Argument from poor design

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Judging the intelligence of a designer who created the natural world would not lead to the conclusion of a perfectly intelligent one. There are a large number of rather stunning defects in nature that a competent designer wouldn't make, the human eye for example certainly relies on the principles of optics, but the ganglion cells are situated such that the nerves and blood which feed the eye are backwards and run across the light sensing cells of the eye, then feed through a hole placed in the centre such that humans and other mammals have a blind spot. Appendices serve no purpose and get infected and need to be removed. The human jaw is too small to properly fit wisdom teeth. Embryos sometimes implant themselves outside of the uterus and without abortion would kill the mother. If you were to conclude design, you would need to conclude an idiotic tinkerer rather than a divine perfect creator.

The first task for an advocate of the argument from imperfection is to establish that if God created the world then the world would be perfect. This at least appears to follow from God’s perfection.

The goodness of a creator is proportional to the goodness of that which he creates. A carpenter who makes a fragile table with uneven legs is a bad carpenter. A carpenter who makes a strong and beautiful table is better.

As God is a perfect Creator, then, so God’s creation must also be perfect. If God created this world, it seems, then this must be the best of all possible worlds.

Against this line of thought, objectors argue that there is no best possible world, that every possible world could be improved in some respect, and so that the idea that a perfect Creator would necessarily create a perfect world is false. However, this defeats the regularly-claimed theistic argument that we occupy the best of all possible worlds, and that a perfect God exists, since God's nature could be always be improved in some respect. The claim that there is no best possible world, that the idea of a perfect world is incoherent, is at least plausible. Although there are better and worse possible worlds, for any world that we can imagine we can imagine a way of making it better. We could for instance, increase the number of happy people contained by that world. As there is no intrinsic maximum number of happy people in the world, there is no world for which it is not possible to increase the number of happy people that it contains.

Further, increasing the number of happy people in a world always makes that world better. It is therefore true of every world that it could be improved, and so true of no world that it is the best possible world. Thus far, the defence against the argument from imperfection appears to be on solid ground.

The concern with this defence against the argument from imperfection is that it proves not only that the idea of a best possible world is incoherent, but also that the idea of a perfect Creator is incoherent. If this is the case, then the fact that there is no possible world not only rebuts the argument from imperfection but also disproves the existence of God. For if God is conceived of as a perfect Creator and if the idea of a perfect Creator is incoherent, then the existence of God is impossible.

If the theist is to answer the argument from imperfection by denying that the concept of a best possible world is coherent, therefore, then he must find some way of explicating the concept of a perfect Creator that is not dependent upon the concept of a best possible world.

The second task for an advocate of the argument from imperfection is to establish that the world is not perfect. This claim, of course, is highly plausible; there are many ways in which it might be thought that the world might have been better. The world might, for example, have contained fewer wars, or fewer unpleasant diseases, or fewer destructive volcanic eruptions. The world, the advocate of the argument from imperfection will maintain, contains multiple defects, each of which establishes at least the imperfection of its Creator, and probably the non-existence of God.

If it is accepted both that if God existed then the world would be perfect, and that the world is not perfect, then it must also be accepted that God does not exist. The argument from imperfection can therefore be summarised as follows:

The Argument from Imperfection

(1) If God exists then he is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.

(2) If God were omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent then the world would not contain imperfections.

(3) The world contains imperfections.


(4) It is not the case that God exists.

The Argument from Apparent Fallibility

1.In terms of our experience, most seeming errors or mistakes in the kinds of created entities we have so far examined are the result of the fallibility of one or more creators of the entities. [Empirical evidence]

2.The universe is a created entity. [Supposition]

2.1).If the universe is a created entity, then it is an entity of a kind we have so far examined, with seeming errors or mistakes. [Empirical evidence][Probably]

3.The seeming errors or mistakes in the universe are the result of the actions of a fallible being or beings. [From (1), (2), and (2a) by predictive inference]

4.If the theistic God exists, then the seeming errors or mistakes in the universe are the results of the actions of a being who is infallible. [Analytic truth]

5.Therefore the theistic God does not exist. [From (3) and (4) by modus tollens]

Examples of poor design

The existence of the blind spot in the human eye.

In the African locust, nerve cells start in the abdomen but connect to the wing. This leads to unnecessary use of materials.

An artist's representation of an ectopic pregnancy. Critics cite such common biological occurrences as contradictory to the 'Watchmaker analogy'.The human reproductive system includes the following:

In the human female, a fertilized egg can implant into the fallopian tube, cervix or ovary rather than the uterus causing an ectopic pregnancy.

The existence of a cavity between the ovary and the fallopian tube could indicate a flawed design in the female reproductive system.

Prior to modern surgery, ectopic pregnancy invariably caused the deaths of both mother and baby. Even in modern times, in almost all cases, the pregnancy must be aborted to save the life of the mother.

In the human female, the birth canal passes through the pelvis. The prenatal skull will deform to a surprising extent. However, if the baby’s head is significantly larger than the pelvic opening, the baby cannot be born naturally. Prior to the development of modern surgery (caesarean section), such a complication would lead to the death of the mother, the baby or both. Other birthing complications such as breech birth are worsened by this position of the birth canal.

In the human male, testes develop initially within the abdomen. Later during gestation, they migrate through the abdominal wall into the scrotum. This causes two weak points in the abdominal wall where hernias can later form. Prior to modern surgical techniques, complications from hernias including intestinal blockage, gangrene, etc., usually resulted in death. Other arguments:

Barely used nerves and muscles, such as the plantaris muscle of the foot, that are missing in part of the human population and are routinely harvested as spare parts if needed during operations.

Another example is the muscles that move the ears, which some people can learn to control to a degree, but serve no purpose in any case.

Intricate reproductive devices in orchids, apparently constructed from components commonly having different functions in other flowers.

The use by pandas of their enlarged radial sesamoid bones in a manner similar to how other creatures use thumbs.

The existence of unnecessary wings in flightless birds, e.g. ostriches.

The route of the recurrent laryngeal nerve is such that it travels from the brain to the larynx by looping around the aortic arch.

This same configuration holds true for many animals, in the case of the giraffe this results in about twenty feet of extra nerve.

The prevalence of congenital diseases and genetic disorders such as Huntington's Disease.

The common malformation of the human spinal column, leading to scoliosis, sciatica and congenital misalignment of the vertebrae.

The existence of the pharynx, a passage used for both ingestion and respiration, with the consequent drastic increase in the risk of choking.

The structure of humans' (as well as all mammals') eyes. The retina is 'inside out'. The nerves and blood vessels lie on the surface of the retina instead of behind it as is the case in many invertebrate species. This arrangement forces a number of complex adaptations and gives mammals a blind spot. (See Evolution of the eye).

Six muscles move the eye when three would suffice.

Crowded teeth and poor sinus drainage, as human faces are significantly flatter than those of other primates and humans share the same tooth set. This results in a number of problems, most notably with wisdom teeth.

Almost all animals and plants synthesize their own vitamin C, but humans cannot because the gene for this enzyme is defective (Pseudogene ΨGULO). Lack of vitamin C results in scurvy and eventually death. The gene is also non-functional in other primates and guinea pigs, but is functional in most other higher animals. The enzyme rubisco has been described as a "notoriously inefficient" enzyme, as it is inhibited by oxygen, has a very slow turnover and is not saturated at current levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The enzyme is inhibited as it unable to distinguish between carbon dioxide and molecular oxygen, with oxygen acting as an competitive enzyme inhibitor. However, rubisco remains the key enzyme in carbon fixation and plants overcome its poor activity by having massive amounts of it inside their cells, making it the most abundant protein on Earth.> The enzyme nitrogenase actually preferentially binds with acetylene over di-nitrogen, despite it being the key enzyme used in nitrogen fixation in many bacteria and archaea.

The breathing reflex is stimulated not directly by the absence of oxygen but rather indirectly by the presence of carbon dioxide. A result is that, at high altitudes, oxygen deprivation can occur in unadapted individuals who do not consciously increase their breathing rate. Oxygenless asphyxiation in a pure-nitrogen atmosphere has been proposed as a humane method of execution that exploits this oversight.

The unstable hollow bones built for flight in birds like penguins and ostriches, and the Sturdy bones built for non-flight in animals like bats.

Vestigial third molar (Commonly known as wisdom teeth) in humans. Some other primates with differing jaw shapes make use of the third molar.

The vestigial Femur and pelvis in whales, the ancestor of whales lived on land.

We conclude that this argument efficiently proves the non-existence of God. If the natural world is perfect then God exists. If it is imperfect then the the counter-argument- if it's bad design, it's a result of the Fall (Genesis 3:16 has God saying to Eve "I will increase your trouble in pregnancy")- leads to the infalsifiability of ID theory. If you were to conclude design, you would need to conclude an idiotic tinkerer rather than a divine perfect creator.

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