The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Five Questions about Human Errors for Proponents of Intelligent Design

When Charles Darwin first proposed natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change, he provided many different lines of reasoning. One of them was that he and other biologists had observed striking examples of suboptimal design in nature. If a creator-God was perfect and designed the world and everything in it according to His perfect plan, how could poor structure/function be explained? If we view the natural world as the product of evolutionary forces, however, imperfection is not so surprising. Rather, examples of poor design reveal interesting things about an organism’s evolutionary past, and that’s the thrust of my new book Human Errors.1

Because courts in the United States rightly determined that creationism is a religious doctrine, not a scientific one, its proponents changed their approach, practically overnight, restyling their position as the theory of “intelligent design,” or ID. By focusing on the seemingly scientific principle of “irreducible complexity” and only implying a vague, unnamed “designer,” supporters of ID claim it as a valid scientific theory, not a religious doctrine necessarily. Notwithstanding the fact that vanishingly few scientists support this theory and that neither were the courts fooled by the semantic shift, ID has become the dominant expression of creationism in the United States and is supported by around 40 percent of the population.2 Support for ID is strongly stratified by age, with only around 25 percent of those under age 30 in support, and is finally beginning to decline after years of holding steady.3

Glitches in nature, particularly in the human body, call out for an explanation.

Even if ID offered intellectual gains over creationism through the principle of irreducible complexity, and a focus on observations rather than biblical scripture, it did little to explain how poor design could be so rampant in creatures that were specifically designed by an intelligent force. Therefore, glitches in nature, particularly in the human body, call out for an explanation. Evolution usually provides elegant and deeply informative explanations. What are the explanations provided by ID? My book documents scores of these “human errors,” but I would love to know what intelligent design supporters say about these five in particular.

1. Why are we designed with nonfunctional pseudogenes?

In the human genome, there exist broken-down versions of once-functional genes. Formally called pseudogenes, these genetic elements have no function and are usually not expressed at all, but they bear striking resemblance to important and functional genes in other species. These genes were rendered inoperative by mutations and, in most cases, whatever function the genes once had we either no longer need or has been taken over by some other genes. In a few cases, however, the breakdown of the gene in question actually hobbles us in some specific way.

The most famous of the pseudogenes is called GULO. This gene normally functions in the synthesis of ascorbic acid, more commonly called vitamin C.4 The majority of animals on earth synthesize vitamin C for themselves, but primates cannot and therefore they (we!) must get it in our diet. The reason is because, long ago, in an ancestor of all primates, the GULO gene was disabled by a random mutation in either a sperm or egg cell. Through sheer chance, it became fixed in the population and has since accumulated many other mutations. But it is still easily recognizable. We have the GULO gene, but it’s broken.

For this reason, primates have been restricted to the climates where citrus fruits and other sources of vitamin C abound. It was once a mystery why humans had to consume vitamin C while none of our domesticated animals seem to need it. Evolutionary study has provided the fascinating answer, which also illuminates why primates live where they do around the globe. For example, it’s no coincidence that no primates besides humans are native to the content of Europe. Dietary vitamin C is scarce there and explains why scurvy was a major public health concern in Europe through pre-history and antiquity. We’ve since learned to incorporate foods that provide us with vitamin C.

Since creationists don’t believe in evolution, what is their explanation? It’s not that we don’t have the GULO gene. We do. It just doesn’t work. Why would an intelligent force intentionally design us with a broken gene? Give us a gene or don’t, but a broken version? What is that about?

Also, GULO is not the only pseudogene. We have thousands of formerly functional genes scattered throughout our genomes like rusting cars in a junkyard.5 We may even carry more broken genes than working ones. If this is design, it sure isn’t intelligent!

The human maxillary sinus cavity.

The human maxillary sinus cavity. Because the mucus collection duct is located at the top of the chamber, gravity cannot help with drainage. Illustration by Donald Ganley from Human Errors by Nathan H. Lents. Used by permission. All rights reserved, © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

2. Why do our nasal sinuses drain upward?

Have you noticed that, while we adults get 3 or 4 colds each year and our children can get 10 or more, our pets don’t seem to have this problem at all? One big reason for this is that our nasal cavities have a huge design flaw that those of dogs and cats don’t.

Nasal cavities are hollow, air-filled chambers through which air flows before heading down to the lungs. Lined with sticky surfaces called mucus membranes, these caverns warm and humidify the air and also trap particulates and microorganisms in the mucus. Normally, mucus is thin, clear, and watery, and is continually secreted, creating a constant flow of the sticky goo as it eventually drains into the throat where it can be swallowed and sent to the stomach for acid neutralization.

The largest such cavities in humans are the maxillary sinuses just behind our cheek bones. In a perplexing example of poor design, the drainage spout for this sinus cavity is near the top of the chamber. Since fluids don’t tend to flow uphill, tiny hair-like structures called cilia have to work extra hard to direct the mucus up to the drain pipe, which happens also to be extremely skinny. Most of the time, they can handle this challenge, but if there is any uptick in the load of allergens, infectious agents, or even just dust, mucus gets thicker and more viscous and this is when the situation gets sticky, literally. As the thick and cloudy mucus pools in the bottom of the sinus cavity, infections brew. What kind of plumber would put the drain at the top?

3. Why are humans so bad at absorbing vitamins and minerals?

A quick scan of the USDA’s recommended daily intake of various micronutrients confirms what anyone who has tried to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet knows all too well: the human diet is incredibly demanding. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, not too much of that…. While the supplement industry has no doubt exaggerated this for profit, there is truth to the claim that humans have to worry much more about their diet than other animals seem to. In fact, many animals can do just fine on a very repetitive diet of just a few, or even just one, source of food. Why can’t we?

Human evolutionary history is marked by one thing above all else: variety and experimentation.6 Humans have explored and exploited every imaginable habitat and mode of living and the ability to thrive in diverse scenarios and survive on myriad sources of nourishment unfortunately became the necessity of a varied diet as our bodies became lazy about manufacturing micronutrients for ourselves. (See vitamin C, above).

One thing that humans are terrible at absorbing is calcium, which is unfortunate because it is vital for the functioning of every single cell in the body. So essential is calcium, that we strip it from our bones whenever we don’t ingest enough of it. The bizarre part is that even when we consume sufficient amounts of calcium, we still end up deficient because we are so bad at extracting it from our food. 200 million women around the world suffer from osteoporosis. In the US, the typical diet provides plenty of calcium and yet, one in three women and one in five men will suffer a bone fracture due to osteoporosis,7 usually after age 50. What gives?

We start our lives absorbing a respectable 60 percent of the calcium we consume as infants. This percentage drops steadily throughout life, reaching about 20 percent in early adulthood, and plummeting to around 5 percent in old age.8 And this is the sad state of affairs when we have adequate vitamin D in our diets. Without vitamin D, we basically don’t absorb any calcium at all. Adding insult to injury, even though many women need also to boost their iron intake to prevent or treat anemia, iron in a meal can interfere with the absorption of calcium! So can sodium. And potassium. Is it any wonder that most of us are deficient in calcium?

We also have trouble absorbing some vitamins, such as B12. Like all the herbivore animals, we have bacteria in our large intestine that synthesize plenty of B12. But we only absorb B12 in our small intestine.9 This means that someone can suffer macrocytic anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency while simultaneously sending copious amounts of B12 to the toilet. Bad plumbing strikes again!

4. Why do humans have muscles and bones that have no function?

The human body has way too many bones. Most humans are born with around 300 bones. This number drops to around 206 by adulthood as bones begin to fuse together. These numbers are just averages, some people have some extras and some are missing some. That alone tells you that something funny is going on.

Our ankles and wrists have seven or eight separate bones in them and for no good reason. They are all pretty much fixed together, though not fused, so there is no value in them being separate at all. While redundancy is often a good thing in a physical structure, the additional bones do not make our ankles or wrists stronger. In fact, having so many attachment sites for tendons and ligaments makes strains and sprains more likely. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Think of how common sprained ankles are in humans. Now think of how rare they are in our companion animals.

Formally called the coccyx, the entire tailbone is pointless as well. While most of us have four coccygeal vertebrae, some have one extra and some have one fewer. While we’ve long known that it was the remnant of the tail that almost all mammals except apes have, it was assumed that the stump that we’re left with was important because many tendons and ligaments attach to it. However, tens of thousands of coccygectomies have been performed for various reasons, including cancer of the coccyx, and patients have absolutely no long-term discomfort or loss of function after their tailbones are removed.10 The various attachments could be entirely redundant or purely vestigial, probably both.

Not connected to the tailbone, but near it, lies another pointless organ called the pyramidalis muscle. This muscle can tense the flesh between the anus and the testes or vulva but this has no importance to posture, continence, or anything. In fact, around 20 percent of the population is missing this muscle altogether and it is badly misshapen in many that do have it.11 Some believe that the pyramidalis muscle previously functioned to flex the tail that our ancestors had but lost its attachment to the tailbone as the tail regressed.

There is also the Palmaris Longus muscle in our forearms. While a more substantial version of this muscle likely helped our ancestors by providing strong grip while swinging from trees, it is useless to us today. Between 10–20 percent of the population is missing this muscle entirely and they do not measure weaker grip strength for its absence.12 In fact, so useless is this muscle that surgeons routinely use its connecting tendon as the source of tissue grafts when they need a new tendon to repair a badly broken wrist.13

5. Why are humans so inefficient with reproduction?

The one thing that a species absolutely must be able to do is reproduce, so this is an area that humans must have mastered, right? Not even close. In fact, humans may be the least fertile of the apes. More than 10 percent of couples have trouble conceiving14 and when you consider what all can go wrong, it’s understandable.

To begin with, the ovaries are not even physically attached to the fallopian tubes and so eggs are sometimes squirted pointless into the abdominal cavity. Although it’s very rare, a roving sperm can actually fertilize one of these misplaced eggs and start a life-threatening abdominal pregnancy. On the male side, sperm have no sense of direction and swim in right-handed corkscrews, unable to turn left. This is part of the reason why hundreds of millions of them are needed for one to reach the egg. Many men have low sperm count or motility and many women have unpredictable ovulation cycles, meaning that the simple act of helping the meandering sperm and rudderless egg find each other is often not so simple.

But even when conception occurs, pregnancy is far from certain. More often than not, embryos fail to implant in the uterine wall before menstruation begins. In nearly half of those, chromosomal errors are to blame for an embryo’s failure to thrive,15 but in the larger portion, there is no apparent defect. The embryo simply bounces off the uterine wall and is lost with the endometrium at the end of the month. That so many perfectly healthy embryos are lost for failure to implant is especially painful for families trying to grow.

To demonstrate how out of step with other animals this is, female mice that copulate with a vasectomized male undergo the physiological steps of gestation, a phenomenon called pseudopregnancy.16 So confident is her body in its own fertility, and that of her mate, that a female mouse just assumes she’s pregnant any time she’s had sex. Her corpus luteum will persist, her uterine wall will thicken, and she will begin to lactate. Pseudopregnant mice even build nests in preparation for the nonexistent pups. Pseudopregnancy lasts 10–14 days in mice, nearly half the normal gestational period. It can last over a month in cats and two months in pigs.

Even when humans have managed to get and stay pregnant, the biggest danger of all still awaits. While modern technologies, from soap to Cesarean sections, have all but turned this page, giving birth was previously among the most dangerous moments of a woman’s life. As recently as 2000, almost 3% of childbirths in Sierra Leone resulted in maternal death and this is much reduced from just a half-century past.17 How much riskier was childbirth during the classical and pre-historical periods?

Being born is risky also. We do okay in developed countries, but there are four countries even today that suffer from greater than 10 percent infant mortality rate. The highest is Afghanistan where 12.1 percent of babies born do not survive the first year of life. In 1950, most countries were close to 20 percent on this measure.18 We are a spectacularly fragile species, but our evolution holds the explanation. Our pelvic girdle narrowed as we evolved to walk in an upright manner, with our upper legs jutting straight down and remaining within the same plane with each stride. Then, our craniums experienced an explosion of growth not long after. In a risky compromise of these two adaptations, we are born long before we are really ready, helpless and sickly.

The relative sizes of female pelvises and infant heads in (from left to right) chimpanzees, Australopithecus afarensis, and modern humans.

The relative sizes of female pelvises and infant heads in (from left to right) chimpanzees, Australopithecus afarensis (“Lucy”), and modern humans. Illustration by Donald Ganley from Human Errors by Nathan H. Lents. Used by permission. All rights reserved, © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Once again, this is far out of step with other animals. For most of our fellow mammals, childbirth is not a dramatic affair. Cows and horses seem to barely notice when they give birth and the offspring are ambling about within minutes. Gorillas often continue to eat and care for other children as they give birth. It is just we humans, the supposed pinnacles of creation, who bear the awful burden of a treacherous childbirth.

Errors Abound

While the great majority of the quirks and glitches that I discuss in my book are the results of compromises, tradeoffs, and the inherent limits of evolution, some of them cannot possibly be seen as anything other than “bad design.” While evolution usually has an answer to the questions raised by these design flaws, if an unsatisfying one, what answer is offered by the theory of intelligent design? When creationists try to duck this question in creative ways (as they already have in responses to my book), this too is telling. What makes a theory scientific is its explanatory power and it’s ability to make testable predictions about future discoveries.

As far as I can tell, the only creationist response to human design flaws is, “That’s just the way it is.” This is not a scientific answer and offers no exploratory way forward. END

About the new book

We like to think of ourselves as highly evolved creatures. But if we are evolution’s greatest creation, why are we so badly designed? We have retinas that face backward, the stump of a tail, and way too many bones in our wrists. We must find vitamins and nutrients in our diets that other animals simply make for themselves. Millions of us can’t reproduce successfully without help from modern science. We have nerves that take bizarre paths, muscles that attach to nothing, and lymph nodes that do more harm than good. And that’s just the beginning of the story. As biologist Nathan H. Lents explains, our evolutionary history is a litany of mistakes, each more entertaining and enlightening than the last. As we will discover, by exploring human shortcomings, we can peer into our past, because each of our flaws tells a story about our species’ evolutionary history. A rollicking, deeply informative tour of our four-billion-year-long evolutionary saga, Human Errors both celebrates our imperfections—for our mutations are, in their own way, a testament to our species’ greatness—and offers an unconventional accounting of the cost of our success.

About the Author

Dr. Nathan H. Lents is Professor of Biology at John Jay College of the City University of New York, where he is also the director of the honors programs. He also maintains The Human Evolution Blog and hosts the science podcast This World of Humans. He is the author of Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals and Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes.

  1. Lents, N. H. 2018. Human Errors: A Panorama of our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  2. Shermer, M. 2006. Why Darwin matters: The case against intelligent design. Macmillan.
  3. Green, E. Intelligent Design: Slowly Going Out of Style? The Atlantic. 9 June 2014
  5. 5 Torrents, D., Suyama, M., Zdobnov, E., & Bork, P. 2003. A genome-wide survey of human pseudogenes. Genome research, 13(12), 2559–2567.
  6. Tattersall, I. 2001. How we came to be human. Scientific American, 285(6), 56–63.
  7. Johnell, O., & Kanis, J. A. 2006. An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporosis international, 17(12), 1726–1733.
  8. Gallagher, J. C., Riggs, B. L., Eisman, J., Hamstra, A., Arnaud, S. B., & Deluca, H. F. 1979. Intestinal calcium absorption and serum vitamin D metabolites in normal subjects and osteoporotic patients: effect of age and dietary calcium. The Journal of clinical investigation, 64(3), 729–736.
  9. Herbert, V. 1988. Vitamin B-12: plant sources, requirements, and assay. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 48(3), 852–858.
  10. Balain, B., Eisenstein, S. M., Alo, G. O., Darby, A. J., Cassar-Pullicino, V. N., Roberts, S. E., & Jaffray, D. C. 2006. Coccygectomy for coccydynia: case series and review of literature. Spine, 31(13), E414–E420.
  11. Monkhouse, W. S., & Khalique, A. (1986). Variations in the composition of the human rectus sheath: a study of the anterior abdominal wall. Journal of anatomy, 145, 61.
  12. Thompson, N. W., Mockford, B. J., & Cran, G. W. 2001. Absence of the palmaris longus muscle: a population study. The Ulster medical journal, 70(1), 22.
  13. Wehbe, M. A. 1992. Tendon graft donor sites. Journal of Hand Surgery, 17(6), 1130–1132.
  14. 14 Mascarenhas, M. N., Flaxman, S. R., Boerma, T., Vanderpoel, S., & Stevens, G. A. 2012. National, regional, and global trends in infertility prevalence since 1990: a systematic analysis of 277 health surveys. PLoS medicine, 9(12), e1001356.
  15. Baart, E. B., Martini, E., van den Berg, I., Macklon, N. S., Galjaard, R. H., Fauser, B. C. J. M., & Van Opstal, D. 2005. Preimplantation genetic screening reveals a high incidence of aneuploidy and mosaicism in embryos from young women undergoing IVF. Human Reproduction, 21(1), 223–233.
  16. Dewar, A. D. 1959. Observations on pseudopregnancy in the mouse. Journal of Endocrinology, 18(2), 186–190.
  17. Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2015. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2015.
  18. The World Factbook. 2012. The Central Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C.
Recommended by Amazon
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lino D'Ischia
May 24, 2018 11:41 am


I see that Mike introduced this term. Sorry.

I think what Mike means by ‘common design’ is what could be likened to a ‘common’ subroutine used in computer programs.

Lino D'Ischia
May 24, 2018 11:39 am


There is ‘common descent’; there is not such thing as ‘common design.’ That’s something you made up. There’s is a ‘design inference,’ which involves an analysis of probabilities; and, since probabilities are related to ‘information,’ this can also be viewed in terms of information theory.

You say this:
“Theory first, then evidence (since evidence is interpreted in light of theory).’

I’m afraid this isn’t always true. In fact, it may never be true. Instead, we usually see this: evidence leads to theory leads to confirmation of theory.

Max Planck, for instance, was looking for an explanation as to why radiant energy didn’t continue to rise with total energy (UV catastrophe). He had the evidence–i.e., in the UV range, radiation fell instead of increasing. He then searched for a theory.

He, against his predilections, inserted a probablistic measure from statistical mechanics that Boltzmann had theorized. It gave him an equation that ‘fit’ the data–that is, as I said, “confirmation.”

And with this ‘confirmation’, the ‘quantum’ era began.

Then you said:
“Imagine a scenario in which all species were unique and shared no features. You would certainly see this as evidence for a designer (since this is the “theory” described in the Bible).”

First, there is NO “theory” in the Bible. Instead, it is revealed that God created the world out of nothing. But, when it came to man, in the second account of creation, ‘man’ was fashioned out of ‘mud’: that is, already existing matter. This isn’t creatio ex nihilo.

Second, the ‘world’ you’ve asked us to imagine–“all species [a]re unique and [share] no features,” is completely outside of ‘design.’ IOW, name me something that you know to be designed (in the sense of being engineered) that shares no features with anything else that has ever been designed.

Things that are ‘designed’ have parts that work together for some specified purpose. And the way those parts are integrated and function, serve that purpose.

However, something that is ‘designed’ perforce has ‘parts.’ Tubas and trumpets share similar ‘parts’, and so share features. So, the world you ask us to imagine is one which completely rules out anything like Darwinian evolution, but not design. But to then want to suggest that the multiplicity of similar species rules out ‘design’ just doesn’t hold water.

May 24, 2018 2:23 am

Mike: “…a case of common design?”

There is no evidence for common design since there is no theory of common design. Theory first, then evidence (since evidence is interpreted in light of theory).

Imagine a scenario in which all species were unique and shared no features. You would certainly see this as evidence for a designer (since this is the “theory” described in the Bible). Now look at what we actually observe, i.e. shared features among species, which you are calling evidence for common design. But that puts you in the unenviable position of accepting contradictory data as evidence for the same proposition (that life is designed). A logical whopper, no?

Your lack of a theory allows you to mold the data into whatever you happen to already believe.

May 24, 2018 1:57 am

Mike: “If the Supreme Being decided to use 13 billion years to prepare the Earth for humanity–or for some other purpose–from his point of view it’s pretty much the same as 10 seconds. I guess that takes a little imagination to conceive.”

Ah, glorious ambiguity! Ain’t it great when you can take an idea and stretch it mean anything you want it to mean? And some of them even come pre-stretched! They always seem to keep your head a-noddin’ because they can’t ever be wrong! Imagine that – ambiguity becomes evidence for an intelligent designer!

“I suggest Hugh Ross for reading material.”

I suggest him for a doorstop.

May 21, 2018 7:45 pm

Interesting article, thought provoking. Most of the comments, while passionate, were still reasonably respectful. As a person who is a “believer” but also one who makes an effort to understand science and generally accepts it, I appreciate the civility. Now if we can find a way to work on the anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers …

May 15, 2018 8:50 pm

I have been trying for quite a while to figure out one thing:
Why do people need the concept of a “god” (or “gods”) to explain natural occurrences?

If there is another rational explanation, why attribute reality to the unprovable existence of a “supernatural” entity?

God(s) have no proven existence, no basis in reality, are not VERIFIABLE. There is no contact. There is no direct interaction with
un-natural “vapor-denizens”. There is NO PROOF of existence!

And to profess the existence of a Single all-knowing (omniscient), all-seeing, all-powerful (omnipotent), unchanging (immutable), located-everywhere (omnipresent), in charge of everything (sovereign), and with three aspects (trinity)—is quite a stretch of non-reality.
Besides there are many religious devotees who are not mono-theists! (hinduism, jainism, new-age beliefs, paganism, shamanism, shinto, wicca, cao dai, buddhism, scientology, raelian(ism), discordianism, and [some say] mormonism, among others).

SCIENCE does not care WHAT you believe!

Rev. Billy
May 13, 2018 10:12 pm

Oh, ambiguity! Is it not wonderful?
Humans are created with “brain tendencies”.
We are “influenced by”, “biased by”, “prejudiced by”, our experiences,
our environment (familial, tribal and stimuli).
Biases are myriad to each one of us and other humans often (constantly)
“muddy the water”, i.e., cloud our perceptions.
Also, we are biased by our physical reality (our individual uniqueness) and all of its contradictions.

So , it it even possible that we can ever have a “realistic” meeting of minds regarding existence? There are no answers, only questions.
The future will always be strife and fear.

However, it is fun and interesting to read all the comments provided above by enlightened (but also “imperfect” folks).

I wish to offer up the teachings of W.V.O. Quine (1908-2000), considered America’s greatest philosopher. His main thesis is the view that “science is, as he put it, the final arbiter of truth: Only science can tell us about the world, and one of the things science tells us about the world is that our knowledge of it is constrained by and limited to sensory stimulations”
“No proposition can be true independent of experience , but also that the meaning of a proposition cannot be ascertained in isolation from the ‘web of beliefs’ of which it forms a part”. “This web of belief is itself conditioned by sensory experience…, thus, Quine says ‘For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise.’…” But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits.

Lino D'Ischia
May 13, 2018 10:54 am

Roy Lofquist:

You mischaracterize the central assertion of ID. ID doesn’t say that life is so incredibly complex that it cannot be explained by material means. Rather, it says that the specified complexity found in genomes, that is, ‘information’, is too great as to be explained by random processes.

It says that an intelligent agent is the cause of this information.

As to the “nature of the designer(s),” there is no direct evidence found in the genome which tells us anything about this nature, other than what Bill Gates said, which was to the effect that the coding found in the genome is beyond anything we know.

Roy Lofquist
May 12, 2018 2:02 am

Loren Petich,

Design proponents do not want to “believe” in anything other than that life is so incredibly complex that it can not be explained by material means. They do not speculate about the nature of the designer(s).

Loren Petrich
May 11, 2018 11:37 pm

There is a further issue with the design hypothesis. What can one infer about the designer(s)? From the argument of familiarity with design, one must note that all known designers are multiple, they have finite abilities, and they are known to make mistakes. So the designers of the Earth’s biota must be multiple, finite, and fallible.

That does not seem to be what the cdesign proponentsists want to believe.

Steve Maricic
May 11, 2018 9:06 am

I believe in:
a: God,
b: God-directed Evolution.

Let’s look at one of Mr. Lent’s questions:

1. Why are we designed with nonfunctional pseudogenes?

He writes:

“These genes were rendered inoperative by mutations and, in most cases, whatever function the genes once had we either no longer need or has been taken over by some other genes.”

I’m not a biologist, but isn’t Lents saying that these genes once had a function? Isn’t it possible that they were necessary for a time in our evolution, and that without them we would not have gotten to where we are?

Isn’t it possible that God designed those genes to get us through some difficult stretch? Do they all have to magically disappear now that we don’t need them anymore?

May 11, 2018 7:06 am

here is one interesting evidence for god existence: what if we will see a self replicating robot ( lets say even with dna)on a far planet? do we need to conclude design or a natural process in this case? remember that according to evolution if its made from organic components and have a self replicating system we need to conclude a natural process. but we know that even a self replicating robot is evidence for design.

Brien Doyle
May 10, 2018 8:39 pm

All ‘creationist’/ID comments will be challenged as to their original source and claimed foundation – ie that of a god.

Any and all questions and statements, especially in reference to creationism/ID, will be accompanied with evidence of that god in order for any further discussion to be taken with any serious consideration.
Simply put – Either show evidence for the god, or there is no basis for ‘creationism’/ID.

Thus, no challenges to science, from a religious philosophy, including creationism/ID, will be addressed, until that evidence is provided.

Do not entertain the fallacy of creationism if the premise of creation cannot be proven…..that is – the existence of a god.
No Proof = A Lie

Barbara Piper
May 10, 2018 5:47 pm

Chris writes “There really isn’t much difference between Tzindaro and the Darwinists here. Tzindaro thinks that spontaneous generation happens all the time. The Darwinists think it happened only once.”

Presumably everyone thinks it happened only once — it’s the mechanism that is at issue.

Barbara Harwood
May 10, 2018 4:19 pm

According to the science that I have read on the subject, we are all descended from a single woman. This implies a considerable amount of inbreeding. Whatever genetic material she may have possessed would have been passed down to all of us and would have included a good many errors.
Mutations that give positive results are few and far between. Unless that mutation provides something better for the individual, it will be lost through either the destruction or lack of breeding opportunities for that individual.
We are different from other species in that we have no natural enemies except for each other. This has allowed our species to reproduce to plague proportions. All of this is despite our flawed reproduction system.
Some people have claimed that male sperm production is decreasing at an alarming rate. A claim has been made that a man produces the same amount of sperm every day. . That is a whale of a lot of sperm. We know that women who spend a lot of time together tend to find that they cycle biologically at the same time.. It would seem reasonable to assume that men have a similar cycle that waxes and wanes during the month in sync with the women with whome the spend most of their time.
A honeymoon is intended to set the two people on a matching cycle.. In our modern world, the two may work in different places and be linked to others in that environnment. Very often, all that a couple need to do s to take a second honeymoon in order to get back into sync with each other.

May 10, 2018 4:15 pm

It’s funny, but the logic here is akin to this:

An advanced species of alien comes to the earth and, upon first contact, finds a beautiful Maserati parked out on a street. He is highly intelligent and has computing power beyond our imaginations. He also has the ability to see through things with MRI and X-ray like vision, piercing through steel, plastic, aluminum, etc. He sees pistons, valves, ignition system, braking system, etc. and, using his superior analytical powers and by analogy, he can understand the function of every single piece of that car.

But this vehicle has several inexplicable things–a logo, a license plate, some lettering, etc. whose function cannot be understood. These surely must be mistakes–flaws in these earthlings’ logic because they serve no discernable function.

The complexity, beauty, highly advanced design of the vehicle is thrown aside because the unexplained appendages exist that clearly serve no logical function.

Your blind materialistic explanations reduce the Rembrandt to canvas, paint and brushstrokes. And what function can a painting possibly have at the molecular, atomic or quantum levels? Explain beauty to me in biochemical terms, or even justice for that matter.

It’s amusing reading these things.

Lino D'Ischia
May 10, 2018 3:35 pm

1. Why are we designed with nonfunctional pseudogenes?

Increasing evidence suggests that pseudogenes play an essential role in the neuronal development of the brain. IOW, they’re on their way to finding ‘function’.

2. Why do our nasal sinuses drain upward?

Is it related to the fact that we sleep, unconsciously, on our backs and sides, but when conscious stand upright, or sit upright? I suspect it is.

3. Why are humans so bad at absorbing vitamins and minerals?

Harder to answer; however, isn’t this simply a reflection of the broad range of our food and liquid intake? IOW, since humans can eat such a variety of food, it is of no advantage to have pathways producing vitamins and minerals that can be simply supplied by a varied diet.

The actual answer could be more metaphysical: the Good Lord wanted us to enjoy a variety of food, and, if we were made with simple nutrient needs, then our diet would be highly simple: think of a Panda Bear.

4. Why do humans have muscles and bones that have no function?

“Our ankles and wrists have seven or eight separate bones in them and for no good reason. They are all pretty much fixed together, though not fused, so there is no value in them being separate at all. While redundancy is often a good thing in a physical structure, the additional bones do not make our ankles or wrists stronger. In fact, having so many attachment sites for tendons and ligaments makes strains and sprains more likely. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Think of how common sprained ankles are in humans. Now think of how rare they are in our companion animals.”

My first thought is this: if you “fuse” these bones, it reduces flexibility. Always a trade-off, no?

5. Why are humans so inefficient with reproduction?

Well, I’ll answer this question if you answer this one: why is the elephant pregnant, on average, every 5 years?

Errors Abound

“ . . . While evolution usually has an answer to the questions raised by these design flaws, if an unsatisfying one, what answer is offered by the theory of intelligent design? . . .”

Do you think that a 1963 Chevy Impala is better designed than ‘driverless’ car? Yet, I suspect the frequency of deadly accidents associated with the ‘driverless’ cars is higher than the 1963 Chevy.

IOW, again, “flexibility”, i.e., ‘adaptive’ flexibility, comes with a price. Your argument, ultimately theological in nature, is not against an “imperfect” Designer, but against an “imperfect” world. Where in the Judeo-Christian Bible does it say that this world is “pefect.” “God created man and woman, and He saw that is was very good.” ‘Very good’ is not “perfect.”

“What makes a theory scientific is its explanatory power and it’s ability to make testable predictions about future discoveries.”

What predictions, exactly, does evolution make? I can think of some trivial ones. Maybe you have some substantive ones in mind. Can you elaborate?

May 10, 2018 2:53 pm

Whoops! I managed to delete or omit something there (and I see no edit feature): I consider Bryson to have offered, although not intending to, a “near mathematical proof” of the necessary existence of an intelligence behind all life.

But not necessarily a perfect intelligence.

May 10, 2018 2:49 pm

[First time posting here]

I read this article earlier, and have been mulling it over in the background thoughts for a few hours now.

Before I offer any conclusions, I had better throw up a disclaimer or two: I firmly believe that human life (and probably life on earth too) can only have come about through intelligent design. That said, and even though I maintain a high-level of respect for Christians and Evangelicals, I myself am–probably–not quite one. I get angry pretty quickly, however, when I see them and their beliefs being deliberately sha* upon. You can disagree and still maintain (if you choose to) respect…if not for the beliefs themselves, but for their right to have them. I don’t see enough of this idea today, and it’s increasingly going by the wayside (along with many other simple civilities)…and we ALL will suffer if we continue to let it happen without speaking up about a better alternative.

That said, and even though it was not offered up by the actual author as such, I consider the first three or four pages–find it and read it in your local bookstore, up to the word “wow!”–of Bill Bryson’s chapter entitled “The Rise of Life*”

[*from his best-seller “The Short History Of Nearly Everything”]

As to my conclusion: The article is premised on the idea that the “creator–God–IS perfect.” It’s a common idea, and is certainly promoted in biblical scripture to a large degree…but I also have the idea (and I’m on thin ground here)…that the Bible also suggests we cannot, in this life, actually know the mind or nature of God. Such revelations (I think) MAY be offered to us after death, in whatever realm we find ourselves existing…or not.

I’m a person who tries to put together often disparate notions and ideas, and not always those I’m comfortable with. Some of the things I “believe” may explain what I see and experience each day in my life may not, and likely will not, agree with yours.

If we can at least discuss some of those while also appearing to have a level of common respect for one another’s views…that would put us well up on most of the rest of what passes for discourse on the internet.

I’m looking for any of that I can find, and particularly these days.

Jerry Colen
May 10, 2018 2:16 pm

I mean to say “can’t He just tell me Himself rather than have a rabbi or Imam or Preacher “tell” me what’s up (or down as the case may be.)?

Jerry Colen
May 10, 2018 2:15 pm

I’ve often wondered about how it is that someone can tell me (or anyone) what God means or what He thinks, etc. I mean, if God wanted me to know what He thinks or wants from me, can’t He just tell me Himself rather than have a rabbi or Imam or Preacher to me what’s up (or down as the case may be.)?

Marielle Blackwood
May 10, 2018 1:22 pm

What amuses me about these debates is people on both sides talk about some hypothetical gigaintellect of a being existing on a level we can’t even begin to comprehend, possibly possessing the instrumentality to edit reality, and then proceed to explain what such an entity would do or think.

It’s like a reverse anthropic principle- anthropomorphizing god or god-like entities to think and act like humans.

Geeks do the same with aliens. “An advanced alien race would never do that!” Oh, really? Joe Geek with his neckbeard who spends his days on hentai subreddits is going to tell us how the end product of a completely different evolutionary process, maybe a million years in advance of ours, on another world is going to think and act.

What would a godlike entity consider perfect? Maybe a violent, broken world is the intended result. Maybe the god-entity want to see who wins the struggle. Maybe we’re one big genetic algorithm designed to find optimal solutions, but you get 99.9% suboptimal in the process.

Marielle Blackwood
May 10, 2018 1:02 pm

Simple. The polytheists are right, so humans were designed by committee, hence the poor design choices here and there. :-)

Some other admittedly fanciful ideas:

– Punctuated design. The hypothetical designer only checks in on the Earth every so often, perhaps every few millennia. Maybe they’re in a parallel universe and a some sort of alignment needs to happen for there to be access between our worlds. In the designer’s absence, natural selection takes hold. When the designer checks in, they make tweaks, perhaps, but generally lets the experiment run its course. Things don’t always go as planned.

– Uplifted simians. Life on Earth evolved on its own until the early hominids. Some higher intelligence came along and uplifted us, and they had to make a lot of compromises because you can’t just edit genetic code like you can with, say, C++ code. Every edit affects everything else. The “glitches” are by design to make certain other desired feature work correctly.

I’ve actually toyed with the punctuated design idea as the backdrop for a novel. Someone discovers the truth, maybe by finding out that the “junk” DNA is commented out code, or an abandoned attempt at an error correction system to prevent random mutations. In comparing notes with people from other disciplines, they discover the the interface window between the two worlds is about to open again.

Roy Lofquist
May 10, 2018 12:32 pm

@Bill E Bobb,

You are 167% correct. You have thoroughly and convincingly disproved the existence of a perfect creator. Of course there are no perfect turnips either.

Bill E Bobb
May 10, 2018 12:03 pm

@Kent McManigal
See Neanderthal, Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Cro-Magnon et al. We are basically hominid 14.3. Seems to me that if there was truly a perfect Creator, they wouldn’t have needed so many do-overs. Of course the faithful will claim that it was the devil throwing a spanner into the works….

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how Akismet processes your comment data. Comments are closed 45 days after an article is published.

Get eSkeptic

Be in the know.

eSkeptic delivers great articles, videos, podcasts, reviews, event announcements, and more to your inbox.

Sign me up!

Donate to Skeptic

Please support the work of the Skeptics Society. Make the world a more rational place and help us defend the role of science in society.

Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

FREE PDF Download

The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

Copyright © 1992–2020. All rights reserved. | P.O. Box 338 | Altadena, CA, 91001 | 1-626-794-3119. The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization (ID # 95-4550781) whose mission is to promote science & reason. Privacy Policy.