Examples of irreducible complexity?

In the “Struggling With My Faith” thread, Vanengelen posted this:

I’ve never read of a claim that stands up to scrutiny, so I’m wondering if anyone can give an example of a valid instance.


Given that evolution can indeed produce new information1 and that exaptation is pretty cool…

Me too.

1 Neutral drift and the neutral theory of evolution.

I was just reading an article yesterday that claimed that doubling of chromosomes in plants can’t produce new information. I kept shaking my head at the failure to think past the next immediate generation! Multiploidy in plants is a prime way to get new information because the original genes can remain the same in one set but be changed in another. It’s how some flowers have ended up with a plethora of petals when they started out with only four or five.


My experience is the opposite. I have never read a claim of complex biological structure that originated by evolution that stands up to scrutiny. Most people have no idea of the complexity and regulation that is needed to even build up a simple structure like a lens or an eye lid or a hair (or a petal, but plants have never been my field of experience).
However, I think that Mycha understands this quite well. So, I am curious what made her to change from ID to TE.

Where do you see an increase in information?

And yet those who know the most about biological complexity are the least likely to be persuaded by arguments from irreducible complexity.


Thats right. They know the weakness of evolutionary theory on this point.

?? The ones who know the most about biological complexity are biologists. Biologists overwhelmingly reject intelligent design arguments, including those based on irreducible complexity.


That is true. They ignore them. To difficult, I presume.

perhaps you could give examples of where decent scrutiny has not stood up to the test as you claim because I have seen a few that certainly do…such as Michael Bee’s work for example. Stephen Myer also talks a lot about Intelligent design.

Maybe they understand the infinite variability of DNA and the power of neutral drift and the neutral theory of evolution, not to mention the numbers of mutations occurring in one generation and the eons of time available to evolution to have worked in?


Not my field for sure. My first encounter was probably a few decades ago with Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box. Then I read Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God and he seemed to so strongly dismantle Behe’s case I haven’t paid much attention to any arguments about it since then. I wouldn’t mind reading an Iminformed discussion on it though.


One we looked at in botany was a mutation on one copy of one chromosome that resulted in tiny spines covering the stem. Interestingly that happened in two different plants we looked at, but it was two different mutations: one made a new gene, the other merely triggered a partial expression of a silent gene that originally resulted in small thorns.

Another example comes from World War II: On the edges of bomb craters in London a botanist noticed plants he’d never seen before. On detailed examination it turned out that they were entirely new species, the parent DNA having been altered by the pressure, heat, and chemicals from the bomb. The parent plants were tetraploid, the new ones were octaploid, and some of the DNA on some of the copy chromosomes had been so altered it resulted in entirely new features.

I wish I had my university class notes available, but I’m not even sure they survived my last move. Even if they did, they’re probably in the storage unit I got in the town I was leaving because I couldn’t move everything at once.


I presume you mean Michael Behe. I’ve read some of his stuff but quit because it was evident that he was being dishonest with claims that “scientific literature has no answers to the question” when such answers could be found in peer-reviews journals.
I haven’t read any of Meyer’s stuff but the reviews and critiques of his book The Return of the God Hypothesis are pretty devastating.

  • evolution of the eye
  • bacterial flagella
  • the human immune system

The first one is laughable given that Darwin actually described a pathway for the mammalian eye to have evolved that has proven essentially correct. The other two are increasingly complex.


Is this following the claim…“that if cells between species have matching molecular fingerprints, then the cells are very likely to share a common ancestor”?

If all creatures where this comparison is made have eyes, and a designer is designing eyes, why should that be a problem? Its a ridiculous argument because in both world views thats what we would expect to find!

Its as stupid as using the claim humans must evolve from cats because both fart! Both fart because its necessary but it doesnt cause any issue from an intelligent design point of view.

What is interesting here is that both Behee and Myer do not appear to claim to be YEC…so even within TEism this absurd infighting is out of control and its obvious why…insurmountable theoligical dilemmas that cause credibility problems for the entire bible narrative.

You kill your own world view by claiming bible writers are unscientific, wrong, or stupid and therefore God was capable of explainig origins to them in language they could understand. Given Moses was one of the most highly educated men in all of Egypt (he was raised in the Royal family), thats a heck of a stretch and i think its rather obvious its historically shown to be just plain wrong…especially given the incredible construction achievements of the Egyptians. These people were clearly of high intellect and there problem solving abilites leave even modern researchers awestruck.

What is even worse with your claims, you make the accusation readers cant know because they cant read in the original language.

The problem here is that, given your stated background, you also know full well that in order to ensure correct translation and interpretstion the context of the text must be carefully considered. One must ensure consistency when cross referenced with other texts and check alignment with known themes in the bible.
Interestingly enough, i do not recall seeing you even quote according to context, seek to endure consistency, or consider whether or not you are harmonising your doctrine with known biblical themes…so you intentionally ignore fundamental requirements for translation of original writings.

The point is, your claim about reading in English being the problem in YEC is bogus. It ends up in tatters because you ignore the above stated important and widely recognised considerations in translation and interpretation.

Doctrine cannot be just because that is what YOU want in order to support naturalism. And make no mistake, its doctrines are what they are because you demand it… despite contradictions in interpretation and lack of theological support.

You plainly haven’t read what I’ve actually written. You have this image in your mind and can’t see through it to the actual people on this site, you only see what fits your mold.

Of course God explained things in language they could understand – that’s why it’s in ancient Hebrew, using an ancient literary genre, within their ancient worldview. YEC ignores all of that.

Exactly. which is why you never do this:

You translate each text according to the language and grammar and cultural context. Doing it any other way just guarantees you’ll get it wrong.

No honest translator uses the principles you claim. They recognize that what you propose always results in putting their own bias into the work.

Can you stop lying? The statement above is your fantasy because I’ve never said any such thing. I don’t care about naturalism, I care about the text – and so far I haven’t managed to get you to even THINK about the text because you insist on reading it through a modern worldview that says to be true it has to be 100% scientifically and historically correct.

Do you know where that idea of truth comes from? It’s from scientific materialism, an inherently atheist philosophy. YEC is promoting an atheistic worldview.

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In fact, polyploidy itself is new information - having multiple copies together in a single individual is new, especially if it is an allopolyploid (different parents, often hybridization) rather than autopolyploid.


Everywhere. Your genome has new information - it informs us that your unique mix of mutations and new combinations of existing alleles is functional for directing the biological process in a human.

If I close my eyes at hit the keyboard, I make new information: xtk. That’s new information; the information is “I just typed xtk.” It seems rather unlikely to be useful information, but it is information. In the case of biological information, however, every DNA sequence is potentially functional, both as a part of directions for producing RNA and possibly protein and as raw material for further mutations and recombination, producing yet more new information. The claim that only intelligent agents can produce new information is not based in reality.

Is it useful information? In the case of biological information, that is determined by the environment. Does that information function adequately for survival and reproduction? If so, then copies with varying levels of accuracy can go on into the next round of testing against the environment.
The environment is varied and changing, so information useful in one place and time might not be as useful in another.

Evolution of the eye is a terrible example of “irreducible” complexity. Being able just to detect light versus dark is useful. Being able to detect more details such as motion or shapes is useful. Each step provides an advantage; the complexity is completely reducible. Although many eyes don’t fossilize well, we see a full range of “eyes” in living organisms, showing likely steps in the evolution. Complex eyes originate separately in many different groups of organisms. It seems unlikely that a designer working in the way that ID typically claims would mix and match more efficient and less efficient designs across different organisms in patterns matching their evolutionary relationships.

Of course, the Bible affirms that God has an intelligent design for everything and is at work in all that happens. But the physical means often involve non-intelligent agency such as natural laws. If, instead of accepting Denton’s claim that all evolution is an example of intelligent design, one is looking for evidence of design by an intervention-style process, as most popular ID asserts, then ID is making specific claims about how God’s design is implemented and how to detect it. The latter claims do not hold up well, in part because the ID movement has generally focused on repeating the same claims to try to persuade popular audiences rather than pursued serious scientific testing and revision of arguments in response to criticism and correction. Being familiar with Behe’s and Meyers’ arguments is part of why I don’t think the ID movement is sound.


That strikes me as an unlikely explanation. I won’t speak for others, however. I find the argument from irreducible complexity quite unpersuasive. The irreducible part of the argument really adds nothing since complex evolving systems are likely to end up with irreducible sets of components, while the overall argument from complexity seems to me to be nothing but an intuition (‘too complicated to have evolved’) dressed up in verbiage, with no way to actually calculate the probability that complex systems can evolve. Intuition, when it comes to matters far outside ordinary experience, is a terrible guide to how natural phenomena behave.

As part of the argument for intelligent design as a specifically scientific research program, irreducible complexity has always struck me as just about vacuous. It does nothing to undermine the compelling evidence for common descent. Complexity and irreducibility in living things lie on continua, with no clear threshold for needing to invoke intelligence. So what we’re offered is an unspecified and unevidenced intelligent designer creating an unspecified set of systems at unspecified times and places by an unspecified and unevidenced mechanism for unspecified reasons. That’s a whole of not very much.


Thats your supporting evidence…“no honest translator”?

Another silly claim. Find a more intelligent line of thinking. Whether you can accept what is in front of your eyes on the page, bible concordances simply do not align with your claims.
You are wasting your time with this nonsense. You are rehashing rot that has already been comprehensively shot down in far bigger circles than this. Its a dead horse.

If you want to prove me wrong St Roymond, get out your bible concordance and do it with formal backing otherwise you are just insulting the intelligence of others with this line of reasoning that turns sound biblical theology into shambles. (no honest translator…gimmie a break!)

On the other hand, xkcd does have some meaning and useful information. :grin: