Argument from poor design

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Tsunami damage for which God is ultimately responsible as the designer

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

The implication of the argument is that God is either incompetent, malevolent or non-existent.



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: [2]

"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.


  1. [1]
  2. As quoted in "A Sentimental Education" by James Huneker, Scribner's Magazine, Vol. 43 (1908), p. 230

See also

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