Irreducible complexity and mere complexity

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]


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?


[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.


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.

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?



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.


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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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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Well you don’t have to go back very far at all to find an answer to your YE charges. This from my previous post to you:[quote=“deliberateresult, post:79, topic:17521”]
Many times I have refuted charges that I am YE and many other times I have affirmed that I believe in an old earth

A little farther back in this thread, you will find my answer to your other question. pleae review post #50 in this thread.

Now then, there is no need to seek forgiveness. Let’s just agree that it is time for you to drop it

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He was actually asking for evidence that you had answered his two questions. From what I can see. you have not answered either of them.


This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

for goodness sake George! This is the absolute last time I will pay any attention at all to this poor dead horse that you simply insist on continuing to flog.

  1. Yes, in post 59 I was very specific about not being YE. Now, in which post did you ask me to point out that I rejected claims that I am YE? Why, I’ll be! It was post #60, which comes after post #59.

  2. Taking an old earth position does not require that one accept any amount of evolution whatsoever. Taking an old earth position is nothing more than a position on the age of the earth. A YEC must necesarily take a constrained view of evolution, but that constraint simply does not apply to the old earth view.

  3. I owe you nothing George and I am done with this insane, relentless and pointless harping of yours.

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I think you are very confused about the history of our discussions … and confused about what exactly I am urging you to clarify. Do you actually think when I said “Old Earth” - - I was only concerned about a really old Earth . . . where God would “POOF” into existence millions of life forms? No. Of course you don’t think that. But this is your new tactic to avoid the issue.

  1. You have accused me of ignoring your explanations, and you attempted to prove that I was ignoring you by subsequently citing the very same email in which you say that I was ignoring your earlier postings. The acceptable approach is to refer to a posting PRIOR to your stating that I’m ignoring your earlier postings.

  2. Your description regarding Old Earth positions is perfectly correct. Which is why I have been pursuing you for an answer to the LARGER question of the role of speciation in an Old Earth scenario. I have been criticizing you on exactly the point you imply you hold … which is the reason I haven’t let it drop. You create innuendo that there is no reason for me to criticize your views on the science of evolution … but in fact, it appears you don’t believe even God-guided Evolution is possible - - even with the grace of divine Intelligent Design!

  3. You owe me nothing at all. Of course. But I think you owe your readers on this list.

It seems that you are not convinced that Evolution is only “barely conceivable” by means of Intelligent Design… which, in any case, you are certainly doubtful about.

So any further discussion by you promoting Intelligent Design (instead of just arguing for plain YEC) is merely a debating tactic. Which is what I have suspected for many months.

@gbrooks9 I think you have the history wrong here. @deliberateresult as been posting here for a long time. Remember he had a thread with over 1000 posts?

He has clearly laid out several times that he holds to an old earth, and does not in principle have a problem with common descent. He does have a problem with the word “evolution” which he (falsely) thinks means “without God.” This is his position, which puts him in a space between Hugh Ross and Behe/Denton. The exact place he locates himself is not really that important.

He has not argued for a “POOF” mechanism. Rather, he says that somehow God had to have injected information into life by first cause to bring about life. That is the watershed for him, where he stakes his tent. But he appears agnostic as to some of the precise details, in the same way we are agnostic to the exact way God has providential control over evolution.

This has been clear to me for months, because this is what he has written several times. And @deliberateresult , I hope I get most of your position right, feel free to correct me on the details. Though I am sure I have at least 90% of it right.

I think that is his genuine position. I don’t think he is being evasive here at all. Frankly, it is possible he is even okay with a “theistic evolution” position (i.e. Common Descent) if it avoids the word “evolution” and is friendly to ID. Sure, there is some disagreement here, but there is also real common ground. That should be our focus, and after that should be mutual understanding. We need to seek peace in this way.

I want to gently remind everyone here that it is immensely important for us to be extra kind to people that we disagree with on the forums, especially those that reject evolution

First, it represents us well when we do this. Second, it builds trust, and in the context of trust people are most likely to understand us, and maybe even change. Third, respectful interlocutors like @deliberateresult are valuable and deserve our utmost respect. These forums are more valuable and fun when they participate, and the last thing we should do is unkindly drive them away.

In the end, there will always remain disagreements. People will always defer the hardest questions that expose the weaknesses of their positions. Let it go so that we might pursue something greater. Understanding. Seek that above all else. Seek it over winning.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Prov 4:7

As should be obvious, I do not agree with @deliberateresult on everything, but I do find a lot of common ground with him. With some rare exceptions, he has been a very respectful interlocutor. He deserves our respect. Even if he didn’t deserve it, we should still treat him with respect.



I certainly appreciate the time you have invested in responding to some of my concerns.

And I think you offer a good explanation for why “Deliberate” thinks I am so familiar with his positions - - he has spent a lot of time discussing things with you (and with others I’m sure).

I have not been one of his more frequent correspondents. Which is one of the reasons I was pressing him for specifics… to get caught up on his stance.

For the time being, your description is really all I have to go on:

In my view, we have a choice between “Speciation” and “Poof”. My questions to him have not been about “first cause” and the first moment of life. My questions to him have been geared to get a response on one specific thing:

If he believes that Noah had an ark which held innumerable “kinds” safe from flood waters, then in order for the Earth to currently hold millions of distinct species of Terrestrial animal life forms… leaves us with just a few choices.

A) After the waters receded, and the animals exited the ark, God created millions of new life forms sometime thereafter - - in a “POOF” … much like he created the animal life in the first 6 days of creation.

B) After the waters receded, and the animals exited the ark, God accelerated and guided the natural tendencies towards speciation, in order to provide for the current plentitude of terrestrial species, but without the “POOF”.

C) The story of the ark may or may not have any historical basis, but the Earth’s plentitude of species currently evident were produced by millions of years of God-Guided speciation, as frequently described in various ways by various supporters of BioLogos.

What interests me about this very specific line of inquiry is that when someone insists that speciation cannot and does not happen, it is never quite clear whether the objection is:

A) if God chose to guide speciation by means of lawful nature, the Bible would tell us that he did such a thing;


B) that there is no way for nature to accomplish speciation, even if God was guiding nature, because there is no natural way to accomplish this.

Can you see how odd this sounds? It sounds like the objection is that even if God wanted to do something miraculous, he could not create natural-looking speciation?

This is really the “heart” of Intelligent Design disputes, rather than nibbling around at the edges about whether bacteria flagella can appear with or without God.

It would appear that both BioLogos and I.D. supporters agree that God could make flagella if he wanted to.

But can both sides agree that God could accomplish full speciation as well?

Again, @Swamidass, thank you for your kind efforts as bridge-builder and as peace-maker. It is appreciated!

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Spoilsport. Can we at least be mean to people we do agree with? This is still the internet after all – what’s the point in having global, nearly instantaneous access to a vast range of people from all cultural, religious and educational backgrounds if we aren’t using it to belittle them?

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Irony alert!

Along with a dose of reluctant self-awareness.


I think @deliberateresult would say that he does not exactly how God injected information. That he does not take dogmatic position here. This is no different than the fact that I do not take a dogmatic position on how God’s providence interacts with evolution, other than to assert that God’s providence rules all things. For @deliberateresult, he does not “draw the line” on the details of speciation any ways, but in the origin of life…

Moreover, you are conflating Noah’s flood with the question of speciation, and not presenting all possible options. For example, Hugh Ross would argue that the flood was local, not global, but really did happen (and therefore did have a historical basis). Because it did not cover the whole earth, there is no reason to think that speciation after the flood, therefore, would be any different afterwards.

As important as it is for you to get to the bottom of this, I really do think we all need to respect the topic of threads. When we fail to keep things on topic, it is really prevents threads from running their natural course and for real thought to happen. It also can be offputting to people, because they cannot choose the scope of their participation.

This inquiry into the specific beliefs of @deliberateresult has nothing to do with “Irreducible complexity and mere complexity.” I think you should start a new thread to pursue this with him. More valuably, find a way to frame it that seeks to understand a larger group of people than just him. There is real value in this, and that is a more likely way of getting answers.

But for now, I do think that you should leave this line out of the current thread.

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Well, there is always looking at cute cat videos.


“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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