Re: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)

From: Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
Date: Tue Jun 16 2009 - 02:40:02 EDT

Cameron,

I don't have time right now to read Behe's rejoinders - I will attempt to do
so. But I was responding to the argument as you stated it, on the fact that
the existence of one intermediate doesn't explain the evolution of the
flagellum - with which I agreed.

If you wish to define irreducible complexity in this way:

>To disprove the claim that the flagellum is irreducibly complex, one would
need to rip out a part of the flagellum and have it still function *as a
flagellum* (not as a Type III secretory system).

then you can't use it as an argument against evolution. It is only a valid
argument under the assumption that the flagellum we see today must evolved
in a stepwise fashion from a series of less effective flagella. If you
insist on that then I agree that the irreducible complexity argument defies
evolution. But the fact is that evolution doesn't work like that; proteins
get re-used in other objects - it is not necessary to have them all present
by a freak accident to get a functioning flagellum - they were all present
and used in other functions. There is a New Scientist article on the
flagellum not being irreducibly complex that states that of the 40 or so
proteins, there are only two that are common to all flagella. Here's the
quote:

>>>>

The best studied flagellum, of the *E. coli* bacterium, contains around 40
different kinds of proteins. Only 23 of these proteins, however, are common
to all the other bacterial flagella studied so far. Either a "designer"
created thousands of variants on the flagellum or, contrary to creationist
claims, it is possible to make considerable changes to the machinery without
mucking it up.

What's more, of these 23 proteins, it turns out that just two are unique to
flagella. The others all closely resemble proteins that carry out other
functions in the cell. *This means that the vast majority of the components
needed to make a flagellum might already have been present in bacteria
before this structure appeared.*

>>>>

Emphasis mine. The irreducible complexity argument only has any force if
one requires them all to appear at once by multple simultaneous mutations.
But if the building blocks were already there it doesn't seem to me to have
any force at all.

I do not consider I have made an "honest error" and I also feel that your
attribution of malice to Miller is not the sort of thing one Christian
should be accusing another one of.

I speak as one who was for a long while absolutely convinced of Intelligent
Design, and who was convinced by reading Darwin's Black Box. If you read my
posts to this listserve from around 2001 (they're not hard to find) you'll
see someone who was anti-evolution. I have changed my mind since then.

The reason I was anti-evolution was because I could see the irreducible
complexity issue happening in the computer science field of genetic
algorithms. Exactly that problem crops up if you try and design an
evolutionary algorithm to solve an engineering problem. I reasoned that
this meant that evolution itself could not work for the same reason. The
error I was making was to assume that evolution worked in the same way as
the genetic algorithm - the search for a specific solution. But it does not
- there is no specific goal and components can get re-used in different
ways.

Iain

On Tue, Jun 16, 2009 at 12:40 AM, Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>wrote:

> Iain:
>
> You are quite wrong. You have not understood Behe's definition at all.
> You have made the same mistake that Ken Miller has made. The fact that some
> parts of an irreducibly complex machine can be used in another machine to
> serve a useful function does not prove that the first machine is not
> irreducibly complex. The fact that the wheel and axle of an automobile can
> be taken out and used for a go-cart does not prove that the wheel and axle
> is not a necessary functioning part of the automobile. The automobile (I
> mean the main parts thereof, not the radio or the leather seats) remains an
> irreducibly complex machine.
>
> To disprove the claim that the flagellum is irreducibly complex, one would
> need to rip out a part of the flagellum and have it still function *as a
> flagellum* (not as a Type III secretory system).
>
> Miller misreads Behe, I believe maliciously. In your case, I will assume
> it is an honest error. Please read Behe's rejoinders to Miller for further
> clarification, from the horse's mouth, if you don't trust my answer.
> They're easy to find.
>
> Cameron.
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com>
> *To:* Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
> *Cc:* asa <asa@calvin.edu>
> *Sent:* Monday, June 15, 2009 5:29 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>
> Cameron,
>
> Regarding the Type III Secretory System.
> I don't think the point of Miller's example is to "solve the problem that
> Behe is raising" as you put it. It doesn't show us how the flagellum
> evolved & indeed we don't know this. The point is whether or not the
> flagellum is irreducibly complex.
>
> Miller has demonstrated the existence of smaller parts of it in another
> functioning organelle, and thus shows that it is _not_ irreducibly complex.
>
> I think that's QED. The whole case rests on the idea that the flagellum is
> irreducibly complex. It isn't.
>
> The key point is that the smaller part of it is used for a different
> function, but one that also has benefit.
>
> Iain
>
> On Mon, Jun 15, 2009 at 9:33 PM, Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>wrote:
>
>> Bernie:
>>
>> Bill has partly answered your posts already, and my understanding is about
>> the same as his, but let me try to address your objections in my own way.
>>
>> Two things must be kept distinct:
>>
>> 1. The nature of an irreducibly complex system
>> 2. The question whether Darwinian evolutionary processes can produce
>> irreducibly complex systems
>>
>> On point 1:
>>
>> "Irreducible complexity" is a non-historical, functional description of a
>> system. It indicates that all the parts are necessary for the whole to
>> function. In an irreducibly complex system, all the parts interact in such
>> a way that the removal of one of them would cause the system to cease
>> functioning. This is basically an engineering concept, having nothing
>> intrinsically to do with evolution or even with biology.
>>
>> On point 2:
>>
>> We know from our experience as human beings that irreducibly complex
>> systems can be built by intelligent agents, e.g., ourselves. We do not have
>> experience of inanimate matter building irreducibly complex systems. (Unless
>> the inanimate matter is following a template, e.g., as in embryonic
>> development; but I am speaking of building them up from scratch, or from
>> earlier systems which are quite different.) So the question is, can natural
>> processes, unguided by any intelligence, produce irreducibly complex
>> systems, or transform one irreducibly complex system into an entirely
>> different one?
>>
>> Darwinian evolution says that they can. Behe's argument is that there are
>> formidable barriers in biological systems to the production of irreducibly
>> complex systems by means of accidental mutations, even when those mutations
>> are culled by natural selection, because natural selection can't select for
>> a system which does not function. So how do you get enough mutations
>> together to make up the new system that you want, so that "natural
>> selection" can select it?
>>
>> Behe grants that in theory there might be intermediate stages between two
>> irreducibly complex systems, each of which has survival value. But he
>> doesn't find much evidence in the Darwinian literature of these stages.
>>
>> Regarding Ken Miller, Miller and Behe have been at this for years. They
>> have published several articles each on the irreducible complexity of the
>> flagellum. I think it is important that if you read Ken Miller's criticism
>> of Behe's argument, you read every one of Behe's rejoinders.
>>
>> First, Miller sometimes misrepresents Point 1 -- what Behe means by an
>> irreducibly complex system. Whether this is out of lack of understanding or
>> out of malice, I don't know. Anyhow, Behe clarifies what he means in his
>> rejoinders. You can read them.
>>
>> Second, Miller has suggested as a possible intermediate the Type III
>> secretory system. Let's say we grant this. It still doesn't do nearly
>> enough to solve the problem that Behe is raising. There would have to be a
>> series of useful intermediates, not just one, between your basic bacterium
>> and your bacterium with a flagellum. So you still need some notion of what
>> these stages would have been, how they would have given the creature
>> survival advantage, how they would be generated genetically, etc. 99% of
>> the story is missing. And in many cases in the animal kingdom, 100% of the
>> story is missing. What are the intermediate stages? What survival value
>> did they have? An eagle with 5% sharper eyesight has a definite survival
>> advantage. But what about a bat with half a wing, enough to impair the
>> normal functioning of the arm, but not good enough to fly, or even glide in
>> a stable manner? What survival advantage would that intermediate form have?
>> Or a malfunctioning sonar, one which sometimes caught mosquitoes very well,
>> and other times let the bat crash into the cave wall? What survival
>> advantage would that intermediate form have? If evolution had to work up
>> through such imperfect partial stages, it would certainly never get to the
>> bat. And Darwinists have yet to come up with even a single plausible
>> sequence of intermediate forms, anywhere in the animal kingdom, that could
>> produce complex organic machinery such as the cardiovascular system.
>>
>> We can trace the "evolution" of the motor car. We can see "intermediate
>> stages" between the Model T and modern cars. But all of those intermediate
>> stages were designed, irreducibly complex systems. They did not mutate into
>> the next phase by accident. The question is, can nature do the equivalent,
>> and manage, not just frequently but millions of times, to find its way,
>> unguided, to useful intermediate forms? The Type III secretory system, one
>> possible intermediate in a single type of unicellular creature, is very
>> thin evidence upon which to rest a mechanism which is supposed to explain
>> the entire macroevolutionary process.
>>
>> To bring this back to your original objection: Behe allows that
>> "evolution" (not of the Darwinian kind) might have produced irreducibly
>> complex systems. But if so, it would be "front-loaded" evolution of some
>> kind, in which the parts were, so to speak, self-assembling, almost as if
>> they had an inbuilt intelligence which told them when to appear and where to
>> take their place in the new arrangement. Needless to say, such a
>> front-loaded evolution would require a mind with an ability to handle
>> complex interactions far beyond that of the greatest supercomputer, a
>> superintelligence which could only be divine. So if you go for
>> front-loading, you have to believe in God. Maybe not the Christian God, but
>> some kind of God. Thus, Denton, who proposes such a system, speaks of God.
>> Behe stops short of endorsing Denton's view as the correct one, but allows
>> it as a possible means of producing irreducible complexity through an
>> evolutionary process.
>>
>> Once again, unless you rigorously separate "evolution" from "Darwinian
>> evolution", as I have been begging everyone here to do, you will never
>> understand the arguments or motivations of ID proponents. The intelligent
>> design of irreducibly complex systems is logically compatible with
>> evolution, but not of course with Darwinian evolution.
>>
>> Cameron.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <
>> bernie.dehler@intel.com>
>> Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 2:18 PM
>> Subject: RE: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
>> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>
>>
>>
>> Bill said:
>>> "The issue is the number of elements that must be simultaneously
>>> available. If all the parts of a mouse trap are present simultaneously
>>> it might even be possible for a car accident to put it together, but
>>> highly unlikely."
>>>
>>> As I understand irreducible complexity (IC) , it is argued that the parts
>>> can't al be around at the same time because there is no use for them to be
>>> around. That is the whole point of the argument- since there is no use for
>>> them, they must have been created together all at once. Therefore-
>>> evolution, guided or unguided, is impossible. Evolution is all about
>>> building something more complex from more simpler building blocks. IC is
>>> all about this evolution being impossible, because there is no need for the
>>> lower building blocks to be around.
>>>
>>> ...Bernie
>>>
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Bill Powers [mailto:wjp@swcp.com]
>>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 10:34 AM
>>> To: Dehler, Bernie
>>> Cc: asa@calvin.edu
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
>>> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>>
>>> Bernie:
>>>
>>> I'll let Cameron reply for himself.
>>>
>>> But clearly your understanding of irreducible complexity cannot be
>>> correct. After all, we do construct mouse traps and cars all the time.
>>>
>>> The issue is the number of elements that must be simultaneously
>>> available. If all the parts of a mouse trap are present simultaneously
>>> it might even be possible for a car accident to put it together, but
>>> highly unlikely.
>>>
>>> It is a matter of probabalistic resources. In order to put togehter a
>>> car, say on an assembly line, it is required that
>>> 1) the available parts be simultaneously, or more carefully that they
>>> would be available on the time scale much shorter than the dissipative
>>> time scale (i.e., some measure of the effects of entropy, friction, or
>>> chaotic mixing).
>>>
>>> 2) That all the pieces would be put together on a time scale short
>>> compared to the disordering time scale (e.g., the time for the parts to
>>> rust, etc.).
>>>
>>> Irreducible complexity, as I understand it, is a statement that the
>>> joint probability of both the parts being nearly simultaneously
>>> available, say over time DeltaT, and the probability of the parts being
>>> put together over a time DeltaT is vanishingly small for a non-lawful,
>>> non-intelligent process.
>>>
>>> It assumes that there is no necessity in the parts coming together
>>> (e.g., the parts of a mouse trap have not "lawful" reason to come
>>> together, although once together they remain together, implying, it
>>> seems short range forces). The parts must have a lifetime that is long
>>> compared to the time of preparation, otherwise what is put together will
>>> not be made of the parts, although it might be possible that even a
>>> rusty car could become a whole, or an "inferior" mousetrap.
>>>
>>> bill
>>>
>>> On Mon, 15 Jun
>>> 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>>
>>> Cameron quoted:
>>>> " If the parts of the universe are so fine-tuned that they cannot help
>>>> but fall together into certain biologically functional arrangements, then
>>>> irreducibly complex structures will of course form through a front-loaded
>>>> evolutionary process."
>>>>
>>>> I don't understand. I understand "irreducible complexity" to mean that
>>>> it is impossible for nature to sequentially build something complex because
>>>> all the parts would need to appear at once (like the mousetrap needing all
>>>> of it's basic parts to be present at the same time). This is against
>>>> evolution- guided or unguided.
>>>>
>>>> ...Bernie
>>>>
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On
>>>> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
>>>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 7:35 AM
>>>> To: asa@calvin.edu
>>>> Subject: Re: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
>>>> Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>>>
>>>> Actually, Bernie, that's not the case. Here are just three paragraphs
>>>> for
>>>> you:
>>>>
>>>> If the parts of the universe are so fine-tuned that they cannot help but
>>>> fall together into certain biologically functional arrangements, then
>>>> irreducibly complex structures will of course form through a
>>>> front-loaded
>>>> evolutionary process. The evolutionary process would then be analogous
>>>> to
>>>> the embryological process, in that the outcome would be planned from the
>>>> beginning, with the changes all ready in advance. But this would be a
>>>> planned evolutionary process, unlike Darwin's evolutionary process, the
>>>> essential nature of which is to be unplanned. Irreducible complexity
>>>> does
>>>> not clash with "evolution"; it clashes with "unplanned evolution". Behe
>>>> assumed that any careful reader of *Darwin's Black Box* would understand
>>>> that he was talking about "unplanned evolution".
>>>>
>>>> Of course, there is as yet no evidence that fine-tuning can accomplish
>>>> such
>>>> an evolutionary feat. Fine-tuning at the evolutionary level essentially
>>>> requires that the earliest DNA has the plan for the whole march of life
>>>> implicit in it, and this claim is still highly speculative, and will
>>>> remain
>>>> so until we understand what all the apparently unused DNA is for. But
>>>> this
>>>> view is no more speculative than Darwinism itself. Each view requires
>>>> one
>>>> seemingly incredible claim. Darwinism requires us to believe that time
>>>> after time, over the course of life, accident produces new functional
>>>> structures, with the whole process conveniently tending upwards toward
>>>> man;
>>>> front-loading or fine-tuning requires us to believe that level after
>>>> level
>>>> of biological complexity is packed into the fundamental properties of
>>>> the
>>>> chemical elements, and this gives to biochemical necessity the awesome
>>>> power
>>>> that Darwinism gives to chance. On the face of it, it seems incredible
>>>> that
>>>> either chance or necessity could have such powers.
>>>>
>>>> The smart money, I would say, is on the view that the evolutionary
>>>> process
>>>> is in fact intelligently guided. It's a view consistent with our
>>>> knowledge
>>>> of integrated complex systems, and of the limited power of Darwinian
>>>> mechanisms. It's a view in tune with common sense. It's the view that
>>>> seems to be held by Ted Davis and George Murphy and Robert Russell, and
>>>> also, I am told, by Owen Gingerich and other TEs. It is also a view
>>>> compatible with the arguments of Behe and of many other ID supporters.
>>>> But
>>>> it is of course a view which, according to many here, is unscientific,
>>>> or
>>>> non-scientific. I never said that intelligently guided evolution was
>>>> "scientific" in the sense of a formal scientific hypothesis, but I
>>>> certainly
>>>> believe that it is compatible with the best scientific data -- more
>>>> compatible, in fact, than pure Darwinism is. Once again, I think that
>>>> TE,
>>>> when it is not afraid to say directly and without ambiguity that God
>>>> controlled the evolutionary process to produce certain specific results,
>>>> is
>>>> in tune with some versions of ID.
>>>>
>>>> Cameron.
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
>>>> To: <asa@calvin.edu>
>>>> Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 3:19 PM
>>>> Subject: RE: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
>>>> Gingerich
>>>> on TE and ID)
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> I think one TE could say "yes" (fully gifted creation- Howard Van Till),
>>>>> and another might say "No" because God needs to guide it somewhat or at
>>>>> certain times.
>>>>>
>>>>> Cameron said:
>>>>> ID says, "NO -- unless the properties of the atoms and the laws of
>>>>> nature
>>>>> are fine-tuned, which implies design."
>>>>>
>>>>> If ID says it could happen, then that blows apart Behe's mousetrap
>>>>> example
>>>>> (irreducible complexity), which is a pillar for ID I think ("Icons of
>>>>> ID"
>>>>> if you will).
>>>>>
>>>>
>>>>
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>>>>
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>>>
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>>>
>>
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>>
>
>
>
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> (='.'=)
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Received on Tue Jun 16 02:40:44 2009

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