Monday, September 15, 2014


The Error of Irreducible Complexity


Irreducible complexity is probably the most believable of the error filled arguments of "scientific creationists."  Their attempts to credit the stories of creation found in the Bible with factual scientific truth impede others from seeing the grandeur of creation with one single creative burst giving rise to the universe and ultimately the process of evolution by which life came to exist.

Darwin's Black Box, a 1996 book by Michael Behe defines "irreducibly complex" as "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."

Darwin himself provided the argument in Chapter Six of his The Origin of Species entitled "Difficulties of the Theory".  Darwin's first sentence of a sub-section "Organs of extreme perfection and Complication" reads as follows.

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

Why the seeming absurdity may not be absurd is discussed for three pages before the sub-section concludes with the following sentence.

"Let this process go on for millions of years, and during each year on millions of individuals of many kinds; and may we not believe that a living optical instrument might thus be formed as superior to one of glass, as the works of the Creator are to those of man?"

In the century and a half since Darwin presented that view, morphological and molecular evidence has accumulated that make it easier for informed biologists to understand major steps of the process.  The basic ultrastructure of the eye's retina associated with derivatives of cilia probably began with light sensitive spots on roots of cilia or flagella enabling photosynthetic flagellates to give a directional response to light when shaded by an associated pigment granule.

Most of the above is found in chapter two of my 2010 Evolution Insights manuscript which includes the following statement.

"The fact that an eye cannot function well with an essential part removed does not mean that it could not evolve gradually from one that did not have that part.  Because God did create it, either by the evolutionary process or by some more recent creative event should be answered by the facts if such exist.  Those believing in God as their creator should stop to think that God is the creator of all things either directly or by the natural processes of the one created world.  The consequence of that, a world behaving according to God's laws, is that there is truth in the correct interpretation of the evidence the world presents."

Joseph G. Engemann     September 15, 2014

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