dr. behe’s failed experiment
Creationists constantly bring up the idea that the very structure of living beings is far too complex to evolve on its own without interference from something so advanced and powerful that it could design life forms. Trying to give their claim a semblance of scientific validity, they summon up the work of a certain Dr. Behe who decided to play semantics with the question of complexity and randomness. Despite having his work rejected by the scientific community at large again and again, the Discovery Institute still uses him as a mascot, an actual scientist in the right field supporting their cause.
You see, Behe found organisms propelled by flagella made out of over 200 protein chains and noted that if even one of the protein chains was disturbed, the organisms couldn’t move and would starve to death. Evolution may not always produce a winner, he concluded, but what we call random processes are producing life forms far too complex to randomly evolve on their own. He called the concept of an organism that needs a perfect chain of proteins and bodily arrangements to survive, “irreducible complexity.” Emboldened by his modern day rendition of Cuvier, creationists rushed to proclaim that scientists have found irrefutable proof of design in life and that no one could explain how this complexity could come about without interference from on high.
Eh not so fast doc. First and foremost, Behe was looking at a product of over a billion years of evolution in microscopic life. As we all know, the genome of a single celled organism is tiny and just one change can have stunning consequences. Tiny creatures also tend to live on the order of days and weeks. A few months for us quickly become many generations for them, and its in generations that evolution is measured. The key mechanism of evolution is the passing of the genes of an organism that lived into its sexual maturity and proved to be a good survivor, thus creating a new generation of organisms that are different from their ancestors and are likely to survive and reproduce.
Most life forms above cell level rarely make it to sexual maturity (with the exception of us), so the genetic legacy is really what drives changes in future organisms as those who thrive get to pass on the genes that gave them an edge. Thats natural selection in a nutshell.
Given the fact that there are an estimated 70 billion trillion bacteria in the world at any time, the wildest, one in a trillion chance that over the millennia (millions of generations for the bacteria Behe studied), something so incredible would happen by mere chance alone is pretty much an inevitability. In fact, the odds are a 70 billion to one for. And theres one more thing.
Behe claimed that his studies prove that evolution is uncannily precise because the organisms he saw were alive and kicking. His argument implies that theres no way that countless bacteria died or starved to death from incomplete flagella or genetic disorders which we know happens all the time. In fact, Behes argument is one part ignorance of statistics and one part ignoring the fact that what he says couldnt happen, happens all the time.