Thursday, 19 July 2012

Ungodly Complexity

Which of these are designed and which are natural?

You see, the thing about good design is its simplicity.

Something well designed is as simple as it's possible to be whilst still performing the function it was designed to perform. It would be possible to make spear points out of something other than flint - metals, bone, even wood - but you would be hard-pressed to come up with a better shape than those made by neolithic people. The humble garden dibber is hard to better for design. You can take a decent knife or hand-axe to any hedge and probably find a piece of wood which you can make a decent dibber from in a few minutes.

Both the spear point and the dibber are perfectly designed for a purpose and the purpose is obvious. There are no moving parts and minimal maintenance needed.

And this, of course, is how we can, at a glance, tell they were intelligently designed. Their lack of unnecessary complexity gives that away.

Compare that to the design of the human body (or any other living organism, for that matter). The human body is immensely complex compared to a spear point or a dibber.

Starting at the cell level, where probably the most complexity is to be found:
  1. Top left: An electron micrograph of a cell. Low magnification.
  2. Top right: A cell organelle, a mitochondrion, the power-house of the cell, at a higher magnification.
  3. Left: Another cell organelle, a ribosomes, where the genetic code in DNA is translated to make proteins from amino acids.
But that is still only a low level of organisation for a multi-cellular animal. These cells are then organised into tissues, tissues into organs, organs into systems and the systems into a complete individual composed of something in the order of 10-100 trillion cells.

So, if humans are designed, as creationists insist, what purpose justifies this huge level of complexity, very much of it apparently redundant at that, especially when we look at the genome.

Let's see what the Bible says about the purpose of humans:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Genesis 1:26

But we can dismiss that because God contradicts himself in Genesis 2.

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Genesis 2:18-19

Besides, simply being here to look after the animals that were put here to help us... er... look after them, seems a bit pointless somehow. One might have expected an omniscient, omnipotent designer to have thought up something a little more challenging. Why couldn't it have have made them able to look after or 'have dominion over' themselves, for example? But then, they wouldn't have had any purpose either...

And what of the species we're still discovering, and those living at the bottom of deep oceans? They seem to have been okay without our 'dominion', don't they?

So where else can we find our 'purpose' according to Christians?

How about:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

And that appears to be about it. Everything else seems to be about being 'saved', which is not much of a purpose really.

God created us so we could be saved from him? Is that it?

But, whatever this purpose is, why did it need this huge complexity? Surely it should not have been beyond the wit or abilities of an omniscience, omnipotent god to make something simple which could fear him and obey his commands. Why did it even need to be multi-cellular? Why, even as a single-celled organism, did it need the fantastic complexity of the eukaryote cell with its vast genome needed to produce all those enzymes for enormously complicated biochemical pathways, respiration, cell reproduction, and so on.

Surely, this purpose could have been achieved with the simplest of simple entities if the creator had the powers and abilities Christians attribute to him? But even if size was important to God, why couldn't he have made bodies which are much less complex? Maybe ones which don't consume energy so have no need to eat and metabolise. How about ones which just bud off new individuals, so all this sexual reproduction and the means to find and mate with a partner, then spend years rearing the children was unnecessary? How about telepathy so we can communicate simply and don't need speech, reading, hearing, etc?

In short, why does it look like we have a purpose which is unconnected with what Christians claim their god had in mind?

You see, the problem is, the vastly unnecessary complexity for such a nebulous purpose is not evidence of design, especially of intelligent design; it is evidence of unintelligent, undirected and purposeless design, just as one would expect of a mindless, purposeless design process like evolution by natural selection where the only function is to produce individual gene vehicles in order to produce the next generation of gene vehicles.

I'm afraid, whoever told you that complexity is a problem for evolutionary biology has mislead you. It is a problem for creationism and most of all for its under-cover wing, the 'intelligent design' industry. Biological complexity is exactly what we would expect if the 'creator' was an unintelligent, mindless, purposeless process. An intelligent perfect designer would have created a perfectly simple design.

It really is time religious people reassessed their superstitions and realised just how silly they are. As a basis for giving life a genuine meaning and purpose, they are about as useful as a back pocket in a vest, or a chocolate teapot.

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  1. One of the problems I have with all this quoting from the bible thing is [apart from the obvious] is that the quotes are in a sort of english, which can only bear some passing resemblance to what was written [by whoever wrote it, whenever they did]. It doesn't seem particularly logical to me to take an interpretation and base an arguement on it. Preseumably this is why one can find contraditions all over the place...

    1. So, are you suggesting we bin the Bible altogether because no one can be sure what it's on about?

    2. @Anonymous but for religious people a new annoying trend is they take vague resemblance of what is written and try to not only an argument but make claims that big bang theory,black holes,man reaching space etc. is given and there books span in several languages from english,hebrew,sanskrit,hindi,arabic etc. here are few scientific claim are being made by religious leaders in every major religon
      1)Islam-muslim believe that big bang theory is given(vaguely pointed not necessarily its about big bang and that is just one verse its not a paragraph etc to explain anything even in layman's term) in quran other things given use of wormholes by angels to travel to god heaven and you know what time dilation also happens inside wormhole i don't know where they read that but they mixed time dilation at relativistic velocities with wormhole but i wonder why didn't they just apparate like harry potter when you will read more about wormhole why they can't be made you'll find that these people have not readed the theory before making claims publicly,Evolution-islam rejects it,black hole-yes quran says it i mean talk about cherry picking and obscuring truth they are lying and they know that most of general audience has only hollywood understanding of wormhole(star trek,star wars) and they also know that no physicist etc. will waste there time upon them instead of focusing on their work.
      2)christianity-rosa has already laid out science in bible in this blog so we skip it
      3)hinduism(not a hot topic like islam and christ among atheist)-some hindu actually believe that there incarnation theory of gettin born in different animal,bird etc species which are called yoni(8.4 million) is a consequence of karma and after going through all of this we get get human yoni and we have to achieve salvation or we will go through all the 8.4 million transition how does it proves evolution only when you haven't read evolution next thing how yoni cycle is itself true given number of species that exists which are way more that 8.4 million and not to mention population trouble total humans are outnumbered by just insect population of one species say grasshopper how human souls prove adequate for every one of them?
      last point where is the list of 8.4 million species?it is just a made up number to make it sound true how divine people fail to see what modern science has found?again all these pseudoscience is around because even educated poeple don't understand science properly despite doing well on tests they have gained knowledge but not wisdom or reasoning also another major propaganda is vague similarity between "golden embryo" fro which world emerged in hinduism with cyclic universe theory which is still a theory but not the strongest candidate let alone proof multiverse theory and chaotic inflation theory are more accurate and match with observation but still more data is needed also universe appears to be flat therefore it is likely to expand forever read here in detail-
      trouble is muslim will claim that science is quran,hindu will claim science is in vedas,christians will say bible has science but most don't match them with truth and conclude they just just accept what they are told by confused or manipulative people.

    3. All these claims depend on changing the meaning of key words to make them fit what is currently known. For instance, I was assured by a Christian fundamentalist a few days ago that a passage which talks about graves opening up and corpses walking about was really a prophecy about the Holocaust and about Israel becoming a state in 1948.

      Ask them to predict the next major scientific discovery from their holy book and they run a mile.

    4. @rosa exactly there book cannot predict about inflation state whether universe will expand forever,it will collapse etc but they can predict big bang and cyclic universe the thing is that most of these people have the understanding of a c grade high school student and i bet most of them were poor science student or simply failed to grasp the scientific methodology despite reciting books well and scoring good on i pointed in my previous comment that they them self don't understand anything about the big theories or observation and they don't know there are issues with each theory that is being sorted and alternatives are being tested if tomorrow another theory replaces or modifies our current physics what will they say then,will they admit that there books were misinterpreted deliberately to incorporate big and cool topic likes multi verse,big bang,wormholes,black hole,etc to fool people and prevent them from questioning the books or mythologies who fail to answer or mention simplest facts like earth is round,sun is just another star,moon does not produces its own light,evolution is true,etc.they are cherry picking,distorting facts,blaming and misquoting major scientific figures like Einstein,Carl Sagan(by hindu) etc just like a political propaganda.we know that science fiction books have predicted and even inspired many scientific works and there are more elaborate and close to accuracy than any religious books and they don't even invoke concept of gods so what so we do about that should we start a religion about H.G wells,Jules verne etc remember they predicted about underwater travel,space travel etc.
      upon distorting carl sagan carl sagan admired that people in ancient India thought about large numbers which are in many billions which is better than many theory that muslim and christian push confined to few thousand years but how admiration of it makes it true and scientific support of every thing in hinduism by carl sagan ,well, but this is what you will see around the web and people accept that as truth and try to spread it on facebook,web to real is a quote from yahoo answers "question about atheist view on carl sagan on hinduism" i agree with it
      "I think he was trying to show the ignorant christians in the US that there are other points of view besides their own, and how limited their thinking was.
      I don't think he was implying that Hinduism had any sort of "magical truth," just that their myths weren't nearly as limited as the Abrahamic ones."
      I will like to add ignorant muslims as well
      see here -

  2. Sounds like that's what was said. If it's silly to base an argument on what the bible translations say then all christian religions (indeed all religions) are silly.

  3. So Rosa, what part of the human cell is it you (your Darwin friends) say isn’t needed so to simplify it into an actual designed cell and not just unintelligently added stuff?

    What living cell have you designed from scratch that actually lived?

    What living cell has anyone designed from scratch that actually lived?

    Is the statement, “Just give it enough time and it will happen.” A scientific statement?

    1. All of it.

      An omnipotent god could make anything be whatever it wanted it to be, hence cells were not created by an intelligent, omnipotent designer, let alone multi-cellular organisms, because they are not simple enough. The 'purpose' of creation is very clearly stated in the Bible, so, if you believe that, that is the only function which life was 'designed' for.

      Unnecessary complexity is evidence of poor, unintelligent design, as my blogs points out.

      You may have noticed that I said all this in the blog.

  4. superb post. I've often thought the more complex the design, the poorer it is, so "irreducible complexity" is evidence of no god, or a buffoon god.

  5. What puts the lie to the whole complexity BS is like Rosa states, but I don't think she went far enough. I mean the gulf between what is and what would be if an intelligent designer had purposefully created the Universe is vast, to say the least:

    Why aren't we made in this deity's, or those deities', image? Did it not make angels? Were they not enough to satisfy the narcissism? Why do we look as though we were developed over time complete with the mechanisms required to mate, reproduce, and nurture our young? Why produce a world where we can only utilize 4% of the livable volume and a universe with a much worse disparity in that regard?

    What the evidence shows is that everything we see results from development over time of the accumulation of gradient steps complete with the imperfections and redundancies that only confirm evolution to be the case. Why would this deity use evolution to create an entity that can't see or experience it in a substantial way? Why would this deity initiate a system that produces a brain that would need to be ignored, even denied, to accept such an absurdity as a supernatural deity?

    Why would we be designed and subjected to a system that causes sentient life to suffer as sustenance for predators and parasites, viruses and bacteria, or from deformities of our genetic code? Why were some of us created, but supposedly not under the protection of the this divine entity, and therefore, meant for the utilization and subjugation of those who profess this absurd construct? And, why were those supposedly in conference with this deity not made aware of the antipodes of half the planet, not to mention the whole of the universe outside of a firmament supposedly equidistant from the face of the deep (waters)?

    And the gulf just keeps getting bigger!

    Ancient goat herder myths are only proffered by those who see them as a means to manipulate those who accept them as emotionally compelling through fear and ignorance.

    1. You seem to be expressing a view that I'm moving closer to, partly through the deceitful nature of their debating style on Twitter and other on-line places, that those priests, preachers and apologists for religions no more believe them than I do. The only difference is that they have a vested interest in maintaining and promulgating superstitions in others because they provide them with a living or an excuse to weild power over them, much like a parasite has a vested interest in the survival of it's victim or a farmer has in the continuation of his herd.

  6. I don't believe in intelligent design but there are flaws in your argument. For example computer programs are often far more complex than they need to be simply because coding them in low-level programming languages (ie ones and zeros) is impractical, so we code them using high-level (html-like) code which another program then uses to compile them out of libraries of instructions, which themselves often have additional, unnecessary bits of code. I agree with you in principle but your argument assumes the intelligent designer designed things without the help of some kind of intellectual shortcut like the kind we use. I am an atheist but I suppose if there were a "god" it could have some kind of handicap or some equivalent of technology rather than being the simple magic man in the sky people envision.

    1. In fact, computer code is very like an evolving organism's DNA.

      Over time, it can develope huge chunks of redundant coding and modules which work but could be made much more efficient. The problem is, the investment in time to prune out the redundancy and optimise the clumsy modules doesn't pay any return, so long as there is plenty of memory and processing power available.

      An omnipotent intelligent designer would get it right first time, would not build in loads of redundancy and the code would always be optimized.


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