Irreducible complexity explained 6


Creationists, the folks who truly believe that evolution is a myth and that instead some magic man in the sky magically poofed life into existence, have an argument known as “Irreducible complexity”.

Basically its an argument that pretends to be science … but its not. Time and time again, it has been debunked, yet the Creationist believers keep trotting it all out and ignore the science that explains why their argument does not stand up (that in itself says a lot about their scientific credibility … good scientists, when presented with real evidence, change their minds. These folks are believers, not real scientists, so they ignore the real evidence.

The core case they present is that that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or “less complete” predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally-occurring, chance mutations, and a very common example often quoted is the human eye.

Well, here is a video that takes you through it all and does a complete demolition job of this nonsense.

When faced with the claim that there are doubts about evolution … by skeptical.

  • Number of scientific papers published in credible peer reviewed journals that support evolution = too many to count
  • Number of scientific papers published in credible peer reviewed journals that support intelligent design = zero. (well OK, if you searched very hard you might find a couple, but they would be deemed a complete joke by the mainstream)

GrrlScientist has also blogged about this video in the UK’s Guardian today, you can find that article here.

Oh and one final thought … often creationists bang on about mousetraps not being irreducabily complex … well, with tongue placed firmly in cheek, I can make the observation that here on planet earth natural selection has quite successfully evolved a mouse trap from far simpler earlier models … they are called Cats.


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6 thoughts on “Irreducible complexity explained

  • Peter

    Thanks for the reply, Dave, (I’ve been away visiting grandchildren).
    I’ve read up your suggestions and found them very educational. I couldn’t find a critique of the accepted view of eye evolution. I’m still not convinced but I am only a biochemistry graduate and don’t understand everything.
    The upshot of this all is the following:
    1) We have to take a lot on trust from academia. The assertion that peer review indicated acceptability and not necessarily accuracy muddies things.
    2) Darwinism when viewed as the biological equivalent to the physics ‘theory of everything’ seems entirely unsatisfactory as an explanation of the Universe, life and humanity. It seems to lead down a dead end of nihilism of the type such a brilliant scientist as PZ dishes up.
    3) There seems to be a ‘closed shop’ as far as critics of Darwinism goes. It was interesting reading the comments following Arthur Hunt’s critique of Doug Axe’s work. Most comments were dismissive of his work except for Katerina who kept asking ‘What does this add to the Science?’ That was until someone commented that Axe supported ID concepts whereupon her attitude completely changed.
    4) I think actually, Dave, that both you and I are grateful for the Creationists. For me they are the only ones prepared to critique and dig around for interesting facts. For instance they enlightened me to the function of the Muller cells in the eye which act as fibre optic transmitters to reduce ‘light noise’ and enhance vision. This rather upsets the view that the vertebrate eye is ‘back-to-front’. For yourself, if you didn’t have the Creationists to lampoon then your articles would merely be well-researched, serious comment and probably as a consequence not so frequently read.

    I’m sure I will visit your site again. Your views are interesting and your writing is researched in depth

  • Dave Gamble Post author

    OK … lets think about each …

    >> 1) fair – seeking to demolish someone’s arguments and ideas without giving them the right of reply inevitably tends to convince the listener that what they heard was right.

    Who would you ask? many Creationists make this claim. Its a YouTube video, there is a comments section if they wish to response.

    >> 2) misrepresentative – having built brick arches I know that what the writer describes as a precursor wooden arch actually involves more materials, thought and calculations than building the arch itself: and it doesn’t do the job of the arch.

    Well, the claim made for IR is that it can only have happened by design … the illustration of the arch is to get the point over that the arch did not just happen, it was built over an earlier wooden form, that is now gone. The evolution of the eye is similar.

    3) inconsistent – the writer took someone’s idea and then sought to dismantle it in order to conclude that the idea was wrong. But when presenting their own idea about the possible development of the eye they didn’t then try and do a demolition job on their own ideas to see if they stood up to critical scrutiny.

    The evolution of the eye is not the video makers idea, its the commonly understood science, the video maker is simply explaining the common understanding. The science (and the associated attempts at demolition) has already been done elsewhere.

    You can read about it all here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_the_eye

    >> 4) information light – the schematic for the development of the eye missed out important points. For instance no mention was made of the complex nervous pathways needed to make the eye of any use to the animal. Nor was it analysed at the biochemical level. For instance, I understand that the human and chimp genome differs by around 2-5%. This apparently equates to 30 million differences in the DNA chain in each cell. What are the equivalent numbers involved in the change from one of the functioning steps of eye development to the next? The use of the words ‘small steps’ at the biochemical level is misleading.

    The goal is to demolish the silly IR claim, not do Evolution-of-the-eye 101. For more details of that see my previous link. There is only so much that you can fit into a 10 min video.

    >> 5) testable science – I once read an amazing booklet that described in great detail with excellent illustrations the development of the rocket from the Saturn V to the Starship Enterprise with warp drive. It was so well-written that by the end of it you could almost believe it was true. But you then ask yourself, does the clarity and logic therefore make it science? Perhaps it was engineering? Or was it simply persuasive guesswork from the mind of a skilled communicator?

    We have no warp-drive technology … it would have been a gradual transition from science to fiction. It does illustrate quite well that its easy to pull the wool over our eyes if you are not familiar with the conversation. Any engineer familiar with the limits of rocket engineering would spot the fact and the fiction, most of the rest of us can be fooled.

    What is interesting is the number of folks who do magic that are also skeptics about many other things … perhaps because they are aware of how easy it is to fool people.

  • Peter

    I found this video well-presented and lucid. However, I have 5 questions that perhaps someone could answer for me. Was it:
    1) fair – seeking to demolish someone’s arguments and ideas without giving them the right of reply inevitably tends to convince the listener that what they heard was right.
    2) misrepresentative – having built brick arches I know that what the writer describes as a precursor wooden arch actually involves more materials, thought and calculations than building the arch itself: and it doesn’t do the job of the arch.
    3) inconsistent – the writer took someone’s idea and then sought to dismantle it in order to conclude that the idea was wrong. But when presenting their own idea about the possible development of the eye they didn’t then try and do a demolition job on their own ideas to see if they stood up to critical scrutiny.
    4) information light – the schematic for the development of the eye missed out important points. For instance no mention was made of the complex nervous pathways needed to make the eye of any use to the animal. Nor was it analysed at the biochemical level. For instance, I understand that the human and chimp genome differs by around 2-5%. This apparently equates to 30 million differences in the DNA chain in each cell. What are the equivalent numbers involved in the change from one of the functioning steps of eye development to the next? The use of the words ‘small steps’ at the biochemical level is misleading.
    5) testable science – I once read an amazing booklet that described in great detail with excellent illustrations the development of the rocket from the Saturn V to the Starship Enterprise with warp drive. It was so well-written that by the end of it you could almost believe it was true. But you then ask yourself, does the clarity and logic therefore make it science? Perhaps it was engineering? Or was it simply persuasive guesswork from the mind of a skilled communicator?