The Information Enigma - Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines

Apologetic Question: Does Science Conflict With Or Support The Bible?

The Information Enigma - Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines

Contributed by Gary Silk, a Friend on our Advisory Board

Charles Darwin wrote is his Origin of Species, “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”. Michael Behe, PHD Molecular Biologist and author of the book “Darwin’s Black Box” used Darwin’s comment to form the basis of his concept of “irreducible complexity”. 

In a book by Lee Strobel titled “Case for A Creator” Behe is interviewed and clarifies just what “irreducible complexity” is. He states, "You see, a system or device is irreducibly complex if it has a number of different components that all work together to accomplish the task of the system, and if you were to remove one of the components, the system would no longer function. An irreducibly complex system is highly unlikely to be built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because the system has to be fully present in order for it to function”. 

Behe uses a simple mousetrap to illustrate the concept. A mousetrap has a series of parts that all work together to trap mice. It has a flat wooden platform to which the other parts are attached; a metal hammer, which does the job of crushing the mouse; a spring with extended ends to press against the platform and the hammer when the trap is charged; a catch that releases when a mouse applies a slight bit of pressure; and last, there's a metal bar that connects to the catch and holds the hammer back when the trap is charged. If any of the parts are missing from the mousetrap or are not the right scale or placed in the right orientation to one another, the mousetrap will not work.

In the biological complexities of life, it turns out that there are many irreducibly complex systems that are essential to the creation and sustenance of life. In fact life is based on tiny molecular machines. 

A simple example Behe uses to illustrate an actual Biological example is the cilia of the simple cell. Cilia are the tiny hair like fibers that move in a coordinated way to propel a cell around allowing it to fulfill it’s purpose. Every cell has about 200 cilium. He describes the parts and functionality of a single cilia, "There are nine pairs of microtubules, which are long, thin, flexible rods, which encircle two single microtubules. The outer microtubules are connected to each other by what are called nexin linkers. And each microtubule has a motor protein called dynein. The motor protein attaches to one microtubule and has an arm that reaches over, grabs the other one, and pushes it down. So the two rods start to slide lengthwise with respect to each other. As they start to slide, the nexin linkers, which were originally like loose rope, get stretched and become taut. As the dynein pushes farther and farther, it starts to bend the apparatus; then it pushes the other way and bends it back. That's how you get the rowing motion of the cilium. That doesn't begin to do justice to the complexity of the cilium. But my point is that these three parts-the rods, linkers, and motors-are necessary to convert a sliding motion into a bending motion so the cilium can move. If it weren't for the linkers, everything would fall apart when the sliding motion began. If it weren't for the motor protein, it wouldn't move at all. If it weren't for the rods, there would be nothing to move. So like the mousetrap, the cilium is irreducibly complex.” In other words the parts of the cilia will not function by themselves and a cell could not move around without all the cilium in place and in the proper scale and orientation to the other parts.

The larger argument here is that it is inconceivable how something like even the simple cilia, with its irreducibly complex design, could evolve into a functional biological apparatus without the intervention of an intelligent designer. 

There are countless other examples scientists use to illustrate the concept of “irreducible complexity”. Some to consider include, the bacterial flagellum, the intracellular transport system, the ribosome, the blood clotting mechanism, every organ of any life form that exists not to mention any complete life form in totality. I encourage you to Google any of the examples given and study the complexity of these examples and ask yourself, could this have developed and exist if all the parts were not present at one time and in the proper scale and orientation to all the other parts that make up the system. I am sure you will conclude that God’s creation is a wonder to contemplate.