EVOLUTION INSTALLMENT TWENTY SIX

Chapter Ten (Continued)

Following his commentary of a personal nature, Alexander finally gets into a discussion of a more scientific vein, in which he attempts to refute Behe’s notion of “irreducible complexity”. He repeats an argument regarding it that evolutionists are fond of and which we had described in Part Three, namely that as a component that Behe used in an example of one “irreducibly complex” system can be found elsewhere in another such system, neither system is irreducibly complex. Alexander does have a point, but it is of insufficient import to seriously threaten Behe’s insight. It is true that if a component, of itself highly complex, may be found in multiple places, then a system that requires it to work can simply borrow the design from the other system, saving itself much evolutionary work. Of course, it doesn’t answer the question as to how that component of multiple applications arrived on the scene in the first place, unless one wishes to speculate that it, too, has borrowed multi-purpose components from other component systems, and so on, which even an evolutionist should be able to see, doesn’t apply to many irreducibly complex biological systems.

As to whether this borrowing process is viable at all, it’s not even close to being the main issue. As we’ve noted before, it has nothing whatsoever to do with the real issue of irreducible complexity, which is that an irreducibly complex system consisting of multiple interactive components, regardless of where these components came from, has no functional significance without every component within it operating according to its own subordinate function. The complexity is in the multiple components themselves, not in the complexity of their own makeup, although, as Behe also implied9, the same-origin argument failed to account for the complexities involved in modifying one component into another to satisfy the system demands. Behe’s intent here is clearly illustrated in one of his examples, the mousetrap consisting of a number of interactive elements including the spring. It is obvious that springs are everywhere and are used in a great variety of systems, of which the mousetrap is a minor example. Only the most superficial of intellects could possibly attribute such an egregious blunder to Behe as attempting to demonstrate a point with such a terrible example if that indeed was the point that Behe was attempting to make.

Therefore, Alexander’s lengthy discourse on the bacterial flagellum and its similarity to the Type III Secretory System, while fascinating, is useless as an argument against irreducible complexity. At the end of his discussion of the flagellum, he notes that while the mechanism for the evolution of modern bacteria has not yet been worked out, he has no doubt regarding the working out of the details in the future. This is a statement of faith, and it is troubling because while evolutionists go out of their way to claim that evolutionary science is objective, it demonstrates the strength of their presuppositions.

Alexander produces another example of his irrelevant contention, that of blood clotting. As in the case of the flagellum, it is a fascinating dead-end excursion which allows him to demonstrate his own knowledge of biological systems, but it is completely off the track of Behe’s insight that he is attempting to refute.

Ignoring his own preceding statement of faith regarding the ability of evolution to come up with answers to the mechanism of bacterial evolution, and evolutionists’ general faith in the eventual discovery of a workable mechanism for evolution, Alexander embarks on a hypocritical diatribe against his perception that ID indulges in a “designer of the gaps” philosophy. In the midst of this attempt to call the kettle black, he makes the following statement:

“In any case, once we agree (as several leading ID proponents do) that natural selection can explain some biological systems, but not others, then we have already agreed that complex systems can develop through Darwinian processes, so the argument from irreducible complexity then looks very weak.”

The only thing that looks very weak here is Alexander’s mental process. He’s indulging here (probably without realizing it) in the bait-and-switch tactics that Johnson warned about in his book Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds10: Learn to use terms precisely and consistently. Alexander either is attempting to associate microevolution, to which all ID proponents, including ourselves, agree with, to macroevolution, to which no ID proponent, including ourselves, agrees with, or he is permitting the existence of some direction in the evolutionary process in violation of the naturalist assumption that evolution is entirely undirected.

Alexander’s charge of ID’s indulgence in a designer-of-the-gaps mentality is a serious one for multiple reasons. First, it reveals his blindness to that very fault among evolutionists. It is they who, while acknowledging the insufficiency of the mechanism of natural selection toward accomplishing the wonders of macroevolution or, indeed, of any alternative to that end that they have been able to propose so far, place their faith in the future arrival of some naturalistic process that will be capable of doing the job. Alexander himself indulges in that evolution-of-the-gaps mentality, as his own words expose: “Later on in evolution, further components can be added to the system incrementally to make it more sophisticated11.” Again, “As soon as more data come along, the argument for the designer then rapidly vaporizes12.” These are wishes, not facts. Adding components incrementally to make it more sophisticated speaks of a Designer – unless each such addition confers an immediate advantage to the system, an undirected process just isn’t up to the job. Most supposedly incremental additions don’t do that. And, as more data come along, much of it supports the argument for design. The reason that many evolutionists don’t see it that way is because their presupposition of evolution skews their interpretation of data. This leads to the second reason why Alexander’s charge is so serious: it reveals the blindness of evolutionists to the meaning of the data that they observe, which can hinder the establishment or development of critical insights. Alexander himself, in Chapter 3 of Creation or Evolution, describes a case in point, that of ‘junk DNA’, a portion of which is quoted here13:

“As we might guess from the fact that we have 25,000 protein-coding genes or less, such genes are quite sparse in our own DNA. In fact less than 2% of our DNA encodes proteins and about 3% is thought to be involved in encoding the other kinds of regulatory information mentioned above. But that 5% of ‘useful DNA’ might yet go up much further. It is an unfortunate fact that very early on in DNA research, the DNA not used for encoding proteins was written off rather dismissively by some scientists as ‘junk DNA’ Big mistake. It is now becoming clear that much more than 5% of our DNA might have important functions, though the jury is still out as to how high that percentage may be.”

Big mistake, all right. What Alexander didn’t say was that the mistake was a direct consequence of the evolutionary paradigm. What happened was that the evolutionists wrote off portions that they couldn’t grasp the reason for of the DNA sequence as vestiges of earlier stages of the creature’s evolution that the newer model didn’t need. Fortunately, some biologists who ignored this evolutionary bias did find important uses for some of the code. There are other instances of this bias leading to the wrong conclusion, including the famous one involving the human appendix, which, after generations of indiscriminate surgical snipping, was found to have a use in the immune system.

The third reason why Alexander’s charge is serious is that it is an outrageous falsehood. He says that “[ID’s proponents] also believe that only through the gaps in our present knowledge do we have incontrovertible evidence that God is at work in design12.” I can’t imagine where he came up with that notion. Its superficiality is astounding. ID proponents are just as interested as evolutionists in closing the gaps in our knowledge of living systems. They are just as fascinated by new discoveries, and just as eager to put them to use in directing their research in directions that will bear intellectual fruit. In fact, they are probably even more motivated to explore, as they don’t have an untenable theory to defend against new findings.

It is evolution that appears to be the more comfortable with gaps. In Chapter 6 of Creation or Evolution, Alexander says14:

“A powerful, big scientific theory that explains a huge disparate array of data, as in the case of evolution, will inevitably take many years of work to develop. Gaps in knowledge are seen as challenges for further research, not as a challenge to the theory itself. The theory is challenged if refuting data are uncovered, as already discussed (rabbit fossils in the pre-Cambrian, variant genetic codes in different species, that kind of thing).”

The theory has indeed been challenged by the findings of ID researchers, who have demonstrated by a number of means the inability of natural selection to handle the task that evolution has set for it. These findings, however, are routinely ignored by resort to the definition of science that religious matters fall outside its domain. This comfortable construct permits evolutionists to retain the gaps in their knowledge that are less threatening to their theory than their ignorance.

On the very next page, Alexander attempts to refute the impact of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which he correctly describes in terms of the inexorable “increase of disorganization” common to all processes. But then he trots out the ‘closed vs. open system argument’ of which the evolutionists are so fond, repeating their claim that the earth as an open system, receives energy from the sun as a counter to the useful energy lost via the Second Law. What is missing from this convenient input of energy is that it applies exclusively to matter, not information. Information such as is encapsulated in DNA represents order, which tends to be lost over time regardless of whether the sun shines or not. A far more appropriate application of the Second Law is the one inferred by Dembski’s rigorously developed Law of Conservation of Information15, one corollary of which states that the CSI (Complex Specified Information) in a closed system of natural causes remains constant or decreases. Oh, did we miss something? Okay, let’s correct that by proposing an open system. In this context, an open system is an external source of information. Guess what that means, and it’s not the sun.

[to be continued]

NOTES:

9.Behe, The Edge of Evolution, pp. 267, 268

10. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism, p. 57 (item #2 of “Critical Thinking in Evolutionary Biology)

11. Alexander, Creation or Evolution, p. 303

12. Ibid., p. 305

13. Ibid., pp. 59, 60

14. Ibid., p. 137

15. Dembski, Intelligent Design, p. 170

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: