Monday, April 5, 2010

Imperfect (Bad) Design

Creationists claim that a “supernatural” intelligent designer may have created imperfect features for unfathomable reasons; how would you respond to this assertion?

Coyne mentions some “bad designs” relating to evolution – that connect to the useless wings of kiwis, to the vestigial pelvis pelvis of whales and the pelvis of the human body. Can you explain in depth other examples of such imperfect design (page 81)? How do they substantiate why evolution is true (or even, why evolution may not be exactly true? – this link may help: ?
Finally, how do such traits demonstrate why “the idea of perfect design is an illusion”?


  1. A creationist's claim that an intelligent designer makes imperfect features for unfathomable reasons should be disregarded. The whole point of intelligent design is to bypass the evolutionary step posed by Darwin. There is no evidence as to why such a designer would purposely fail at his job. This is a moot argument that should be disregarded. An evolutionist could just as easily claim that animals have evolved to don these imperfect designs so they could die faster.

    These "bad designs" could very well be evidence of a breakdown in evolution. One would ponder upon the question as to what such an animal could possibly do without wings. How could it be an evolutionary advantage? Balance? Sexual selection?

    On the other hand however, Coyne voices a more optimistic view of the question. He says "Imperfect design is the mark of's precisely what we expect from evolution. ... we should expect compromises." (81) The idea of perfect design is an illusion because the world around us is constantly changing, and thus animal species must also constantly evolve to fit with their environment.

    It should be noted, however, that the vestigial genes that Coyne describes so diligently has been refuted by new research stating that "the evidence has been accumulating since 2003 (when scientists finished sequencing the human genome) that “pseudogenes” and other so-called “junk DNA” sequences are not useless after all," and "Evidence pouring in from genome-sequencing projects shows that virtually all of an organism’s DNA is transcribed into RNA" (Jonathan Wells).


  2. Many creationists may say how each organ and tissue system in the human body, as well as other organisms, are perfectly fit for its own function. However, looking at many features in the human body, many parts are often not only "useless" but sometimes even harmful towards individual survival. Some examples of useless or "bad" design would include the erector pili in humans, the human tailbone, and Astyanax Mexicanus fish's "useless" eyes. Each of these, where humans have no use for the erector pili because they lack the body hair to increase insulation, the vestigial tailbone which no longer serves the function of either aquatic movement or balance, and the astyanax mexicanus fish's lack of vision despite the presence of a collapsed eye. Why would an intelligent creator create micro muscles that life hairs for no benefit, or to make easily harmed optical systems only to allow it to deteriorate and give no benefit towards vision. In the light of evolution, an ancient ancestor that possessed either fur, required balance, or needed vision would provide a basis on how these modern-day "bad designs" could have occurred. However, looking at the opposing argument, some may say that the appendix still serves roles in rudimentary immune functions, and saying how "The entire argument of Darwin and others regarding vestigial organs hinges on their uselessness and inutility." (discovery institute) by using a refutation that if the organ still serves some use, then evolution must be wrong. However it is in fact just strengthening the case for evolution, when in fact that not every vestigial organ will be completely useless, with the example of the human appendix, it is merely on the road to becoming an organ that no longer serves its original purpose. With that in mind, nothing in evolution can truly create a perfect design, but nature can only destroy what is wrong (because then they wouldn't be able to survive and reproduce), and cannot choose what will be the perfect design.

    Biology Book

  3. The evolutionary reason for imperfection is much more logical than the creationist reason, as it includes tangible evidence. Creatures are imperfect because they are all part of an evolutionary process. Animals continue to evolve so that they can survive and reproduce in their environment under certain conditions such as climate and competition. One concrete example of imperfect creatures is the presence of vestigial organs. According to Jon A. Covey, in one human male there are several vestigial organs including: tonsils, coccyx (tail bone), little toe, wisdom teeth, etc. These organs, while some research may show they may serve little function, make us imperfect creatures because it causes us to use more energy than we need to. During development, it would be more energy efficient to skip the formation of these organs, and over time we may see these vesitigial organs slowly disappear because those without these organs may be more "fit" for the environment. Overall, the imperfect design of animals, such as humans, show us the evolutionary history. For example, the "useless" wings of the kiwi tell us that the kiwi is related to ancestors that used their wings, however the kiwis now live under different conditions and no longer need the wings. For this reason, we may see the kiwi's useless wings to shrink over time because they only consume energy.