One of the key arguments for Intelligent Design (ID) is that new information cannot be produced by natural processes, and thus there must be intervention by an intelligent designer for this new information to appear. That’s a crude statement, but it covers the ground pretty well.
One problem I saw with the argument when I read Darwin’s Black Box, was one that was implicit in Behe’s writing, but which he did not acknowledge: Science discovers new things all the time. In the midst of describing how much we know now that was unknown in Darwin’s day, Behe suddenly seems to expect the reader to accept a stop sign in this one direction. For the production of an IC system, there must be intelligent intervention. There are at least two branches to that argument. First, no new information can be produced and second, that information can’t be organized as an IC system. Creating an IC system would require both, and that view has been challenged in both directions. Systems that appear to be IC have been proved to be no such thing, and many ways of producing new information through natural evolutionary processes have been demonstrate.
Art has a post on the Panda’s Thumb that discusses such a structure in about as much detail as a non-biologist can take. It’s pretty clear writing, however, so if you’re willing to look up a couple of terms to make sure you’re on track, you should be able to follow it in its essentials. The key point can be summarized:
The take-home message of all this is: portions of the maize mitochondrial genome that do not normally encode any protein were shuffled, extensively, so as to cobble together an expressed gene that encodes, not just any old polypeptide, but a multimeric gated ion channel. In other words, an irreducibly complex structure arose in one fell swoop, using DNA sequences that do not encode proteins. Basically, this is a case of IC from scratch.
Much of the information that refutes Behe’s arguments was already available when he wrote, and much has appeared since. I appreciate those folks who are willing to write up this sort of complicated material for the rest of us.
If I might add my theological note, as is expected of me as a theistic evolutionist, my question for my fellow Christians is why they would assume that a universe designed by God would be incapable of producing pretty much anything. I do not mean by front-loading for specific elements, but simply the design of a universe that functions. This is not an argument for or against intervention. It’s simply an observation that special intervention is not required. (By special intervention I mean action that contravenes the normal processes. As a theist, I believe that all things happen “because God,” but that God’s will is so consistent that we can call it natural law.)