March 27, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Scientist Harnesses ATP Synthase

How would you like shorter waits at airports?  fast screening for disease?  the ability to detect biological warfare agents quickly?  That may be possible soon – thanks to an amazing man-and-nature cooperative technology reported by Science Daily.  A team led by Wayne Frasch at Arizona State is on the verge of an invention that can do these things, because he was fascinated by the world’s tiniest molecular motor, ATP synthase, and found a way to harness it’s rotational energy.
    You can read all about it in the article.  What’s most interesting, though, is what the press release said about ATP synthase (also called F0-F1 ATPase, with two functional domains, F0 and F1), – and what it did not say about evolution:

Even more incredible than the device itself, is that it is based on the world’s tiniest rotary motor: a biological engine measured on the order of molecules.
    Frasch works with the enzyme F1-adenosine triphosphatase, better known as F1-ATPase.  This enzyme, only 10 to 12 nanometers in diameter, has an axle that spins and produces torque.  This tiny wonder is part of a complex of proteins key to creating energy in all living things, including photosynthesis in plants.  F1-ATPase breaks down adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine diphospahte [sic] (ADP), releasing energy.  Previous studies of its structure and characteristics have been the source of two Nobel Prizes awarded in 1979 and 1997.
    It was through his own detailed study of the rotational mechanism of the F1-ATPase, which operates like a three-cylinder Mazda rotary motor, that Frasch conceived of a way to take this tiny biological powerhouse and couple it with science applications outside of the human body.

The device is sure to find additional applications.  This article said nothing about how the “three-cylinder Mazda rotary motor” analogue, essential for energy control in all living things, might have evolved.
    ATP synthase has become a favorite molecular machine for the Intelligent Design movement as evidence of irreducibly complex structures.  For earlier articles here, see the first entry on the April 2002 page and follow the links, or enter “ATP Synthase” in the search bar.  See also the 04/20/2005 and 02/23/2005 entries.

The line between natural technology and human technology is seamless.  Where does blind nature end and intelligent design begin?  How would an independent observer happening upon the nanostructure know where the natural ended and the artificial began?  If he were rightly to infer design for the nanoprobe and its blinking light, on what basis would he infer chance and mindless natural forces had built the Mazda-like rotary engine?  The design inference is appropriate in both cases.
    Was evolutionary theory helpful at all for this wondrous invention that may revolutionize biomedical testing and enhance national security?  The scientist was intrigued by a natural nanotech motor and found a way to use it for human good.  Would it have added anything to spin an imaginary story set in some mythical prehistory about how ATP synthase evolved?
    Come now.  Early scientists were motivated by the design and orderliness of nature that they viewed as the handiwork of an all-wise, omnipotent Creator.  Today’s story is a classic case of intelligent-design-guided science and technology, just like the old days.  Darwinism is a parasite on the process of discovering and advancing the knowledge that really matters to us.

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