I just watched a video (see below) in which John Clayton presents his version of what seems to be examples of irreducible complexity [IC]. Seems to be a bit more like a parade of God of the gaps. I think there might be better examples of irreducible complexity. What do you think of IC arguments in general? We have not talked about them —
just intelligent design in the more broad scope. I tend to think the eye is a fairly decent example. I know there are some evolution theories about the the eye. However, I do remain skeptical that the separate parts of the eye could come together to form such a complex organ when the individual parts that would later become the eye have no evolutionary benefit to the creature. I think if one has a solid example of IC it is not as easily labeled a God of the gaps argument.
Some atheists may still attempt an ad-hoc rebuttal, but that does not mean the IC. However, in this video, I think John Clayton fails. What do you think? http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8186040975492339774
Michael Behe uses the flagella of bacterium for an example of IC, but I think this one has been shot down by evolutionists. Opinions here? Steven Meyer has his book “the signature in the cell”. I think he is using a different approach than IC. He is stating that information entropy can’t decrease by undirected evolutionary processes. There
has to be a source of intelligence that originated the biological code. I know you have shared that information entropy can decrease by evo. processes.
I am very wary of God-of-the-gaps arguments, especially when being used against naturalistic evolution. I am a friend of John Clayton. I believe he is an excellent Christian apologists. He has been using these arguments for design for his entire carreer. In fact, he kind of specializes in gap arguments. It is not likely that he will forego such arguments at this point, although he will acknowledge, in principle, that they are probably relatively weak arguments.
I take the position (for what it is worth) that gap-like arguments are generally weak ones and can even be misleading/false arguments, but I do not completely foreswear all gap arguments a-priori. I believe that it is, in principle, possible for an apparent “gap” to be evidence of supernatural intervention, but that such conclusions should be reached only after an extremely careful analysis.
Gap arguments against evolution have been particularly problematic. These things sound good to a non-scientist audience. They play well there, but to the trained scientist the weakness of such arguments are rather obvious. Generally, use of such gap arguments actually tend to turn scientists against what is being said, and not without reason.
The example of the eye is a good one (good in the sense that it is a fairly weak gap argument). Believers have used this example as proof of supernatural intervention. They love the famous quote from Darwin. First of all, if it is proof at all, it is relatively weak proof, as it is hard to prove something cannot happen. Second, virtually all the “steps” of evolution from a simple light-detecting mechanism to a complex eye can be shown to exist somewhere in nature. Often, but not always, the steps occur in a logical order. Now, the eye may well have been created by God through supernatural intervention, but the argument is subject to scientific refutation. In fact, the scientific evidence for some sort of step-wise evolution is getting ever stronger. Bottom line, Christians should not use this argument at all. Period.
The flagellum example is one I used in the distant past (20+ years). Many of Behe’s arguments have been shot down. He has changed his examples a lot, but still hangs on to his methodology. I believe he would do better to change his methodology. Science cannot disprove evolution, even if it can raise good questions and even some reasonable doubts. I have not used the flagellum example for over 20 years because I figured out fairly early that such arguments are weak at best. I am glad that I stopped using that argument many years ago because more recent research has shown that there is a perfectly reasonable set of steps by which the different parts of the complex mechanism could be useful as separate components. In fact, the different components are all used in different roles in cells. A reasonable step-wise means for the flagellum to be designed by nature has also been proposed, although I believe that not all the steps have been demonstrated. The confident claim made by gap theorists in the past are now looking weak at best.
In the final analysis, I do not complete disavow gap-type arguments with regard to evolution, but I would not use them to disprove evolution in general. The Cambrian explosion, for example, is suggestive of some sort of miraculous intervention by God, but it is fairly weak evidence, so I tend to downplay this argument. As a general rule, the Intelligent Design attacks on evolution have been a nearly complete failure. In general, they have made the Christian position, by association, look weak, which is why I suggest Christians keep at arms length from such arguments.
There is one gap argument that I still feel is VERY strong. This is the one used in the book you mention: Signature in the Cell. The scientific argument that the emergence of life from non-life requires supernatural intervention is extremely strong, in my opinion. Everything I know about the nature of DNA, proteins, lipids, the complex interactions amongst them, the amount of imformation needed for life, and the complete inability of nature to create information tells me that this is a GREAT gap argument. Steven Meyer is very smart in how he handles the argument in the book. I know that in his bones he is an anti-evolution ID guy. However, he is smart enough to know that these anti-evolution arguments pale in comparison to the life from non-life gap. For this reason, he almost completely succeeds in keeping anti-evolution arguments out of his book. However, his predispostion against evolution leaks into the book in a couple of places. I believe that Signature in the Cell is an excellent and well reasoned argument against spontaneous generation of life. This is a gap argument. I believe that, no matter how strong, even this gap argument should be used with some caution to prove the existence of God, but in my opinion it is strong enough to be used. I do not hesitate to use the life from non-life example as evidence for the supernatural. It is not so much proof as inference from the most reasonable explanation. I believe that Meyer takes this approach in the book and does it pretty nicely.
If you remember the “Four Christian Views of Evolution” forum put on by ARS (www.ipibooks.com), I argue against fully naturalistic evolution, principally on theological not on scientific arguments. I say that the science suggests theistic intervention but that the theological “evidence” for intervention is stronger than the scientific case. God tends to let things go along without supernatural intervention, but he does tend to influence things in a more subtle way all along. This applies to history, to individual people and, I believe to nature. But… This is not a scientific argument. If the subject were to change to formation of life from non-life rather than evolution, then I would take a very different tack. I would not hesitate to use a gap argument there.
For the sake of argument, we could use the resurrection of Jesus as a sort of “gap” argument. There is a gap between his death, the decay of his body and his later resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus requires a “gap” into which only a supernatural intervention can be applied. To a-priori disavow ALL gap arguments is to presuppose against theism. However, experience tells us that these arguments should be used only when the case is rather clear that natural explanations are reasonably ruled out.