Recently an odd sort of duel was fought in the American Spectator; not with pistols, but epistolary.
The combatants were that Derbyshire fellow who writes for National Review with a sort of weighty weary wisdom that recalls pre-20th Century intellectualism, and Tom Bethell, perhaps the most courageously open-minded magazine writer of our time, thirty years and counting on the front lines of the culture wars from his trench at the aforementioned Spectator.
Mr. D was grunting through a barely suppressed yawn (think Nero Wolfe) that anyone with an evolved mind knows that the "irreducible complexity" of small cells is a bogus argument against evolution, one only advanced by that killjoy cabal of clerical types who would twist any premise to confirm their preconceived conclusion of Creation.
Mr. B countered - with vivacity - that even the most minute constituent cell of a living organism was equipped with complex circuitry like a computer, and the idea that such an "active ingredient" could have evolved from simple undesigned matter is the sort of absurdity only a pompous pseudo-intellectual could sell himself and try to sell the world.
It won't surprise anyone, I hope, that Bethell's approach impassions me while Derbyshire's draws an answering yawn.
But what I find most fascinating in all skirmishes of this type is how both miss a key point. Let's skip for a moment the question of whether the cell's being like a computer proves design. Computers themselves prove the world is designed; why get locked into cells?
The idea is simple. The theory of evolution says there is no mechanism to create right things in the world, there is only a way of eliminating wrong things. There is no trial and error, there is only error, with the result that a trial occurs by default only. Bad things can't survive, what remains is the self-sustaining, which we then define as good. Fine. Such a system could exist but it could not have within itself potential creative systems. If anything it naturally tends to spawn spontaneous and arbitrary properties, more likely to be troublesome by a factor of zillions to one.
The fact that the forces and properties existing in the world can be rearranged via human intervention to form a computer indicate a designer who anticipated that arrangement. To assume that all the parts for something so amazing were present for no purpose at all and a human mind could discover that possibility as a coincidental reconfiguration of reality is monstrously absurd.