Irreducible complexity is a term that is used in the creationist circles to describe the thesis that everything must have had a designer as it is so complex, and without its complexity could not function. What I don’t understand is how the complexity of all life on earth is somehow proof of creationism. To me, it seems like a pretty undeniable argument for evolution.
Science, by means of complex study and complex experimentation, has shown us how small, less complex organisms, throughout the course of 3.7 billion years, evolved into the beautiful, undeniably complex organisms that we see today. Religion, on the other hand, reduces the complexity of every life-form on the planet by either saying, “It just always was,” or by saying, “Magic Man did it.” Religionists reduce the complexity of thousands of transitional fossils by saying, “They’re not transitional, they’re just extinct.” In fact, if you were to make a query to a theist regarding the reasoning behind the color of leaves or water, I’m sure your answer would be, “Because God made it that way.” Now, let’s compare that answer to one given by a scientist.
Why is water blue? Water owes its intrinsic blueness to selective absorption in the red part of its visible spectrum. The absorbed photons promote transitions to high overtone and combination states of the nuclear motions of the molecule, i.e. to highly excited vibrations. To our knowledge the intrinsic blueness of water is the only example from nature in which color originates from vibrational transitions. Other materials owe their colors to the interaction of visible light with the electrons of the substances. Their colors may originate from resonant interactions between photons and matter such as absorption, emission, and selective reflection or from non-resonant processes such as Rayleigh scattering, interference, diffraction, or refraction, but in each case, the photons interact primarily or exclusively with electrons. The details of the mechanism by which water is vibrationally colored will be discussed in the paragraphs which follow.
Now let’s remember what the religious explanation for the color of water. I’m sure that you can see a difference.
Water is the only factor of nature that theists try to use in their favor to prove something absurd though. There is also a very old argument regarding the color green. “Was it not great of the lord to make all of our surroundings green? Green is the most appeasing color to the human eye!” Well, you see, that last part is right, but I think they’re confusing exactly what is the cause and what is the effect here. Could it be that green is the most appeasing color to our eyes for the same reason it is to an ape’s eye? And, for that matter, wouldn’t it be consistent? Wouldn’t green be the most appeasing color to a dog’s eye as well? But dogs don’t see colors, and neither do most insects. And to many insects who can and other creatures that can, green isn’t the most appeasing color to their eyes, the colors of their food and environment are.
Just like us, the ape’s eye is pleased by green. Just like us, a shark’s eye can see red from longer distances than other colors. That’s why stop signs and lights are red (just a little fun trivia for the folks out there). It’s also why red cars tend to get more tickets. You see, we’re omnivores. This means that we eat both vegetation and meat. Of course, some humans choose to be purely carnivores and others choose to be herbivores, but no matter the label on themselves, they will yearn for whatever is lacking, as they need it to properly survive. Therefore, we are all omnivores, and most of our food would be either red, or would be like other plants and vegetables and be green mixed with many vibrant colors. This is another reason we see colors more vibrantly than carnivores. Do you see the chain forming here? Green is the most appeasing color to man because we come from it. We were once a nature dwelling species. Green always surrounded us and our eyes merely adapted, and even though we’re no longer woods dwellers (except for some people in Georgia) there’s no real reason for the eye to change, as it doesn’t hinder us in any way to cause those with the mutation to die off in lieu of those without it.
We see red from farthest away partly because of our need to scavenge. We see vibrant colors partly because of our need to eat wild fruits and berries which were essential to our evolutionary survival. Our eyes like green because we lived in green. This is a very old trick of the theists: twisting the cause and the effect around to prove a point based on misinterpretation.
This is yet another reason why can’t fathom why religion is deemed to be more spiritual than science. I would like to let it be known that the greatest argument, philosophically, against religion is that—as Nietzsche elaborated in Ecce Homo—it reduces the history of man, nullifies the meaning and essence of the history of the earth as well as the universe, and nullifies all that we, as humans, ought to be proud of in regards to our own species as well as the world in which we live.
A great example of this is comparing the history of the universe scientifically to the history of the earth biblically. I’ve broken the steps down on both sides, let’s compare:
1. About 14 billion years ago: The Big Bang.
2. About 13.2 billion years ago: The formation of the Milky Way Galaxy.
3. About 8 billion years ago: The formation of the Solar System.
4. About 4.57 billion years ago: The formation of the Earth.
5. About 3.7 billion years ago: The origin of life on Earth.
6. The formation of the oldest known fossils on Earth.
7. About 3.4 billion years ago, dates the oldest fossils (blue-green algae and bacteria).
8. The invention of sex by microorganisms.
9. The oldest known fossil of photosynthetic plants.
10. Eukaryotes flourish.
11. Significant oxygen atmosphere begins to develop on Earth.
12. Extensive volcanism and channel formation on Mars
13. Formation of the first worms.
14. About 542 million years ago, the Precambrian Era ends. Paleozoic Era and Cambrian Period begin, and Invertebrates flourish.
15. The first oceanic Plankton. Trilobites flourish.
16. About 492 million years ago, the Ordovician Period begins. We see the first fish and first vertebrates appear.
17. About 416 million years ago, the Silurian Period begins. The first vascular plants appear and plants begin colonizing the land.
18. About 397 million years ago, the Devonian Period begins. We see the first insects appear, and animals begin colonizing the land.
19. First winged insects and amphibians.
20. About 290 million years ago, the Permian Period begins. It is in this period that we see the first dinosaurs.
21. About 245 million years ago, the Paleozoic Era ends, and the Mesozoic Era begins.
22. About 245 million years ago, the Triassic Period begins. The first mammals and birds appear about 180 million years ago.
23. About 208 million years ago, the Jurassic Period begins. The first mammals and birds appear about 180 million years ago.
24. About 140 million years ago, the Cretaceous Period begins. The first flowers form and dinosaurs become extinct.
25. About 65 million years ago, the Mesozoic Era ends, and the Cenozoic Era and Tertiary Period begin. First cetaceans and primates appear.
26. Early evolution of frontal lobes in brains of primates. First humanoids appear. Giant mammals flourish.
27. End of the Pliocene Period. About 1.64 million years ago, the Quaternary (Pleistocene and Holocene epochs) Period begins. The first humans appear.
Let’s now compare this to how all of this is explained in the Holy Bible:
1. About 6,000 years ago, BAM! Magic guy in the sky did it!
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which way is more complex, let alone more accurate and believable, or even spiritual. This is the first of many cases in which religion invalidates our universe, world and all of the plants, animals and organisms within it.
Creationists like to use bad mathematics to prove bad science. What they did was calculate back about 6,000 years (imagine that) to “calculate” the likelihood that, through natural progression, we would have ended up how we are now. In other words, evolved. The number they came up with was a .0411091% chance of this happening naturally and without a “designer,” therefore, it is impossible. The problem is this: you cannot reverse calculate any event. It’s nothing more than bad science, as any calculation, when done in reverse, is going to produce an extremely low likelihood of happening. This is why this is not used in actual science. I passed a bus on my way to Byerly’s the other day. However, if a person were to use reverse calculation as a means of calculating the likelihood of this happening, they could easily formulate an argument that I was lying.
The average school bus is roughly 36 feet by 8.5 feet. This makes it about 47,264 inches squared. Now, lest’ take a look at the size of the earth. In feet, the world is about 5,490,383,247,360,000 square feet, therefore, it is about 65,884,598,968,320,000 square inches. Through very laymen mathematics, we can come to the calculation that the odds of ever being in the same vicinity as this particular bus at anytime during my life is exactly one in 1,393,970,018,794. Looking at those odds, it would be quite right to say it’s pretty damn unlikely that I would ever see that bus in my entire life. Now, let’s look at the odds that I would have come across that bus in that particular minute of my life. Since I’m almost 28 I’ll round to give it a one in 14,676,480 chance that I would even be there at that particular moment. However to calculate that the bus would be there too, we need to calculate the odds of both the bus and myself being that that particular spot that that particular minute. Again, through pretty simple mathematics, we come to a one in 642,839,756,014,296. To convert into a percentage, it’s actually .0000000000000155559% chance of this happening. You see, I’ve just convinced myself of two things: 1. I didn’t pass a school bus and there must be something wrong with my memory, and 2. I had some pretty good math teachers in my “crappy public education system.”
I’m sure you see my point though. Reverse calculation is inaccurate and is horribly bad science. It makes ANY action incredibly improbable. However, I just proved that evolution through natural selection is almost 97 times more likely than my passing a school bus on my way to the grocery store.
There is also a very traditional obstacle that Intelligent Design inflicts upon itself. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that irreducible complexity were a viable scientific theory instead of nothing more than a scientific front for creationism and other ancient myths. The advocates of the Christian God find themselves in a very familiar, pseudo-scientific version of a very old religious argument: How do you know, with all of the options out there, that you’re praying to the right one?
Religion has been in this predicament for some time, in fact, since it’s inception. Every religion on the planet and throughout history claims to be the only real path to the only real deity. Therefore, how can you honestly discern your own god from the rest? What if you pick the wrong one? Do you go to hell? Is hell real? Many faiths don’t think so. How do you know, for instance, the Zeus isn’t the right one, and you won’t be punished for believing in the wrong one. You know, there is no more evidence of the Abrahamic God than there is for Zeus or Marduk. The problem, again, with ID is that it puts itself in this position. After all, proving that there is a “creator” doesn’t answer the question as to his identity. It could very well be any of the other millions of mythological beings that have been a part of superstition and religion throughout history. Proving that any given part of a flagellum is worthless by itself (which is a lie, by the way), only proves a designer, not God himself.
This could be proof of a supernatural creator. However, if nothing so complex as us could exist without a creator, then what or whom created the creator? After all, if we’re so complex and God designed us, then God must be complex. And if nothing complex can exist without a creator, as the ID people would like us all to think, then something must have created God, right? It can’t just stop somewhere at some ultimate beginning. And if it can, then that refutes their whole argument that complexity requires a designer, doesn’t it? It seems that Intelligent Design only acts as scientific proof that Intelligent Design is BS. It could have been anything, if you believe in an ultimate beginning, but it doesn’t have to be God. Maybe it’s Goddess, or even aliens.
Yes, that’s right. If you buy into ID, you have to, scientifically, allow for the possibility that aliens seeded us here, or even panspermia could be a possible origin. Now, those of us in the secular scientific community laugh at such claims, but if ID only proves a designer, it can’t only look for supernatural explanations, it must revert to natural explanations as well. And to be objective, you CANNOT rule out seeding. So, ID stands just as much as a basis for proving Scientology as it does any other religion, including Christianity. If could even stand to prove the Raelians correct, you know, that crazy cult in New Hampshire, I think it is. So, when you put your faith into ID (and it does require faith as it’s clearly not science), you better be sure you’re promoting the right designer!
It seems that irreducible complexity has many flaws, but one fundamental flaw haunts its very foundation: when reduced, species function just fine. You see, Irreducible Complexity’s entire foundation rests with a thesis that since organisms are so complex, even the slightest part out of shape would render the entire organism incompetent, therefore, it could not have evolved and must have been that way all along. There are so many problems with this that I don’t know where to start. The first is with a complete misunderstanding of evolution. You see, evolution happens with small, very small, gradual changes happening over a period of time. We’ve watched species evolve since the 1800s when Darwin first sailed the Beagle. So, to say that a lesser evolved form of a species would have something “out of place” shows a blatant misunderstanding of evolution in general. It’s up there with, “Why are there still monkeys?” to which I respond, “Why are there still European?” But I’d rather talk about a more scientific flaw. Let’s go with bacteria.
Bacteria is a much lesser complex organism that we, but it is still quite complex none the less. It is, after all, a distant relative of ours. Just like us, there are many different breeds of bacteria, and each one functions just fine. But what of antibiotic resistant strains? Bodies with infections are commonly prescribed antibiotics, and it’s not rare for the bacteria in their body to develop a resistance to the antibiotic. This happens through natural evolution as the offspring strains with the resistance survive over the parent species which lacks the gene. Some offspring have it and some don’t, needless to say, those who don’t do not survive. Therefore, the duplicates or offspring of the resistant strain will carry the gene of resistance. The offspring with the resistance is slightly more complex than the offspring without it, but yet the parent species functioned just fine until a new factor was introduced into its environment. This is exactly how evolution happens, but again, the parent (slightly less complex species) survived just fine before the introduction of the new element. This is how complex species gradually come from less complex ones, thus disproving the entirety of the ID argument. As, according to Irreducible Complexity, this could not happen because complexity cannot be reduced. I’m rambling a bit, but you get the point. Complexities are gradually adopted over generations, thus creating a more complex creature. Now, imagine this happening over about 5 billion years. I bet you’d have something that doesn’t even resemble the original concestor, wouldn’t you? Ooops, that’s evolution.
To put it bluntly, IC and ID are anti-scientific. They don’t account for the obviously transitional fossil record. Most often, those who profess to have all the answers answer nothing. Science doesn’t profess to know the absolute origins of life, we just know how we got from point A to point Z. Obviously, anyone can just make something up, but that is not science, that is religion. And Intelligent Design is only religion with a publicly scientific face. Science is a study of observation and theories are put through rigorous tests and ideas change all the time as old theories become obsolete. However, Darwin’s theory of evolution stands alone and fossil record clearly supports it. It also supports a 5 billion year old earth and a 14 billion year old universe, not a 6,000 year old both that was made in a week. The Discovery institute is nothing more than a pseudo-scientific church and it’s premise and result answers nothing as to the origins of life. It is only speculation and doesn’t have an observational backbone or leg to stand on.
The end, believe in God if you must, but don’t expect the real world to compromise scientific accomplishments to accommodate for a book written thousands of years ago. It is just that: a book, and that’s all. It’s a book of spirituality, and not science. Children should not be taught the biblical creation story along side evolution as though there are actually two sides to the argument, because there aren’t two sides. There’s one side that is knowledge based on evidence and experimentation, and another side that is based on nothing but speculation and bad science. And if we start teaching the Christian version of creation in the science classrooms, we should probably teach the other million creation stories as well. I’m sure the Hindus would like children to be taught that the world doesn’t orbit the sun, but instead, the world sits on the back of an elephant who stands on the back of a tortoise. I’m not kidding, it’s in their theology.