Behe’s classic book Darwin’s Black Box of irreducibly complex structures.  That was in 1996; no one knew the half of it back then.
    Is intelligent design a productive scientific theory?  One way to tell is to see if the case gets better with new discoveries.  Darwinism’s proponents have to keep adding patches and hotfixes to the theory to explain away new problems with the fossil record, the tree of life and the complexity of the cell.  The case for Intelligent Design, by contrast, gets stronger with each new finding.  Imagine: a radio antenna on each cell, signalling the inside world about the outside world.  Most signal-relay stations we know about were intelligently designed.
    Signal without recognition is meaningless.  Communication implies a signalling convention (a “coming together” or agreement in advance) that a given signal means or represents something: e.g., that S-O-S means “Send Help!” or, in this case, that Wnt proteins mean “put this arm here.”  The transmitter and receiver can be made of non-sentient materials, but the functional purpose of the system always comes from a mind.  The mind uses the material substances to perform an algorithm that is not itself a product of the materials or the blind forces acting on them.  Thus the analogy in the press release: cilia are just like radio antennas.  Antennas may be composed of mindless matter, but they are marks of a mind behind the intelligent design.

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