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Perspective of New Book on “Design Flaws”

on February 20, 2010

PhysOrg: “New Book Examines the Flawed Human BodyEvolutionists often point to apparent flaws in human design to ridicule the notion of “intelligent design.” Now, the author of a new book on “design flaws” in humans offers his perspective.

University of California–Irvine evolutionary biologist John Avise is author of Inside the Human Genome, which a press release touts as “explor[ing] the many deficiencies of human DNA while recapping recent findings about the human genome.” While opponents of intelligent design have used human anatomical flaws (real and imagined) to attack the case for design, Avise points to genetic deficiencies.

Avise points to genetic deficiencies.

“We now know that the human genome is riddled with molecular defects of many sorts,” Avise explained in a syndicated interview. He then took aim at intelligent design:

“Proponents of intelligent design understandably focus on the many beauties of life . . . [h]owever, natural selection in conjunction with genetic processes can also produce complex biological systems that usually function well. So both natural selection and intelligent design are consistent with the appearance of biological craftsmanship. Serious biological imperfections, on the other hand, can only logically be expected of nonsentient evolutionary processes . . . .”

Avise is partially right and partially wrong. While it’s true that, theoretically, both natural selection and intelligent design can explain complex systems, information-adding genetic mutations would be required for natural-selection–driven evolution to “create” features that appear to be designed. Such information-adding genetic mutations have never been observed, however. Furthermore, biological imperfections are quite consistent with a “post-Fall” world. God created life perfectly, but the effects of the Curse—especially destructive genetic mutations and disease—have partially obscured the original perfect creation with “biological imperfections.” For these reasons, we contend that a combination of “intelligent design” plus a genuine, historical Fall can explain our impressive-but-imperfect biology.

Next, Avise offered his opinions on why “theologians should welcome evolutionary discoveries”:

“With respect to biological imperfections, evolution can emancipate religion from the shackles of theodicy. No longer need we feel tempted to blaspheme an omnipotent deity by making him directly responsible for human frailties and physical shortcomings, including those we now know to be commonplace at the molecular and biochemical levels. . . . Instead, we can put the blame for biological flaws squarely on the shoulders of evolutionary processes.”

Evolution cannot actually explain design credibly.

There are two key problems with blaming biological imperfections on evolution rather than on God (as Avise insinuates non-evolutionists must do). First is the problem pointed out above: that evolution cannot actually explain design credibly. And, if there is a god who “uses” evolution in His creative process, it would be unfair to blameshift. Second, however, is that Bible-believing creationists don’t blame imperfections on God at all! As we wrote above, such imperfections are due to the Curse, which was the consequence of human sin (Genesis 3). Only by understanding Genesis can we understand both the marvels of God’s originally perfect design and the true source of biological imperfections—including death.

A final note on why Avise’s views are problematic. In the interview’s conclusion, he quotes Dobzhansky’s famous line that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,” then adds, “Evolution, genetics, and ecology are central to so many areas—not only in biology but also in countless human affairs ranging from religion to medicine to environmental issues.” He thus reminds us that evolution is an invasive worldview—let it in only a little and it will remake your views on everything from biology to morality.

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