December 30, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Handy Motor Found in Virus

Your job today is to stuff a delicate chain into a barrel without breaking it and make it wrap neatly inside.  A tiny virus does this with helping hands, reported Purdue University.  A research team uncovered the mechanism of a “powerful molecular motor” that crams the viral DNA tightly into the capsid with the help of five moving parts.
    These are not real hands, of course; the captioned artist rendering whimsically shows five gp17 protein structures drawn to look like hands.  These structures are protein subdomains embedded in the ring-shaped motor mechanism.  The capsid, or viral container, acts like a hard plastic shell, protecting the DNA inside (see 05/07/2004).  Two rings on the opening hold the motor in place.  The gp17 subdomains take turns grasping the DNA and shoving it in.  Another analogy is that they work like pistons operating in sequence.  Using ATP energy pellets, they take advantage of electrostatic forces to gently but firmly transfer the DNA strand into the interior, where it coils in an orderly fashion.  The mechanism generates 20 times the force used by myosin, the motor in muscle.  The article claims that proportional to its size, the motor is twice as powerful as an automotive engine.
    The virus they studied is a bacteriophage – a virus that infects and destroys bacteria.  The cutaway diagram of the capsid shows the DNA wound neatly into a fabric-like pattern.  The researchers hope some day not only to understand viruses better, but to use their tricks for nanotechnology.  Someday man-made motors like these could deliver medicines to patients or power nano-sized machines.  First, though, they need to do basic research on how the viral motor works.  “This particular motor is very fast and powerful,” they said.  See also the 03/20/2007 and 10/18/2001 entries for earlier research on capsid motors.

Even viruses, which are not even alive by the definition of being able to reproduce independently, show incredible design.  They are too well designed to be accidents.  Why do so many viruses cause disease and death?  Actually, only a small fraction are harmful; most cause no harm and some are beneficial.
    Some creationists speculate that they all had a beneficial function originally: keeping bacteria in check or delivering genetic instructions to animals encountering a new environment.  After the Fall, they either were allowed to mutate into machines gone wild, turning on their customers, or were recast as agents of judgment on a world sentenced to death and hardship.  Can they prove this?  No; but what is the alternative for evolutionists?  First, they have to believe in miracles – that super-efficient, compact, powerful motors like this just appeared, arose or emerged (favorite Darwinian miracle-words) from nowhere.  Second, they have to deny that anything is evil or out of order.  In Darwin’s world, whatever is, is right.  A logical consequence is that it is vain to seek cures for disease.  So what if millions of humans die in a pandemic?  It just shows that viruses are more fit.
    If miracles and apathy don’t motivate you to swallow the evolutionary line, then look at the mechanism from a design perspective and figure out what it’s there for.  Basic research can reveal the mechanism.  Philosophy and theology can elucidate its purpose.  Engineering can look for applications.  Who needs Darwin, the guy who sits around telling miracle stories?
    The Purdue team obviously didn’t act like “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”  They had no need of that hypothesis.  The E-word failed to materialize in the press release or any of the writeups on other sites.  “Viruses, start your engines!” EurekAlert began its version.  “Researchers find what drives one of nature’s powerful, nanoscale motors.”
    If design is what you observe, then design will lead to the right explanation, which may lie outside the capabilities of science.

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