Irreducible complexity The nano machinery of life
Another important concept in Intelligent Design is related to irreducible com- plexity that was reviewed extensively in Michael Behe’s book Darwins Black Box. Behe defines irreducible complexity as “a single system composed of several interacting parts that are adapted to each other, contributing to a basal func- tion, and where the disappearance of any of the parts will result in the func- tion ceasing.” By incorporating functionality, light is shed on a fundamental problem in the theory of evolution: Evolution cannot produce anything that presupposes a non-functioning intermediate link. Natural selection maintains or selects only those structures that are functional, and which involve a bene- fit either in the form of improved survival or more beneficial reproduction. If an intermediate structure does not have any function, it cannot be subject to natural selection.
It means that a complex and composite structure cannot come into being through many small modifications. All of the components must be in place and correctly pieced together before the structure can provide any function at all. A composition of the parts step by step, will result in a useless system. The system presupposes that all parts are correctly put together and with the right configuration before any function can be achieved. That means that irreducible complex structures cannot come into being via Darwinian mechanisms. According to Denton17 the least bacterial cell is inconceivably small, weighting less than 10-12 gram, and each bacteria or cell is like a miniature factory with thousands of intricate molecular machines, composed of 100,000 million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by humans and without parallel in inorganic nature. Every single cell consists of 10 thousand billion atoms. It is characteristic for life’s machinery that it is also able to copy itself in a short period of time. No man-made machine can do that. Even the smallest cell we know, is therefore incredibly complicated. So even the simplest cell satisfies the require- ments to specificity and irreducible complexity.
There are many such irreducible complexes in our cells. On the web site ARN.ORG 40 intracellular motors are listed, which are all characterized by ir- reducible complexity. And the list is probably a lot longer. The most well-known motor is the motor of the bacterial flagellum. We have already discussed this in detail. It is the intracellular motor that has been studied the most extensively. We now know all details in its composition. This motor has become the very icon for Intelligent Design. It is incredibly complex, and consists of 40 proteins which again consist of several thousands of amino acids and countless atoms. It can rotate up to 100,000 revolutions per minute. This is a staggeringly high number. It is more than 50 times faster than a regular car engine. Normally it has more than 10,000 revolutions per minute. It has a gearbox so it can be put in reverse. William Dembski has calculated that the probability of the motor used to drive a bacterial flagellum having arisen of its own accord is 10-1170. In other words, it is so unlikely that the age of the universe would not have been long enough for it to happen. This means the motor must be a product of intelligent design.
Bacteria with flagella are amazing organisms equipped with an outboard motor, but – not all bacteria have flagella that help them move. Some have rows of small, flickering, hair-like structures called cilia. These do not rotate, but they create forward movement by the cilia moving backwards and forwards in a kind of paddling movement that propels the bacteria. The cross-sectional view of flagella and cilia are identical, and they have a unique architecture. Each cilium consists of nine double tubes made up of fibers similar to micro- tubules, the thickest type of fiber in the cytoskeleton. In addition, there are two similar microtubules in the center of the cilium. The nine microtubule doublets contain protein machines called dynein, which provide the driving force behind the movement of the cilium. Each of these microtubule doublets are bound to the next by a special protein. The construction and maintenance of cilia indicate they are part of a complex system, even in a small cell like a bacterium. Cilia, which are 70,000 times smaller than a hair, have their own transport system, which carries building material to their tip. Here the building material is unloaded from the transport protein, which then goes back to the base of the cilia to collect more material. When a cilium is fully constructed, some of the transport proteins are sent to the tip of the cilium empty. Here they are filled with waste material and sent back down. So even the simplest organ- isms contain complex structures, which are subject to control to ensure that even the smallest units have the necessary metabolism to maintain that unit. Life is dependent on various nano-machines, which not only build the proteins required for the building process, but also the building equipment needed to complete the task. As the process is so precise, right down to the last detail, there must be a ‘manual’ containing all the information about the continuous control of something as ‘simple’ as the structure of a cilium of a bacterium.
Evolutionary biologists are not able to explain the origin of the motor of the bacteria with flagella via Darwinian methods: We must remember that naturalistic evolution is a blind process, it has no intentions. Everything that happens, is at random. Evolutionary processes do not work according to a goal in order to achieve anything specific. They follow no plan. Neither are they controlled in a specific direction. Evolution is not able to form anything that can resemble a design plan. Evolution cannot generate prescriptive informa- tion, and only prescriptive information can construct such a motor. Only an intelligence can generate information like this. Neither does evolution see any need, and is furthermore unable to see that a specific construction would be beneficial. Evolution is totally blind. The development of all parts that this motor consists of, cannot have happened in stages through thousands of years. After all, the parts fit into each other like a hand in a glove. The planning as well as the practical composition of all of the parts of this motor, surpass by far that which Darwinian mechanisms are able to accomplish. Furthermore, the motor is to fit exactly with the flagellum. It’s like a plumber who is fitting one pipe to another. Exact precision is absolutely necessary for the parts to fit. Cells and organisms are complex, and they do not come into existence as a result of the parts they consist of, being shaken in a container in the hope of each of the parts finding their way to each other. No, the origin of each single part has been planned according to a pre-existing, particularly exact work plan consisting of prescriptive information.
This reasoning has resulted in strong opposition from evolutionists. The theory of evolution is characterized by narratives that often appear appealing. Narrative can mean that the beginning and end of the story is decided in ad- vance, while filling in with other material that doesn’t change the predetermined conclusion. But in order to come up with a biochemically and scientifically credible explanation, a narrative is not enough. Scientific facts have to be pre- sented. And when it comes to the possible evolution of the bacterial flagellum as well as its motor, there are no such facts. The closest we have come is to find a structure that exists in certain bacteria and which has the task of an injection pump. This pump injects poisonous substances into the body of the organism which the bacteria have infected. The pump has approx. ten proteins that are identical with the flagella motor. But it cannot replace these parts at the same time as maintaining the motor’s function, because the proteins in the pump are not adapted to the flagella. Theistic evolutionists in the US and other countries have used this needle as reason to reject that the flagella motor is the result of intelligent activity. However, now we have evidence that the needle comes from the motor, and not vice versa.
Every cell in the body contains thousands of such irreducible complex protein motors. All protein complexes are such motors. An overview of these motors is found here18. The generator that produces the energy that is necessary for all metabolic processes, is such an irreducible complex structure. Every cell in our body has many such energy generators. Each one of us – you and I – have a total of about a million billion of these generators. It looks like cog wheels that used to be in clocks and watches. The generator consists of two motors. Hydrogen atoms (H+) run the first motor around like water operating the paddle-wheel of a turbine. This motor is connected to another motor via drive shaft, so that when the first motor rotates, the second motor will also set in motion. For every revolution, three molecules of adenosine (ATP) are produced. ATP is the fuel of life.
Since all processes in our body need energy, there has to have been access to energy from the very beginning of life. If there is no energy, no biochemical reactions can take place. And neither can there be life without these biochemi- cal processes. Therefore the ATP generator has to have been active from the beginning of life.