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Irreducible Complexity

First, a definition:

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution. Since natural selection can only choose systems that are already working, then if a biological system cannot be produced gradually it would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell swoop, for natural selection to have any thing to act on. Michael Behe, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University, 1996
I remember watching an episode of Magic Schoolbus with my kids that was about “the web of life”, wherein the lesson was that living things and their environments are all very interdependent. We hear much of the “balance of nature”, and the “delicate balance” of the rainforests. But apparently no one who hears these things stops to think of the impact interdependence has on the theory of evolution, which requires slow and gradual change in a miraculous series of favorable mutations that goes on for millions of years, in exactly the right order! (talk about blind faith!)

As astronomical as the odds are that even one organism could evolve this way, think of the exponential increase of probability required to duplicate this with thousands of interdependent systems! Because not only does one organism consist of a multitude of subsystems which must all work together, how likely do you think it is that many such complex life forms could evolve together, at precisely the same rate, for millions of years’

Yet such is the foundation of Darwinism. No matter how outrageous the odds, no matter what scientific discoveries are made that prove it wrong, Darwinism is really the only thing that’s been evolving. Proponents will say it’s good that science evolves, but it does more than “progress”-- it continually shoots itself in the foot. Microbiology is a prime example.

The more science learns of the inner workings of the cell, the more incredible design it sees. Agnostic microbiologist Michael Denton wrote a scathing critique of Darwinism called “Evolution: A Theory In Crisis” back in the 1970s, covering in many hundreds of pages the numerous holes in the theory. His studies put to rest any hope in finding evidence of evolution at the microscopic level, which had been the only “undiscovered” territory left after they gave up on finding transitional fossils. Science has discovered nothing in the years since then to change anything.

Lame attempts have been made to refute Behe’s arguments in Darwin’s Black Box, but their “solutions” always involve the interjection of intelligence in one way or another. They also seem to involve “sudden leaps” in the alleged slow and gradual process (“punctuated equilibrium”).

Here is a man-made example of irreducible complexity from the source website:

During the early development of the internet it became necessary to develop a protocol which could bring together the different interfaces which were providing and processing information simultaneously on the internet, those interfaces included, but were not limited to FTP, GOPHER and HTTP. The solution was the Uniform Resource Locator, or URL. This approach helped the internet surfer gain access to the various information providers with a minimal of headaches.

I said a “minimal of headaches.” But, one headache which will never completely go away, though it has been lessened, is internet site addressing. If you’ve surfed the net for any length of time, then you’ve probably typed the wrong web site address into your browser’s text field a few times. A person who’s not quite sure of their destination’s actual address, can spend quite a bit of time trying various spelling combinations, in hopes of landing upon the correct one. What’s the reason for this type of headache? Irreducible complexity! These addresses are specific. They must be typed in correctly and there is only one (actual) address per page. Programmers are trying to lessen the difficulty by allowing you to leave off the tedious prefixes such as http://, or on many browsers you can leave off http://www., but the address of the complete page must still be provided. Take the example of [creationscience.com]. The actual address (leaving aside the numerical conversion) is [http://www.creationscience.com]. But on some browsers you just need to enter [creationscience], and you’re on your way to the site. What’s going on?

Computer programmers have taken care of processing the rest of the information, by default. It doesn’t mean that the complete information isn’t processed somewhere, it simply means that the browser’s user doesn’t have to enter all of it. But, even in this example the user is responsible for the 15 characters represented in the string [creationscience]. If the user inadvertently misspells the string or leaves off a character, then they will initiate an error message.

This then, is another form of irreducible complexity, as nothing less than creationscience will do. Interestingly, amino acids must also be properly sequenced much like the characters in a URL address, the difference being, amino acid sequences are used to form specific proteins, while in a browser’s URL field, characters are arranged in sequences to visit specific internet sites.

This [URL] type of irreducibly complex message is transmitted and received by sophisticated soft/hardware. It should be apparent that both transmission as well as reception tools are necessary in order for this system to be meaningful. Also, some form of information carrier(in the case of the internet, usually the phone lines) needs to be part of the system. It should also be apparent that the message which is transmitted via this system, need not be irreducibly complex. That is, while web addresses are irreducibly complex, a misspelled word can be transmitted and received by this system just as easily.

Now if a relatively simple computer software issue has irreducible complexity, what about life? DNA is an amazingly complex information transmission system, one which even our best microprocessors can’t begin to approximate. It has been estimated that the most powerful microprocessors, stacked up to the moon, would contain about the same amount of information as what DNA can hold in a small percentage of the head of a pin!

This article doesn’t even scratch the surface, but I hope you get the idea. A bird with one wing and one fin can neither swim nor fly and most likely will not live long enough to reproduce. Evolutionism has tried to compensate by positing fantasies like the “hopeful monster” theory, where a chicken lays an egg and out hatches a frog. Can you imagine the laughter if creationism were to put forth such nonsense?

Posted 2005-09-01 under science, science, irreducible complexity