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  Topic: The Death of Irreducible Complexity, Archive of ARN postings< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 49
Joined: Sep. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 27 2005,21:06   

This is the second of the archived posts.

I remarked above that "rearranging and adapting remaining parts" was still lurking.  Let me bring it out of the shadows.

Besides 'no other simpler system", Dembski's second addition to the operational definition of irreducible complexity is
... by rearranging and adapting remaining parts determine ... whether the basic function can be recovered among those remaining parts.
 As Dembski describes it, we have knocked out a part and found that the system's "basic function" is gone.  Now we must establish that the remaining parts cannot be rearranged and/or adapted to restore the basic function.  I've been trying to think of a good analogy, and I think I have it: a simple household mousetrap.

Behe argues in Darwin's Black Box that a common mousetrap is irreducibly complex on his original definition.  It consists of five parts (hammer, spring, catch, holding bar, and platform).  Remove any one of them and the basic function of the mousetrap is gone.  While critics have argued that a mousetrap is not irreducibly complex, Behe has vigorously defended it, mostly by arguing that rearrangements and adaptations are necessary to get the simpler traps the critics described.  Poor Behe, betrayed by his comrade in arms.

Now, alas, the mousetrap falls prey to Dembski's second test, for it is clear that one can remove any one of the five parts and with some modest rearranging and adapting of the remaining parts recover the basic function.  See here for animations of mousetraps employing one, two, three, and four of the parts of the complete mousetrap.

The only component common to all of the reduced and adapted mousetraps is a piece of wire.  Any of the other parts can be eliminated and with suitable rearrangements and adaptations we can recover the basic function.  Now consider testing an intact mousetrap to see if it's IC.  In the first step of our analysis we knock out any component.  As the illustrations show, we can "rearrange and adapt" the remaining parts to recover the basic function.  Knock out any one of the parts and the remainder are sufficient, with some rearranging and adapting, to serve the basic function.  (Some of the "adaptations" -- or perhaps they're "rearrangements" -- would actually eliminate some of the remaining parts.)  The simpler system may not function real well, perhaps, but of course evolution doesn't need a whole lot of relative advantage to build on.  And the criterion for IC is elimination of the "basic function," not merely diminution or attenuation.

What does this mean?  It means that by Dembski's operational criteria for irreducible complexity, even Behe's mousetrap, the iconic example of irreducible complexity, is not IC.  

I'll say it again: Dembski has eviscerated irreducible complexity as an empirical marker of design, and in the process has cut his colleague off at the knees.


Edited by RBH on Mar. 27 2005,21:11

"There are only two ways we know of to make extremely complicated things, one is by engineering, and the other is evolution. And of the two, evolution will make the more complex." - Danny Hillis.

  5 replies since Mar. 27 2005,21:01 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


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