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[_ Old Earth _] Irreducible Complexity?

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I don't necessarily agree with the presumptious and somewhat arrogant tone of this excerpt from the book "The Collapse of Evolution," but the overall logic is pretty sound, although I think they could have elaborated a little more. But anyway...


The bombardier beetle is a small insect that is armed with an impressive defense system. Whenever threatened by an enemy attack, this spirited little beetle blasts irritating and odious gases, which are at 212o F, out from two tailpipes right into the unfortunate face of the would-be aggressor.

Hermann Schildknecht, a German chemist, studied the bombardier beetle to find out how he accomplishes this impressive chemical feat. He learned that the beetle makes his explosive by mixing together two very dangerous chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide). In addition to these two chemicals, this clever little beetle adds another type of chemical known as an “inhibitor.†The inhibitor prevents the chemicals from blowing up and enables the beetle to store the chemicals indefinitely.

Whenever the beetle is approached by a predator, such as a frog, he squirts the stored chemicals into the two combustion tubes, and at precisely the right moment he adds another chemical (an anti-inhibitor). This knocks out the inhibitor, and a violent explosion occurs right in the face of the poor attacker.

Could such a marvelous complex mechanism have evolved piecemeal over millions of years? The evolutionist is forced to respond with a somewhat sheepish “yes,†but a brief consideration of this viewpoint will reveal its preposterous nature.

According to evolutionary “thinking†there must have been thousands of generations of beetles improperly mixing these hazardous chemicals in fatal evolutionary experiments, blowing themselves to pieces. Eventually, we are assured, they arrived at the magic formula, but what about the development of the inhibitor? There is no need to evolve an inhibitor unless you already have the two chemicals you are trying to inhibit. On the other hand, if you already have the two chemicals without the inhibitor, it is already too late, for you have just blown yourself up. Obviously, such an arrangement would never arise apart from intelligent foresight and planning.

Nevertheless, let us assume that the little beetle somehow managed to simultaneously develop the two chemicals along with the all-important inhibitor. The resultant solution would offer no benefit at all to the beetle, for would just sit there as a harmless concoction. To be of any value to the beetle, the anti-inhibitor must be added to the solution.

So, once again, for thousands of generations we are supposed to believe that these poor beetles mixed and stored these chemicals for no particular reason or advantage, until finally, the anti-inhibitor was perfected. Now he is really getting somewhere! With the anti-inhibitor developed he can now blow himself to pieces, frustrating the efforts of the hungry predator who wants to eat him. Ah, yes, he still needs to evolve the two combustion tubes, and a precision communications and timing of the explosion. So, here we go again; for thousands of generations these carefree little beetles went around celebrating the 4th of July by blowing themselves to pieces until finally they mastered their newfound powers.

But what would be the motivation for such disastrous, trial and error, piecemeal evolution? Everything in evolution is supposed to be beneficial and have and have a logical purpose, or else it would never develop. But such a process does not make any sense, and to propose that the entire defense system evolved all at once is simply impossible. Yet, nature abounds with countless such examples of perfect coordination. Thus, we can only conclude that the surprising little bombardier beetle is a strong witness for special creation, for there is no other rational explanation for such a wonder.


So macroevolutionists, what say you??
 
C

coffeelover

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I would say that I don't give the excerpt much credit just because of its tone. It it seems to rely on story telling techniques rather than presenting any actual science. The "spirited" little beetle, marvelously complex this or amazing that.

Also, at the end it says Macro-evolutionist? So that defeats the purpose altogether as the author admits defeat in the article its self. Why say that unless the author believes there is such a thing as micro evolution that is indeed fact?

Biologists don't have a distinction between micro or macro there is simply evolution. I don't think the argument is intellectually honest.
 
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coffeelover said:
I would say that I don't give the excerpt much credit just because of its tone. It it seems to rely on story telling techniques rather than presenting any actual science. The "spirited" little beetle, marvelously complex this or amazing that.

Also, at the end it says Macro-evolutionist? So that defeats the purpose altogether as the author admits defeat in the article its self. Why say that unless the author believes there is such a thing as micro evolution that is indeed fact?

Biologists don't have a distinction between micro or macro there is simply evolution. I don't think the argument is intellectually honest.
I would say don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I commented right up front that I wasn't pleased with the tone of the article nor the lack of elaboration, but if you strictly think about how those mechanisms could have all developed simultaneously, from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense at all.

And I know there is some debate as to whether there is a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. The fact is some scientists distinguish between the two and some don't. Plain and simple.
 

lordkalvan

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faithtransforms said:
....Hermann Schildknecht, a German chemist, studied the bombardier beetle to find out how he accomplishes this impressive chemical feat. He learned that the beetle makes his explosive by mixing together two very dangerous chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide). In addition to these two chemicals, this clever little beetle adds another type of chemical known as an “inhibitor.†The inhibitor prevents the chemicals from blowing up and enables the beetle to store the chemicals indefinitely.
You have been misled by your source. The two chemicals will not spontaneously explode or ignite when mixed (see Dawkins, Richard, 1987, The Blind Watchmaker).
Whenever the beetle is approached by a predator, such as a frog, he squirts the stored chemicals into the two combustion tubes, and at precisely the right moment he adds another chemical (an anti-inhibitor). This knocks out the inhibitor, and a violent explosion occurs right in the face of the poor attacker.
Again, I'm afraid Huse is wrong and is simply repeating a Duane Gish error.
Could such a marvelous complex mechanism have evolved piecemeal over millions of years? The evolutionist is forced to respond with a somewhat sheepish “yes,†but a brief consideration of this viewpoint will reveal its preposterous nature.
There is nothing either 'sheepish' or 'preposterous' about the evolution of this beetle. Quinones are produced naturally by tanning cells and are used for tanning the cuticle of many arthropods and are unpleasant to many predators. Hydroquinone is another naturally occurring chemical that has been evolved by a number of insects as a result of some predators which have developed resistance to quinones. Hydrogen peroxide results from cellular metabolism in many organisms. The supposed 'irreducible complexity' of the bombardier beetle's defensive mechanism is entirely susceptible to a step-by-step evolutionary explanation. You may find this discussion helpful:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html

...So macroevolutionists, what say you??
There is very little science, a great deal of misunderstanding and perhaps even some misrepresentation in the quoted piece. The bombardier beetle provides no problem for evolutionary theory.
 

lordkalvan

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faithtransforms said:
...And I know there is some debate as to whether there is a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. The fact is some scientists distinguish between the two and some don't. Plain and simple.
In the biological sciences, macroevolution is generally understood as referring to evolutionary change at or above the level of the species; microevolution is generally understood as changes within species that do not mark speciation events. Consider the example of ring species, which demonstrate aspects of both: Species A can reproduce with Species B, B, with C, C with D and D with E, but A and E cannot reproduce together (the most famous example perhaps being the Californian Ensatina salamander).
 
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coffeelover

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faithtransforms said:
coffeelover said:
I would say that I don't give the excerpt much credit just because of its tone. It it seems to rely on story telling techniques rather than presenting any actual science. The "spirited" little beetle, marvelously complex this or amazing that.

Also, at the end it says Macro-evolutionist? So that defeats the purpose altogether as the author admits defeat in the article its self. Why say that unless the author believes there is such a thing as micro evolution that is indeed fact?

Biologists don't have a distinction between micro or macro there is simply evolution. I don't think the argument is intellectually honest.
I would say don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I commented right up front that I wasn't pleased with the tone of the article nor the lack of elaboration, but if you strictly think about how those mechanisms could have all developed simultaneously, from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense at all.

And I know there is some debate as to whether there is a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. The fact is some scientists distinguish between the two and some don't. Plain and simple.


One of the main problems I have with those who attack the sciences is very much the tone and style they use. For if they really had truth on their side why the need for such a petulant style? To me someone writes in a childish way only shows that they they think in childish ways.

I went to a good university to get my business degree, and had to study a great deal. Part of the requirements were to pick a science. I chose geology. I took 101, 102 and a lab. My professors never once framed anything in a attacking or childish way. In lab we went out in the field twice. We looked at how things were and the professor explained their view and the evidence supporting that view. The professor was a well respected member of the scientific community and consulted with many private companies. I came away with the idea that no the earth isn't 6,000 years old.

I also notice here and other places that those who attack the sciences not only tend to be petulant in their arguments, but they seem to mix the sciences. For example an argument about geology, physics, or chemistry will have some random biological evolutionary point thrown in or what not. Or even worse they will start an argument by making a claim that scientists say such and such and then go on about how that can't be true, but when I would go look it up my self it turns out science never made any such claim in the first place. I just don't give much credit to anyone or any philosophy that rely so heavily of childish and deceptive tactics.
 

logical bob

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Irreducible complexity arguments are arguments from incredulity. Those who use them are basically saying "I can't see how this works, therefore it must be supernatural." It doesn't seem to occur to them that they might need to do some work in order to figure it out. If medical researchers took the same view whenever they came up against a biological system not currently understood then we wouldn't have many of the lifesaving treatments we have today. Science should see an unanswered question as a challenge and not as a brick wall.

I'm talking about irreducible complexity arguments in general here. I take lordkalvan's point that the evolution of the bombardier beetle is well understood.
 

Barbarian

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BTW, there are a number of different bombardier beetles, not all of them having the fully-operational system of spraying a hot mix of toxins. Some lack the directional valve, others merely secrete, and so on.

And the chemicals are all modified from existing materials already found in all beetles. Not only is Gish laughably wrong about what the chemicals do, he also neglected to do any research, which would have shown him many gradual steps between normal beetles and the beetle he was talking about.

(details on request)
 
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lordkalvan said:
faithtransforms said:
...And I know there is some debate as to whether there is a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. The fact is some scientists distinguish between the two and some don't. Plain and simple.
In the biological sciences, macroevolution is generally understood as referring to evolutionary change at or above the level of the species; microevolution is generally understood as changes within species that do not mark speciation events. Consider the example of ring species, which demonstrate aspects of both: Species A can reproduce with Species B, B, with C, C with D and D with E, but A and E cannot reproduce together (the most famous example perhaps being the Californian Ensatina salamander).
Exactly, that is what I understand to be the difference between "micro" and "macro" evolution. As a creationist, I believe 100% in natural selection, I just reject the idea of trans-speciation.
 
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coffeelover said:
faithtransforms said:
coffeelover said:
I would say that I don't give the excerpt much credit just because of its tone. It it seems to rely on story telling techniques rather than presenting any actual science. The "spirited" little beetle, marvelously complex this or amazing that.

Also, at the end it says Macro-evolutionist? So that defeats the purpose altogether as the author admits defeat in the article its self. Why say that unless the author believes there is such a thing as micro evolution that is indeed fact?

Biologists don't have a distinction between micro or macro there is simply evolution. I don't think the argument is intellectually honest.
I would say don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. I commented right up front that I wasn't pleased with the tone of the article nor the lack of elaboration, but if you strictly think about how those mechanisms could have all developed simultaneously, from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes absolutely no sense at all.

And I know there is some debate as to whether there is a distinction between micro- and macroevolution. The fact is some scientists distinguish between the two and some don't. Plain and simple.


One of the main problems I have with those who attack the sciences is very much the tone and style they use. For if they really had truth on their side why the need for such a petulant style? To me someone writes in a childish way only shows that they they think in childish ways.

I went to a good university to get my business degree, and had to study a great deal. Part of the requirements were to pick a science. I chose geology. I took 101, 102 and a lab. My professors never once framed anything in a attacking or childish way. In lab we went out in the field twice. We looked at how things were and the professor explained their view and the evidence supporting that view. The professor was a well respected member of the scientific community and consulted with many private companies. I came away with the idea that no the earth isn't 6,000 years old.

I also notice here and other places that those who attack the sciences not only tend to be petulant in their arguments, but they seem to mix the sciences. For example an argument about geology, physics, or chemistry will have some random biological evolutionary point thrown in or what not. Or even worse they will start an argument by making a claim that scientists say such and such and then go on about how that can't be true, but when I would go look it up my self it turns out science never made any such claim in the first place. I just don't give much credit to anyone or any philosophy that rely so heavily of childish and deceptive tactics.
I'm right there with you on the petulant style used by many on BOTH sides of this issue. "The Collapse of Evolution" was an interesting book, but it was wrought with this type of childish retoric. I'm sure some of what the book has to say is true, but as a Christian and an intellectual, I detest this type of arrogance, which generally indicates that we are dealing with pseuo-intellectualism at it's finest!
 
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lordkalvan said:
faithtransforms said:
....Hermann Schildknecht, a German chemist, studied the bombardier beetle to find out how he accomplishes this impressive chemical feat. He learned that the beetle makes his explosive by mixing together two very dangerous chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide). In addition to these two chemicals, this clever little beetle adds another type of chemical known as an “inhibitor.†The inhibitor prevents the chemicals from blowing up and enables the beetle to store the chemicals indefinitely.
You have been misled by your source. The two chemicals will not spontaneously explode or ignite when mixed (see Dawkins, Richard, 1987, The Blind Watchmaker).
Whenever the beetle is approached by a predator, such as a frog, he squirts the stored chemicals into the two combustion tubes, and at precisely the right moment he adds another chemical (an anti-inhibitor). This knocks out the inhibitor, and a violent explosion occurs right in the face of the poor attacker.
Again, I'm afraid Huse is wrong and is simply repeating a Duane Gish error.
[quote:21vzcl18]Could such a marvelous complex mechanism have evolved piecemeal over millions of years? The evolutionist is forced to respond with a somewhat sheepish “yes,†but a brief consideration of this viewpoint will reveal its preposterous nature.
There is nothing either 'sheepish' or 'preposterous' about the evolution of this beetle. Quinones are produced naturally by tanning cells and are used for tanning the cuticle of many arthropods and are unpleasant to many predators. Hydroquinone is another naturally occurring chemical that has been evolved by a number of insects as a result of some predators which have developed resistance to quinones. Hydrogen peroxide results from cellular metabolism in many organisms. The supposed 'irreducible complexity' of the bombardier beetle's defensive mechanism is entirely susceptible to a step-by-step evolutionary explanation. You may find this discussion helpful:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/bombardier.html

...So macroevolutionists, what say you??
There is very little science, a great deal of misunderstanding and perhaps even some misrepresentation in the quoted piece. The bombardier beetle provides no problem for evolutionary theory.[/quote:21vzcl18]

Thanks for the link, I did enjoy it quite a bit. Perhaps the bombardier beetle is a poor example of irreducible complexity, but still I believe the CONCEPT of irreducible complexity is worthy of consideration. It's been a while since I've engaged in the creation/evolution debate, so much of what I know may be outdated or incorrect, and I am amenable to discussion. But I ask, what is it about the concept of irreducible complexity that makes it an invalid argument? I will have to do some research, but I am quite certain there ARE species in which there are mechanisms that could not have evolved simultaneously or that share a symbiotic relationship in which it would have been of no benefit to the species to develop one without the other.
 

jasoncran

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goggle the elements in the bombadier beatle and viola you will get your answer to what the evolutionists say.
 
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logical bob said:
Irreducible complexity arguments are arguments from incredulity. Those who use them are basically saying "I can't see how this works, therefore it must be supernatural."
I would disagree with this point. While I'm sure some creationists just attribute to divinity things that they don't understand, I don't believe that is the core of the irreducible complexity argument. Behe says that irreducible complexity is "A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." The argument is essentially that anything less than the complete form of such a system or organ would not work at all, or would in fact be a detriment to the organism. What is it about this concept that does not hold water? If you would, please put aside your opinions of irreducible complexity's proponents and explain why this should argument should not be considered.

PS) I have not read Behe's work at all, so please do not bite my head off for quoting him!! (Not just you L-Bob, I'm speaking to the "collective you" here). I have not formed an opinion of him precisely BECAUSE I have not read his work. I just found the above quote to be a good definition of what the irreducible complexity argument actually is. As I said in my previous post, I actually agree that natural selection is a reality (I'm not sure how anyone could deny it), it's just trans-speciation that I have a problem with.
 

lordkalvan

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faithtransforms said:
Exactly, that is what I understand to be the difference between "micro" and "macro" evolution. As a creationist, I believe 100% in natural selection, I just reject the idea of trans-speciation.
However, there seems to be ample evidence of such trans-speciation, demonstrated in both the fossil record, the phylogenetic hierarchy and in ring species as in the example previously referred to. If you are happy with the actuality of microevolution, i.e. changes within species, I wonder what biological mechanism you see as preventing macroevolution from occurring, what evidence there is for the existence of this mechanism and how it can be identified?
 

jasoncran

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lordkalvan said:
faithtransforms said:
Exactly, that is what I understand to be the difference between "micro" and "macro" evolution. As a creationist, I believe 100% in natural selection, I just reject the idea of trans-speciation.
However, there seems to be ample evidence of such trans-speciation, demonstrated in both the fossil record, the phylogenetic hierarchy and in ring species as in the example previously referred to. If you are happy with the actuality of microevolution, i.e. changes within species, I wonder what biological mechanism you see as preventing macroevolution from occurring, what evidence there is for the existence of this mechanism and how it can be identified?
if only i was more versed in the field of bioliogy as that is answered.
in a nut shell the problem is this we have a brain that works and yet natural selection somehow gave us languages and culture?
 

lordkalvan

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faithtransforms said:
Thanks for the link, I did enjoy it quite a bit.
You're welcome. I'm glad you found the link interesting and hope that you found it informative as well. There is a great deal more information available about the evolution of bombardier beetles avaialable, some of which references are provided by the link and are worth following up.
Perhaps the bombardier beetle is a poor example of irreducible complexity, but still I believe the CONCEPT of irreducible complexity is worthy of consideration.
As far as I am aware, all examples that have been put forward of 'irreducibly complex' structures have failed to withstand any serious scrutiny at all, the most notorious example being that of the bacterial flagellum.
It's been a while since I've engaged in the creation/evolution debate, so much of what I know may be outdated or incorrect, and I am amenable to discussion.
You will find a number of posters here with a much more fully-developed understanding of the biological sciences than I have. I am sure they will be able to give you some valuable insights and provoke some debate.
But I ask, what is it about the concept of irreducible complexity that makes it an invalid argument?
Principally, that there is no evidence that either irreducibly complex systems exist or that those that have been so identified by creationist/ID sources cannot be explained by naturally-occurring evolutionary processes, as in the cases of the bombardier beetle and the bacterial flagellum.
I will have to do some research, but I am quite certain there ARE species in which there are mechanisms that could not have evolved simultaneously or that share a symbiotic relationship in which it would have been of no benefit to the species to develop one without the other.
I will be interested to see what you can come up with and how effectively (or otherwise!) evolutionary theory can explain the phenomena that you put forward for discussion.
 

lordkalvan

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jasoncran said:
if only i was more versed in the field of bioliogy as that is answered.
in a nut shell the problem is this we have a brain that works and yet natural selection somehow gave us languages and culture?
Hi Jason,

I'm not altogether clear about the point that you are making. Most animals can communicate with one another in some form or another and so in that sense have evolved a primitive sort of language. The genetic reasons underlying the development of spoken language are a subject of quite intense study and research. The complexity of human culture is obviously at least in part a consequence of the existence of a complex language that allows abstract thoughts to be expressed and elaborated. This does not seem to be in any sense a subject to which the idea of irreducible complexity could be addressed at all usefully.
 

jasoncran

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does dna its self make languages? or ideas.

behavior has to be learned, and something had to guided it. not just oopps dont do that, and if ya lived the fellow species members also had to learn the same lesson.

evolutioniary pscycology isnt exactly a hard science since we can only observe us,not apes and our ancestors to see what humans do.

that is where skinners idea of behavior called i think os. was adressing.
 

logical bob

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faithtransforms said:
logical bob said:
Irreducible complexity arguments are arguments from incredulity. Those who use them are basically saying "I can't see how this works, therefore it must be supernatural."
I would disagree with this point. While I'm sure some creationists just attribute to divinity things that they don't understand, I don't believe that is the core of the irreducible complexity argument. Behe says that irreducible complexity is "A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning." The argument is essentially that anything less than the complete form of such a system or organ would not work at all, or would in fact be a detriment to the organism. What is it about this concept that does not hold water?
Hello faithtransforms! I don't think we've talked directly before and it's always good to meet someone new.

I think the flaw in Behe's argument is this: it may be the case that removing one part of a system makes the system stop working, but is that the only thing the parts can do? Barbarian pointed out that all the chemicals used by the bombardier beetle are similar to chemicals that beetles have for other reasons. Behe talks a lot about the bacterial flagellar motor, but its component parts are very similar to those of a bacterial system for injecting toxins into other cells. Both of these allegedly irreducible systems appear to be made of components that the organism already has for other reasons. That certainly makes them look more likely to be evolved.

Barbarian also pointed out that different bombardier beetles have different spray systems. Similarly, different microorganisms have flagella that do the same job bit are constructed in different ways. If a system can be built in different ways from different components is it really irreducible?

My point about the argument from incredulity is that Behe offered no evidence that that flagellum couldn’t have evolved, he simply said that he couldn’t see how it could have. Other scientists have offered hypotheses on how it might have happened using ideas that Behe didn’t think of. This point was made in the judgment in the Dover trial.
 

jasoncran

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so the toe says poof in one instant the first cell formed fully and had something to ingest,,or is that part of the the theory of abiogenesis?
 

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