Creationist Critique #2: There is a problem with irreducible complexity

So I continue to run through the anti-evolutionary arguments.    I’m just staying focused on the critiques which claim to be scientifically based.   I can understand why people would dispute NeoDarwinian evolution on theological grounds.  (Though I don’t agree with them.) I’m focused on the scientific arguments because I believe these are mostly wrong-headed, resulting from misunderstandings.

This particularly critique of evolution goes like this:

Natural selection is based on the idea that every little tiny baby step along the way confers some advantage.  It can not delay gratification.  If it takes 1000 generations to achieve a given structure each step toward that structure must be better than the step before.

Opponents of evolution observe that there appears to be no benefit from half an eye.  They state that each individual cell is much more complex than an eye, and that no intermediate steps are apparent that get us part way toward the development of many organelles.

It is true that each tiny little variation between generations must be a benefit in order for structures to grow increasingly complex.  But I don’t see that the case has yet been made that organisms are irreducibly complex for the following reasons:

A) This argument usually picks on three structures: the eye, the cell, and the wing.  It is interesting to note that the first two don’t leave fossils.  The eye is soft tissue and the cell is too small.  It would be basically impossible for biologists to decisevely answer these questions based on the fact that we have no evidence in either direction. 

The book Darwin’s Black Box, huge in the 1980’s, focused on the cilia and how half a cillia provides no apparent advantage.  Recent developments in microbiology have helped us understand that cells used organelles quite similar to cillia for other functions entirely.  These proto-cillia were around, and evolution made use of them in whole new ways.

As for eyes and wings, it’s only half-true to state that half an eye or half a wing confers no advantage.  It is quite true that we don’t see ancestors of modern human eyes or modern bird wings lurking about the animal kingdom.  But there are organisms with quite different light-detecting mechanisms that have little resolution.  The ability to see light and darkness does convey advantage.  It’s not hard to imagine our eyes’ ancestors developing with similar ancestors, that initially allow us to tell day from night, for example.  Similarly, there are animals such as “flying” squirells that appear to be evolving toward increasingly long leaps.  Contemporary wings might have evolved as a result of the increased advantage of increasingly long leaps.

B) As mentioned for the cillia, an advantage doesn’t need to mantain it’s original purpose or function.  Spiders began simply excreting waste.  Slowly, this took on a new function and became an elaborate fly trap.  (Sorry, I guess that example is kind-of gross.)


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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