Irreducible complexity and mere complexity

That is a fair question. I just hope to move us past “vocabulary checking” one another as if this some how proves the other does not understand us or is ignorant.

@Jonathan_Burke made an offhand statement that you are entitled to disagree with on merits. However, it did not display his ignorance of ID. No, he was not ignoring the reality ID has more developed definitions of complexity. You read into his statement, without justification, that he was talking about “mere” complexity, whatever that is.

Now if you had a hard time interpreting him the first time, a better response to ask a clarifying question or send him a private message. You could have asked him what types of arguments he was referring too. I’m sure he would have pointed you quickly to Behe’s IC argument, which would have demonstrated he included IC when he referred to complexity, and didn’t mean “mere” complexity (what ever that means) as you feared. In fact, that is exactly what he did do in his response to you. So he clearly knows this.

This is turning into a silly argument where you making the absurd claim that summarizing ID in the same way Behe summarizes ID is evidence that we are misrepresenting the arguments and are ignorant of the claims. Now, we’ve presented with clear evidence that this is not the case on several levels. (1) ID advocates summarize ID in the same way. (2) we actually do know the ID arguments. Rather than recognizing we are not nearly as ignorant or dishonest as you think, you just want to argue on. Why?

So I agree,

We disagree on substance. Let’s not pretend like an offhand comment is worth arguing about. Let it go.


Great! I am happy to move forward from this point of agreement[quote=“Swamidass, post:18, topic:17521”]
It is totally valid to summarize this work as @Jonathan_Burke and Behe do. And if you disagree, is it really fair to call @Jonathan_Burke ignorant for echoing Behe himself?

The difference between Behe and Jonathan to this point is that Behe has provided context and clarification, painstakingly pointing out a clear difference between mere compexity and IC. I am grateful that you have now moved beyond the claim that IC is the same as mere complexity. To this point, Jonathan has not. Perhaps it is now time to hear from him.

Jonathan, are you willing to acknowledge that IC and mere complexity are not the same thing? And if so, are you willing to have a discussion with the understanding that Behe’s IC is just one of many strong pieces of evidence in favor of ID?

I’m glad you now agree that we are not equating IC with “mere” complexity. But this statement is still falsely accusatory. We were never equating IC with “mere” complexity. I do not even know what “mere” complexity is; it is a term just you coined. Please point to a single place where we have made the claim that IC is the same as “mere complexity”. I have never made this claim. In the last thread, neither did @Jonathan_Burke.

So, no, we have not moved on from a place we never occupied. We were never there. Claiming that we were there is seriously revisionist history.

How can we answer that? You are the one who coined the term “mere complexity”. None of us know what that means.


Once again @deliberateresult, which definition of IC are you using. For the record, neither are strong evidence for ID. But how can we talk about them if you can’t tell us which of the two definitions you are using?


Sorry, no. I did not say simply complexity", I said very specifically “too complex to have evolved”. The claim of irreducible complexity is precisely the claim “too complex to have evolved”. This is how it’s described by ID proponents, as you have been shown.

I agree. But no such exchange took place, so this is irrelevant. I ask again, according to Intelligent Design, can evolution account for irreducible complexity?

Apart from the fact that one of them comes from Behe, the quotation from the other says the same. And do you really think the Discovery Institute would publish someone else’s article on their own site if it flatly contradicted what IC actually means?

That is gratuitously misleading because neither Joshua nor I said IC is the same as “mere complexity”.

Not only have I acknowledged it, I have pointed out that “mere complexity” is a phrase you brought into this discussion, which has nothing to do with what I have been talking about. I said nothing about “mere complexity” being the same as irreducible complexity. I have been talking specifically about the argument that certain artifacts are “far too complex to evolve”. That is the argument of irreducible complexity. All you are doing is trying to avoid the point under discussion. If you’re willing to defend the claim that there are artifacts which are too complex to have evolved, please just present your evidence.

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[quote=“deliberateresult, post:9, topic:17521”]
Let’s agree up front that a “theorist” can be a theorist even she may not have a theory. For example, someone with an hypothesis can be considered a theorist; even someone with a failed hypothesis.[/quote]
You have neither.

But you haven’t taken the initial step of formulating a hypothesis that makes empirical predictions.

No, I wouldn’t agree to that.

Nothing regarding the origin of life qualifies as a theory. We have hypotheses, you don’t/

That’s not how one states scientific hypotheses.

How does it incorporate the fact that peptidyl transferase is a ribozyme?

You won’t even offer a hypothesis that makes empirical predictions. That’s the criterion. Otherwise it’s just pseudoscience.

No, that is an objectively false statement. The proportion of the genome with no known function is constantly declining, but it still represents the vast, vast majority of the genome.

If you’d like to reply, I suggest that you do so quantitatively.

[quote]Several years ago, PhD Donald Johnson publicly offered to the scientific community for falsification, no fewer than 9 testable predictions which can be considered predictions from ID theory. The last time I checked, no falsification has been forthcoming for any of the nine.
[/quote]That’s not how science works. You’re supposed to be trying to falsify your own hypotheses, not issuing challenges to others in the scientific community.

No, that’s not a scientific hypothesis, much less a theory. Your “prediction” is entirely subjective, not at all empirical. Scientific predictions need to be purely empirical to counteract the human tendency to ignore evidence and rationalize. Why are you unwilling to make an empirical prediction?



I am confident that you will eventually have the time to answer this question. It’s rather important.


you’ve got to be kidding

I’ll make a deal with you: Several days before you asked me this question, I posed a question to you. Grant me the courtesy of an answer to my question, and I will consider yours

I didn’t know there were any outstanding questions, and can’t find an obvious candidate in this thread. Maybe start by posing your question, and we can go from there.

And, welcome back @deliberateresult =).

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Hi Joe,

Are you referring to the results of the ENCODE project (2012)? They in fact show that only 20% of the human genome has any sequence-dependent role, per Karlsson:

Birney and his colleagues have estimated how complete their sampling is, and suspect that they will find another 11% of the genome with this kind of regulatory activity. That gets them to 20%. So, perhaps the main conclusion should have been that 20% of the genome in some situation can directly influence gene expression and phenotype of at least one human cell type. It’s a far cry from 80%, but a substantial increase from 1%.

Warm Advent wishes to you and yours,
Chris Falter

Thanks for the welcome. The first two weeks of December are typically my busiest two weeks of the year, so my absence was a function of time constraints, not a lack of desire to participate (and it will continue to be a constraint through next weekend, so please bear with me). I guess you just missed the question,l but I posed it sincerely. Here it is again:

You think I reject non-naturalistic mechanisms in our origins. I do not
Hi Joshua…

(Forgive me if you have covered this. I have just discovered this thread and have only read the first 20 posts). I would love for you to flesh out this position of yours. For example, may I infer then that you do not reject non naturalistic causes for the origin of life?


Hello my brother Chris!

First, I want to say that it warms my heart to hear from you again. I feel that there have been some exchanges between you and I that have been unfruitful an unfortunate and I look forward to a renewed dialogue in a stronger spirit of Christian brotherhood.

I will not have time to look into your Karrison reference for a couple of weeks, but if you bear with me, I will do so. In the meantime, I can say that certainly the ENCODE effort has played a large role in vindicating the ID prediction and that there are many - among them, scientists who worked on ENCODE - who hold a view different from the one you have reported here. But really, the proof is in the pudding. Now that the light has been shined on non-coding regions of the genome, findings are constantly accumulating that show function where non-function was assumed, or at least, function was not suspected. This is the very spirit of the predictions.

Thanks for all your words that encourage, and may you and yours lack no Spiritual gift!
Your brother,

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Hi George…

Well the answer to the question, “What is the Real Distinction between you and many of those in the BioLogos camp?” is a simple one. I see and acknowledge the evidence that life requires a Creator. Moreover, I am not beholden to an a-priori commitment to methodological naturalism.

I do not mean for this to sound condescending. It is simply the best way I know to answer your question.

In answer to the question, “So why should we think your analysis is more sound than those we can find with BioLogos,” I have to confess that I am not sure I understand what you are asking me here. George, I am very honestly at a total loss to understand why in the world a Christian would ignore or dismiss or pretend that the overwhelming evidence that life is designed does not exist. From Darwin to Dawkins, the design of life has really never been an issue to be doubted. And from the Sequence Hypothesis forward, the more we learn, the stronger the design of living systems becomes. I can understand why an atheist would say something like, “Sure, life looks designed, but…” I am totally sincere in saying that I am completely baffled when I hear it from a Christian. And after viewing and participating in well over 1000 posts here, my confusion has only grown.

I cannot possibly be more honest with you George


Even though there is no real question here, I need to address this part of your post as well.

It is not correct to say that I think God would never use evolution. To see the clear evidence for intelligent design is not at all the same thing as saying that God would never use evolution. Indeed, God could very well have front-loaded evolution with genetic programs. There is much we do not know, George. Personally, I do not at this time see any reason to believe that the origin of novel body plans can be the product of the mutation/selection mechanism. On the other hand, I believe that there is some interesting and compelling evidence that at least some mutations appear to be pre-programmed into organisms. But to be clear, the place that I am willing to plant my flag is the origin of life. This is where the rubber really meets the road, and it is where the evidence for ID is the strongest.

In any case, what I do see at this time is the overwhelming evidence that life is the product of intelligent design, and this is the very evidence that rescued me from my atheism

Sure you could be !!! @deliberateresult

All you gotta do is actually answer the question I asked you! What is it with you ID folks? Thousands of words… YOUR words… but oh how you hate to answer a key question or two…

[EDITED NOTE: See my next posting below for a re-statement of the question I am hoping you will eventually answer.]

We need to get on the same page Jonathan if we are to have any sort of a productive conversation. This is how Behe defines irreducible complexity:

By irreducible complexity I mean 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.

It should be clear that Behe is talking about functional systems much more than he is talking about complexity. If this is not clear to you, we have nothing to talk about.[quote=“Jonathan_Burke, post:25, topic:17521”]
I did not say simply complexity", I said very specifically “too complex to have evolved”.

And to be specific, when someone says “too complex to have evolved,” it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a claim is being made about complexity and not about irreducible complexity, which is a very different thing. Hence, when the one who said “too complex to have evolved,” then tries to say that such a statement refers to irreducible complexity, it becomes necessary to point out to such a person that there is a very real difference between the two, and thus, in making the distinction obvious to him who cannot seem to see the difference, to refer to irreducible complexity as irreducible complexity, and to complexity as mere complexity (as in, not irreducible complexity).[quote=“Jonathan_Burke, post:25, topic:17521”]

hmm.[quote=“Jonathan_Burke, post:25, topic:17521”]
If you’re willing to defend the claim that there are artifacts which are too complex to have evolved, please just present your evidence.

The only thing I have shown a willingness to do here is to make the point that saying something is irreducibly complex is not the same thing as saying that it is too complex; a point that you simultaneously concede and deny.

Words matter, Jonathan. And the way we choose to use our words matters. When you claim that ID says life is too complex to have evolved, you are setting up a straw man to argue against. But then, I think you are aware of as much. You simply cannot say that both of the following statements are true:


Let’s try this again:

Since BioLogos and you agree that God is responsible for the creation of life … then the question that remains in my head is how to explain millions of terrestrial species that currently exist in the world.

Do you believe that God created those species since the time of Noah?


do you agree that the Earth is so old that once God created the first life, God’s use of Evolution led to the millions of different species?

I look forward to your answer to this question.

I do not reject non-naturalistic causes for the origin of life.

First, because I believe God created us, that means I affirm that God (a non-natural entity) caused the first life along with everything else. Whether the first life arose by natural or non-natural mechanisms (or a combination of both) its cause is absolutely and entirely dependent on the great Non Natural Cause: God.

Second, the God I find in scripture does at least occasionally intervene by first cause in this world (e.g. the Resurrection). I know of no way that science can rule out this possibility in any event in the distant past. So science certainly does not rule out the possibility that God created the first cell in the origin of life.

Third, science is very far from demonstrating that the origin of life by exclusively natural mechanisms is possible. Even if they could, this would not negate either non-natural causes or non-natural intervention. But they have not even shown this is possible yet. So I think belief that God intervened to make the first cell can be warranted. 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.

In those three senses, when considering the precise truth of our origins, I certainly do not rule out non-natural mechanism or causes. I never have done so. On the contrary, I affirm and embrace God’s purpose and action as the important ways to think about the origin of life.

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. That does not rule them out, but it does silence science in these possibilities. But I think you are asking what I think (as opposed to what “science” says), so this is probably an irrelevant point.

And yes, I have explained this many times. It is nuanced position, but I hope this is clear enough to understand it.

Now, what are the two definitions of IC? And which one do you use?


No. We’ve always found function in noncoding regions of the genome. You are promulgating a myth. Are you going to equivocate between “noncoding” and “nonfunctional” and “junk” next?

The fact still remains that the vast, vast majority of the genome has no known function.

*Being transcribed is not a function.


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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