A few nights ago I was driving home with my eight year old son. As I drove along all of the sudden the entire city went dark. It was a power outage. Fortunately, the power was restored a few seconds later and the city became bright again. My son loves to ask lots of questions, so naturally he wanted to know why the outage occurred. I told him the possibilities and then the following exchange happened.
My son: “Daddy, when the power went off, why didn’t the lights in our car go off too?”
Me: “That’s a great question. Our lights stayed on because our car is not attached to the power grid. Our car produces its own power. It sort of has its own power plant under the hood.”
My son: “Tell me how it works, Daddy.”
I explained to my son that the flammable gas in the gas tank interacts with a spark plug which causes the engine to fire up. I told him how the parts in the engine begin to spin which in turn causes a belt and pulley system to circulate. I taught him that the belt turns the alternator and the energy created by the alternator keeps the battery charged and the power in the battery causes the lights in our car to function.
My son’s next statement is what caused my to smile. He said, “Yeah Daddy, and if one of those parts are missing, our car will not work.”
I was stunned to realize that my eight year old son understood what scientists refer to as Irreducible Complexity. This is something that was introduced by the Lehigh University biochemist, Michael Behe. In his book Darwin’s Black Box, Behe argues that certain systems are irreducibly complex. The example he uses is the bacteria flagellum.
To put it simply, he contends that there are necessary parts that interact with other necessary parts and if just one of the parts are missing, the organism could not live or survive. Just as my son pointed out, the functionality of a car is an easy to understand example. There are certain necessary parts (spark plugs, ignitor, coolant, etc.) in which all of them must be present in order for the car to function. If one part is missing, the car will not operate.
What are the implications as it relates to a balanced, logical worldview? Irreducible Complexity creates a world of problems for Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. All living things are irreducibly complex, even at the cellular level. This means that living organisms likely cannot evolve from less complex organisms through slight, successive changes over a long period of time. Take the human body for example. The human body must, in all cases, have a heart, a liver, kidneys, and other essential organs in order to function. Under Darwinian macro-evolution, human bodies apparently evolved these parts at different times over eons of time. This is just nonsense in my opinion. We have absolutely no evidence to show this and we certainly cannot repeat it.
All of this apparent design and dependent functionality points toward some kind of intelligent design. Just as John Lennox points out, a car does not exist based solely on the existence of natural laws. Clearly there is design at play when one looks at a car. There are parts that must function together for the machine to work. Based on our experience and repeatable trials, we know these parts and their corresponding functionality did not arise from natural forces. So the car’s existence and functionality not only depends on natural laws (internal combustion, etc.) but clearly there is some kind of intelligent design involved. Frank Turek summarizes it nicely. He says, “No matter how much you learn about [natural laws], the need for a designing engineer will never change. In other words, learning more about how [a car] works should never cause you to conclude there was no designing engineer.”
We can learn all we want about natural laws and we should never cease to do that. But we also should not toss out the other obvious elephant in the room. Irreducible Complexity is a strong argument for the existence of some kind of intelligent designer.
As we drove along, I told my son that he had a clear understanding of Irreducible Complexity. His eyes got big and he said, “Daddy, that’s a big word. I don’t even know what that means.” I told him that he just explained to me what it means and to not be intimidated by big words. Then we reviewed it and now he is very clear about what it means. Because of his age, I did not relate it apologetically, but you can be sure that I will be building on this foundation as he grows.