14 August 2006

Things that fascinate me

In the course of my reading I often push the limits of my knowledge and try to read things that are on the periphery of my interests. It is during these times that I often find things that absolutely fascinate me. Perhaps these things are less fascinating to those who study them every day.

One of the reasons I read so much is because I consider reading to be one part of a lifelong learning process. Just because you're out of school or college shouldn't mean that you stop learning. And even better yet, you ought to find something that you're curious about, but perhaps don't know much about.

That was the case several years ago when I picked up several books on the evolution/creation debate. One of those books was Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael Behe. Professor Behe is a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.

One of the subjects of Behe's book is the idea of systems that are "
irreducibly complex." In other words, a system such that, if you removed any piece of that system, it would fail to work. For example, the common mouse trap. If you removed the spring, it wouldn't work. If you removed the wooden base, it wouldn't work. And so on.

Behe's example of an irreducibly complex system is that of blood coagulation or sometimes referred to as the blood clotting cascade:

Behe's basic argument is that if any of these steps are missing, the entire process would fail to work, and the blood would fail to clot. This would certainly lead to death. A good example of this is Hemophilia A, which is a Factor VIII deficiency. This deficiency is just one step of the entire process, yet is potentially fatal to those who have it.

Finding this system irreducibly complex, the larger argument is that it could not possibly have "evolved" and thus is an example of intelligent design or creation.

I don't presume to present Behe's argument as scientific fact; there are many in the scientific community who would argue for or against his work. Either way, the process itself is fascinating, as is the idea of irreducibly complex systems.
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