Home » Intelligent Design » What if we DID find irreducibly complex biological features?

What if we DID find irreducibly complex biological features?

In any debate on Intelligent Design, there is a question I have long wished to see posed to ID opponents: “If we DID discover some biological feature that was irreducibly complex, to your satisfication and to the satisfaction of all reasonable observers, would that justify the design inference?” (Of course, I believe we have found thousands of such features, but never mind that.)

If the answer is yes, we just haven’t found any such thing yet, then all the constantly-repeated philosophical arguments that “ID is not science” immediately fall. If the answer is no, then at least the lay observer will be able to understand what is going on here, that Darwinism is not grounded on empirical evidence but a philosophy.

(Added later)

To make the point more concretely: In my 1985 Springer-Verlag book ( here ) I gave as an example of irreducible complexity (though I didn’t use the term, of course) a carnivorous plant which catches small animals like this: an animal touches a trigger hair, which causes a double-sealed, valve-like door to open, and a water-tight vacuum chamber suddenly expands, sucking the victim into the trap, where it is digested, then the trap is reset for the next victim. Now, any reasonable person would say: this trap couldn’t have evolved through a single random mutation, and none of the parts seem to have any use whatever until all are in place, and until the vacuum chamber is water-tight, and the abilities to digest insects and to reset the trap are functional. A gradual development of this trap through useless stages toward usefulness would be no easier to explain–through natural selection or any other natural mechanism–than a sudden development. (See also the section “The origin of carnivorous plants” in the reference here )

Naturally, any Darwinist can come up with some far-fectched senario whereby the trigger hair had some earlier use, the vacuum chamber had some function before it became water-tight, etc.

My question is: what if we found another example, even more spectacular, so spectacular that every reasonable person would be forced to admit it could not have evolved through small improvements. Then would you consider the design inference justified? If you say yes, then you are admitting that design is a possible, even if currently unjustified, scientific hypothesis. If you say no, then everyone will finally understand that, as W.E.Loennig has stated, today’s evolutionary theory is completely unfalsifiable.

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66 Responses to What if we DID find irreducibly complex biological features?

  1. On point, as usual, Granville.

  2. I agree with your idea, Granville. But I know how hard that conclusion would be for some to swallow, so I’m trying to imagine how they might respond. I suppose they could deal with it this way:

    “It won’t happen. We’ll never find any irreducibly complex features in life. The definition for IC is too vague; and besides, we could never know for sure that there couldn’t have been something in natural history that could have built this thing naturally.”

    Even that, though, would help advance the discussion in favor of ID, because:

    - It would be an admission that the question has a legitimate philosophical side (the definition of IC, among other things).
    - It would therefore be an ineluctable admission that the matter of origins has a philosophical side, and no one can claim it is just a matter of science.
    - It could thus help the world understand what should be obvious but apparently is not: that “science” is not the sole ruler of the world of knowledge; philosophy counts as well.
    - It would amount to evolution of the gaps: “We don’t know how evolution did it–and we don’t really need to know–but we know it did!”
    - And finally, it would be lame. Just that simple.

    So I say let’s press the question.

  3. 3

    I think it’s clear that Darwin’s answer, in Origin of Species was “yes, we just haven’t found any such thing”. But since the opening of Darwin’s Black Box (the cell) has brought to light innumerable features that are at least “apparently” irreducibly complex, Darwin’s disciples have shifted to the second answer: it doesn’t matter how strong the supporting evidence is, you can’t discuss ID in science classrooms because it isn’t science.

  4. I think the claim over at PT is more like this–a lot of biological features fit some definition of ‘irreducible complexity,’ but exaptation allows IC structures to evolve step-by-step.

  5. From my blog:

    To give credit where it is due, Dawkins then adds:
    Maybe there is something out there in nature that really does preclude, by its genuinely irreducible complexity, the smooth gradient of Mount Improbable. The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself said as much. (p.151)

    Of course, if something can be shown to be evolutionarily impossible, Dawkins currently believes that this will also knock design theory on its head, so he’s not too fazed by this possibility. Whether he would be more concerned when he sees the weakness of his “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit” remains to be seen.

  6. 6

    TomG: it seems to me that the hypothetical answer you cite is just the second one: “no, it doesn’t matter what we find in the cell, the design inference would never be justified” (or as Loennig puts it, neo-Darwinism cannot be falsified).

  7. It strikes me that we may have already seen that at least SOME ID critics won’t even allow that there IS such a thing as “irreducible complexity” in ANY realm.

    After all, John McDonald’s hilarious IC ‘rebuttal’ involving mousetraps made from fewer than five parts is all about denying that even a mousetrap is irreducibly complex.

    Granted, they reach this conclusion based on a deliberate misunderstanding and distortion of the definition of IC. But regardless, McDonald at least, appears to be hell-bent on denying that even a simple manmade device, obviously the product of intelligent design, is irreducibly complex.

    I would suggest that Granville’s excellent test question might be flawed only in that guys like John McDonald might attempt to evade it by claiming, in essence, that there’s no such thing as Irreducible Complexity.

    It’s not possible to win a rational, reasonable argument with irrational, unreasonable people. They’ll violate any standard of decency, fairness and rational discourse to prevent themselves from being defeated.

  8. The “answer” of course, is “No, mother nature, father time, the blind watchmaker and imagination can account for all we observe. Look at lighning and thunder. Once thought to be the work of the gods was just mother nature.”

    Also Intelligent Design, for all intents and purposes, has been (arbitrarily) defined out of science.

    Meaning even if it is true it could never be considered “science”.

    And THAT is one contradiction no one should live with as science only cares about reality, ie the truth.

  9. TRoutMac:
    I think that the mousetrap example was meant to illustrate that some things that appear to be IC can still be built up step-by-step without ever being useless. As far as I know, there is nobody on that side of the argument who thinks that there is no such thing as irreducible complexity.

  10. My answer would have to be yes, seeing as IC has, in its definition, a designer:

    “certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or “less complete” predecessors, and are at the same time too complex to have arisen naturally through chance mutations”
    If they couldn’t have evolved from simpler things, and couldn’t have occurred as they are through a natural process, in my thinking all that is left is a designer (please let me know if there is something else).

    (And no, of course, I believe we have never found such features, but never mind that.)

    However, I don’t see how it follows that “all the constantly-repeated philosophical arguments that “ID is not science” immediately fall”. In order to be science, you have to do science. You have to create testable predictions, get to the bench, do the work, see the results, modify your theory, etc. You can’t pick a system a random and state it is IC without some evidence that it is IC (see Behe vs the eye).

  11. If the answer is no, then at least the lay observer will be able to understand what is going on here, that Darwinism is not grounded on empirical evidence but a philosophy.

    This is a very helpful observation.

  12. Kipper:

    A couple of questions:

    1. I’m curious where you came across the definition you used there of irreducible complexity… at least that’s what I understood you to be doing: posting at least part of a definition of IC to try to show that it necessarily includes a designer. If that’s not what you meant, I apologize for my misunderstanding.

    2. Do you believe that there are machines in existence, designed by humans, that are irreducibly complex? In other words, do you believe that irreducible complexity is a real “quality” that can be found SOMEWHERE?

  13. Kipper
    You have to create testable predictions, get to the bench, do the work, see the results, modify your theory, etc.

    Just what predictions do you think the theory of evolution makes?

    And what science demonstrates that the physiological and anatomical differences observed between chimps and humans can be accounted for via culled genetic accidents?

    IC does not state that the system in question could not have evolved.

    IC questions the mechanism- designed to evolve vs. evolved via culled hgenetic accidents.

    BTW no one has demonstrated that an eye, any eye, can “evolve” in a population of organisms that never had one. And that is regardless of any mechanism.

    The bacterial flagellum- not only is it IC but so are its assembly instructions. And even once you have it assembled you still need to communicate with it- more IC.

    The only way around IC is to ignore it.

    As for defining IC try the following:

    IC- A system performing a given basic function is irreducibly complex if it includes a set of well-matched, mutually interacting, non-arbitrarily individuated parts such that each part in the set is indispensable to maintaining the system’s basic, and therefore original, function. The set of these indispensable parts is known as the irreducible core of the system. Page 285 NFL

    Numerous and Diverse Parts If the irreducible core of an IC system consists of one or only a few parts, there may be no insuperable obstacle to the Darwinian mechanism explaining how that system arose in one fell swoop. But as the number of indispensable well-fitted, mutually interacting,, non-arbitrarily individuated parts increases in number & diversity, there is no possibility of the Darwinian mechanism achieving that system in one fell swoop. Page 287

    Minimal Complexity and Function Given an IC system with numerous & diverse parts in its core, the Darwinian mechanism must produce it gradually. But if the system needs to operate at a certain minimal level of function before it can be of any use to the organism & if to achieve that level of function it requires a certain minimal level of complexity already possessed by the irreducible core, the Darwinian mechanism has no functional intermediates to exploit. Page 287

  14. “If we DID discover some biological feature that was irreducibly complex, to your satisfication and to the satisfaction of all reasonable observers, would that justify the design inference?”

    The definitions I am aware of are variations of “a system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning”. So I would agree that we have found many examples but I don’t think this warrants a design inference.

    On the other hand if in this case it means a system that has somehow been proven not to have evolved by any known evolutionary mechanism, then I would have to say that we didn’t know how the system was created.

  15. then I would have to say that we didn’t know how the system was created.

    And that’s where the various ID-compatible hypotheses (frontloading, etc) would step in.

  16. Chris Hyland wrote:
    “On the other hand if in this case it means a system that has somehow been proven not to have evolved by any known evolutionary mechanism, then I would have to say that we didn’t know how the system was created.”

    Is it just me, or does the last portion of this statement sound like a “science stopper.”

    You seem to be saying that if we can’t account for irreducibly complex systems in biology by reference to random mutation and natural selection, a response of “Then I don’t know how it came about” is preferred over a hypothesis which invokes a designer. Interesting.

  17. 17

    Kipper and Chris Hyland seem to be giving the honest answer that most scientists today would give, if pressed: “no, it doesn’t matter what we find in the living world, the design inference would never be justified.” Fine, but the layman has been led to believe that most scientists believe in Darwinism because the empirical evidence has led them to this reasonable scientific alternative to the obvious explanation (design); they would be astonished to know that no conceivable evidence could ever shake these people from their faith. And the point of my question is, it forces them to either admit that design is a possible (even if currently unjustified) scientific conclusion, or else admit that their theory is unfalsifiable (as Loennig states), and thus not science.

  18. Ok, here goes (though I do have to eat dinner sometime)

    TRoutMac:

    1. Found it on some web page, if you don’t like it please give some other one (though there are now a couple below, I’ll get to them)
    2. Sure, there are things designed by humans that could be said to be IC (based on Joseph’s def). Though, they are not living, so they have no bearing in the discussion.

    Joseph:
    Predictions:here is a short list I found http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html
    (sorry, don’t know how to do the link thing)
    As for they eye, well I guess it depends on what you need as proof. If your looking for someone in a lab to force an eye to evolve in a species that as of now has none, then your right (though I suspect that person would be called a designer anyway plus I suspect it would take many thousands of generations and you would need a pretty big grant to do this) however, there is a much physiological evidence in current species with different light sensing organs to guess at a pattern that could have occurred (all we can do) without reaching to the much more complex idea of ID.

    The flagellum is not that complex, just because you say something is IC does not make it so. You have to show it. We know that its pieces can be used in other organelles and I could think of ways that signaling pathways could evolve (though I realize I could never prove the exact mech by which it happened, things like EA Ortlund et al (corticoid receptor paper) are small steps towards showing a possible route.

    As for your definition, it states that a systems “basic function” is necessarily its “original” one. Why must that be so? And if this isn’t so, why couldn’t it have evolved that way?

    Sorry, have to go now, to be continued

  19. kipper,

    The potential existence of an Indirect Darwinian pathway in configuration space in no way invalidates the fact that the flagellum IS Irreducibly Complex. Now if a workable DIRECT Darwinian pathway for the flagellum were to be found that’d be another story. Those who focus their research on Indirect Darwinian pathways implicitly affirm that it is indeed IC. After all, if it wasn’t IC then why not simply point out the Direct Darwinian pathway? Just because something is IC does NOT mean that unguided Darwinian processes potentially could have evolved something Indirectly and that is exactly what Darwinists claim is the case. Denying that the flagellum is not IC at all just makes you appear uneducated in regards to the science involved. But considering that you reference TalkOrigins I can understand your confusion since that website leads many astray through its distortions.

  20. I am nearly convinced, at this point, that all this discussion with Darwinists is pointless. I have only been looking for the last few days at the comments, but it seems to me that people who have the Darwinian faith cannot be swayed from it by anything, and that all this debate amounts to nothing more than mental excercise for its participants. I am not trying to deride UD, all I’m saying is that, as stated in the first post of the mysterious Oracle of Outrage ( http://outrageoracle.blogspot.com ), you can’t argue with “experts”. Ever. It’s futile. They wrap themselves in an armor of degrees, technical papers, and suppositions that no rational weapon can penetrate. Our best hope, at this point, is to sway the public in a strong enough fashion that the Darwinists are drummed out of their position as the dominant paradigm in academia. For, most, no more than Paley’s argument (which I still find most compelling, so I’m not encouraging deception), would be enough. We have the advantage that ID lends itself to precise analogy and simple description, while the attempts for justifications of Darwinism are either silly just-so stories or mounds of steaming expertese (the language of “experts”). Even then, many will not see the light, and will dwindle away, bitter, indignant, and self-righteous until the end, an interesting footnote in the history of the world.

  21. Kipper wrote:
    “Found it on some web page, if you don’t like it please give some other one”

    Well, it’s important that we get the definition right, because the ID critics always insist on using their OWN definition, and not one that ID advocates use.

    Here’s a correct definition:
    “A single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function of the system, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” (Darwin’s Black Box, 39)

    Now that we’ve defined the term properly, do you still stand by the following comment?

    “My answer would have to be yes, seeing as IC has, in its definition, a designer”

    Kipper wrote:
    “Sure, there are things designed by humans that could be said to be IC (based on Joseph’s def). Though, they are not living, so they have no bearing in the discussion.

    Well, excuse me Kipper, but do you realize that a bacterial flagellum, itself, is not “alive”? It’s a machine, essentially no different from a mousetrap. Okay, so it’s a (very small) part of a living organism, and a mousetrap is not, I’ll grant you that. But the flagellum, or flagellar motor, itself is not any more ‘living’ than a mousetrap. It’s made of certain select parts, which are made of proteins, which are made from amino acids, but proteins and amino acids ALSO are themselves no more “alive” than the wood and metal in the parts of a mousetrap.

    So why is it that we cannot make comparisons between molecular machines and the machines that humans design?

  22. “Kipper and Chris Hyland seem to be giving the honest answer that most scientists today would give, if pressed: “no, it doesn’t matter what we find in the living world, the design inference would never be justified.”

    “no conceivable evidence could ever shake these people from their faith”

    I didn’t say either of those things.

    “admit that design is a possible (even if currently unjustified) scientific conclusion”

    If life was designed then certainly it may be possible to detect scientifically. That wasn’t the original question though.

  23. Chris Hyland wrote:
    “If life was designed then certainly it may be possible to detect scientifically.”

    Oh, well that’s cool. Did you have any particular methods in mind? How might you be able to detect design in living things scientifically?

    Thank you.

  24. 24

    My apologies, Chris Hyland, for misunderstanding your comments, then.

  25. TroutMac:”But the flagellum, or flagellar motor, itself is not any more ‘living’ than a mousetrap.”

    What is alive then?

  26. Charles wrote:

    “I am nearly convinced, at this point, that all this discussion with Darwinists is pointless. I have only been looking for the last few days at the comments, but it seems to me that people who have the Darwinian faith cannot be swayed from it by anything, and that all this debate amounts to nothing more than mental exercise for its participants.”

    I think that the public debate represented here has a few distinct advantages.

    1) Darwinists witness competent challenges to their ideas by capable thinkers who have allowed themselves to reach conclusions not endorsed by the materialist elite. This opens a door for them to question those conclusions even if they don’t admit it here.

    2) Those on the sidelines who don’t have their entire lives invested in materialist ideas are able to witness competent rebuttals to Darwinist claims, and thus actually be swayed by the evidence. Those in this group are liberated by the knowledge that no, indeed, Darwin wasn’t right; and we’re not all slaves to a meaningless and random existence. I think many in this group are pleasantly surprised by the lack of monopoly of Darwinian ideas on the fabric of reality.

    3) The failure of Darwinists to produce hard evidence in support of their claims (or even to win arguments/debates with pro-ID thinkers) continues to be illuminated by such discussions. The result will most likely be that the standards for Darwinists to actually prove what they claim will continue to rise among the general public, who will increasingly demand that materialists and Darwinists apply the same standard to themselves that they claim to represent: that conclusions about the origin and nature of biological systems be supported with evidence, not speculation and wishful thinking.

    #2 is my favorite on the list of advantages. The more real education that escapes the gravitational pull of the public school system, the media as represented by the NYT, and academia in general, the better for everybody. IOW, the more people who see the flagellar motor and come to understand how it works, the more they will understand ID and sympathize with its claims; creationist label or no.

  27. Patrick, so your saying that an IC can be the result of a Darwinian pathway, “Direct” or “Indirect”, (whatever that means)? If that is the case, seeing as Darwinian evolution is a vastly more simplistic argument than ID, and there is a large amount of accumulated evidence to prove its testable predictions – then my answer is no, if something is IC, that doesn’t mean that ID is a given. Not that it would never be justified, it would be if there was some evidence toward it, but not in this case.

    Charles, funny, I was thinking the same thing, slightly turned around.

    TRoutMac, simply because, as you said, the flagellum is part of a living system that can reproduce itself. There is no heredity in automobiles. So, though amino acids or proteins or RNA or DNA are not, by themselves, alive, what happens to them within the complete living system effects the next generation in a very direct way without any outside interference (even IDers must accept this, yes?). So, organelles are not like exhaust pipes.

    Granville Sewell, like Chris, I too never said those things. Design would be justifiable if there was evidence to justify it. Even according to IDers (Paul), IC, if it was found to exist, would not justify design. It is such an extremely complex and intricate process that must occur for design to happen (I think much more complex than evolution, many more things have to occur), I would hope that people require extreme evidence for extreme ideas.

    Apollos, I think most “Darwinists” do question things, I’m beginning to see that most IDers don’t. I think your allowing your personal philosophy to interfere in what should be a purely scientific debate. And the hard evidence is there, you just have to choose to open your mind. Hopefully, the general public will finally start yearn for a true understanding of this world and our place in it and get in on debates like this, I think it would bode well for my side, I assume you think it would bode well for your. It would be nice to see.

  28. The problem is that the eye once appeared irreducibly complex. If science is to remain the successful enterprise it has been up until now, then presumably there is no point at which it would be appropriate to stop seeking natural explanations and say ‘God did it’. That has been done in the past, and it hasn’t served religion well.

    This is no different than in other fields such as criminology. In theory, it could simply be that God wanted a person dead. In practice, we all agree it is appropriate for the police to leave unsolved cases as open files rather than closing them with declarations of presumed divine intervention.

  29. “The problem is that the eye once appeared irreducibly complex. If science is to remain the successful enterprise it has been up until now, then presumably there is no point at which it would be appropriate to stop seeking natural explanations and say ‘God did it’. That has been done in the past, and it hasn’t served religion well.” Yet so far all science has been able to come up with is Darwin’s fairytale called “the little eyeball that could”. Thus saying “evolution did it” is just as useful as saying “God did it”.

  30. Howdy Kipper,

    I certainly do have a philosophical and theological bias. So do materialist Darwinists, if I’m not being too redundant. The difference is, to my mind, I don’t masquerade my bias as an inconsequential facet of my otherwise sterling objectivity.

    Not that I’m accusing you; however it seems to be characteristic of atheist Darwinists (Dawkins comes to mind) — the attitude that their philosophical position is the result of purely rational examination of the evidence rather than a precursor to it, or a filter on how the evidence is allowed to speak.

    This seems to me the thrust of this thread. If evidence for design could be submitted such that it was beyond reasonable doubt, how would it be received by Darwinists?

    I might ask the question differently: what evidence would convince [you or any] Darwinists that design is a feature of biological systems? Or more simply, what evidence for a designer would you accept short of a message spelled out in starlight to the effect of, “Hey you, I did this.”

    It seems to me that atheists love to ask for evidence that God exists, then reject any such evidence when it has a theological implication (read Irreducible Complexity).

    As to opening my mind to the evidence, the more I do it, the more I’m convinced RM+NS has no creative power. I started as an atheist/agnostic who could see no other explanation for the presence of life than Darwinian evolution. Opening my mind has been a great experience. I consider that I have a wonderful destiny, other than my bones turning to dust long before the entire universe suffers heat death.

    I would actually predict that in the end, ironically, rather than being recognized as some sort of materialistic creative force, all evolution will be found capable of doing is preserving the design of life from premature decay.

    Hopefully, the general public will finally start yearn for a true understanding of this world and our place in it and get in on debates like this, I think it would bode well for my side, I assume you think it would bode well for your. It would be nice to see.

    Agreed! Thanks for the comments and take care.

  31. Kipper said:
    “TRoutMac, simply because, as you said, the flagellum is part of a living system that can reproduce itself. There is no heredity in automobiles.”

    So because living systems have the additional capability of replication then a comparison made between human IC and biological IC is not valid? I would love to hear a Darwinist tell me what *would*, if found, qualify as IC?!?

  32. Predictions for the extremely gullible:

    from talk origins (see comment 18):

    Evolution has been the basis of many predictions. For example:

    Darwin predicted, based on homologies with African apes, that human ancestors arose in Africa. That prediction has been supported by fossil and genetic evidence (Ingman et al. 2000).

    A few problems- first the theory of evolution didn’t predict chimps or humans.

    There isn’t any genetic evidence that demonstrates any mechanism can account for the physiological and anatomical differences between African apes and humans. IOW the premise is not testable.

    Also seeing ID is OK with Common Descent (ask Behe), that could also be a prediction of ID as it says NOTHING about a mechanism. And in a debate about the mechanism that is important.

    Theory predicted that organisms in heterogeneous and rapidly changing environments should have higher mutation rates. This has been found in the case of bacteria infecting the lungs of chronic cystic fibrosis patients (Oliver et al. 2000).

    Wow, minor changes. Perfectly acceptable to YECs.

    Predator-prey dynamics are altered in predictable ways by evolution of the prey (Yoshida et al. 2003).

    But that is nothing more than variations within a Kind.

    Ernst Mayr predicted in 1954 that speciation should be accompanied with faster genetic evolution. A phylogenetic analysis has supported this prediction (Webster et al. 2003).

    Speciation is nothing but minor changes. Again OK with YEC.

    Several authors predicted characteristics of the ancestor of craniates. On the basis of a detailed study, they found the fossil Haikouella “fit these predictions closely” (Mallatt and Chen 2003).

    No way to verify the “prediction” or the mechanism.

    Evolution predicts that different sets of character data should still give the same phylogenetic trees. This has been confirmed informally myriad times and quantitatively, with different protein sequences, by Penny et al. (1982).

    Common Design predicts that different sets of character data should still give the same phylogenetic trees.

    Insect wings evolved from gills, with an intermediate stage of skimming on the water surface.

    Scientifically undemonstrateable.

    Since the primitive surface-skimming condition is widespread among stoneflies, J. H. Marden predicted that stoneflies would likely retain other primitive traits, too. This prediction led to the discovery in stoneflies of functional hemocyanin, used for oxygen transport in other arthropods but never before found in insects (Hagner-Holler et al. 2004; Marden 2005).

    Umm that does not mean insects had an ancestor from the sea or a non-insect ancestor.

  33. Kipper:
    As for they eye, well I guess it depends on what you need as proof.

    Something, anything, that would show that such a transformation is even possible- eyes from the eyeless. Complex eyes from simpler eyes.

    But heck you can’t even find any scientific data which demonstrates that a population of single-celled organisms can “evolve” into anything but single-celled organisms!

    Kipper:
    The flagellum is not that complex, just because you say something is IC does not make it so.

    It has been demonstrated scientifically that the bacterial flagellum is IC.

    The structure is IC, the assmbly instructions are IC and the communication is IC.

    We know that its pieces can be used in other organelles and I could think of ways that signaling pathways could evolve (though I realize I could never prove the exact mech by which it happened, things like EA Ortlund et al (corticoid receptor paper) are small steps towards showing a possible route.

    Again “evolution” isn’t the question. Culled genetic accidents is what is being debated. Did it evolve via culled gentic accidents?

    How can THAT be tested and/ or falsified?

    As for your definition, it states that a systems “basic function” is necessarily its “original” one. Why must that be so?

    The definition is from “No Free Lunch”. Why must that be so? You could read the book or perhaps the following:

    Irreducible Complexity is an Obstacle to Darwinism Even if Parts of a System have other Functions

  34. Two seemingly easy questions for the anti-IDists:

    1) How can the premise that the bacterial flagellum evolved via Darwinian processes, be tested and/ or falsified?

    2) How can the premise that the mammalian vision system evolved via Darwinain processes be tested and/ or falsified?

  35. A few people mentioned that there is nothing that would be acceptable to Darwinists to accept ID and that is probably not true. From what I understand you hold that:

    1) IC features exist and there is no way that they could have evolved through gradual steps (by definition).
    2) Common descent is generally accepted.

    What this means in the case of the flagellum:

    1) The immediate predecessor of a bacteria with one is a bacteria that did not have one (gradualism impossible according to IC).
    2) A lot of genetic code was added, substituted, or deleted in this step. It could not have happened through chance mutation.
    General implications:

    1) There are millions of IC features “evolving” separately.
    2) We should at some point see one of them pop up somewhere.

    Hence if we saw an IC feature (or a similar major modification) immediately pop up in a population that previously did not have one (and we were certain that there was no genetic manipulation by humans, seeing as we are getting to the possibility), gradualists would fail to explain it. ID proponents would be right.
    I am not holding my breath.

  36. Joseph:

    The answer to both questions is it can’t, obviously. The formation of each of those occurred under idiosyncratic conditions the absolute details of which we have no way of knowing.

    If this was the test for science then geology, climatology, criminal science, and a bunch of others would not be considered science.

    What we can do is find every mechanism that has been observed and not falsified and extrapolate them to the past (something done in all sciences listed above). A Darwinian picture is the best we can come with using this criterion.

    It would also be fine to say that there are other mechanisms that could contribute to the picture, the ones we have not thought of yet, and hence could not confirm.

    It would be absurd to extrapolate a specific and unconfirmed mechanism though – certainly not done in any science.

  37. “Is it just me, or does the last portion of this statement sound like a “science stopper.”

    You seem to be saying that if we can’t account for irreducibly complex systems in biology by reference to random mutation and natural selection, a response of “Then I don’t know how it came about” is preferred over a hypothesis which invokes a designer. Interesting.”

    It would be in that case. There is nothing wrong with proposing the hypothesis in that case, but to support it you need positive evidence that the system was designed.

    “Did you have any particular methods in mind? How might you be able to detect design in living things scientifically?”

    In terms of what experiments etc I would do depends really on what I think the designer did.

  38. Why should I, or anyone, believe that (as Granville described) the bladderworts, flytraps, sundews or pitches evolved gradually when their complex capture mechanisms require the perfect coadaptation of multiple components as a precondition to function?

    After all, there exists only two sorts of evidence for gradualism which does not depend on actual observation of the process: finding a sequence of intergrading forms leading unambiguously from one form to another; or reconstructing them hypothetically by providing an entirely plausible genealogy including all the intermediate forms and a thoroughly convincing explanation of how each stage of the transformation came about.

    There exists no evidence in the fossil record for their evolution, nor has anyone provided a hypothetical yet functional continuum linking their existence to some hypothetical ancestor. Without these lines of evidence, why should I, or anyone, believe these complex mechanisms evolved gradually?

    What possible case could be made that they in fact did evolve gradually? All we can show is discontinuities between complex structures: that is the ubiquitous feature of the fossil record – not gradualism. It is these complex systems spread throughout nature that separate organisms into distinct entities. The fossil record is not a poor reflection of the history of our planet nor is our imagination to think up these intergrading forms at fault, rather the discontinuities are precisely because no mechanism exists to produce complex innovations.

    Two Questions for the Darwinists/Gradualists:

    1. Why, after some 150 years, have we still not been provided intergrading forms (either fossilized or hypothetical) linking the flytrap to some hypothetical ancestor?

    2. Why should I believe the flytrap evolved gradually? (I don’t want to know why my domestic cat is smaller than a tiger and how evolution can do this, nor do I want to know why light moths do better than darker ones or visa versa – I would just love an answer which directly deals with flytraps)

  39. Kipper:

    “Patrick, so your saying that an IC can be the result of a Darwinian pathway, “Direct” or “Indirect”, (whatever that means)?”

    No, an IC machine cannot, by definition, be the result of a direct darwinian pathway. Direct means that the steps are selected for the improvement of the same function we find in the final machine. IC makes a direct darwinian pathway impossible. So, only two possibilities are left: either sudden appearance of the complete machine (practically impossible for statistical considerations), or step by step selection for different functions, that is an indirect darwinian pathway. Darwinists may believe in indirect darwinian pathways, because it’s the only possible belief which is left for them, but it’s easy to see that it really means believing in impossibilities. There is no reason in the world, either logic or statistical, why a complex function should emerge from the sum of simpler, completely different functions. And even granted that, by incredible luck, that could happen once, how can one believe that it happened millions of times, for the millions (yes, I mean it!) of different IC machines we observe in living beings? The simple fact that darwinists have to adopt arguments like cooption and indirect pathways to salvage their beliefs is a clear demonstration of how desperate they are.

    “seeing as Darwinian evolution is a vastly more simplistic argument than ID”

    No, it isn’t. The hypothesis of a designer for obviously designed things is extremely simple, natural, and based on factual observation (the constant causal link between intelligent designers and their products in reality). I am really surprised by the inconsistent use of the concept of simplicity in discussions like Occam’s razor and similar. Everyone seems to have his own, unjustified ideas of what is simple and what is not. Darwinian theory of evolution is not simple. It is a very complex and artificial attempt to justify something which appears designed, and has appeared designed for centuries to most rational beings, without admitting the existence of a designer. That’s not simple at all.
    Besides, many materialists seem to think (Dawkins included) that a hypothetical divine designer should by definition be complex. That’s not true, or at least it’s not true for most concepts of God which have been entertained for centuries by most thinkers and philosophers. God, in the measure that He is thought as an explanation of complexity, is usually conceived as simple. That concept is inherent in the important notion of transcendence. A transcendent cause is a simple fundamental reality which can explain the phenomenal complexity we observe in reality. So, darwinists are perfectly free not to believe God exists, but I cannot understand why they have to argue that, if God exists, He must be complex. If God exists, He is simple, He is transcendent, He is not the sum of parts, He is rather the creator of parts, of complexity, of external reality. So, if God exists, and He is the designer of reality, there is a very simple explanation for the designed complexity we observe.

  40. First, if I may, I’d like to make the obvious observation that this thread is fun. It has intrinsic value to its participants, or we wouldn’t be here. We are having a conversation, and that has value in itself.

    Secondly, I don’t think it’s necessary to despair over the resiliency of Darwinism. The value of the type of dialogue seen here doesn’t depend on whether it converts Darwinists. Think of Pharaoh.

    In a liberation movement, the important thing is to patiently make the counterarguments known. Truth cannot be suppressed; thus ongoing dialogue about ID provides an invaluable service.

    The only thing propping up the hegemony of Darwinism at this point is its stranglehold on the academy. It’s important to remember that hegemony in the world of ideas is generational. The darkest-seeming hour can also be a harbinger of dawn.

  41. DanP

    Intelligent design is not a hypothetical mechanism. It is confirmed by the field of genetic engineering. Intelligent agents all over the world are hard at work modifying DNA for all kinds of directed purposes. The existence of intelligent agency with similar capability predating mankind is unconfirmed but the existence of intelligent agency in recent history is a hard fact.

    Furthermore an acid test of random mutation’s ability to build complex structures given ample opportunity has been performed. Random mutation failed the test. In nearly a trillion trillion replications p. falciparum (malaria parasite) failed to build any structures more complex than statistical probability predicted – exactly what ID theory predicted is exactly what was observed in the real world. Dembski’s mathematical framework held true. Behe’s examination of empirical evidence surrounding p. falciparum confirmed Dembski’s predictions.

    Except for the crying it’s all over for random mutation + natural selection as the mechanism behind macroevolution. Intelligent design isn’t confirmed as the replacement mechanism but it’s the only viable candidate at this point in time. Since evolutionary biology is a forensic science it might never be confirmed that intelligent agency was the force majeure behind organic evolution but that isn’t a science stopper as long as it can be falsified. ID can indeed be falsified by a single observation of complex specified structures being generated by random mutation. The observation of p. falciparum over trillions of replications could have falsified ID but it didn’t – instead it confirmed the major prediction of ID theory – that prediction is that random mutation & natural selection is statistically incapable of generating complex specified structures even when given trillions of opportunities. P. falciparum was observed at the nucleotide level replicating more times than all the mammals that ever lived. Nothing even beginning to approach the complexity of mammalian anatomy (compared to reptilian anatomy) was generated by p. falciparum in as many replications. RM+NS is deader than a doornail for macroevolution – some other mechanism is responsible. Intelligent agency is the only demonstrated mechanism with the requisite capability.

  42. What about when we know something biological was designed. A common lab being performed even in some advanced placement high school classes, is the transformation of E. coli by the introduction of a gene that makes a protein that glows in UV light. We know that such phenomena were intelligently designed and are biological systems.

  43. What type of data would justify the finding that an irreducibly complex biological feature could not have evolved?

  44. Kipper wrote:
    “TRoutMac, simply because, as you said, the flagellum is part of a living system that can reproduce itself. There is no heredity in automobiles.”

    What it amounts to, Kipper, is that you’ve simply manufactured what seems to you like a plausible escape route for yourself.

    But you see, we’re comparing the machines themselves. The environment they exist within is simply not relevant. You’d like to MAKE it relevant because you don’t like the implications otherwise.

    But a machine is a machine… “an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.” That can be within the context of a living cell, or it can be within the context of, say, a factory.

    And by the way, it’s not just IDers that refer to these things as “machines.” Even the Darwinists call them that… that’s because that’s what they ARE. And in the case of the bacterial flagellum, (as one example) it is irreducibly complex just as a mouse trap is irreducibly complex.

    The mousetrap is designed by an intelligence, therefore the bacterial flagellum is designed by an intelligence. Simple as that.

    I noticed you didn’t respond to this question from before:

    Now that we’ve defined the term (IC) properly, do you still stand by the following comment?

    “My answer would have to be yes, seeing as IC has, in its definition, a designer”

  45. bill Me wrote:
    “What is alive then?”

    The bacteria is alive.

    My finger is not alive. I am alive. My finger doesn’t control itself, I control my finger.

  46. Chris Hyland wrote:
    “It would be in that case. There is nothing wrong with proposing the hypothesis in that case, but to support it you need positive evidence that the system was designed.”

    And what kind of evidence would you accept as “positive evidence that the system was designed”?

    and

    “In terms of what experiments etc I would do depends really on what I think the designer did.”

    This is evasive. How would you have any inkling at all as to “what the designer did” unless you had already concluded that a given system was, in fact, designed? Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

    You need to determine FIRST that a given system was designed. Only THEN can you start speculating about what the designer did.

    Again, the question is, what would a scientific method for detecting design in a living system look like, in your view? You said you believed there is such a method. I’d like to know what that method would be.

  47. Kipper wrote:
    “If that is the case, seeing as Darwinian evolution is a vastly more simplistic argument than ID…”

    Why should I believe that Darwinism is a “vastly more simplistic argument than ID?”

    Many of the folks here have precisely the opposite view, and for us, the “Occam’s Razor” argument supports ID, not Darwinism.

    Why? Well, probably several reasons. But suffice it to say that we see many daunting logical problems with Darwinism which you refuse to see… problems that render Darwin’s theory so complex and convoluted as to be impossible in the context of macro-evolution.

    Note that we have no problem with natural selection and random mutation producing a limited amount of “change over time.”

    But getting a single-celled organism to mutate into an elephant via Darwinian processes is FAR more complex than to propose that each organism was designed.

  48. TRoutMac, you wrote:

    “Here’s a correct definition [of irreducibly complex]:
    “A single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function of the system, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” (Darwin’s Black Box, 39)”

    I’ve often wondered about the very broad scope of this definition. It seems to me that pretty much everything in biology would be irreducibly complex, by his definition. In fact, I’m having trouble thinking of things that WOULDN’T be irreducibly complex. Any thoughts ?

  49. #39 gpuccio

    I completely agree on your clear and precise description of the differences direct/indirect darwinian pathway. However, I would only add a few words about some critical points that our NDE friends (?) tend to bypass, so completely misunderstanding the ID arguments and potentially confusing undecided people.

    So, only two possibilities are left: either sudden appearance of the complete machine (practically impossible for statistical considerations)

    IMHO it is important to explicitly outline that sudden appearance would require the addition and/or mutation of a high number of nucleotides (hundreds or thousands), so that NDE is impossible on a statistical basis and not because there would be some sort of direct violation of natural laws. This is important because darwinists tend to discredit ID with the misleading reference to an explicit miracle (although surely this kind of mutation would be an implicit one falsifying materialism).

    why a complex function should emerge from the sum of simpler, completely different functions.

    And with the target function COMPLETELY INACTIVE for natural selection. This is a point that darwinists tend to bypass easily.

  50. “How would you have any inkling at all as to “what the designer did” unless you had already concluded that a given system was, in fact, designed? Isn’t this putting the cart before the horse?

    You need to determine FIRST that a given system was designed. Only THEN can you start speculating about what the designer did.

    Again, the question is, what would a scientific method for detecting design in a living system look like, in your view? You said you believed there is such a method. I’d like to know what that method would be.”

    I am assuming here that we have some reason to hypothesise that the system is designed and so the ‘method’ would be testing our hypothesis. I would investigate then based on what I thought the history of the system was. If I didnt know I would investigate that first. An example might be that I go with the frontloading hypothesis, in which case I would probably look for remnants of the mechanisms. If found they could provide overwhelming evidence for ID, but would be absent for example if what actually happened was closer to the YEC view, in which case there will be different clues. I think the idea that first everyone must be convinced of design and then we can start loking for these types of clues is an unnesecary stumbling block for the ID movement. I should point out that this has nothing to do with who the designer is or why or how they did what they did.

    If you don’t want to consider history then the best bet is probably something like the quote from William Dembski in this post: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....n-the-war/. This seems like a fairly inexpensive and worthwhle endeavour and would possibly be a good example of positive evidence for design without specifying the method.

  51. Chris Hyland:

    In an earlier post, Chris, you wrote the following:

    “If life was designed then certainly it may be possible to detect scientifically.”

    Now, this will be the third time I’ve asked you how YOU think design in living systems could be detected scientifically. You have evaded the question twice. I didn’t ask you how you would test any particular design hypothesis. I asked you how you thought design in living systems might be detected scientifically.

  52. I’m not trying to evade the question. I think that design could be detected by testing design hypotheses. The alternative is to find some sort of smoking gun such as is discussed in the link I gave. If it still sounds like I’m evading the question then I have misaunderstood the question and could you explain exactly what you mean in more detail please.

  53. DaveScot:

    RM+NS is deader than a doornail for macroevolution – some other mechanism is responsible.

    This is transparently obvious, based upon multiple lines of reasoning, and evidence that continues to mount up to Himalayan proportions. If RM+NS were the answer to the origin of informational complexity, contemporary scientific discoveries would make this thesis more plausible. In fact,the opposite has happened, as should have been easily predicted.

  54. Granville

    If the answer is yes, we just haven’t found any such thing yet, then all the constantly-repeated philosophical arguments that “ID is not science” immediately fall. If the answer is no, then at least the lay observer will be able to understand what is going on here, that Darwinism is not grounded on empirical evidence but a philosophy.

    My variation on this theme, which I have posed often to Darwinists in various forums, is to ask ‘how do we know scientifically that any apparent design we observe on some natural system can not be actual design, even in principal?’

    Of course there is no scientific answer — or at least none that I’ve ever seen! But lots of philosophical ones…which is, of course the point. I like the twist that Granville adds here. If they say there are no features of any natural system that exhibit design, they give away the game. Even atheist Richard Dawkins admits to the strong appearance of design in bilogical systems (see his “Blind Watchmaker). But like all philosophical naturalists, he wants to buy this complexity on the cheap. But to do so requires getting way off the scientific reservation and deep into philosophical weeds. That the Darwinists never admit to that is the most telling of all!

  55. #49 kairos:

    Thank you for your further specifications, with which I agree wholeheartedly. That’s exactly the spirit and the letter of what I meant.

    I am sure that, if we can keep the basic points clear and simple, darwinists have really no possible answer.

  56. I am sure that, if we can keep the basic points clear and simple, darwinists have really no possible answer.

    We have just seen an example of the misundertanding in the thread about ERV skirmish. Someone has claimed that even if the HIV protein was appeared prior of humans, its sudden appearance couldn’t be scientific.

  57. TroutMac

    I would suggest that Granville’s excellent test question might be flawed only in that guys like John McDonald might attempt to evade it by claiming, in essence, that there’s no such thing as Irreducible Complexity.

    It’s not possible to win a rational, reasonable argument with irrational, unreasonable people. They’ll violate any standard of decency, fairness and rational discourse to prevent themselves from being defeated.

    This is about as perfect description of Darwinian logic and argumentation as I’ve seen! They do deny that there is even such a thing as IC, and then proceed to paragraph 2 above to back up their “claim”.

  58. Chris Hyland wrote:
    “If it still sounds like I’m evading the question then I have misaunderstood the question and could you explain exactly what you mean in more detail please.”

    Fair enough, Chris. With apologies to Del Ratzsch, I’ll steal one of his examples in order to illustrate. Think about this carefully and please take a shot at answering it as best you can… that’ll get us at least headed in the right direction:

    Let’s imagine that you’re on the first manned exploration of the planet Mars. Let’s say that your commanding officer has assigned you with the task of gathering any artifacts from Mars which appear to be the products of intelligent life.

    To prepare for the mission, it’s your job to figure out what sorts of things to look for on Mars. You have to figure out what criteria a given object would have to meet in order to justify bringing it back to Earth as having been produced by an intelligence.

    What do you think those criteria might be and why? How would you distinguish between objects produced by an intelligence and those that were not? You cannot afford, due to limited cargo space, to bring back objects that are mis-identified… You’ve gotta get it right. What do you look for?

  59. Acquiesce, you wrote:

    “The fossil record is not a poor reflection of the history of our planet”

    Sadly, it is. Fossilisation preferentially preserves hard parts of creatures, with the soft bits being preserved only rarely and in special geological circumstances – e.g. rapid burial, to prevent decay and scavenging of the soft material. That is why we refer to a “Cambrian explosion” – once life evolved hard parts then they were more readily shown up in the fossil record, whereas previous creatures were rarely fossilised because they had only soft parts which didn’t survive the process.

    So I’m afraid the fossil record is very skewed – it misses out most of the early history of life and gives the overwhelming impression that most of life on Earth has had either an exoskeleton or endoskeleton. Actually most life on earth hasn’t fossilised at all.

    On flytraps. These plants are a case in point, and illustrate problems with fossilisation. Flytraps tend to live in nutrient poor soils, such as swamps (which explains why it was advantageous to evolve to catch insects). Consequently when the plants dies off they too become a source of nutrition for the creatures in the nutrient scarce environment. Hence it’s no wonder they are poorly represented in the fossil record.

    But I see Venus flytraps as an opportunity for the ID movement, and Mike Behe in particular. If I was Mike, I would point to the Venus flytrap and say to the science community,

    “there is my Mousetrap in nature. It is clearly irreducibly complex, just as my Mousetrap is, and for exactly the same reasons. Explain how it can possibly have evolved.”

    So why doesn’t he?

  60. Gareth I will I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that the fossil record does not allow a objective analysis and explanation.

    What evidence is found for the appearance of all species of life on earth, and is man the last species to appear on earth? we will look at the evidence found for the amazing variety of complex life on earth. Again the naturalistic presumption of blind chance being the only reasonable cause must be dealt with. Exactly how did all these different forms of life get here? There appear to be only three options for how this amazing variety of life got here; life either originates on this earth by blind chance alone; it is deliberately introduced by a Creator alone; or, it is a combination of blind chance and a Creator. This is where naturalism is thought to have its best evidence for blind chance. The blind chance that naturalism relies on here is dressed up in a “suit and tie” and called evolution through natural selection of a mutation to DNA. But, before we get into the lack of integrity of any mutations to the DNA, let’s look at the evidence found in the fossil record. Most people presume the evidence in the fossil record overwhelmingly confirms gradual evolution from a single common ancestor. Yet this is not the case at all. The fossil record itself is one of the most crushing things for naturalists. What is termed the “Cambrian explosion” is a total departure from the naturalistic theory of evolution. It is in the Cambrian explosion, some 540 million years ago, that we find the sudden appearance of the many diverse and complex forms of life. These complex life-forms appear with no evidence of transition from the bacteria and few other “simple” life-forms that immediately preceded them in the fossil record. This following quote clearly illustrates this point.

    “Yet, here is the real puzzle of the Cambrian Explosion for the theory of evolution. All the known phyla (large categories of biological classification), except one, first appear in the Cambrian period. There are no ancestors. There are no intermediates. Fossil experts used to think that the Cambrian lasted 75 million years…. Eventually the Cambrian was shortened to only 30 million years. If that wasn’t bad enough, the time frame of the real work of bringing all these different creatures into existence was shortened to the first five to ten million years of the Cambrian. This is extraordinarily fast! Harvard’s Stephen Jay Gould stated, “Fast is now a lot faster than we thought, and that is extraordinarily interesting.” What an understatement! “Extraordinarily impossible” might be a better phrase! …. The differences between the creatures that suddenly appear in the Cambrian are enormous. In fact these differences are so large many of these animals are one of a kind. Nothing like them existed before and nothing like them has ever appeared again.” Evolution’s Big Bang; Dr. Raymond G. Bohlin, University of Illinois (B.S., zoology), North Texas State University (M.S., population genetics), University of Texas at Dallas (M.S., Ph.D., molecular biology).

    The “real work” of the beginning of the Cambrian explosion may in actuality be as short as a two to three million year time frame (Ross: Creation as Science 2006). If this blatant, out of nowhere, appearance of all the different phyla was not bad enough for naturalists, the fossil record shows that there was actually more variety of phyla at the end of the Cambrian explosion than there is today due to extinction.

    “A simple way of putting it is that currently we have about 38 phyla of different groups of animals, but the total number of phyla discovered during the Cambrian explosion (including those in China, Canada, and elsewhere) adds up to over 50 phyla. (Actually the number 50 was first quoted as over 100 for a while, but then the consensus became 50-plus.) That means there are more phyla in the very, very beginning, where we found the first fossils, than exist now.” “Also, the animal explosion caught people’s attention when the Chinese confirmed they found a genus now called Yunnanzoon that was present in the very beginning of the Cambrian explosion. This genus is considered a chordate, and the phylum Chordata includes fish, mammals and man. An evolutionist would say the ancestor of humans was present then. Looked at more objectively, you could say the most complex animal group, the chordates, were represented at the very beginning, and they did not go through a slow gradual evolution to become a chordate.” Dr. Paul Chien PhD., chairman of the biology department at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Chien also possesses the largest collection of Chinese Cambrian fossils in North America.

    The evolutionary theory would have us believe we should have more phyla today due to ongoing evolutionary processes. The hard facts of science betray the naturalists once again. The naturalist stamps his feet and says the evidence for the fossils transmutation into radically new forms is out there somewhere; we just have not found it yet. To justify this belief, naturalists will often say that soft bodied fossils were not preserved in the Cambrian fossil record, so transitional fossils were just not recorded in the fossil record in the first place. Yet, the Chinese Cambrian fossil record is excellent in its preservation of delicate – ied fossils that clearly show much of the detail of the body structures of these first creatures. So the problem for naturalists has not been alleviated. In fact the problem has become much worse. As Dr. Ray Bohlin stated, some of these recently discovered fossils are extremely unique and defy any sort of transitional scenario to any other fossils found during the Cambrian explosion. In spite of this crushing evidence found in the Cambrian explosion, our naturalistic friend continues to imagine that all life on earth descended from a common ancestor and continues to imagine missing links with every new fossil discovery that makes newspaper headlines. Yet, the true story of life since the Cambrian explosion, that is actually told by the fossil record itself, tells a very different story than the imaginative tales found in naturalistic newspaper accounts. Where the story of life, since the Cambrian explosion, is extremely clear to read is in the sea creatures who fossilize quickly in ocean sediments. We find fossils in the fossil record that appear suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, fully-formed. They have no apparent immediate evolutionary predecessor. They, just, appear suddenly in the fossil record unique and fully-formed. This is exactly what one would expect from an infinitely powerful and transcendent Creator continually introducing new life-forms on earth. Even more problematic for the naturalists is the fact once a fossil suddenly appears in the fossil record it remains surprisingly stable in its basic structure for as long as it is found in the fossil record. The fossil record can offer not even one clear example of transition from one fossil form to another fossil form out of millions of collected fossils. Some sea creatures, such as certain sharks which are still alive today, have unchanging fossil records going back hundreds of millions of years to when they first suddenly appeared in the fossil record without a predecessor.

    “Now, after over 120 years of the most extensive and painstaking geological exploration of every continent and ocean bottom, the picture is infinitely more vivid and complete than it was in 1859. Formations have been discovered containing hundreds of billions of fossils and our museums now are filled with over 100 million fossils of 250,000 different species. The availability of this profusion of hard scientific data should permit objective investigators to determine if Darwin was on the right track. What is the picture which the fossils have given us? … The gaps between major groups of organisms have been growing even wider and more undeniable. They can no longer be ignored or rationalized away with appeals to imperfection of the fossil record.” Luther D. Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma (1988), Fossils and Other Problems, 4th edition, Master Books, p. 9

    “The evidence we find in the geological record is not nearly as compatible with Darwinian natural selection as we would like it to be …. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species but the situation hasn’t changed much. The record of evolution is surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than in Darwin’s time … so Darwin’s problem has not been alleviated”. Evolutionist David Raup, Curator of Geology at Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History

    “… Every paleontologist knows that most new species, genera, and families, and that nearly all categories above the level of family appear in the record suddenly and are not led up to by known, gradual, completely continuous transitional sequences.” George Gaylord Simpson (evolutionist), The Major Features of Evolution, New York, Columbia University Press, 1953 p. 360.

    “No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long. It seems never to happen. Assiduous collecting up cliff faces yields zigzags, minor oscillations, and the very occasional slight accumulation of change over millions of years, at a rate too slow to really account for all the prodigious change that has occurred in evolutionary history. When we do see the introduction of evolutionary novelty, it usually shows up with a bang, and often with no firm evidence that the organisms did not evolve elsewhere! Evolution cannot forever be going on someplace else. Yet that’s how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleontologist looking to learn something about evolution.” – Niles Eldredge , “Reinventing Darwin: The Great Evolutionary Debate,” 1996, p.95

    “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology.” Stephen Jay Gould, Professor of Geology and Paleontology at Harvard University and the leading spokesman for evolutionary theory in America prior to his recent .
    As you can see, the fossil record is overwhelmingly characterized by suddenness and stability. For creatures who have lived in the ocean this fact is extremely clear, because their bones are fossilized in the ocean sediments very quickly. Unfortunately for land creatures, the fossil record is much harder to properly discern due to the rapid disintegration of animals who die on land. The large variety of hominid (man or ape-like) fossils that we do have piece-meal records of are characterized by overlapping histories of “distinctively different and stable” hominid species during the entire time, and the entire geography, each hominid species is found in the fossil record. There is never a transition between ANY of the different hominid species no matter where, or in what era, the hominid fossils are found.

    “If pressed about man’s ancestry, I would have to unequivocally say that all we have is a huge question mark. To date, there has been nothing found to truthfully purport as a transitional species to man, including Lucy, since 1470 was as old and probably older. If further pressed, I would have to state that there is more evidence to suggest an abrupt arrival of man rather than a gradual process of evolving”. Richard Leakey, world’s foremost paleo-anthropologist, in a PBS documentary, 1990.

    As Richard Leakey, the leading hominid fossil expert in the world admits, if he were pressed, he would have to admit the hard evidence suggests the abrupt arrival of man in the fossil record. Yet if you were to ask an average person if we have evolved from apes he will tell you of course we have and wonder why you would ask such a stupid question, since “everyone knows” this is proven in the fossil record. One hard fact in the fossil record that is not disputed by most naturalists is the fact that man is the youngest distinct species of all species to suddenly appear in the fossil record. I find the fact that man has the scientifically accepted youngest history of any fossil in the fossil record to be extremely interesting and compelling to the position held by the anthropic hypothesis. Though a naturalist may try to inconclusively argue fruit flies or some other small types of animals have evolved into distinct new species since that time, he cannot produce evidence for a genetically and morphologically unique animal with a fossil record younger than mans. This one point of evidence is crucial for both sides and is an extremely important point of contention, for this fact is the primary proposal of the whole anthropic hypothesis in the first place; God created the universe with man in mind as His final goal. Man being the last distinct and separate species to suddenly appear in the fossil record is totally expected by the anthropic hypothesis and is completely contrary to what the naturalistic evolutionary hypothesis would expect. Naturalists do not seem to notice that their theory of evolution expects and even demands there should be clear evidence for a genetically and morphologically unique species on earth somewhere since man first suddenly appeared on earth. Indeed there should be many such unambiguous examples that they could produce.

    “Perhaps the most obvious challenge is to demonstrate evolution empirically. There are, arguably, some 2 to 10 million species on earth. The fossil record shows that most species survive somewhere between 3 and 5 million years. In that case, we ought to be seeing small but significant numbers of originations (new species) … every decade.” Keith Stewart Thomson, Professor of Biology and Dean of the Graduate School, Yale University (Nov. -Dec. American Scientist, 1997 pg. 516)

    Naturalists try to assert that evolution of species is happening all the time, all over the place, with a lot of suggestive evidence that is far from being scientifically conclusive. Once again the hard “conclusive” evidence of extensive and exhaustive experimentation betrays the naturalists in his attempts to validate his evolutionary scenario.

    “Whatever we may try to do within a given species, we soon reach limits which we cannot break through. A wall exists on every side of each species. That wall is the DNA coding, which permits wide variety within it (within the gene pool, or the genotype of a species)—but no exit through that wall. Darwin’s gradualism is bounded by internal constraints, beyond which selection is useless.” R. Milner, Encyclopedia of Evolution (1990)
    “The closest science has come to observing and recording actual speciation in animals is the work of Theodosius Dobzhansky in Drosophilia paulistorium fruit flies. But even here, only reproductive isolation, not a new species, appeared.” from page 32 “Acquiring Genomes” Lynn Margulis.

    Many times, naturalists parade examples of reproductive isolation between close sub-species ( Horse & Donkey; Grizzly Bear & Polar Bear; Various Insects etc.. etc..) as stunning proof of evolution. Yet, the hard evidence of exhaustive experimentation indicates that the information for variation was already “programmed” into the parent species’s genetic code and the sub-species, or what is sometimes known as the pure breed, becomes devoid of much of the variety that was present in the genetic code of the parent species. This fact is made especially clear in mans extensive breeding history of domesticated dogs and pure bred horses. Thus, even though a sub-species, or a pure breed, may sometimes be demonstrated to become reproductively isolated, it still has reached a wall in which its possibilities for variation are severely limited in its genetic code when compared to its parent species variability. In fact, from the best evidence we have so far, reproductive isolation is due to the fact that genetic information is being lost, not gained, in the genes of the pure breed or sub-species (genetic entropy). Indeed, the lack of genetic variability in major food crops, such as corn, is a major concern facing scientists today since the genetic variability, that is found in the parent species, gives greater protection from a disease wiping out the entire crop. Even in the differences of human races we find that the younger races (Chinese, Europeans, American Indians, etc.. etc..) are losing genetic information for skin color when compared to the original race of humans that is thought to have migrated out of east Africa some 50,000 years ago. This fact is totally contrary to what we would expect to find if the variation found in the sub-species were truly wrought by random mutations in the DNA generating novel information for variability! And this result is to be totally expected if the parent species were indeed created with a certain amount of flexibility for adaptation to differing environments already programmed in its genetic code! Yet, naturalists conveniently ignore the hard conclusive fact that the variation in the sub-species or pure breed is severely limited when it is compared to the much larger variability that is found in the parent species.
    I would also like to point out that naturalists have always made many false presumptions in the face of unknown facts. For instance, for many years they presumed much of human anatomy was vestigial. Yet once again, they were proven wrong in their presumption.

    “The thyroid gland, pituitary gland, thymus, pineal gland, and coccyx, … once considered useless by evolutionists, are now known to have important functions. The list of 180 “vestigial” structures is practically down to zero. Unfortunately, earlier Darwinists assumed that if they were ignorant of an organ’s function, then it had no function.” Tornado in a Junkyard, the Relentless Myth of Darwinism by James Perloff

    The naturalists don’t ever seem to get it. Although the evidence in the fossil record, extensive research into selective breeding, as well as all other lines of evidence that are scrutinized, is overwhelmingly against them, they never seem to question the fact they may be viewing the evidence from the wrong overall perspective to begin with.

  61. But I see Venus flytraps as an opportunity for the ID movement, and Mike Behe in particular. If I was Mike, I would point to the Venus flytrap and say to the science community,

    “there is my Mousetrap in nature. It is clearly irreducibly complex, just as my Mousetrap is, and for exactly the same reasons. Explain how it can possibly have evolved.”

    So why doesn’t he?

    He’s a molecular biologist, not a botanist. And I suspect he’s pretty busy what with teaching, writing and sorting through hate mail.

  62. 62

    See the section “origin of the carnivorous plants” in the reference here .

  63. #60 bornagain77

    A great post and selection of quotes. This is my own cut at this:

    Very many examples in developmental and comparative physiology, genetics and the fossil record overwhelmingly indicate some form of evolutionary process having occurred over billions of years, leading to ever more elaborate and sophisticatedly “designed” living forms. This seems to show a contingent process dependent on each previous stage of development. This is from the “big picture” standpoint at the level of classes and families and hundreds to scores of millions of years.

    It seems to me that not considering probability/time constraints and ideological biases this data could most reasonably be considered as having resulted from any of several processes: (1)natural (reproductive) fitness-based selection fed by random variation, (2) periodic injections of intelligently influenced or created variation to existing forms, followed by natural selection and microevolution, (3) direct redesign at periodic intervals, or (4) some permutation or combination of these. The periodic interventions or input of creative variation or innovation could in principle have been “front loaded” or already somehow preexistent in the genome, but to me this is unlikely.

    These models were selected for consideration because they appear to fit the data in a general sense, especially in that each stage must be based on the previous stage. The Cambrian Explosion, however seems anomalous still – like a special case.

    These models result automatically in common descent, and almost all the available evidence clearly points to it though not proving it, including the fossil record, comparative genetics and comparative physiology of living organisms.

    The first concept (some version of Darwinism) seems plausible but only on the surface. Much of the actual fossil and genetic data seems to show a general pattern of development with a long, intermittent series of individual innovations cumulatively leading to present forms. It also seems to be confirmed as the mechanism for microevolution of various sorts in nature and demonstrated in human breeding of animals and plants and in experiments with microorganisms. It seems that very modest amounts of real specified information in the sense defined by Dembski can be accumulated by Darwinian processes. However, one of the major problems with this model is the persistent extreme sparcity of intermediate forms which would be expected to dominate the fossil record, if it were the only mechanism behind macroevolution over deep expanses of geological time. But the most severe problem is probabilistic, which makes Darwinian natural selection very unlikely to be more than a small part of the actual process of macroevolution. This statistical problem is the one so well explicated by Dembski, Behe and others.

    The second and third models are in some ways reminiscent of human technological development, except where some Divine or other supremely powerful and intelligent force has been periodically intervening in the process. However, because it has been so slow, jerky and contingent on chance events of geology and Nature (such as asteroid impacts and continental drift), the pattern shown by the data doesn’t look like what would most likely be expected from creation by an omnipotent and omniscient God, or by other entities postulated to be in a practical sense close to omnipotent. However this must be qualified by realizing that we don’t really know what God (or any other being(s) postulated to be extremely powerful) can do – presumably whatever He or they choose.

    To me this is a mystery with no satisfactory solution at this point.

  64. Magnan,
    The main problem with the Theistic postulation is that the starting (common sense)presumption of the Theistic position would expect instantaneous creation of perfection for everything from an infinitely wise, powerful and perfect Creator (How many times have unbelievers pointed this out to you?). Thus since the common sense Theistic postulation is clearly seen to be false we must dig deeper to find if the Theistic hypothesis is correct. In Genesis, we have God’s creative actions being broken into different periods of creation. And This is really the only option left for the Theistic hypothesis since its primary position is clearly invalid.
    Many reasonable and logical insights have been written about reconciling Genesis of the Bible with science, Dr. Gerald Schroeder and Dr. Hugh Ross being excellent sources for reconciliation, yet the overriding fact is that any Theistic postulations must default to God stepping out of His timelessness and introducing creative acts into this creation. I believe the fossil record best reflects this postulation of Theism better than it reflects any of the other postulations of a purely Materialistic hypothesis. That is Theism explains the sudden appearance and overall stability of fossils better than materialism does. Yet we still see limited speciation away from a parent species with an apparent loss of information (variability) for the sub-species (most likely due to genetic entropy). Thus It seems that a fusing of the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy would be the best remedy for the evidence we find. That is the best explanation for the evidence we have would have God suddenly introducing a species and then materialism explaining the species adaptations from then on.
    This postulation satisfies Dembski’s CSI and also explains the (very) limited evolution we do witness in nature.

  65. bornagain77, thanks for the reply. In response to your comment:

    “Gareth I will I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that the fossil record does not allow a objective analysis and explanation.”

    Please don’t misunderstand me – I do consider that the fossil record allows for an objective analysis. But I also recognise that we need to be aware of the fact that it doesn’t represent the whole story of life because of the sampling limitations.

  66. bornagain77: “That is the best explanation for the evidence we have would have God suddenly introducing a species and then materialism explaining the species adaptations from then on.”

    I would just contend that this is one of several candidate explanatory concepts, all of which have problems at this point.

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