What's Wrong with Intelligent Design? Part 2
by, 24th July 2012 at 04:22 PM (3001 Views)
What Evidence Supports Intelligent Design?
Supporters of intelligent design often point to a number of published works by its advocates, including Michael Behe and William Dembski, amongst others. Although there are even peer-reviewed scientific publications supporting intelligent design, the bulk of the material which supports intelligent design is neither peer-reviewed nor found in scientific publications. Rather, the bulk of the work “supporting,” this hypothesis is found in published books (which are not peer-reviewed for scientific accuracy or credibility), online on personal and/or institutional websites (again, not edited or peer-reviewed for scientific accuracy), or in journals which are thinly veiled as exclusively existing to further the intelligent design hypothesis (for example: BIO-Complexity BIO-Complexity).
Nevertheless, there are some fundamental, and (seemingly) scientifically credible evidences for intelligent design.
1. Irreducible Complexity
Irreducible complexity was introduced by Dr. Michael Behe in the mid-1990’s. In short, irreducible complexity is a hypothesis which suggests that living organisms exhibit characteristics or systems that could not evolve gradually, because there is more than one absolutely critical working component. With more than one critical working component, the evolutionary step necessary for the construction of an “irreducibly complex system,” becomes highly improbable: not only would one component need to evolve, a number of other necessary components would have to evolve at the same time to form a working system.
Defined by Behe himself, irreducible complexity is:
Source: Irreducible Complexity: The Challenge to the Darwinian Evolutionary Explanations of many Biochemical Structures“An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.” (A Response to Critics of Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe, PCID, Volume 1.1, January February March, 2002; iscid.org/)
Common examples of an irreducibly complex system, used by Dr. Behe, include the bacterial flagellum (Flagellum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) or the blood clotting system in animals (Coagulation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia). Although the details vary, the argument essentially is that such systems – because the involve multiple complex and interlocking parts that are not interchangeable and apparently serve no purpose on their own – cannot occur due to naturalistic evolution; that an intelligent designer must be responsible for irreducibly complex systems.
What’s Wrong with Irreducible Complexity
To give Dr. Behe credit, irreducible complexity is a scientifically tenable hypothesis. The hypothesis would then be: an irreducibly complex system cannot occur due to multiple small successive evolutionary steps. In order to disprove the irreducible complexity hypothesis, then, one must demonstrate that an irreducibly complex system can evolve in a number of discrete evolutionary steps.
The problem for Dr. Behe – and why you will find almost no mention of irreducible complexity in scientific or intelligent design literature since nearly a decade ago, save rehashed arguments by those not aware of more recent rebuttals – is that irreducible complexity has been falsified. Irreducibly complex systems have been shown to evolve in a number of discrete evolutionary steps – the hypothesis of irreducible complexity has been falsified, and must be either altered or abandoned.
Take the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, as an example. This classic example of “irreducible complexity,” is now better understood: although the flagellum exists for motility in bacteria that have it now, a smaller number of its components originally serve as a protein secretion mechanism. In other words, several of the components of this “irreducibly complex system,” can be removed – and the system still has a function, albeit one that is entirely different one than motility.
Another powerful example of the flawed nature of the irreducible complexity hypothesis is the ability of organisms in vitro to reconstitute removed parts of an “irreducibly complex,” system. Pioneering work in this area was done by B.G. Hall as far back as the 1980’s. Generally, research into in vitro evolution of bacterial metabolic pathways has shown that bacteria put under certain environmental stressors (being deprived of resources, like tryptophan; or being deprived of usual growth medium and instead being grown in a different medium) are able to evolve pathways which compensate for the environmental change – to develop enzymes that were previously not present, and that take part in complex and interlocking metabolic pathways. (see, for example: Appearance and Properties of L-Sorbose-Utilizing Mutants of Candida albicans Obtained on a Selective Plate ; Selection-induced mutations occur in yeast)
For more on the flaws in irreducible complexity, and how the various examples offered by Dr. Behe have been shown to not be “irreducibly complex,” see the sources below.
Irreducible Complexity Demystified
The Flagellum Unspun
Irreducible complexity cut down to size | Science | guardian.co.uk
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