flewellyn: (Default)
[personal profile] flewellyn
It's been in the news a lot these days, this "intelligent design" debate, the notion that somehow, evolution fails to properly explain the diversity and complexity of life on Earth, and that some intelligent designer must have put it together. Of course, the proponents don't explicitly say which "designer" they mean, but it's all too obvious: the creationists are back in town, and just as annoying as ever.

But putting aside the obnoxious religious proselytizing and the chicanery of the ID crowd, what does the "theory" of intelligent design actually explain that evolution does not? More to the point, I thought, what kinds of things are easily explained through evolution, but utterly inexplicably if one presupposes a designer of any intelligence whatsoever?

So, to try and give these questions a good workout, I'm working on compiling a list of "design" flaws in the human body, which are explainable via evolution, but (if ID were true) would represent seriously bad engineering judgement on the part of the putative designer. I'm up to, umm, nine or ten so far...


  1. The anterior cruciate ligament is badly placed, and far too easily damaged. It's okay for quadrupeds, but we're bipeds.

  2. Our spinal columns are not properly designed for upright gait; the tendency of people to have lower back pain is one symptom of this. Again, our spines would be fine for quadrupeds.

  3. We are unable to synthesize ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), unlike most mammals. It makes sense that we may have lost the ability sometime in the past when we evolved the ability to procure a widly varied diet, but it qualifies as a design flaw.

  4. The placement of the carpal tunnels makes them far too easy to damage through repetitive strain.

  5. Appendix, anyone? The thing serves no useful purpose in humans; it only sits there and sometimes gets infected. It makes sense, evolutionarily, why we have it (our apelike ancestors needed it to digest cellulose), but a designer of any intelligence would have omitted it.

  6. The eye, that structure so beloved of the "irreducible complexity" crowd, is itself badly done. The optic nerve attaches at the back of the retina, right among the receptors, creating a blind spot. Why not have it coming off to the side?

  7. Blood types. Explainable as variation among populations, in evolution; in ID, just needless complexity.

  8. Lactose intolerance. Well, actually, lactose tolerance, which is the minority worldwide. It doesn't make any sense why a designer would only design some populations to be able to ingest dairy, while not others.


  9. and finally...

  10. David Spade. Just...why?!



Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

Date: 2005-09-28 04:47 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] limpingpigeon.livejournal.com
I've never felt that "Evolution" and "Creation" need to be mutually exclusive.

I also think that a large part of the cause of all the argument over these two ideas is that many people who criticize the theory of evolution have no idea what that theory actually is. Many creationists interpret it as claiming "humans came from monkeys", which is NOT what evolution suggests. It suggests that humans once looked and behaved differently from the way we do now. Is that really so far-fetched?

Date: 2005-09-28 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xuincherguixe.livejournal.com
Of course, in a lot of ways people are a lot like monkeys.

Heck, George Bush even kind of looks like one.

Date: 2005-09-28 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] valkyriekaren.livejournal.com
The British political cartoonist Steve Bell invariably depicts Bush as an ape, often clutching a cup of tea, in a nod to 1950s-80s British TV commercials for PG Tips teabags.

Date: 2005-09-28 09:36 pm (UTC)
sheistheweather: (Eyeliner)
From: [personal profile] sheistheweather
I agree.

Date: 2005-09-28 09:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] motodraconis.livejournal.com
I always thought periods were a huge design flaw, anyone with an ounce of sense would have designed something less painful, messy and downright wasteful and inefficient.
But then I suppose a creationist would argue that this is a Sign from God that every woman should be popping out a baby every year until she either dies from childbirth or hits menopause.
Can you imagine it? In the western world with some kind of access to health care, (almost) every woman producing 20-odd children that survive to adulthood.
Yeah, brilliant design!
(Grinds teeth.)

Date: 2005-09-28 02:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] limpingpigeon.livejournal.com
I know many creationists who would argue that the period is part of the punishment for eating the fruit of knowledge.

Date: 2005-09-28 09:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spooke.livejournal.com
Female body hair ain't too hot, either. Or flat feet and other genetic diseases/handicaps (someone please show me the conjoined twins in the bible) - oh man, the allergies... and what about the basic genetic similarity to all vertebrates? Was god lazy or something?

Date: 2005-09-28 12:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spooke.livejournal.com
Also, balding. And what's with the tailbone?

Date: 2005-09-28 11:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keryddwen.livejournal.com
I don't know if this qualifies for pro-evolution, or pro-ID, but I have just one word:

Platypus.

Granted, not an addition to the previous comments on the human body flaws.... but either it's a major screw up or Someone has a serious sense of humor. ;-)

Oh, and about the lactose intolerance, I kinda disagree. Human breastmilk is the perfect food for babies, and current thought is that they don't need any other food until at least six months, sometimes even up to a year (although most docs tell you to introduce solid foods at 6 mos). Once a baby is weaned from its mother's milk, there really is no reason to drink milk again. Be it cow's milk, goat's milk, or whatever's milk. After all, cow's milk is for baby cows, goat's milk is for baby goats, etc. Humans weren't really "designed" to drink other animals' milk. So it makes sense, actually, that we would be "lactose intolerant."

Date: 2005-09-28 02:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] limpingpigeon.livejournal.com
I think the issue Flew was referring to was not that lactose intolerance exists, but that it isn't something consistent in humans. Some people have no problem digesting dairy, while others experience problems with it. In the context of Intelligent Design, where does lactose intolerance fit in? Why would an Intelligent Creator make just some members of the human race incapable of digesting something that others have no problem with?

Date: 2005-09-28 05:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] snorkmaiden.livejournal.com
As a biologist, humans were not originally designed to take in oxygen. THis is why we have symbiotic relationships with mitochondria, so that we can survive in an oxygenated world.

Date: 2005-09-28 06:37 pm (UTC)
winterbadger: (Default)
From: [personal profile] winterbadger
"Wisdom" teeth? For that matter, the whole process of growing two different sets of teeth.

I realize toes perform a very useful fucntion, but surely there would be a better way of designing them. Wouldn't bilaterally symmetrical feet make more sense?

Body hair versus fur? I'm just speculating wildly at this point, but why design a creature that needs to invent clothing to keep itself from getting cold? when all/most of the other creations have fur that does that just fine. Unless you believe in the Adam/Eve story, and as an Intelilgent Design scientist, I'm not doing to argue from Biblical principles, now am I? ;-)

Date: 2005-10-01 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
The two sets of teeth thing isn't so bad. Our baby chompers are sized for baby heads. When we grow bigger, we need bigger teeth.

Wisdom teeth, though, are a good point.

Date: 2005-09-28 11:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] momily.livejournal.com
Hey. I like David Spade.

Date: 2005-10-01 02:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
Sad, but we all must play the hands we're dealt. I'm sure you'll overcome your problem someday. *pats you on the head*

;-P

Date: 2006-01-25 02:12 am (UTC)
minkrose: (smile shift light)
From: [personal profile] minkrose
... my reaction to this post was extreme delight.

I hadn't seen this approach anywhere else and it's damned brilliant. thank you thank you thank you and do you mind if I email this to EVERYONE I KNOW? If I get more suggestions, I'll let you know.

Date: 2006-01-25 02:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
Sure, rock on. I should mention that I'm having another thought about it, as well...

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