Carl Zimmer on Irreducible Complexity
|December 31, 2008||Posted by DonaldM under Intelligent Design|
Oh No! I’ve Seen the Impossible! My Eyes!
Ah, the things you learn from creationists…
If you’ve ever read about intelligent design (a k a “the progeny of creationism”), you’ve probably encountered their favorite buzz words, “irreducible complexity.” If you take a piece out of a complex biological system (like the cascade of blood-clotting proteins) and it fails to work, this is taken as evidence that the system could not have evolved. After all, without all the pieces in place, it couldn’t work.
Scientists have shown over and over again that this is a false argument. At the famous intelligent-design trial in Dover in 2005, Pennsylvania, for example, Brown biologist Ken Miller showed how dolphins and other species are missing various proteins found in our blood-clotting cascade, and they can still clot blood.
Three years later, the creationists are still trying to salvage irreducible complexity. This generally involves a bait-and-switch game. Today, for example, the Discovery Institute tells us that the evidence of dolphins does not touch the argument for irreducible complexity. See, what you have here are two different irreducibly complex systems, with one that just happens to have an extra part. Just think about bicycles…
“Bicycles have two wheels. Unicycles, having only one wheel, are missing an obvious component found on bicycles. Does this imply that you can remove one wheel from a bicycle and it will still function? Of course not. Try removing a wheel from a bike and you’ll quickly see that it requires two wheels to function. The fact that a unicycle lacks certain components of a bicycle does not mean that the bicycle is therefore not irreducibly complex.”
Of course not. No. It’s not as if five seconds of googling could turn up a bicycle that still functioned without both wheels…
You’ll need to click the link above to see the photos and Youtube he includes as “evidence” of functional bikes with only 1 wheel. I’ll get to that in a moment.
First, I just love how he vigorously hand waves IC away with “Scientists have shown over and over again that this is a false argument.” Oh really? Perhaps the good Dr. Z would be so kind as to provide a bibliography listing all the peer reviewed scientific research studies that provide the detailed, testable (and potentially falsifiable) biological models for any of the IC systems that Mike Behe described in his ground breaking book Darwin’s Black Box. (hint: its about a dozen years since Behe first published his book and made the claim that no such research existed — and 12 years later, that’s still the case!) And please don’t give us references to computer games like the famous Avida study by Lenski et.al. or the review article by Pallen and Matzke. Scientists have not shown us any such thing even once let alone “over and over again.”
Dr. Z is one to talk of “bait and switch” games. He references part 2 of this article at the Discovery Institute website, but fails to mention part 1.
Perhaps if he’d read both parts he’d know that the bait and switch is accomplished not by the DI, but by his fellow Darwinian Ken Miller, as aptly explained in the entire article.
Finally, he resorts to “disproving” (falsifying?) the bicycle analgy by providing a photo AND a bonus video of a “functional” bicycle with only 1 wheel. Not to be picky (alright I am being picky) but if you look closely at the photo you’ll notice it isn’t just the front wheel that’s missing from this bicycle, but the entire front wheel assmembly, including the handle bars and wheel frame. In other words, its a modified unicycle. So what’s the point here? That we could just add a wheel to the functioning unicycle and have a fully functional bicycle? To what will the wheel be attached? Well, what if we add just the wheel frame first? Well what’s that attached to? Hmmm….seeem that the leap from UNI to BIcycle requires a whole lot more than a simple 1 part at a time addition. Not much use to an extra wheel with no place to attach it. No good to have the place to attach it with no wheel. etc etc. Thanks, Dr. Z., for demonstrating once again that IC doesn’t come cheap! But of course, scientists have shown “over and over again” that it does.
The video is virtually irrelevent because all it proves is that you can do a wheelie with a bicycle. (we all knew that as kids!) As soon as that front comes down the rider will find out how non-functional his 1 wheeled bicycle is. The front wheel assembly will be quite detrimental without the wheel!