August 12, 2012 | David F. Coppedge

Reporter Misuses "Irreducible Complexity"

A secular science reporter blundered twice about irreducible complexity and evolution.

Natalie Wolchover, writing for Live Science, was explaining why evolution never produced wheeled animals.  Eyes, she said, are no problem for evolution: “Despite the complexity of the eye, it manages to evolve because each advance in its development offers some advantage…. From start to finish, a full-on eye can evolve in as little as 400,000 years, evolutionary biologists have estimated” she claimed, without naming names.  Wheels, however, are beyond the reach of natural selection.  Her authority was noted atheist, Darwinist and anti-creationist Richard Dawkins.  After describing how evolution might produce an eye in stages, she said:

The wheel, on the other hand, is an irreducibly complex system: It must work perfectly to work at all.The sophisticated carpentry required to fashion wheel-and-axle systems explains why humans didn’t manage to invent them until the Bronze Age….

Evolution can only build body parts in stages, but because a rudimentary, nonrotating proto-wheel provides no benefit whatsoever to an animal, the process of wheel development is destined to never begin. “The wheel may be one of those cases where the engineering solution can be seen in plain view, yet be unattainable in evolution because its lies the other side of a deep valley,” the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explained in a classic 1996 article on the lack of bio-wheels in nature, published in The Sunday Times.

Finally, consider this: Even if an animal could make a sudden leap across that valley and find itself in possession of the genetic blueprint for a perfect pair of wheels, how would it even grow them? To rotate freely, wheels cannot be attached to the axles that support the rest of the body. So without attachment points, how would living wheels receive nutrients and expel waste? As Dawkins put it, “The problem of supplying a freely rotating organ with blood vessels (not to mention nerves) that don’t tie themselves in knots is too vivid to need spelling out!”

Michael Behe, the originator of the term “irreducible complexity,” defined it in his book Darwin’s Black Box (1996) as “a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”  He made it clear he was not speaking of a system that “must work perfectly to work at all” as Wolchover alleged.

More egregiously, Wolchover failed to point out the wheels that do exist in nature: the bacterial flagellum, for instance.  When ATP synthase is included, every animal on earth is wheeled after all.  Wheels for locomotion, to be sure, do not exist in place of animal legs, but they would only be functional on hard, flat surfaces which are rare in nature – a fact pointed out in the response on Uncommon Descent.  That’s why in search and rescue attempts after earthquakes, the authorities generally rely on the systems designed for such environments: dogs and horses.

Do you need more evidence that secular science sites like Live Science are involved in a concerted effort to spread misinformation, glorify Charlie, and sacrifice their integrity in their devotion to act as propaganda arms for the Darwin Party?  By contrast, CEH gives the best mouthpieces for Charlie their best shot, quoting them at length.  If Wolchover and her employer really wanted to report the subject honestly, they would have quoted Behe – maybe even given him a chance to respond – and not exposed so blatantly their ignorance of the arguments for I.C.  We’re waiting for Live Science and the other Darwin Party propaganda outlets to show they can do honest reporting about evolution.  What really takes the cake is Wolchover’s insistence that eyes are easy to evolve.  We would like Wolchover or her hero Dawkins to evolve a fly eye, as recently described on Evolution News.  Anything is easy for pseudo-scientists whose operating principle is to Imagine everything.



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  • MartyK says:

    Talking eye evolution with no talk about what supposedly started it all, namely, a sun-sensitive spot on the skin?
    I heard the FDA will soon require the following warning on sunscreen products:
    “Apply liberally to all exposed areas of skin. Failure to do so may result in your skin looking back at you.”

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