Stephen Colbert is not a fundamentalist zealot--he just plays one on TV. He's also not an economist, or a politician, or a scientist, but he has the ability to look right through specious arguments of these people and skewer them to humourous effect on basic cable television. His victim last night was Michael Behe, the grand poobah of the Intelligent Design movement. Behe was on Colbert's show plugging his new book, which better minds than mine have already torn to shreds (here and here, for instance). Behe's a jovial sort, and he seemed relaxed and in his element; after all, Colbert had said twice that all he wished to do was agree with Behe that God had created the universe in its present form. Behe apparently has never seen the Colbert Report. He launched into his tired (and repeatedly discredited) mousetrap analogy--that even a simple mousetrap is useless if one of its parts is removed, and so is an example of irreducible complexity.
Colbert is not an athiest--he famously teaches a Sunday School class at his church--but he's also not a fool. When Behe stated that dismantling a mousetrap would leave only a wire, a spring, and a block of wood, Colbert gave exactly the right response: "And of course we know, none of those things is even remotely useful." This gets right to the heart of the problem with irreducible complexity. Even if it is true (and it usually isn't) that some complex structure or metabolic pathway won't work without all its components, it doesn't mean that those components are useless in and of themselves. For instance, one of the favorite targets of the ID crowd is the bacterial flagellum, a structure seemingly so complex that it can't possibly work without all the parts. However, recent study indicates that parts of the flagellum are identical to mechanisms used by some bacteria to attack others. In other words, the flagellum was put together out of parts of other mechanisms being used for unrelated purposes. It should be obvious to any idiot that the individual parts of a mousetrap have other uses. It was obvious to Colbert; it wasn't obvious to Behe.