Thursday, April 12, 2007

It Takes A Village

Let’s consider a small factory town, about the size of Kutztown or Fleetwood, with its entire economy wrapped up in one small high-tech manufacturing plant which produces nothing but chains. Not just any chains, but very special chains that are stiffened and bent according to detailed specifications so that they fit precisely into uniquely shaped apertures on other bent and stiffened chains. Now add to the scenario that the plant and everything used in it, other than some raw materials, is itself made of specialty chains and we have our illustrative village.

What kind of businesses or departments would be necessary to support this factory town’s activity? An engineering arm to plan and produce specs; a power provider for energy; a foundry and forge to turn iron into steel ribbon; a fabricator to shape and bend chains; a machine shop to produce the equipment used; a shipping company to transport things; a recycler to recapture scrap; and some measure of quality control throughout (among other things) would all be required. Each of these activities, in its own right, requires processes, materials and expertise that is unique to it. Supplies and hand tools would be necessary, including raw materials, saws, welders, torches, fasteners, shrink wrappers, plastic, batteries, and whatnot.

The picture we have before us is of a very complex economic entity, which, though relatively small, is made up of highly complex and interrelated processes. If any of the bits and pieces were missing or not functioning as required, process and progress would come to a grinding halt. In fact, the whole picture had to be in view when the factory was started, or nothing useful to specialty chain purchasers would have ever been produced.

Call our town, Cellsville, and we can begin to appreciate the tremendous complexity that exists in the smallest unit of living matter. Every living cell, from a bacteria unto a human neuron, is functioning every bit, and actually quite a bit more complexly than our little village; but like Cellsville, it exists primarily for one purpose—to produce high-tech specialty chains, proteins in the case of the cell.

Whenever a process or function can be broken down into identifiable and interrelated steps or pieces, none of which can be missing without dooming the process to dysfunction, that process can be said to be irreducibly complex. If the whole process was not in place all at once, it would not function at all. When looking at the activity and structure of a cell, we see countless examples of such irreducibly complex interaction. The cell is a village of irreducibly complex functionalities, which interrelate, at least on a minimal level, as an irreducibly complex whole.

What does this say about evolution? Evolution theorizes that life began by a chance interaction of molecules, which were acted upon by some kind of chemical natural selection, which eventually produced a replicating cell, which in time, by natural selection operating on chance mutations, produced every other kind of life that ever existed. The evolutionary mechanism is minimal change enhancing survival sufficiently to overwhelm reproduction by unchanged specimens in a species; however, the cell is not made up of processes that can be changed by minimal additions or subtractions. Everywhere we look microscopically and molecularly at life, we find irreducible complexity. The only conclusion possible is that the organism, in all it’s complicated glory, had to be present at once, designed to function as it does, or it never would have developed at all!

In Cellsville one day the assembler got zapped by some gamma radiation from a solar flare. Instead of using a blinx link where called for, now the assembler substituted a yinx link. The fabricator tried to work as usual, but found about 30% of the bends it made on what were supposed to be blinx links ended up breaking whatever chain was being bent and stiffened. The shipping department found it could not match the apertures in finished chains to their control keys 60% of the time. The recycler soon was overwhelmed with unshippable chains that needed to be recovered and so refused any more scrap. You get the picture, one little change caused the whole operation to shut down. Irreducible complexity, rather than Mother Nature, is not something to fool with.

This illustration was originally part of a series of messages I preached on creation in November of 2003. Special thanks to Michael Behe and the contributors of "In Six Days" whose work informed and inspired mine.


  1. Good post.
    There are many compelling reasons to reject Darwinism. Irreducible complexity, as you present it, is one excellent example.

    There is irreducible complexity not just in the cell, but also at a bio-molecular level. Enzymes such a haemoglobin are incredibly complicated organic molecules that bind to a specific chemicals (such as oxygen) needed for life, in a manner analogous to a key into a lock.

    Darwinian evolution falls down here in the same way. What use is half a key, or even a key that is 90% right? Absolutely none at all. It either works completely or it fails completely. There are no possible stages by which it can have evolved, it must have come in a single stage.

  2. Chris HH:
    I saw a treatment by a PhD in Ecology which said that whole ecosystems show the same characteristic. There are so many levels of symbioses in any ecological niche that the niche had to be in place at the start or it never would have functioned at all!

  3. Pastor I actually understood that post. In Bio class in high school we watched this movie about how we evolved from fish. It was interesting. I think I might have taken a nap.

    If I was smarter, I could have tested out of my Bio class that I have to take and saved some money. I should have taken less naps.


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