Message from discussion All Functions are Irreducibly Complex
From: Howard Hershey <hersh...@indiana.edu>
Subject: Re: All Functions are Irreducibly Complex
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 20:52:02 +0000 (UTC)
Organization: Indiana University
References: <email@example.com> <firstname.lastname@example.org> <3EDB7443.email@example.com>
X-Trace: darwin.ediacara.org 1054673522 55530 184.108.40.206 (3 Jun 2003 20:52:02 GMT)
NNTP-Posting-Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 20:52:02 +0000 (UTC)
in article 3EDB7443.4020...@charliewagner.com, Charlie Wagner at
char...@charliewagner.com wrote on 6/2/03 3:58 PM:
> Lilith wrote:
>> seanpitnos...@naturalselection.0catch.com (Sean Pitman) wrote in message
>>> Discussions concerning the concept of irreducible complexity (IC) are
>>> quite common and usually involve some confusion about the definition
>>> of IC. The following question posed by "sds" sparked my interest.
>>> "sds" <bcnorw...@mindspring.com.leavethispartoff> wrote in message
>>>> Do you believe is it possible to show that an object or mechanism has an
>>>> intelligent origin? Take the mousetrap again (for which I understand you
>>>> *don't* find "irreducibly complex" to be a meaningful characterization).
>>>> Can we show that a mousetrap probably could not exist without some
>>>> intelligence to design it?
>>> It seems to me that the concept of IC is quite helpful indeed. The
>>> problem is that many, even Behe himself, seem to try to limit the
>>> definition of IC to "very complex" systems of function in order to
>>> show that IC systems cannot evolve.
>> Behe relies on very complex systems because he realizes that an
>> argument as you use in the following paragraphs is too weak to hold up
>> under criticism.
>> As I see it, your argument depends on an unspoken assumption that
>> context (selective environment) stays fixed, but that is an assumption
>> that is not valid. In nature, there are few contexts so stable that
>> opportunities for improvement do not present themselves, and indeed in
>> those few cases, we can find ancient organisms who have been able to
>> sustain form and function as long as that context has been sustained.
>> Without selective context, evolution will happen only slowly in the
>> form of individual genetic arrangements and optimization.
>> But in an organism who has a great deal of "evolvability" --that is, a
>> systemic toolbox that is able to allow that organism entry into other
>> contexts, we should see appearence of function from existing parts
>> that are easily seen to be a result of co-option of existing pieces of
>> existing systems, OUT of their original context. In the case of a
>> mousetrap, the first step could only require a block of wood in a
>> completely different context. Then, nature sequentially rummages
>> through the vast "kitchen drawer" of biological tools and eventually
>> comes up with a mousetrap, as you've noted, in sequential steps.
>> At each step of parts generation, a new and different context (ie,
>> selective environment) was being answered to. A mousetrap was not
>> necessarily the item needed in predecessor contexts -- however, the
>> majority of the parts, from the spring to the board -- should have
>> existed in some early form before optimization. The predecessor parts
>> of the mousetrap, appeared not because of a need for a mousetrap, and
>> indeed if the mousetrap pieces were not already in existence, the
>> mousetrap would have never been assembled when the context for "need
>> mousetrap" arose.
>> From predecessor states of other existing systems (a pair of scissors,
>> a pen with a spring, a wire hanger), a mousetrap eventually is able to
>> be generated as the system's "kitchen drawer" became more and more
>> populated with evolved tools generated from other contexts. The main
>> driving force for such experimentation and shuffling is not only born
>> out of the "messy" assembly experiments that we find in nature, but
>> also the need FOR the appearence of the context demanding "mouse
>> trap". This isn't mere supposition, but is born out of observed
>> Nylonase, as you pointed out, is one such example of an utilization of
>> existing systems to process a substance in a new context (that of
>> man-made nylon abundance). Yet, we hear about the successes. There are
>> plenty of examples of life NOT being able to adapt. For instance,
>> these bacteria that generated nylonase were probably not able to
>> quickly generate an enzymatic system that can feed off of granite. In
>> order to evolve a function, an organism must have predecessor units
>> from other contexts. Additionally, the right context must be present.
>> Contexts and opportunities (such as a rich diet in nylon fiber) must
>> exist in which to allow selection.
>> Therefore, the problem for Intelligent Design is NOT trying to show
>> "irreducible complexity" because, despite what Behe says, "IC" can be
>> generated easily by adaptation and refinement of an already not-IC
>> The true problem for ID is to show that any biological system is
>> unable to adapt to new contexts utilizing existing parts (except there
>> are already instances of this occuring in nature). Beyond denying
>> existing evidence, ID could show a certain "neatness" of biological
>> function. Except we find that biological systems are full of noise and
>> re-arrangements, as if these systems were constantly attempting to
>> produce a large playing field of adaptations in order for something to
>> select for advantage.
>> ID'ers must show that biological systems are perfect machines that
>> cannot move from one context to another context simply by adapting --
>> by evolutionary process as outlined -- their existing systems to other
>> contexts. Arguing that yeast cannot adapt to space conditions (as an
>> hypothetical example) is no argument, however, since evolution does
>> not require such great leaps. Evolution only requires reasonable
>> context jumps -- nylon instead of granite. The largest problem for ID
>> is, however, that they'd be arguing against observation.
> It is the evolutionists, not the ID'ers who are faced with
> insurmountable difficulties. Evolutionists (especially darwinists) must
> demonstrate that these functional adaptations can be discovered by
> random, non-directed processes in spite of the fact that mathematical
> analysis has shown a random search strategy to be highly inefficient.
> For every functional system, the number of non-functional alternatives
> is nearly infinite. To find these isolated "islands of function" from
> within a "sea of noise" would be truly miraculous. Intelligent guidance
> reduces the number of non-functional alternatives and directs the system
> to optimum function is a much shorter time. To say that natural
> selection is the operative equivalent of intelligent guidance and
> accomplishes this task is blindly optimistic and not grounded in reality.
You know, humans are intelligent designers. They have designed many things
and even manufactured some of them. Including living organisms. It is
instructive to ask how (what mechanisms were used) humans designed living
organisms to better suit human needs. Did they build a "dachshund" factory
and construct "dachsunds" from scratch using a blueprint? Did they build
domestic chicken breeds from scratch? Did they build dairy cattle by
starting with horns and intestines and udders and randomly plugging them
together? Did they intelligently build maize?
Or did they use "selection" starting with previously existing organisms that
had some desired features? Did they take advantage of random mutations that
produced desired effects? Did they cull out thousands of individuals to get
breeding stock? What has been the mechanism by which humans have
intelligently designed 'living organisms' to suit their needs?