Challenge: Bad Design=No Design

Posted: October 25, 2011 by Amy Hall in Intelligently Designed, Weekly Challenge

Here’s an argument against intelligent design from a comment on a Wired article:

[O]ne of the best arguments against the “theory” of intelligent design: the shared opening to the esophagus and trachea in humans (and many other mammals). Hundreds of choking deaths occur in the US every year due to food obstructions in the trachea. Doesn’t seem too intelligent to purposefully design such a hazard.

Is this just bad design? Is it evidence of randomness, and therefore, no design? What do you think? Take your best shot, and we’ll hear from Brett on Thursday.

Comments
  1. I see it as a design feature, not a flaw.

    Being able to breathe is essential, and if one passageway gets obstructed (stuffy nose, for example) then you have a backup pathway to get air into your lungs.

  2. Eric Barrett says:

    Couldn’t this also be an argument against evolution? Seems to me choking to death isn’t a great way to promote a species survival.

  3. simpleyouth says:

    This is a comment posted by someone who obviously doesn’t understand the intricate connection between our olfactories and our taste buds. And a lack of understanding about the purpose of an object does not negate its design. Obviously the best way to ingest food is by directly inserting it into the stomach. Bean burrito = fuel. Fuel = energy. That’s a pretty simplistic understanding. However, what would prevent a person from ingesting a poisonous plant or a rotten fruit? We have built in defense mechanisms in our taste buds and olfactories which work together to prevent us from poisoning ourselves. In order for those 2 systems to work together, they have to be directly connected.

    So the next time you see a 2-week-old bean burrito that looks ok but smells so terrible that it leaves the taste of mold in your mouth, remember that you were GIVEN your senses for a reason.

    Peace!

  4. Sam says:

    A bad design is still a design. After all, just because Facebook has a stalker ticker doesn’t mean it wasn’t designed.

    And considering the fall, we should expect some features in the world to be less than optimal. Maybe God designed (or redesigned) some systems to fail for that very reason. Kind of like how Dell’s laptop batteries are designed to fail after a short amount of time. They’re still designed.

    The only way to make this argument work is to make some assumptions about God’s intentions that we’re just not in a position to make.

  5. Jacob says:

    Interesting, we were covering this same topic in lecture a week ago. Our professor’s examples were that of the human reproductive system and second was the eye. The human eye is inferior to an octopus’ eye. I guess there are plenty of other examples listed in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_poor_design. I would like read others thoughts and views on the topic. Great challenge btw!

  6. Teri Clemons says:

    I’m a speech therapist and work with adults with speech and swallowing disorders. If you know more about the anatomy and physiology of the head and neck, it actually speaks much more in favor of intelligent design rather than a design flaw. The act of swallowing involves a complex system, with multiple protective devices in place to prevent material from entering into the airway.

  7. Following behind Sam’s comments…

    (From the Wikipedia article Jacob linked to above)
    Premise #1 of the Dysteleological Argument (or, Argument from Poor Design):

    1. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator God would create organisms that have optimal design.

    I see a couple of problems here.
    a. How do you know that God would makes his designs optimal?
    b. What do you mean by “optimal?” Maybe what seems sub-optimal that we humans see
    in the micro-view are actually optimal in he Big Picture and according to God’s purposes.

    This argument is very much like other arguments that atheists make. It boils down to, If God exists, how come the world isn’t perfect?

  8. Bert Dill says:

    It seems to me that this complex structure may be a major element in the ability of humans to use complex speech patterns. As such, it could (like so many other elements) be used by both creationists and evolutionists to support their cause. Clearly speech gives humans a natural advantage. Which view is more reasonable?
    To me, such complexity that seems to provide no advantage other than complex speech patterns (which could not have risen until well after the development of the structures) when at the same time it poses a survival risk even before such speech patterns could arise seems to argue against a natural selection process and for intentional design. That is, the disadvantages of choking would be immediate and obvious while the advantages to survival provided by complex vocal communication would not yet be present to outweigh those disadvantages. Natural Selection would suggest that this creature should not exist.

  9. Rob says:

    I think Sam is right.

    But, if the digestive tract and speech/ airway mechanism weren’t connected we wouldn’t be able to belch loudly. Which would be a shame.

  10. Jack says:

    Bad design?

    In who’s opinion? 😉

  11. Mike Thps says:

    A nuclear bomb is a bad design, yet it’s still an intelligent design. Just because an object is a bad design, it doesn’t mean there’s not logic and intelligence within the design.