Friday, April 08, 2011

Advice for DIY Irreducible Complexity

This is an addendum to the previous blog, "Do-It-Yourself Irreducible Complexity". Here I give advice to anyone who wants to construct, demonstrate, or experiment with the 4-stick weaving illustrated in the previous blog.

(1) To construct the 4-stick weaving, begin by holding a V in each hand, with the left-leaning stick on top for each V, as shown in the next photo. Keep your index fingers free, because you will need them later. That is, use the thumb and the lower three fingers to hold each V.

(2) Next, make a W by overlapping the two V's a bit, with the left side of the right V underneath the right side of the left V, as shown in the next photo.

(3) Next, pivot the V's, bringing the tip of the left side of the right V over the left side of the left V, and the left side of the right V over the right side of the left V, as shown in the next photo. The basic principle is that each stick will have an alternating over-under-over or under-over-under pattern.

(4a) Next, pivot the V's some more, bringing the two tips at the top of the configuration closer together. The tip coming from the right will naturally be on top, but you will need to reverse this. Here is where you need your index fingers. With your left index finger, push up on the middle of the left-most stick, and with your right index finger, push down on the middle of the right-most stick. Now, as you pivot the V's, the tip coming from the right can go under the tip coming from the left, as shown in the next photo.

(4b) BUT BEFORE letting go or putting it down, check that all six overlap 'joints' are secure and equally spaced. Because you can't let go yet, you need to use whatever fingers are closest to the joint that needs adjusting.

Extra Challenge

Those practiced with crafts such as origami will feel more comfortable using all fingers individually like this. If you have this kind of dexterity, you may want to accept the challenge of 'evolving' the design into the 5-stick weaving shown in the next photo. Or you can get a partner so that four hands can be used together. To truly emulate evolution, you must add the fifth stick without the configuration 'dying' (coming apart). And strictly speaking, you must do this without a plan (so I'm not giving you one), because evolution is supposed to be mindless and without even a goal, no less a plan. (So partners are not allowed to talk.)

If you succeed in assembling the 4-stick weaving, and especially if you could assemble the 5-stick weaving, you will have noticed that there is absolutely no way for the sticks to fall together this way. In fact, many simultaneous forces at very specific positions and directions and sequence were needed -- in other words, INFORMATION was needed.

An Abstract Analogy

This exercise also provides a rather abstract analogy of a problem encountered in biology. Proteins are made of peptide chains that are folded in specific ways, and often multiple folded chains are assembled into a working unit. Often, proteins cannot fold correctly without the help of a tool to guide or to correct the folding. Also, tools are often needed to assemble multiple-chain protein units. These tools are called chaperone proteins; and they are also used to disassemble and unfold proteins (for digestion, for example). So the DNA information defines not only the 'parts' but also the 'tools', with built-in 'assembly instructions'. When constructing a stick weaving, your hands are acting (abstractly) 'like' chaperone proteins, but the details are very different, of course.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Do-It-Yourself Irreducible Complexity

This weaving of four sticks is irreducibly complex. You can't do it with less than four sticks. (By "it" I mean a construction that holds together: that if you pick up one stick, the others come with it.) Therefore you can't construct it one stick at a time.

It is held together by six overlapping 'joints'. ALL six are needed, because if you undo the overlap at ANY one of the six locations, the WHOLE thing falls apart. Therefore you can't construct it one joint at a time. You have to hold all four sticks in the right positions and force the last overlap WHILE also forcefully maintaining all other overlaps, thus applying forces in the right directions on ALL overlaps at once.

Try it yourself, and you will surely be convinced that shaking a bunch of sticks will NEVER make this, the simplest possible weaving of sticks. If you are still not convinced, try 'evolving' the 4-stick weaving into a 5-stick weaving without it 'dying' (coming apart). Better yet, try doing it without a plan in mind. For fun, invite your friends to watch or even help you do it, because it will be hilarious! (Did you guess that I have tried it?)

God's biological designs have LOTS of irreducibly complex components, often MORE complex than this. Evolutionary theory has NO WAY of explaining this. (But they are great story-tellers, and will PRETEND to explain it.)

More about Irreducible Complexity

The complexity of many designs can be reduced with the result that the design remains useful and functional, although the usefulness and functionality are reduced. For example, automatic adjustment features can usually be removed. A temperature control on a heater can be removed, for example, and it will still provide heat. It may be a nuisance to manually turn it off when there is too much heat and to turn it on later when more heat is needed, but it's better than no heater at all.

But there comes a point when removing parts does not simplify a design, but rather destroys it. If we remove the heating element from the heater, we might as well discard the entire heater. When we can find no way of reducing the complexity of a design without making it no longer suited for its fundamental purpose, the design has “irreducible complexity”. The concept was introduced in 1994 by Michael J, Behe and later (1996) in his book “Darwin's Black Box”. Actually, we have simplified the concept by talking only about parts, but things like shape and position of the parts are also important, as should be obvious in our first example. In general terms, 'critical characteristics' are counted rather than, or in addition to, just parts.

Example: The Knee Joint

An example of a biological design exhibiting irreducible complexity is the knee joint. The knee cap is an example of a part that can be eliminated, although this reduces safety and durability. It has been estimated that the knee joint has at least 16 critical characteristics, and these cannot tolerate much variation without destroying the design. Because of this, evolutionists have not been able to describe a step-by-step process whereby the simpler ball-and-socket joint can be converted to the more sophisticated knee joint. For more details, see Is the ‘irreducible complexity argument still valid? (Critical characteristics and the irreducible knee joint)” by Stuart Burgess.

Example: A Molecular Motor/Generator

A much smaller example of a biological design exhibiting irreducible complexity is ATP Synthase, which is needed for all cells, plant or animal. ATP Synthase is a tiny 'motor/generator' that uses the energy of fuel to recharge tiny 'batteries' called ATP molecules, which transport the energy to wherever it is needed in the cell.

One scientist said “The enzyme is composed of 8 distinct peptide chains. If any one of the chains is missing, the enzyme does not function. So ATP synthase is an irreducibly complex system.” Another scientist considers the enzyme F1-ATPase, a subunit of ATP synthase, to be the essential motor. The F1-ATPase motor has nine components, (using five different proteins, two of which are used three times each). This motor is so tiny that 100,000,000,000,000,000 of them would be the size of a pinhead.

Another scientist said: “I am a biologist. Irreducible Complexity is actually a very sound argument against Darwin's theory of macroevolution. There's not a man alive that can demonstrate convincingly how, for example, the ATPase enzyme could have possibly evolved into its present form. If you can, you're up for the next Nobel prize.”

A Failed Evolutionist Argument

I recall debating an evolutionist on Facebook about whether the irreducible complexity argument proved that ATP Synthase was designed. He argued that ATP Synthase could be broken into two parts, each of which were already used elsewhere for other functions. I didn't question his premises about other functions. I answered that if his line of argument were valid, then an automobile isn't designed either, because the first automobile combined an engine design that previously was used in a factory with a buggy design that previously was pulled by a horse. I never heard from him again.

Even if he was correct about the two parts, at least one of the parts would be irreducibly complex, so he didn't dodge the problem like he thought he did.

If it was that easy to construct ATP Synthase, or even ATPase from two parts, then you could put those parts in a beaker and do an experiment and get a Nobel prize like the quoted biologist said. Why not? What is overlooked is that DNA provides the assembly instructions and tools for the construction of ATP Synthase (and all other biological designs). These complex protein subsystems do not assemble themselves without DNA instructions.

But here's another problem for which evolutionists have no solution. Evolutionists admit that ATP Synthase is needed for all cells, plant or animal. So how did plants and animals survive before ATP Synthase evolved? (Details, please. Don't tell me it just had to happen SOMEHOW because we just KNOW that evolution is true. I've heard that backward logic before.)

Another Failed Evolutionist Argument

As I said earlier, evolutionists are great story-tellers (but poor system engineers). Another evolutionist argument is that Hermann Joseph Müller had previously devised a scheme whereby complex system could evolve two steps at a time. The two steps are:

Step 1: Add a component;

Step 2: Make it necessary.

This simple description says nothing about the 'critical characteristics', which presumably are handled by modifying the proteins.) But if this is a valid explanation, this two-step cycle should work in practice, not just in a story made to sound like a theory. So let's try to use this method to make our simple 4-stick weaving, starting with one stick:

Step a1: Add a component. (Add 2nd stick)

Step a2: Make it necessary. Well, it's only one of three more necessary sticks, but it's not sufficient for the weaving. You could claim that you now have a pair of chopsticks, but a hand is needed for this 'system', because they won't feed you all by themselves.

Step b1: Add a component. (Add 3rd stick)

Step b2: Make it necessary. We really need to use our imaginations here. Make a triangle? Use it for what? Is it really a system? -- because they aren't connected, and can't stay together and hold any shape.

Step c1: Add a component. (Add 4th stick) Actually, we can't add the 4th stick without first arranging the first 3 sticks, which can't hold themselves together. And as explained earlier, or perhaps experimentally confirmed by the reader, we need to apply a specific set of forces on all sticks at the same time. These forces are totally unrelated to using two sticks as chopsticks or other hypothetical intermediate functions.

Step c2: Make it necessary. The completed design can fulfill a number of purposes. It can be used as a fence to prevent small animals from entering a pipe or hole. It can provide insulation between a hot mug of coffee and a table, etc.

Summary: We had a lot of problems and needed a lot of imagination trying to apply this method to one actual, SIMPLE design. Explain step by step how it works for a knee joint. Try for a Nobel prize – I dare you.

For advice on constructing, demonstrating, or experimenting with the 4-stick weaving, see Advice for DIY Irreducible Complexity.