This is about an inherently silly article at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. But it makes an interesting logical error that’s worth pointing out.
As soon as you see their title, Brain’s Complexity ‘Is Beyond Anything Imagined’, you know everything they have to say. We won’t excerpt too much about their description of the brain because that’s not why we visit ICR. We do it for their creationism. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:
The brain has for a long time been compared to man-made computers in its astounding ability to process, store, and route information. But a new imaging technique has revealed that just one brain’s connections and capacities far outnumber and outpace those of all the world’s computers. And this makes the question of the origin of brains that much more difficult for naturalistic explanations.
Okay, so it’s difficult. We posted this almost two years ago: How Did the Brain Evolve?, in which we discussed some research about brain evolution, which showed that “some of the proteins involved in synapse signaling and learning and memory are found in yeast,” and we wondered if the creationists would ever get around to discussing brains — instead of endlessly quote-mining Darwin about eyes. The brain has now come to their attention, and maybe it’s our fault. But we’ll carry on anyway.
ICR then discusses this magazine article about some brain research, and they quote the magazine which says that the researchers found “the brain’s complexity is beyond anything they’d imagined,” That’s enough to throw ICR into a tizzy.
ICR doesn’t mention it, but this is the paper the magazine is gushing about: Single-Synapse Analysis of a Diverse Synapse Population: Proteomic Imaging Methods and Markers. It’s all on-line at that link, and it’s about the authors’ imaging technique, nothing more.
Presumably still discussing the magazine article, ICR then says:
[T]they found that the total number of synapses in a brain roughly equaled the number of stars in 1,500 Milky Way galaxies! And memory patterns and tiny on/off switches, which were long thought to reside in the larger neuron cell bodies, were instead found to be smaller than the tiny synapse connections. Each of the neurons imaged in the study serves thousands of synapses.
Wow — big numbers! What else does a creationist need? Perhaps a bit of information to put those numbers in some kind of context would help. This Wikipedia article on human flora, for example, says:
The average human body, consisting of about 1013 (10,000,000,000,000 or about ten trillion) cells, has about ten times that number of microorganisms in the gut
What’s our point? Only that when we look at things that are very small, the numbers are likely to get big. But ICR doesn’t care, so get ready — here comes the creationism:
The more complicated a system is, the stronger it argues for having been intentionally designed. And brains certainly qualify, despite assertions that random-acting natural processes somehow assembled them. In these cases, the burden of proof lies heavily on those who insist that such systems are not in fact what they plainly appear to be: the products of intentional ingenious design.
We hinted at a logical error, and there it is. Big numbers somehow flip the burden of proof. Now — according to ICR — they’ve made their case for creationism and it’s up to the scientists to disprove it. Amazing argument, what? Then, imagining that they’ve achieved some kind of victory, they drive the point home:
The God of the Bible stands as the most tenable source of the specified complexity of interconnected neurons upon which human and much animal life depends. Until a naturalistic alternative can explain how a self-healing, adaptive, cosmic-sized internet of connectivity has been shrunk down to the size of a brain, then it is best to identify this hyper-tech design as being the product of a real Designer.
Creationism wins! They have evidence! What evidence? The brain is complicated. It has more synapses than the number of stars in 1,500 galaxies. (The population of microorganisms in your gut is even greater.) This is ICR’s last sentence:
And until an objective body of evidence can legitimately debunk the Bible’s historicity and proven accuracy, then it is best to identify this Designer as the Creator and Sustainer revealed in Scripture.
That’s it, dear reader. The game’s over.
Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.