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By Design
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati

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Toothed gears in jumping insects

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Published: 19 September 2013 (GMT+10)

Credit: Image courtesy of Malcolm Burrows

Issus-coleoptratus

Living creatures have the most amazing machinery, which should be obvious evidence of a Designer (Romans 1:20). Darwin on the other hand believed that all the machines were built by a blind process of tiny changes and natural selection picking the advantageous ones, over eons of time. However, this would be problematic for machines that would not function unless many parts were organized. That’s because a partly-formed machine would not work, so natural selection would not pick such an irreducibly complex machine.

Indeed, decades ago, evolutionists claimed that magnets and wheels could not be found in nature, precisely because they would not work unless fully formed. Yet we have found many such machines in living creatures.1

Plant hopper gears

The plant hopper Issus coleoptratus is found in European gardens, and can hop from leaf to leaf. The distances involved are much longer than the insect’s body length. The baby insects, called nymphs, take off in only 2 milliseconds. Unless the jumping legs push off at almost exactly the same time, their jumps would be lopsided, and they would spin out of control. Indeed, the legs start within 30 microseconds of each other. Nerve impulses are too slow to achieve such synchrony.

The discoverers, Zoologists Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton at the University of Cambridge, UK, say that this seems to be the first example in nature of rotary motion with toothed gears.—Nature

Instead, to solve the problem, the insects achieve synchrony with another example of irreducible complexity: intermeshing cog gears. These comprise tiny teeth about 30 micrometers high covering a curved strip about 400 micrometers long.2

However, these gears are lost in the adult. The likely reason is again a case of irreducible complexity: if a single tooth is broken, the whole mechanism is ruined. But with nymphs, this problem is not so serious, because it can molt, and the new exoskeleton will have the intact gears. Conversely, the adults are stuck with their exoskeleton. But they are large enough and rigid enough so that friction will achieve what the gears did.

One report states, “Gears are ubiquitous in the man-made world, found in items ranging from wristwatches to car engines, but it seems that nature invented them first.”3 ‘Nature’, or rather the One who created nature, has also invented a screw joint in weevil legs.4 And the journal Nature says:

“The discoverers, Zoologists Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton at the University of Cambridge, UK, say that this seems to be the first example in nature of rotary motion with toothed gears.”

This seems to be right. All the same, a tiny germ has an amazing system with seven flagellum motors and 24 interlocking gears driving a single filament, so it can swim 10 times faster.5 These nanogears don’t seem to be toothed, though.

Designed or evolved?

One report pointed out some of the remarkable design features:

Incorrect or half-formed gears would not help the organism, and could potentially give it a disadvantage. Yet evolution has no reasoning or planning ability. It is a purposeless process, and would thus be unable to ‘design’ such a system.
“The gears in the Issus hind-leg bear remarkable engineering resemblance to those found on every bicycle and inside every car gear-box. Each gear tooth has a rounded corner at the point it connects to the gear strip; a feature identical to human-made gears such as bike gears—essentially a shock-absorbing mechanism6 to stop teeth from shearing off.”7

However, Dr Sutton made the usual fact-free homage to evolution, “These gears are not designed; they are evolved—representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronisation in the animal world.”

However the problem is how they evolved by a Darwinian step-by-step method, since no such mechanism is suggested. And gear parameters such as the gear ratio, the module and many others need to be carefully picked before the gears are installed in any application. Incorrect or half-formed gears would not help the organism, and could potentially give it a disadvantage. Yet evolution has no reasoning or planning ability. It is a purposeless process, and would thus be unable to ‘design’ such a system.

Indeed, Sutton previously said, “We usually think of gears as something that we see in human designed machinery, but we’ve found that that is only because we didn’t look hard enough.” This suggests that evolutionary dogma held up progress in discovering such machinery. Rather, progress might have been much faster if we had realized that there is a Master Engineer behind nature.

Related Articles

Further Reading

References and notes

  1. Sarfati, J., By Design: Evidence for Nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible, CBP, 2008; see also the many articles at creation.com/design. Return to text.
  2. Burrows, M. and Sutton, G. Interacting gears synchronize propulsive leg movements in a jumping insect, Science 341: 1254–1256, 13 September 2013 | doi: 10.1126/science.1240284. Return to text.
  3. Lewis, T., Creature with Interlocking Gears on Legs Discovered, livescience.com, 12 September 2013. Return to text.
  4. Beetles beat us to the screw and nut, New Scientist, 211(2820):17, 9 July 2011; Brilliant engineering: the weevil ‘hip’-and-leg joint, Creation 34(2):9, 2012. Return to text.
  5. Juanfang Ruan and 8 others, Architecture of a flagellar apparatus in the fast-swimming magnetotactic bacterium MO-1, PNAS 26 November 2012 | doi:10.1073/pnas.1215274109; Sarfati, J., Germ with seven motors in one! creation.com/7motors1, 15 January 2013. Return to text.
  6. Actually, the rounding reduces the stress concentration that makes a sharp corner vulnerable. Return to text.
  7. Functioning ‘Mechanical Gears’ seen in nature for first time, sciencedaily.com, 12 September 2013. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
Jack C., Australia, 19 September 2013

In other words evolutionists would have us believe that the space shuttle, for example, which is not even as complicated as many organic lifeforms, can come into existence by natural evolution without the need of a designer or builder. What a whole lot of nonsense.

John B., United Kingdom, 19 September 2013

This is truly an amazing, yet, not really unexpected, discovery, for Creationists. I read about this discovery before you published it here on CMI on various “secular” Science sites, and found that some of the feedback comments from pro evolutionists regarding these “cogs” were, somewhat, amusing, as well as being a little annoying and intimidating. Examples were, “What’s the betting that those stupid creationists will try and make something of this”, and “This is no different to comparing the complexities of an eye to a camera”. Included in various feedbacks, were various comments, made by Creationists, demonstrating how God was clearly the designer of such complexities and that evolution, in no way could be responsible for such intricate organic machinery, as demonstrated here. The response by atheists, needless to say, was always offensive, sardonic, intellectually void and wilfully ignorant. Sigh….

“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not: Isaiah 6:9-10

Thanks again for a superb SCIENTIFIC article.

Robert B., United States, 19 September 2013

'Indeed, Sutton previously said, “We usually think of gears as something that we see in human designed machinery, but we’ve found that that is only because we didn’t look hard enough.” This suggests that evolutionary dogma held up progress in discovering such machinery. Rather, progress might have been much faster if we had realized that there is a Master Engineer behind nature.

Way to tweak their noses. I love it!

Anthony G., United States, 20 September 2013

Thank you for writing this. Another very specific quality of these gears designed by God is the angle of the beveling. It is designed for maximum power in only one direction (the jump direction).

When the legs retract, no such speed or power is needed.

Now imagine the gene coding specificity to get these gears to form just so. It's enough to drive evolutionist diehards into hiding!

It will be most difficult for the nasty, negative, naysaying evolutionists to invent a "theory" of how these gears were "naturally selected". LOL! The are all probably out there now looking for partial gear sets in the fossil record! LOL!

And have you noticed how round their numbers are on how many (it's ALWAYS millions of years LOL) millions of years it takes for their Darwin tornadoes in junkyards to make complex living creatures from the natural components? How come they never say 36.579 million years? Could it be that they cannot date something closer than ten or a 100 million years? What does that say about their "accurate" dating methods. Not much.

Evolutionists are getting more and more hysterical grasping at their "natural selection" straws in order to deny the existence of a providential God that humans owe EVERYTHING to.

Our Lord is making sure they run out of any remotely plausible excuses for their errors.

I hope the evolutionists get their noses rubbed in this extremely specific gear design all over the planet with a plethora of questions as to how many zillion partial gear sets were made before the "selected one" came along by pure random chance. But don't worry, those fellows are quite clever and will come up with some irrational silliness like "hey, our teeth are a form of gears and this little bug had a kind of mouth that randomly became a set of gears!". LOL!

James P. H., Australia, 20 September 2013

ALL machines are irreducibly complex and must exhibit a minimal functionality;

any machine has information hard-coded into it ... because, for it to function, it must conform to three parameters: condition, iteration, sequence;

when you say "machine" you say "intelligent design!"

the innumerable machines existing at the molecular biological level including the digital/data processing machines of DNA/RNA literally

scream (super-)Intelligent Design;

I honestly think that this is not being 'pounded' hard enough or effectively enough. The molecular biological machinery should be more than sufficient to completely shut down any debate or argument from atheists or evolutionists!

Jim G., United States, 21 September 2013

Wow, Dr. Sutton even ascribes these gears to evolution! I truly believe that if ever an example of such irreducible complexity were found with a stamped notation stating, "Made in Heaven," evolutionists would still find a way to attribute that to evolution as well!

Ron A., South Africa, 21 September 2013

Come Guys, don't be so hard on the Atheists and Evolutionists. I was one until God opened my eyes to see His Glory and every one of us were once upon a time as blind to truth as they are.

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7 Praise God he did not leave us in a state of blindness. He could have.

Kate B., United States, 22 September 2013

Please give the data that supports divine creation of ‘gears’ in animals.

Jonathan Sarfati responds: Please demonstrate that you understand basic principles of analogy. If it was good enough for Darwin, it is good enough for us.

KB: Just because we came up with the idea of gearing systems after a few thousand years of existence doesn't make it a revolutionary idea. In fact, a gearing system gives definite proof of evolution—creatures with an appropriate jumping mechanism could escape predation effectively, giving way to the evolutionary definition of a perfect jumper armed with the trait that evolved into gears—the perfect evolutionary distinction between ‘good jumpers’.

JS: We know that the fully-formed system would have a survival advantage, as the article stated. To support your evolutionary blind faith, you would need to demonstrate that there were intermediate stages, and that they also had a survival advantage over their predecessors. See also Does biological advantage imply biological origin?

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