Feb 10, 2009 Biology Professor Presents Weakness of Evolution - Irreducibly Complex Ecosystems

In This Issue
Science - Irreducibly Complex ECOSYSTEMS
Citizen Involvement - How YOU can help!
"A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts on both sides of each question..." - Charles Darwin in Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

Today's guest editorial, by a microbiologist Andrew Fabich, looks again at the concept of irreducible complexity.  Darwin himself recognized this as a fatal criticism of his hypothesis.  As we learn how complex cells and organisms are, it becomes an even greater challenge for the militant Darwinists to explain, much less provide evidence supporting their views.

Professor Fabich below extends the concept of IC to entire ecosystems.  While a tad longer than our normal letter, he makes a strong case that entire ecosystems may be irreducibly complex, meaning all organisms in the particular ecosystem must have been present from the start, or the ecosystem would collapse and die.

Please continue writing the State Board of Education, encouraging them to retain "strengths and weaknesses" language.  You may easily email the entire Board, right now, from your normal email program by using teachboth@strengthsandweaknesses.org.  Your email will be immediately forwarded to their inboxes.

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SCIENCE:  Irreducibly Complex EcoSystems
Of Mousetraps and Men--How Ecology Exhibits Irreducible Complexity
Guest Editorial by Andrew J. Fabich, Ph.D. (microbiology), Department of Mathematics & Natural Science Assistant Professor of Biology,Tennessee Temple University

Irreducible complexity vs. Darwinian evolution
Irreducible complexity is the idea that any system with several interacting parts that depend on one another for the basic function of the whole indicates intelligent causation: actual design (1).  According to intelligent design, certain biochemical phenomena meet the criteria outlined for irreducible complexity (IC) and present a problem for which Darwinian evolution has no explanation.  According to Darwin, any structures exhibiting such careful interwoven parts would cause his theory to fail miserably. 

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. - Charles Darwin

While the topic of origins has recently focused on biochemical phenomena (e.g., the bacterial flagella and the blood clotting mechanism), it is interesting to note that few Darwinists and design theorists have discussed the larger scale phenomena, such as ecosystems (7, 9, 10).  Examples from the biochemical world were originally chosen to argue IC but were compared to something that "Joe the Plumber" could understand and appreciate: the mousetrap.  The proposed reason why a mousetrap was chosen is because it meets the definition of an irreducibly complex system and indicates an intelligent designer rather than random chance plus time. 
Even though "Joe the Plumber" recognizes mousetrap design, many Darwinists have sought to discredit the concept of an irreducibly complex mousetrap (5).  But the discussion about mousetraps has caused tunnel vision because very few scientists have asked what the world would be like without mousetraps.  The role of a mousetrap needs to be understood as if it were within its own ecosystem, which is a particular natural environment consisting of both living and non-living processes.  I argue that the role of mousetraps in our society is mostly overlooked in this origins debate and best answered by intelligent design ecologists.  However, it is important to first consider the role of mousetraps in society before considering examples of irreducibly complex ecosystems.
Mousetraps in society: running the risk of getting caught
To address the role of mousetraps in society is by considering, "what if mousetraps were eliminated altogether?" Would society fall apart if there were no mousetraps?  Of course society would continue when mousetrap is narrowly-defined as the top object in the figure nearby.  A broader definition of a mousetrap includes any mechanism of "trapping" mice for someone else's benefit and survival.  So the most important function of a mousetrap is to ensure a mouse is removed from its surroundings.  Furthermore, a mousetrap could include the following: a cat, poison bait, or a cage (Figure 1).  All previously mentioned mechanisms would perform the function of the narrowly-defined mousetrap (in essence only).  If the function of the mousetrap was redundant with the aforementioned mechanisms, then narrowly-defined mousetraps would be obsolete and cease to exist (according to Darwinian principles).  But would society continue if the broadly-defined mousetrap ceased to exist?  If none of Ecosystem.Mousetrapsthese broadly-defined mousetraps existed, then the mouse population would increase near human dwellings.  The levels of a wide range of diseases would increase and eventually affect the population sizes of humans.  Mice would be everywhere (as they have a short gestational period) if there were no broadly-defined mousetraps.  With more mice, there would most likely be fewer of the remaining rodents that mice directly compete with for resources (to a certain extent because this very particular scenario is assuming that mousetraps do not catch any other types of rodents).  Come to think of it, the picture of a human population overrun by mice sounds very similar to another time period in human history: the Black Death.  And to complete the cycle, the dead human population would decompose and fertilize the plants consumed by the mice carrying the diseases.  The mouse population would rapidly out-compete the human population without a broadly-defined mousetrap.
Now that scenario of a mouse society may sound absurd, but that perspective takes into account the role of broadly-defined mousetraps on Earth (i.e., our ecosystem).  Having established the role of broadly-defined mousetraps, even "Joe the Plumber" can easily see their benefit and how intelligent agents use broadly-defined mousetraps to accomplish a purpose.  This, too, is seen in biological systems when taking an ecological perspective.  The difference between looking at the several interacting parts of a narrowly-defined mousetrap with that of broadly-defined mousetrap is only one of scope and size.  Putting the "mousetrap" in its proper ecological setting easily illustrates how an intelligent agent limits the size of the mouse population.  Similar thinking has already incorporated the idea of irreducible complexity into an ecological context to demonstrate that ecosystems demonstrate irreducible complexity (10).  The interrelatedness of chemicals, nutrients, and living organisms within a given niche all clearly demonstrate the shortcoming of the Darwinian explanation for the origin of ecosystems.  This shortcoming of Darwinian evolution highlights the importance of considering how ecosystems are irreducibly complex.  Describing the origin of ecosystems as irreducibly complex bridges the gap between the concept of intelligent design in living cells (1) to the habitability of our planet (3).  The honeybee population and the human microflora are two examples given below to illustrate the interrelatedness within ecosystems, thus demonstrating intelligent design.
IC Ecosystem Example #1: The Honeybee population
It is estimated that there are 44 subspecies of honeybees (Apis spp.).  However, a recent alarm has been generated because their population sizes in North America have been rapidly dwindling (6).  Normally, humans are satisfied with fewer honeybees in existence because it can mean less bee stings and human death due to adverse allergic reactions.  Furthermore, the honeybee's existence is not solely to satisfy our desire for their honey (though it would be missed).  The most important aspect of a honeybee's existence is that they are intricately involved in pollinating much of the plant life that is used for animal and human consumption (Figure 2).  Without honeybees in North America, crop failure would increase and directly affect herbivorous animals before affecting the carnivores, which obtain most of their energy from the herbivores.  This would cause an accumulation of dead animals, which would be broken down into detritus matter and fertilizer.  Ecosystem.BeesPlusHowever, the fertilization would only go so far because the plant life depending on cross-pollination would not receive it and so the entire ecosystem dependent on cross-pollination would collapse and disappear.  Current conservation efforts towards maintaining the honeybee population are important to maintain a stable food supply for herbivores and carnivores.  Thus, the role of the honeybee is very important in the North American ecosystem and depends on several interdependent relationships.  As a result, the honeybee population within the North American food chain meets the criteria of irreducible complexity (1).  If Darwinian mechanisms were operating, then there should be an alternative explanation involving random chance processes as to how cross-pollination effectively occurs without honeybees. Simply put: there is no mechanistic explanation offered from the Darwinian perspective.  Thus, design is an appropriate inference.
IC Ecosystem Example #2: Swimming bacteria populations
Estimates of the number of microbes living in association with humans vastly exceeds the number of human cells (8).  As a result, the human microflora has been referred to as another organ and called the human microbiome (2).  Animals living in isolation from all germs have different metabolic rates and different growth rates, which significantly contributes to overall human health.  Among these bacteria is E. coli, which is known among intelligent design scientists because of its flagella (1).  The bacterial flagellum is a whip-like structure that bacteria beat as a means of locomotion from one place to another.  However, many reports have indicated that there is no clear picture of what the flagellum does for any intestinal bacteria because not all bacteria in the human microbiome have flagella.  Furthermore, the bacteria that have flagella do not always assemble one nor use it.  Therefore, on this small scale that directly affects human health, there appears to be some function for flagella both inside and outside the intestine. 

But this begs the question of why any of the entire human microbiome has flagella?  The only logical conclusion is that there are different environments inside and outside humans that various bacteria encounter with different demands for the presence or absence of a flagellum.  Thus, there are conditions on both sides of the equation where there are selection pressures sufficient enough to eliminate flagella from the gene pool and, yet, flagella still exist.  It seems that the reason flagella exist within any microbe meets the criteria of IC because of the different microbial niches where flagella are important enough to maintain the genes (even though it is much easier to eliminate flagella entirely).  Therefore, the role of the irreducibly complex flagella within the grand ecosystem of where the human microflora goes to and returns from is irreducibly complex, in and of itself.
Ecosystems are irreducibly complex
The bottom line for demonstrating irreducible complexity of ecosystems is that all living organisms interact with and change their environments and, yet, do not destroy their natural environment unless the ecosystem becomes imbalanced.  Without any guiding force or intelligence, ecosystems have a tendency towards self-destruction and do not give themselves the opportunity to exist in the first place: they are doomed from the beginning.  The only way for any ecosystem to exist is for the ecosystem to have existed and function in its entirety from its origin.  Therefore, ecosystems cannot come into existence by Darwinian mechanisms because they are irreducibly complex.
In summary, the idea of irreducible complexity applies to ecosystems and deserves more attention than it currently receives.  The origin of ecosystems deserves more attention because Darwinists have had the podium for too long and persuaded the public that there is a natural, unguided explanation for everything.  While Darwinists have had the podium, they have offered no mechanistic explanation for the origin of ecosystems and so alternative explanations (i.e., intelligent design) are premier scientific explanations that deserve to have the floor.  Surprisingly, the origin of ecosystems is not even discussed in most introductory Darwinian textbooks to either biology or ecology.  Regardless, Darwin had no clear understanding that such layers of irreducible complexity existed at this level of biology (i.e., above the species level, but within an ecosystem).  As a result, when Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species 150 years ago this February, he left out perhaps one of the most significant aspects to Darwinian theory: organisms constantly interact with and change their environments, which change the organisms.  To this end, the idea of intelligent design must have the opportunity in all discussions of ecosystem origins because, currently, there are no Darwinian mechanisms available to offer any measurable explanation.  For these reasons, every effort should be made to prevent ecosystems from self-destruction through the conservation of species.

(1) Behe, M. J. 1996. Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.  New York, Free Press.
(2) Eckburg, P. B. et al. 2005. Diversity of the human intestinal microbial flora. Science 308:1635-1638.
(3) Gonzalez, G. and J. Richards. 2004. The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery.  Washington DC:Regnery Publishing, Inc.
(4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeybee last accessed 20 Jan. 2009.
(5) http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mousetrap.html last accessed 20 Jan. 2009.
(6) http://www.voanews.com, "Dwindling Honeybee Population in US Puzzles Scientists." 29 March 2007.
(7) Postgate, J.  1998. Genetics and Evolution.  In: Postgate J. Nitrogen Fixation, 3rd ed.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
(8) Savage, D. C. 1977. Microbial ecology of the gastrointestinal tract. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 31:107-133.
(9) Sprent, J. I. 1987. Cambridge Studies in Ecology: the ecology of the nitrogen cycle.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
(10) Zuill, H. A. and T. Standish. 2007. Irreducible Interdependence: An IC-like Ecological Property Potentially Illustrated by the Nitrogen Cycle. Loma Linda: Origins. 60:6-40.

Your Assistance Is Still Needed on Three Fronts!  

First, please take a minute and sign our "Teach Both Strengths AND WEAKNESSES of Evolution Petition
" here.  It will only take 30 seconds and will help counter the Darwinist dogma that, "No one questions evolution."  Note that we are now sending these responses directly to the board automatically as they are received.  A steady stream of "Teach the Weaknesses" messages will help keep them focused on the truth.

, please write a politely worded letter of support to the State Board of Education encouraging them to keep or even strengthen the "scientific strengths and weaknesses" language that has served Texas well for TWENTY YEARS without a single legal challenge.  You might also point out one or two of your favorite weaknesses of evolution theories. SBOE Email: teachboth@strengthsandweaknesses.org and sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us. Other contact information is located here.

Third, mark March 25, 2009 on your calendar.  This is the day public testimony will be taken before the full State Board of Education in Austin.  It is especially important that you consider testifying if you are a teacher or have Ph.D. credentials.  For more information, see:

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