Re: Fw: Fw: economic irreducible complexity

Terry M. Gray (
Thu, 28 Nov 1996 22:12:38 -0500

Russ wrote:
>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 the complexity, self-organization people could agree
with your class 2 and not call it design. This in my view is the weakest
link in Mike's argument. Many evolutionists already acknowledge the
existence of irreducibly complex systems. Mike looks at the complex system
and says--it's too complicated--it could not have arisen by "natural"
means. People like Stuart Kauffman look at the complex system and say--I
wonder if such complexity can be generated relatively easily and then do
simulations and experiments to check it out. The initial results seem to
suggest that the answer is yes.

Let's not defeat a straw man here. Gradualism is out in the complexity
field. These people talk about emergence, systems reaching a critical
point before the new complex thing suddenly appearing, etc.

Class 2 does not equal design. It simply equals a non gradualistic origin
of complexity. Identifying something in class 2 does not mean that it is
unexplainable in "naturalistic" terms. In other words a methodological
naturalist coiuld be completely comfortable with class 2 phenomena.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.


Terry M. Gray, Ph.D. Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Calvin College 3201 Burton SE Grand Rapids, MI 40546
Office: (616) 957-7187 FAX: (616) 957-6501

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