The Evolution of the Mousetrap through Natural Selection


Michael Behe, author of, "Darwin's Black Box" has coined the phrase "irreducible complexity". He argues that there are certain biological systems that exist within nature, that do not fit with Darwin's theory of evolution through natural selection. He explains that these biological systems could not have gradually evolved, since the removal of any one element renders the system useless.

He illustrates this by using a common mousetrap as a model. If you remove any one part of a mousetrap it ceases to function, therefore it is irreducibly complex. This, according to Behe, is evidence that a mousetrap could not have evolved naturally, so it is reasonable to conclude that it must have been designed by someone or something. He applies this logic to specific systems within the human body, such as the immune system and bacterial flagella (which look like man made microscopic motors). He regards "irreducible complexity" in biological systems as evidence of an intelligent designer (AKA God).

In my opinion, all this is really evidence of is Behe's lack of imagination and his lack of proper understanding of evolutionary theory. He doesn't seem to know that evolution through natural selection can remove old features as well as add new ones. A good example of evolution removing features is the horse hoof. (The horse gradually evolved three toes into one). Also, evolution through natural selection is not just about competition. It can also be about cooperation. Birds inadvertently pollinating flowers is a good example of how different species can benefit from helping each other (The bird eats and the flower reproduces.)

A combination of adding new features and removing old ones through cooperation and competition, over time is what makes certain biological systems appear to be irreducibly complex. To illustrate an example of the evolution of a seemingly "irreducibly complex" system, I would like to use a mousetrap, like Behe.


The House

Let's pretend that a house is really a living being. The rooms are different parts of the body and we are antibodies in the houses immune system. One of our more recent jobs has become catching and killing mice. Let's say that mice are a new strain of virus. (Are you with me?) The more mice we can kill, the healthier the house will be and the better its chance for survival. Unfortunately since mice are so new and different, we're not really suited for catching them and while we are running around chasing mice, we're not doing other things that we're better at which may be more beneficial to the house. Therefore, it would be a great benefit to the house for it to develop specific systems that catch and kill mice more efficiently than we can. It can do this through evolution by natural selection. Here's one possibility:


The Evolution of the Mousetrap through Natural Selection


Mike Behe's response to my web site!

John McDonald's response to my web site!

The Creationist response! (Good for a laugh!)

10 Questions with Phil Johnson

A note to Creationists: For the record, I do not actually believe that mousetraps could have evolved. The purpose of this web site is to demonstrate a fictional scenario of how a biological mousetrap like mechanism could have evolved in a make believe world using the laws that govern evolution through natural selection. My mousetrap is not made out of wood and metal and held together by staples. It also does not have the traditional "VICTOR" logo painted in red on the base. It does however have the four basic elements for catching and killing mice: a base, bait, a trigger and a hammer.

The intention of this example is not to prove that evolution through natural selection is true, it is to discredit and falsify the idea that some biological systems are irreducibly complex. I do this by showing 10 basic stages of mousetrap evolution. Each stage is capable of at least trapping or assisting us with the trapping and killing of mice. Every progressive step of the evolutionary ladder is a slight improvement on the previous one, as per the rules of natural selection, until we end up with a self sufficient modern mousetrap (assembly not required).

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