Does ‘unintelligent design’ suggest an incompetent or spiteful god?

Do the flaws within the human body, or indeed any living thing, suggest the complete absence of a creator god, or, rather, do they suggest evidence of an incompetent creator cod and/or deliberately spiteful creator god? What are your thoughts on this?

Posted: August 21st 2010

flagellant www

There are enough examples from the study of the human body, to which I’ll limit my answer, to make it certain that we have evolved, rather than been designed. Here are four of the best-known examples of what might be called poor design:

The optic nerve leaves the eye close to the yellow spot, at the centre of vision. The nerve creates a blind spot where it leaves the retina. If the eye were differently 'designed’, this blind spot wouldn’t exist. Would anyone in their right mind create a blind spot near the centre of vision?

We have only one heart and if it is badly damaged, we die. Would anyone in their right mind, having given us two eyes, two ears, two kidneys etc.give us just one heart?

The trachea (windpipe) and oesophagus (tube from the throat to the stomach) are interconnected. Would anyone in their right mind design a system where food, intended for the stomach, could end up in a lung?

The excretory and reproductive systems are associated and interlinked in both sexes. The male system has, for example, been described as ‘as sewer running through the playground’. Can you imagine a half-way competent designer designing such a mess?

There are very many more examples and you can read a much more detailed answer to your question here .

So, next time you hear someone citing the human body as an example of good design, tell them of the many examples that prove otherwise. And, if people are attracted by the notion of a malevolent creator god, they’re obviously not serious masochists – one could think of even worse 'design’ than the evolutionary compromises we find ourselves saddled with.

The physiological features we see are entirely consonant with The Principle of Evolution. Notions of creator gods of any type – 'perfect’ and/or malevolent – are therefore nonsensical.

Posted: August 23rd 2010

See all questions answered by flagellant

George Locke

You ask whether the apparently flawed design of living systems is evidence for a bad creator. Taken by itself, this fact does not give evidence for a creator. All we can surmise from this fact alone is that any designer there might be could not be perfect. (You’d have to argue that the apparent flaws are not really flaws to avoid this conclusion.) So, if we assume that there is a designer, then we can infer that the designer is either incompetent or malevolent. This fact alone doesn’t suggest that there is or is not a designer, however.

That’s what we can learn from this fact if we ignore everything else we know about the world. If we look elsewhere, are there any facts which can help us decide if there is such a designer?

Well, we know that all living things are descended from a common ancestor. There’s lots and lots of evidence for common descent. Common descent contraindicates intentional design, but doesn’t quite disprove it.

What we need to complete our proof is a natural mechanism which explains common descent. That’s where natural selection comes in. DNA replication is subject to mutation, and mutants have variable fitness, so fitter mutants will proliferate. There are lots of niches to fill, so fitness can increase in several directions. Furthermore, we can show that natural selection works in the lab (and in simulations). So evolution by natural selection is a working theory that is sufficient to explain the diversity of life given common descent.

No designer need apply. The theory of evolution is so strong that it is actually inevitable that any living population will evolve (see edit below). So, there is no problem that a designer must be posited to solve. Therefore, we need positive evidence for design in order to have any reason to believe in it. No such evidence exists, so we may conclude that there is no design and hence no designer.

Edit: I don’t mean to suggest that every conceivable population will come about. I merely assert that if a population is alive, reproducing, competing for resources, etc, it will evolve.

Posted: August 23rd 2010

See all questions answered by George Locke


'Unintelligent design’ is evolution, that is, common descent via natural selection, which is both a scientific theory and a fact. Therefore, both an excellent and an awful god are ruled out in this regard. Common descent will never be disregarded, while the means of it, that is, natural selection, could be, but that is also highly doubted as evolution is a solid scientific theory that has met all challenges from its discovery until the present. We all descended from simpler organisms, and that fact is never going to go away.

Evolution, of course, is not design in the human sense of being intended and directed. Evolution allows the climbing of Mount Improbable through small changes. Populations evolve, not individuals. Populations that can occupy a niche, that is, survive long enough to pop off the next genetic generation, will thrive. Individuals who can’t pass on their genes will no longer be part of this particular population’s gene pool. The individuals—still not perfect—but who are able to pass on their genes will be contributing to the gene pool. Every living creature alive today had an ancestor who survived, and that ancestor had one that did also, on and on and on, backwards through time.

Evolution simply shows that a god, regardless of it being benevolent or not, is redundant. And as evolution now can explain how all living creatures came to be, the god hypothesis (regardless if the directing, designing entity is nice or bad) becomes null as the god hypothesis not only has no predicting/explaining power as evolution does, it also adds a problem of its own, that is, of infinite regression, who made the god who made the god who made, etc. Keep in mind that evolution is separate from abiogenesis.

If something as complicated as the human organism came into being via evolution, then it is not very hard to imagine that we will understand someday how that first spark of life so to speak was formed. Scientists have already begun this very important path to discovery.

Posted: August 21st 2010

See all questions answered by logicel

Leeta www


Thank you for your question.

That all biological creatures have “imperfections”, are susceptible to disease, and have some seemingly inefficient biological mechanisms, suggests that in fact, there is no design at all.

This is why evolution is an elegant answer which discusses why living things look and are constructed the way that they are. We are all just “good enough” to survive and pass on our genetic traits.

I hope this answers your question.

Posted: August 21st 2010

See all questions answered by Leeta

Paula Kirby www

They could suggest either, but the one thing they clearly do not point to is a loving, all-powerful, all-knowing creator god as posited by the Abrahamic religions. Any god which had come up with such a design would have to be either malevolent or incompetent.

The argument for a malevolent god is rather fun – you might be interested in this well thought-through paper on the subject.

But the fact remains that, if we start from first principles and try to draw our conclusions based on the evidence that is available to us, there is no reason to posit a god at all, malevolent or otherwise. Everything can be adequately accounted for (or, at least, plausible and consistent explanations suggested) purely on the basis of unguided, uncreated, natural forces.

Posted: August 21st 2010

See all questions answered by Paula Kirby


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum