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.