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Half a Mousetrap Doesn't Work

Irreducible Complexity Unravels Darwin

 By Ben Rast

 Contender Ministries

 Posted June 14, 2004


In the beginning was an unexplained puddle of goo.  Suddenly, an electric arc shot out of nothingness, creating amino acids.  These acids, through pure chance, developed into proteins and eventually the first single-cell organism came into being.  Over the course of time, chance favored this cell, and eventually its offspring became every mammal, fish, bird, amphibian, reptile, microbe, and plant on earth today.  According to evolutionists, this is the most likely scenario for our existence today.  If this were the case, we should be able to go backwards in time and conceptually deconstruct every organism to get to this original cell.  However, in nature, certain things defy this deconstruction.  Some biological structures are irreducibly complex, which means this theoretical devolution cannot work on them.  Irreducible complexities are one of many evidences in nature against Darwinian evolution.  In this article, we’ll look at some examples of irreducible complexity, and explore why they indicate a Creator, rather than a slow evolutionary process.

Charles Darwin, in his Origin of Species, said, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”[1]  The breakdown of Darwin’s theory may well have come at the hands of biochemist Michael J. Behe, Ph.D.  As Behe explains, “…a system or device is irreducibly complex if it has a number of different components that all work together to accomplish the task of the system, and if you were to remove one of the components, the system would no longer function.  An irreducibly complex system is highly unlikely to be built piece-by-piece through Darwinian processes, because the system has to be fully present in order for it to function.”[2] To illustrate this concept, Behe uses the analogy of a mousetrap.  The common mousetrap consists of a flat wooden base, a metal hammer, a spring, a bar to restrain the hammer, and a catch for the bar and placement of bait.  If you remove any one of these components, you’re not left with a mousetrap that is only half as effective – you’re left with a useless collection of materials. Using this analogy, the mousetrap could not have evolved with “successive, slight modifications,” because without all its components, the mousetrap is nothing, and not likely to be passed on to another generation.  Let’s look at some examples of irreducible complexity in nature.

A High Performance Motor:  It is one of the most efficient motors ever contrived.  It spins at a staggering 10,000 revolutions per minute.  It can stop within a quarter of a turn, and immediately spin in the opposite direction at 10,000 rpm.  At less than a couple of microns in length (a micron is one millionth of a meter), it is too small to see without very expensive electron microscopes.  This motor powers the bacterial flagellum, which acts as a rotary motor to propel the bacteria.  It takes approximately 30 to 35 proteins to form a functional flagellum.  If we remove a few proteins, we won’t have a flagellum that rotates at only 5000 rpm, we have a flagellum that doesn’t work.  Looking at a diagram of the flagellum makes one think of mechanical device that was designed by an intelligent creator.  This is one example of irreducible complexity.  Evolutionists have tried to refute this characterization, but have come up with nothing more than unproven hypotheses.  One popular argument is that many of the proteins that make up the flagellum are also found in a cellular pump.  Proponents of this argument contend that this pump picked up (co-opted) other proteins over time until it formed the flagellar motor.  This hypothesis is analogous to a tire rolling through a scrap yard, picking up parts as it rolls until it forms a car.  However, this argument fails when you consider that many of the proteins in the flagellum are found nowhere else in nature.  That being the case, they could not have been co-opted during a gradual process of change.  If anything, the cellular pump evolved from the flagellar motor, and the motor remains irreducibly complex. 

If you pick it, it will bleed:  Scabs can be a great source of pride for children, or even adults who are children at heart.  A large scab indicates a wound suffered in action – a fall from a bicycle, a tumble down a rocky slope, or a skiing accident on ice-crusted snow.  The larger the scab, the more one can savor telling the story of its origin, with rights to embellish the story implicitly given.  As children, we were told to not pick our scabs, but such advice was akin to “don’t look down,” invariably producing the result Mom wanted to avoid.  These hardened blood clots are also indicative of an irreducibly complex system.  While the blood clot itself is relatively simple, the system that regulates the clotting consists of ten finely tuned processes.  Says, Behe: “If you make a clot in the wrong place – say, the brain or lung – you’ll die.  If you make a clot twenty minutes after all the blood has drained from your body, you’ll die.  If the blood clot isn’t confined to the cut, your entire blood system might solidify, and you’ll die.  If you make a clot that doesn’t cover the entire length of the cut, you’ll die.  To create a perfectly balanced blood-clotting system, clusters of protein components have to be inserted all at once.  That rules out a gradualistic Darwinian approach…”[3] In order to explain how blood-clotting could have developed gradually, evolutionists are forced to paint vague word pictures with generalizations indicating that components “arose” or “sprang forth.”  No scientists have effectively described how the components arose, and nobody has performed experiments to show empirically how this gradual development might have occurred.  Moreover, the issue of how animals kept from bleeding to death while blood-clotting processes evolved is problematic for the evolutionists.  The evidence points toward a creator, rather than evolution.

There are many more examples of irreducible complexity in biology, including aspects of protein transport, closed circular DNA, electron transport, cilia, photosynthesis, transcription regulation, and much more.  However, the examples given above are enough to show that Darwin’s theory of slow, successive changes fails to pass the acid test.  Do irreducibly complex systems prove the existence of God?  No, of course not.  However, they are a major hurdle for Darwinian evolution, the pet theory of those who seek to eliminate God as the Creator of life.  Good scientists will not allow pre-conceived notions to taint their work, and evolutionists will wag a finger at creationists and intelligent design proponents and accuse them of biased research.  However, evolutionists eliminate the possibility of a supernatural Creator at the outset, and discard evidence that points strongly toward design in nature.  While almost every scientist will have a personal bias, the evolutionists are most profoundly known for letting their bias influence their work, rather than objectively following the facts to their most logical conclusion.  These men and women on their humanist campaign of junk science will eventually learn the error of their ways, and they will be found without excuse: “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse…. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:20,22-23)


1.      Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species (New York: New York University Press, sixth edition, 1998), p.154.

2.      Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Michigan: Zondervan, 2004), p. 197.

3.   Ibid., p. 210.