In last Saturday’s “Science Says” post, we introduced the concept of irreducible complexity (a concept at the heart of biochemist Michael Behe’s intensive research into living cells). This is a fancy term which simply means that, in simple systems (composed of several interactive parts), if any of the parts were to be removed, the whole system would cease to function.
As an example, in his book Darwin’s Black Box, Behe uses the simple mousetrap to illustrate what occurs (on a much more massive scale) within living cells.
The classic mousetrap is made of five basic parts. The wooden base, the hammer, the spring (which provides tension for the hammer), the catch (where the bait is placed), and a latch (or hold-down bar). All of these five separate pieces were designed, produced, and built to work together to catch (and usually kill!) mice. As Behe describes: “Now, take away any of these parts… then it’s not like the mousetrap becomes half as efficient as it used to be or it only catches half as many mice. Instead, it doesn’t catch any mice. It’s broken. It doesn’t work at all.”*
What Behe discovered as he looked deeper and deeper into living cells (and how they worked) was that even the simplest of cells is composed of several working parts – all working in sync to perform the necessary functions of that cell.
Far more elaborate than any mousetrap design, the working parts within the cell have a mind-boggling specificity – and all their specific functions work together to do what the cell needs to do. Yet, disable any of the working parts and the whole cell ceases to function.
The conclusion? Complex biological systems (even in something as “basic” as cells) defy evolutionary explanations.
“Evolution can’t produce an irreducibly complex biological machine suddenly, all at once, because it’s much too complicated,” Behe said. “And you can’t produce it by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor system would be missing a part and consequently couldn’t function… And natural selection chooses systems that are already working.”*
In other words, evolution works by “improving” on things that already exist and which already work. It cannot bring complex systems (those with many working parts) into existence all at once… and it cannot take non-working things and make them function.
But it is more than that… Behe is telling us that complex systems are NOT built (or built up) piece by piece – all the parts HAD to be there (and working together) from the beginning, or the system could NOT work at all.
Evolution’s claim is that everything started as a single part – and through the ages (and through modifications to that single part) other parts were produced and added. The added parts were modified and still more parts were added – until all these added parts “found a way” to work together.
And, according to evolution, every living thing emerged from this process, through the course of time.
But think about this… When we look at the simple mousetrap, they don’t just have five random parts – they have specific parts and each has a specific function. They are MADE to work with each other. They all have to be perfectly matched to each other and they ALL have to be in just the right place… or even with all the correct parts, they don’t produce a functional mousetrap.
This observation brought about another conclusion. We don’t just need the right parts (even if they were to randomly appear), mousetraps require an intelligent agent to put all the parts exactly where they need to be.
And when we look at the elaborate working parts of each and every cell, we have to ask: Who told the parts in the cell where to go? Who put them together so that everything works as a cohesive unit? How did all those perfect parts get there in the first place?
Evolution claims that all of these perfect working parts just “came together” on their own. No mind. No intelligence. No design. No idea. No purpose.
I’d like to see them catch a real mouse using that approach…
* Quotes are from an interview with Michael Behe in The Case for a Creator, by Lee Strobel.