The Instigator
Stephen_Hawkins
Pro (for)
Winning
17 Points
The Contender
errya
Con (against)
Losing
2 Points

The argument from irreducible complexity fails

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 6 votes the winner is...
Stephen_Hawkins
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/23/2012 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,124 times Debate No: 28550
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (0)
Votes (6)

 

Stephen_Hawkins

Pro

The debate resolution is as it stands, based on a comment in the forum asking for a challenge. As such, I challenge my opponent to the debate. For ease's sake, my opponent should make a quick syllogism of his argument in round one in order to avoid any possibility of strawmanning or misinterpreting my opponent's case.

The burden of proof is on my opponent to present the argument, while I have the burden of rejoiner (I must refute his argument to win the debate). This is because, assuming that no-one posts anything, we cannot assume the success of an argument. However, once it is created, then it clearly is important in the debate for me to refute the argument.

With that, I'll await my opponent.
errya

Con

I will post the original argument on the forums, but I hope my opponent will not mind if I make some amendments and additions.

"Irreducible complexity is unbeatable. To refute it, the evolutionist must prove nothing has irreducible complexity, while the non-evolutionist must prove there is but one organism that has. [I'm not expecting you to do this, obviously] Even Darwin knew this.

"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." Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species

Also, I think I may have come up with the best and most obvious example of irreducible complexity ever. The Respiratory System. This includes the the blood, blood vessels, heart, lungs, [gills in fish] digestive system and muscle cells. Each one is useless without all the others.

[Here are some other good examples: Blood clotting system
Bacterial flagellum ]

I invite anyone who wishes to challenge this conclusion."

Debate Round No. 1
Stephen_Hawkins

Pro

My opponent did not present a syllogism, though did present evidence. As such, to simplify the debate, I'm going to post an explanation of irreducible complexity:

"Irreducible complexity is an aspect of the Intelligent Design Theory that argues some biological systems are so complex and so dependent upon multiple complex parts, that they could not have evolved by chance."[1]

P1 - Biological creatures arise from either chance, evolution or intelligent design
P2 - Irreducible complexity means something cannot have arose by chance or evolution
C1 - Thus, there must be intelligent design

Observations

Observations are what we recognise at first glance of the motionposed.

The first observation is that this is an empirical argument. The claims are based on a posteriori evidence from the world. However, it is not scientific. This is because it does not fit the scientific method of being an experiment that can be tested and repeated: instead, it is analysis and interpretation of evidence. Ironically, if it can be repeated, it is scientific and in favour of evolution. This is because observing the irreducibly complex not arise is not evidence of anything, but observing the supposedly irreducibly complex arise from nature is evidence of evolution.

The second observation is the incredible burden created. To quote my opponent: "the evolutionist must prove nothing has irreducible complexity, while the non-evolutionist must prove there is but one organism that has". Clearly, there are many cases which are supposedly "intelligently designed", such as the eye[2] claimed by intelligent design proponents, but later shown how the evolution took place[3], or the evolution of blood clots been deemed impossible, as my opponent states, yet later on the evolution has been made clear by Ken Miller [4][video, 39 minutes in]. However, there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of examples that can be posed.

The third observation is that my opponent has claimed that the respiratory system includes the digestive system...also that there have already been given 4 examples (my one and opponent's 3) of irreducible complexity. If this is a sign of things to come, I would be worried.

Contention One: examples of irreducible complexity exist

I've already given evidence against blood clotting being irreducible complexity, but I'll go through the others. The famous example of the Flagellum is famous firstly because it is a 'poster boy' of intelligent design, but also the ease of how it has been rebutted by the evolutionary biologists that came across it. Indeed, it was addressed before Behe came on the scene with it as an example. The strongest evidence of the evolution of the flagellum, however, is the findings of Matzke, who discovered how the flagella could have evolved - and indeed the evidence supports it. However, it is a complex issue, especially for a debate, so I'll produce a basic understanding of the evolution that anyone can access (any explanation which resorts to words like "extracellular" aren't good explanations in my eyes). Also, I'll anthropomorphise slightly, so I will say "feed" for example to make concepts simpler.

Firstly, imagine the basic membrane:



There is the outer membrane, the cell wall, and the cytoplasmic or "inner" membrane. Now, the cell needs to feed, of course. It eats proteins. These proteins go through the cell wall and the cytoplasmic membrane. Now, there needs to be a way to get in the cell. This is a passive pore. It allows protein in.


Then of course some things that get in won't be useful and indeed instead harmful. So a filter will appear (no picture unfortunately) to select proteins. After this, an ATP synthase (a type of enzyme, well established to evolve naturally[5])



This creates active transport - meaning food can be brought into the system. Before, it simply have to luck its way up, or be pushed through by other protein, etc. At this point, we get a Type 3 export apparatus, This occurs similarly on the other side of an organism to create a secretion system, which allows protein to move outside of the cell - too much protein, or clogging, or any number of reasons makes this useful. Add the tube on, and you get this:



A type 3 secretion system. To review, here's a step-by-step:



Now, when we compare it to the flagella:


I se a lot of symbols that intimidate us, like "FliT" and "FlhA" etc. but notice how similar the two are. I can go on with the example, but this is a clear walkthrough of the evolution of the flagellum to a meaningful stage. If needed, I can continue, but the homologous nature is clear.

The respiratory system

This is a complex one. The long explanation is a combination of the evolution of lungs to increase surface area diffusion, circulatory system to distribute the oxygen gained and finally the evolution of efficient ventilation, each of which evolves separately. The full explanation can be found here[6] but I can walk through any confusing parts if needs be (though I lack the ability to explain it all due to constraints in characters). The short explanation is respiration starts with simple diffusion: no need for any actual system at all. Then it is just an increase of efficiency. This is no more strange an evolution than going from stumps to fingers: it is just making life easier. Remember: we should not be thinking of trying to go from complex to simple, but from simple to complex.

Contention 2: Irreducible Complexity is intellectually ignorant

I choose my words carefully here: irreducible complexity is a pointless endless road of proof and rebuff. Go back to the second observation: there are countless supposed examples, each of which are rebutted yet two more fill its place. Many describe irreducible complexity as akin to the Hydra: you may think you've slain it, but it just grows more heads in its place. As long as the argument's base has credence - as long as we don't go after the belly of the beast - it simply regrows. It does not win, but takes up all of our time with new examples. There are quite literally an infinite number of them. "As an example, one might consider the question of how left-right asymmetry arises in vertebrate development, a question that was beyond explanation until the 1990s. In 1990 one might have argued that the body's left-right asymmetry could just as well be explained by the intervention of a designer as by an unknown molecular mechanism. Only a decade later, the actual molecular mechanism was identified, and any claim one might have made for the intervention of a designer would have been discarded. The same point can be made, of course, regarding any structure or mechanism whose origins are not yet understood"[7]

On the one front, it is an argument from ignorance: it looks at things that seem irreducibly complex, and claims that there then is no explanation of the thing in question. On the other front, it leads us to an endless road of proof and disproof. A proponent of irreducible complexity comes up with a new example, thus proving intelligent design. But now they are on their toes, worried and scared for a simple disproof of their theory in the shape of a single coherent contending idea. Evolutionism does the same, on its toes jumping at the next possible example to disprove. It does not prove, but simply makes the proof of God dependent on who has the upper hand.

Contention Three: Irreducible Complexity tells us nothing of anything

I shall elaborate on this next round, but simply can know nothing of the designer if irreducible complexity is true.


1 - http://www.gotquestions.org...
2 - http://darwin-online.org.uk...;
3 - http://www.pbs.org...;
4 - ;
5 - http://en.wikipedia.org...
6 - http://cwx.prenhall.com...
7 - http://www.millerandlevine.com...
errya

Con

I thank my opponent for his in depth and generally great response.

Observations:

1.Yes, the the evolution-creation debate is unscientific. Some of the evidences are, but on the whole it can't be tested.

2. Well, yes, I don't dispute the eye could have evolved, though it would be a pretty long shot. However I noticed that from your comment, “but later shown how the evolution took place” , you seem to assume that showing something is irreducibly complex means that the evolution took place. All explanations for how evolution took place are simply hypothesises, because, as you mentioned before, evolution is neither testable nor repeatable.. Showing something is possible doesn't mean it actually happened. I will touch on the blood clotting problem in a moment.

3. Well, yes, the digestive system isn't technically part of the respirative system, however, the glucose it generates is needed for the respiratory system to do it's job. Blood Clotting: Ken Millers argument seems to be based solely on the fact that the dolphins and puffer fish have a few missing proteins, and it still works. But there is a problem with this. When the same thing is done to us humans, our blood clotting system fails. (I am going to assume this is true, as no one has yet used humans to try an demonstrate the failings of IC). So there must be something that dolphins and puffer fish do or don't have that causes this effect. Therefore, this means that the puffer fish and dolphins have a different system to humans. Human blood clotting systems are still irreducibly complex after this argument.

There are also more arguments in this link, but I think they were above my level to report correctly.

http://www.trueorigin.org...

Contention 1: Examples of irreducible complexity exist.

Before I continue debating my opponent on this I would like to ask him a few things about his argument.

1. Does this hypothesis of evolution go all the way to the bacterial flagellum, or does it stop at the ten proteins Ken Miller talked about his video?

2. Does this hypothesis has an official name, so I can find out more about it?

Also, despite my opponents best attempts, I still don't fully understand the argument. I was going well, but there doesn't seem to be any relation between the arguments shown in the third and fourth diagrams.

The Respiratory system

Looking at the source you provided, my first thought is that I'm out of my depth. In terms of my knowledge and understanding of this, I don't think could formulate an effective argument. I humbly request my opponent that we discontinue this particular argument.

“Remember: we should not be thinking of trying to go from complex to simple, but from simple to complex.”

What did you mean by this?

Irreducibly complexity is intellectually ignorant.

Well in the case of it being like a hydra, technically, that is true. However, any reasonable person would probably drop the argument if it had been convincingly refuted time and time and time again, especially if it had been done through the same formula. My opponent also invokes the argument from ignorance objection. But that objection essentially hinges on the fact that there could be something else we don't know about. We should make all conclusions based on information we know exists, not on information that may not.

Contention Three: Irreducible Complexity tells us nothing of anything

Elaborate away
Debate Round No. 2
Stephen_Hawkins

Pro

I thank my opponent for his courteous reply.

Observations

My opponent firstly agrees that the irreducible complexity debate is one that should not be held in science, as irreducible complexity is in fact a philosophical issue. However, he juxtaposes this by holding the debate to a scientific standard, claiming that evolution's position is just a hypothesis, that it is neither testable nor repeatable, and many other things which hold the irreducible complexity debate to a scientific standard.

Second, my opponent assumes firstly that evolution is false, and that, if irreducible complexity is true, then evolution is false. This clearly isn't true, as there is no premise in irreducible complexity that contradicts evolution happening.

Third, while my opponent holds evolution to a high standard necessary (which it should be held to), he does not hold his arguments to the same standard. This is evident by his clear explicit assumptions, such as the assumption that the blood clotting system is irreducibly complex, saying "I am going to assume this to be true". Of course, even in a philosophical debate this is a sin, and we must ask whether an argument which is not just based slightly in assumptions but entirely is assumptions holds any weight.

Contention One: examples exist of irreducible complexity

To refer to the flagellum, my opponent's criticisms seem pointless - I do not seem to understand the criticisms levied. Miller's criticism of irreducible complexity is irrelevant, as I've clearly shown how to get from a basic cell membrane to a flagellum. I go at it from a different angle than he does. The 'official name' doesn't exist, it is a variant (because I need to simplify it to not go over everyone's - including my own - head) of Matzke's paper[1] on evolution. In both cases, they seem not to harm my case.

For the diagram, I understand the confusion, as comparing the diagrams the difference seems a lot. However, the base of the ATP Synapse is simply the rings and connector. For all intents and purposes they could be one ring: the ring acts as the filter that gets in or out the right proteins or materiel. The periplasm is literally nothing: it is the space between the inner and outer membrane found on gram-negative bacteria (like the flagellum)[2]. The tube itself does not require explanation to evolve: it does in the same way that a cows become fatter, or dogs become better hunters: it is the accentuation of an already existent feature. This is clear by the fifth diagram showing all the steps together.

Evolution at work: simple to complex

How do things evolve? Well, we start from the simplest microorganism parts, and we build on this to get to the complex. For example, I started with the cell membrane and built on it until we got to the flagellum, or at least a basic flagellum. We go from simple to complex because that's the route evolution takes. Going from complex to simple is very difficult - there are many routes one can take to simplify a system, and most lead to contradictions. However, going from simple to complex we can come up with a timeline of evolutionary process in a simple way. By starting at the complex and simplifying, we are going to run into many more problems - how do you proceed from here? Is this the right step? Should I add or take away?

The reason that we come across problems, other than the difficulty of our imagination, is evolution doesn't think like that. Evolution simply builds on and streamlines from the very simple systems. Starting from the complex to go to the simple in fact is misrepresenting and misunderstanding evolution - not in a purposeful or malevolent way, but this misapplication of evolution is the source of many problems.

Contention Two: Irreducible Complexity's intellectual ignorance

My opponent understands half of my case here - it rests on ignorance. The problem I espouse, though, is a wholehearted agreement that it rests on the fact that there could be something else we don't know about. Both evolution and irreducible complexity's solution, if we accept this argument, rests on there not being something else we don't know about. It's not an assumption of ignorance, but an assumption of omniscience. For irreducible complexity to work, we have to have all the information. Any possibility that evolution took place disproves the hypothesis. Irreducible complexity cannot simply say "evolution cannot explain this", or the more accurate "evolution does not explain this", but instead has to say "only intelligence can explain this" or "only purposeful creation can explain this". If the latter is true, then evolution in this case does not exist. But if the former statements are true anywhere in the argument, then the argument hinges with bated breath on a contrary possibility by evolution. Indeed, this is the major part of my argument: we have to say belief in irreducible complexity changes, and its conclusions (such as a deity) are true or false depending on the time of day. Are we truly to say that evolution becomes true or false due to who has published the latest peer journal? The debate cannot end, as both sides can create new arguments making them possible. It simply makes proof dependent on who published first - a flip of the coin decides whether God exists.

Contention Three: Irreducible Complexity is unfalsifiable

This leads on from my previous point: irreducible complexity is unfalsifiable. The debate will always rage, as any example can be given as irreducibly complex. To Quote Sir Popper:

"The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which "verified" the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasize by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation — which revealed the class bias of the paper — and especially of course what the paper did not say."

Unfalsifiable claims are unscientific. They are proven by everything around us, and disproven by nothing. There is no way for them to feasibly be wrong, because the claims are so broad, vague, and pragmatically useless, that they have sacrificed their reason d'etre for necessary truth. Irreducible complexity cannot be proven, or justified, with any meaningful claims.

Sober points out that this criterion entails that many ID statements are falsifiable; for example, the statement that an intelligent designer created the vertebrate eye entails that vertebrates have eyes, which is an observation.

This leads Sober to jettison the concept of falsifiability and to provide a different account of testability. "If ID is to be tested," he says, "it must be tested against one or more competing hypotheses." If the ID claim about the vertebrate eye is to be tested against the hypothesis that the vertebrate eye evolved by Darwinian processes, the question is whether there is an observation that can discriminate between the two. The observation that vertebrates have eyes cannot do this.[4]

Sober also points out that criticism of a competing theory, such as evolution, is not in-and-of-itself a test of ID. "When scientific theories compete with each other, the usual pattern is that independently attested auxiliary propositions allow the theories to make predictions that disagree with each other," Sober writes. "No such auxiliary propositions allow … ID to do this."

Four: Irreducible Complexity says nothing

This is my final point. Irreducible complexity requires a creator, but there are no characters of this creator. Personal, impersonal, material, omniscient - none of these are necessary characteristics. The creator can be anything - or nothing.

errya

Con

I concede this debate. I feel my knowledge and uderstanding of the current issues at hand are inadequete to argue the point. So, i will thank my opponent for a skillfully done debate and give him the victory.
Debate Round No. 3
Stephen_Hawkins

Pro

Thank you, and I urge a vote PRO.
errya

Con

Thank you, and I agree it would be quite logical to vote pro.
Debate Round No. 4
No comments have been posted on this debate.
6 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession. Pro led even before with a spectacular depth of knowledge in the realm of biology. I award a point to Con for gracecfully conceding the debate.
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 4 years ago
RyuuKyuzo
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Arguments for con's concession + sources for providing a larger library of sources (that he actually utilized in the debate). Conduct to Con for his gracious concession.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Con conceded
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 4 years ago
1dustpelt
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Vote Placed by Xerge 4 years ago
Xerge
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession
Vote Placed by socialpinko 4 years ago
socialpinko
Stephen_HawkinserryaTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Concession. The debate was still heavily leaning Pro even before though.