Irreducible complexity and mere complexity

Look at what I was responding to. That is why I brought it up here

I believe that every single novel body plan bears the unmistakable signature of design. How, exactly, this occurred, I make no claim to any sort of knowledge. However, I do believe that all of the countless laboratory experiments that have tested the mutation/selection mechanism, have shown over and over again that there appear to be very strict limits to what can be accomplished via that mechanism. I believe that the evidence from the lab confirms that purely natural processes are not capable of bringing forth novel biological body plans, even from existing biological organisms.

How’s that?

George, you can make the very vague assertion that evolution can account for all the diversity of life, but you have gone farther. You have said,

Let me therefore turn the question around and ask you, what is the explanation? Can you provide step by step details for so much as one single empirical example of a novel body plan (wings, for example) evolving via an unbroken functional adaptive continuum from an organism that did not possess that body plan?

Remember George, all ID advocates acknowledge a certain amount of evolution, and many believe in a good bit of evolution. Yet every ID advocate ultimately affirms that the evidence that life requires a Creator is overwhelming. That is the main difference between the ID advocate and his BioLogos brother.

To be clear then, no I do not have an explanation. I am making no claim concerning mechanism. My claim is about causal adequacy.

How do you objectively define “novel body plan,” Joe? It seems that all of your beliefs depend on that.

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that’s good to hear[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
Second, the God I find in scripture does at least occasionally intervene by first cause in this world (e.g. the Resurrection)
[/quote]

and that is good to hear as well[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
Third, science is very far from demonstrating that the origin of life by exclusively natural mechanisms is possible.
[/quote]

Right[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
Nonetheless, just as James Tour explains, I do not feel anyone has demonstrated that the origin of life by exclusively natural mechanisms is impossible, either. So we are facing a mystery here.
[/quote]

However, even though he refuses to embrace ID, Tour does present compelling evidence from the field of synthetic chemistry that we can all consider. He clearly demonstrates that the advances we have been able to achieve have been accomplished only by goal oriented focus, diligence, and meticulously careful manipulation of resources and conditions. He makes the point that the sort of efforts that can only come forth from intelligent agents (and never from purely natural processes) are essential in achieving even the modest thresholds of success that we can claim to this point.[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
in “science” we do not consider non-natural causes of things.
[/quote]

Sure we do. In historical sciences. archaeological science and forensic science are all about determining whether the past cause of a particular physical effect is due to intelligent agency or purely natural causes. We can observe the physical effect in question, but we must determine the cause. I will leave it to philosophers of science to hash out whether such enterprises can said to be science or not (it seems to me that they can be). But OOL science is an historical science and the methodology that applies to other historical sciences should also apply to OOL science. If you do not wish to call it science, fine. However, the process of following the available evidence to determine the cause that can adequately account for the physical effect in question is the only method available to historical sciences.[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
Not at all contradicting or denying these affirmations, in “science” we do not consider non-natural causes of things. So science never speaks of these possibilities
[/quote]

By this definition, Joshua, you handcuff OOL science in a way that other historical sciences are not constrained. You are effectively saying that when it comes to OOL science, unlike other historical sciences, we must take the a-priori position that a purely natural cause exists. Our consideration of the evidence takes an axiomatic position that life can be explained by purely natural causes, and the only task for OOL researchers is to discover how natural processes brought forth life. Any OOL research program which rules out agent causation a-priori is not an example of simply methodological naturalism (as others have inferred elsewhere), it is clearly a case of metaphysical naturalism.[quote=“Swamidass, post:39, topic:17521”]
Now, what are the two definitions of IC? And which one do you use?
[/quote]

I know you have been chomping at the bit for my answer to this question. In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe defines IC:[quote=“deliberateresult, post:37, topic:17521”]
a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.
[/quote]

Now I know you can’t wait to provide the “other” definition for me…

[ Deleted Post ]

So this is one definition (I will call it IC1).

And I agree that the flagellum is IC1 by this definition. That is demonstrable directly with experiments. We can define the system, the function, and the parts. Then start removing parts one at a time, to see if the function is retained. For one example of flagella at least, removing some of the parts does not obliterate function, but removing many of them does obliterate function. Therefore (because removing some of the parts kills the function) it is an IC1 system. This objective, and no one using the IC1 definition will object to this.

Now, Behe’s ID hypothesis is that IC1 systems cannot be evolved. We can test that hypothesis. We have, and we find that this hypothesis is false. There are several examples of IC1 systems evolving in laboratory systems. So that hypothesis, (that IC1 reliably identifies evolvable systems) has been clearly falsified. It was falsified even before Behe first made the argument in 1996.

One simple example is the labmbda phage that Venema discusses in his blog: http://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/the-evolutionary-origins-of-irreducible-complexity-part-4. The new species of virus is an irreducibly complex system that requires OmpF (on its prey), OmpF-binding proteins, genetic material and capsid proteins, etc. Remove anyone of these things, and it stops working, therefore the new phage is by definition an IC1 system. However, we observed directly that it has been produced by evolution. There are literally thousands of examples like this. IC1 does not reliably identify un-evolvable systems.

If the flagellum is not evolvable, this has nothing to do with it being an IC1 system. Evolution has no problem with IC1 systems, and this is demonstrable in experiments.

This is one reason that Behe himself has abandoned this argument. He does not make it anymore, because it fails.

So tell me now, what is the next definition of IC that was proposed (IC2 if you will)? You have read ID more than most people, you say. So tell me. What was the next definition? If you don’t know what it is, then why exactly do you think the IC argument is so strong? Maybe flagella are not evolvable, but without doubt the IC1 definition you use does not prove this so. Given overwhelming evidence, the argument fails basic logic.

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Yep, that’s the repeated ID claim. According to ID, evolution cannot account for irreducible complexity.

  1. “Behe presents what may be described as an argument from irreducible complexity. This argument purports to establish that irreducibly complex biological systems are beyond the reach of the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism and that only design can properly account for them.”

  2. Darwinian evolution cannot produce an irreducibly complex system exhibiting a given basic function by having natural selection act on and improve simpler precursors that already display that function”.

  3. "there is no evidence that the redeployments required to form such irreducibly complex systems could happen, much less be properly coordinated, by a gradual Darwinian evolutionary process. Instead, the evidence suggests that any such redeployment would require such massive coordination of the redeployed systems as to place the resulting irreducibly complex system beyond the reach of Darwinian evolution. "

  4. Cells are simply too complex to have evolved randomly; intelligence was required to produce them.”

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@deliberateresult

So, above, you pretty much state, you don’t have ANY idea how all these millions of life forms came to be… other than that they show the mark of God’s design.

Now see? Doesn’t that sound fairly lame?

MY version goes like this:
God had millions of years … where he applied his design to an Earth full of populations, diverging over time from ancestral populations, and adapting to different ecological niches as God directed them. The MILLIONS of species that we have on the Earth were not created individually by God in the 3000 years since some kind of flood.

The millions of species that we have on Earth were designed by God, and created over millions of years of evolutionary processes - - Ordained by God.

If we both agree that God ordained the creation of all these animals, the only difference between our two positions is:

YOU - think God “poofed” them into existence 3000 years ago … millions of them… but with no explanation for how we find a layering since the flood, of all these transitional life forms.

I - think God invested in millions of years of natural processes, in conjunction with his ordained designs, leaving traces of fossils and adaptation just as we find in the geological record!

CONCLUSION? Causal Adequacy is resolved by accepting the coupling of God’s designs in conjunction with millions of years of natural processing of these designs.

Your conclusion is more like this: Since I don’t believe God can accomplish all these creations, even with his designs, and even with millions of years, I favor the “poof” concept.

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the link. I also found this review article to be very helpful.

Best,

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Hi Joshua. I hope you had a blessed Christmas!

Over the years, I have seen many claims such as this one. I have also seen dr. Behe patiently explain why example after example (including at least one offered by your buddy, dr. Venema) have got it wrong concerning irreducible complexity. I do find one thing interesting here though: there are many ID opponents who claim that ID is not science because, among other things, it cannot be falsified. Yet there are also many ID opponents who claim that IC has been falsified.

Hmm.

I guess you’d better let Behe know that he isnt making this argument any more. One of my Christmas gifts this year was a documentary entitled, “Revolutionary.” The documentary, released just weeks ago, features Behe and IC, and makes the very argument you claim he has abandoned. [quote=“Swamidass, post:72, topic:17521”]
So tell me now, what is the next definition of IC that was proposed (IC2 if you will)? You have read ID more than most people, you say. So tell me. What was the next definition? If you don’t know what it is, then why exactly do you think the IC argument is so strong? Maybe flagella are not evolvable, but without doubt the IC1 definition you use does not prove this so
[/quote]

I guess we need to clear up a couple of things here:

  1. I am not the one proposing that there are 2 definitions. If you say there is another, then it is clearly up to you to provide it.
  2. As I have repeatedly said across several forums, the place where I plant my flag concerning the strenth of ID is on the information and technology of life. I see ID as the only causally adequate explanation for the origin of life, as it is the only causally adequate explantion for the origin of information systems as well as technology. Concerning IC, recall that the only claim I have defended concerning it is that IC is not the same thing as complexity (or mere complexity, as I have employed the term as a way of distinguishing it from irreducible complexity).

here’s the deal, George: i’m sure you’ve noticed that I completely ignore many of your posts. This is because many of your posts contain one or more big fallacies. There are three in particular. All three are on display in your latest post. The only reason I am responding to this post is to point out all three errors:

error #1: you consistently maintain a horrible double standard, demanding very specific detailed answers from me ([quote=“gbrooks9, post:76, topic:17521”]
So, above, you pretty much state, you don’t have ANY idea how all these millions of life forms came to be… other than that they show the mark of God’s design.
[/quote]), while remaining impossibly vague yourself ([quote=“gbrooks9, post:76, topic:17521”]
The millions of species that we have on Earth were designed by God, and created over millions of years of evolutionary processes - - Ordained by God.
[/quote])

error #2: you refuse to contend against what I actually say, erecting a strawman parody of what I actually say, and then arguing against that instead ([quote=“gbrooks9, post:76, topic:17521”]
Your conclusion is more like this: Since I don’t believe God can accomplish all these creations, even with his designs, and even with millions of years, I favor the “poof” concept.
[/quote])

error #3. This is the worst error of them all. You completely ignore things that I have said and move forward as if I have never said them. You have followed several of my conversations, liberally adding your two cents worth. Many times I have refuted charges that I am YE and many other times I have affirmed that I believe in an old earth. Yet several times in this spin-off thread, you have asked me whether I believe that God created all species after the flood, finally concluding:

So now you know why I ignore many of your posts and my promise going forward is that any time you commit any of theses errors in the future, you run the risk of being further ignored

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@deliberateresult

The questioning will continue until you actually/explicitly answer the questions…
[This sentence was edited to make for more productive tone and content!]

I think you ignore my postings because you know the few questions I ask place you in an impossible position.

You have NO explanation for the way fossils are distributed through the intricate global pattern of sediments. Why don’t we find WHALE fossils with aquatic dinosaur fossiles? Why don’t we find T Rex fossils with their main source of food: elephants, giraffes, hippos and the like?

You have NO explanation for the way animal life in Australia is Dramatically different from animal life anywhere else in the world. How did all those marsupials make it to Australia before it headed out to sea… but virtually none of the placental mammals… many of which are faster than marsupials?

And then there is the question of where millions of terrestrial animal species came from if not via God-guided evolution? Do you maintain that God started creating THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of species every year, immediately after the Ark set down on the mountain?

Until you HAVE explanations for these few Giant Questions… all your elaborate denunciations of real science and real theory behind Evolution lacks any credibility or explanatory power.

I will continue to ask these two questions until you admit you have no answer or until you offer an answer.

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I like that article, too. This part was a good summary:

[quote]ID advocates have a well-established pattern of misrepresenting what most scientists have believed about non-coding DNA, in order to set up a “straw man” to be knocked down. Seven main deceits in their publications are as follows:

{1} State or imply that mainstream biologists up until recently have believed that essentially all non-coding DNA was functionless.

{2} Instead of using the clear term “non-coding DNA”, use “junk DNA” to milk its ambiguity in an attempt to support {1}.

{3} State or imply that biologists believed most non-coding DNA is functionless merely because no function had yet been discovered (“argument from ignorance”); suppress the well-known positive reasons discussed above that indicate that much of human DNA has no genetic functionality (e.g. the vastly differing genome sizes among similar organisms which correlates with increased loads of self-replicating elements).

{4} Claim that the alleged consensus in {1}, that non-coding DNA had no function, has held back research in this area.

{5} Claim that evolutionists rely on the mere existence of (supposedly) functionless DNA as a chief argument for naturalistic evolution as opposed to the intervention of an Intelligent Agent.

{6} Claim that Intelligent Design predicts that essentially all of the genome will have function.

{7} Imply that recent scientific papers show that most of the genome is indeed functional, thus vindicating ID against “Darwinism.”[/quote]

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Even worse for Joe, there’s a loss of those species as one goes from Australia, through Papua New Guinea, and west into Indonesia. Why would an Intelligent Designer do that?

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[quote=“deliberateresult, post:78, topic:17521”]

  1. I am not the one proposing that there are 2 definitions. If you say there is another, then it is clearly up to you to provide it.[/quote]
    He’s not proposing anything, it is simply a fact that there are two. He’s asking if you know about it. How can you not know bout the second definition when you’re touting Behe as an expert?

And as you’ve repeatedly done here, you’ll employ the deliberate vagueness of those terms to avoid doing anything remotely resembling science.

[quote] I see ID as the only causally adequate explanation for the origin of life, as it is the only causally adequate explantion for the origin of information systems as well as technology.
[/quote]You can see all you want, but Swamidass’s point is that you’re not looking very hard.

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Sure. I will in a moment. But it is important to remember what started this whole line of conversation.

We summarized the ID case as arguing, “biology is too complex to have evolved.” You responded by saying this was a total misrepresentation of ID.

We presented evidence that the DI and Behe himself uses our same language. In fact, our paraphrase is almost a direct quote of Behe. You initially thought we were quoting a journalist, and thankfully retracted that on a second read. And then doubled down on your assessment, claiming that we took him out of context. Actually, no. We are using the language exactly the same as him.

I asked you to specify which version of IC you were referring to anyways, because this really changes how it needs to be responded to. After a side track covering my views on the origin of life (where I hope you see a great deal of common ground with me), you finally get around to answering my question. You apparently do not even know that there are more than one definition. You proposed the IC1 definition…

a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

And this is where we find ourselves now.

Before we move forward, let’s just remember the context of all this. Despite your doubts, I certainly do understand the ID case. The issue is not that I am clueless about it. Rather, I am not convinced by the argument.

So what is the next definition of IC, which I will call IC2? In 2000 Behe writes a different definition, that he carries forward to this day in the Edge of Evolution.

An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.
http://www.discovery.org/a/442

Now this definition suffers greatly compared to IC1, because it is not longer objective and directly measureable. Instead, we need to understand something of the evolutionary pathway, which is not directly observable.

Still, for the IC2, most knowledgeable scientists agree that IC2 systems exist in nature too. Similar to IC1 systems, we are convinced that evolution can evolve IC2 systems also. Embedded in this definition is an important straw man. He writes “one or more unselected steps.” Here, into the IC2 definition is being smuggled a strict enforcement of “Darwinian” evolution. Now, anyone following biology at a basic level of competence knows that strict-Darwinian evolution was falsified a long time ago, in the 1970s. We now know that a large proportion of changes are near neutral or even slightly deleterious in the short term. So this dominant pathway of change is intrinsically ruled out by Behe’s definition.

So, with that in mind, it is correct to say that modern biology agrees that IC2 systems appear throughout biology, because we thinking neutral mutations are often the evolutionary path to the systems we see, and they are not selected. Of course, this is all beside the point, because we are convinced that evolution can evolve IC2 systems using unselected steps (like neutral drift and draft, or even slightly deleterious steps).

Now, we could define a new version of IC (IC3 if you humor me here) that allows for all changes by neutral mechanisms. How might that fair? Unfortunately, this definition is even more unhinged from objective evaluation than IC2. We have moved entirely away from the concrete brilliance of IC1, to a fundamentally theoretical classification that is not directly testable in any way.

Well, no one has yet demonstrated that any system in biology is IC3. The claim that IC1 = IC3 is clearly false. So is the claim that IC2 = IC3. But how do we demonstrate that a biological system is IC3, and not just IC1 or IC2? No one knows. No one has proposed a way that seems remotely plausible to anyone outside the “already convinced” ID crowd. Instead we have a lot of sloppy arguments that somehow treat all classes as if they are the same thing.

Honestly, I do not know how to solve this problem. But I am not an ID advocate, so that isn’t my job. The fundamental problem for IC arguments is that biologists already agree that IC1 and IC2 systems exist, and we have even demonstrated their evolution directly in the laboratory.

Yes and no. No historical sciences consider supernatural causes. So this limitation is not unique to the science of the origin of life. And yes this does handcuff science. I like that. Very good news, right? To clearly point out that science has strict limits.

I understand you want to get rid of these handcuffs. It is not your decision. Have your opinions about how things “should” be, but that does not change the reality of how science works.

As for me, I like science handcuffed. I like it limited. Why would a Christian want something different?

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Swamidass,

Beautifully explained. Especially this part:

I am just amazed that Joe is so clueless about Behe’s changing definitions that he accused you of bluffing.

[quote=“Swamidass, post:84, topic:17521”]
As for me, I like science handcuffed. I like it limited. Why would a Christian want something different?
[/quote]I agree completely.

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Now, in @deliberateresult’s defense…

No beatings are necessary. Lay off the poor guy.

In particular, I know you see young earth creationists behind every corner, but it is important to take people at their word when they explain their own positions. @deliberateresult has been very clear about this many many times.

He is not a YEC.

And would really matter if he was any ways? YECs do actually give an account of these things. Of course we dispute their account, but the general denounciations are not helpful.

@deliberateresult has even stated he is not opposed to common descent. So he is probably in an undecided place between Hugh Ross’s Old Earth Creationism and Behe’s Theistic Evolution. In particular, both these positions give exactly the same explanations as we do for the age of the earth and the geological column. There is really nothing interesting here to debate with him.

Our disagreement is primarily about the scientific provability of God’s design, and the nature of how science works. There is no need to misrepresent him to make our points.

I would just let it be. He is not a YEC. Nonetheless, I think he is wrong about how science works, and wrong about science ability to prove God’s design. That is where our disagreement lies. Stop accusing him of being a YEC when he clearly is not.

Asking someone to account for speciation after the flood is relevant even if they aren’t a YEC. It’s relevant to anyone who denies evolution.

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@Swamidass

Yes, I’m sure they do. But @deliberateresult quite cleverly avoids being one of them…If you can find where he actually answered my two questions anywhere, I will take a knee and pray forgiveness with all due humility …

Deliberate, I extend the same deal if you can provide the posting where you answered these questions…

I have edited the first sentence of the post in question … I’m sure you will think it is an improvement.

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