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Author Topic:   Irreducible complexity at the microscopic level
Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2411 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 1 of 27 (426767)
10-08-2007 5:26 PM


Most supporters of evolution here would presumably agree that it's easy to refute any argument of "irreducible complexity" by explaining the evolution of the mechanism in question, or by explaining how this argument is irrelevant because if we don't know how to explain it now, that does not mean it is essentially unexplainable.

Being a non-scientist, I would like to know how we refute this argument when it comes down to a molecular level. I agree that if you are not a biologist, you might look at a cell and be amazed at all the activities that occur inside of it -- it's hard to imagine how all of it could have evolved, bit by bit. You might accept that genes program the cells. But how do genes do that exactly? How do molecules become grouped in such a way that complex sets of instructions can become encoded?

I have been having a particular debate based on the evolution of bilateral symmetry. Talk Origins explains that it is directed by signaling molecules. The question is now:

How did this complex and sophisticated system of signaling molecules come to establish an encoding mechanism, a decoding mechanism, a suitable medium, and a protocol (a language of communication understood by both the encoder and the decoder)?

He is a former electrician so it looks like he is attempting to approach it from that angle.

Is this correct? Do signaling molecules, and genes, work in complex synergy like a computer? If so, how would the steps in the programs have developed through evolution? Has he hit on a system which is indeed "irreducibly complex"?

Can anyone help me to understand?

Biological Evolution I think.


Replies to this message:
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AdminNosy
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Posts: 4754
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Joined: 11-11-2003


Message 2 of 27 (426770)
10-08-2007 5:41 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
Doddy
Member (Idle past 4020 days)
Posts: 563
From: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 01-04-2007


Message 3 of 27 (426794)
10-08-2007 7:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
10-08-2007 5:26 PM


The Perfect Explanation
LindaLou writes:

How do molecules become grouped in such a way that complex sets of instructions can become encoded?

Complex sets of instructions from God encoded it.

Perfect explanation, no?


Help to inform the public - contribute to the EvoWiki today!

What do you mean "You can't prove a negative"? Have you searched the whole universe for proofs of a negative statement? No? How do you know that they don't exist then?!


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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 27 (426797)
10-08-2007 8:08 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
10-08-2007 5:26 PM


How did this complex and sophisticated system of signaling molecules come to establish an encoding mechanism, a decoding mechanism, a suitable medium, and a protocol (a language of communication understood by both the encoder and the decoder)?

They didn't, because that's not how they work at all.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8842
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 6.7


Message 5 of 27 (426809)
10-08-2007 8:39 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
10-08-2007 5:26 PM


IC
Let's get clear that IC is a strawman.

It states that an IC structure will not function if you take anything away. It is deemed to be impossible to evolve by adding individual components.

That strawman deliberately ignores the possibility of something evolving by removing something. There are examples of exactly this. That is there are examples of something that will not function if a part if removed and we know how they evolved.

Just one example proves that the Behe idea of IC is not an issue for evolutionary theory. It is dead in the water before you look at any other examples whether you know how they come to be or not.


This message is a reply to:
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jar
Member
Posts: 30936
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004


Message 6 of 27 (426812)
10-08-2007 8:47 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by NosyNed
10-08-2007 8:39 PM


Re: IC
It also ignores the duplication and modification of some existing trait, as well as the change in function where parts used for some other function are later reused to serve some new function.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1402 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 7 of 27 (426836)
10-08-2007 10:06 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Kitsune
10-08-2007 5:26 PM


LindaLou writes:

Do signaling molecules, and genes, work in complex synergy like a computer?


While I can only talk in layman's term in regard to signaling molecules and genes, I know a thing or two about computers. Trust me, I can keep my computer on and start removing its individual components and still have a working computer as I keep removing the components.

Computers, like genes and DNA, are anything but irreducibly complex. In fact, I can't think of a single thing that is truly irreducibly complex. Until the creationists can point out an example of such a thing...


Disclaimer:

Occasionally, owing to the deficiency of the English language, I have used he/him/his meaning he or she/him or her/his or her in order to avoid awkwardness of style.

He, him, and his are not intended as exclusively masculine pronouns. They may refer to either sex or to both sexes!


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2411 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 8 of 27 (426894)
10-09-2007 1:40 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by NosyNed
10-08-2007 8:39 PM


Re: IC
That strawman deliberately ignores the possibility of something evolving by removing something. There are examples of exactly this.

Can you give some examples? When I've read about some organisms losing complexity through evolution, the only example I found was parasites. Are there organs or systems in our own bodies, or those of other relatively complex animals, which have evolved by something being removed?


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Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2411 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 9 of 27 (426896)
10-09-2007 1:46 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Taz
10-08-2007 10:06 PM


The thing is Taz, you do need certain components for your computer to work; remove one of those, and the system will not function. A processor. A motherboard. A monitor, a keyboard (the system might work but you can't use it without those). I think an IDer might reply to you that any equivalent vital components in a biological system would be equally devastating to the functioning of the organism if one or more was removed.
This message is a reply to:
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Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2411 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 10 of 27 (426899)
10-09-2007 1:53 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by crashfrog
10-08-2007 8:08 PM


Lesson learned: from now on, if I pull information off Talk Origins or any other source, I will make sure I understand it thoroughly myself so that I can discuss and refute. This time I mentioned something I don't really understand (signaling molecules), can't seem to find any information about that isn't highly technical, and have been caught out. I think he keeps asking me about this because he wants to show me up for a fool who parrots things without understanding them -- and admittedly in this case, I tripped up.

Fom what I could gather, signaling molecules are part of genes. Scientists have found a couple of genes that seem to be responsible for left-right body part anomalies in humans and rats, when those genes are mutated. They are located on a small part of the X-chromosome. But what we are hung up on are these signaling molecules.

Can you help me understand this a bit better Crash? If these molecules, and genes themselves, do not function like a computer, then how do they function? Is the IDer's analogy here completely wrong; and if so, how? Would there be a more accurate analogy to use?


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8842
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 6.7


Message 11 of 27 (426907)
10-09-2007 2:26 AM
Reply to: Message 9 by Kitsune
10-09-2007 1:46 AM


Removing a component
I think an IDer might reply to you that any equivalent vital components in a biological system would be equally devastating to the functioning of the organism if one or more was removed.

Yes, there are components in an organism the removal of which would be devastating.

So exactly what does that have to do with the evolution of the organism? You need to get the ID argument very clear. It is a deliberate fake straw man of evolution.

They say that because the current structure can not stand the removal of a part there is no way for that structure to evolve.

But there are ways they just deliberately exclude them. The whole idea of irreducible complexity is built on sand.


This message is a reply to:
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crashfrog
Inactive Member


Message 12 of 27 (426908)
10-09-2007 2:31 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Kitsune
10-09-2007 1:53 AM


If these molecules, and genes themselves, do not function like a computer, then how do they function?

Direct physical contact. The molecules, I think, are enzymes. Enzymes catalyze chemical reactions by binding other molecules in their "active site". They're fairly selective in terms of what molecules can "fit" in the site, like a key inside a lock.

If you think of a DNA strand being read inside the cell, there's an enzyme called RNA polymerase running down the strand like the tab on a zipper, spitting out an RNA copy of the DNA it's reading like a ticker-tape machine.

So imagine you wanted to send a simple signal to stop that process. If you introduced an enzyme keyed to bind to the strand of DNA at a specific place (determined by gene sequence), then the big chunk of enzyme stuck to the DNA would block the RNA polymerase, like a glob of chewing gum stuck in your zipper.

Like I said it's almost too simple to be called "signalling." It's a signal the same way that throwing a wrench in the gears is a "signal" for the machine to stop.

Another analogy. You're driving down the road. I want you to stop. I send you a "signal" by driving a dump truck into the middle of the intersection and leaving it there.

You crash into it and stop. Did I just send you a "signal?" What I did was almost too direct to use that term, don't you think? And wouldn't it be irrelevant to talk about the "medium", or the "protocol", or the "encoding mechanism"? I mean, I didn't send you a secret code that said "stop", I actually physically stopped you by direct physical contact.

Signalling molecules, I think, work the same way, if I recall my genetics correctly. (I'm no biochemist yet.) They're enzymes that tell a cell (for instance) to stop producing a certain protein product by getting in the nucleus and directly blocking the transcription of a specific gene, like a monkey wrench in the works.


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Kitsune
Member (Idle past 2411 days)
Posts: 788
From: Leicester, UK
Joined: 09-16-2007


Message 13 of 27 (426911)
10-09-2007 2:32 AM
Reply to: Message 11 by NosyNed
10-09-2007 2:26 AM


Re: Removing a component
But there are ways they just deliberately exclude them.

Sorry Ned, could you clarify this?


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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8842
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 6.7


Message 14 of 27 (426912)
10-09-2007 2:34 AM
Reply to: Message 10 by Kitsune
10-09-2007 1:53 AM


Another analogy
Is the IDer's analogy here completely wrong; and if so, how? Would there be a more accurate analogy to use?

The "standard" analogy of IC is an arch built of dry stones. It is irreducibly complex because if you remove any stone the whole thing collapses. The IDists would say that you can there for not build an arch one stone at a time.

But, of course, you can. You need scaffolding in to support it while the arch is constructed. One the arch is complete it the scaffolding is removed and IDist would be utterly mystified as to how the arch was built because they do not allow something to be formed by removing something.

There are examples of this in biology so it is a pathway that has been followed and the IDists ignore it.

In all cases where no living reproducing things are used as an analogy for living things we have to be very careful. No one designs computers by duplicating a video card and making one of them serve as a motherboard and central processor. But that is just how living things evolve.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 214 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 15 of 27 (426921)
10-09-2007 3:23 AM


Evolution's forgotten prediction
Genetic Variablity, Twin Hybrids and Constant Hybrids, in a Case of Balanced Lethal Factors, by Hermann J Muller:

quote:
In the first place, it is likely that lethals are really among the common-
est forms of mutants, but they would be discovered much more readily
if they were dominant in regard to some visible character than if they
were completely recessive, and this would cause the proportion of lethals
among the dominant mutant factors to appear to be excessively high,
when compared with the proportion among the recessives. Most pres-
ent-day animals are the result of a long process of evolution, in which
at least thousands of mutations must have taken place. Each new mu-
tant in turn must have derived its survival value from the effect which
it produced upon the "reaction system" that had been brought into being
by the many previously formed factors in cooperation; thus a compli-
cated machine was gradually built up whose effective working was de-
pendent upon the interlocking action of very numerous different ele-
mentary parts or factors, and many of the characters and factors which,
when new, were originally merely an asset finally became necessary
be-
cause other necessary characters and factors had subsequently become
changed so as to be dependent on the former. It must result, in conse-
quence, that a dropping out of, or even a slight change in any one of
these parts is very likely to disturb fatally the whole machinery;
for this
reason we should expect very many, if not most, mutations to result in
lethal factors, and of the rest, the majority should be "semi-lethal" or
at least disadvantageous in the struggle for life, and likely to set wrong
any delicately balanced system, such as the reproductive system.

Although this conclusion had suggested itself to the writer in 1912 it
would manifestly have been very difficult to obtain experimental evi-
dence for it...



(My emphasis)

"Irredicible Complexity" was a prediction based upon evolutionary theory made in 1912 by Nobel Prize winner, Hermann Muller. I think it is important to get that across. I may have more to say directly linked to the OP, and I'll edit that in if I get the time.

Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.


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