What about Unintelligent Design?

‘The biologist J. B. S. Haldane is reported to have said that, if there is a God, He has “an inordinate fondness for beetles.” One would have hoped that an observation this devastating would have closed the book on creationism for all time. The truth is that, while there are now around three hundred and fifty thousand known species of beetles, God appears to have an even greater fondness for viruses. Biologists estimate that there are at least ten strains of virus for every species of animal on earth. Many viruses are benign, of course, and some ancient virus may have played an important role in the emergence of complex organisms. But viruses tend to use organisms like you and me as their borrowed genitalia. Many of them invade our cells only to destroy them, destroying us in the process—horribly, mercilessly, relentlessly. Viruses like HIV, as well as a wide range of harmful bacteria, can be seen evolving right under our noses, developing resistance to antiviral and antibiotic drugs to the detriment of everyone. Evolution both predicts and explains this phenomenon; the book of Genesis does not. How can you imagine that religious faith offers the best account of these realities, or that they suggest some deeper, compassionate purpose of an omniscient being?

Our own bodies testify to the whimsy and incompetence of the creator. As embryos, we produce tails, gill sacs, and a full coat of apelike hair. Happily, most of us lose these charming accessories before birth. This bizarre sequence of morphology is readily interpreted in evolutionary and genetic terms; it is an utter mystery if we are the products of intelligent design. Men have a urinary tract that runs directly through the prostate gland. The prostate tends to swell throughout life. Consequently, most men over the age of sixty can testify that at least one design on God’s green earth leaves much to be desired. A woman’s pelvis has not been as intelligently designed as it could have been to assist in the miracle of birth. Consequently, each year hundreds of thousands of women suffer prolonged and obstructed labor that results in a rupture known as an obstetric fistula. Women in the developing world who suffer this condition become incontinent and are often abandoned by their husbands and exiled from their communities. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that more than two million women live with fistula today.[6]

[6] The cure for obstetric fistula is, as it turns out, a simple surgical procedure—not prayer. While many people of faith seem convinced that prayer can heal a wide variety of illnesses (despite what the best scientific research indicates), it is curious that prayer is only ever believed to work for illnesses and injuries that can be self-limiting. No one, for instance, ever seriously expects that prayer will cause an amputee to regrow a missing limb. Why not? Salamanders manage this routinely, presumably without prayer. If God answers prayers – ever – why wouldn’t He occasionally heal a deserving amputee? And why wouldn’t people of faith expect prayer to work in such cases? There is a very clever Web site devoted to exploring this very mystery: http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com.

Examples of unintelligent design in nature are so numerous that an entire book could be written simply listing them. I will permit myself just one more example. The human respiratory and digestive tracts share a little plumbing at the pharynx. In the United States alone, this intelligent design feature lands tens of thousands of children in the emergency room each year. Some hundreds choke to death. Many others suffer irreparable brain injury. What compassionate purpose does this serve? Of course, we can imagine a compassionate purpose: perhaps the parents of these children needed to be taught a lesson; perhaps God has prepared a special reward in heaven for every child who chokes to death on a bottle cap. The problem, however, is that such imaginings are compatible with any state of the world. What horrendous mishap could not be rationalized in this way? And why would you be inclined to think like this? How is it moral to think like this?’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 24-25

4 thoughts on “What about Unintelligent Design?

  1. Many of them invade our cells only to destroy them” – Actually, they commandeer our cells, forcing them to make copies of the invading virii – then, when the cell is full to the limit, it bursts, sending virii helter-skelter to land on and invade still more cells.

    Salamanders manage this [regeneration] routinely, presumably without prayer.” – a starfish with an amputated limb will not only grow a new limb, but the amputated limb will grow a new starfish, again, presumably without prayer.

  2. Now this gets me to thinking. We are obviously badly designed as a species, and I’m wondering out loud if this is a result of thousands of years of prayer having prevented the species from properly evolving by allowing its nature to fix itself; choosing rather to “WAIT UPON THE LORD” to do it all for you, like Mcdonalds. Seriously though, if there is a grain of truth in that “we” create our reality, then what I just wrote could have some legitimacy. We don’t change because we don’t take responsibility for ourselves.

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