Evolution’s Limits – My Definition of Irreducible Complexity

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This is part of a series: Evolution’s Limits
Previous: Evolution’s Limits – Are Cars Evolvable?

I might have figured out how to test in a lab for evolution’s limit (irreducible complexity), and I’m reading up on the subject to find out if my idea is practical.  I’m using this as an excuse to learn more about evolution’s limit.

I noticed a loophole irreducible complexity’s definition which would’ve declared that some things could appear by evolution, even when they really can’t.  So I started by reading up on the definition of irreducible complexity and some common objections that evolutionists raise.

I’m finally ready to give my improved definition.  This is the one I plan to use in my test of evolution’s limit – assuming that the math works out.  I reserve the right to change my definition if I find another loophole.

My definition is:

An irreducibly complex machine is one that can’t appear by the “numerous, slight, successive” mutations that evolution requires.  At some point in its evolution, the next “jump” that makes the mutant out-breed the competition would take so many neutral/bad mutations before it would give an advantage that it probably won’t happen – not even in the vast amounts of time that evolution is supposed to need.  They’re just too unlikely.  This is true even in the most likely evolutionary pathway.

Here’s why I wrote it this way:

I got the phrase “numerous, slight, successive” from Darwin’s Origin of the Species.  It’s from a larger quote:

“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 out no such case.”

I want an definition that’s:

  • Correct
    There are a few ways to define irreducible complexity. Here are four of them. Most of them are based on “parts”, but evolution doesn’t happen one part at a time, it happens one mutation at a time. Since I want to push evolution to its limit, I need a definition that’s in terms of the mutations that cause evolution.
  • Simple
  • Easy to understand
    I didn’t use any more evolutionary biology jargon than necessary, and when I did, I tried to give enough information that a reader could infer its meaning.
  • Has as few loopholes as practical
    The original definition of irreducible had a couple of loopholes.  William Dembski fixed one of them (#3 on this list)  In my previous post, I explained one of the loopholes and gave an improved definition.
    These are a couple of the loopholes in the traditional definition of irreducible complexity, and here’s a much more detailed article on them:

    • Other evolutionary pathways
      As I understand it, an evolutionary pathway is a string of mutations that can evolve something.  In theory, there’s an infinite number of possible pathways, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are reasonable options.
      My definition is for the evolutionary pathway that’s most likely to actually happen.

      1. In this pathway – as much as possible – each mutation makes the mutant out-breed the competition, so that each evolutionary “jump” is as small as possible.  It’ll probably be optimized for having the smallest jumps throught, rather than smallest total number of mutations.
      2. It’s the shortest pathway that fits criterion #1
    • Starting with existing code that does something else
      In this case, my definition still works.  For evolution to work, each evolutionary “jump” from the old code to the new must still make the mutant out-breed the competition.
      The reason that some evolutionists use this one is that many machines don’t work unless many of their parts are already fully formed and put in the right place.  Thus the smallest evolutionary “jump” is a giant string of mutations that have to turn out just right.  This would be like rolling 1000, or even 100 000 dice, and correctly predicting what each one of them will be.  They hope that by appealing to pre-existing code, they’ll solve the problem.
  • In terms of mutations
    These are what cause evolution, but most definitions I’ve read are in terms of parts, not mutations.


This is part of a series: Evolution’s Limits
Previous: Evolution’s Limits – Are Cars Evolvable?

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  • You can make it over the raised lift bridge

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