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Against Intelligent Design...

08 January 2013, 10:31

It’s easy to see why so many people are tempted to believe in “intelligent” design. Who can argue with the idea that everything in nature just seems to magnificent and complex and it all seems to fit together so amazingly. But that is exactly the problem; it all SEEMS to fit together like some cosmic jigsaw. The truth is that if we looked at the natural world and ourselves more objectively, we would see that things are clearly not as well designed as we first assume.

Take that supposedly complex organ the human eye as an example. Irreducible complexity is an argument often used by creationists with the eye being their ideal illustration. But this love of using the eye as an example of irreducible complexity betrays the source of their arguments and assumptions. The reason they quote the eye as opposed to any other organ in the body is because they are relying on their own eyes to draw the conclusion that our world and surroundings are well designed rather than their intellect. Why do they never quote the ear as a complex organ? I would in fact argue that the ear is a lot more complex than the eye. Consisting of an outer canal, an eardrum, three tiny bones to convey vibrations, the cochlea with its many tiny hairs and connected nerve endings.

My point is that if one were to look at the eye objectively, one would find that it is not in fact very well designed. The optic nerve cuts directly through the retina creating a blind spot. We are practically blind at night. Our nose is in the way and the only reason we don’t “see” it is because it is being filtered out by the brain. We can’t see behind us so are vulnerable to a surprise attack. Our field of vision is very narrow as our peripheral vision is often out of focus. The light we are able to see fits into a very narrow part of the light spectrum. These are all simple examples of features where the human eye comes up short. I am not implying that it isn’t a complex organ or that it fails at its purpose, I merely aim to point out that an intelligent designer might have made a few more adjustments before releasing the final product.

What of the rest of the human body? Well if one were simply to look at the human body and all it is capable of, again, it would be easy enough to be fooled into thinking that it is a well-designed machine.  After all, there are so many things that it can do well. But is it really that well designed? What of the fact that it is so fragile. We manage so very easily to injure ourselves with a simple fall. A fall in an awkward position can lead to broken bones, concussions or paralyses. It wasn’t made to travel at any great speed since impact at high speed can rupture our organs among other things. This seems odd as an intelligent designer would surely have taken our penchant for hasty travel into consideration? Our brains are situated at the top of our body making it one of our most exposed organs. It is housed in a piece of bone that can again be damaged by a simple fall. If I were designing the human body I might have found some way to stick the brain in a less exposed area, maybe in the same place as the rest of our vital organs, behind the rib cage. For many of us our mouths are too small for all the teeth that it will need to house. Almost all animals and plants synthesize their own vitamin C, but humans cannot because the gene for this enzyme is defective.

One of my favorite arguments against intelligent design I first heard from Neil DeGrasse Tyson (not sure if it really is his argument). But he posits that the positioning of our sexual organs is kind of like putting an amusement park beside a sewage plant. This is not very hygienic. And speaking of sexual organs, human reproduction is extremely dangerous. The only reason so many mothers and babies no longer die during child birth is thanks to modern science and medicine.

Another argument he makes is the fact that the pipe we breathe through and the one we eat through both have the same opening causing us to choke all too easily. What kind of intelligent designer would do such a thing unless he wants us to die? Then we haven’t even gotten to all the ways in which we can get sick or injured.

If one takes a quick look around nature as well you can find many examples of design choices that simply make no sense. The reason we have to put down horses when they are injured, for example, is because they cannot lie down too long or blood flow will become impeded leading to organ failure. There is a species of frog (or maybe it’s a toad) that cannot distinguish between the male and female of its own species so at mating time will simply leap onto the closest neighbor it can find. What about the species of frog in which the male makes a high frequency mating call that the female of the species simply cannot hear. Why do flightless birds such as chickens have wings? The mudskipper is a fish that has to have a bubble of air in their gills to help them breathe underwater, and can only breathe above water if its moist. The blind mole rat has two eyes. There are entire ecosystems that are reliant on a single species for its continued existence. Remove these key species and the whole ecosystem collapses.

I should probably have started with this, but a design is only good if it is also functional and the design suits the function. But in order for something to be considered functional, one must know the function. So what is the function of a human being? We are certainly very ambitious creatures and therein lies the rub. Our bodies are certainly not designed to endure the strains that our ambitions place upon it, even ignoring all the physical frailties, stressful situations can cause both psychological and physical damage. So for what purpose was this frail human body designed and how has the designer made his design intelligently?

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