Intelligent Design as Science Part 4 Evidence for Biological Design

William Paley’s watch on the beach argument (part 2) made the case for the design.  Remember he asked, if you are walking along the beach and you find a watch, what do you conclude?  Was it created by the ocean waves moving in and out?  Nobody questions the fact that a designer made the watch.  I would like to take this argument one step further. What if a dead fish washed up on shore alongside the watch.  Was the fish created by accident over time or was the fish designed?  The complexity of the fish makes the watch look like child’s play.  Yet, the atheist is forced to say it was “designed by chance,” which is an oxymoron in my mind.

For Darwinian evolution to be true, early life must be simple and over time gradually evolve to higher complexity.  Ten years after Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, he wrote an organism’s cells had to be extremely simple; similar to a gel type substance with a nucleus and a cell wall.  Unsophisticated microscopes of the time seemed to confirm this thesis.  However, over time as microscopes became more powerful, the cell all of a sudden became incredibly complex.  So highly complex that today the cell makes our personal computers look like a child’s toy.

Worldwide scientists have found in the fossil records the earliest living organism were highly complex at the cellular level.  High complexity can been termed irreducibly complex, a phrase made popular by microbiologist Michael Behe, a professor from Lehigh University. Irreducible complexity means all parts of a biological system or organism has to be 100% in place at the same time so it can survive.  Let me use a mouse trap to demonstrate a highly complex organism or irreducible complexity.

There are different parts to a mouse trap:

1. Base made of wood

2. Metal hammer for crushing the mouse

3. Spring to help the metal hammer slam down on the mouse

4. Catch with food holder

5. Metal bar to hook to the catch to hold back the metal hammer

6. Staples to hold the metal

A mousetrap is highly complex if all parts have to be together before it can catch a mouse.  The way you test this is to ask, would it work if one part was missing?  Would it catch a mouse if the latch was missing?  Or maybe the spring or the staples weren’t there.  Would it work?  Of course not!

Think of the mousetrap as a living organism.  It has to catch mice to live.  Millions of years ago there was only a base and the base was made of paper.  Could it catch mice?  Eventually, somehow the paper base became wood and grew staples.  Could staples alone sitting on a base catch mice?  Then the metal hammer came into existence by mutations and chance.  Could it now catch a mouse?

I can keep going but I think you understand my point.  Unless the mousetrap is 100% complete, with the right materials in the right place, it will not function.  If this was a living organism how could it have survived?  It couldn’t have!  Darwinian evolution has no explanation for irreducibly complex biological systems.  A typical organism has multiple irreducibly complex systems, each having to be 100% complete at the same time for the organism to live.

One of Behe’s favorite biological examples is the bacteria flagellum. It has a paddling mechanism called a “rotating flagella,” which works similar to a boat’s outdoor motor.  It swims around utilizing 3 major parts to propel itself – a paddle, rotor, and motor.  All parts have to be in place at the same time for the bacterial to survive, making it irreducibly complex.  It is impossible for the bacteria flagellum to have come into existence and survive by gradual steps of evolution.

I once told a friend to imagine your computer on your desk and the next day you come into your office, there are two of them; exactly the same.  The day after that you enter your office and there are four; then eight, and eventually millions of computers.  I asked him if his computer could do that.  He said of course not.  I then said this is what cells do all the time.  They can perfectly reproduce themselves at a higher complexity than your computer.  And you believe this happened by chance and accident without any outside assistance?

Behe book, “Darwin’s Black Box,” showed that the irreducible complexity of life can’t be explained by Darwinian gradualism.  James Shapiro of the University of Chicago, a molecular biologist and a deeply committed evolutionist, made this candid remark in response to Behe’s work: “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation for such a vast subject—evolution—with so little rigorous examination of how well its basic theses work in illuminating specific instances of biological adaptation or diversity.[1]

The fact of the existence of irreducibly complex systems in organisms alone falsifies Darwinism. Charles Darwin (1872) Origin of Species, 6th ed said 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.[2]”  This is exactly what we discover over and over again in living cells and biological systems. By the standards set-up by Charles Darwin, Michael Behe’s work, irreducible complexity, falsifies the general theory of evolution.

Go to part 5 here



[1] James Shapiro, “In the Details…What?,” National Review, September 19, 1996, 62-65.

[2] Charles Darwin (1872) Origin of Species, 6th ed. (New York: New York University Press, 1988), 154,

as quoted in Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 39.

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