Bad Design?

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

One of the most often used arguments used by atheists goes something like this:

“If the universe was designed by an infinitely perfect Creator, then He did a pretty lousy job! There are many examples of things in the universe that could be a lot better, and so this shows us that there really isn’t a Creator.”

This argument has become very popular in the last several years, being propagated by unbelievers like Richard Dawkins.

Yet is this true?

Does the universe exhibit evidences of bad design?

And if so, do these examples of bad design argue against the existence of God?

Let’s study.  

Bad Design Or Wrong Assumption About Function?

I have often found that advocates of the bad design theory usually start by making bad assumptions, usually beginning with their arrogant beliefs regarding the intended functionality of certain systems.

For example, one example that critics often propose of bad design in the universe is from the the thumbs of the panda.

Why don’t pandas have opposable thumbs?

Shouldn’t a Creator know the importance of such, and shouldn’t all of His creations be equipped accordingly?

The fallacy of the critics comes from failing to consider the beautiful design already present in the pandas incredibly crafted body, which is actually designed to accommodate a very important and specific function:

“They fault the Designer, for instance, for not giving pandas opposable thumbs. An omniscient and omnipotent Designer would already have known about the superior opposable thumb, they argue, and would have been sure to give it to them. Since he did not, he obviously does not exist or at least is not directly involved in designing thumbs. The irony is that the panda’s remarkably sturdy thumbs work beautifully for peeling bamboo. Must the cosmic Designer’s primary concern for pandas be that they are the most dexterous bears divinely imaginable? From a purely practical standpoint, might opposable-thumbed uber-pandas wreak havoc on their ecosystem? From a purely aesthetic standpoint, might not those charming pandas up in their bamboo trees with their unopposing but quite workable thumbs be just the sort of humorous supporting character this great cosmic drama needs to lighten things up a bit? If Shakespeare could introduce a comical gravedigger into the tragedy of Hamlet, why cannot God introduce whimsy into his work?” (Jonathan Witt, “Panning God,” in William A. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence For God: 50 Arguments For Faith From The Bible, History, Philosophy, And Science, 116 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books)

Witt continues, making another extremely important point:

“Why, after all, should the Designer’s world read like a dreary high school science textbook, its style humorless, homogenous, and suffocating under the dead weight of a supposedly detached, passive voice? Why should the Designer’s world not entertain, amuse, and fascinate, as well as “work”? Why, in short, should we not expect it to have the richness of variety and tone we find in a work of art like Hamlet? The bad-design versus good-design discussion is often framed by an engineer’s neer’s perspective, not an artist’s or mystic’s. When I noted this to philosopher Jay Richards a few years ago, he responded in a letter: “After all, why do we assume that God created the universe to be a watch, in which a self-winding mechanism makes it `better’? Maybe the universe is like a piano, or a novel with the author as a character, or a garden for other beings with whom God wants to interact. It is amazing how a simple image can highjack a discussion for a century and a half.”” (Jonathan Witt, “Panning God,” in WilliamA. Dembski and Michael R. Licona, Evidence For God: 50 Arguments For Faith From The Bible, History, Philosophy, And Science, 117 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books)

So an allegation of “bad design” vanishes when we consider that the “design” is actually genius for a very important function!

Another example of alleged “bad design” being put to rest when considering functionality comes from the human eye. Evolutionists often claim that the human eye stands against the idea of an intelligent Creator: for, it is alleged, a Creator should have done a much greater job in its creation!

Yet when we consider the “imperfect eye” from the standpoint of functionality, we see quite a different story.

In his fascinating new book, Zombie Science, Jonathan Wells has written:

“So from the perspective of evolutionary theory, the human eye looks badly designed, and the theory provides no incentive to investigate further. But what if we look at the human eye from the perspective of function? What if its supposedly bad design actually enables it to function better?…THE TWO main types of light-sensing cells in a vertebrate retina are rods and cones…The former are exquisitely sensitive to light, and they function very well in dim light or at night. Indeed, they can detect a single photon. 47 But they “see” only in black and white. The cone cells are far less numerous than rod cells, and they are not as sensitive to light, but they “see” in color. Both rods and cones require lots of nutrients and vast amounts of energy….In addition to transporting oxygen and nutrients to the hungry rods and cones, the RPE performs another essential function. Rods and cones contain stacks of discs that are densely packed with light-sensing molecules. In the process of detecting light, toxic chemicals are generated that must be removed if the light-sensing cells are to continue operating. In 1967, Richard Young showed experimentally that a photoreceptor cell continually renews itself by shedding discs at the end closest to the RPE and replacing them with newly synthesized discs at the other end. 54 The RPE then engulfs and digests the shed discs, neutralizing the toxins. 55 RPE cells can even detach themselves and “rove the neural retina cleaning up debris.” 56 If the rods and cones were to face the incoming light, as evolutionists claim they should, the blood-filled choriocapillaris and the RPE would have to be in front of the retina, where they would block almost all of the light. By contrast, nerve cells are comparatively transparent, and they block very little of the incoming light. Because of the high metabolic requirements of rods and cones and their need to regenerate themselves, the inverted retina is actually much more efficient than the “tidy-minded” design imagined by evolutionary biologists. The blind spot is not a serious problem, first of all because it is so small and second of all because the blind spot produced by the left eye is not in the same place as the blind spot produced by the right eye. This means that in humans with two good eyes, the field of vision of one eye covers for the blind spot of the other eye, and vice versa. Most of the research cited above documenting the essential functions of the choriocapillaris and RPE was published before 1986. But Dawkins, Williams, Miller, Futuyma, and Coyne didn’t bother to check the scientific literature. They simply assumed that evolution is true and that they knew how an eye should be designed. Then they concluded that the human eye is badly designed, claimed it as evidence for evolution, and ignored the contrary evidence. This is zombie science at work….So we are supposed to believe that evolution left us with a flawed retina, then provided us with a retrofit to correct the flaw. And we are supposed to ignore powerful evidence that the inverted retina provides crucial advantages. There is a vision problem here, but it isn’t the one evolutionists are talking about.” (Jonathan Wells, Zombie Science: More Icons Of Evolution-“They Just Keep Coming Back,” 2512-2562 (Kindle Edition); Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press)

So we see again that the charge of “bad design” is remedied when we consider that the design in question often is so structured in order to meet important functions at optimum performance.

Bad Design In Isolation…Or Great Design In Tandem?

Furthermore, the claim of what is often perceived as “bad design” in an organism vanishes when the organism is considered in isolation from a more complex system.

“A single feature may not be optimal, but the combination of features may be. E.g. a thicker shell, considered only for its protective properties, might work better against predators and environmental damage. But if it is too thick, its manufacture wastes resources, and even worse, it could weigh down the creature, so as a whole, the creature is worse off. Dawkins himself understands this much: “We can’t know all the details but we do know (it is an unbreakable law of economics) that it is possible to spend too much on one department of life, thereby taking resources away from some other department of life. An individual that puts more than the ideal resources into running may save its own skin. But in the Darwinian stakes it will be out-competed by a rival individual of the same species, who skimps a little on running speed and hence incurs a greater risk of being eaten, but who gets the balance right and ends up with more descendants to pass on the genes for getting the balance right. … Legs that are long and thin are good at running fast. Inevitably they are also good at breaking.” (p. 385)” (Jonathan Sarfatti, Ph.D., F.M., The Greatest Hoax On Earth: Refuting Dawkins On Evolution, 7703-7716 (Kindle Edition); Powder Springs, GA; Creation Book Publishers)

Several things exist which serve very important functions, in cooperation with other systems. Think of how the incredible immune, digestive, endocrine, respiratory, and reproductive systems are all composed of millions of smaller working “parts” which (when working together) accomplish incredible feats. The sum of the parts is accomplished by the individual contributions of the “smaller” parts!

As scientist Brad Harrub has pointed out:

“Various organs and systems of the human body demonstrate incredible design and complexity. However, those organs and bodily systems could not function without a supportive network of connective tissue. Consider how ineffective the circulatory system would be without a rigid framework to maintain support. Gravity would reduce the human body to a mere mass of tissue, making normal circulation impossible. Soft tissues, such as organs, must be held in place and protected in order to function properly. The connective tissues responsible for these important tasks are bone, cartilage, fatty (adipose) tissue, and other fiber-bearing tissues. The muscular system works in conjunction with the bones. Tiny muscle cells combine in orchestrated fashion to form muscle fibers, which can produce action by synchronized contraction (See Figure 4). Muscles of the human body range in size from large muscles in the legs to tiny muscles that control the iris of the eye. The entire system, which works in conjunction with the skeletal system, is dependent on the nervous system for input and regulation. Both of these systems also depend on the circulatory and respiratory systems for oxygen and nutrients. Without all of these systems working together the human body would not function properly.” (Brad Harrub, Ph.D., Illustrated by Thomas Tarpley, Dissecting The Truth: Design In The Human Body Demands A Designer, 1938-1948 (Kindle Edition); Montgomery, Alabama; Apologetics Press)

The appearance of bad design in an individual unit is show to be incredible design when the unit is shown to be part of a larger whole.

Bad Design…Or Incomplete Research?

Another factor to consider when studying the “bad design” argument is that often times, the number of examples of alleged “bad design” in nature are reduced when further research has been accomplished.

Consider the words of Daniel Howell:

“A friend of mine said her college professor claimed no intelligent designer would use the same opening for both respiratory and digestive functions since that creates an obvious choking hazard. This is an opinion, of course, not a statement of fact. Science requires numbers, even in biology. Without numbers you have only story-telling. The various appeals to good or bad design are often just conjecture, but I decided to make a calculation of the failure rate of the epiglottis to better determine whether the larynx is poorly designed or not. I just finished a lunch which consisted of a sandwich, chips, and a glass of milk. I counted the number of times I swallowed during my meal and recorded 76 swallows. Three meals per day, plus another 100 swallows for snacks and roughly 200 swallows for drinking to stay hydrated equals roughly 500 swallows per day or 175,000 swallows per year. The population of the United States is 330 million people, which means that approximately 5.8×1013 (i.e., 175,000 x 330 million) swallows are accomplished each year. A Google search revealed that about 3,000 people choke to death each year in America. The average age in America is 35 years old; assuming the same average age among those who die by choking, then approximately 2×1015 swallows (5.8×1013 x 35) are successfully accomplished per 3,000 choking deaths. Thus, the failure rate of the epiglottis is 3,000 in 2×1015 swallows, or 1 in 675 billion swallows, or 0.00000000015%. I think we are driven to conclude that the larynx is designed superbly despite the opinion of some evolutionists.” (Daniel Howell, Sometimes Deceived: How Evolutionists Have Led Us Astray, 1959-1970 (Kindle Edition); Lynchburg, VA; Blue Ridge Books, LLC)

This actually reminds me of how evolutionists have had to abandon many other alleged proofs of evolution over the years, when further research revealed that these arguments were invalid. For example, one commonly cited argument for evolution was in the form of alleged vestigial organs.

We were told for generations that humans have certain organs and appendages which we develop today that are completely useless to us in our modern form, but were supposedly needed in earlier “primate forms” of mankind. However, as humans “evolved,” the need for these vestigial organs vanished.

Of course, the number of alleged vestigial organs has shrunk quite considerably in the last several decades…since we now know from further research that the so-called “useless” organs actually have extremely important functions!

“Evolutionists have used the presence of “vestigial organs” in humans as a support. They argue that, since the human body has organs for which there is no known use, they are left over from an earlier animal stage in which they were useful. The fact that vestigials can be removed with no apparent harm to the body indicates that they are useless. The appendix, ear muscles, and the third eyelid are placed into this category. However, just because functions for these organs are not known does not mean that none exist. Since scientific knowledge is finite and progressive, there may be functions of which science is not yet aware. That they can be removed without apparent harm to the body is meaningless. Other organs may compensate for their loss. Also, a loss may exist that is not readily detectable. Some organs, such as tonsils, may be more important at an earlier stage in the person’s development as, for example, during early childhood to help fight off diseases. And organs such as a kidney or a lung can be removed without serious loss, yet they have a function. It is significant that the list of vestigial organs has shrunk from around 100 when the idea was first proposed to about a half dozen today. There are hints about purposes for some of those. The appendix may aid in digestion and may be helpful in fighting off disease. Rabbits have a large appendix, and complete vegetarians may get more benefit from theirs. The muscle of the outer ear helps protect against freezing in colder climates. The “third eyelid” or nictitating membranae is used in humans to collect foreign material that gets in the eye. The “tail” or coccyx is necessary for sitting with comfort. The endocrine glands, once thought to be vestigial, are now known to be of great importance in the production of hormones. The thymus has been found to be involved in protecting the body against disease.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 227 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Continued research has dismantled the arguments for evolution, just as it has done for the allegations of “bad design” in nature.

Bad Design…Or Devolution?

Finally, any further supposed demonstrations of “bad design” in nature may simply and logically be explained away as examples of degeneration and deterioration in organisms (also known as devolution). While the subject of devolution does not sit well with many evolutionists, it is an undeniable fact that things in the universe are indeed “de-evolving.” This makes perfect sense when we consider the evidence from a Biblical framework:

Genesis 3:17-18-17  Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.

Later, the Apostle Paul elaborates upon this “Fall” of Creation:

Romans 8:20-22-20  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21  because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

Since the Bible is the Word of God (evidences for this from the supernatural unity of the Bible, Prophecy and fulfillment, scientific foreknowledge of the Bible writers, archaeological and miraculous attestation, etc., have been presented in other articles), and since the Bible teaches that the entire Creation has been deteriorating due to the Fall (as here documented), then it is the case that the Creation is deteriorating as a result of the Fall.

Therefore, any further allegations of “bad design” are easily accounted for as a result of the introduction of sin into the world.


The overwhelming degree of complexity in the universe provides irrefutable evidence to the existence of the Designer (I.e., God exists).

One former atheist scientist, in studying whether or not “bad design” furnishes proof against God, wrote these fascinating words:

“There are some questionable examples of features that some evolutionists claim are sub-optimal design. However, these examples are quite questionable (and are very subjective opinions on the part of the evolutionists). There is NO way to prove that a design is sub-optimal….There is no shortage of biological structures that biologists see as being Optimal Designs. So, even if there are a few questionable sub-optimal designed features (which is questionable)… and if their alleged sub-optimality is proof that those specific structures arose by gradualistic evolutionary processes… Then the Optimal Designs must be evidence of Intelligent Design.” (John M. Kingdom, God & Evolution: How An Atheist Scientist Changed His Mind, 13314-13332 (Kindle Edition))

Friends, the proof for God is all around us! Please see the incredible love that God has for you and that is shown through the Creation. He loves you and sent His Son to be the Savior for your sins, allowing Jesus Christ to die on the Cross of Calvary for your sins (1 Timothy 2:6). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day after His death (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

He commands believers to repent of their sins and be baptized into Him for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:37-38).

Won’t you please turn to Him today?

If you are a child of God Who has turned away from Him, why not repent of the sin in your life and then back to God in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


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