Complexity Examples Cilium, Flagellum, and more
- What is meant by 'irreducibly complex?'
- If we can find examples in life for what is irreducibly complex, then what does that suggest?
- Is there an origin for something that is complex in this way?
Let's examine a definition for irreducible complexity and then jump right into at least one main line implication associated with the significance of all this ...
An irreducibly complex system is one that requires several closely matched parts in order to function and where removal of one of the components effectively causes the system to cease functioning. Behe (MC) Page 178
First, if key parts of an irreducilby complex feature are all at once necessary for the feature to exist and to function properly, then there appears no conceivable way that part of the feature might have first evolved to later add the rest of the functional feature. In order for this to work, the entire assembly of all parts must appear all at one time.
This runs counter to evolution's assumption of gradual appearances. Do parts of a sophisticated feature 'know' to appear in advance of eventual full functionality? What sustains these parts until integrated into a full functionality?
'Features' can be defined here as certain sets or complexes of enzymes that make up a key biochemical pathway, a fine structure element of a cell (e.g., flagellum, cilium), and other examples where there is an apparent total loss of function if even one part is missing. Think of this like a watch that becomes useless because one gear wheel is removed.
Furthermore, organisms expend energy, witha certainefficiency, to support their lives (and really an energetic efficiency for sustaining heir species as a whole). Life's energetics systems run contrary to the entropy and chaos of the known universe! Energy expended to make or sustain an incomplete, ineffective, nonfunctional cellular cellular component makes little sense—in biological and intellectual terms! To suppose generatioon to generation life's partial features are sustained such that some day full functionallity would be realized is not a topic taught in biology classes. Why then—without evidence—would one assume such occurences exist or are routine in nature?
Irreducibly complex features in cells of life systems provide examples for our review of the concept of intelligent design. A researcher can also look at such examples and 'test' or 'detect' the presence of 'specification,' which is characteristic of intelligent design. A tool that serves as a design detector is the 'explanatory filter.' And if complex examples reflect design, then there is more to consider than is expressed by assumptions made for biological evolution. Let's take a look.
Discussions on complexity in nature predate Darwin's theory. General examples for an "Arguement from Design," like that put forth by Paley were subject to debate. But if we move forward in time, past Paley, past Darwin, well into the 20th century, we see scientific advancements and far more sophisticated evidence that now enters a renewed debate. The examples for complexity are far beyond building strawmen for debate. The modern day evidence begs review.
Only with the discovery of the molecular basis of life has science been able to address questions about life's basic mechanisms. Science has learned over the past four decades that the many cellular tasks required to sustain life are carried out by machinesliterally, molecular machines.
In Darwin's Black Box I discussed several such machines. I showed that they are irreducibly complexthat is, they require a number of closely matched components before they can functionand thus are mammoth barriers to gradualistic, Darwinian evolution. I further argued that such irreducibly complex systems are best interpreted as the result of deliberate intelligent design. Behe (MC) Page 177
The evidence comes from biochemistry, biophysics, cell science, molecular genetics, and other areas of science. Technologyespecially with post-World War II advancementshas revealed the inner workings of life previously unimagined.
... the appearance of design in at least one important domain of biology cannot be so easily dismissed. Since the late 1950s advances in molecular biology and biochemistry have revolutionized our understanding of the miniature world within the cell. Modern molecular biology has revealed that living cellsthe fundamental units of lifepossess the ability to store, edit and transmit information and to use information to regulate their most fundamental metabolic processes. Far from characterizing cells as simple "homogeneous globules of plasm," as did Ernst Haeckel (Haeckel 1905, 111) and other nineteenth century biologists, modern biologists now describe cells as, among other things, "distributive real-time computers" and complex information processing systems. Meyer (MC) Page 113
One way to look at complexity is to think of what minimal parts are needed and to think of "how simple" is the smallest possible cell. Is it simple? Is it really complex? What would we have to conclude about the simplest and smallest ancestral cell?
Thinking of how small the smallest living cell can be and still retain all the metabolic machinery, the ability to replicate, and to contain enough DNA to support and orchestrate the entire life process ... it all comes down to:
The American biochemist Harold Morowitz speculated what might be the absolute minimum requirement for a completely self replicating cell, deriving essential organic precursors, amino acids, sugars, etc. from its environment but autonomous in every other way in terms of current biochemistry. ...
Such a minimal cell containing, say, three ribosomes, 4 mRNA molecules, a full component of enzymes, a DNA molecule 100,000 nucleotides long and a cell membrane would be about 1000 A (1A = 10-8 cm) in diameter. According to Morowitz:
This is the smallest hypothetical cell that we can envisage within the context of current biochemical thinking. It is almost certainly a lower limit, since we have allowed no control functions, and no vitamin metabolism and extremely limited intermediary metabolism. Such a cell would be very vulnerable to environmental fluctuation. Denton (ETC) Page 263
We are gettinng at two facets of life. First, how simple a proposition is in getting to the first cell at some point of origin. Is that simple? Getting the right stuff in the package to start with runs into another probability analysis ... much like the considerations noted in the feature article on chance. But now, second, the level of complexity of what is inside a putative early cell is at issue. These points are reinforced below by Morowitz and Denton:
The smallest known a bacterial cells, Morowitz continues, have:
... an average diameter of less than 3000 A. Since the minimum hypothetical cell has a diameter of over 1000 A there is a limited gap in which to seek smaller cells.
The complexity of the smallest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to accept that such an object would have been thrown together suddenly by some kind of freakish, vastly improbable, event. Such an occurrence would be indistinguishable from a miracle. Denton (ETC) Page 264
Evolutionists are left in a most precarious place. How can an assumed simple beginning rely on complexity?
Further, if some of the simplest cellular life forms exhibit 'specified' or 'irreducible complecity,' then we are faced with the prospect of an intelligence putting design features in place—again, it is not a matter of gradual appearance or chance. This is a matter of fully functional cellular components, as one example, that come all together at one time. They come without an antecedent step—no predessesor—that is part way there. At the root of it all, that's the difference between two remarkably different descriptions for origins.
EXAMPLES FOR COMPLEXITY
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... point is conceded by Monod:
The development of the metabolic system which as the primordial soup thinned must have " learned " to mobilize chemical potential and to synthesize the cellular components poses Herculean problems. So does the emergence of a selectively permeable membrane without which there can be no viable cell. But the major problem is the origin of the genetic code and of its translational mechanism. Indeed it is not such a problem as a veritable enigma.
There is much more to the cell than the "mere" origin of the protein synthetic apparatus.
Without a cell membrane the components of the protein synthetic apparatus could not be held together. Denton (ETC) Page 268
Structure of Cilia and Flagella
Although we rarely link to outside sites [because links on the Internet tend to change from time to time] click here to see a page
Think of all the particles that float around in the air. You breath air and some particles invariably enter your lungs. But an innumerable array of little hair-like machine called cilia (plural of cillum) line the passages of your lungs. Like little single bristle brooms, or little paddles, cillia sweep or move the particles up and out of your lungs.
At the core of the cilium is the nature of another micro-minaturized cellular machine.
All systems that move by paddlingranging from my daughter's toy fish to the propeller of a shipfail if any one of the components is absent. The microtubules are the paddles, whose surface contacts the water and pushes against it. The dynein arms are the motors, supplying the force to move the system. The nexin arms are the connectors, transmitting the force of the motor from one microtubule to its neighbor. Behe (DBB) Page 65
The diagram on the left is made of several photos from an electron microscope. What you see are images magnified hundreds of thousands of times actual size. The illustration above on the right shows the inner structure of the cilia. This is a cross section view.
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COMPLEXITY AT A MACROSCOPIC LEVEL
Evidence evolution leaves unexplained ... first concerning gut organisms ...
These organisms break down molecules we cannot breakdown, providing us with food we would otherwise lack.
... mutual symbiosis exist throughout our world (e.g., cellulose-lignin-digesting microorganisms in the guts of termites; sulfur-reducing bacteria in ocean-vent tubeworms; algae and fungi in lichens; photosynthetic microorganisms in corals).
At a higher level again, communities of organisms are made up of a complex arrangement of a large number of organismsherbivores and carnivores; pollinators and flowering plants; decomposers; under-story and the upper-story plants, and so on.
Higher than these, the earth and its living organisms exist together in a great network of complex interactionsoxygen used by animals must be produced by photosynthesizers, and carbon dioxide used by plants must be released by animals. The complex interaction of the earth and its life can be seen in how the earth and its life have responded to the changes humankind has made (such as the interaction of fossil-fuel burning in and global climate, the interaction of aerosol sprays and ozone).
On a level even above this, and the earth exists in a complex arrangement of planets, asteroids, moons, stars and galaxies in such a way as to allow life on earth to exist and persist. Wise (CH) Page 229
... the complexity of any one of these levels seems to require an appeal to an intelligent cause. However, the total complexity is at least the sum of the complexities of each level. If the complexity of each level suggests an intelligent cause, the total complexity screams for an intelligent cause. Macroevolutionary theory has never successfully explained the acquisition of any level of this complexity, let alone the total complexity.
Another interesting point here concerns the observed structure of integration. Chemical processes lie within subcellular organelles, subcellular organelles within a cells, cells within tissues. There is a nested hierarchy of complexity in and integration of life on earth. This nested hierarchy of complexity might be expected if it came about by means of the same intelligent cause that brought about the nested hierarchy of classification of biological form. It is not expected by macroevolutionary theory. Wise (CH) Page 230
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The WindowView drops many of the typical presumptions to take another look. What does scientific data tell us if we start without assumptions? And ... how contiguous is science information if examined along with scriptural perspectives provided by the Bible? The Bible is the only religious or holy book we know of that is in fact consistent with science. While not a textbook, the Scriptures are either contradictory or complementary to scientific perspectives. Have you looked at these perspectives? To see 'Science and Scripture in Harmony' is to reveal life, reality, and your future.
Quotations from Dr. Michael Denton's "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" are used by permission of Adler and Adler Publishers Inc., 5530 Wisconsin Ave, Suite 1460, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Quotations from "The Creation Hypothesis" (CH) edited by J. P. Moreland and "Mere Creation" (MC) edited by William A. Dembski are used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com All rights reserved. No portion of this material may be used without permission from InterVarsity Press.
Writer / Editor: Dr. T. Peterson, Director,
References of Interest