Argument from poor design

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Tsunami damage for which God is ultimately responsible as the designer
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The Dysteleological argument, or argument from poor design, is an argument against the existence of God - specifically a competent creator God.

"Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago."

George Carlin [1]

"[Regarding living things,] How hostile and destructive to each other! How insufficient all of them for their own happiness! How contemptible or odious to the spectator! The whole presents nothing but the idea of a blind Nature, impregnated by a great vivifying principle, and pouring forth from her lap, without discernment or parental care, her maimed and abortive children!"

— Philo in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion[2]

The implication of the argument is that God is either incompetent, malevolent or non-existent. It can be used as a counter-argument to the fine-tuning argument and the argument from design.



The argument typically goes as follows:

  1. An omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God would create organisms with an optimal design.
  2. Organisms, including humans, have features that are suboptimal.
  3. Therefore, God either did not create these organisms or is not omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

The argument is usually not proposed as an actual argument, but as a weaker Reductio ad absurdum of the argument from design - the bedrock argument for the Intelligent design movement.

Some of the suboptimal features often touted includes:

  1. The eye (including the human eye, as the retina is backwards -- among other imperfections).
  2. The Laryngeal nerve (seen most spectacularly in the giraffe with a multiple metre detour to reach a displacement of mere centimetres).

Speaking of the traditional conception of God, Stendhal wrote: [3]

"The only excuse for God is that He does not exist."

Friedrich Nietzsche speculated that if a loving God existed, he would have died upon seeing the end product of his poor design.

Biblical God agrees it was a mistake

Genesis 6:5-6 Bible-icon.png states:

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart."

Emotional expression and admission of error also incompatible with God's supposed inerrancy and unchanging nature.

Earth and humans are not distinct

Main Article: Earth the center of the universe

If humans or the Earth were designed by God and are a significant part of creation, we might expect them to be distinct in some tangible way. However, it seems odd that there are many other similar planets (as discovered by Galileo) and humans are animals similar to all the others (as confirmed by Evolutionary theory). Since the humans and Earth are not distinct from the rest of creation, they are not specially privileged or significant. Therefore, claims to the contrary in holy scriptures are false.

Most of the universe is hostile to life

It look billions of years for life to emerge in the universe. Also, most of the universe is uninhabitable and hostile to life.

"So if the purpose of the universe was to create humans then the cosmos was embarrassingly inefficient about it."

— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Designs are always a trade off between various considerations

"all design requires trade-offs. Laptop computers must strike a balance between size, weight, and performance. [...] Likewise, it could be that the design of the panda’s thumb is a trade-off that still achieves intended objectives.[4]"

An omnipotent designer does not need to make trade-offs since he has unlimited options, since he is apparently not even limited by physical laws.

Also, many design flaws in biological systems are not trade-offs but fundamental flaws that can be directly remedied.

"Did I show you a house or palace, where there was not one apartment convenient or agreeable; where the windows, doors, fires, passages, stairs, and the whole economy of the building, were the source of noise, confusion, fatigue, darkness, and the extremes of heat and cold; you would certainly blame the contrivance, without any further examination. The architect would in vain display his subtlety, and prove to you, that if this door or that window were altered, greater ills would ensue. What he says may be strictly true: The alteration of one particular, while the other parts of the building remain, may only augment the inconveniences. But still you would assert in general, that, if the architect had had skill and good intentions, he might have formed such a plan of the whole, and might have adjusted the parts in such a manner, as would have remedied all or most of these inconveniences. His ignorance, or even your own ignorance of such a plan, will never convince you of the impossibility of it. If you find any inconveniences and deformities in the building, you will always, without entering into any detail, condemn the architect.[2]"


  1. [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
  3. As quoted in "A Sentimental Education" by James Huneker, Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 43 (1908), p. 230
  4. I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist

See also

External links

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