Free Republic
Browse · Search
Bloggers & Personal
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

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."



TOPICS: History; Religion
KEYWORDS:
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 41-6061-8081-100 ... 141-157 next last
To: OldNavyVet

The constant “first appeared” in writings of paleo biologists/anthropologists makes me wonder if they even believe what they are saying. I think natural selection may have played a role in developing species but does not explain the origin of a specie. MY OPINION.


61 posted on 05/13/2012 11:58:08 AM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 60 | View Replies]

To: nuss

How did the first single celled organism form from simple elements laying around on the ground? Explain the process.


62 posted on 05/13/2012 12:03:36 PM PDT by CaptainKrunch (Freedom is what's fair.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]

To: CaptainKrunch

The latest theory is a pool of water containing amino acids was struck by lightening. I’ve heard even more goofy theories.


63 posted on 05/13/2012 12:05:28 PM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 62 | View Replies]

To: count-your-change
LL: “Reproduction is generally considered to be one of those feedback mechanisms. If the organism left descendants, he had what it took to survive.”

Stated that simply it sounds like a circular reasoning.

Well, your stating THAT, simply, sounds like you don't believe in genetic diversity, never mind evolution!

64 posted on 05/13/2012 12:35:09 PM PDT by Lady Lucky (Non-compliant, not govt-issued, and not voting for Romney.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: central_va
... makes me wonder if they even believe

From my engineering days ... a proverb that is not to be forgotten ...

Beliefs belong in churcch.

65 posted on 05/13/2012 12:35:14 PM PDT by OldNavyVet
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 61 | View Replies]

To: Lady Lucky

Darwinism is a making of a mountain from a mole hill.


66 posted on 05/13/2012 12:56:33 PM PDT by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 64 | View Replies]

To: OldNavyVet
"From my engineering days ... a proverb that is not to be forgotten ...

Beliefs belong in churcch."

Evolutionists need to focus on priority one.  Without explaining how a bunch of chemicals lying around on the ground can form into a single celled organism..  that could then evolve, then evolution has no legs.

I therefore come to the conlusion that the chicken deffinitely came before the egg.

 

67 posted on 05/13/2012 1:22:59 PM PDT by CaptainKrunch (Freedom is what's fair.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 65 | View Replies]

To: central_va
"The latest theory is a pool of water containing amino acids was struck by lightening. I’ve heard even more goofy theories."

And then wouldn't that one in a billion "complex cell creation event" have to happen millions of times over in millions of other little pools conatianing amino acids to account for all the different species of human, animal and plant life on Earth?  Or are the evo's saying all species of life originated from one single celled organism?

 

68 posted on 05/13/2012 1:29:25 PM PDT by CaptainKrunch (Freedom is what's fair.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 63 | View Replies]

To: CaptainKrunch
Or are the evo's saying all species of life originated from one single celled organism

None of it makes sense. Life is a miracle of biological engineering. It is al so complex as to be impossible to understand the creation.

69 posted on 05/13/2012 1:32:14 PM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 68 | View Replies]

To: allmendream

It is easy to assume it all happened magically when you don’t really understand what is going on. Behe has admirers among creationists, the less educated someone is the more likely they are to be a creationist. Behe has not gained acceptance among biologists who actually understand living processes.


I doubt you can defend evolution through any explanation of “simple” structures and how they could have come together, which is why you attacked me instead of attempting to answer the obvious points.


70 posted on 05/13/2012 2:09:30 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: tacticalogic

“The proposition that comlexity disallows evolution appears totally unsupported by any evidence, and counter-intuitive. Evolution is a complex process that would require some complexity to accomplish.”


You do not have any evidence for anything you wrote, and you are ignoring the extreme complexities of even the smallest organelles within the smallest cells. The evidence is in the details, and anyone who has taken even a basic biology course should be conscious of it.


71 posted on 05/13/2012 2:19:37 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 52 | View Replies]

To: central_va

“Evolution is inevitable. It depends on mistakes in reproduction. Descent always involves modification, because any copy, be it of a picture or gene, must be less than exact. .... What went in emerges transformed by errors of descent, the raw material of biological change.”
I’ve been told there is no genetic link between Neandertal and homo sapien. So what species made this genetic mutation that created modern humans? Did a homo erectus mother have a modern skulled human baby vis genetic mistake? And who would breed with such an ugly “mutant”? No beer back then...”


Actually, Neanderthals and homo sapiens are the same species. This has already been proven through genetic studies showing successful interbreeding. The definition of being in the same species is being able to reproduce, with the children able to reproduce as well.


72 posted on 05/13/2012 2:23:09 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 59 | View Replies]

To: OldNavyVet

“I’ve been told there is no genetic link between Neandertal and homo sapien.
From Jones, pg 284

“About a thousand genes are shared by every organism, however simple or complicated. Althought their common ancestor must have lived more than a billion years ago, their shared structure can still be glimpsed. It shows how the grand plan of life has been modified through the course of evolution.”


The book you are quoting from is outdated. Recent studies have already shown that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens belong to the same species.


73 posted on 05/13/2012 2:24:56 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 60 | View Replies]

To: RaisingCain
You do not have any evidence for anything you wrote, and you are ignoring the extreme complexities of even the smallest organelles within the smallest cells. The evidence is in the details, and anyone who has taken even a basic biology course should be conscious of it.

I wrote:

The proposition that comlexity disallows evolution appears totally unsupported by any evidence, and counter-intuitive.

For that to be false there must be some evidence presented that establishes that it is impossible for something to be complex and still be able to evolve. Unless you can show me that evidence, the statement stands. It will not appear that there is any evidence until evidence is produced.

Your declaring it to be self-evident does not make it evidence.

74 posted on 05/13/2012 7:32:57 PM PDT by tacticalogic ("Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 71 | View Replies]

To: RaisingCain

Hardly an attack. Didn’t mean to make you run for the smelling salts. Your claim was that those in the know would accept incompetent design, but the opposite seems to be the case.

God of the gaps will never be science, and it has always been piss poor theology.


75 posted on 05/13/2012 8:50:29 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to DC to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 70 | View Replies]

To: RaisingCain

Hardly an attack. Didn’t mean to make you run for the smelling salts. Your claim was that those in the know would accept incompetent design, but the opposite seems to be the case.

God of the gaps will never be science, and it has always been piss poor theology.


76 posted on 05/13/2012 8:52:09 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to DC to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 70 | View Replies]

To: RaisingCain
The book you are quoting from is outdated. Recent studies have already shown that Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens belong to the same species.

To the contrary ... The Jones book supports the Neanderthal - Homo sapiens link.

Please note that my post 60 was a response to post 59

77 posted on 05/13/2012 9:51:58 PM PDT by OldNavyVet
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 73 | View Replies]

To: RaisingCain

Tigers and Lions can reproduce fertile offspring. Do you hold that they are the same species. How about wolves and coyotes?


78 posted on 05/13/2012 10:13:26 PM PDT by allmendream (Tea Party did not send GOP to DC to negotiate the terms of our surrender to socialism)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 72 | View Replies]

To: allmendream

Mine is the textbook definition. The difference is that neanderthal mating with humans was found to be widespread when studying the genome, which means both male and female children were most likely fertile and healthy. (Most people of European descent have Neanderthal ancestors.) Other hybrids usually have some serious problem, with a male or female being infertile, and the crosses so unlikely in nature that they do not happen unless you force them. Other findings have shown evidence of Neanderthals painting, working on instruments, and crossing bodies of water with boats.

Ergo, Neanderthals and Homo sapiens are not different species.


79 posted on 05/13/2012 10:41:32 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 78 | View Replies]

To: allmendream

“Hardly an attack. Didn’t mean to make you run for the smelling salts. Your claim was that those in the know would accept incompetent design, but the opposite seems to be the case.

God of the gaps will never be science, and it has always been piss poor theology.”


If evolution created all life on Earth, the “design” would be truly incompetent, as there would be half-made and useless organs hanging off of every individual, as what little did form perfectly was created from one evolutionary miracle to the next, the odds of which are beyond a plane being fully assembled via hurricane.

On the other hand, looking at, for example, how DNA during replication autocorrects thousands of errors as they occur, has built in mechanisms to kill cells which have a severe errors in the DNA, how it transcribes it’s DNA and assembles proteins... all of this is quite a good design, flowing logically from one step to the next, far superior to anything made by human hands. You curse your own body out of ignorance, not really appreciating the one who made you.


80 posted on 05/13/2012 10:47:52 PM PDT by RaisingCain
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 76 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-20 ... 41-6061-8081-100 ... 141-157 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Bloggers & Personal
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson