3b. Ev-Illusion and Irreducible Complexity
Irreducible complexity (IC) is an argument made by intelligent design proponents that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or “less complete” predecessors, through naturally occurring chance mutations, “selected for” by natural selection. The trip from “nothing” to a fully functioning organ would yield a non-functioning entity for hundreds of thousands of years until all of the complex parts are present. The early non-functioning organ would be a useless tumor. This first video on this page shows Ken Miller, a biology/evolution instructor at Brown University, seemingly very intelligently debunking irreducible complexity.
Above left is an electronmicrograph of the flagellum. Upper right is a schematic of the system.
Professor Miller used the bacterial flagellum, in a recent ID vs. Evolution battle that occurred in Dover Pa. to disprove the concept of Intelligent Design. He completely flummoxed the creationists.This video is a perfect example of the ev-illusion being used like a magic trick, an illusion; making the audience think they are seeing something they are not. Note how the microphone, the echo effect in the lecture hall (just a natural by product of the location), and the way he talks give him such credibility. I know this is a classroom, and it isn’t an intentional setup. But he simply has great credibility due to this setting. As a college student I would have been in awe listening to him, and I would have been a full believer in what he is saying. When I was in college I believed. Now I think first before I believe; or don’t.
Keep these four steps mentioned on the previous page in mind when watching Miller do his thing, and how they mimic the linking rings illusion. In it Ken Miller discusses the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, (electron micrograph above left) and how it is not irreducibly complex. He says he is going to do something unbelievably difficult, more difficult than we could ever imagine! He is not going to remove only one protein from the fifty in the flagellum, “not five, not ten, but FORTY!.” The congregation is aghast! He makes it seem that he is going to make it even more difficult for himself by removing forty! He then shows that the new device with forty less proteins, now having only ten proteins, is the type 3 secretory system of the bacteria! This is the injector that causes bubonic plague! This is only an illusion that he absolutely knows that he is perpetrating on the students. He is fooling them. He knows it would be impossible to remove one single protein from the flagellum motor at a time until there are only ten left and find a new advantage for each removal. So he is taking an impossible situation for himself, and turning it into a manageable situation. And there are no possible advantages for each of the ten protein additions that would be required in the evolution of the type 3 secretory system. Imagine the trillions of advantages that would have to be found for each evolutionary step for each organ, biochemical, or other evolved entity for every species that now lives or has ever lived on the planet earth. Unimaginable. So once the congregation is convinced that Miller has done the most difficult thing possible by removing forty proteins, which is really by far the easiest, he can then say simply just that there is an advantage for each step of the forty other removals without naming any of them. He makes the congregation think that identifying advantages for all of the other steps is easy since he already did the super hard one. The congregation will believe him. They have already been setup and fooled. Hasn’t he already done the most difficult thing imaginable? This is a Step 4 scientific bait and switch at its best.
Use the arrow on the lower left.
Of course there are a couple of other minor problems that Miller doesn’t mention. The flagellum tail is corkscrew shaped and solid. The type 3 secretory system has a “needle” which must be configured to inject toxins. Of course changing from one to the other would be an “easy” job for selected mutations. Every job, no matter how complex, is easy for evolution; just ask the ev-illusionists. When the “needle” evolves, it must be initially short, too short to inject into another cell. For thousand of years it would have to be useless. And, the biggest glitch of all: There is absolutely no evidence that the type 3 secretory system evolved into the flagellum. Miller will ignore that part. Just telling the story makes it true in the world of evolution.
Click on the lower left arrow.
The motor can rotate the flagellum at 100,000 RPM. Just imagine if we could expand that motor for human use! It also goes forward and backward, and, of course, stops. Six million of these tiny motors would fit inside the circumference of a human hair.
To give an idea of how complex and perfectly designed the bacterial flagellum really is, take a look at the above video. It is truly an amazing example that random mutations and natural selection could not possibly have formed this device. It is perfectly engineered and symmetrical. It looks like it was designed by Boeing on an Autocad program. Does it look “random” in any way?
The elephant in the China shop here is the bacteria itself which is nearly irreducibly complex. Bacteria have comparatively few major parts, and therefore can’t survive with any missing. The ribosomes make proteins, the nucleoid carry DNA. The cytoplasm, flagellum, and cell wall and membrane are the main parts. Of course with the cell wall incomplete or missing, the bacteria is non-existent. Without the nucleoid, it couldn’t exist and reproduce. Without the cytoplasm it would be mush. One wonders what steps there were in bacterial evolution. I would love to hear a plausible explanation. Cell wall first, then nucleoid? Ribosomes first? Until the cell wall completely formed it would be as good as half of a balloon.
Dr. Behe, the person who coined the term irreducible complexity, used a mouse trap as an evidence for his idea. Removing any one part would render it useless as a mouse trap. Ken Miller in the Dover trial that was referred in the video, removed the “trigger”, and smugly wore it in the courtroom as a tie holder supposedly showing IC to be wrong. Again, wishful “evidence” by the evolutionists. For that matter, you could remove all the metal parts and use the wood base as a bookmark, or kindling for a fire. The “tie holder” example is an example of nothing, and does not at all disprove IC. Think about an eye without a retina, or optic nerve. Would that make a good tie holder, or a good anything? Dr. Behe’s thinking on irreducible complexity is almost right on the mark, and not disproved at all by the ridiculous negative evidence provided by the ev-illusionists. Ev-illusionists talk about how things evolved in hundreds of thousands of steps. So, by their thinking, the real honest test of IC would have been to take a pair of nippers and chip a tiny piece of the base or spring off. Hand the chip to Miller and see what use he may think up then.
In reality, a far better term for irreducible complexity would be zero-up hyper-complexity. One problem with IC is that it works backward. That is, it takes a complete and functioning organ and, by removing any part, supposedly the organ would be rendered useless. When an organ evolves, it goes from nothing to the functioning organ. The parts are gradually evolving and being added to the organ or organ system from nothing, rather than the organ parts being reduced from a fully functioning organ. Also organs can function with parts missing. Eyes could still provide vision without the iris, just not very well in bright light. A liver can function without a large portion of its cells missing. IC should look at evolving organs from nothing to a semi or full functioning organ, rather than taking parts away from a fully functioning organ.
By definition, with zero-up hyper-complexity, an organ would be simplified down to its bare “essentials”. That is, the non-essential parts would be discounted, so that the parts left would be the ones that the organ or organ system could not possibly function without. In the case of the vision system, the retina, optic nerve, visual cortex, and visual code together would be zero-up hyper-complex. There would be absolutely no vision if any one of these parts was removed or not functionally evolved. Translated, that means evolution in microsteps could not possibly put together a vision system. The evolving system would be useless until all of the above parts were present and evolved enough to provide some function. There would be no “advantage” to the host individual during the process from nothing to partial function.
Per commentator JohnG’s recommendation, I went to this site, which was supposed to explain the evolution of the bacterial flagellum. The author was very knowledgeable about biology and biochemistry, however his whole paper was an attempt to prove that the flagellum evolved, rather than looking at the evidence that the flagellum provides, and trying to come up with a plausible theory for how it could have formed. In this case evolution is not a plausible theory. The writer has an agenda, and he is going to bend the evidence in any way he can to fit the agenda. The article was full of the same rhetoric that inundates all ev-illusion articles: could have, might have, perhaps, probably…………..It is an incredibly well written paper if you would like to see how ev-illusionists think the flagellum evolved, no matter what side of the battle you are on.
A sample from talkdesign:
“It is hypothesized that the first, very crude motility function was random dispersal.”
“The function was probably not stirring or gathering more food by more rapid movement….”
“There are additional reasons to think that the protoflagellum may have originated in a large bacterium.”
“Therefore, like the eye contemplated by Darwin, careful analysis shows that there are no major obstacles to gradual evolution of the flagellum.”
Here is my favorite evillusion phrase: “no evidence that it could not have, no major obstacles to the gradual evolution.” These are phrases of writers who deep down inside wonder if it really happened that way. Something you rarely hear with ev-illusionists is” evidence shows that this is definitely the way it happened.” It’s always, “No evidence that it could not have.”
“Intricate multi-component systems such as these could not have originated by gradual improvement of a single function, but if systems and components underwent functional shift, then selection could have preserved intermediates for a function different from the final one.”
“Functional shift”, is a concept coined by ev-illusionists for a change of task, of which billions would be required to make evolution real. Does a body part or organelle change from one function to another?
Another great example of Steps 1 to 4 above is illustrated by: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/evolution_of_vertebrate_eyes.php
a site that describes the evolution of the eye. It is a given that something can evolve. So they take you on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and they keep listing item after item, and just by saying they evolved, that makes it so. The reader, hopefully for them, believes that one thing “could” have evolved at some time. Once they are convinced that one thing could evolve, they will then accept that evolution brought about step after step of hundreds of thousands of steps required to produce a complex vision system. Once the first step is accepted, the rest are easy. Probability, logic, and common sense are out the window.
Here is a partial sample from the site:
A primordial RPE65-like isomerase evolves.
A ciliary photoreceptor evolves that has well organized outer-segment membranes, an output synapse close to the soma and a synaptic specialization appropriate for graded signal transmission.
A primordial lens placode develops (evolves), preventing pigmentation of the overlying skin.
Ganglion-cell axons project (evolves) to the thalamus.
The optics evolve (the lens, accommodation and eye movement):
- The lens placode invaginates and develops (evolves) to form a lens.
- The iris develops (evolves) and a degree of pupillary constriction becomes possible.
- Innervated extra-ocular muscles evolve.
A highly contractile iris evolves that can adjust light levels.
The lens develops (evolves) an elliptical shape to compensate for the added refractive power that is provided by the cornea in air.
The dermal component of the split cornea is lost and the eyelids evolve.
The website ev-illusionists use the word “develops” in place of evolves so as not to alarm the reader by saying the word “evolves” too frequently. They so easily say every part simply evolves or develops, just like that. And don’t ask questions, or they will be pissed! I did question in the comments section if they really believed in the things they were saying. In a perfect example of Step 2, I was called pig-headed, stupid, arrogant, a dumfuck, retarded, a charlatan, a cocky know-nothing, kiddo, a fucking dentist, my degree must have been mail-order, confused, an anti-intellectual troll who picks fights for Jusus. My questions were childish demands, the dumbest thing ever, and strawman arguments. These are just typical of how ev–illusionists react when they are challenged, unlike any other science. For some other interesting debates with ev-illusionists, go to page 26, A through E. Section C has my debate with commenters on the University of Minnesota connected site.
I made a tongue-in-cheek video compendium of the things I have been called linked below.