Pseudo-science Attacks Irreducible Complexity | The Institute for Creation Research
Pseudo-science Attacks Irreducible Complexity

Molecular biologist Michael Behe described a system made of several interacting parts, whereby the removal of one part would disrupt the functioning of the whole, as being irreducibly complex. Both creation scientists and intelligent design proponents highlight examples of irreducible complexity in their studies, because they argue against evolutionary hypotheses. The very structure of these systems—with their interdependent parts working all together or not at all—demands a non-Darwinian, non-chance, non-piecemeal origin.

A team of evolutionary molecular biologists thinks it may have refuted this concept of irreducible complexity. In a recent study, the researchers focused on a specific cellular machine involved in protein transport and claimed that it was indeed reducible to its component parts. But did they use real science to demonstrate this, or just scientific-sounding phrases?

The researchers, led by Trevor Lithgow of Australia’s Monash University, claim to have reduced a vital mitochondrial transport machine, found in all eukaryotic cells, from “irreducibly” to “reducibly” complex.1 They assert that since analogs of some of the parts of this molecular machine are found elsewhere, these could have assembled naturally “when” they were brought together through random actions.2 Thus, what appeared to be an irreducible system can be considered reducible because some of its parts can be found elsewhere engaged in different cellular activities.

However, this shows a misunderstanding of the nature of “irreducible complexity.” No intelligent design theorist has claimed that a machine must have been designed merely because it has parts. What they do claim is that an imaginary, not-yet-complete machine has no function, and is thus invisible to natural selection and therefore “unevolvable.” If it does not work, it confers no advantage, and there is therefore no occasion for its selection.

To circumnavigate this dilemma, the authors suggested a “core machine” assembly phase:

We proposed that simple “core” machines were established in the first eukaryotes by drawing on preexisting bacterial proteins that had previously provided distinct functions. Subsequently, and in a step-wise process in keeping with Darwinian evolution, additional modules would have been added to the core machines to enhance their function.1

Then, to authenticate this self-serving hypothesis, the process was given an official-sounding scientific name: “preadaptation,” in which necessary components randomly assemble themselves until they are ready to “snap together” into a functional whole. Also referred to as a form of “neutral evolution,” it “falls outside the descriptions of Charles Darwin.”3

Significantly, the very label “preadaptation” admits the exact opposite of the authors’ claims. The term denotes the concept that not-yet-evolved “proto-machines” are not subject to Darwinian selection of adapted mutants, but rather fall under the influence of some other force or process. However, the fact that non-functioning “machine parts” are invisible to Darwinian selection is exactly what intelligent design theorists have observed. So, on one hand the overt claim is made that these machines were formed “in a step-wise process in keeping with Darwinian evolution,” but on the other hand the very word “preadaptation” clearly indicates a process that is separate from Darwinian evolution.

Preadaptation is entirely inferred from the assumption of evolution, and it is observed nowhere. How does it work? What drives it? What real, natural forces exist to constrain various parts into a new blueprint? And from what is the blueprint derived?

Brandon Keim wrote for Wired Science that “it requires only that existing components be repurposed,” as if adding purpose to parts occurs simply and “naturally.” Plans and purposes, however, are only known to arise from intelligent planners with purposes, never from mindless and chaotic laws of matter.

Matter alone is never seen to give rise to information. Rather, the plan or information always exists outside of the physical parts of the system that employs it, and it needs a power source to purposefully alter and fit those parts into a preplanned, working machine. While these researchers blindly believe that as long as some of the parts of a machine are nearby that they will somehow self-assemble into a workable whole, anyone who has built a bookcase, baked a cake, or assembled a watch knows firsthand that parts do not “repurpose” themselves.

Preadaptation may be indistinguishable in principle from magic, and it is clearly another prop invented to patch over the gaping hole that separates Darwinian philosophy from scientific reality.

Instead of relying on unknown “self-organizing” principles and magical impossibilities to have constructed the living world, scientists can instead rely on Acts 4:24: “Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is.” Thus, a real, effectual, adequate Cause is responsible for irreducible molecular machines such as mitochondrial transport complexes.

References

  1. Clements, A. et al. 2009. The reducible complexity of a mitochondrial molecular machine. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print August 26, 2009.
  2. Specifically, they found that certain α-proteobacteria possess proteins similar to Tim23, Tim44, and Tim14/Pam18. All three are required for the mitochondrial transport machine called TIM23. However, the analogs they found would be useless unless modified and re-fitted according to a mitochondria-specific plan. Even so, functional TIM23 is not enough, as another mitochondrial transport machine called TOM, comprised of several smaller proteins, is also required for mitochondria to function, and therefore for eukaryotes to survive. TOM components have so far only been found in eukaryotes.
  3. Keim, B. More ‘Evidence’ of Intelligent Design Shot Down by Science. Wired Science. Posted on wired.com August 27, 2009, accessed August 30, 2009.

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on September 10, 2009.

The Latest
NEWS
Physics Today Article Ignores Monster Milankovitch Problem
An overview of the Milankovitch (or astronomical) ice age theory appears in the May 2020 issue of Physics Today.1 This theory (hypothesis, really)...

COVID-19
Pandemic Lockdown Result of Bad Software
One of the most frustrating things a person can go through is for their normally stable computer system, tablet, or phone, to suddenly stop working—a...

NEWS
Lone Scotland Tree Survived Deadly “Elm Disease”
One lone elm tree survived a deadly “elm disease.” Nicknamed “Ent Tree” (alluding to arboreal heroes in J. R. R. Tolkien’s...

NEWS
Finding Hope in Flooding
On the morning of May 19, 2020, the Governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, declared a state of emergency for Midland County after two dams broke from...

NEWS
World’s Largest Volcano Found Hiding Under the Ocean
A new study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters has determined that Pūhāhonu volcano is the world’s largest by volume and the hottest.1...

COVID-19
COVID-19 and International Missions
COVID-19 containment strategies are changing the dynamics of world missions. According to Christianity Today, many missionaries are stranded in temporary...

NEWS
Astronomy Magazine: Big Bang in Crisis?
The May 2020 issue of Astronomy magazine asks what might have once been seen as an unthinkable question: Is the Big Bang in Crisis?1 The article...

NEWS
Experts: We Need More Color in Our Lives
Researchers are now seeking to broaden the spectrum of colors typically represented in manmade products, the BBC reports.1 Experts in the...

NEWS
Harvard Researchers Recognize Benefits of Church Attendance
A recent study conducted by researchers from Harvard University found that deaths from despair are significantly less common among healthcare workers who...

NEWS
Pig Population Problems: Ups, Downs, and Ruining Neighborhoods
Pig populations are having their ups and downs. For domestic swine raised as livestock, the problem is a decreasing population. Some herds have succumbed...