What appears to be a growing concern, “intelligent design” we now have scientists conducting studies in order to try and disprove a principle known as “irreducible complexity” which became more mainstream for detecting thought behind a creation rather than a mindless process. It’s not the only thing used for such detection, but one aspect of it.
Evolutionists have used a formula for explaining specialized complexities in nature. This is known as the “preadaptation” explanation. In this particular study lead by a team of researchers from Australia’s Monash University, they used a transporter system in mitochondria and argued that components were available elsewhere, thus it was a mindless process which supposedly created the complex structure. The paper mentioned intelligent design in a negative sense and claim this research proved that nature can go from “irreducibly” to “reducibly” complex.
Keep in mind, Michael Behe of Lehigh University did not use this transporter system as an example for “irreducible complexity.” Did intelligent design proponents respond to this research directed at them? Yes, they did, but PNAS refused to print Michael Behe letter to them and others. So not only PNAS refuses to include evidence against evolution but letters as well.
Here is what Michael Behe stated in response to the research…
Recently a paper appeared online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, entitled “The reducible complexity of a mitochondrial molecular machine” (http://tinyurl.com/mhoh7w). As you might expect, I was very interested in reading what the authors had to say. Unfortunately, as is all too common on this topic, the claims made in the paper far surpassed the data, and distinctions between such basic ideas as “reducible” versus “irreducible” and “Darwinian” versus “non-Darwinian” were pretty much ignored.
To the Editor
Reducible versus irreducible systems and Darwinian versus non-Darwinian processes
The recent paper by Clements et al (1) illustrates the need for more care to avoid non sequiturs in evolutionary narratives. The authors intend to show that Darwinian processes can account for a reducibly complex molecular machine. Yet, even if successful, that would not show that such processes could account for irreducibly complex machines, which Clements et al (1) cite as the chief difficulty for Darwinism raised by intelligent design proponents like myself. Irreducibly complex molecular systems, such as the bacterial flagellum or intracellular transport system, plainly cannot sustain their primary function if a critical mechanical part is removed. (2-4) Like a mousetrap without a spring, they would be broken.
Here the authors first postulate (they do not demonstrate) an amino acid transporter that fortuitously also transports proteins inefficiently. (1) They subsequently attempt to show how the efficiency might be improved. A scenario for increasing the efficiency of a pre-existing, reducible function, however, says little about developing a novel, irreducible function.
Even as evidence for the applicability of Darwinian processes just to reducibly complex molecular machines, the data are greatly overinterpreted. A Darwinian pathway is not merely one that proceeds by “numerous, successive, slight modifications” (1) but, crucially, one where mutations are random with respect to any goal, including the future development of the organism. If some mutations arise non-randomly, the process is simply not Darwinian. Yet the authors say nothing about random mutation. Their chief data are sequence similarities between bacterial and mitochondrial proteins.
However, the presumably homologous proteins have different functions, and bind non-homologous proteins. What is the likelihood that, say, a Tim44-like precursor would forsake its complex of bacterial proteins to join a complex of other proteins? Is such an event reasonably likely or prohibitively improbable? Clements et al (1) do not provide even crude estimates, let alone rigorous calculations or experiments, and thus provide no support for a formally Darwinian process. Their only relevant data in this regard is their demonstration that a singly-mutated bacterial TimB can substitute for Tim14 in mitochondrial transport. While that is certainly an interesting result, rescuing a pre-existing, functioning system in the laboratory is not at all the same thing as building a novel system step-by-random-step in nature.
Biologists have long been wary of attempts to fill in our lack of knowledge of the history of life with imaginative reconstructions that go far beyond the evidence. As I have discussed (5), extensive laboratory evolution studies over decades offer little support for the plausibility of such felicitous scenarios as Clements et al (1) propose. The authors may well be overlooking formidable difficulties that nature itself would encounter.
How they could come up with calculations on something they never observed is beyond me. For example, nothing was shown in this study a component, the Tim44-like precursor would move out of one complex protein then go into another complex protein. They just assumed it would, because it’s there and similar. This is hardly evidence!
Some have said, this was a misunderstanding of the nature of “irreducible complexity” used by evolutionists. I think not, it’s more trying to fit the data into their one and only framework, evolution while trying to make an emotional connection rather than a practical connection to those whom they are trying to reassure or sway.