Does Design “Imperfection” Prove God Is Not the Designer of Life?
by J Warner Wallace
Skeptics have argued against the involvement of an external designer on the basis of perceived imperfections within biological structures. If there is an all-powerful intelligent designer, this designer would be working from scratch and should be capable of creating optimally designed micro-machines and biological structures. Evolution, on the other hand, modifies and builds from existing structures, and this process won’t necessarily produce design perfection. Scientists and philosophers who identify imperfections (and liabilities) in biological organisms point to these deficiencies as evidence against the involvement of an external intelligent agent. Some skeptics have also offered DNA as an example of design imperfection, given the presence of non-functional genes (“junk DNA”) within a variety of genomes. According to these critics, if a powerful, intelligent creator designed the DNA with these non-functional “pseudogenes”, the designer was apparently error-prone, wasting millions of DNA bases. Imprecise evolutionary processes resulting from random gene mutations are offered as a better explanation for the non-functional genes we find in DNA. But examples of apparent biological imperfections fail to negate the reasonable existence of a designer for the following reasons:
The Appearance of “Imperfection” Often Results from Entropy or Adaptation
Those who advocate for the existence and interaction of an external intelligent designer aren’t denying the impact of entropy or adaptation over time. Rather than an “either/or” explanation resulting from the creative interaction of an intelligent designer or unguided natural processes, the explanation for “imperfection” we observe in biological systems is most reasonably inferred as the result of intelligent design and processes of modification over time. One example of design “imperfection,” the sesamoid bone “thumb” observed on pandas, is typically offered as an example of poor or inadequate design.
The panda’s “thumb” seems to be an imperfect appendage. Unlike the opposing thumbs of primates, the panda’s “thumb” is unable to grasp as efficiently as would be the case if it were shaped just slightly differently. As a result, the panda’s thumb has been offered by many naturalists as an example of the kind of imperfect shape we might expect from the evolutionary process, and as an evidence against intelligent design…
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