Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts? A Response to Ken Miller & Judge Jones’s Straw Tests of Irreducible Complexity for the Bacterial Flagellum
by Casey Luskin
Abstract: In Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge John E. Jones ruled harshly against the scientific validity of intelligent design. Judge Jones ruled that the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, as argued by intelligent design proponents during the trial, was refuted by the testimony of the plaintiffsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ expert biology witness, Dr. Kenneth Miller. Dr. Miller misconstrued design theorist Michael BeheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s definition of irreducible complexity by presenting and subsequently refuting only a straw-characterization of the argument. Accordingly, Miller claimed that irreducible complexity is refuted if a separate function can be found for any sub-system of an irreducibly complex system, outside of the entire irreducible complex system, suggesting the sub-system might have been co-opted into the final system through the evolutionary process of exaptation. However, MillerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s characterization ignores the fact that irreducible complexity is defined by testing the ability of the final system to evolve in a step-by-step fashion in which function may not exist at each step. Only by reverse-engineering a system to test for function at each transitional stage can one determine if a system has Ã¢â‚¬Å“reducible complexityÃ¢â‚¬Â or Ã¢â‚¬Å“irreducible complexity.Ã¢â‚¬Â The ability to find function for some sub-part, such as the injection function of the Type III secretory System (which only contains approximately Ã‚Â¼ of the genes of bacterial flagellum), does not negate the irreducible complexity of the final system. Moreover, Miller ignored the fact that any evolutionary explanation of a system must account for much more than simply the availability of the parts. In the final analysis, MillerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s testimony did not actually refute irreducible complexity, leaving readers of the Kitzmiller ruling with the unfortunate perception that the evolutionary origin of the bacterial flagellum has been solved.