Nested Hierarchies: Proof of Evolution?

We had a recent drive-by commenter, John, here who purported that nested hierarchies were “proof” of common descent (the holy grail of Darwinism). My friend over at the Italian ID site, Progetto Cosmo, recently wrote a post on nested hierarchies.

Why complex systems of nested hierarchies like cars or living things cannot be produced from the lowest to highest level.

An automobile is an example of a complex system with nested hierarchies. At the highest hierarchical level, a car is a device for transporting people and things. It consists of several sub-hierarchies:

1. Steering mechanism
2. Braking system
3. Engine
4. Transmission Etc.

The most complex of these is the engine. Within the engine we have further sub-hierarchies like the crankshaft assembly, a precisely machined and balanced steel bar which converts rotary to linear motion. Then we have the piston assembly which includes the piston itself, connecting rod, piston pin, and rings. The rings are a hierarchy down from the pistons. They are precision parts and typically sold as sets. The set of spark plugs and wires is yet another sub hierarchy of the engine. And each spark plug is a hierarchy of it’s own consisting of insulator, threads, electrode and so on. And the same applies even to spark plug wires which consist of insulator, copper wire, and connectors.

The car does not function unless all the hierarchies of systems are included in the proper order. Nor can they be included helter-skelter. They have to be in the proper assembly order. The piston rods must be connected to the crankshaft. The cylinders must have spark plugs. The wheels must have tires. A car which has the pistons in the trunk and the tires on the back seat is useless. An engine without piston rings will not function.

And continues…

We now understand that the molecule lying at the lowest level of hierarchy is DNA. The random changes are simply substitutions of one DNA base for another resulting in a mutation. A useful mutation will aid survival and reproduction. The cycle of mutation/selection is the engine that drives evolution. So we are told. But wait: mutation takes place at the lowest level of a living organism’s hierarchy. How can changes at this level be coordinated into the vast array of hierarchies above?

Imagine handing an ancient Roman engineer a spark plug and expecting that by tinkering with it he might eventually develop a car. How could this possibly happen without a vision of a car and how its hierarchies interrelate? Even if that ancient Roman somehow stumbled on a modification that improved the spark plug he would have no way to recognize the improvement because without all the hierarchies that make up a car, the spark plug is useless.

So his notion is that for complex systems of nested hierarchies, there must be a designer who has in mind, a purpose and function of the designs, from the beginning in order to produce a functional nested hierarchy. In other words, random changes in the surface of your concrete floor in your basement will not transform your house into something different. Random changes to a blueprint for a house before it is built would certainly have implications for the outcome, and blueprints that result from random processes would have even further implications. The blind process and necessity worshipers seem to believe that these processes can result in nested hierarchies and even try to use this as proof of evolution. I’m less than convinced…