Eternal Evolution?

Irreducible complexity is the notion that a mechanism is so complicated and complete, that if any part of its whole were missing, it would not be able to function (The God Delusion, 122). Two common examples for this argument are the eye and the wing. Many creationists would claim that a partial eye or a fraction of a wing would be useless (123-124).

Dawkins disagrees with these two examples, bringing to attention the flatworm, whose eye is apparently less evolved than the human eye and can only detect shadows and light (124). While giving no real examples of creatures with partial wings, Dawkins rationalizes that a fraction of a wing—though not as good as a whole wing—is still functional.  There is always a height from which a winglet can save you from a fall (123). (I find this logic somewhat silly.)

I am not going to pretend to know the anatomy and complexity of these or other organs. I couldn’t tell you one way or another whether an organ is irreducibly complex.

Dawkins admits that irreducible complexity would destroy Darwin’s theory of evolution:

The creationists are right that, if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself said as much: ‘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. But I can find no such case.’ (Dawkins, 125)

For some reason Dawkins believes irreducible complexity would be likewise as lethal to the intelligent design theory (125). I can’t figure out why. I should think irreducible complexity is absolutely necessary!

Complexity must either be infinitely reducible, so that we never reach a beginning in which case natural selection becomes an on-going (everlasting?) series of effects, with no definite initial cause. (And this would seriously contradict science in the law of causality.) OR there must ultimately be an actual eternal existence that has no beginning and has no end—whose complexity indeed is irreducible. Neither option is very accommodating to the theory of evolution.

Evolution only works within the construct of time. Dawkins already explained the cumulative process of natural selection. Over so many ‘billions’ or ‘trillions’ of years (far, far less than forever), we’ve supposedly evolved from the same primary life form. Wouldn’t that very first building block have to be irreducibly complex? If there is no end to the reducibility of complexity, then how do we dare frame the process of evolution within a supposed span of time?—(and so short a time at that.) The process of natural selection would go back forever. It would be eternal. This theory doesn’t make sense.

The origin of life must be BOTH eternal AND irreducibly complex if it is to initiate the whole process of natural selection. If neither of these attributes are present in the origin of life, then it remains nothing more than an effect. And we know that an effect cannot exist without a cause. There MUST be an ultimate cause.

We may not agree about who or what the ultimate cause actually is, but we certainly need to recognize the necessity of irreducible complexity and eternal existence.

I believe the ultimate cause is the eternal God, Creator of all things–including time. He is the source of life and is certainly irreducibly complex. Regardless of whether we acknowledge him as our Lord and Maker, we cannot exist without of him. Remove the cause and you remove the effect.

The creationist’s determination to hunt for irreducible complexity and other such “gaps” between stages of evolution seems to really annoy Dawkins. I guess this determination is not so different than the atheist’s obsession to spotlight holes in Scripture in order to find it unreliable. (Dawkins demonstrated this obsession himself in just the previous chapter.) This is NOT annoying. This is good! If there are holes in the ship wouldn’t we sure want to know about them? It is GOOD to critique and examine an argument, to be sure it is solid. Otherwise, you might find yourself on a sinking vessel.


5 Responses to “Eternal Evolution?”

  1. 1 Andrew Logue
    18 May 2009 at 12:23 pm

    Yo double post!

  2. 2 Andrew Logue
    19 May 2009 at 4:04 pm

    Maybe I’m wrong, but isn’t the “big bang” the ultimate “cause” in the scheme of the evolutionist? I don’t understand it all really, but that’s what I’ve always assumed.

    The problem w/ that is, something had to cause the bang. The molecules or whatever that existed before the bang, where did they come from? They must have been a result of something and that “thing” must have been a result of something. No way around it. The evolutionary belief results in eternal evolution. You are right. Its a universe full of effects with no cause. Perhaps they deny eternity? That doesn’t explain that everything had to have SOME beginning, where does that beginning come from?

    They could get away with this if they deny Aristotilian philosophy, maybe. Isn’t it an Aristotilian idea that the universe can’t be an eternal chain of effects with no beginning cause (the unmovable mover)? The problem is, as you pointed out, the law of causality if heavily based on this Aristilian idea.

  3. 3 Byron Miller
    30 August 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Evolution isn’t a theory of creation, that is abiogenesis. HOwever, abiogenesis as a theory supports the process of evolution and has been tested through experimentation where we have been able to form amino acids thought to be the building blocks of life through experiments.

    Irreducible complexity could backfire for creationism because it doesn’t guarantee the god hypothesis at all. If something outside humanity was found to have irreducible complexity – aka design, how would the god hypothesis sustain a Christian belief system in which humanity is supposed to be the epoch?

    As for your argument on The law of Causality the god hypothesis fails on that litmus test as well as who created god? Its a straw man argument at best.

    Getting on to the big bang, you have to first understand the basis of matter is energy. E=mc2. The big bang is just the process in which matter comes into existence and the space-time for our known universe begins. There is a lot to the big bang and i’d be happy to explain modern cosmological model of the universe in which the big bang is a part of. Ironically if you try and refute the big bang and believe in an ever existing and eternal universe then that precludes the notion of god as well.

    • 4 rostock
      6 September 2010 at 5:14 pm

      What substances or forces did the scientists employ in order to form amino acids? If amino acids are thought to be the first building blocks of life, what are those employed substances and forces called? Isn’t it convenient that the scientists had those substances and forces handy in order to perform the experiment? Did they actually create anything from NOTHING?
      Irreducible complexity doesn’t backfire on creationists because we understand God to be eternal and irreducibly complex. God IS outside humanity.
      Who made God? Again, we understand God to be eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. He has no beginning, he is not created. You don’t accept that because you want proof for all of it. There is sufficient evidence if you are willing to accept it.
      You can say that I present a straw man argument if you like, but I am not the one denying an element of faith. In other comments you note that the word “atheism” means a lack of faith in a god. You claim that there is no faith or belief in anything that isn’t god. Does that mean since you lack faith in a god, you therefore never proceed in faith in anything at all, ever? That claim puts a tremendous weight on you to thoroughly prove your position with hard facts and evidence—without any gaps (or leaps of faith) whatsoever.
      The beginning of the universe and everything in it happened long, long, long before you were born. Long, long, long before your ancestors were swinging in trees. But you know (not believe) KNOW where the very, very, very, very, very FIRST energy, mass, light speed, time, space, etc. came from! What or who caused it to be and caused it to effect anything! Do you agree that the very first ultimate cause must have no beginning or else it was created or produced from something else (in which case it is not the ultimate cause after all.) Can you identify (without faith) this no-beginning existence from which all other things proceed?

  4. 5 H.S.Pal
    7 December 2010 at 10:57 am

    Earlier it was impossible for us to give any satisfactory answer to this question. But modern science, rather we should say that Einstein, has made it an easy task for us. And Stephen Hawking has provided us with the clue necessary for solving this riddle. Actually scientists in their infinite wisdom have already kept the ground well-prepared for us believers so that one day we can give a most plausible and logically sound answer to this age-old question. Let us first see how Hawking has helped us by providing the necessary clue. In his book “A Brief History of Time” (Chapter: The origin and fate of the universe) he informs us that there are 1080 particles in the region of the observable universe. Then he raised the question regarding the origin of these particles, and gave the answer himself. According to quantum theory particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But there the question does not stop. Another question props up regarding the origin of that energy. But when it is said that total energy of the universe is exactly zero, then all is said and done. So this is the clue: if we can somehow arrive at zero, then no further question will be raised, and there will be no infinite regression. What I intend to do here is something similar to that. I want to show that our God is a bunch of several zeroes, and that therefore no further question need be raised about His origin. And here comes Einstein with his special theory of relativity for giving us the necessary empirical support to our project.
    God is a Being. Therefore God will have existence as well as essence. So I will have to show that both from the point of view of existence as well as from the point of view of essence God is zero. It is almost a common saying that God is spaceless, timeless, changeless, immortal, and all-pervading. Here we are getting three zeroes; space is zero, time is zero, change is zero. But how to prove that if there is a God, then that God will be spaceless, timeless, and changeless? From special theory of relativity we come to know that for light both distance and time become unreal. For light even an infinite distance is infinitely contracted to zero. The volume of an infinite universe full of light only will be simply zero due to this property of light. A universe with zero volume is a spaceless universe. Again at the speed of light time totally stops. So a universe full of light only is a spaceless, timeless universe. But these are the properties of light only! How do we come to know that God is also having the same properties of light so that God can also be spaceless, timeless? Scientists have shown that if there is a God, then that God can only be light, and nothing else, and that therefore He will have all the properties of light. Here is the proof.
    Scientists have shown that total energy of the universe is always zero. If total energy is zero, then total mass will also be zero due to energy-mass equivalence. Now if there is a God, then scientists have calculated the total energy and mass of the universe by taking that God into consideration. In other words, if there is a God, then this total energy-mass calculation by the scientists is God-inclusive, not God-exclusive. This is due to two reasons. First of all, even if there is a God, they are not aware of the fact that there is a God. Secondly, they do not believe that there is a God. So, if there is a God, then they have not been able to keep that God aside before making this calculation, because they do not know that there is a God. They cannot say that they have kept Him aside and then made this calculation, because by saying so they will admit that there is a God. They cannot say that the behind-the-picture God has always remained behind the picture, and that He has in no way come into the picture when they have made this calculation, because by saying so they will again admit that there is a God. At most they can say that there is no God. But we are not going to accept that statement as the final verdict on God-issue, because we are disputing that statement. So the matter of the fact is this: if God is really there, then total mass and total energy of the universe including that God are both zero. Therefore mass and energy of God will also be zero. God is without any mass, without any energy. And Einstein has already shown that anything having zero rest-mass will have the speed of light. In other words, it will be some sort of light. So, if God is there, then God will also be light, and therefore He will be spaceless, timeless. So from the point of view of existence God is zero, because he is spaceless, timeless, without any mass, without any energy.
    Now we will have to show that from the point of view of essence also God is zero. If there is only one being in the universe, and if there is no second being other than that being, then that being cannot have any such property as love, hate, cruelty, compassion, benevolence, etc. Let us say that God is cruel. Now to whom can He be cruel if there is no other being other than God Himself? So, if God is cruel, then is He cruel to Himself? Therefore if we say that God is all-loving, merciful, benevolent, etc., then we are also admitting that God is not alone, that there is another being co-eternal with God to whom He can show His love, benevolence, goodness, mercy, compassion, etc. If we say that God is all-loving, then we are also saying that this “all” is co-eternal with God. Thus we are admitting that God has not created the universe at all, and that therefore we need not have to revere Him, for the simple reason that He is not our creator!
    It is usually said that God is good. But Bertrand Russell has shown that God cannot be good for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. (Book: A History of Western Philosophy, Ch: Plato’s Utopia). Therefore, if God is the ultimate Being, then that God cannot be good. But neither can He be evil. God is beyond good and evil. Like Hindu’s Brahma, a real God can only be nirguna, nirupadhik; without any name, without any quality. From the point of view of essence also, a real God is a zero. Mystics usually say that their God is a no-thing. This is the real God, not the God of the scriptures.
    So, why should there be any need of creation here, if God is existentially, as well as essentially, zero?
    But if there is someone who is intelligent and clever enough, then he will not stop raising question here. He will point out to another infinite regression. If God is light, then He will no doubt be spaceless, timeless, etc. Therefore one infinite regression is thus stopped. But what about the second regression? How, and from whom, does light get its own peculiar properties by means of which we have successfully stopped the first regression? So, here is another infinite regression. But we need not have to worry much about this regression, because this problem has already been solved. A whole thing, by virtue of its being the whole thing, will have all the properties of spacelessness, timelessness, changelessness, deathlessness. It need not have to depend on any other external source for getting these properties. Thus no further infinite regression will be there.

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