Intelligent Design proponents suggest that complexity cannot exist without intelligence. In fact, their entire premise is that an intelligent agent can be inferred because of the complexity found in the natural word. Normally, this claim is applied directly to the complexity of DNA.
The problem with this argument (and with most pro-ID) arguments, is that a single example of complexity that can be shown to have a non-intelligent source means that their entire argument is incorrect. If one example of functional complexity does not require intelligence, then the only way to show that an intelligent agent is responsible for a particular thing is to show that the intelligent agent exists and is responsible.
This is something that the intelligent design proponents have, so far, refused to even attempt.
So, can we show that functional complexity can have a non-intelligent source?
Example the First
Our first example comes from the field of electrical engineering.
Dr. Adrian Thompson, in 1997, wanted to develop a system that could distinguish between the spoken words ‘stop’ and ‘go’ using a field programmable gate array. A FPGA is a network of logic systems that can be programmed to resemble any logic circuit. So, Thompson wrote an evolvable program to program the logic array.
After 3000 generations, the evolving program had developed a FPGA that could successfully distinguish between the spoken words ‘stop’ and ‘go’ using only 37 logic gates. This was considered impossible by human engineers.
What’s truly fascinating about this example, is that, as far as I’m aware, humans still cannot understand how the FPGA voice circuit works. There are 5 logic gates that aren’t even connected to the input/output circuit, but if power is removed from those five, the circuit won’t work.
Example the Second
Natural Bridges are also known as stone arches. We all know that these are developed by natural forces. We can observe the various stages of them right now. We can tell the difference between an arch developed by wind erosion and wave erosion. These can be actual functional bridges as three of them have roads built on them. One in Romania is even a daily use road.
So these structures are specified, complex, and, in fact, irreducibly complex… yet completely natural.
Example the Third
Termite mounds of Australia and Africa are exceedingly large structures built by the tiny termite. These structures are incredibly complex. Some termites build mounds with a very specific North/South orientation to take advantage of the sun for temperature regulation. Research suggests that these mounds maintain their internal temperature due to the design of the structure and the movement of the termites. Internal temperature is important because the termites grow a fungus for food that grows best in a fairly narrow temperature range.
We can watch these structures being built by termites. Unless the ID proponents want us to believe that termites are intelligent, then there is no intelligence involved. They might argue that the design is include in the DNA of the termite. Well, then they have the same challenge, where? In fact, I’ll even help the ID researchers (if there are any). Find the genes for building a mound. Change the gene, observe the effect on the resulting mound. Determine exactly what change the designer made to the genes to make termite mounds and when. See, not so hard, now someone just needs to actually do the work.
There you go. There’s not much sense in doing more examples, but I could. In fact, here’s a list of examples using genetic algorithms in which the result supersedes the results of human engineers. I submit that if an evolving computer program can produce structures and systems that are better (by whatever criteria was used in the programs) than an engineer, then that is an example of non-intelligence producing something that is functional and complex, which completely destroys that entire argument that ID proponents use.
There is one thing that any ID proponent, who wishes to disprove these examples, must deal with. The ID proponent must show exactly where intelligence (human or non-human) inserted the information or change that caused the complexity and how that intelligence made the change without anyone knowing.
When referring to genetic algorithms, ID proponents always say that the final result was ‘inserted’ into the code. How can that be, when the result is better than any human has ever come up with? Or that a human can even come up with?
Also in reference to genetic algorithms, ID proponents always attack the “Methinks it is a weasel” program of Dawkins. That is not a genetic algorithm, it is a search algorithm to show one very specific aspect of evolution. Any attempt to make it seem like it is a true GA, is attacking a strawman.