an interesting take on mousetrap evolution

One of the catchphrases of Intelligent Design creationism is ‘irreducible complexity’ – the idea that in some complex biological systems, it’s impossible to remove any one part without causing the whole system to fail. Supposedly this means that such systems could not have evolved but must be the product of a ‘designer’. The term – in its most recent incarnation – was proposed by biochemist Michael Behe, but it’s effectively the same as William Paley’s 19th century concept of the watchmaker.

Behe used to be fond of using the ordinary, bog-standard, everyday mousetrap as an example. I have always found this just a tad unimaginative of him, as while removing (say) the spring would render the mousetrap incapable of doing its current job, this is not the same as saying that the remaining parts do not (& cannot) have some other function. (In a better, biological, example various constituent parts of the so-called ‘irreducibly complex’ flagellum bacteria** do actually have other functions, including adhesion to other cells.) I could, for example, throw the wooden platform of our old mousetrap*** at a mouse. Occasionally I might even hit it.

There are other possibilities for mousetrap evolution, described rather amusingly here (& hat-tip to Peter Bowditch of the Millenium Project).


** Incidentally, there is no such thing as ‘the’ bacterial flagellum.

*** I say ‘old’ because we haven’t used it for a while. These days the fat (6kg) furry ginger monster does the job quite satisfactorily. He probably falls on them.


6 thoughts on “an interesting take on mousetrap evolution”

  • Alison Campbell says:

    Most perspicacious of you 🙂 I wonder how Behe would explain *that*? (The mousetrap –> flagellum, not your perspicacity!)

  • The author has a fundamental error in the first sentence: Equating ID with Creationism. Like all Darwinists, the author equates ID with creationism. Neither Michael Behe nor Dr. Stephen C. Meyer are young earth or old earth creationists as you imply. Unlike most creationists, the ID proponents are actual scientists. Unlike most Creationists, the ID proponents used to believe in Darwinian theory themselves. Unlike Creationism, ID proponents make no references to scripture. The ID argument is based purely on empirical evidence, and goes no further than the empirical evidence can support. Unlike Creationism, ID is not linked to any particular faith. ID proponents and Darwin critics come from all kinds of different religious backgrounds.
    In response to one of the author’s comments: Intelligent Design does not claim to offer a ‘mechanism’ for “how.” Intelligent Design proponents lay out the scientific case, similar to Darwin’s, that intelligence is the best explanation for the digital code in the DNA molecule and a more plausible explanation than “random natural selection.” Correct me if I am wrong, but neither Darwin nor Neo Darwinists propose a “how” for the first mechanisms of life – they begin after self replicating molecules, and life, are up and running. It seems to me that if you wish to falsify ID you must look to the claims that it makes, and upon the empirical evidence. But in order to do that, you must first actually LISTEN to the argument, something Darwinists refuse to do. Instead, Darwinists grab to all kinds of strawman arguments to avoid the actual issues that ID is raising.

  • Alison Campbell says:

    However, briefly:
    a) Behe is a creationist; this is clear from the transcripts of the Dover trial.
    b) for ‘actual scientists’, the ID proponents don’t appear to publish much in mainstream journals. Most of their work is presented in in-house publications, & those who do – like Dr Axe – publish elsewhere, tend not to mention ID in that work.
    c) most ID proponents don’t refer to scripture, although Philip Johnson made in quite clear in the infamous ‘Wedge’ document that a belief in scripture was still important.
    d) if the ID argument is based on empirical evidence, it would be good to see that published somewhere. Claims of ‘irreducible complexity’ are not empirical evidence.
    e) your use of the phrase ‘random natural selection’ suggests that you either don’t understand natural selection or are throwing up a straw-man argument (the very thing you accuse evolutionary biologists of doing). Natural selection is anything but random.

  • Allison,
    OK, ‘natural selection acting on random variations or mutations’ – blame my editor. In any case, we would like to know what evidence shows that this concept passes the common sense test or any mathematical tests to get from ‘random’ to a DNA sequence surrounded by a functioning cell to life or even diversity.
    Kind Regards,
    D Carlson

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