Bad Design

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The universe is so full of bad design, and this proves evolution and defeats creation, was the claim made in the Debate held 2 August 2007 at the University of Melbourne: The Rationalist Society of Australia vs Creation Research. Rationalist president Ian Robinson made the following claims.

1) Poor design shows in structures such as the human throat because you can choke. The human eye is poorly designed because of the blind spot it has, and because of the retina being inverted, likewise since whales need to come to the surface to breathe making them susceptible to being killed by human hunters, no clever Creator would have done this.

2) Design implies a need to find a solution to a problem, so what problem did God have that He was trying to solve by designing a Universe? Genesis is silent on this matter, so if there is no stated problem, the Universe is not a designed solution.

The debate did not follow a typical format which has each speaker given 15 minutes to present a case, alternating between sides, followed by time to refute your opponents claims in public. There was no allowed refutation time so we insisted there must be a 30 minute question time from the public. Having a chairman who was Professorial Head of the Philosophy department, we now realise we should also have insisted this included the opportunity to answer the questions as well. We were outsmarted (or out-dumbed) on this totally, and so the following is the most important refutation of the above Rationalist claims about bad design we would have made if we had the time instead of having only a summary conclusion at the end. (Compiled by Craig Hawkins, John Mackay and Diane Eager).

All the claims of biological bad design by the rationalists have one serious fault - when they can show that they have designed a better throat /eye etc – their opinion will be worthy of consideration, particularly in the light of the booming bioengineering industry that is seeking to mimic biological design – because it works so well. Until they can design better working throats etc, they must be considered amateurs whose criticisms are both ignorant and arrogant.

Consider the following biological example claimed to be bad design: Design in the Human Throat

The claimed bad design is that the nose sits above the mouth and takes in air, which then goes down the throat behind the nose and mouth. It then is directed forward through the larynx (voicebox) and down the trachea (windpipe). In the meantime the mouth takes in food and drink. When this is swallowed it passes over the top of the larynx to the back of the throat and then down the oesophagus (food pipe). Because anything we swallow has to go past the larynx, food or liquids may “go down the wrong way” and cause people to choke or become ill because inhaled material has carried infection into the lungs.

If the mouth, nose and throat were just passive spaces with rigid walls this would be bad design, but they are really part of an actively moving system that carries out important functions for human life, and has built-in backup systems.

The most important result of having the mouth and nose both opening into the throat is that breathing which is so essential to life, has an instant backup system. If the nose is blocked we can breathe through our mouths. This editor remembers reading a science fiction story that described an alien that had its mouth down near its stomach, completely separated from it nose, which was on its head. Such a creature would die if it got a cold, or was punched in the nose.

Another very important result of having the mouth connected to the airways is that we can speak. The larynx produces sound as air is expelled through it, but it is the mouth that enables us to articulate, i.e. form the sound into words. Articulation involves complex subtle movements of tongue, lips, cheeks and soft palate. Speech is an essential part of being human. The science fiction alien with a mouth around his belly button, would have to communicate with snorts and honks, or sign language, as he tried to talk through his nose. God is more clever than the rationalists think.

Being able to control expelled air with the mouth also enables us to play wind musical instruments. Flutes played with the mouth are executed much more skilfully than the nose flute found in some countries. Using pressure differences in the airways also enables us to suck and blow through straws.

Why then do things go wrong with the system, sometimes with fatal consequences? All the functions that involve the movements of air, food and liquids are under the control of the brain and a complex set of reflexes normally ensures that the airway is closed when you swallow. The mouth and larynx are designed so that when you swallow, the larynx is pulled up so that it is out of the way of what is being swallowed and a flap called the epiglottis is pulled down over the larynx, like a lid, closing it off. If the reflexes that control these movements don’t get it right, and something does go down the wrong way, another backup system, the cough reflex, takes care of it.

Therefore, it is only when several systems fail at once that people die from choking or aspiration pneumonia. Apart from the very occasional accident, usually caused by people trying to talk and eat at once, the reflexes only seriously fail because of illness or disability – a situation which would never have occurred in the original perfect world before man sinned and rationalists tried to talk through their noses. (Ref. Creator, sceptics, anti-creation)

Evidence News 29 August 2007

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