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Meditation 424
What does irreducible complexity imply?

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The November / December 2005 issue of Skeptical Inquirer has several good articles on Evolution and Intelligent Design. If you have an interest in these issues, I recommend it to you.

One article in particular by Mark Perakh captured my interest as it asked the question: "Does Irreducible Complexity Imply Intelligent Design?

Michael Behe, a leading exponent of ID, who came up with the concept of irreducible complexity in his book, Darwin's Black Box, claims that it does.

Perakh takes on both complexity and irreducibility to point out that these two words do not inevitably lead to a conclusion if intelligent design.

Start with complexity, which Behe does not define, but William Demski who builds on Behe's work considers that "probability measures are disguised complexity measures." In other words, the more complex something is, the less probable it occurred by chance.

Perahk counters with a pile of irregularly shaped stones in which you find a perfectly rectangular brick. Compared with the stones, it is extremely simple to describe the brick. It is the simplicity that points to design, not complexity. It is highly improbable that a perfect brick would be formed by nature, the high probability in nature lies with the complex irregular stones.

On the issue of irreducible, Behe specifies that an irreducibly complex system would cease to operate if even a single part were missing. Thus, by definition, IC designs are highly vulnerable to accidental damage. Yet, as Perakh points out, this is not intelligent design. It is bad design. Engineers design systems that are fault tolerant. They do not want entire systems to fail because of the failure of a minor element. Redundancy is designed in.

So what we are left with is that if there is design behind irreducible complexity, it is not intelligent design and it is not good design. Both complexity and irreducibility point away from ID, not towards it.

Now I have greatly summarized Perakh's argument here. In doing so, I have not covered all the bases. But I wanted to give you the flavour of it without violating copyright. If you want to take issue with it, or wish to better understand it, I recommend you get the full article by buying the magazine, or read it in your local library.