Chapter Nine: Insights, Evidence and Conclusions

In the discussion to follow, we shall briefly examine key demonstrations of the failure of evolutionary theory to perform the functional changes attributed to it by its proponents.


Naturalistic processes are, by intrinsic definition, non-intelligent. A fundamental feature of non-intelligent processes is that they are unable to anticipate. They can’t form a priori an objective or goal for a system. If a system function or feature doesn’t yet exist, a non-intelligent process cannot anticipate it. This is the essential thought behind Michael Behe’s concept of ‘irreducible complexity’, first noted in his book Darwin’s Black Box and further refined in his book The Edge of Evolution1.

In his work Darwin’s Black Box, Dr. Behe captured the essence of this need to anticipate that is so prevalent in living systems in the term he coined ‘irreducible complexity’. A system that requires several parts all present, correctly configured for interaction, and working together to produce a specific well-defined function, to paraphrase Dr. Behe, is ‘irreducibly complex’2. If any of its necessary components is absent or improperly configured to make its contribution to the function, the function itself cannot be performed; all of the parts must be present and working together for the system to work at all. An irreducibly complex system, to continue to paraphrase Dr. Behe, requires so many mutually-supportive subsystems that while the operation of naturalistic evolution is limited to small, incremental and undirected advances, the very existence of the top-level system without the input of anticipation is out of the question; yet the existence of such systems is so ubiquitous in living entities that such input must be acknowledged as having been present. Viewed another way, the basic notion of irreducible complexity claims that some biological systems consist of a number of parts that not only work together to perform a recognizable function, but if only one part was missing, or malfunctioned, or failed to operate in a coordinated fashion with the other parts, neither the system or any of its component parts would perform a useful function. This claim conceptually opposes the mechanism of undirected natural selection, which requires that any change must improve the fitness of the system, but it doesn’t exclude the possibility that a number of simultaneous changes, although undirected, may serendipitously be of such a nature as to work together to create a beneficial change to the system.

Dr. Behe’s development of the notion of irreducible complexity is now several years old. A few years back, one of the more liberal bookstores (no longer in existence) carried more than one book that claimed, in a pro-evolution stance, to rebut Dr. Behe’s notion. They did so by noting that in one of Dr. Behe’s irreducibly complex systems, the flagellum that serves as the motive device of a bacterium utilizes a microbiological component that is virtually identical to the corresponding component of a completely different functional entity. “Foul!” the books cried at the perceived offense. The similarity of these components, to paraphrase the books, meant that they weren’t unique to one specific function.

All but the most superficial of thought processes can see through the flaw in this line of reasoning. Dr. Behe never claimed uniqueness for the components of his irreducibly complex systems. That simply wasn’t the thrust of his argument, which was to claim that all the components had to be present and working together for the system itself to work. Whether or not a component was borrowed from another system is irrelevant and misses the point; it’s a shabby red-herring argument that serves simply to throw the reader off-track from the real issue. We’ll try to refrain from commenting further on how this kind of reasoning typifies the pro-evolutionist mindset, or the mindset of those who are taken in by their polemics.

In The Edge of Evolution, Behe himself makes the following comment regarding this false argument:

“Whether the TTSS [Type 3 Secretory System] or flagellum came first is the point of controversy. But none [italics in the original] of the papers seriously addresses how either structure could be assembled by random mutation and natural selection, or even how one structure could be derived from the other by Darwinian processes.”3

We’ll add the following comment: according to Behe’s development in The Edge of Evolution, and particularly when taking into account the integration of regulatory proteins in the subsystems, the steps required to take advantage of commonalities between TTSS and flagella to derive one from the other are well beyond the boundary of Darwinian evolution’s usefulness.

Behe’s refinement of ‘irreducible complexity’ in The Edge of Evolution consists of two conceptual criteria that permitted him to quantify the efficacy of random mutations and natural selection in making beneficial changes to organisms that offer greater survivability: steps and coherence. The ‘steps’ relate to the number of individual changes to an organism required to render it more fit to survive, and ‘coherence’ is a measure of the degree of coordination, or relevance to each other and the end result, of the individual steps. The notion is akin to William Dembski’s concept of ‘specification’4, which implies that a complex system consisting of multiple components, to be labeled as specified, must perform some recognizable or useful function. Behe’s ‘coherence’ and Dembski’s ‘specification’ both manifestly indicate the influence of guiding system objectives, something that a naturalistic process, virtually by definition, is not capable of.

Behe goes on to categorize a wholly naturalistic (undirected) process as manifestly incoherent, but his two requirements open the door to the quantification, with supporting knowledge of biological systems and observational data relating to actual Darwinian processes, of the probabilities involved in multiple simultaneous or incoherent steps. As Behe notes, his detailed investigations would not have been possible a decade or so ago. Science has advanced that far in the interim.

Behe selected, for his primary observation, mutational data associated with what he calls ‘trench warfare’ between the single-celled malaria parasite and human resistance to it. This battle, ‘red in tooth and claw’ between malaria and humans, makes a very good representation of Darwinian processes due to the huge numbers of generations associated with the parasite, its enormous numbers in infected persons, the reasonably Darwinian opportunity for the human genome to respond over the lengthy duration of the battle, and the various ways in which both the parasite and the human genome have actually responded to each other through ‘beneficial’ modifications.

Behe applies his malarial data in various ways to arrive at definitive boundaries between where Darwinian processes are workable and where they are not. In one direction he observes a number of actual modifications, of differing complexity and likelihood of occurrence, to the genomes of humans and malaria and estimates, on the basis of populations and generation cycles, the number of random trials that were required to come up with these changes. He notes the consistency of these results with the relative complexities of, the inter-generational time, populations of and known modifications to the E. coli bacterium and the HIV virus. In another direction Behe describes the complex, multidimensional nature, involving a minimum of 2 or 3 genome modifications, of creating a new protein binding site and calculates the probabilities of creating one or more new sites. He arrives at the miniscule probability of 1/1040, comparable to the number of bacteria in the history of life on earth5, of the ability of Darwinian processes to create just two binding sites. In actuality, he seriously doubts whether evolution, due to its intrinsic incoherence, is capable of creating even one new protein binding site. In comparison to this limit, he notes that in many biological systems six or more proteins routinely operate together in a coordinated manner that utilize many more binding sites. A human cell, for example, typically contains not just several, but ten thousand such sites, placing its workings enormously beyond the capability of Darwinian evolution to have created it.

Behe also observes that natural selection demands that changes, to persist in a biological system, must always be positive. In describing the steps that must be taken, he notes that evolutionists make the common mistake that the evolutionary route represents a single peak available to all paths, when in fact the actual evolutionary landscape is very much bumpier, containing multiple lesser peaks, all but a few of which represent a sub-optimal, evolutionary dead-end, constrained by natural selection from dropping back down into the valley in search of a higher peak. He notes6 in this regard why an evolutionary achievement such as malaria’s chloroquine resistance is so rare, with odds of about 1/1020 against its occurrence: chloroquine resistance required two simultaneous genetic changes, each of which by itself would render the parasite less fit to reproduce and placing the singly-modified parasite in danger of extinction. But not only is chloroquine resistance rare, it represents a local peak of fitness and therefore is an evolutionary dead-end.

There are some interesting papers available on the Internet that attempt to describe how biological mechanisms like the flagellum may have developed via the process of evolution. We’ve reviewed one of the more recent of these. The paper trots out the shopworn, thoroughly refuted red-herring argument that evolutionists love to reference, that some components in examples of irreducibly complex systems are used elsewhere in other systems. It goes on to claim that with just one major change and a series of smaller ones, an evolutionary bridge from a simple component is formed that allows its transformation into a more complex one. What the paper doesn’t state is Behe’s conclusion that even one major change lies outside the boundary of evolutionary capability. Furthermore, the series of smaller changes, without a guiding intelligence, also lie outside the boundaries of evolution as Behe so ably demonstrated.

[to be continued]


1. Behe, The Edge of Evolution, p. 104

2. Ibid., pp. 93-96

3. Ibid., pp. 267, 268; also Google on “Type III Secretory System”

4.Dembski, Intelligent Design, Chapter 5

5. Behe, The Edge of Evolution, table 7.1, p. 143

6. Ibid., p. 59


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