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Irreducible complexity and cul-de-sacs

Published: 17 December 2016 (GMT+10)

Today’s feedback comes from I.F. who regularly comments on articles published on creation.com. His response here is to Overdesign in the human being with a case study of facial expressions by design engineer Stuart Burgess.


“It is well known that irreducible complexity is important evidence against evolution.” Just reading this tautology and I am wondering to whom it is well known?

CMI’s Tas Walker responds:

The idea was well known to Darwin. One definition of irreducible complexity is, “Irreducible complexity is a term used to describe a characteristic of certain complex systems whereby they need all of their individual component parts in place in order to function. In other words, it is impossible to reduce the complexity of (or to simplify) an irreducibly complex system by removing any of its component parts and still maintain its functionality.”

Darwin agreed with that, stating in The Origin:

“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.”

I.F. commented again, and Tas Walker responded inside his comment.

Message to Tas Walker: you did not answer my question of 17/07/2015. To whom is this tautology well known? The idea of irreducible complexity may have been known to Darwin, but he certainly did not accept it, believing that all complexity of biological systems can be explained by natural selection.
It is futile to try to use the processes of maintenance to explain the mechanism of origin.

[TW] I did answer your question. Darwin did accept the concept of irreducible complexity and said it would break down his theory of evolution. However, he simply denied that any structure was irreducibly complex. Philosophically it is impossible to prove that a particular structure cannot be explained by small, incremental steps because Darwinists can always respond, “Oh, we don’t know all the factors involved and we will find some processes in the future that do explain this by evolutionary steps.” It’s the same for the atheist. They cannot say that there is no God because, to know that they would have to know everything. (See article on atheism.)

No evidence has been found for “irreducible complexity”. None. Zero. Rien.

[TW] Not true. Biologists have found more and more features that are candidates for being irreducibly complex, such as the ATP synthase (and see video above) and the kinesin. In fact the whole structure of the living cell points to it being irreducibly complex. Furthermore, every biological pathway is irreducibly complex, requiring multiple steps to produce the required biochemical output. If one of the steps does not work, the product will not be produced.

The idea has been refuted and discredited by professionals in biological sciences like Professor Kenneth Miller.
iStockphoto humming-bird

[TW] He has objected to it, but not refuted it. Those who support the atheistic philosophy of evolution are like that. They will deny the obvious.

I note that the CMI article here is written by a mechanical engineer, not a biologist. I am not a scientist, I am a joiner and carpenter, and so I understand plenty about design and engineering too. I am intensely interested in natural history, all these “forms most beautiful and wonderful”, consciousness, intellect, consciousness, how these emerged, and the origins of the universe. This next is a serious question that readers, if this is published, ought to reflect on. On the subjects of the complexity of living organisms, biological systems, and speciation, would it be better to listen to a mechanical engineer or another professional who has devoted his career to the precise subject, such as Kenneth Miller?

[TW] Actually an engineer has much advantage over a biologist because engineers are constantly involved in design, as you are. Anyway, your argument here has fallen into the logical fallacy of appeal to authority.

However, the argument works the other way. Jonathan Sarfati explains:

Miller, in whom Dawkins has so much faith (when it suits him) has no expertise in this motor, unlike Scott Minnich who refuted his claims. Miller claimed that the flagellum evolved from a secretory apparatus, but Minnich showed that in reality, the type-III secretory apparatus (TTSS) must have devolved from the flagellum (a more complex structure), if one did arise from the other. Note also, it is not a fallacious argument to appeal to a genuine authority, as Minnich is, on the flagellum.
Nowhere in Professor Burgess’s article is there any explanation as to the actual processes that brought non-living matter into complex living organisms. How were the building blocks of, say, a daffodil brought together to make a daffodil? How were the building blocks of kangaroos brought together to make kangaroos? How were the building blocks of humans brought together to make humans? This article explains nothing useful.

[TW] Neither can the evolutionary mechanism explain the origin of these building blocks. And they have no hope of explaining them when they only have natural processes to draw upon. However, in the biblical worldview these different organisms were brought into existence at the beginning by processes that we do not see occurring today. They are the creation of the supernatural Creator God, so there is an adequate cause. It is futile to try to use the processes of maintenance to explain the mechanism of origin. Read Genesis chapters 1, 2 and 3 to see how it happened.

Moreover, if you want to take this over design idea to a logical extrapolation, our intellects, intelligence are also over designed. From a survival of the species point of view they are not necessary. Unless these emergent properties are in fact our evolutionary destiny or purpose. To discern the mind of God, by understanding the true nature of the universe.

[TW] You are on the right track here. Romans 1:19–20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them [people], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God created you because he wants to have a personal relationship with you, and he has a plan for your life.

It is impossible to reduce the complexity of (or to simplify) an irreducibly complex system by removing any of its component parts and still maintain its functionality.
I read stuff from people like Kenneth Miller, Richard Feynman, Michael Faraday, Stephen Hawking, etc. etc. and I see people using their gifts to discern these deeper understandings. I read stuff like Professor Burgess’s and what I see is an intellectual and spiritual cul-de-sac.

[TW] It’s the opposite way around. The concept that things are designed provides great insights and understandings of things. It’s the idea that things came about without any intelligence that is the cul-de-sac. (One example is the fiasco of junk DNA.) Did you read former atheist Antony Flew’s book There is a God in which he explains the reasons why he abandoned atheism and came to believe there is an intelligent creator. The continual discoveries in microbiology of the amazing structures within the living cell, etc. provide a new and powerful argument to design.

By the way, what do you mean by your term “gifts”? Who is the giver of the gift? 

All this back and forth exchange that you engage in is another cul-de-sac. You will never find your way out of a hole by continually digging it deeper. If you really want to know, if you are serious about resolving the question of whether God exists, who He is, and His plan for your life, you have to do a scientific experiment. You need to begin to talk to Him—regularly. You can say, for example, “God, I don’t know if you exist, or if you don’t. As a matter of fact, I don’t think you do. But if you do, I’m interested in knowing the truth and knowing you. If you do exist, I assume you would know about me and can hear me. Would you please reveal yourself to me?”

Like any scientific experiment, you have to be serious about it. You will need to frame the experiment so you can give it a fair trial. Just think, they have been searching for extraterrestrial life for decades (the SETI project). They treat this as a serious search and continue to invest enormous amounts of money in it, even though they have found nothing. They are persistent. So, just a flippant gesture will not do. We need to be serious. Give Him a timeframe and be diligent in our search. Unlike the SETI project, we will receive a prompt response.

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