Behe’s “Irreducible Complexity” Gets Reduced

Little Green Footballs has a thread titled: ‘Irreducible Complexity’ Shot Down in Flames. It says:

New research into mitochondria provides a devastating refutation of one of the main talking points of Michael Behe and the Discovery Institute neo-creationists, as “irreducible complexity” turns out to be very reducible.

Then they give an excerpt from this article at the website of Wired Science: More ‘Evidence’ of Intelligent Design Shot Down by Science. Here are some excerpts from Wired Science, with bold added by us:

Intricate cellular components are often cited as evidence of intelligent design. They couldn’t have evolved, I.D. proponents say, because they can’t be broken down into smaller, simpler functional parts. They are irreducibly complex, so they must have been intentionally designed, as is, by an intelligent entity.

But new research comparing mitochondria, which provide energy to animal cells, with their bacterial relatives, shows that the necessary pieces for one particular cellular machine — exactly the sort of structure that’s supposed to prove intelligent design — were lying around long ago. It was simply a matter of time before they came together into a more complex entity.

That sounds like good research, but we predict that it won’t cause any discomfort for Michael Behe, the lord high guru of the cult of irreducible complexity.

Let’s read on:

The pieces “were involved in some other, different function. They were recruited and acquired a new function,” said Sebastian Poggio, a postdoctoral cell biologist at Yale University and co-author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

After a bit of searching we found that article. Here’s the abstract: The reducible complexity of a mitochondrial molecular machine. Observe the phrase “reducible complexity” in the title. Nice, huh?

We continue reading from Wired Science:

Intelligent design mavens once cited flagella as evidence of their theory. Scientific fact dispelled that illusion. The mitochondria study does the same for protein transport.

For the moment, we’re not going to dig deeper into this. It’s possible that the meaning of and reaction to one paper may be over-enthusiastic. We’ve seen such behavior before.

But even if this isn’t the final nail in the coffin for Behe’s claims, that day will come. When it does, Behe will ignore it and continue to be a poster-boy for Intelligent Design — just as Wile E. Coyote continues running, unaware that he’s already run past the edge of the cliff.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Behe’s “Irreducible Complexity” Gets Reduced

  1. We announce to an indifferent world that this is post number 1,000 for the Curmudgeon’s humble blog. We’ve been at this for 17 months, putting up an average of 2 posts per day. What do we have to show for it? Growing traffic, and a remarkably bright collection of readers who post good comments.

    And we have totally confounded the Discoveroids, who insist that all “Darwinists” are leftists who delight in promoting atheism.

  2. Behe, who was an expert witness for the defense in the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board case, turned out to be in fact a great boost for the plaintiffs.

    Dr. Behe is a blustering buffoon with delusions of adequacy.

  3. Congrats on #1000

    This is unlikely to sway Behe because his position has been that exaptation does occur, it just needs a designer to do it. Citing one more example of it actually occurring won’t change his mind.

  4. I second eric’s congrats on #1,000.

    Your blog is both informative and entertaining, and it’s been a regular read for me for several months.

  5. Curmudgeon wrote: “But even if this isn’t the final nail in the coffin for Behe’s claims, that day will come.”

    That day came in 1996, when his argument in general was shown unequivocally to (1) not refute evolution (only a caricature thereof) and (2) not confirm that a designer was necessary for “something” (note how Behe neatly avoids saying whether a designer is necessary for the first X or every X).

    Addressing individual examples in detail is necessary (a “necessary evil” if you ask me), but just like the finding of transitional fossils it only adds more “gaps” for them to exploit and move the goalposts. But you know that.

    PS: Congrats on 1000!

  6. Frank J says:

    Addressing individual examples in detail is necessary (a “necessary evil” if you ask me), but just like the finding of transitional fossils it only adds more “gaps” for them to exploit and move the goalposts. But you know that.

    Right. All the Behe types need to do is find something else that hasn’t yet been explained, and proclaim that to be the inexplicable handiwork of their magical Designer. When that new item eventually gets studied and explained, they’ll move on to another.

    God of the gaps. No shortage of gaps.

  7. I’m opening a virtual bottle of Dom Perignon to mark your 1000th. Cheers, sante, and bottoms up, Curmy — keep up the great blog!

  8. Drink your virtual wine in moderation.

  9. There is one thing that even one counter-example shows, which is that the argument from irreducible complexity is not a valid argument.

    Examples may also be drawn from history. Check the Wikipedia article on “Irreducible complexity” under the heading “Forerunners” for examples of the argument from irreducible complexity having been used to support preformation (that is, direct creation of every individual, rather than development of the embryo).

  10. Wow, what a nice pro-ID/front-loaded/preadapted evolution/”simulation argument” article from wired (misleading title though). From the article:

    But new research comparing mitochondria, which provide energy to animal cells, with their bacterial relatives, shows that the necessary pieces for one particular cellular machine — exactly the sort of structure that’s supposed to prove intelligent design — were lying around long ago. It was simply a matter of time before they came together into a more complex entity.

    With the massive amount of preadaptations,the biased nature of evolution, the memetic algorithms, the machinery of life and the fine-tuned cosmos, is it any wonder certain beings, like us, emerged?
    What is the best way to search for an optimal solution in ALL possible fitness landscapes? Designing memetic algorithms to search a fitness landscape for the best, optimal solution sounds like a good designing tool. Give it time and the most optimal solution for a particular fitness landscape will emerge…as a result of a few fine-tuned algorithms and laws 🙂 .

    Sounds like an ID/simulation argument hypothesis is brewing…

  11. TomS says: “There is one thing that even one counter-example shows, which is that the argument from irreducible complexity is not a valid argument.”

    It’s a declaration that “X does not exist.” In Behe’s case he’s saying that an evolutionary explanation absolutely doesn’t exist. All he’s got in any specific instance is that such an explanation hasn’t yet been found, which is only an argument from ignorance. The only way to really demonstrate that “X does not exist” is to show that its existence would involve some kind of contradiction — as is done in proving that the square root of 2 cannot be a rational number.

  12. Curmudgeon wrote: “All he’s got in any specific instance is that such an explanation hasn’t yet been found, which is only an argument from ignorance.”

    Unfortunately that fools most nonscientists, and there’s no sign that it will stop doing so anytime soon.

    I’m not a biologist, but I am a chemist, so I’m always thinking “what about the atoms and molecules?” Thus my typical reaction to a Behe/Dembski argument is not “You’re wrong and here’s why..” but “If you’re right, then what happened when, and how will you test it?” For the former they have a million comebacks to fool the audience , but for the latter all they can do is keep repeating “it’s not ID’s task to connect the dots…”

  13. retiredsciguy

    What is truly remarkable is that your blog keeps improving, even after 1,000 posts. You devote an enormous amount of energy to your research, making your daily blogs fresh and intellectually stimulating, rather than just being a rehash of the same old ideas.

    Thank you — again.

  14. retiredsciguy says: “… your blog keeps improving, even after 1,000 posts.”

    Thanks, but from my point of view the blog is essentially the same. The creationists haven’t budged from the rut they’re in, so all I need to do is track their foolishness from day to day. The biggest challenge around here is keeping things organized in my various tables of contents, and I suspect that most of that effort goes unnoticed.

  15. > … and I suspect that most of that effort goes unnoticed.

    Not so. This is my first visit and I noticed that already. Nice work on 1000, and may the next 1000 be even better!

  16. A compliment from a tomato addict? Well, I’ll take what I can get.