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

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Wed Jun 17 2009 - 12:53:03 EDT


I have to think about this some more (maybe late tonight), but I don't want to get stuck on what is a good analogy to a flagellum so much as what constitutes a paradigmatic representitive of IC.

It was also not clear to me whether a care is IC. You say that the operational definition of IC is that if you remove and "essential" component, it no longer functions. There is probably a more clear and exact way to formulate this idea.

We would have to
1) define what operations or features are associated with the proper functioning of an entity.
2) discover or demonstrate that certain components of the entity are necessary for the proper functioning of the entity.

This is still too vague, I think. We don't really need something to function perfectly for it to useful, and it may be that something while losing some functionality for a given task still preserves functionality for another.
This entails a kind of functionality topology or matrix, and that in removing certain constituents of an entity it no longer serves any or little functional purpose. This is, of course, very difficult to do, although I know that ID researchers are looking for just such a measure.

It is easier, as you indicate, to simply define a functionality for a partiuclar entity. This is still somewhat vauge. The functioning requirements of a Grand Caravan Dodge are different from the functioning requirements of a car. So what defines functioning establishes subclasses. All Grand Caravans are cars. All functioning requirements of a car are functioning requirements of Grand Caravans, but not vice versa.

Is this really what we mean by IC: that there are necessary parts?
That seems to me to not get at the idea. Is a broken car still a car? I suppose so if we define the class appropriately. It would seem that we warrant such a conlcusion by saying that the broken car is potentially a working car (problems no doubt accrue here). So when is a flagellum not a flagellum, or a mousetrap not a mousetrap?

The notion of necessary parts in order for something to remain functional appears to allow entrance of too many entities. The notion of removing essential parts and no longer being functional sounds more like a definition of an entity. Is the sun IC?

I think the notion of IC can be made clear. It just does not seem to me that this description (using the notion of necessary parts) is sufficient.

I still think that IC is best approached in the manner in which something is put together. The irreducible part is meant to indicate that it must be put together as something like a whole. In the case of something designed this is not difficult to understand. The idea of a mousetrap comes together when all the elements are in place simultaneously. We don't start out making a door stop and end up with a mousetrap. There is something integrative and unified about the entity which implies that it was put together as a unit.

Evolution, we are constantly reminded, can supposedly produce entities that "look designed." It is this claim that is being investigated and challenged in IC. If that is so, it seems to me that we must say something about the manner in which something is constructed. Evolution is a process. Entities that are IC are intended to be entities that cannot be reasonably said to be constructed by evolutionary processes.

There are a number of questions that require answers.

1) Can we identify IC independent of the manner or history of their construction?
2) Given that an entity is IC does that entail that it couldn't be constructed via evolutionary-type processes?
3) Must we consider the manner of construction to identify IC entities?

I favor (3) because it gets at (1) and (2). I'm not certain I have a good idea how to address (1). Keep in mind that IC as a concept can be genuine and Behe wrong about how to characterize it.


On Wed, 17 Jun 2009 09:03:18 +0100, Iain Strachan <igd.strachan@gmail.com> wrote:
> There is another reason why the car analogy is fallacious. A car is made
> out of precisely machined engineering components, that require to be
> manufactured to precise tolerances. This is because the material they are
> made out of is stiff, not flexible like proteins. However, if you look at
> the kind of images that are displayed on ID-friendly websites, you would
> come to the conclusion that flagella are exactly like that, but in fact
> they
> are stylised representations that show the working of the organism in a
> means that we can understand.
> A couple of examples are here
> <http://sciencenotes.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/flagellum-metallic-uncommn-descent-header-lores.jpg>(the
> image on Dembski's website) and
> here<http://www.nanonet.go.jp/english/mailmag/2004/files/011a4s.jpg>.
> (The latter wasn't from an ID website, but I'll bet it's been adopted
> and
> shown around). These images with there polished surfaces and apparently
> tightly machined components give the strong impression that they were
> designed and manufactured, just like an electric motor.
> Here
> <http://sciencenotes.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/flagellum-em-fig2a-khan1990-asm.jpg>is
> a real electron micrograph of a bacterial flagellum. It really doesn't
> show
> much resemblance to an electric motor (even though it works on the same
> principle).
> Here <http://molvis.sdsc.edu/flagellar_hook/flagellar_hook_4.gif>is an
> animated gif of the rotating flagellar hook. No finely polished and
> carefully machined surfaces there.
> Here
> <http://sciencenotes.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/flagellum-partial-atomic-model-filament-section_011a6.jpg>is
> a diagram of the molecular structure of the filament cross section.
> Again,
> there is no resemblance to the kind of picture from Dembski's website.
> The
> author of the article <http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Bessette.cfm>I
> got
> this from states that the structures look like typical bacteriophage
> viruses
> and don't show anything in common with man-made machines.
> Now, I am not saying that it doesn't WORK like an electric motor. Of
> course
> it does; however the material it is made of is so radically different - a
> whole bunch of flexible, twisty protein macromolecules, that analogies
> with
> cars etc are really quite misleading IMO.
> Iain
> On Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 7:33 AM, Iain Strachan
> <igd.strachan@gmail.com>wrote:
>> On Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 5:44 AM, Bill Powers <wjp@swcp.com> wrote:
>>> Iain:
>>> I don't think this helps.
>>> Yes, it would be important that the proteins be available for the
>>> construction of the flagellum, but, it would seem, no more important
> that I
>>> have steel in making a car.
>> Once again I have little time to address fully your post, but up front
> it
>> seems to me this is a false analogy. Steel is a raw material but it has
> to
>> be formed (by something else) into body shells, wheels, drive-shafts,
> gears
>> etc. But the proteins are not like a raw material; they fold over into
>> different shapes according to the sequence of amino acids in the chain.
>> Hence they ARE the driveshafts, gearboxes etc. I think if one were to
> have
>> a biological analogy with steel, it would be the amino acids that get
> turned
>> into proteins from the template information on the RNA (ultimately DNA)
>> molecules.
>> Is a car IC? Not at all, according to Behe's definition. Take away any
>> part of a mousetrap and you get a non-functioning mousetrap. Take out
> one
>> of the spark plugs from a car and it still runs, albeit not very well.
> Some
>> components are essential (like the battery, the engine), others are not
>> (like the windscreen wipers, the hub caps). The car can be reduced and
>> still function - hence it clearly isn't irreducible.
>> Iain
> --
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> (\__/)
> (='.'=)
> (")_(") This is a bunny copy him into your signature so he can gain world
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Received on Wed Jun 17 12:53:23 2009

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