(Part 2)

The Implications of the

Irreducible Complexity of Life




Updated: 8 March 2008

MASTER INDEX of articles written, posted online or recommended by the author.

This is the second of a two part article questioning Darwin's Theory of Evolution on scientific grounds.
Click here to return to part one (1) titled:
A Critique of Darwin's Theory of Evolution (Part 1)


The relatively recent discovery of the irreducible complexity 1 inherent in so many of life's processes, especially at a biochemical 2 level, has profound implications regarding the nature of the Universe in general and the evolution of 'life' on planet Earth in particular, as the process cannot be explained by Darwin's Theory of Evolution and unambiguously indicates that 'life' is the result of intelligent design. In the absence of any other known 'mechanistic' process, intelligent design clearly infers the existence of a 'Creator' or 'Creative Principle'. 3

It is for this reason that the 'scientific mainstream' has refused even to acknowledge the issues surrounding the irreducible complexity inherent in so many of life's processes. The reluctance of the scientific community to deal with this issue or consider the implications of intelligent design regarding 'life' has nothing to do with a lack of empirical evidence to support it - but rather has its roots in a historical chauvinism 4 against anything suggesting the existence of a creator. This almost paranoid reluctance to consider the obvious is ironic as it serves only to limit scientific endeavour and in many respects is reminiscent of the stifling religious dogma that led to the 'age of reason' and modern scientific methodology in the first place. 5

In a sense the scientific community has forgotten its purpose (raison d'etre) and the underlying ethic pertaining to that purpose. True scientific procedure calls for keeping an open mind to all phenomena whilst maintaining a questioning attitude at the same time and being prepared to modify or dispose of any theory that no longer accommodates evidence collected in a systematic manner. Today most academics professing to be scientists do not observe this process, but rather display an uncritical adherence to a materialistic philosophy taught them by their mentors. Because of this, contemporary science has become ensnared in a very limited view of reality and the nature of the universe. This position is summed up succinctly by Cornell University professor, William Provine, who said:

"... modern science directly implies that the world is organised strictly in accordance with mechanistic principles. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces that are rationally detectable ..." 6

Now of course, Professor Provine's position is a philosophical one and is not based on any empirical evidence and as such is a breach of the very principles underlying scientific technique. Professor Provine is entitled to hold and express any philosophical position he so chooses, but he is not entitled to imply the philosophical position expressed above is somehow based on scientific methodology because "science it ain't". 7

By defining and adhering to such a proscriptive interpretation of reality, contemporary 'science' is denying itself the opportunity to contribute to an extraordinary new chapter in human understanding as to the nature of the Universe and who we are.

Professor Provine's inability to distinguish between 'science' and 'philosophy' is very destructive of true scientific endeavour because his views, as a senior respected scientist, clearly affects the thinking of those who look up to him as their superior. Most scientists, like the general public, acquire the vast majority of their knowledge and values about reality on what they are taught by their peers and superiors - and not on what they personally experience. It is for this reason that Professor Provine's views are so prevalent within the scientific community and why so many aspects of science have become moribund.

So how will 'science' deal with the implications of irreducible complexity associated with life?

If history is anything to go by, the contemporary scientific community will almost certainly embrace an orthodox position and embark upon a concerted campaign of trenchant denial about the issue. However, this is not such a bad thing, as practically all the major advances in human knowledge and understanding have emanated from the minds of dissenters who have rejected the orthodox position of their contemporaries and postulated what were considered heresies at the time. Presumably, the issues pertaining to the irreducible complexity of life and its wider implications will be treated no differently from any new 'heresy'. As with all matters, eventually the truth will become recognised as "self evident" and future generations will look back at the position of contemporary science in much the same way we now view our ancestors who fervently believed the earth was flat! 8


1. Irreducible Complexity is defined as the base level of complexity below which a system no longer functions. Thus an irreducibly complex system is one comprising several unique interacting components that contribute to the basic function of the 'system' and wherein the removal of just one component renders the whole system no longer functional. An irreducibly complex system cannot 'evolve' by slight, successive modifications to a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is, by definition, non-functional and as such would have no purpose and presumably could not be the subject of 'natural selection'. (Source: 'Darwins Black Box' by Michael Behe p39)

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2. Biochemistry is defined as the "chemistry of the processes fundamental to life and characteristic of life" (Source: Oxford Dictionary 1991)

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3. The unearthing of the irreducible complexity of life at a biochemical level is as profound a discovery as Copernicus's and Galileo's ideas regarding the nature of the solar system, Newton's theory about gravity and the Laws of Motion, Einstein's Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics because, like those findings, it radically redefines human perception of reality. Like all major discoveries, the significance of it has gone unnoticed by most and it will take at least a generation or two before that significance is recognised and acted upon.

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4. Chauvinism is defined as "a blind and absurd devotion to an obsolete cause". (Source: Websters Dictionary 1898)

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5. It is worth remembering that five hundred years ago most humans believed that the earth was flat, and anyone who had the temerity to suggest otherwise invariably was burnt at the stake. It was this sort of stifling religious dogma that eventually gave rise to the conventional scientific processes associated with the 'Age of Reason'.

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6. Source: 'Darwin on Trial' by Phillip Johnson (p126)

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7. It is fundamental to a free pluralistic society that any person is free to embrace whatever philosophy he/she so chooses irrespective of how "silly" it might appear to others, so long as those views don't infringe upon the rights of others. The health and growth of a society is inextricably bound up with the ability of dissenters to question the orthodox values of the society, for only through such a process can a society experiment with new ideas and grow.

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8. The Four Stages of Truth: Historically, the 'truth' about most issues usually goes through four distinct phases known colloquially as "the four stages of truth". During the first stage, the issue goes unnoticed and so is ignored; the second stage is characterised by ridicule as in "that's ridiculous"; the third stage comprises vehement denial up to and including killing the messenger; whilst the fourth stage witnesses the truth about the issue being finally recognised as self evident.

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Copyright Alex Paterson 1999



MASTER INDEX of articles written, posted online or recommended by Alex Paterson


Alex PATERSON is an Australian citizen by birth. He writes articles and advises on issues pertaining to aviation, politics, sociology, the environment, sustainable farming, history, computers, natural health therapies and spirituality.

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