Fw: Fw: economic irreducible complexity

Russell Maatman (rmaat@mtc1.mtcnet.net)
Wed, 27 Nov 1996 22:43:01 -0600

George Murphy wrote on Wednesday, November 27, 1996 4:22 PM:
> Russell Maatman wrote:
> > So we are
> > back to the same place: refute his examples at the Journal of Molecular
> > Biology level. If no one can do that, then the claim that evolutionary
> > theory is not general for the biological world is correct. Then, as I
> > claimed earlier, it would not be correct to assume a priori that every
> > biological system evolved.
> This claim seems overstated. _As long as_ no one can do that,
> it cannot be claimed that evolutionary theory has been _proven_ to be
> general. The question remains open. One can still assume that every
> biological system evolved (e.g., because of all the other things that
> such an assumption helps to explain) without contradiction.
> Scientific theories do get refuted or reduced to the status of
> approximations to some better theory. E.g., we now know that classical
> physics simply cannot explain some basic things like the existence of
> stable atoms. But we know that only _a posteriori_, after the
> development of quantum mechanics (to which classical mechanics is an
> approximation). No one in 1913 would have been justified in saying that
> classical physics had been proven wrong because it had not yet explained
> atomic structure.
> Whether an analogous development apropos the issue of evolution
> and design is possible is open to question. One has to entertain the
> possibility that someone will come up with an adequate scientific theory
> of design which can explain things which natural selection &c can't.
> But let's see such a theory. If I'm given simply a parallel to someone
> in 1913 saying that an electron in the ground state of an atom doesn't
> radiate because God keeps it from radiating, then I won't be very
> impressed.

What I am arguing for, George, is this: Let's not assume a priori that
every biological system can be shown to have evolved in a gradualistic
manner. After all, it is _possible_, is it not, that some systems did not
in fact arise that way? In such cases, one who seeks the truth would allow
for that possibility and perhaps even conclude that at least for the
present the nongradualistic origin is the most likely.

So we have two possibilities:
1. A biological system arose from simpler systems by evolution in a
gradualistic manner.
2. A biological system did not arise from simpler systems in a gradualistic

Of course, if everything we look at seems to fall into class 1, then we
will wonder about whether class 2 is a realistic possibility. My concern
is that for over a century the consensus has been that class 1 is the only
class. That was an a priori assumption, and it probably never was justified
because so many systems were not analyzed well enough so that one ought not
to have held that assumption even using the inductive method. Be that as it
may, the modern opening up of the black box points strongly to the
conclusion--for the present, of course--that some systems fall into class
2. And, it is still true that we cannot decide for many systems whether
they fall into class 1 or class 2.

I think, of course, that class 2 = design. But that is a subsidiary matter.
If we want a clean debate on these matters, let's not hang the argument on
_both_ the existence of class 2 _and_ some definition of design. It is
always dangerous to have two or more starting points that seem at first not
to conflict; maybe the fate of Euclidean geometry, resting on one too many
axioms, is an example.

It seems to me that we can never be absolutely sure--natural scientific
activity being what it is--that a given sytem falls into either class 1 or
class 2. We could decide one way, and then in a later century be shown to
be wrong--either way.

Finally, assuming a priori that all systems fall into class 1 either leads
to or is equivalent to methodological naturalism.

It's good debating with you and the others!

In the Lord,

Russell Maatman
e-mail: rmaat@mtcnet.net