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Irreducible Complexity (Final nail in the coffin on theory of evolution)
Idea Center ^ | 1996 | Michael Behe

Posted on 05/12/2012 6:25:29 PM PDT by CaptainKrunch

Irreducible Complexity: The Challenge to the Darwinian Evolutionary Explanations of many Biochemical Structures

"If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."
--Charles Darwin, Origin of Species
With this statement, Charles Darwin provided a criterion by which his theory of evolution could be falsified. The logic was simple: since evolution is a gradual process in which slight modifications produce advantages for survival, it cannot produce complex structures in a short amount of time. It's a step-by-step process which may gradually build up and modify complex structures, but it cannot produce them suddenly.

Darwin, meet Michael Behe, biochemical researcher and professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. Michale Behe claims to have shown exactly what Darwin claimed would destroy the theory of evolution, through a concept he calls "irreducible complexity." In simple terms, this idea applies to any system of interacting parts in which the removal of any one part destroys the function of the entire system. An irreducibly complex system, then, requires each and every component to be in place before it will function.

As a simple example of irreducible complexity, Behe presents the humble mousetrap.

Shown above is a modified sketch of Behe's mousetrap as taken from http://www.arn.org/docs/mm/mousetrap.htm.

It contains five interdependent parts which allow it to catch mice: the wooden platform, the spring, the hammer (the bar which crushes the mouse against the wooden base), the holding bar, and a catch. Each of these components is absolutely essential for the function of the mousetrap. For instance, if you remove the catch, you cannot set the trap and it will never catch mice, no matter how long they may dance over the contraption. Remove the spring, and the hammer will flop uselessly back and forth-certainly not much of a threat to the little rodents. Of course, removal of the holding bar will ensure that the trap never catches anything because there will again be no way to arm the system.

Now, note what this implies: an irreducibly complex system cannot come about in a gradual manner. One cannot begin with a wooden platform and catch a few mice, then add a spring, catching a few more mice than before, etc. No, all the components must be in place before it functions at all. A step-by-step approach to constructing such a system will result in a useless system until all the components have been added. The system requires all the components to be added at the same time, in the right configuration, before it works at all.

How does irreducible complexity apply to biology? Behe notes that early this century, before biologists really understood the cell, they had a very simplistic model of its inner workings. Without the electron microscopes and other advanced techniques that now allow scientists to peer into the inner workings of the cell, it was assumed that the cells was a fairly simple blob of protoplasm. The living cell was a "black box"-something that could be observed to perform various functions while its inner workings were unknown and mysterious. Therefore, it was easy, and justifiable, to assume that the cell was a simple collection of molecules. But not anymore. Technological advances have provided detailed information about the inner workings of the cell. Michael Denton, in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, states "Although the tiniest bacterial cells are incredibly small, weighing less than 10^-12 grams, each is in effect a veritable microminiaturized factory containing thousands of exquisitely designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world." In a word, the cell is complicated. Very complicated.

In fact, Michael Behe asserts that the complicated biological structures in a cell exhibit the exact same irreducible complexity that we saw in the mousetrap example. In other words, they are all-or-nothing: either everything is there and it works, or something is missing and it doesn't work. As we saw before, such a system cannot be constructed in a gradual manner-it simply won't work until all the components are present, and Darwinism has no mechanism for adding all the components at once. Remember, Darwin's mechanism is one of gradual mutations leading to improved fitness and survival. A less-than-complete system of this nature simply will not function, and it certainly won't help the organism to survive. Indeed, having a half-formed and hence non-functional system would actually hinder survival and would be selected against. But Behe is not the only scientist to recognize irreducible complexity in nature. In 1986, Michael J. Katz, in his Templets and the explanation of complex patterns (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) writes: "In the natural world, there are many pattern-assembly systems for which there is no simple explanation. There are useful scientific explanations for these complex systems, but the final patterns that they produce are so heterogeneous that they cannot effectively be reduced to smaller or less intricate predecessor components. As I will argue ... these patterns are, in a fundamental sense, irreducibly complex..." Katz continues that this sort of complexity is found in biology: "Cells and organisms are quite complex by all pattern criteria. They are built of heterogeneous elements arranged in heterogeneous configurations, and they do not self-assemble. One cannot stir together the parts of a cell or of an organism and spontaneously assemble a neuron or a walrus: to create a cell or an organisms one needs a preexisting cell or a preexisting organism, with its attendant complex templets. A fundamental characteristic of the biological realm is that organisms are complex patterns, and, for its creation, life requires extensive, and essentially maximal, templets."

The bacterial flagellum is a cellular outboard motor that bears the marks of intelligent design. Taken from http://www.arn.org/docs/mm/motor.htm.

Behe presents several examples of irreducibly complex systems to prove his point, but I'll just focus on one: the cilium. Cilia are hair-like structures, which are used by animals and plants to move fluid over various surfaces (for example, cilia in your respiratory tree sweep mucous towards the throat and thus promote elimination of contaminants) and by single-celled organisms to move through water. Cilia are like "oars" which contain their own mechanism for bending. That mechanism involves tiny rod-like structures called microtubules that are arranged in a ring. Adjacent microtubules are connected to each other by two types of "bridges"-a flexible linker bridge and an arm that can "walk" up the neighboring microtubule. The cilia bends by activating the "walker" arms, and the sliding motion that this tends to generate is converted to a bending motion by the flexible linker bridges.

Thus, the cilium has several essential components: stiff microtubules, linker bridges, and the "motors" in the form of walker arms. While my description is greatly simplified (Behe notes that over 200 separate proteins have been identified in this particular system), these 3 components form the basic system, and show what is required for functionality. For without one of these components, the system simply will not function. We can't evolve a cilium by starting with microtubules alone, because the microtubules will be fixed and rigid-not much good for moving around. Adding the flexible linker bridges to the system will not do any good either-there is still no motor and the cilia still will not bend. If we have microtubules and the walker arms (the motors) but no flexible linker arms, the microtubules will keep on sliding past each other till they float away from each other and are lost.

This is only one of many biochemical systems that Behe discusses in his book, Darwin's Black Box. Other examples of irreducible complexity include the light-sensing system in animal eyes, the transport system within the cell, the bacterial flagellum, and the blood clotting system. All consist of a very complex system of interacting parts which cannot be simplified while maintaining functionality.

Since the publication of Darwin’s Black Box, Behe has refined the definition of irreducible complexity. In 1996 he wrote that “any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional.”(Behe, M, 1996b. Evidence for Intelligent Design from Biochemistry, a speech given at the Discovery Institute's God & Culture Conference, August 10, 1996 Seattle, WA. http://www.arn.org/docs/behe/mb_idfrombiochemistry.htm). By defining irreducible complexity in terms of “nonfunctionality,” Behe casts light on the fundamental problem with evolutionary theory: evolution cannot produce something where there would be a non-functional intermediate. Natural selection only preserves or “selects” those structures which are functional. If it is not functional, it cannot be naturally selected. Thus, Behe’s latest definition of irreducible complexity is as follows: “An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.” (A Response to Critics of Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe, PCID, Volume 1.1, January February March, 2002; iscid.org/) Evolution simply cannot produce complex structures in a single generation as would be required for the formation of irreducibly complex systems. To imagine that a chance set of mutations would produce all 200 proteins required for cilia function in a single generation stretches the imagination beyond the breaking point. And yet, producing one or a few of these proteins at a time, in standard Darwinian fashion, would convey no survival advantage because those few proteins would have no function-indeed, they would constitute a waste of energy for the cell to even produce. Darwin recognized this as a potent threat to his theory of evolution-the issue that could completely disprove his idea. So the question must be raised: Has Darwin's theory of evolution "absolutely broken down?" According to Michael Behe, the answer is a resounding "yes."



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There is also the huge problem for evolutionary theory that it is impossible for a male/female reproducing species to evolve from an asexually reproducing organism.  Which of course would have to happen to explain the current circumstances of the known world that we now find ourselves in.

Bunch of chemicals laying around in a puddle millions of years ago.  These chemicals somehow coalesces into a ready formed complex single celled asexually reproducing organism, which then must keep reproducing by asexual reproduction.  How then does this organism randomly produce both a separate male and separate female organism simultaneously to kick off male/female reproduction?

It has been said, it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God.

 

1 posted on 05/12/2012 6:25:41 PM PDT by CaptainKrunch
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To: CaptainKrunch
There is also the huge problem for evolutionary theory that it is impossible for a male/female reproducing species to evolve from an asexually reproducing organism.

How do you prove that it's impossible?

2 posted on 05/12/2012 6:31:11 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: CaptainKrunch

Great article. thank you


3 posted on 05/12/2012 6:33:11 PM PDT by bubman
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To: tacticalogic

It’s not impossible, but the probability of two pairs of simultaneous mutations, at the same time and place (time - hours or days, place - within a few feet) to produce two cells that can join and produce two new organisms (male and female) that then breed to reproduce themselves, is lower than the probability of you properly guessing the winning numbers for the Powerball game for every single drawing since the beginning of the game.


4 posted on 05/12/2012 6:36:26 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: DuncanWaring

Not if it was designed to do that.


5 posted on 05/12/2012 6:38:14 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: CaptainKrunch
I'm not at all sure that a sexually reproducing species could not evolve from an asexully reproducing one. In fact, there are a large number of species that do both: under some conditions they throw off buds or shoots or clumps or, essentially, they propagate clones; under other conditions they can reproduce from male-female processes. Heck, even potatoes can do this.

Nevertheless, I love Behe and think his "Irreducible Complexity" has great heuristic value. He has sparked a very challenging debate.

6 posted on 05/12/2012 6:42:08 PM PDT by Mrs. Don-o ("The first duty of intelligent men of our day is the restatement of the obvious." George Orwell)
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To: tacticalogic

Designed to do that by who/what?


7 posted on 05/12/2012 6:42:37 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: DuncanWaring
Designed to do that by who/what?

That's a different question.

Intelligent Design only posits that there was a designer, and a design. It doesn't say who the designer was or dissallow the ability to evolve being part of the design.

8 posted on 05/12/2012 6:49:15 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: CaptainKrunch

As a college biology instructor, I never “taught” evolution. When we got to those chapters I encouraged the students to research the topic and make up their own minds. Occasionally someone would ask me if I believed in evolution. My answer was”do I think that, given enough time, something is going to come out from the mud puddle behind my house and say it’s ready to go to medical school?” The students would laugh and I had made my point without directly breaking the science department rules.


9 posted on 05/12/2012 7:00:29 PM PDT by Former Fetus (Saved by grace through faith)
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To: CaptainKrunch
A not so simple example Behe used is the clotting of blood after a wound.
There must be feedback mechanisms to prevent the clotting from spreding further than the wound or occurring so slowly as to be ineffective.
The clotting releases materials that both induce clotting and retard it. The balance is infinitely delicate.
Removing or imbalance in any of the multiple steps leading to clotting and stopping it and it doesn't work.
Any creature that could not control the clotting of its blood would not live long.
10 posted on 05/12/2012 7:01:34 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: DuncanWaring

Anyone can see the domestic dog as proof evolution as a mechanism in nature exists. Dogs are descended from certain canids, but no longer are like them at all.

Mankind, in domesticating and diversifying the breeds of dogs have truly changed them in a relatively short span of years.

People have a tendency to ignore how long millions of years really is. It’s incomprehensible to our minds which dwell on lifetimes. All of civilized human history (being generous) is 1/100th of a million years. It’s 1/65000th of the length of time that has passed since the last dinosaur died. It’s 1/450000th of the amount of time the earth is believed to have had a solid surface.

I’m not saying there’s no God, and that we aren’t here as an act of Creation, but there are two possibilities in that case - Either God created the earth and deliberately made it look 4.5 billion years old and animals to have progressed to some degree at least through evolution, OR, Evolution was simply the tool God used *for* the act of Creation.

I personally tend toward the latter - I see too many hallmarks of Intelligent Design in the Universe. I chuckle as modern Science with a straight face said the Universe spontaneously became something out of nothing.

At the same time, I cannot hold to the faith of those who say the earth is 6000 years old and evolution is total bunk when it’s obvious that it’s not (or we were purposely mislead.) That doesn’t mean I discount research like that above - I welcome honest and educated disagreement, as it forces me to rethink my own positions. And regardless, my convictions do not lessen my wonder at God - It strengthens it, as I see the rules upon which He built the Universe as elegant at a scale that leaves me in far greater awe than the comparatively simple act of crafting a man from clay.


11 posted on 05/12/2012 7:03:29 PM PDT by Heavyrunner (Socialize this.)
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To: tacticalogic

Premise:
Life designed itself.
Ergo, the converse is also true:
A rock also designed itself.
A diamond is a rock.
Ergo diamonds design thremselves.
Reductio ad absurdam


12 posted on 05/12/2012 7:06:56 PM PDT by bunkerhill7 (Life on the Rock?? Who knew?)
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To: count-your-change
There must be feedback mechanisms to prevent the clotting from spreading further than the wound or occurring so slowly as to be ineffective.

Reproduction is generally considered to be one of those feedback mechanisms. If the organism left descendants, he had what it took to survive.

13 posted on 05/12/2012 7:17:09 PM PDT by Lady Lucky (Non-compliant, not govt-issued, and not voting for Romney.)
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To: CaptainKrunch
There is also the huge problem for evolutionary theory that it is impossible for a male/female reproducing species to evolve from an asexually reproducing organism. Which of course would have to happen to explain the current circumstances of the known world that we now find ourselves in.

Bacteria share DNA, which the "male" bacterium inserts into the "female" bacterium through a specialized pilus called a "sex pilus". In other words, sexual reproduction existed long before multicellular organisms ever existed.

This article contains quite a few deliberate misrepresentations of what evolution is. The "irreducible complexity" meme, for example--nothing has ever been shown to be "irreducibly complex"; in fact, we break systems down so that we can look at a single component of that system, an act which would be impossible if there were any such thing as "irreducible complexity". Many proteins, when made in vitro self-assemble into the exact same supposedly "irreducibly complex" structures that living organisms produce. Even the most complex structures are made of small, often identical subunits that only fit together one way...

14 posted on 05/12/2012 7:18:57 PM PDT by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
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To: bunkerhill7
Premise: Life designed itself. Ergo, the converse is also true: A rock also designed itself. A diamond is a rock. Ergo diamonds design thremselves. Reductio ad absurdam

That requires an assumption that it's not possible for a Creator to have designed it so that the converse must be true.

I do not impose any assumptions about the limitations of the Creator.

15 posted on 05/12/2012 7:22:59 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
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To: CaptainKrunch
I have brought of the fact that most of all in nature need a male and female part to reproduce. Without one or the other offsprings can not be produced. It would seem that it is a very uneffective system. So why in nature if every species of plants an animals needs a male and female to produce an offspring. Some try to say that in the beginning humans were of both sexes and produced offsping with out a mate if this is true how then did all the plants along with all the animals go from this form into the present form of needing a mate to produce an offspring. It seems like a very chancy system and not a lot of hope for advancement of a species of any kind.
16 posted on 05/12/2012 7:23:38 PM PDT by guitarplayer1953 (Grammar & spelling maybe wrong, get over it, the world will not come to an end!)
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To: Heavyrunner

The real argument is not between those who believe the universe was created over a six-day period 6000 years ago and those who believe that’s a metaphor for events that began 15 billion years ago.

The real argument is between those people, and those who claim that the universe willed itself into existence from nothing.


17 posted on 05/12/2012 7:36:26 PM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: CaptainKrunch

Actually sexual reproduction is easy to explain by evolution. First comes the evolutionary phenotype for hermaphroditic animal species, followed by the evolutionary modification of a genotype/phenotype for males and females of a species.


18 posted on 05/12/2012 7:47:19 PM PDT by Kirkwood (It's not a lie. It's a composite.)
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To: CaptainKrunch
Behe's theory is rubbish.

From … http://www.sirc.org/articles/intelligent_design.shtml we have ...

“Intelligent design makes no room for the idea of bad design, and irreducible complexity itself suggests a bad design strategy. Making complex things all at once so that they only work if all of the components are present and fully operational is an inefficient way to put something together. Are we to assume that not only is this intelligent designer mysterious, but also that he, she or it is perhaps a bit rubbish? The best explanation of complex systems in nature, which encompasses all of the bits that do 'work' and all of the bits that don't, is that they evolved. Positing a designer with their own private reasons for designing things badly is simply a step too far in what is claimed to be a scientifically grounded inference to the best explanation.”

19 posted on 05/12/2012 7:58:05 PM PDT by OldNavyVet
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To: OldNavyVet

Behe assumes an incompetent designer.


20 posted on 05/12/2012 8:07:35 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to DC to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
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