Thursday, June 29, 2006

Co-option. Is There Anything It Can't Do?

From Uncommon Descent:

Over at ( Casey Luskin comments on an article coauthored by Ronald Numbers for the Journal of Clinical Investigation (”Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action”).

In this article we once again hear the bogus co-option argument as a proposed refutation of irreducible complexity: “…Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity argument ignores exaptation (co-option)…”

This claim of the refutation of IC by co-option is so ubiquitous that some people are actually starting to believe it. I therefore feel that it is my civic duty to refute this “refutation” of IC, which turns out to be a trivial exercise.

1) In order for co-option to produce a bacterial flagellum (for example) all of the component parts must have been present at the same time and in roughly the same place, and all of them must have had other naturally-selectable, useful functions. There is no evidence whatsoever that this ever was the case, or that it ever even could have been the case.

2) The components would have to have been compatible with each other functionally. A bolt that is too large, too small, or that has threads that are too fine or too coarse to match those of a nut, cannot be combined with the nut to make a fastener. There is absolutely no evidence that this interface compatibility ever existed (between all those imaginary co-opted component parts), or that it even could have existed.

3) Even if all the parts are available at the same time and in the same place, and are functionally compatible, one can’t just put them in a bag, shake them up, and have a motor fall out. An assembly mechanism is required, and that mechanism must be complete in every detail, otherwise incomplete or improper assembly will result, and no naturally-selectable function will be produced. The assembly mechanism thus represents yet another irreducibly complex hurdle.

4) Last, and perhaps most importantly, assembly instructions are required. Assembly must be timed and coordinated properly. And the assembly instructions must be complete in every detail, otherwise no function will result. This represents an additional irreducibly complex hurdle.

Co-option is a demonstrably fantastic story made up out of whole cloth, with absolutely no basis in evidence. And it doesn’t withstand even the most trivial analytical scrutiny. There is not a shred of evidence that this process ever took place, or that it even could have taken place. Worst of all, it requires blind acceptance of the clearly miraculous.

There is a great irony here. This verifiably ridiculous co-option fantasy is presented as “science,” while a straightforward and reasonable inference to design is labeled pseudoscience. The real state of affairs is precisely the reverse.

The poor Darwinists lack engineering training and are, hence, quite ill-equipped to see these obvious problems. As the first comment to the post says:

I’ve always thought it would be worthwhile for biologists (or biology students) to have some sort of engineering apprenticeship. By spending time with a design engineer (be it software, mechanical, electrical, or any other discipline), they would see first hand just what it takes to end up with a tightly integrated, functional system on the back end.

It still astonishes me how so many in the origins community are so sloppy with their thinking regarding co-option. I particularly like your point about assembly mechanisms and instructions. I’ve commented before that Darwinians seem to be satisfied with a parts list (hypothetical at that), never paying mind to the arguably more important step of assembly - spatially and temporally [shut up, theocrat!].

1 comment:

Michael Poole said...


1) State an argument that no one proposes and point out reasons it is indefensible.

2) Distort the other side's argument and argue against it using inappropriate analogies.

3) Misstate your opponent's position and then point out how this makes you right.

4) Ignore the pesky little details that you prefer don't exist.

Fortunately for creationists everywhere, the first three steps just boil down to "strawman, strawman, strawman" -- this makes life easier on them.

I will note that, for the sake of species survival, it's a darn lucky thing that all our reproductive organs come in exactly the same sizes; if there were any variation, we might have to worry about bolts that are too large or too small for a nut.

Likewise, it is a good thing that our genes have specific directions on how every protein should fold after synthesis, or else we might have to depend on poorly defined and non-engineering topics like the so-called "physics" to live. Fortunately, the creationists are here to tell us how lucky we are to have a God who cares enough to fold each protein with care.