Stupid Design

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 28, 2009 in Design Argument,Funny,General Atheism,Science,Video

Above, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson gives a hilarious rant on stupid design in the universe. Believers often say, “Look at how wonderfully designed everything is! It had to have had a creator!” The problem is that they’re only looking at the few things that do look well-designed, and ignoring all the millions of things in the universe that were “designed” incompetantly or downright badly, because they were designed by the unthinking process of natural selection, not a super-smart engineer named God.

A few examples:

  • The human retina is backwards, causing a blind spot. This is unnecessary; octopuses have a camera eye like us, but the retina is the right way around, so they have no blind spot.
  • Humans must use the same tube for eating, drinking, and breathing, which leads to hundreds of deaths each year by choking. This is also unnecessary; another mammal uses two different holes for breathing and eating: the dolphin.
  • Many deadly birth defects could be avoided if our genes were more intelligently arranged.
  • Our internal wiring is complete nonsense; a hangover from our fish ancestors. This bad wiring design can lead to everything from hiccups to hernias.

If God designed the good things in the world, did he also design all these birth defects?

What a terrible God that is.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Teleprompter February 8, 2009 at 12:23 am

That is so true – have you read “Your Inner Fish” by Neil Shubin? I haven’t, but I’ve heard some good things about it, and this post sort of reminds me of it.

I really like your blog so far. I came here from D.C.

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lukeprog February 8, 2009 at 5:16 pm

I feel like I skim-read “Your Inner Fish”, but I can’t remember. :)

I would love for a biologist to write an entire book on stupid biological “design,” but I don’t think it’s been done yet.

I didn’t like “The God Delusion,” but I look forward to his upcoming book that summarizes the immense evidence for evolution.

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DW February 24, 2009 at 1:41 am

Just thought I’d point out the recent discovery of a mechanism for ribosomal evolution.
It’s in the latest journal of Nature (Vol 457, p977). Ribosomes are giant molecules in the cell whose job is to turn genetic info into proteins. A cellular component with such a major functional role is a favorite target of IDers: afterall, how could something so complex have evolved? Well, here’s how. Not that it will change any minds, but it has once more highlighted the predictive power of current evolutionary theory.

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... September 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

YOU ALL ARE DUMB! god did not give birth defects the stupid people in this world that make wrong choices by doing drugs DID!!!

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drj September 24, 2009 at 11:35 am

Well, after that video… I must say, this universe really doesnt look designed for us, after all. Why, the odds against survival in such a hostile place must be astronomical! Therefore, Jesus.

;)

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Black Wolf September 29, 2009 at 8:45 am

: YOU ALL ARE DUMB! god did not give birth defects the stupid people in this world that make wrong choices by doing drugs DID!!!

I somewhat agree. Humans are the source of birth defects, not only with drugs, but our entire way of life. Mining, nuclear devices (powerplants, weapons). Medications, medical diagnostics, chemicals, I can go on all day with this. People now waiting to reproduce until after the get their “careers going and make lots of money” are having children past the ideal childbearig years open themselves up to have children with a wide array of defects to to mention fertility drugs. All this has nothing to do with wether or not you believe in a god or higher power. We bring it on to ourselves, and it will eventually come to the extinction of the human race.

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yari September 30, 2009 at 10:39 am

i get were you are comming from but Gos doesnt do this. All that happens is xonsequece of wat people do. If u are prego and u smoke or are aroiund pl dat do ur ur gunna get lung desease. If u robb a bank ur gunna get caught and got to jail. the bible says that when u do sumthing for example u do wichry ur generations are goin to carry with that unless sumone breaks those chains. The only wat to break em is to really grab Gods hand and asks him to forgive ur ancestors. And truly leave it all behind. I understand u but u need to read the bible a little bit more so u can get your facts. God bless you

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da midwest princess October 1, 2009 at 7:25 am

Black Wolf:
I somewhat agree. Humans are the source of birth defects, not only with drugs, but our entire way of life. Mining, nuclear devices (powerplants, weapons). Medications, medical diagnostics, chemicals, I can go on all day with this. People now waiting to reproduce until after the get their “careers going and make lots of money” are having children past the ideal childbearig years open themselves up to have children with a wide array of defects to to mention fertility drugs. All this has nothing to do with wether or not you believe in a god or higher power. We bring it on to ourselves, and it will eventually come to the extinction of the human race.

i do agree too. many of us bring these types of things on ourselves. what i don’t agree with is ‘having children past the ideal childbearing years’. physically, women may be better suited to having children in their early 20′s, however, a very large percentage of them are not emotionally ready to be a parent at that age and emotional health has a very large effect in the end. i’m not saying physical health doesn’t, i’m saying that it’s best that a woman wait’s until she not just emotionally, but also financially ready to have a child. give herself time to finish college, find a suitable career and have a few more years of freedom so that later on in life she will have been satisfied of getting all the “crazy” out at a young age. and also, so that she won’t end up living paycheck to paycheck just to support herself and her child. true, she may have a husband with her, but personally, i’d rather have a good educational background so that just incase the marriage didn’t work out, i could get a good job (and not be flipping burgers) and not have to worry about finances. plus which, if she does have a good career, she can afford to take time off to be with her child at the child’s early stage of life when it is most in need of her.

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JennPo December 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm

though i consider myself neither a Christian nor an Athiest, ive got to throw in my two cents on the comments made on birth defects. 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect, some more severe than others. in addition, 20-30% of these defects are due to genetic disorders and has nothing to do with drug or alcohol abuse but with chromosomal abnormalities. there are some people who abuse drugs and alcohol during their pregnancies and their babies suffer. or they get lucky and have healthy babies while those who follow the rules end up with a disabled child. women who dont care for their fetus and choose to use mind altering substances have only themselves to blame. but what of the women who were born with a genetic abnormality that goes undetected until their child is born deformed or developmentally delayed? are they to blame? is it Gods fault? automatically assuming that deformed babies is the cause of drug abuse is what makes Athiests and Agnostics alike shun Christians. The Bible is in black and white but life is not and there will always be grey areas where you’ve got two options: 1-condemn what you dont understand or 2-accept that there are some things in this world that you dont know and cant possibly explain. Dont blame God(or whatever diety you choose to believe in) for mans mistakes. other side of the coin, dont blame man for anything bad that you cant attribute to God.

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Aja January 6, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Ah the many mysteries of life.., there are many imperfections in this universe, fact is, mathematically speaking and logically speaking there is no perfect equation without exisiting error, in fact the things we’ve considered perfect went through several trials and error and have been presented as a final product which STILL shows defect. Define perfection. If you had a plan would you come up with the perfect plan? And if so. think of all the endless errors and possiblities that could be the downfall of your so called “perfect plan”. If you couldn’t control the decisions of your perfect creation would you be the one to blame? If you were smart enough to understand error maybe you wouldn’t blame God. but rather appreciate the compassion were given to make decisions on our own from which we are learning. We’ve been given the chance to grow because of our decision to be like God in the beginning, and in becoming a part of him we have to understand pain, sufference and imperfection. He created the “perfect being”, the perfect being is a man who has the intelligence and ability to think intelligently and in doing so they consider the pro’s and con’s of a subject before dedicating themselves to their IDEA of a perfect decision.At this point, everythings out of your control and the only thing you CAN do is wait while things around you fall apart and break your heart because they were never meant to work in the first place.. like divorce, your dieing loved ones, starving children etc. its like in his heart he’s never given up love hope or just doesn’t exist. He’s there but, whats the point in trying to fix people? there always going to be another issue besides pain is the only way were EVER going to learn. Your going to think this idea is almost repulsive and have alot to say, well I’m entitled to my opinion and very dedicated to my hero God who gave me a chance. and Dont think that telling me whats better is going to work cause’ my ass is not getting on this website again to check out what you have to say I simply “DONT CARE” from this point on..

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justme March 30, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Why is it that atheist are always trying to prove there isnt a God. If they are so sure that there isnt one then they should be contempt shouldnt they? If they are so sure of why and how things are created then they should be happy that they have all the answers right? Why are so many atheist ready to jump down a believers throat for believeing in something different from their own beliefs?

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lukeprog March 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm

justme,

The answer is “Because false beliefs cause great harm in many cases.”

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Thinker April 1, 2010 at 9:03 am

I feel sorry for the author of this stupid article. If whoever wrote this took the time to study the physical world, just a little bit, he/she would have concluded completely different answers. (That is the problem with human beings, if they don’t know, or can’t know, they make assumptions, stupid ones too).

Dear Author: Now, lets first start with the Homo Sapien Brain. This brain, “the perfect brain” compared to ALL other species’ brains that have lived before us, is in itself an amazing design. The complexity of this brain surpasses all imagination, but its that same brain that gives you the power to think, question,and even falsify the “system” or “design”. If one could just simply study the brain, that same person will realize how amazing & Bizarre of an organ it is. This brain is responsible for almost 200,000 years of culture, history, scientific discoveieris, engineering, industrial revolution, agricultural revolution, buildings, apartments, schools, cars; this brain went under the oceans, only to discover species that live so deep inside of it, they do not need the sun’s energy to produce food. This same brain went to space, only to discover the unimaginable; how everything in our solar system is there for A SPECIFIC reason, and how every single dust particle -to the biggest planet, all work together in one single system to accomplish specific tasks set out for them. Why is Jupiter there? Everyday, Jupiter stops millions of asteroids and commits from even getting close to our orbits. Everything in the solar system orbits the sun, even the furthest planets away. Now, this same system that we are talking about is not free of errors. Ofcourse there is errors, everywhere. Do there errors stop the earth from orbiting the sun? Do these errors stop the moon from orbiting the earth? There might be faults in the system, but there has to be faults, or else the equation would not make sense. Don’t go on and say, oh, there are many faults, therefore there is no god. It is illogical to say that, because faults in our physical world(like genetic mutations, death) cause evolutionary trends, which in order causes speciation; which is how there is so much diversity in creatures out there. The creator, the designer, GOD, gave humans a superiorly intelligent brain. A brain that can mislead them, or a brain that can find the truth. I go with science, but science is not enough. Science cannot answer 99.999999999999999% of Knowledge in this reality. Can you see how young science is? How helpless it is?

I still feel sorry for you, not because we share different opinions, but because you lack the intellect, reasoning & basic logic that GOD gave you to figure this out.

It’s quite simple really, look at the difference between a COMPUTER (A MAN MADE INVENTION) & A CAT (A GODLY CREATION). Don’t you see the difference. That thing moves, eats, sees, hears, sleeps, shits & pisses just like us. We are creatures my friend, just a little smarter than usual. How SMART ARE YOU?

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Thinker April 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

Charles Darwin was not the first one to propose or introduce the theory of evolution. It was proposed many thousands year before his era.

The theory of evolution works in many, most species. The theory of evolution – anthropologically, archeologically & scientifically CANNOT & HAS NOT YET answered the orgiin of Homo Sapiens, or as they call them, The final HOMOS.

There is a gap in fossil evidence, which directly correlates that most species could have went through evolution, but not “MAN”.

If you don’t believe me, research it!

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Matt April 18, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I’d like to present both the idea of God and of genetic mutation in the most harmonious and scientific way possible. This post will undoubtedly be a long one but hopefully anyone interested will read it in full.

Since the comments have deviated to evolution that’s where I’ll start. First, it should be said that this is the only branch of biological scientific study presupposing that organization of information (ie: cellular life) can come into existence without an initial intelligent and organized source. If S.E.T.I. were to receive prime-number transmissions from the ether of space, extra-terrestrial life would be presumed; if an archeologist unearthed fragments of ancient pottery it would be the handiwork of an extinct human culture. Yet in evolutionary theory it is claimed that time and random chance are the source of the most complex and astounding configuration of information known to humankind, biological life!

The reason for this is certainly not a scientific one, but instead appears to be philosophical in nature. At the expense of an objective and logical approach, evolutionary proponents have adopted a pre-determined framework into which evidence is being forced. Though there are many fields of study, an example would be the fossil record, which actually does not support any of the evolutionary framework it is meant to. As Evolutionary anthropologist and author Jeffrey Schwartz writes in his book “Sudden Origins”:

“Instead of filling the gaps in the fossil record with so-called missing links, most paleontologists have found themselves facing a situation in which there are only gaps in the fossil record, with no evidence of transformational intermediates between documented fossil species.”

This has been the published conclusions of many many evolutionary scientists much to the sciences’ dismay. All in all, the metaphysical implications that come with the existence of life have turned the scientific process on it’s head and lead to massive misinformation.

So the main question here was if God exists why are there birth defects? If you’re still with me, don’t worry I’m getting there, but now n alternative biological theory must be presented in place of evolution.
There is a scientific principle known as the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. This law explains that in a closed system (such as our solar system) entropy will occur unless energy is added to it. This has to do with energy being converted to heat but is often used in science to mean decay and a tendency towards chaos since this is the result of a loss in energy.
Basically what this means is that although earth is receiving energy from the sun, our solar system is losing energy and will eventually die out, and the same can be said for our galaxy, and for the universe as a whole.

Scientists will demonstrate this law by saying that a cup of coffee will cool to ambient temperature unless heated, or that the human body cannot metabolize calories without losing some of the nutritional energy in the process. Energy is never 100% efficient and is always dissipating without an outside source.

So in order to have life we clearly need energy. But science has also proven that one other element is needed before that energy can be used to produce living organisms. Here enters the law of biogenesis which states that life must come from other life. All life as we know it has come from other life. This is exactly how this “law” has become a law to begin with, all observable instances have shown it to be true. Now there is a theory of abiogenesis, or: life from non-life, but this has never once been observed or simulated to date.

What this is saying is that the organization of cellular life can only duplicate, it cannot manifest spontaneously. (Information can be removed and become physically observable however where once it was only observable on a cellular level. This is seen is micro-evolution when the recessive genes of a species become dominant and a new better adapted species is born.) Yet every time genetic code duplicates, some coding is inevitably lost or mutated. This can be observed in the 3,000+ known genetic mutations and birth defects present in the human genome and those present in all species.

So since under the law of biogenesis, duplication results in reduced genetic accuracy; and under the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics the universe is losing energy and organization, it’s scientifically sound to say that whenever and whereever the universe began, it had to have begun with a greater amount of energy and a more organized genetic template.

Now it should be evident that there is in fact a scientific premise for theorizing that our universe was created by something or someone. And that this source held a greater complexity than seen in cellular life and more energy than the universe at present. Since you don’t see that with the Big Bang this is obviously where the theory of God would come in.

So that is how the existence of a God and of genetic mutations can both coexist from a scientifically analytical standpoint.

But if God did exist and allowed these mutations… would this God be a terrible one? That’s the truly fundamental question here, and an important one. But this is no longer the realm of science. So here, to the best of my ability, I’ll attempt a theological answer.

From a Christian standpoint, in the eternal time-line earthy life is minuscule in scale and suffering only finite. So even the worst things on earth can be seen as impermanent. Does this mean that God is punishing us at his whim? Are birth defects one of many forms of divinely ordained retribution for “sin” by a tyrannical God? I’ll end with a Biblical verse that seems appropriate here:

John 9

“1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither this man nor his parents that have sinned; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus then went on to heal the man of his blindness.

I guess the point is, although some aspects of humanity are tragically horrific and disheartening, there is always a bigger picture than what can be seen. And sometimes…viewing that picture through a different lens can make that picture a whole lot bigger, or change it altogether.

-Matt

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Matt April 19, 2010 at 12:31 am

-Thinker

I forgot to add in my post, I’m definitely in agreement w/ you on human origins’ proofing or lack thereof via evolutionary theory, but it should be said that evolutionary theory actually does not work on “many or most species.” The fossil record, cellular and genetic research, carbon dating, geology, etc. are actually less in support of evolution than intelligent design and more in support of a vastly shorter timeline for organic life on earth.

Although with scientists only able to speculate on the chemical composition/conditions of earth in the past, (important to both camps of thought) both theories will likely remain purely theoretical.

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Matt April 19, 2010 at 1:08 am

Three posts in a row I know. What can I say. I’d thought the entirety of the post was on birth defects vs. design (since yahoo put smack in the middle of the page after clicking an image link.) Hadn’t scrolled up until now. Anyhow, regarding poor design in general.

• Here’s a link detailing likely reasons vertebrate retinas were designed “inside out.”

http://www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v13/i1/retina.asp

• Dolphins have separate canals for breathing and eating because unlike fish, they are mammals and don’t possess gills. The dual inlet setup allows dolphins to hunt and eat underwater while the muscles of their blowholes remain sealed. If humans had this then THAT actually would be a case of inefficient engineering since we’re built for land.

• The other bullet points aren’t specific enough to address really. But just as vestigial morphological organs in humans and a multitude of other examples of “poor biological engineering” have been disproved over time, I’d say the culprit for those too is lack of complete understanding, rather than weak design.

Thanks for the post, I always like a good existential convo from time to time.

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Chris May 10, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Wow, this guy is a genius. He completely disproved the existence of God. And doing so he demonstrated his superior knowledge of improved design. I’d say he should be the leader of humanity, and fix all the mistakes he claims God made.
Then one day he will have to give account of the days of his life and I can just imagine what will go through his mind LOL

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ok June 18, 2010 at 3:36 am

What about you? Are you stupidly designed? I mean, if you were, you wouldn’t be an astronomer now would you?

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angela July 6, 2010 at 5:17 am

mxm! u guys are very ignorant to question God! Like there is evil there will be good its CALLED THE BALANCE OF LIFE! FOOL!!! All of us can`t be a size o just like all of us can`t have blue eyes and so all of us won`t bring forth healthy babies..

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Marzena July 19, 2010 at 11:03 am

Lets imagine that there is a perfect design and everything has a purpose and a reason to exist. What would be a reason for something mutated or abnormal or imperfect hmm hard to answer it unless you experienced it in your own life. I have a son who has some defects. After 10 years of raising him I have realized that he was born like this especially for me!!! Because of all the hardship of raising him I have learned patience, seeing beauty and goodness in everything and everyone, love and acceptance, tolerance and many other qualities. I am grateful to have him in my life but it took years to understand it. Now what he learns from his own imperfections that’s his lesson in life, I help him to see the good in it. So I see a perfect design in the fact that God and life know what I need to learn and make a progress in life and I am supplied with it. The question is, do I always see it, especially when the so called BAD things come my way? Well I try, do you?

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Sam Farnham October 2, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Nothing in this world is perfect. If it was, then our world would be considered heaven. So in support of the bible, why would god design us to be perfect here on earth if we are descended from perfection unto earth. A perfect system for “life” would utilize a platform incomprehensible to the human mind. This system could possibly be a form of life utilizing pure cyclic energy. How the life form would function off pure energy is beyond any of us. Also, calling our nervous system a bad design is insane. Our brain is so complex that we aren’t even close to understanding how it operates and supports our conscious. I appreciate how atheists search for the truth, but none of your arguments have swayed me towards your opinion.

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Camus Dude October 6, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Totally OT, but I notice you don’t seem to use your twitter account much (hence why I’m not tweeting at you), but you should set up you account, or perhaps make a new one for the blog to tweet the title of each post, and perhaps #atheism too or something like the. Might be an easy way to increase readership.

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Enlightened February 1, 2011 at 5:52 pm

God created all of us… including those special ones… He created them so that we can have a chance to proved our self that we can love them unconditionally like how he loves us. And because of them we can be righteous in the eyes of God.

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Antsan October 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I am reading through your archives and I just wanna say two things:
1. I like your blog and I am impressed by your story.
2. Please, don’t post pictures like these without a warning where one cannot avoid them. Not everyone can sleep sound after seeing that and I think it’s not really necessary to show those pictures to anyone. Sorry, if that has been mentioned before.

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dan January 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm

So you sincerely believe that ALL birth defects are caused by pollutants of some kind? That there is no such thing as inherent genetic abberations? And even if that were true, what would God’s point be in not preventing the horrible suffering of an (by definition, unless one believes in reincarnation) innocent child for the mistakes of its progenitors?

i get were you are comming from but Gos doesnt do this. All that happens is xonsequece of wat people do. If u are prego andu smoke or are aroiund pl dat do ur ur gunna get lung desease. If u robb a bank ur gunna get caught and got to jail. the bible says that when u do sumthing for example u do wichry ur generations are goin to carry with that unless sumone breaks those chains. The only wat to break em is to really grab Gods hand and asks him to forgive ur ancestors. And truly leave it all behind. I understand u but u need to read the bible a little bit more so u can get your facts. God bless you

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