Is the Human Body a Bad Design?

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“Any poor designer with millions of years available for trying out new solutions could have done a much better job [than evolution did].” That’s the conclusion reached by an evolutionary biologist from Norway, Professor Glenn-Peter Sætre, whose opinions on the issue were recently recorded in a lengthy article. This article highlights the supposed “flaws” in the design of the human body. But are these really “flaws”?

Here’s what anatomist Dr. David Menton had to say about Sætre’s argument. He declares that these arguments “show a profound lack of understanding of the integrated complexity of the human body.” That’s the short version—here’s Dr. Menton’s long version:

Note in the quote below how the author has to use the words poor constructions rather than poor designs—he simply can’t bring himself to use the word design in any sense of the word when speaking of evolution.

Evolution has produced countless amazing life forms, but you need look no further than to the human body to find examples showing that evolution has also produced a number of poor constructions . . . The many flaws of evolution makes [sic] it impossible to believe in the theory of intelligent design.

What Is the General Argument Being Presented?

The argument here is basically this: You expect junk “constructions” from evolution (no design at all), but not from an intelligent designer. An intelligent designer would design everything we see in nature in a manner considered to be “intelligent” by an evolutionist/atheist who is dead certain there is no intelligent designer of the natural world. Finally, the argument insists that evidence of poor design (in the opinion of an evolutionist/atheist) is evidence of no design at all. Yes, this is what passes for logic in evolutionism.

It's also worth noting that evolutionist Saetre, who is the “brains” behind this review article on “Intelligent Design is Unscientific,” defends his atheistic evolution by pointing out that: “I am an atheist myself, but I know there are evolutionists—especially in the United States—who are devout Christians.” Such atheistic evolutionists will often use their theistic evolutionist counterparts to promote atheistic evolution. This makes me wonder: do theistic evolutionists ever declare what essential role God plays in evolution that would be acceptable to a professional evolutionist?

Critique of the Basic Premise

It should be noted that by all common dictionary definitions, there is no such thing as “chance design.” All definitions of design imply forethought, so all design is “intelligent design,” whether or not one likes the design or believes that it can be improved on. You may be sure that evolutionists would be no more likely to accept “mere design” than “intelligent design.”

In a presentation at the 172nd annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2006, evolution apologist Dr. Eugenie Scott insisted that teaching intelligent design in our schools is really teaching religion because, she asked, “What designer other than God could have made all this complexity?” Think of it: she realizes that it would require a designer no less than God to design the sort of complexity we see in the natural world, but she is convinced that no design at all could also do it, and indeed has done it!

Isn’t it great to be a Christian? We can be rational!

Examples of “Poor Design”

  1. The human pelvic birth canal

    The author argues that it is a poor design for humans to deliver their babies through a narrow bony pelvis rather than through the abdomen, as in a caesarian section. He says that this is “an obvious example of ‘unintelligent design in the human body that women have a narrow birth canal, which makes childbirth both more dangerous and more painful than in other species.’” But all other mammals also deliver their live birth through their pelvic birth canal. It is true that humans seem to endure more pain in the same process than do most animals. Genesis 3:16 explains this, that the greater pain in the human birth process is a result of sin:

    To the woman God said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.”

    This biblical explanation would, of course, be dismissed with contempt by evolutionists. But why according to evolutionists, would the most highly evolved of all species not have the relatively painless delivery process of other mammals? The author suggests that a bigger pelvis for an upright-walking human would interfere with bipedality, but it is estimated that the human pelvis would only need to be less than two inches wider to more comfortably accommodate the relatively large head of the human newborn.

  2. Human inability to synthesize vitamin C

    The author claims the human body is poorly constructed because we are unable to synthesize vitamin C, unlike most other mammals. Indeed, guinea pigs, anthropoid apes, and humans are among the few mammals that don’t synthesize vitamin C. On the other hand, many so-called primitive animals can synthesize vitamin C. But where is the evolutionary progression here? There are important essential fatty acids required in the diet of humans and other mammals and birds. Living creatures vary in which amino acids are required in their diet. Even among bacteria, some require only a few amino acids while other bacteria require all 20 amino acids. Humans require 9–10 amino acids and two essential fatty acids. But are these nutritional requirements limitations of bad design? All living things require some form of nutrition to survive; it’s just a question of what. Different kinds of creatures require different kinds of diets. Koalas, for example, require eucalyptus leaves to survive with some species of koalas requiring even certain species of eucalyptus leaves. Every creature requires some essential nutrients in their diet while being able to synthesize others.

  3. Humans are so poorly constructed, it is even dangerous to eat!

    “The problem is that both the food that should be heading for the stomach and the air that should be heading for the lungs, enters our body via the same channel—the pharynx.” So, to the evolutionist, it’s a huge problem for humans (and every other vertebrate with lungs) that we must both breathe and eat through the same opening. This means if we really wolf down our food while breathing hard and not paying attention, we might get some food down our trachea instead of our esophagus. There is a precisely placed flap called the epiglottis that should prevent this, but with effort one can get food down the wrong pipe resulting in a coughing reaction to expel the food. But for the evolutionist, this isn’t enough.

    The author says, “It would have been smarter if food and air entered the human body via completely separate channels.” If only God had consulted with smarter evolutionists, he could have gotten this right. Fortunately for the evolutionists, this is a problem easily solved by a rather simple surgery called a tracheotomy. When a tube is placed into the trachea through an incision in the neck, you achieve this “smarter” evolutionary arrangement where air enters our trachea and lungs and food enters our esophagus and stomach by completely separate channels. One can now horse down food like a trousered ape without getting it in your windpipe. But discuss this with your surgeon before you undergo this surgical “improvement” because you will be unable to talk after this procedure. You see we move air from our respiratory system through the vocal cords in our larynx in order to make the sounds of speech and we use our mouth to pronounce the words of speech.

    Perhaps we should just leave everything the way God created it.

  4. It’s time to trot out the long-refuted “useless” appendix

    “Why do we have an appendix? It has no function in our digestive system, and it can easily become infected. An intelligent and professional engineer could easily have avoided these flawed constructions in the human body,” claims Dr. Saetre.

    When you read something like this, you can’t help but wonder if the evolutionist that makes such a statement is truly unaware of the function of the appendix or if they are intentionally ignoring its function to preserve the old evolutionary myth of the useless appendix. Even the popular magazine Scientific American had an issue discussing the functions of the appendix as early as October 21, 1999.

    The appendix has long been known to be part of the gut-associated lymphoid tissue GALT along with the tonsils and Peyers patches. The appendix is located near the beginning of the ascending colon and serves as a “safe house” for beneficial bacteria to be reinoculated into the gut in the event of their purge from a severe bout of diarrhea. The appendix shelters the beneficial bacteria from competition from dangerous pathogens until they are pressed into use.

  5. The squid’s eye is smarter

    The author insists that the squid’s eye is a lot “smarter” than the human eye because it doesn’t have a “blind spot” where the optic nerve enters the retina. This of course is why we call particularly sharp-eyed people “squid-eyed” (or is it eagle-eyed?). This so-called blind spot in the human retina occurs in a different part of the visual field in each eye, and thus is not visible without special efforts.

    The author says “we as biologists, can present a long list showing how the eye has evolved, from the simplest photosensitive organs of mussels for example, to the advanced eyes of mammals.” All they are really saying is that they can arrange the eyes of currently living animals into a sequence of more and more complicated eyes. I can do the same thing with the tools hanging on the pegboard of my workbench, but it tells us nothing about their supposed evolution.

When I was at university, I remember my professor saying the kidney was poorly designed and man could do a much better job at designing such an organ. I wanted to go to my professor and say, “well, why don’t you have your kidneys removed and go on the artificial kidney (dialysis) that man has invented and let’s see which one works best.”

Unlike Sætre, when I study what God has made, this verse comes to mind:

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures. (Psalm 104:24)

Thank you, Dr. Menton. By the way, Dr. Menton’s PhD in biology came from an Ivy League School, Brown University. He taught human anatomy for decades at a prominent medical school.

Get More Answers on Answers News

This item was discussed yesterday on Answers News with cohosts Avery Foley, Bodie Hodge, and Bryan Osborne. Answers News is our weekly news program filmed live here at the Creation Museum and broadcast on my Facebook page and the Answers in Genesis Facebook page. We also covered the following topics:

  • Are we set to lose billions of years of evolution?
  • Pro-life activists get harassed.
  • Were some dinosaurs cannibals?
  • And more!

Watch the entire episode of Answers News for June 3, 2020.

Be sure to join us each Monday and Wednesday at 2 p.m. (ET) on my Facebook page or the Answers in Genesis Facebook page for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

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