When it comes to providing "proof" for Intelligent Design based on the nebulous concept of irreducible complexity, the IDers have no better friend than the lowly mousetrap. Oh, yes, they love their mousetrap, don't they?
The idea behind the generic mousetrap is that it is, in the opinion of IDers everywhere, an example of "irreducible complexity." That is, if you consider the design of an ordinary mousetrap, there is absolutely no way that any simpler or less complete design could function as a trapper of mice. In that sense, it would be irreducibly complex -- every part of the mousetrap is absolutely essential to fulfill its purpose of catching rodents.
Having explained this concept, IDers then generalize to other biological forms, claiming that they are similarly irreducibly complex and therefore could not possibly have evolved since any simpler form could not possibly have served its current function. It's a superficially compelling argument. It's also total bullshit.
Consider your standard trap and its various parts:
Well, it certainly looks like there's no way to make that trap any simpler, doesn't it? Ah, but looks can be deceiving. I'm going to take that trap, and I'm going to simply remove both the catch and the holding bar. So what's left?
Well, it's easy to see that I don't have much of a mousetrap anymore -- that's kind of obvious. All I have now is a spring-loaded hammer that, if I cock it all the way over, it's just going to snap back. That's a pretty pathetic mousetrap, isn't it? In fact, it's not much of a mousetrap at all anymore. But if I have a stack of papers, that platform and spring-loaded hammer makes a hell of a paper clip, doesn't it?
"Hold on," you howl, "that's not fair!" "Hold on," I respond, "you are a total moron." There's absolutely nothing in biological evolution that demands that current forms of life or any of their components must have evolved to have the same purpose throughout their evolutionary history. There may be no simpler form of that mousetrap that still functions as a mousetrap, but there is clearly a simpler form that functions perfectly adequately as something else -- a Jumbo paper clip. Isn't that convenient? Evolutionarily speaking, then, a mousetrap is most assuredly not irreducibly complex -- there is at least one simpler form that serves a perfectly useful (albeit unrelated) purpose.
Therefore, thusly and Q.E.D., this whole ID/mousetrap argument is so much swill and can be rejected. God, I love science and logic.
BONUS TRACK: For readers who want to see a series of increasingly-simpler mousetraps that still function as mousetraps, I recommend this piece. Michael Behe is such a dick.
I like this piece, too.