The Irreducibly Complex Everything

Question from Robert:
Hi! I’ve recently had a Christian professor of mine talk about the creation of the universe, and say the spontaneous creation of life was impossible due to irreducible complexity. As an atheist, how would you refute that?

Answer by SmartLX:
I’ve covered irreducible complexity before, so I’ll let you read that piece for a primer. It’s often claimed to be the case with biological features like the eye, the immune system and the blood-clotting cascade. In every one of these cases, there’s a great deal of scholarship that’s produced feasible evolutionary paths that work up to these mechanisms that supposedly can’t get any simpler without being useless, because in most cases they simply did something else first. As I pointed out in the other piece, most of the research happened well before the claims of irreducible complexity were made, if they’d cared to look. If you want to respond to any such claim, just Google “evolution of” the subject.

To apply the same principle to the origin of life itself is a naked argument from ignorance, though at least it’s one where there isn’t already an answer. If you don’t know how the first life could have come together from non-living components, to presume that there’s no possible way is to assert that your knowledge on the subject of biology is not just vast but absolute and all-encompassing, beyond the reach of any human biologist. If it wasn’t life if it got any simpler, then okay, it wasn’t life before. That’s the point, it was something else. It could still have been a set of components in a membrane with some autonomous functions, from movement (optional, since tides or winds could have moved it instead) up to and including reproduction using the material around it. There are compounds like that around right now, as this TED Talk explains.

If your professor is also trying to apply the idea of irreducible complexity to the whole universe, he’s stretched it way too far. Irreducible complexity is only a barrier to natural development in something which has to develop or emerge gradually, and supposedly couldn’t get over some hurdle without divine help. All evidence points to a very sudden origin of the universe as we know it, inasmuch as our concept of time applies to the event. It probably wasn’t a half-universe first.

7 thoughts on “The Irreducibly Complex Everything”

  1. Robert – You should point out to your professor the logical paradox in his statement. To say that life is too complex to have come into existence on it’s own, and therefore must be CREATED, begs the question of where did the divine entity that created everything come from? The divine entity is alive, isn’t it? So that means it had to be created, according to your professor. So what created the creator? And what created the thing that created the creator? There’s no end to that false logic loop. It’s the equivalent of a dog chasing it’s own tail.

    Once someone says life has to be created intelligently, you have that paradox.

    Now some Christians will create the “exception” to the rule at this point. They will tell you that only “caused” life needs to be created. Then they tell you that the particular being they happen to worship has always existed, and therefore didn’t need to be created. There is, of course, no evidence of such a being, or any data that suggests such a thing is possible. It also brings up other logical paradoxes, such as how something that has always existed could ever reach the point in it’s existence where it could “create” anything. There is no middle to infinity, right? So something that has always existed cannot get to the moment where it created something. It would take an infinite amount of existence before that moment could ever be reached.

    Arguments like irreducible complexity are based on bad premises, so any conclusions that are reached from them are flawed and useless…

    1. When you make a statement like “Arguments like Irreducible complexity are based on bad premises” please sir. Do you have any kind of reasons to add with that, that would let us know just why they are based on bad premises? And why would it be wrong to assume that an organism that needs to be able to fly to escape that which would eat it, would not be able to last millions of years so to be able to evolve you seem to think it would need to have those wings. And how could that organism know what would be the best way to survive, or be able to sift through the possibilities there are and pick just the right one, before its time was up. Or were there so many of that organism that came into being, at the same time and they all could monitor all the things that failed and know which one worked and did they place themselves in some kind of suspended animation, until the needed changes were in place. And then how could it know just what to do in itself to be able to change what it needed to change. All of these questions you all are ignoring. And when you take these questions into account, you realize that it takes and intelligence to create life.
      And something else, since these learned organisms have already figured out how to get better, why aren’t we seeing these organisms becoming better even today. And even more, why do we only see the same organisms from the time that we have been looking at fossils, leaving the fossils, with no change in them? But from the smallest one celled organism, to the biggest, we are the same when we produce, and when we fossilize.

      1. Gerald writes: [When you make a statement like “Arguments like Irreducible complexity are based on bad premises” please sir. Do you have any kind of reasons to add with that, that would let us know just why they are based on bad premises?]

        Gerald, that explanation was already given in my previous post. Please re-read and let me know if there is something that I can explain better.

        [And why would it be wrong to assume that an organism that needs to be able to fly to escape that which would eat it, would not be able to last millions of years so to be able to evolve you seem to think it would need to have those wings.]

        I never commented on this, so I’m not sure why you asking me. To answer your question though, your statement reflects a misunderstanding of the evolution of flight. A creature that needs flight to escape predators, yet doesn’t have flight, wouldn’t last long enough to evolve wings. But since flight is not just used to escape predators, that isn’t the only selective pressure out there. Perhaps you think “survival” means escaping predators, but there is other survival uses for flight. Reaching certain food sources for example, or migration, or transportation over short distances. Even non-survival selection like sexual attraction. “Survival” does not exclusively imply escape from predation.

        Even when looking specifically at predation, it’s possible for an animal to escape MORE often if it could fly away, because the predator cannot fly. If that species gets the right random mutations, it could develop flight, and the best fliers will escape the most, leading to those genes surviving over the others.

        Your knowledge of the theory of evolution continues to be an obstruction to your understanding of some of the things being stated on this website, a point that has been made previously to you many times over…

        [And how could that organism know what would be the best way to survive, or be able to sift through the possibilities there are and pick just the right one, before its time was up. Or were there so many of that organism that came into being, at the same time and they all could monitor all the things that failed and know which one worked and did they place themselves in some kind of suspended animation, until the needed changes were in place. And then how could it know just what to do in itself to be able to change what it needed to change.]

        This is a prime example of your misunderstanding. Animals don’t “sift” or “pick” the “right one”. Their environment determines what random mutations are useful and confer an advantage.

        [All of these questions you all are ignoring. And when you take these questions into account, you realize that it takes and intelligence to create life.]

        I’m not ignoring them. I’m noting that they aren’t usable questions, because they do NOT reflect how evolution works. You are raising objections that only exist because you do not understand the scientific theory or how it operates.

        Then you make a paradoxical statement (it takes intelligence to make life) based on faulty logic and lack of knowledge, and that was already specifically refuted in my previous post anyway…

        [And something else, since these learned organisms have already figured out how to get better, why aren’t we seeing these organisms becoming better even today.]

        Organisms haven’t “figured out how to get better”, just to point out that fallacy one more time. It’s not a conscious effort. To answer your question, life forms are still evolving. They are always evolving. The live studies of various creatures have shown this repeatedly. This has all been pointed out to you previously in other threads and topics.

        [And even more, why do we only see the same organisms from the time that we have been looking at fossils, leaving the fossils, with no change in them? But from the smallest one celled organism, to the biggest, we are the same when we produce, and when we fossilize.]

        More incredible misunderstanding from you, and all material that has already been explained to you ad naseum in the past.

        The fossil record clearly shows changes in animals over time. The change of dinosaur raptors into birds is one such example. Genetic scientists even know which genes in a lizard scale can be changed to get proto-feathers to grow instead. Even though each individual creature leaves their specific imprint in the fossil record, the change in all the creatures of that lineage over time shows how they changed from raptors into modern birds. There are plenty of books available on the subject, as well as many universities and museums around the country where you can study the data yourself.

  2. I’m afraid SmartX is lacking the understanding necessary to fully comprehend the nature of necessity. It is necessary to have lungs for us to process the oxygen in the air for our organism to survive. Your reasoning that some simple one celled organism could somehow be able to know that there is a need to evolve into a higher plain of life in order to insure its survival, and then have the ability to somehow figure out the best way to evolve itself into whatever it was going to be but first knew that it would need to make the necessary components to create in itself what would be necessary to change itself into that higher organism and at the same time be able to take into account the changes in that environment, the evolving that their predators would be doing, and do all of this over what ever amount of time it would need to recreate itself. Come on doesn’t all this coming from a senseless, simple organism seem even to you an impossibility. You are not talking about some non complex organism. You are referring to some super computing organism, that had a super brain of a genius to be able to make us what we are today. You lift that person up that made the organism like substance that resembled an organism, as your proof that it doesn’t take a god to create life, but, you, as many of the other Atheists and Evolutionists, leaped before looking when you gave us that example. Because, it took someone with an intelligence to make whatever he made. And plus he made it from something already in existence. As I asked before, If there was nothing before there was a beginning, Why did that nothing decide to become something. What caused it to become dissatisfied, or unbalanced. And then how could the something that came from nothing all of a sudden make something alive. It took an intelligence to make something almost alive. Wouldn’t it take an even more genius to actually create the real life that we know and we are today?

    1. Gerald, this entire post above is rife with error. If you enjoy conversing with the others on this site, if you value the time and effort of those answering you, if you respect everyone, then you will make the effort and take the time to get a handle on the topic of evolution before posting further. We can’t even DISCUSS the theory of evolution because you aren’t asking questions or making comments that actually RELATE to the theory of evolution.

      You cannot reach a valid conclusion about evolution if you don’t understand evolution…

  3. Excuse me. Please tell me what you think Evolution means or is.
    I am becoming more and more aware that many of you are Evolutionists do not understand just exactly what Evolution began as. With Charles Darwin Evolution was merely the survival of a species and doing so at any cost. But he considered normal adaptation as though it were a species developing into a different species instead of accepting the fact that within the DNA of that species was giving it the ability to adapt to different environments. But it remains that same species or organism. Now too so many evolution there is not only that kind of adaptation that you call evolution, but now somehow that species is Ted to have some how been able to develop into another species. Oh you tell me that’s not what evolution is, right? But then just how do you believe the organisms first came into being in the first place? Do you not believe that some one celled organism somehow evolved into all the animals and plants that you know today? Or are you telling me you don’t believe that all the plants and animals came into being? Now if you don’t believe this then you need to talk to your other evolutionary friends, because this is what many of the Evolutionists believe. Which by the way is poppycock. And this is exactly why I tell you that is impossible for any species to develop into another species and that there’s no grounds to even believe this is an assumption since there is no visible observation with evidence that shows that there has ever been any species evolving from another species. Observation shows that each species as always giving birth to that same species either plant or animal or otherwise. Now if you’re telling me that I do not understand what evolution is or what’s the theory of evolution is and it would be better to say the bad theory or misguided theory whichever because it doesn’t matter because the theory is incorrect. But if you say I do not understand what evolution is using you evidence that I’ve shown you which has even called Charles Darwin and many other evolutionists to say the Bajan cannot explain why they haven’t found the mountain of fossils to prove the Evolution Theory. So are you telling me that they do not understand what evolution is? Now I admit that I am not the brightest light bulb ever made, but you might as well just use your head as a hat rack if you cannot take off your blinders and realize that you are going down the wrong trail believing all this nonsense of big bang and evolution. Something has never come from nothing where nothing is now nothing is ever there unless something or someone put it there. Observation has told us that from the beginning. And life has never come from anything inanimate. Observation tells us that life begets life. That’s the observation Theory and unless someone tells a lie about what they observe it is never wrong when put to the test. So if I’m wrong about what evolution is please correct me but I think you will find that you are wrong first off evolution is the way everything came as far as organisms is concerned. And then that I don’t understand the theory of evolution. And then that you do.

  4. Gerald writes: [Please tell me what you think Evolution means or is.]

    I’ve been trying to do just that in many threads at this website. Perhaps I am not explaining myself very well, so I will endeavor to be better starting with this reply.

    Evolution is simply the change in populations of animals over given time periods. That’s all it is! Note that it does not state how much change will occur, or how fast it will occur, or that the changes will be successful or not. All it states is that living organisms, over time, experience changes to their genome. That is the scientific theory of evolution.

    Evolution has nothing to do with how the first life form began. That is abiogenesis, a completely separate field of research. Evolution has nothing to do with the start of the universe we live in. That is in a completely different field of research in completely different scientific fields (physics and astronomy). I hope this helps explain the delineation between each area of inquiry and why your comments sometimes overlap into topics that are not part of the theory of evolution.

    [With Charles Darwin Evolution was merely the survival of a species and doing so at any cost. But he considered normal adaptation as though it were a species developing into a different species instead of accepting the fact that within the DNA of that species was giving it the ability to adapt to different environments. But it remains that same species or organism.]

    First off, Darwin didn’t know about DNA. No one at that time did. You can’t say Darwin wasn’t “accepting the fact” about DNA when it’s discovery didn’t happen for another 40 years after the theory of evolution first came out.

    Second, Darwin thought (correctly) that species and organisms do NOT stay the same species and organisms. He correctly stated that humans and primates were related for example. Even with the limited fossil record available to him at that time he could see that living things had changed, and in some cases significantly, over time.

    While I realize that it is your contention that species don’t change into other species (like raptor dinos changing into modern birds for example), the entirety of the fossil record, geology, genetics, etc shows exactly that. All of the empirical data supports the theory of evolution. Please take that into consideration.

    [Do you not believe that some one celled organism somehow evolved into all the animals and plants that you know today? Or are you telling me you don’t believe that all the plants and animals came into being? Now if you don’t believe this then you need to talk to your other evolutionary friends, because this is what many of the Evolutionists believe. Which by the way is poppycock.]

    Yes, all living things have evolved from the first life forms. There is a wide range of evidence supporting this. Fossil evidence, geologic evidence, genetic evidence, etc. Please allow me to reiterate that ALL of the data, every last single shred of it, supports the theory that all life today is related to and came from the very first living things.

    There is no other hypothesis that exists that adequately explains all the facts we have at our disposal (fossil record, genetics, morphological studies, etc). No other explanation can account for the incredible amount of empirical data that supports the scientific theory of evolution. You can state it is “poppycock” if you want, but if you can’t offer up an explanation for all those facts, then are dismissing evolution in a speculative fashion.

    [And this is exactly why I tell you that is impossible for any species to develop into another species and that there’s no grounds to even believe this is an assumption since there is no visible observation with evidence that shows that there has ever been any species evolving from another species.]

    You say it is impossible, but based on what exactly? The fossil record and genetics clearly shows that all life forms DID come from the same first life forms. And I do mean “clearly”. You can see the change in raptor dinosaurs over time, turning into proto birds, and eventually into primitive birds, and finally into the modern birds today. There’s no other explanation for it, Gerald. And none forthcoming from creationists either, despite their pleas that it is “impossible”.

    [Observation shows that each species as always giving birth to that same species either plant or animal or otherwise.]

    No one ever said one species will give birth to another different species in one generation Gerald! You’ve been told this before I believe. Perhaps you do not understand the time frames we are talking about. Changes from raptors to birds, for example, took millions of years. You didn’t get a bird being born out of an egg laid by a dinosaur. Do you understand this? Small changes happen every generation, and some of these changes are useful and therefore survive. Over more and more generations additional changes occur. These changes add up over time until the current population starts looking, acting, and living significantly different from it’s ancestors long ago. Which is exactly what the fossil record shows.

    [Now if you’re telling me that I do not understand what evolution is or what’s the theory of evolution is and it would be better to say the bad theory or misguided theory whichever because it doesn’t matter because the theory is incorrect. But if you say I do not understand what evolution is using you evidence that I’ve shown you which has even called Charles Darwin and many other evolutionists to say the Bajan cannot explain why they haven’t found the mountain of fossils to prove the Evolution Theory. So are you telling me that they do not understand what evolution is?]

    You haven’t used any of the evidence supporting the theory of evolution. Please review your own post. You’ve talked about Darwin and DNA, which is inaccurate because Darwin didn’t know about DNA. Since his time the discovery of DNA and research into genetics has shown that all life forms are related, and how closely they are related to each other. These relationships mirror the tree of life that was already constructed using the fossil record. Two independent fields of research reached the same conclusion! After the Darwin statement you haven’t mentioned genetics at all, even though that is a critical source of facts supporting the theory of evolution. Then you mention fossils in a very generic way, merely stating they haven’t found the “mountain of fossils”. You couldn’t be more wrong with this assertion however. There are over 2 billion fossils found since the time of Darwin, and not one of them violate the theory of evolution. Not one! If you don’t think all those fossils support the theory of evolution then please explain why. You can buy books online, right now, that will show you various fossils over time that show how one animal changed into another animal. Have you read any of these yet?

    [but you might as well just use your head as a hat rack if you cannot take off your blinders and realize that you are going down the wrong trail believing all this nonsense of big bang and evolution]

    This is precisely what I am talking about. The Big Bang has nothing to do with evolution. Why are you mixing two things together that are not related in any way?

    [Something has never come from nothing where nothing is now nothing is ever there unless something or someone put it there.]

    This doesn’t even have to do with the Big Bang OR evolution! The source of the material present at the Big Bang is yet another COMPLETELY SEPARATE field of study. If you think the Big Bang theory states where all the matter and energy in the universe come from then you do not have an accurate understanding of the Big Bang theory.

    Do you understand my frustration here?

    [And life has never come from anything inanimate.]

    Life is inanimate material, Gerald. There isn’t a single molecule in your body that is “alive”. You do realize this, correct?

    [Observation tells us that life begets life. That’s the observation Theory and unless someone tells a lie about what they observe it is never wrong when put to the test.]

    So what beget your god? Of course you will state that your god didn’t have a start. That means your claim that life begets life isn’t accurate, isn’t it. So no reason to consider it a valid or plausible claim.

    [So if I’m wrong about what evolution is please correct me but I think you will find that you are wrong first off evolution is the way everything came as far as organisms is concerned. And then that I don’t understand the theory of evolution. And then that you do.]

    I hope you will consider what I have written above and will take the time to understand why your statements make it impossible to have an accurate conversation about evolution. If you need clarification on anything above please let me know.

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