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Life is irreducibly complex

Life exhibits an abundance of irreducibly complex systems. The scientific literature is empty of any quantitative model that allows for an evolutionary origin for any living system or subsystem.

Evolution thrives as a philosophy and a political sacred cow in the educational establishment – regardless of evidence or logic. Richard Lewontin is a Harvard professor of genetics and an ardent Marxist and evolutionist. Here’s his point of view (from Johnson, p. 71):

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”

The evolutionist is fully committed to materialism. There is no evidence that will allow him to consider supernatural design and creation. The resulting blindness is reminiscent of Romans 1:25, in that he “served the creature more than the Creator.”

Michael Behe has written a marvelous book entitled Darwin’s Black Box — The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. He defines the concept of irreducible complexity as follows:

“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.”

An irreducibly complex system cannot — in principle — be produced by numerous, successive small steps. If biological systems exhibit irreducible complexity, then Darwinism is, frankly, sunk without a trace.

Behe used the illustration of a simple mousetrap as such a system. A mousetrap includes a base to hold all the parts, a hammer to smash the little critter, a spring, a catch, a holding bar, and everything fastened neatly together and in the right proportion. Take away any component and it just doesn’t work — at all! The mouse gets away.

You can also consider a bicycle, an automobile, and a jet aircraft as irreducibly complex systems. You could also arrange these on a chart showing increasing complexity. But one clearly cannot conceive of one “evolving” by successive modifications into the other. Especially since any such “commercial product” would have to be fully functional at every step to survive in the marketplace.

Biological systems are incredibly complex — and irreducibly so — when looked at in the proper light: namely, the electron microscope’s “light,” revealing the incredible nano-machines that make living things work. Behe considers the cilium as a “simple” example. A cilium is the hair-like “whip” attached to certain cells to allow locomotion. A sperm cell has a cilium that allows it to swim. Stationary cells in the respiratory tract use cilia to move mucus, enabling expulsion of foreign matter. Cilia in the Fallopian tubes move in coordinated waves to enable the fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. No cilia – no life.

A microscopic look at the structure of the cilium reveals a wonderfully complex machine that can continue beating after it is forcibly removed from a cell. It is enclosed by a membrane that is continuous with the cell membrane. Inside the membrane is a fused double-ring structure of microtubules to form a firm outer cylindrical shell. One of these rings is formed by 13 individual strands of protein. The other is formed by 10 strands. The center of the cilium contains two single microtubule rods (of fused multiple strands), and connecting proteins. Special protein “arms” reside on the outside and inside of the outer microtubule shell. These arms produce motor action when chemical energy is supplied by ATP molecules. The overall structure is beautiful and the performance is reliable and . . . frankly . . . awesome.

The cilium includes the use of over 200 different types of protein molecules for its structure and operation. Without any of these components, it simply wouldn’t work.

Behe has examined the literature on the cilium over the last couple of decades. In over a thousand scientific papers on the subject, he has found zero that provide any quantitative analysis on how the cilium structure could have possibly evolved. No scientist has even conceived how the cilium might have developed through mutation and natural selection which, of course, involves successive improvements that must work effectively as a system at every step and be selected by environmental forces to dominate the population.

Yet biologists continue to insist that evolution is the very essential foundation of their discipline. Nevertheless, a thousand papers have been written on the subject, elucidating the form, function, and performance of these nano-machines without the necessity of anyone conceiving of an evolutionary origin for cilia.

Behe also describes in detail the bacterial flagellum, another “simple” system. Much different from a cilium, the flagellum provides locomotion for bacteria. The motor mechanism for the flagellum is rotary and resides inside the cell membrane. This rotary motor is so complex that it still is a subject of active research just to figure out how it works.

About 50 different proteins are involved in its structure and function. Some are used to control the turn-on and turn-off of the motor. Some are used in the complex and robust structures that connect the flagellum through the cell wall to the interior. Some proteins control the formation — the initial building — of the structures themselves as the cell grows. A number of proteins still mystify researchers regarding their functions.

Thousands of scientific papers have been written on the flagellum, also. Yet again, the evolutionary literature is nonexistent. No scientist has ever published a model to explain how this structure could even possibly have evolved naturally.

Blood clotting is something we take for granted. But what if our blood didn’t clot? Our blood system is pressurized. A cut might bleed us to death. A clotting system must work every time — on autopilot. It must turn on quickly, must stop the flow, must turn off so that the whole blood supply doesn’t solidify (that would be bad news, too), and must transition into a healing process after the right amount of time to allow for skin re-growth.

The clotting system includes at least 30 different proteins, operating in a multi-cellular environment through a fascinatingly complex system of nested control loops. Everything must work perfectly, every time, or we’re in deep trouble. A detailed analysis shows that this system is irreducibly complex.

The literature on blood clotting is immense, due to its medical significance. Yet no scientist has even attempted a quantitative model to describe how an evolutionary precursor might exist and work — and be “naturally selected.” But a plausible story must include a quantitative analysis of how thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of gradually more complex precursors could have come into being and thrived through evolutionary processes.

It’s not just that evolutionists haven’t figured out yet what the story is. It’s not even that they haven’t figured out what the story “might be.” They can’t even begin to construct a quantitative story.

In other words — no theory. This is characteristic of the entire field of biology. Whenever a particular organ or organism is examined at the biochemical level — where the action is — there is no scientific theory for its evolution. Don’t miss this point — no theory of evolution can be found to explain anthing in biology.

Why not? With our present knowledge of biology at the molecular level, we can now observe life’s nano-machines in action. And like any machine that you find in a factory — it should be obvious to an honest person that optimum form and function don’t just fall randomly into place. Machines are designed and built by intelligence. But in the case of biological machines, the evolutionary community dare not let “a Divine Foot in the door.”

Any attempt at a naturalistic theory is doomed to failure. You won’t even find the attempts in the scientific literature, because it isn’t possible to construct a scientific theory of origins based on natural processes. We know a lot about the physics and chemistry of life. The frontiers of physics are well beyond the realm of chemical reactions. Physics and chemistry simply preclude the possibility of spontaneous organization of complexity at the level we see in living creatures!


Phillip E. Johnson, Objections Sustained, InterVarsity Press, 1998.
Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box — The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Simon & Schuster, 1998.


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