Life Is Irreducibly Complex

As we learn more about biological life, it becomes increasingly apparent that the similarity to complex machines is startlingly strong. Yet, because science has been redefined to exclude the possibility of a designer, we are left without a plausible explanation of how these structures arose.

Michael Behe is a biochemistry professor at Lehigh University who wonderfully illustrates the similarity between mechanical machines and biological life in his book, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. According to Dr. Behe, even at the smallest biochemical level, life is made up of irreducibly complex machines. Although these machines are made of proteins instead of metal, their complexity is proof that they could only have been produced by an incomprehensibly intelligent designer.

The perfect example of an irreducibly complex machine is the simple mouse trap. This machine consists of at least five parts: the platform, the spring, the hammer, the catch, and the hold-down latch bar. The absence of any one of these components will turn the machine into a piece of useless junk. Furthermore, each of the components has to be designed to a specific size and placed in a specific place in order for the mouse trap to function. Thus, the simple mousetrap is irreducibly complex … it will not function unless all five pieces are in place. It is this interdependence of the individual parts which makes it so obvious that the simple mousetrap has a designer.

Biological life is also made from irreducibly complex structures, even at the smallest molecular level. For instance, there are millions of organisms, including human bodies, which use a structure called a cilium to either swim or move things around within a creature. Cilia are hair-like structures attached to cells which beat like a whip in order to move foreign particles out of our lungs. Sperm use cilia to swim. Because these structures are so biologically important and so widespread throughout the animal kingdom, Dr. Behe estimates that TEN THOUSAND technical papers have been published on various aspects of cilia.

Like the mouse trap, cilia require several components in order to operate. In the case of a mousetrap, the components are specifically sized pieces of metal and wood. In the case of cilia, they are specifically shaped proteins. The absolute minimum number of components needed for a cilium to operate are three: proteins forming the hair-like fibers (the rotor), proteins linking the adjacent fibers so that they do not fly apart (links), and proteins which contract to cause its whipping motion (the motor). Without all three of these components – the structure would not function. Thus, a cilia is an irreducibly complex machine. In reality, cilia contain hundreds of different proteins and all are required for its operation. However, just these bare minimum of three components demonstrate the impossibility of this structure coming together by chance. All three are specifically designed to function together and if any one were missing the cilia could not operate.

In Dr. Behe’s words, “The amount of scientific research which has been done … leads many people to assume that even if they don’t know how cilia evolved, somebody must know. But the search of professional literature proves them wrong. Nobody knows.”

Nobody knows where cilia came from because cilia are irreducibly complex and can never be explained without a supernatural designer. Yet most biochemists are trained to ignore this possibility when examining biological features. If the correct answer has been eliminated, is it any wonder that ten thousand papers can be written on cilia and not one can explain their origin?