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The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design - Page 8

Cell biologist Franklin Harold admits that "there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations." 84

Dawkins simplifies things for himself by expanding his over-simplified definition of irreducible complexity to include a requirement that no parts of an IC system have any function outside of the IC whole to which they contribute (something that is easier to get away with having failed to quote Behe's own definition of irreducible complexity). Behe does not assume that an IC system is one in which the components of the system have no independent function. However, attributing this assumption to Behe allows Dawkins to follow Kenneth Miller in blithely dispatching Behe's argument simply by pointing to the existence of the Type III secretory system:

molecular biologists have no difficulty in finding parts functioning outside the whole... In the case of the bacterial rotary engine, Millar calls our attention to a mechanism called the Type Three Secretory System or TTSS... To the evolutionist it is clear that TTSS components were commandeered for a new, but not wholly unrelated, function when the flagellar motor evolved. 85

However, Behe's argument for design allows for the fact that the separate components of an irreducibly complex system may exhibit independent functionality: "there's no reason that individual components of an irreducibly complex system could not be used for separate roles, or multiple separate roles, and I never wrote that they couldn't." 86 As Behe comments in a review of Dawkins' previous book (The Ancestor's Tale):

Miller's argument is that because the flagellum is more complex than we thought, that because it can act both as a protein pump as well as an outboard motor, then it is not irreducible. If the motor gets broken, remaining pieces may still act as a pump. That's like arguing that because, in addition to wheels and a motor, a car has a fuel pump, then it isn't irreducible either. If the tires are flat, the fuel pump can still work. Therefore we can imagine that the car could have been put together in small random steps. Such is the rigor of Darwinian thought. 87

Moreover, William A. Dembski points out that: "At best the TTSS represents one possible step in the indirect Darwinian evolution of the bacterial flagellum. What's needed is a complete evolutionary path and not merely a possible oasis along the way. To claim otherwise is like saying we can travel by foot from Los Angeles to Tokyo because we"ve discovered the Hawaiian Islands." 88 And as Franklin Howard urges: "we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system..." 89 Two final points nail shut the coffin of the TTSS scenario. The first is that: "The type III system itself is [IC], perhaps with ten IC components." 90 The second is that the best current molecular evidence: "points to the TTSS evolving from the flagellum and not vice versa." 91 As the eminent Yale biochemist Robert Macnab wrote with reference to the TTSS and the flagellum in the Annual Review of Microbiology 2003: "nature has found two good uses for this sophisticated type of apparatus. How they evolved is another matter, although it has been proposed that the flagellum is the more ancient device..." 92 Thomas Woodward explains why:

the flagellum is likely to have historically preceded the TTSS. This is indicated since the TTSS is found in gram negative bacteria that seem to have appeared in a later era, when more advanced kinds of cells called eukaryotes had appeared. These gram negative bacteria with TTSS injectors don't hassle other prokaryotes - bacterial life-forms. In essence, the current best evidence indicates that a flagellum devolved... into a tiny subsystem, the TTSS injector pump. 93

Despite his confidence that the flagellum easily evolved up some graded ramp or other up the back of Mount Improbable, Dawkins admits that when it comes to giving an evolutionary account of the flagellum: "A lot more work needs to be done, of course..." 94 In other words, Dawkins can't meet the burden of proof involved in empirically demonstrating the existence of a statistically plausible "indirect" evolutionary path up the back of Mount Improbable for the bacterial flagellum; he can only deduce the existence of such a route from the fact that the flagellum exists and the philosophical assumption that it cannot have come into existence by intelligent design.

In the final analysis, what is most significant about Dawkins' discussion of irreducible complexity is not that he disagrees with Behe's conclusions, or that he justifies his disagreement by carelessly miss-defining Behe's central concept; or that he prefers to interact with "an imaginary intelligent design theorist" 95 than a real one; but rather that Dawkins agrees with Behe that the concept of irreducible complexity is a testable scientific hypothesis that constitutes a critical test of Darwin's theory of evolution:

Maybe there is something out there in nature that really does preclude, by its genuinely irreducible complexity, the smooth gradient of Mount Improbable. The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin's theory. Darwin himself said as much... genuine irreducible complexity would wreck Darwin's theory if it were ever found... 96


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