IC Ecosystem Example #1: The Honeybee population
It is estimated that there are 44 subspecies of honeybees (Apis spp.). However, a recent alarm has been generated because their population sizes in North America have been rapidly dwindling (6). Normally, humans are satisfied with fewer honeybees in existence because it can mean less bee stings and human death due to adverse allergic reactions. Furthermore, the honeybee's existence is not solely to satisfy our desire for their honey (though it would be missed). The most important aspect of a honeybee's existence is that they are intricately involved in pollinating much of the plant life that is used for animal and human consumption (Figure 2). Without honeybees in North America, crop failure would increase and directly affect herbivorous animals before affecting the carnivores, which obtain most of their energy from the herbivores. This would cause an accumulation of dead animals, which would be broken down into detritus matter and fertilizer. Ecosystem.BeesPlusHowever, the fertilization would only go so far because the plant life depending on cross-pollination would not receive it and so the entire ecosystem dependent on cross-pollination would collapse and disappear. Current conservation efforts towards maintaining the honeybee population are important to maintain a stable food supply for herbivores and carnivores. Thus, the role of the honeybee is very important in the North American ecosystem and depends on several interdependent relationships. As a result, the honeybee population within the North American food chain meets the criteria of irreducible complexity (1). If Darwinian mechanisms were operating, then there should be an alternative explanation involving random chance processes as to how cross-pollination effectively occurs without honeybees. Simply put: there is no mechanistic explanation offered from the Darwinian perspective. Thus, design is an appropriate inference.
IC Ecosystem Example #2: Swimming bacteria populations
Estimates of the number of microbes living in association with humans vastly exceeds the number of human cells (. As a result, the human microflora has been referred to as another organ and called the human microbiome (2). Animals living in isolation from all germs have different metabolic rates and different growth rates, which significantly contributes to overall human health. Among these bacteria is E. coli, which is known among intelligent design scientists because of its flagella (1). The bacterial flagellum is a whip-like structure that bacteria beat as a means of locomotion from one place to another. However, many reports have indicated that there is no clear picture of what the flagellum does for any intestinal bacteria because not all bacteria in the human microbiome have flagella. Furthermore, the bacteria that have flagella do not always assemble one nor use it. Therefore, on this small scale that directly affects human health, there appears to be some function for flagella both inside and outside the intestine.
But this begs the question of why any of the entire human microbiome has flagella? The only logical conclusion is that there are different environments inside and outside humans that various bacteria encounter with different demands for the presence or absence of a flagellum. Thus, there are conditions on both sides of the equation where there are selection pressures sufficient enough to eliminate flagella from the gene pool and, yet, flagella still exist. It seems that the reason flagella exist within any microbe meets the criteria of IC because of the different microbial niches where flagella are important enough to maintain the genes (even though it is much easier to eliminate flagella entirely). Therefore, the role of the irreducibly complex flagella within the grand ecosystem of where the human microflora goes to and returns from is irreducibly complex, in and of itself.
Ecosystems are irreducibly complex
The bottom line for demonstrating irreducible complexity of ecosystems is that all living organisms interact with and change their environments and, yet, do not destroy their natural environment unless the ecosystem becomes imbalanced. Without any guiding force or intelligence, ecosystems have a tendency towards self-destruction and do not give themselves the opportunity to exist in the first place: they are doomed from the beginning. The only way for any ecosystem to exist is for the ecosystem to have existed and function in its entirety from its origin. Therefore, ecosystems cannot come into existence by Darwinian mechanisms because they are irreducibly complex.
In summary, the idea of irreducible complexity applies to ecosystems and deserves more attention than it currently receives. The origin of ecosystems deserves more attention because Darwinists have had the podium for too long and persuaded the public that there is a natural, unguided explanation for everything. While Darwinists have had the podium, they have offered no mechanistic explanation for the origin of ecosystems and so alternative explanations (i.e., intelligent design) are premier scientific explanations that deserve to have the floor. Surprisingly, the origin of ecosystems is not even discussed in most introductory Darwinian textbooks to either biology or ecology. Regardless, Darwin had no clear understanding that such layers of irreducible complexity existed at this level of biology (i.e., above the species level, but within an ecosystem). As a result, when Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species 150 years ago this February, he left out perhaps one of the most significant aspects to Darwinian theory: organisms constantly interact with and change their environments, which change the organisms. To this end, the idea of intelligent design must have the opportunity in all discussions of ecosystem origins because, currently, there are no Darwinian mechanisms available to offer any measurable explanation. For these reasons, every effort should be made to prevent ecosystems from self-destruction through the conservation of species.
Interdependence: A Conversation Starter
An interdependent system is one in which at least two parts mutually depend on each other for proper function. Sometimes one part needs another part without requiring anything in return for the system to function. For example, correct walking depends on feet, and correct speaking depends on the tongue. It’s easier to concoct ways that nature, apart from a Creator, might have generated a part on which another part or system depends. For example, maybe early humans swung from trees, so they didn’t need to walk with proper feet until later. Or maybe early humans communicated nonverbally while they were supposedly evolving into full humanity, so they didn’t need articulate tongues. When it comes to explaining the origins of an interdependent system, however, these conjectures strain naturalistic scenarios—that by definition exclude God—past the breaking point.
A classic example of interdependence is that of DNA and proteins. Within each cell, proteins manufacture, repair, and access DNA. So, DNA depends on proteins. But DNA provides the blueprints for protein structure, so proteins also depend on DNA. These two system parts stand and function only when working together, and they fall apart when separated from each other.
Relationships like this set up a “chicken-egg” origins dilemma. If both parts were required from the start, then how could one part have been added long after the other part was in place? Sometimes, asking people a question like “Which part came first?” is all they need to begin a critical evaluation of their faith in nature-only origins. Once in doubt, they are more likely to consider a perspective that includes God in the answer. In this way, studying the details of an interdependent biological system equips Christians who want to challenge anti-creation views.
If someone is unfamiliar with cellular components like DNA and proteins, he or she might better relate to scenarios involving larger body parts like the heart and placenta. A pregnant woman’s placenta secretes progesterone, a hormone that signals her tiny baby’s cells to take up less cholesterol. Cholesterol is a vital component of all body cells, including heart cells, and the placenta regulates cholesterol levels. Thus, the healthy development of a baby’s heart depends on the mother’s placenta. Likewise, the placental cells would fail to manufacture progesterone or perform their other vital tasks without a blood supply, which the mother’s heart generates. Thus, the placenta and heart function interdependently to knit a baby.
So, which came first? The heart could not have come first since it would not have formed without the placenta. But if the placenta came first, it could not have worked without a heart. Both organs had to arise simultaneously, pointing toward a sudden miracle!
Everyone knows—even if they ignore it—that something or someone greater than the creation must have caused its genesis. Creation was God’s most spectacular miracle, and all will be held accountable for failing to attribute this work to Him.2 Engaging in conversations about interdependence with those who suppress this knowledge may be all it takes to challenge them to confront what they already know.