Complexity? Really?

So the argument goes, “Gee, but the universe is so damn complex! It must have been created by a God.”

My question… How do we know the universe is complex? With what are we comparing it? Great Apes don’t make fishing nets but that does not mean they are too complex to make or even to understand.

What is complex about two hydrogen atoms being attracted to one atom of oxygen? Is it not imagined that all the elements originally emerged from the Big Bang, according to Big Bang cosmology? So there was a time when the universe was simpler still?

What is complexity?


Or as I ask: “A meter is a common unit of measure for distance; can you(them) even tell me a unit of measure for complexity”?

If someone can’t tell you a unit of measure associated with a quantity; you should disregard any comparisons involving this quantity made by that person. Since it is impossible to verify their statements without a number, and a unit; with which to compare attributes.

To make it worse, complexity has a different definition in several different STEM fields. Worse still, it typically has a positive association with entropy; meaning it increases spontaneously. Many apologists (even some on these forums) will tell you that is impossible.

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Edit: OK, entropy is not a unit per se, but the concept of entropy can be used as a measure of complexity.

Anything I find too hard to understand or task I can’t complete. Guess it might depend on whom one asks, and about what. :innocent:


I have spent a lot of time on the complexity arguments (there are different versions), as they always seem to crop up in one form or another when one is engaged in an “intellectual argument” with a religious apologist.

My favorite argument is the bacterial flagellum, which is of particular interest . . . because creationists often hold up the flagellum in court when there are legal attempts to mandate Intelligent Design–for school curricula–in the courts.

This is because the bacterial flagella is one of very few examples of a natural electric motor that powers what is–essentially–a wheel.

This motor has a stator, an axle, something that can be equated with controls to turn it on or off, it works much more efficiently than a man-made motor, it is also self-lubricating, and so forth.

The argument (if we want to call it that) is to address the question of how this motor evolved. If any one of these components are removed, then this motor won’t function.

How can this motor evolve gradually in a step-by-step process if anything less than a complete motor won’t work?

In fact, it can be reasonably argued that a “half-motor” is more detrimental to survival than no motor at all, since building half a motor would tie up and waste resources that might be better and more profitably utilized in other areas of the bacterial cell . . . and this is (correctly, I’ll add) even more of a problem if we consider the many steps from a “1/10th motor” up to our useful motor. These steps represent–perhaps–thousands and thousands of bacterial generations, if not millions.

So . . . we must assume that God made the bacterial cell–with it’s motor–rather than the motor having evolved, right?

Well . . . not quite. This chain of reasoning blatantly ignores certain facts.

First, there is the assumption that a half-motor is completely useless–like swimming fins on a camel–and this isn’t true.

We have all used tools for purposes that they weren’t intended for. As an example, I once took a rock that I was using as a doorstop and used it to hammer a nail into wood because I was too lazy to hunt down my hammer.

This happens in the biological world all of the time. My dog’s kidneys have the purpose of cleaning the blood of toxins, but dogs use urine to communicate with other dogs (by odor) when they mark their territory. As another example that occurs in humans, the inner ear not only contributes to hearing, but helps us with balance and locomotion.

A half-motor is useless for turning a flagella . . . but a half-motor is quite good for pushing metabolic toxins and wastes out of the bacterial cell. An example of a bacterial cell that uses a half-motor is Yersinia pestis . . . which causes bubonic plague. This half-motor in Y. pestis is important, as this explains why certain antibiotics won’t cure plague while others will.

All of these “irreducible complexity” arguments stem back to the early 1800s, when they were expressed by William Paley . . . although Isaac Newton explored similar ideas in the 1600s.

When a creationist throws these arguments out there in the hopes of converting people to his (or her) point of view . . . it is a form of deception (intentional or not) that is on par with a stage illusionist convincing a gullible crowd that he is actually working magic.

Another thing that’s sad and depressing about this kind of thinking is that it shows how people deceive themselves by twisting the facts into unreasonable extremes in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable about challenging sacred truths.

If no one challenged sacred truths, then women would still be dying from sepsis after childbirth because of the immorality of doctors subverting God’s punishment of women because Eve tempted Adam.


Argument from irreducible complexity is only a sneaky way of arguing intelligent design.

The ancient Greeks used it and it’s one of Thomas Aquinas’ “Five Ways/Five Proofs”. That was in the thirteenth century. IE the argument has been thoroughly refuted over centuries.

Dawkins demolished the irreducible complexity of the human eye. There’s heaps of stuff on you tube demolishing the irreducible complexity claim of the bacterium flagellum.

“How eyes evolved”


Favourite quote from the article below; “—evolution is blind”

Reducing irreducible complexity | The Logic of Science

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By the way, I just finished checking the Jehova Witness website to see if their outdated, vapid arguments about creationism vs. evolution have changed . . . and we still keep coming back to the same old, tired arguments about how complex organisms simply couldn’t just appear by chance.

Evolution was compared to having an explosion in an ink factory, and having the ink splattered all over the walls spelling out the New World Dictionary.

While this has all been resolved, there was a new wrinkle: Dr. Stanley Miller created amino acids in his famous 1954 experiment by running sparks through a glass apparatus that was filled with primordial gasses like hydrogen, nitrogen, methane, and so forth.

The Jehova’s Witnesses claim that this experiment confirms creationism and intelligent design, as Dr. Miller represented the cosmic intelligence . . . so the reasoning is that if it took intelligence to do this experiment, then God did this to create life.

As I said, an interesting twist of logic.

I’ll have to think about it a little bit to see how I can address this onjection to evolution.

What are your ideas?

Nice reworking of Hoyle’s fallacy, does anyone else find it ironic that fantasists like creationists are so completely unimaginative?

That’s an argument from incredulity fallacy.

Except it doesn’t, at all…

“The results suggest that Earth’s early atmosphere could have produced chemicals necessary for life—contradicting the view that life’s building blocks had to come from comets and meteors.”

“at the University of Chicago in 1953. Miller, along with his colleague Harold Urey, used a sparking device to mimic a lightning storm on early Earth. Their experiment produced a brown broth rich in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. The disclosure made the pages of national magazines and showed that theories about the origin of life could actually be tested in the laboratory.”

I don’t see what any of that to do with supernatural magic from an unevidenced deity, beyond pure assumption from creationists. If anything it shows that the building blocks of life might be produced without any need or evidence for any deity using magic, but through purely natural phenomena.

Point and laugh…they’re off their tits.

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I agree. Do you think they are intentionally deceptive? Or does a part of their mind cut off after hearing only what they want to hear?

Hard to say, and I prefer not to generalise, maybe some of them are happy to use “lies for Jesus”. It’s just as likely most of them are simply delusional.

Cognitive bias is something we’re all capable of under the right circumstances. Critical thinking and an open mind are useful tools to try and avoid it clouding our judgement. Religions do the opposite, they start by insisting a belief is an absolute truth, then bend all facts and evidence to support it, rather than amending beliefs to suit the evidence. How aware many of them are of their bias, well that I wouldn’t like to speculate on.

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Thank you. I agree with you.

Probably because it works in convincing those who have not read up on biology and evolution that evolution is a steaming load of random poo.

…except it isn’t(*). It’s a straw man fallacy in that it argues against a caricature of abiogenesis and evolution. By using this argument, they say that the creation of life and the further evolution of more complex forms of life according to evolution was a purely stochastic process, where the natural equivalent of rolling dice was the motor behind it all. In reality, evolution is driven by random mutations followed by non-random natural selection (whether sexual selection or by having greater resistance to disease and predators). Creationists pretend only the first part matter, and ignore the second (crucial) part. For abiogenesis it’s the same shit show – creationists claim the straw man that abiogenesis is all about random events, while in reality it was probably about self-organization in an energy-flux rich environment that was conducive to the creation of complex organic molecules. I might not have the science completely correct here, but I don’t think I’m too far off.

(*) Or actually, depending on how it is formulated, could be both an argument from incredulity and a straw man. Argument from straw man incredulity?

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Or bothered to Google Hoyle’s fallacy… :laughing: :laughing:

You is correct sir, it may be both in fact, but it is certainly a straw man fallacy.

They also don’t see to understand the difference between probability and possibility.

Well at least you’re not suggesting inexplicable magic by a deity from a bronze age deity is a more probable explanation than as yet unknown natural phenomena…the creationist approach…

It could be both, depending on how you read it. I think it’s definitely a straw man fallacy anyway.

Well, I have a sneaking feeling that they are probably not using that exact term when promoting it :rofl:

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I found an interesting Kindle book that seems relevant to this thread (inspired by earlier post):

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You want to know what would increase complexity bigtime? If everything was random. It is why I don’t even know what to say to people who say: X is to complex to have happened randomly. Because clearly what they mean by complexity; is totally different (the opposite association) than what it means in at least several different STEM fields.

I suspect it is why no apologist has ever managed to even tell me the units in which complexity (either their version or any other version) is measured. Image if you were engaged with a debate/argument with someone about who’s car was faster; when you realize the other person doesn’t understand the concept of miles per hour (or kilometer/hour for you people in the civilized world, or any other speed unit). That is what we are dealing with here.

You should always be skeptical of anyone who tries to order elements (or say this is bigger than that, etc) for which they do not have numbers/values. Because if they don’t have the values, how do they know which one is larger/bigger than the others? Without the values, their statement is an opinion; at best.


I think complexity should be measured in the same way we measure entropy . . . or shuffling a deck of cards (there can be as many cards with as many suits as you wish in your thought experiment).

Isaac Asimov wrote an uttery brilliant essay on this subject called “The Judo Argument,” where he rips apart the idea that life–by it’s existence–violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics (order from randomness).

Instead of talking about biology, let us instead discuss a common refrigerator.

A fridge is constantly colder than the room that it sits in, so does a fridge violate the 2nd Law?


The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics applies to a closed system, and the only way we can have a closed systen with the fridge is by considering the electricity that keeps the fridge cold . . . as well as the fuels that are burned in the power plant, and the sunlight that grew the plants which made the coal.

When all of this is considered, it becomes obvious that the Sun had a decrease in order (an increase in entropy) that is much larger than the decrease in entropy represented by the cool temperature inside the refrigerator.

This is why life doesn’t violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics . . . and it would be nice if the religious creationist didn’t assume that all scientists are lost in malice just to spite God (paraphrasing Asimov).

Based on what White has written in the time I’ve been visiting this site, that doesn’t seem to be the case. They seem to believe their religious claims. Again, according to White, JW’s seem to have been somewhat less than candid about child abuse within their church. Sadly, it’s not just the Catholics by any means. Covering up such crimes seems to be a common response in such circumstances within religious organisations.***

***I’ve read of child abuse occurring among the Amish, Orthodox Jewish communities and in some Muslim schools.

I was a paramedic and an EMT for over 11 years, and I can confirm that child abuse (including sexual abuse) occurs in all religions, all cultures, and in every socioeconomic status.

Part of why it’s covered up (as I believe) is because to reveal such things also opens up the question of absolute authority.

If being Christian (for example) gives one an ‘in’ with God, then sexual abuse challenges this by introducing questions . . . questions which those in religious authority would rather not answer. One question leads to another, and–before you know it–we are questioning the faith itself.

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