Pro-ID Paper Examines Irreducible Complexity of Birds in Flight

by Mike Keas

Discovery Institute maintains an annotated list of peer-reviewed publications that support intelligent design. One of the essays listed there is explained briefly in a podcast at ID the Future: Pro-ID Paper Examines Irreducible Complexity of Birds in Flight. On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin reports on a 2009 peer-reviewed paper arguing for the irreducible complexity of two systems vital to bird flight — feathers and the avian respiratory system. The author, Leeds University professor Andy McIntosh, challenges his critics to consider the design hypothesis as a valid scientific assumption “borne out by the evidence itself.”

Here is how Discovery Institute’s annotated list of peer-reviewed publications summarizes the essay that Luskin discusses in the podcast above:

A.C. McIntosh, “Evidence of design in bird feathers and avian respiration,” International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics, Vol. 4(2):154–169 (2009).

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In this peer-reviewed paper, Leeds University professor Andy McIntosh argues that two systems vital to bird flight — feathers and the avian respiratory system — exhibit “irreducible complexity.” The paper describes these systems using the exact sort of definitions that Michael Behe uses to describe irreducible complexity:

[F]unctional systems, in order to operate as working machines, must have all the required parts in place in order to be effective. If one part is missing, then the whole system is useless. The inference of design is the most natural step when presented with evidence such as in this paper, that is evidence concerning avian feathers and respiration.

Regarding the structure of feathers, he argues that they require many features to be present in order to properly function and allow flight…

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