Irreducable Complexity

One of the most important concepts that one must employ when questioning Darwinist theory in the light of scientific discoveries is without a doubt the criterion that Darwin himself employed. In The Origin of Species, Darwin put forward a number of concrete criteria suggesting how his theory might be tested and, if found wanting, disproved. Many passages in his book begin, "If my theory be true," and in these Darwin describes the discoveries his theory requires. One of the most important of these criteria concerns fossils and "transitional forms." In earlier chapters, we examined how these prophecies of Darwin's did not come true, and how, on the contrary, the fossil record completely contradicts Darwinism.

In addition to these, Darwin gave us another very important criterion by which to test his theory. This criterion is so important, Darwin wrote, that it could cause his theory to be absolutely broken down:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

We must examine Darwin's intention here very carefully. As we know, Darwinism explains the origin of life with two unconscious natural mechanisms: natural selection and random changes (in other words, mutations). According to Darwinist theory, these two mechanisms led to the emergence of the complex structure of living cells, as well as the anatomical systems of complex living things, such as eyes, ears, wings, lungs, bat sonar and millions of other complex system designs.

However, how is it that these systems, which possess incredibly complicated structures, can be considered the products of two unconscious natural effects? At this point, the concept Darwinism applies is that of "reducibility." It is claimed that these systems can be reduced to very basic states, and that they may have then developed by stages. Each stage gives a living thing a little more advantage, and is therefore chosen by natural selection. Then, later, there will be another small, chance development, and that too will be preferred because it affords an advantage, and the process will go on in this way. Thanks to this, according to the Darwinist claim, a species which originally possessed no eyes will come to possess perfect ones, and another species which was formerly unable to fly, will grow wings and be able to do so.

This story is explained in a very convincing and reasonable manner in evolutionist sources. But when one goes into it in a bit more detail, a great error appears. The first aspect of this error is a subject we have already studied in earlier pages of this book: Mutations are destructive, not constructive. In other words, chance mutations that occur in living creatures do not provide them any "advantages," and, furthermore, the idea that they could do this thousands of times, one after the other, is a dream that contradicts all scientific observations.

But there is yet another very important aspect to the error. Darwinist theory requires all the stages from one point to another to be individually "advantageous." In an evolutionary process from A to Z (for instance, from a wingless creature to a winged one), all the "intermediate" stages B, C, D, …V, W, X, and Y along the way have to provide advantages for the living thing in question. Since it is not possible for natural selection and mutation to consciously pick out their targets in advance, the whole theory is based on the hypothesis that living systems can be reduced to discrete traits that can be added on to the organism in small steps, each of which carries some selective advantage. That is why Darwin said, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down."

Given the primitive level of science in the nineteenth century, Darwin may have thought that living things possess a reducible structure. But twentieth century discoveries have shown that many systems and organs in living things cannot be reduced to simplicity. This fact, known as "irreducible complexity," definitively destroys Darwinism, just as Darwin himself feared.

The Design of the Human Eye

The human eye is a very complicated system consisting of the delicate conjunction of some 40 separate components. Let us consider just one of these components: for example, the lens. We do not usually realize it, but the thing that enables us to see things clearly is the constant automatic focusing of the lens. If you wish, you can carry out a small experiment on this subject: Hold your index finger up in the air. Then look at the tip of your finger, then at the wall behind it. Every time you look from your finger to the wall you will feel an adjustment.

This adjustment is made by small muscles around the lens. Every time we look at something, these muscles go into action and enable us to see what we are looking at clearly by changing the thickness of the lens and turning it at the right angle to the light. The lens carries out this adjustment every second of our lives, and makes no mistakes. Photographers make the same adjustments in their cameras by hand, and sometimes have to struggle for quite some time to get the right focus. Within the last 10 to 15 years, modern technology has produced cameras which focus automatically, but no camera can focus as quickly and as well as the eye.

For an eye to be able to see, the 40 or so basic components which make it up need to be present at the same time and work together perfectly. The lens is only one of these. If all the other components, such as the cornea, iris, pupil, retina, and eye muscles, are all present and functioning properly, but just the eyelid is missing, then the eye will shortly incur serious damage and cease to carry out its function. In the same way, if all the subsystems exist but tear production ceases, then the eye will dry up and go blind within a few hours.

The theory of evolution's claim of "reducibility" loses all meaning in the face of the complicated structure of the eye. The reason is that, in order for the eye to function, all its parts need to be present at the same time. It is impossible, of course, for the mechanisms of natural selection and mutation to give rise to the eye's dozens of different subsystems when they can confer no advantage right up until the last stage. Professor Ali Demirsoy accepts the truth of this in these words:

It is rather hard to reply to a third objection. How was it possible for a complicated organ to come about suddenly even though it brought benefits with it? For instance, how did the lens, retina, optic nerve, and all the other parts in vertebrates that play a role in seeing suddenly come about? Because natural selection cannot choose separately between the visual nerve and the retina. The emergence of the lens has no meaning in the absence of a retina. The simultaneous development of all the structures for sight is unavoidable. Since parts that develop separately cannot be used, they will both be meaningless, and also perhaps disappear with time. At the same time, their development all together requires the coming together of unimaginably small probabilities.

What Professor Demirsoy really means by "unimaginably small probabilities" is basically an "impossibility." It is clearly an impossibility for the eye to be the product of chance. Darwin also had a great difficulty in the face of this, and in a letter he even admitted, "I remember well the time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over."

In The Origin of Species, Darwin experienced a serious difficulty in the face of the eye's complex design. The only solution he found was in pointing to the simpler eye structure found in some creatures as the origin of the more complex eyes found in others. He hypothesized that more complex eyes evolved from simpler ones. However, this claim does not reflect the truth. Paleontology shows that living things emerged in the world with their exceedingly complex structures already intact. The oldest known system of sight is the trilobite eye. This 530-million-year-old compound eye structure, which we touched on in an earlier chapter, is an "optical marvel" which worked with a double lens system. This fact totally invalidates Darwin's assumption that complex eyes evolved from "primitive" eyes.

The Chemistry of Sight

In his book Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe stresses that the structure of the living cell and all other biochemical systems were unknown "black boxes" for Darwin and his contemporaries. Darwin assumed that these black boxes possessed very simple structures and could have come about by chance. Now, however, modern biochemistry has opened up these black boxes and revealed the irreducibly complex structure of life. Behe states that Darwin's comments on the emergence of the eye seemed convincing because of the primitive level of nineteenth-century science:

Darwin persuaded much of the world that a modern eye evolved gradually from a simpler structure, but he did not even try to explain where his starting point-the relatively simple light-sensitive spot-came from. On the contrary, Darwin dismissed the question of the eye's ultimate origin… He had an excellent reason for declining the question: it was completely beyond nineteenth-century science. How the eye works-that is, what happens when a photon of light first hits the retina-simply could not be answered at that time.

So, how does this system, which Darwin glossed over as a simple structure, actually work? How do the cells in the eye's retinal layer perceive the light rays that fall on them?

The answer to that question is rather complicated. When photons hit the cells of the retina they activate a chain action, rather like a domino effect. The first of these domino pieces is a molecule called "11-cis-retinal" that is sensitive to photons. When struck by a photon, this molecule changes shape, which in turn changes the shape of a protein called "rhodopsin" to which it is tightly bound. Rhodopsin then takes a form that enables it to stick to another resident protein in the cell called "transducin."

Prior to reacting with rhodopsin, transducin is bound to another molecule called GDP. When it connects with rhodopsin, transducin releases the GDP molecule and is linked to a new molecule called GTP. That is why the new complex consisting of the two proteins (rhodopsin and transducin) and a smaller molecule (GTP) is called "GTP-transducin-rhodopsin."

But the process has only just begun. The new GTP-transducin-rhodopsin complex can now very quickly bind to another protein resident in the cell called "phosphodiesterase." This enables the phosphodiesterase protein to cut yet another molecule resident in the cell, called cGMP. Since this process takes place in the millions of proteins in the cell, the cGMP concentration is suddenly decreased.

How does all this help with sight? The last element of this chain reaction supplies the answer. The fall in the cGMP amount affects the ion channels in the cell. The so-called ion channel is a structure composed of proteins that regulate the number of sodium ions within the cell. Under normal conditions, the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell while another molecule disposes of the excess ions to maintain a balance. When the number of cGMP molecules falls, so does the number of sodium ions. This leads to an imbalance of charge across the membrane, which stimulates the nerve cells connected to these cells, forming what we refer to as an "electrical impulse." Nerves carry the impulses to the brain and "seeing" happens there.

In brief, a single photon hits a single cell, and through a series of chain reactions the cell produces an electrical impulse. This stimulus is modulated by the energy of the photon-that is, the brightness of the light. Another fascinating fact is that all of the processes described so far happen in no more than one thousandth of a second. As soon as this chain reaction is completed, other specialized proteins within the cells convert elements such as 11-cis-retinal, rhodopsin and transducin back to their original states. The eye is under a constant shower of photons, and the chain reactions within the eye's sensitive cells enable it to perceive each one of these.

The process of sight is actually a great deal more complicated than the outline presented here would indicate. However, even this brief overview is sufficient to demonstrate the extraordinary nature of the system. There is such a complicated, finely calculated design inside the eye that it is nonsensical to claim that this system could have come about by chance. The system possesses a totally irreducibly complex structure. If even one of the many molecular parts that enter into a chain reaction with each other were missing, or did not possess a suitable structure, then the system would not function at all.

It is clear that this system deals a heavy blow to Darwin's explanation of life by "chance." Michael Behe makes this comment on the chemistry of the eye and the theory of evolution:

Now that the black box of vision has been opened, it is no longer enough for an evolutionary explanation of that power to consider only the anatomical structures of whole eyes, as Darwin did in the nineteenth century (and as popularizers of evolution continue to do today). Each of the anatomical steps and structures that Darwin thought were so simple actually involves staggeringly complicated biochemical processes that cannot be papered over with rhetoric.355

The irreducibly complex structure of the eye not only definitively disproves the Darwinist theory, but also shows that life was created with a superior design.

The Design in the Ear

Another interesting example of the irreducibly complex organs in living things is the human ear.

As is commonly known, the hearing process begins with vibrations in the air. These vibrations are enhanced in the external ear. Research has shown that that part of the external ear known as the concha works as a kind of megaphone, and sound waves are intensified in the external auditory canal. In this way, the volume of sound waves increases considerably.

Sound intensified in this way enters the external auditory canal. This is the area from the external ear to the ear drum. One interesting feature of the auditory canal, which is some three and a half centimeters long, is the wax it constantly secretes. This liquid contains an antiseptic property which keeps bacteria and insects out. Furthermore, the cells on the surface of the auditory canal are aligned in a spiral form directed towards the outside, so that the wax always flows towards the outside of the ear as it is secreted.

Sound vibrations which pass down the auditory canal in this way reach the ear drum. This membrane is so sensitive that it can even perceive vibrations on the molecular level. Thanks to the exquisite sensitivity of the ear drum, you can easily hear somebody whispering from yards away. Or you can hear the vibration set up as you slowly rub two fingers together. Another extraordinary feature of the ear drum is that after receiving a vibration it returns to its normal state. Calculations have revealed that, after perceiving the tiniest vibrations, the ear drum becomes motionless again within up to four thousandths of a second. If it did not become motionless again so quickly, every sound we hear would echo in our ears.

The ear drum amplifies the vibrations which come to it, and sends them on to the middle ear region. Here, there are three bones in an extremely sensitive equilibrium with each other. These three bones are known as the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup; their function is to amplify the vibrations that reach them from the ear drum.

But the middle ear also possesses a kind of "buffer," to reduce exceedingly high levels of sound. This feature is provided by two of the body's smallest muscles, which control the hammer, anvil and stirrup bones. These muscles enable exceptionally loud noises to be reduced before they reach the inner ear. Thanks to this mechanism, we hear sounds that are loud enough to shock the system at a reduced volume. These muscles are involuntary, and come into operation automatically, in such a way that even if we are asleep and there is a loud noise beside us, these muscles immediately contract and reduce the intensity of the vibration reaching the inner ear.

The middle ear, which possesses such a flawless design, needs to maintain an important equilibrium. The air pressure inside the middle ear has to be the same as that beyond the ear drum, in other words, the same as the atmospheric air pressure. But this balance has been thought of, and a canal between the middle ear and the outside world which allows an exchange of air has been built in. This canal is the Eustachean tube, a hollow tube running from the inner ear to the oral cavity.

The Inner Ear

It will be seen that all we have examined so far consists of the vibrations in the outer and middle ear. The vibrations are constantly passed forward, but so far there is still nothing apart from a mechanical motion. In other words, there is as yet no sound.

The process whereby these mechanical motions begin to be turned into sound begins in the area known as the inner ear. In the inner ear is a spiral-shaped organ filled with a liquid. This organ is called the cochlea.

The last part of the middle ear is the stirrup bone, which is linked to the cochlea by a membrane. The mechanical vibrations in the middle ear are sent on to the liquid in the inner ear by this connection.

The vibrations which reach the liquid in the inner ear set up wave effects in the liquid. The inner walls of the cochlea are lined with small hair-like structures, called stereocilia, which are affected by this wave effect. These tiny hairs move strictly in accordance with the motion of the liquid. If a loud noise is emitted, then more hairs bend in a more powerful way. Every different frequency in the outside world sets up different effects in the hairs.

But what is the meaning of this movement of the hairs? What can the movement of the tiny hairs in the cochlea in the inner ear have to do with listening to a concert of classical music, recognizing a friend's voice, hearing the sound of a car, or distinguishing the millions of other kinds of sounds?

But what is the meaning of this movement of the hairs? What can the movement of the tiny hairs in the cochlea in the inner ear have to do with listening to a concert of classical music, recognizing a friend's voice, hearing the sound of a car, or distinguishing the millions of other kinds of sounds?

The answer is most interesting, and once more reveals the complexity of the design in the ear. Each of the tiny hairs covering the inner walls of the cochlea is actually a mechanism which lies on top of 16,000 hair cells. When these hairs sense a vibration, they move and push each other, just like dominos. This motion opens channels in the membranes of the cells lying beneath the hairs. And this allows the inflow of ions into the cells. When the hairs move in the opposite direction, these channels close again. Thus, this constant motion of the hairs causes constant changes in the chemical balance within the underlying cells, which in turn enables them to produce electrical signals. These electrical signals are forwarded to the brain by nerves, and the brain then processes them, turning them into sound.

Science has not been able to explain all the technical details of this system. While producing these electrical signals, the cells in the inner ear also manage to transmit the frequencies, strengths, and rhythms coming from the outside. This is such a complicated process that science has so far been unable to determine whether the frequency-distinguishing system takes place in the inner ear or in the brain.

At this point, there is an interesting fact we have to consider concerning the motion of the tiny hairs on the cells of the inner ear. Earlier, we said that the hairs waved back and forth, pushing each other like dominos. But usually the motion of these tiny hairs is very small. Research has shown that a hair motion of just by the width of an atom can be enough to set off the reaction in the cell. Experts who have studied the matter give a very interesting example to describe this sensitivity of these hairs: If we imagine a hair as being as tall as the Eiffel Tower, the effect on the cell attached to it begins with a motion equivalent to just 3 centimeters of the top of the tower.358

Just as interesting is the question of how often these tiny hairs can move in a second. This changes according to the frequency of the sound. As the frequency gets higher, the number of times these tiny hairs can move reaches unbelievable levels: for instance, a sound of a frequency of 20,000 causes these tiny hairs to move 20,000 times a second.

Everything we have examined so far has shown us that the ear possesses an extraordinary design. On closer examination, it becomes evident that this design is irreducibly complex, since, in order for hearing to happen, it is necessary for all the component parts of the auditory system to be present and in complete working order. Take away any one of these-for instance, the hammer bone in the middle ear-or damage its structure, and you will no longer be able to hear anything. In order for you to hear, such different elements as the ear drum, the hammer, anvil and stirrup bones, the inner ear membrane, the cochlea, the liquid inside the cochlea, the tiny hairs that transmit the vibrations from the liquid to the underlying sensory cells, the latter cells themselves, the nerve network running from them to the brain, and the hearing center in the brain must all exist in complete working order. The system cannot develop "by stages," because the intermediate stages would serve no purpose.