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Will this do, Professor Moran?

In a recent post, entitled, Barry Arrington Explains Irreducible Complexity, Professor Laurence Moran sought to discredit the argument that irreducible complexity requires an Intelligent Designer.

Let me state up-front that I am a philosopher, not a scientist. However, I believe in arguing rigorously, so I have attempted to state the argument from irreducible complexity in a rigorous fashion. I’d appreciate hearing from Professor Moran thinks of this argument, as a biologist.

What is irreducible complexity?

I’d like to quote a passage from an online paper entitled, Irreducible Complexity Revisited (version 2.0; revised 2/23/2004) by Professor William Dembski.

The basic logic of IC [Irreducible Complexity] goes like this:

A functional system is irreducibly complex if it contains a multipart subsystem (i.e., a set of two or more interrelated parts) that cannot be simplified without destroying the system’s basic function. I refer to this multipart subsystem as the system’s irreducible core.

We can therefore define the core of a functionally integrated system as those parts that are indispensable to the system’s basic function: remove parts of the core, and you can’t recover the system’s basic function from the other remaining parts. To say that a core is irreducible is then to say that no other systems with substantially simpler cores can perform the system’s basic function.

My argument for why the unguided evolution of a multi-part irreducibly complex system is extremely unlikely

Definition: “Reasonably probable” means “likely to happen, given the time constraints.”

Assumption: Saltationism won’t work, as an explanation of the unguided evolution of a multi-part irreducibly complex system. (“Nature does not make leaps.”)

Assumption: The unguided evolution of a multi-part irreducibly complex system proceeds by a Darwinian process.

Argument:

The unguided, Darwinian evolution of a complex system with an irreducible core of n parts which is able to perform a particular function F has to proceed in little steps, each of which is reasonably probable, where each step:

EITHER (i) starts with a very small number of parts, which together perform a biologically useful function when configured in the right way; {initial function – the first step}

OR (ii) adds a new part / alters an existing part, thereby improving an existing function of a system; {incremental change}

OR (iii) removes a part, but preserves the existing function of a system, resulting in a system which is still able to perform the same function, but with fewer parts, some of which may now be indispensable; {removal of scaffolding}

OR (iv)(a) adds a new part to / alters an old part in an existing system with function G, thereby generating a system which is able to perform a brand new function F; {co-option} and/or {transformation}

OR (iv)(b) removes a part from an existing system with function G, thereby generating a system which is able to perform a brand new function F. {novelty-creating loss}

Why (i) alone won’t work

By definition, (i) alone cannot generate a multi-part complex system with an irreducible core of n parts, since the system is still very simple: it still has only a very small number of parts.

Why a combination of (i) and (ii) won’t work

By definition, a combination of (i) and (ii) cannot generate a complex system with an irreducible core of n parts, since the new parts added are not indispensable to the function of the system.

Why a combination of (i), (ii) and (iii) won’t work

A combination of (i) and (ii) followed by (iii) could theoretically generate a complex system with an irreducible core of n parts, as the loss of a part may transform a reducibly complex system into an irreducibly complex one. But a system which has been initially built up by a combination of (i) and (ii) is likely to have a comfortable margin of error in its spatial configuration, since none of the parts is absolutely critical to the system. In other words, the system will have high fault tolerance. (The system is reducibly complex, so if the configuration of the parts varies slightly, that shouldn’t affect the functionality of the system too much.)

However in a complex system with an irreducible core of n parts, the spatial configuration of the parts is of vital importance: everything has to hang together in just the right way. (Think of Professor Michael Behe’s mousetrap.) What’s more, for a very large value of n, the margin of error in the spatial configuration of the parts in a complex system with an irreducible core is likely to be extremely small. Such a system has a negligible margin of error in its spatial configuration, or near-zero fault tolerance.

It’s very unlikely that the removal of a part from a complex system whose spatial configuration of parts has comfortable margin of error (i.e. high fault tolerance) will suddenly result in the formation of a system whose spatial configuration of parts has a negligible margin of error, or near-zero fault tolerance.

Cyclic repetition of (ii) and (iii) won’t help matters either, as repetition of step (ii) tends to increase the margin of error and hence the fault tolerance of the system, thereby making it harder and harder for step (iii) to generate a system with near-zero fault tolerance.

Conclusion: At least some of the steps in the evolution of a complex system with an irreducible core have to be either type (iv)(a) or type (iv)(b) steps.

Why (iv)(a) won’t work

However, it’s very unlikely that a system with function G, which gains one new part, while keeping the existing parts in nearly the same configuration as they were before, should suddenly be able to perform a totally new function F, especially if the number of parts in the system is large. Reason: the space of all possible configurations is astronomically large. However, the vast majority of configurations don’t do anything useful: they have no functionality. (Think of amino acid chains.) The number of possible functions is therefore much, much smaller than the number of possible configurations, and different functions are likely to be isolated on little islands of configuration space. If just adding one part to a complex system with an existing function G were enough to generate a system with a new function F, that would mean, contrary to supposition, that the two functions were relatively close together in configuration space. As the number of parts n of the complex system increases, however, this scenario becomes less and less plausible. (And now think of Behe’s bacterial flagellum. Even the simplest flagella require 30 parts. The idea that adding one part to an existing 29-part system would somehow magically confer the functionality of the flagellum appears to be extremely unlikely.)

The same logic applies if we imagine that no part is added, but that one of the existing parts of a system with function G is altered. Again, it is extremely unlikely that a single alteration would confer a new function F upon the system, especially if the number of parts in the system is already large.

It’s even less likely that a system with function G, which gains one new part, while at the same time dramatically reshuffling the configuration of the old parts, should sudddenly be able to perform a totally new function F. Reason: if the reshuffling is dramatic, it’s much more likely to merely destroy existing functionality than to confer new functionality. (Recall that the vast majority of possible configurations don’t do anything useful: they have no functionality. Wrecking is easy; building is hard.)

Why (iv)(b) won’t work

It’s even less likely that a system with function G, which loses one part, while keeping the other parts in nearly the same configuration as they were before, should suddenly be able to perform a totally new function F. Reason:losses of parts tend to destroy functionality. Also, it would mean that two functions were relatively close together in configuration space, which is extremely unlikely, as the number of possible configurations is much, much larger than the number of possible functions.

It’s even less likely that a system with function G, which loses one part, while at the same time dramatically reshuffling the configuration of the other parts, should suddenly be able to perform a totally new function F. Reason:losses of parts tend to destroy functionality. Also, it would mean that two functions were relatively close together in configuration space, which is extremely unlikely, as the number of possible configurations is much, much larger than the number of possible functions. Finally, reshuffling is more likely to destroy existing functionality than to create new functionality.

Why do we need a Designer to account for irreducibly complex systems?

Intelligent design is the only known process which is reliably capable of generating systems which are not only vastly improbable, but also functional. Since irreducibly complex systems have been shown to be vastly improbable and by definition have a function, it follows that intelligent design is the best explanation for the generation of irreducibly complex systems.

Note:The argument here is not absolutely ironclad; it is a probabilistic one, and it does not establish the existence of God, but merely of an Intelligent Designer of certain biological systems.

If you want a good, non-probabilistic argument for the existence of God, I’d recommend Job Opening: Creator of the Universe — A Reply to Keith Parsons (2009) by Professor Paul Herrick. I’d also recommend Lecture notes and bibliography from Dr. Robert Koons’ Western Theism course (1998) for a highly readable summary of some of the best philosophical arguments for God’s existence. If you’d like a good summary of the fine-tuning argument, try The Teleological Argument: An Exploration of the Fine-Tuning of the Universe by Dr. Robin Collins (The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. 2009. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-405-17657-6.)These are about the best resources online for atheists who want to acquaint themselves with the arguments for God’s existence.

Where did the information in the designer come from?

The Designer isn’t irreducibly complex, so He doesn’t need another Designer.

Recall the definition of irreducible complexity: “a set of two or more interrelated parts that cannot be simplified without destroying the system’s basic function.” If the Designer (i) has no parts or (ii) has parts which cannot be removed because they’re inseparable from one another or (iii) is reducibly complex, then He won’t need a Designer, according to the argument I have put forward above.

That’s about all I have time to write today. Do readers think I have expressed the argument that irreducible complexity requires an Intelligent Designer in a sufficiently rigorous fashion? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

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58 Responses to Will this do, Professor Moran?

  1. I’m not a biologist, so I am probably using the wrong terminology here.

    Based on the definition you quote for IC, all humans are irreducibly complex. They don’t actually have their full basic function until several years after birth. What makes this possible, is that they are in a specially protected environment before birth and for some time after birth.

    I am inclined to say that development is guided. There are many feedback loops in the developing individual, and they guide development. I would call that “self-guided.” The capacity of the DNA is not sufficient to completely specify an individual, so that self-guided development, partly in utero and partly in the world after birth, is an important part of what makes the full basic function possible.

    Saltationism won’t work, as an explanation of the unguided evolution of a multi-part irreducibly complex system. (“Nature does not make leaps.”)

    I am not arguing for saltation. But I think your reasoning there is suspect. Nature clearly does make leaps. In the case of Thalidomide babies or Rubella babies, the differences from normal people surely count as leaps. Yet the self-guidance of the development process often results in persons who can function, even if not as well as a normal person.

  2. Neil,

    ALL living organisms are IC.

  3. Neil, Joe

    It would be more correct to say that all living organisms contain a great many individual systems which are IC. The organisms as a whole, however, cannot be considered IC in the sense laid out above because, plainly, like an automobile, you can have a lot go wrong, including a fair number of missing or malfunctioning parts, and the “system” will still survive.

    It is somewhat analogous to arguments surrounding the eye. As a whole, it is not IC, but any number of individual systems within it might, arguably be IC.

  4. It also means that evolution could conceivably proceed quite far, as long as the evolving organism already contained all the IC systems required from the start. Given the Cambrian explosion, then, where more and more complex attributes of present-day organisms are being discovered (and hence the IC systems apparently were already present), we might allow for a great deal of evolution of non-IC systems subsequently. This would amount to the front-loaded view of evolution.

  5. 5

    I can’t claim to be a scientist or a philospher but as a lay person interested in ID, it is obivious to even me the two instances you refer to are not the leaps vjtorley is referring to. Both Thalidomide and Rubella, upon reading your links, are destructive changes, one by a man-made drug and the other by a virus. The leaps I believe vjtorley is referring to are structures that move from less complex to more complex with the “instant” addition of multiple parts. One big mystery I always ponder is the supposed evolutionary move of a land mammal to an ocean dwelling animal. I have heard arguments that these creatures at one point developed fully functional land breathing capability at the same time they had fully functional water breathing capability, so the transition was easy and the air breathing apparatus began to evolve away. Here is what I can’t wrap my head around from an evolutionary standpoint. How many generations of my kids, grandkids, great grandkids and so on and so forth would have to spend everyday in the ocean before they would develop the ability to remain in the ocean full time. My gut says it would never happen. But let’s just ask another question, what percentage of the 7 billion humans alive on the planet are born with fully functional fins, aqua lungs or digestive systems capable of living on eating fish alone? Well, other than some sensational stories in a National Enquirer-type publication, I am inclined to believe that no humans are born with any of these fully functional parts. I have limited knowledge of recessive genes but even if my great, great grandkid to the nth power did pop out with a fully developed mutations for water life, if it was the wrong type of gene or genes, wouldn’t it be gone with the next generation?

    Here is another thing I think is amazing: All the amazing human pieces and parts FULLY develop in the womb. The lungs, the eyes, the digestive system, the fingers, etc. all assemble into fully developed structures prior to being called into use!! If the eye is missing one component, the child is either blind or their vision is severely restricted. The gestational assembly of a human with functionally structures should give us all pause.

    The final scenario I play out in my mind is the Provine statement that a dog could turn into an elephant with enough time. I am still left wondering what the intermediate mutations between a dogs nose and fully functioning trunk with muscular structures capable of grasping peanuts like a hand would look like. Even if a dog was born with a bump on his noise, how would that bump get larger and longer over successive generations and develop the musculature we see in an elephant. Simply preposterous!!!!

  6. How many generations of my kids, grandkids, great grandkids and so on and so forth would have to spend everyday in the ocean before they would develop the ability to remain in the ocean full time. My gut says it would never happen.

    Ah, well you see from a Darwinian Evolutionary POV, this is not a problem. Mutations are mutations.

    From an engineering POV, well that’s another story…

    Perhaps it depends on the current state of the genome
    AND
    a)If genome x is more likely to be predisposed to evolve y
    b)If genome x is less likely to be predisposed to evolve y

    The question is then is the predisposition itself random, or is it designed?

    A predisposed state should take into account itself and the subsequent state as they are both interdependent to achieve a net functional gain. So is there planning involved, should there be?

    If we look at this from a front-loading perspective:
    a) genome x is in a predisposed state to evolve y.

    A few other things regarding reversible and irreversible mutations

    Are mutations reversible?
    Do mutations contribute to macro-changes (species level)?

    If so, why do macro-changes seem to be irreversible.
    If mutations are mutations as per the Darwinian scenario, it should work both ways right? WRONG

  7. Dr Moran was given physical evidence of the most prolific (and blatant) example of irreducible complexity in biology – the system of coordinated physical representations and protocols which are required for biological information to even exist.

    He wasn’t interested.

  8. The organism as a whole is IC because it contains an IC core. Sure it also contains IC subsystems that it can live without but there are some functions it absolutely must have to live, that IC core.

    And then there is basic reproduction, which is also IC

  9. Evolution via accumulations of random mutations appears to have an edge, that is it appears incapable of producing more that two new protein-to-protein binding sites- (Behe)

    Evolution via the guidance of a genetic algorithm, OTOH, could produce IC systems that required multiple protein-to-protein binding sites.

  10. Joe

    Sorry to be so pedantic, but the organism as a whole is NOT IC because you can remove some parts and it can continue to function. The definition of IC is that every piece is essential. By your definition, anything which contained at least one IC component would be itself IC. This merely confuses the issue.

  11. 11

    SCheesman, I respectfully disagree. Joe is right. Organisms such as humans have an IC core. This is not to say that every functional part is required for operation, only that there are certain parts which are.

    We need our brains, circulatory systems, respiratory systems, digestive systems, etc., but can do without fingers, toes, arms, legs. The human organism cannot do without a certain minimun of functional integration. There is an irreducible minimum functional specification.

    Being IC means that there are parts which can’t be done without. IC systems may still possess functional subunits which can be removed, but they must also possess subunits which can’t.

  12. One big mystery I always ponder is the supposed evolutionary move of a land mammal to an ocean dwelling animal. I have heard arguments that these creatures at one point developed fully functional land breathing capability at the same time they had fully functional water breathing capability, so the transition was easy and the air breathing apparatus began to evolve away.

    I hope you are aware that whales, dolphins and similar creatures are air breathing only. They do not have an ability to “breath” while under water. They have to come to the surface for that.

    How many generations of my kids, grandkids, great grandkids and so on and so forth would have to spend everyday in the ocean before they would develop the ability to remain in the ocean full time.

    There’s always the possibility that they would just die off. A particular line is not guaranteed to evolve to something that can survive those environmental changes. And even if the line does survive, it might do so by evolving in a way different from what you might expect.

  13. I wanted to understand. By all the IC definitions I find that, for example, simple molecules or even atoms are irreducable complex systems. As they perform specific functions which are described by chemistry. And… by definition, they can’t be reduced.
    BUT we know that atoms and molecules may form without intelligent cause. So… what do I miss here?

  14. Thank you material.infancy…

  15. Yes, this will do…as a cure for insomnia. Best line of the day: “Let me state up front that I am a philosopher.” Modest, too!

  16. Joe, material.infancy.

    Here’s the original definition, as quoted above:

    A functional system is irreducibly complex if it contains a multipart subsystem (i.e., a set of two or more interrelated parts) that cannot be simplified without destroying the system’s basic function. I refer to this multipart subsystem as the system’s irreducible core.

    If it’s IC, every part is essential. You can’t remove even one “without destroying the system’s basic function”.

  17. Joe, material

    Clearly we are playing with semantics here, system vs. sub-system, and now I see your point, and the reason for our disagreement. I would just submit that once you start scaling up from the IC core, you may reach a point where the IC core is no longer required to accomplish the function required, as it might be taken over or augmented by other components. This fact can lead to a dilution of the argument we start with when we talk about IC (such as can occur if we talk about the eye as a whole, for instance, instead of the the cascade of reactions that lead from photon to optic nerve.)

  18. 18
    material.infantacy

    Hi SCheesman,

    I agree that dealing with subsystems make for less equivocal examples of IC. I’ve understood IC systems as being those which can’t be assembled step by step through functional, intermediate stages. This of course includes subsystems for which every constituent component is IC, but isn’t necessarily limited to those cases.

    To explain why this is the so, and taking into account your initial objection, I considered Behe’s mousetrap. The simple but effective device is basically pure IC. It consists of a base, hammer, spring, latch, and trigger, each vital to core function. Remove any part, and the thing stops working altogether — not just works less efficiently. However I can imagine a host of additions which might increase its effectiveness (as if!). I can add outriggers to the base, along with an attachment which modifies the weight of the hammer. I can add a device to the trigger which better holds the bait, and I can mount a shiny object on the base which may better attract critters. Any number of improvements might be implemented, which could in theory improve its effectiveness. We still have an IC system, but one which has components that contribute to efficiency, and that can be sacrificed without breaking the system as a whole. The base functionality is still IC and constitutes the core.

    That said, I think you’re correct that focusing on subsystems as examples of IC makes more sense. A motor has a much higher ratio of crucial components than does the automobile that incorporates it. Likewise, the cell of an organism is a better example than the whole creature; and even better are the organelles themselves.

    As to your point about an IC core being taken over by a host of complement subsystems, I think that it is correct, but perhaps with a caveat. Again with the mousetrap, I can perhaps improve the simple mousetrap by enclosing it within a container with a single entrance. The entrance is kept by a one-way door, which prevents the mouse from leaving one it enters. This (maybe) improves the effectiveness of the original by ensuring that the mouse stays in close proximity to it. The improvement, however, actually renders the original practically unnecessary, since once the mouse is inside, it cannot leave. If my intention was to catch mice, and not necessarily to kill them, I’ve just replaced the original functionality with a subsystem, and the original core can be removed. But in actuality I’ve only replaced one IC system with another, and in the process changed the specifics of the function, from kill to catch. The system is still IC, because there is a limit to what can be removed before it breaks. For the new device, I need (at least) an enclosure, a single entrance, a door, a hinge, and a latch.

    Best,
    m.i.

  19. Hi material.infantacy,

    Thanks very much for your fascinating examples. I would agree with the points you’ve made regarding subsystems, and I think it’s a good idea for us to focus on these, when engaging in debate with proponents of NDE.

  20. Hi Upright Biped,

    Thanks for your post. It is a pity that Dr. Moran didn’t address your post, as there was a lot of substantive material in it.

  21. 21
    material.infantacy

    Thanks much VJ. Regarding subsystems as better examples of IC than whole organisms, I took the point from SCheesman’s comments.

    m.i.

  22. Cut him some slack, allanius. He wasn’t boasting, he was merely disclosing that his training is in philosophy, not science.

  23. Ultimately Real-

    I have been told that once you wrap your head around what billions upon billions of years can do with subtle changes then all the rest is just “clean up on aisle 7″.

    “A nod is the same as a wink to a blind man”- MP

  24. 24

    While I admit I don’t know a great many number of things, I am aware that ocean going mammals breathe air above the surface. My sarcasm and play on words is at times lost in the written word. I actually also know that fish use gills to remove oxygen from the water so they don’t really breathe at all, since the readily accepted definition of breathing involves inhaling and exhaling. Well, some modern definitions include respiration (taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide through any natural process) under the definition of breathing so I am probably wrong on that count too.

  25. I am interested in how the argument from “irreducible complexity” applies specifically to evolution rather than to any other process in the world of life, processes which we can assume you accept.

    In particular, how does it differ from the common 18th century argument by preformationists against reproduction?

    Could we also show that development is impossible, or that the adaptive immune system can’t adapt to novel proteins? What is there about the argument that applies only to evolution?

  26. Exactly! And it’s a good way to start out letting his audience know he still has some brain cells left.

  27. TomS:

    The argument from IC applies specifically to all non intelligently designed systems.

    The immune system is a very intelligent system, with preformed algorithms that very efficiently implement at least two fundamental procedures:

    a) They prepare a basic, blind repertoire for possible epitopes, by targeted variation applied to appropriate genes in an appropriate context.

    b) After the primary response, they transform the initial low affinity antibodies into high affinity antibodies through targeted RV and intelligent selection based on the measurement of the affinity to the epitope stored in antigen presenting cells.

    IC is no problem here. The algorithm knows what to do, and does it very well. The increase in affinity is based on direct measurement of the function through information taken from the environment and purposefully stored (the epitope). The system is itself Irreducibly Complex, and designed to create specific results.

    It is obvious that intelligent designers, and intelligently designed systems, can create irreducibly complex objects.

  28. Do you have an example of a system which is not intelligently designed?

  29. weather

  30. Do you have an example of a system which is not intelligently designed?

    Newton thought that solar systems could not arise without initial intervention and continuous stabilizing intervention.

    He cited exactly the same kinds of probability arguments now being used by ID advocates.

    I don’t see a lot of current support for this hypothesis.

  31. FYI, Larry Moran has responded over at Sandwalk.

  32. What do you want to bet he gives my challenge the same attention you did?

    (“Paul, do you think representation-protocol-effect is an irreducibly complex system to transfer mutable genetic information?”)

  33. If you read his post, Larry is addressing vjtorley.

    As for representation-protocol-effect, this is not my domain, something I’m quite happy to admit. When I’ve been on UD, I have given my time to the areas in which I’m more knowledgeable. As far as RNA->Transcription->Protein goes as an IC system, I can speculate, but without a firmer model of the origin of the these systems than what is current (or at least a better understanding than mine) I don’t feel there is much value in me doing so. Perhaps someone better than I can comment?

    IOW, from where I’m sitting you may be right. I don’t know. I would still direct you to Larry’s post, as he does make some quite valuable points about what IC really means and how close knowledge of the systems affects our ability to interpret them as IC or not. You may or may not agree, of course, but I found his point around Behe and biochemical pathways quite illuminating.

  34. Paul,

    Quite obviously, I wasn’t asking you anything outside your sphere of understanding.

  35. To explain the relevance of my asking for an example of something which is not intelligently designed:

    gpuccio said: The argument from IC applies specifically to all non intelligently designed systems.

    Are not all things, from neutrons and protons to the whole of the world of life, intelligently designed? Thus, if all things are intelligently designed,
    how does the system of reproduction differ from the system of evolution with respect to intelligent design?

    How does the 18th century argument in favor of preformation differ from the argument from IC against evolution?

  36. Are not all things, from neutrons and protons to the whole of the world of life, intelligently designed?

    Sounds Panglossian.

  37. TomS and Petrushka:

    I have a lot of examples of systems that are not designed: the configuration of sand in a beach, the form of mountains, weather, the signals from a pulsar, radioactive decay, and so on. In all of those objects information can potentially be read, even in digital form, and in all cases that information appears to be random noise or the result of necessity order, or some mix.

    That the global structure of physical reality may be designed is another kind of problem. The cosmological argument, in all its forms, including fine tuning of the fundamental parameters, points to that, for those who accept it (I do). Ot is a scientific arguments with philosophical connotations, and it can be discussed, and individaully acceppted or refuted, like all philosophical positions.

    Biological ID is different. It is a purely empirical theory, about things in space and time, not a theory of all reality. That is a big difference. In space and time, most objects are not designed, if not in the sense that the whole reality and its laws can be designed.

  38. How does the IC argument against evolution differ from the argument of the preformationists?

  39. The IC argument is not against “evolution”. The IC argument is against blind and undirected chemical processes.

    And the IC argument gets to the root of our knowledge of cause and effect relationships, ie science.

  40. TomS:

    Instead of changing subject, why don’t you comment on my specific answers, that you yourself requested? Or just address the IC argument as expressed here, instead of looking at improbable similarities with other arguments?

    The IC argument is about complex irreducible machimes. That’s what you have to address.

  41. If you go back to my first entry here, you will find that the original question was about how the IC argument used in the 18th century in favor of preformation differs from today’s IC argument. I’m trying to drag the discussion back to this. You brought up the topic of things that are non intelligently designed, and I was trying to see how that responded to the question of preformation. I’m trying to understand IC by comparing and contrasting it with similar arguments.

  42. Biological ID is different.

    Because living things reproduce with heritable variation, and individuals differ in the number of offspring they produce.

    So yes, changes to living populations are, in th elong run, not random noise.

    I fail to see why ID proponents persist in using inappropriate analogies.

    If you want to know the capabilities of evolution, study it. You don’t learn anything from systems that do not have heritable variation and feedback.

  43. TomS:

    I am not an expert about preformationism, just read something in Wikipedia to understand what you mean. And I don’t understand what you mean.

    Could you please sum up briefly the argument that you think relates to IC?

    The argument from IC is simple, IMO. Some functional machines are made of parts, each of them rather complex, abd the actual function of the machine may depend critically on the presence of all those part, at least for the irreducibly complex core of the machine.

    It is simple. The consequence for neodarwinian theory, where NS can operate only on existing function, is that the final function cannot be selected untill all the parts are present and working together. So, the individual parts canno undergo selection, at least not for the final function.

    That’s why darwinists have “invented” cooption, hoping against evidence that each single part can be selected for some different function, and then the whole system come together by miraculous luck and be selected.

    Obviously, that “solution” is worse than the original problem (completely irrealistic, certainly not universally appliable, absolutely ad hoc reasoning).

    So, the concept of IC remains an unsurmountable wall, one among many others, for neo darwinian theory.

    How does all that relate to preformationism?

  44. Preformation was a largely 18th century theory which said that individuals could not develop, and thus must be present from the beginning of creation. For references to what I am talking about, I suggest looking at those given in the
    Wikipedia article on “Irreducible complexity” under the subheading “Up to the 18th century” which has a few lines about Nicholas Malebranche, including this quotation:
    “An organized body contains an infinity of parts that mutually depend upon one another in relation to particular ends, all of which must be actually formed in order to work as a whole.”
    That sounds to me a lot like the standard IC argument, only with reference to the origins of the individual, rather than the origins of a species.

  45. TomS:

    You have caught the main differences. At that time, biologists did not know that the information for the development of an individual are mainly in the genome.

    Our problem today is much more specific: how did the functional information in the genome emerge? Especially the protein sequences?

    I will be very clear: the neo darwinian paradigm cannot explain the origin of even one single basic protein domain. So, there is no need of the concept of IC to understand that it is wrong (unless you want to call IC also that in a single protein, but that is not the meaning of he term in Behe).

    But Behe explains another, higher level wall to neo darwinian model. Not only it cannot explain the emergence of individual proteins, it cannot explain how different proteins emerged that are necessary to build a complex biological machine, a mutli protein biologcial machine, whose function is irreducibly complex, and does not exist if even one of the proteins of the irreducible core is lacking.

    So, either each single protein in the machine (each one!) has an independent function, and for some strange miracle all those proteins together create a machine with a new and different function (the “cooption” hypothesis), or the complex multi protein machine can never emerge with any help from NS.

    The cooption hypothesis is not a credible answer. It is possible that in some cases a new function can utilizes pre existing modules whose function is a subfunction of the new specification. That would be what darwinists have hypothesized for the relationship between the flagellum and the T3SS (if the T£SS existed before the flagellum). But in no way that mean that the flagellum is not IC. It is! If you tahe away the single parts, the motility disappears.

    But in most, maybe all, IC biological machines, including the flagellum, the single parts are not “reused modules” with an independent function. In all transmission cascades, for instance, the cascade is an information transmitting process, and it must be whole to work, and correctly integrated with the information it transmits, and with the receiver system.

    The preformation issue seem more related with the problem of body plans, than with biochemical machines. But that is another story.

  46. You spend a lot of time telling us how evolution can’t work. Are you saying that the IC argument is a one-time argument, that only works when evolution is involved?

  47. TomS:

    I hate repeating the same things. I quote myself (post 7.1, addressed to you):

    “The argument from IC applies specifically to all non intelligently designed systems.”

    Is that clear enough? Or have I to say it again for the third time?

  48. I don’t know why you think that repeating is a means of clarification.

    If the argument from IC applies only to non intelligently designed systems, how do we know, before we see the conclusion, whether we can apply the argument from IC?

    If the argument from IC applies only to non intelligently designed systems, how does that restriction distinguish between its application to systems which evolve and its application to systems which reproduce?

  49. TomS-

    The argument from IC involves our knowledge of cause and effect relationships. That is every time we have observed IC (or CSI) and knew the cause it has ALWAYS been via agency involvement- always, 100% of teh time.

    Therefor when we observe IC (or CSI) and did not directly observe it arising we can safely infer agency involvement was required.

    That is until someone comes along and demostrates that stochastic processes can produce it. Then Newton’s First Rule applies and the design inference is refuted.

  50. The 18th century preformationist naturalists observed the irreducible complexity of living things and concluded from that that those living things could not have developed. That those living things must therefore have existed from the beginning of the world of life.
    How would you respond to someone using the argument from IC to support preformation?
    I don’t want to go off-topic in discussing lots of other interesting things, like evolution.

  51. All I know is that IC is an argument against stochastic processes and for agency involvement.

    So that is all it can be used for.

  52. TomS:

    well, maybe repeating what was alredy clear could be a means of making it understood by those who didn’t understand the first time.

    If the argument from IC applies only to non intelligently designed systems, how do we know, before we see the conclusion, whether we can apply the argument from IC?

    What do you mean here? Where is your logic?

    The argument from IC derives obviously from observations made about known designed, or non designed, systems, and from logical reasoning applied to possible explanatory theories.

    The argument form IC tells us logically, with vast empirical support from known systems, that a non intelligently designed system has practically no possibility to create machines that are IC. It’s as simple as that, although for some strange reason you don’t want to get it.

    So, we apply the argument fro IC to the explanatory theory known as neo darwinism, and can easily see that the IC argument is still another reason why neo darwinism cannot work as an explanation for biological irreducibly complex machines.

    What you mean when you ask: “how do we know, before we see the conclusion, whether we can apply the argument from IC?” is really beyond my comprehension. What conclusion? What are you talking of?

    If the argument from IC applies only to non intelligently designed systems, how does that restriction distinguish between its application to systems which evolve and its application to systems which reproduce?

    Even worse. What do you mean? First of all the argument from IC is not a “restriction”, but a logical argument. And why shoiuld it “distinguish” between its applications? And what do you mean by “systems which evolve” and “systems which reproduce”?

    The only kind of systems to which we have applied the argument, starting from Behe’s original discussion, are some biological machines that are irreducibly complex. Obviously, we could apply the argument also to non biological machines. It is certanly not credible that a car engine may evolve in a random system, but that we already know. We know that car engines are designed, and don’t need a design inference for them.

    Biological machines, instead, are what must be explained. The argument from IC is a very strong argument for the falsification of the neo darwinian explanation. It’s as simple as that.

  53. TpmS:

    The 18th century preformationist naturalists observed the irreducible complexity of living things and concluded from that that those living things could not have developed. That those living things must therefore have existed from the beginning of the world of life. How would you respond to someone using the argument from IC to support preformation?

    I would respond that the design hypothesis explains those IC things, and needs not preformation.

  54. Biological machines … are what must be explained.

    In the 18th century, the preformationists used the argument from IC to falsify the reproductive explanation of “biological machines”.

  55. TomS:

    Well, and so? They apparently did not have the design hypothesis. We do.

    Have you thought that preformationists could simply be wrong, and that we could be right? And that our arguments are obviously not the same?

  56. I have considered the possibility that the arguments are not the same. That is why I asked here for the difference between the arguments.

    Maybe someone has a reference which explains the difference at greater length than can be handled in a blog?

    (I will not go off-topic by addressing your other points.)

  57. Seeing taht they did not know what we know today it is obvious that teh arguments are not the same.

    BTW reproduction is IC.

  58. TomS:

    There is no length needed to see that the two arguments are different:

    a) ID argues that IC machines can be built by design, but not by a non designed system.

    b) Preformationists argue that IC beings cannot be built at all, but must existed preformed (if I understand well their point).

    What could be more different? The only thing in common is the concept of IC, but all the rest is different.

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