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Creation Evidence: Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Michael Behe and Irreducible Complexity

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has become the new legal battleground for the viability of intelligent design(ID). Two men who testified as critics of ID were Robert Pennock and Kenneth Miller. Their foundational argument is that ID is not testable or falsifiable and is therefore not science.

The defense in the Harrisburg trial has Michael Behe, the author of "Darwin's Black Box", testifying in favor of ID as science. Behe coined the phrase “irreducible complexity". It describes systems which have no functional advantage unless several components are in place. Behe used the analogy of a mouse trap. In order for the mouse trap to catch mice it must have all five of these components: a platform, hammer, spring, sensitive catch and bar. Behe uses several biological examples including the bacterial flagellum, blood clotting and cilia for illustrating irreducibly complexity.

Contrary to Pennock's and Miller's claim, an irreducibly complex hypothesis can be stated as falsifiable: "Are there irreducibly complex biological systems, which would in a particular case, refute evolution as numerous successive slight-modifications?" This is a testable hypothesis. If in fact ID does not provide falsifiable hypotheses, then why do ID critics such as Miller go through such extraordinary lengths trying to explain away examples of irreducibly complexity? The fact that they have lengthy chapters and articles designed to dispute irreducible complexity only demonstrates that ID is falsifiable!

I would like to go beyond Behe's textbook examples of irreducible complexity to the theoretical first cell arising by natural causes as the ultimate form of irreducible complexity. Life cannot exist without many numerous interdependent complex systems, each irreducibly complex on their own, bringing about a grand pageant for life to exist.

A specific example is the interdependence of DNA, RNA and protein. "DNA, RNA and proteins cannot do their jobs without the help of at least one of the other two. DNA is a library of detailed information for the various structures within the cell. It has the information for the manufacture of each protein. RNA is a copy of instructions from the DNA and is sent as a messenger to the ribosomes for making proteins. There are two types of proteins; functional proteins such as enzymes, and structural proteins, which compose the organelles . . . Living cells need all three molecules at the same time. The chance, simultaneous natural appearance of the three distinct, interdependent complex systems is just not possible."[1] Not only are these three needed for life, but an organism also needs a cell membrane, usable energy, reproduction and all left-handed amino acids. All of these requirements are just a portion of why the “first cell” is the ultimate in irreducible complexity.

Darwin's theory of numerous, successive, slight modifications simply does not work when discussing the origin of life. The problem that ultimate irreducible complexity brings to evolution is clearly daunting for evolutionists. Their way to deal with the problem is to dismiss ID as nonscientific or pseudoscience. However, when one looks at the issue of origin of life through the lens of irreducible complexity, the evidence points to design. As demonstrated in my article, "Is Intelligent Design Scientific? Part 2", when the definition of science includes ID as an option then we can see that evidence, such as irreducible complexity, clearly points to ID. To prevent ID from being discussed in the classroom or supported in scientific journals is to stifle the scientific process. It forces the square peg of data to fit the round hole of naturalism.


[1] Bendewald, J. & Sherwin, F. (2004). Evolution Shot Full of Holes (p. 85, 87). Madison, WI: Evidence Press.


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