“Dysteleology”: Bad Design or Argumentum Ad Absurdum?

Mehran Banaei

We live on a wonderful self-sufficient planet filled with endless beauty and bewildering complexity, complexity in interconnectivity of all elements involved in a life-sustaining system, complexity in structural design of each organism. The efficiency of nature`s superb design has been the focus of cutting-edge research and development in technology. Researchers look into nature for inspiration to come up with innovative hi-tech designs to be nature-like in conserving energy, cutting waste materials and to increase productivity. In fact, the entire universe is so intelligently designed that makes a humble person to spontaneously bow down to the Mastermind and the Power who put the universe together. Consider the complexity of single cell which develops to a fully functioning human body with hi-tech apparatus like eyes, heart, mind, etc. Can complexity, order, harmony and beauty arise from chance? Or, indeed it ought to be intelligently designed. Human experience firmly attests that systematic order cannot be caused by chance.

Yet, to deny the reality of a Caused universe, many atheists not only do not feel humble enough to acknowledge the beauty and intelligence behind the creation, they try so hard to find flaws in the system. They nag like a spoiled nit-picking child making excuses to have it his or her way; they stretch their imagination to find “defects” in this magnificent life-sustaining system. From their perspective the entire universe far from being impressive is ill-designed with no thought behind it, in particular when it comes to human anatomy. They have coined the term “dysteleology”, meaning living organisms have many weak features that make them suboptimal. Therefore, life cannot be a product of an Intelligent Designer.

The most common example cited is the pharynx, a single passage shared for three essential functions—the respiratory, digestive and communicative. To atheists no competent engineer would design such a “poor” system that could possibly make one to choke while simultaneously eating, talking and breathing through one single pipe.

Another example is our private part which concurrently used as the means to discharge bodily waste, as well as for sexual gratification and reproduction. To atheists we have “an entertainment complex built in the middle of a sewage system”. How awful!

Additional example given is that of our teeth, which is said to be “too many” for our jaws to accommodate, asserted that is why some people have crooked teeth. Or birth canal is too narrow to allow a safe passage for a newborn’s birth, endangering the life of the mother and her baby. These are all examples of presumed incompetence and dysfunctional design of the human anatomy. From these premises it is concluded the entire universe is uncaused.

Let’s assume they have a point. Are we now expected to overlook the marvel of DNA Double Helix structure comprised of chemical bases arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences, or the astonishing complexity of the human brain with 1.1 trillion cells and 100 billion neurons capable of conducting countless calculations, and adopt atheism? All because we use the same organ to have intercourse and urinate. Is this supposed to be an argument? Does the assertion made fall anywhere in the realm of science?

It seems that ironically, these examples are sufficient enough for the likes of Francisco Ayala to declare that I am a lousy defect, yet smart enough to figure out that there could be no Intelligent Designer for my being. Like Richard Dawkins, his attitude is that it is a bad design if one is going to conclude there is an Intelligent Designer involved, but it is a marvellous design if the credit is going to be given to evolution. Surely, he thinks evolution deserves the credit for his nut cracking cognitive capacity.

If the atheist scientists truly think scientifically, they would not then make such an embarrassing blunder. For instance, if all sewage systems could be turned into a popular entertainment center, would that not be an ultimate achievement in the preservation of environment, a triumph of the reduce, reuse, and recycle principle? To have a popular entertainment system in the middle of sewage is not at all a bad design; it is indeed an excellent design. Indubitably, there is a lot of talent and creativity involved behind such an operation which is simultaneously a sewage treatment plant as well as a fun theme park.

Multi-tools are not at a bad design. Consider a handy Swiss army knife or a popular iPhone. iPhone, one small gadget which is an audio and video communication device with radio, TV, camera, GPS, calculator, watch, note pad, calendar, books, photo album, and many more all in one. Is this a bad design?

Swiss Army Knife


Atheists should put their money where their mouth is. These fellows are the smart scientists; they should enlighten us, and tell us what a better design for human anatomy is. Where is the best location, both internally and externally for a human genital to be? Is it better to have it on the forehead, center of the palm, chest, back of the neck, or perhaps on front of the neck where it could also be used as a permanent neck tie? How many openings should there be on human body to amend the aforementioned “deficiencies”? Viruses get into our system through mouth, nose and genital. Would additional openings not expose us to further risks, and diminish the beauty and symmetry of the human body?

Birth deaths have nothing to do with the diameter of birth canal as the canal has a great elasticity feature. This feature is common among all mammals. Are all mammals ill-designed? Is there a better alternative? Ayala may prefer to see expanded birth canal by 0.5 cm, have sex with a partner with an enlarged canal, and then tell us how satisfying that would be.

If indeed nature is a collection of poorly designed organisms, why researchers persistently look into nature for perfection and inspiration? The fact is the best sustainable designs that researchers ever came up with were directly plagiarized from nature. Some then have the nerve to act like nature is stupid and we, the plagiarizers are smarter than the plagiarizee.

Let’s examine the track record of what at the time was perceived to be the best manmade design produced by competent multi-discipline engineering teams.

The Titanic was designed to be unsinkable, but sunk on its first journey. The ship was in service only for five days.

The Concorde was at one point regarded by experts as an icon in aerospace engineering, but despite numerous costly upgrades the whole supersonic program was dismantled and declared to be a failure.

In January of 1986, the $5.5 billion NASA space shuttle Challenger, a marvel of human engineering, the most complex spacecraft ever designed exploded just 72 seconds into its flight. All seven crewmembers on board died instantly in an explosion in front of millions of television viewers around the world. The explosion was blamed in part on inadequate design of solid rocket boosters to function under unexpected freezing temperatures. After 10 successful missions, having travelled 42,000,000 km in space, the manufactures learned the inadequacy of their design in a tragic way.

The Challenger’s deficiencies were corrected in the spacecraft Columbia. Columbia had 28 successful missions, having travelled 202,000,000 km in space. Yet, once again in February 2003 at the end of its last mission, the world was stunned to view another disaster due to an unforeseen technological failure. As one expert put it, these accidents were planned by human hands at the moment of the project’s conception. We like to think we got all the variables involved, identified and tamed. Evidently we are unable to.

There are indeed countless examples of blunder in human engineering design. In fact, there is not a day that goes by, that the manufacturers of certain product in a variety of different industries do not recall a product due to a flawed design. There are countless court cases of class action lawsuits filed against manufactures of bad designs by consumers.

The point here is with such a track record, mankind is not qualified to declare what appropriate or inappropriate anatomical design is. The above examples confirm the nature of limited human knowledge. Man can never know the totality of reality, and must not be ashamed of its limitation. The problem occurs when he refuses to accept this and acts like he knows all there is to know, when he plays God. This arrogant attitude is well manifested in the bold claims that atheists so frequently make here and there and follow upon that which they are not certain of. Without pondering on what justifiable criteria should we be using to deem a multi-functional apparatus a defect or suboptimal. What criteria do we use to deem an alternative design a better design? What constitutes a “better” anatomical design? Having eyes at the back of the head, being able to swim under the water and fly like a bird, with life expectancy of 1000 years maintenance-free?

German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz believed God has created the best of all possible worlds, whether it is optimal or suboptimal world is a different matter. But regardless of how one comes to evaluate the degree of optimality, even a suboptimal design is still a design. The universe relentlessly displays evidence that it is designed by an Entity with power and intelligence. This is an unchangeable fact whether one likes it or not.

Moreover, in order to answer the question of what is optimal or not, one has to know the purpose of a thing. If the purpose or goal is uncertain, then one cannot determine if a thing is optimal. Could it not be that the universe itself is optimally designed for a purpose – the purpose being who regards it as optimal, and who arrogantly refuses to acknowledge its intended purpose and design: a test to see who falls into the dysteleological trap?



Filed under Philosophy of Science and Religion

4 responses to ““Dysteleology”: Bad Design or Argumentum Ad Absurdum?

  1. Mehran — I found it both interesting and amusing to follow your arguments.

    With respect to your statement, “can complexity, order, harmony and beauty arise from chance?”, you may want to distinguish between two common and incompatible meanings of the word “chance”.

    “Chance” can be construed as a statistical (stochastic) proposition, which is part of a plan, pattern or design scheme, in which case there is underlying order. Or, on the other hand, chance may be construed as the result of blind luck. I think, therefore, the root question comes down whether the universe is the outcome of pure, blind luck or a system/plan.

    This distinction is important because, for example, a sequence of random numbers can be the output of an algorithm. Therefore what appears to be random may actually be the outcome of a well-crafted, and anything-but-blind, algorithm. In this case chance or randomness is a perception, while the underlying reality is the opposite.

    As an aside, it is impossible (mathematically speaking) to prove in the general case that a process is random, while the opposite may be shown by finding a compact pattern for a random sequence. For example, the digits of Pi are “random”, while they are, in fact, the outcome of a precise algorithm.

    I would also like to highlight the essential contradiction of the “dysteliologists”:

    Atheists (the hard boiled ones in particular) are quite fond of waxing lyrically about the incomparably creative powers of evolution that has managed, for example, to craft the human mind with its inimitable powers of fathoming the greatest mysteries of the universe — a kind of gratuitous fluke of cosmic proportions. On the other hand they simultaneously (and contradictorily) decry the clumsy mistakes of evolution. This is like trying to suck and blow at the same time. For their claims of reliance on the scientific method, the paradox of this paradox escapes them!

    • Osama Ghanim

      ifragw, your complementary comment here makes Mehran’s article comprehensive. You managed to put “chance” where it belongs. And this is an understanding of how wisdom is defined. Chance, by definition, is not a creative force. .

  2. Osama Ghanim

    As usual Mehran you are addressing an important topic, and I should admit that I very much like and appreciate your writing, particularly in this era, where writing befitting comprehensively the significance of the human mind, the significance of the universe, and the significance of the accompanying revelation proper is terribly scarce. Where proper here means fitting in with the universe, the human mind and the claimed revelation itself, of course all these entities, within themselves, will have to be, also, self-consistent. These are very meaningful and telling epistemic features. And, it is very notable that you came to a very significant conclusion that one’s judgement of the functionality and purpose of the universe, and what it contains, is in itself, the object of evaluating the evaluator (i.e. the human mortal subject) on the value of that mortal’s worth and success in the world and life, down here, or the ‘lower life’ as the Noble Book-to-be-read puts it.

    You may note here that the Qur’an informs us that The Creator, great is ‘His’ Greatness, created the humans to be the Khaleefahs on Earth, خليفة which means, among other things, vicegerent, caretaker, in charge, supervisor, and like meanings. The broad modern grass-roots movements for the environment, for human rights, for animal rights and for forests and trees are reminiscent of this basic responsibility which is imprinted in humankind’s ‘genome’ or better: nature. And we have to remember always that durable sustainable actions always start in well grounded comprehensive wholistic beliefs. One obvious prerequisite of the Khaleefah in the sense just given, is the ability to evaluate, including the excellent enabling and befitting skill to think about thinking, to think theoretically / abstractly, to plan and to have, not only consciousness, but consciousness of consciousness. And this is the question to ask: who are this the human kind, given the totality of the creation project in the universe and the earth, and surely the question is not the vacuous question: who Created the Creator of time and space, who created the Necessary Creator?! Quesions that are oxymoronic in nature. In this context you must feel the ridiculousness of our high grade scientists, the likes of Richard Dawkins, who seem to find intellectual fulfilment for their atheism in the Darwinian theory of Evolution, which is unable to find peace with the human mind and its successful supposedly unintended ‘meddling’ in non survival related issues, like understanding life and the universe.

    If one thinks about it: “evaluating the design and purpose of the universe”, is a high measure of one’s surrender to the Will of The Creator, a Will that is All-Knowing and All-Wise, as exhibited by the Universe that lay around us, in us, and inviting. Also, for assurance and perfection of the communication project, this Will can be read from the revelation-in-language-proper, as another measure, and another cause for the minds’ safe landing and grounding in Surrender for their designed guiding system. A third assurance and perfection is the seat of human responsibility, the existence of the human ‘mind’ where the primary responsibility of the individual human adult is to keep it unprejudiced, aware and working, while the responsibility of the caretaking parents of children, and those in their place, is to keep the child’s mind in its primary unprejudiced natural state and educate them accordingly.

    This state is the Surrender state described in this comment which is a system of the following sources of knowledge: the universe (i.e. the environment), the human ‘mind’ (i.e. the Khaleefah: the vicegerent), and the manual (the Book-to-be-read). These sources’ first requirement is the ability to read and understand each of them, and this of course, can be found in the Book-to-be-read, including the name of the belief Islam الإسلام (i.e. the Surrender). By the way, this belief system did not start with the Qur’an, it just was completed and finalized by the the advent of the Qur’an. Directly and primarily relevant are the following ayahs (i.e. proofs in verses)(Quran: 96 :1-5) : Read by the name of your Upbringing Maker who created * Created the human from a clinging substance (comment: Ex: i.e. the Zygote on the wall of the womb, clay as the primary cell-making environment) * read and your Upbringing Maker is the Most Bounteous * Who taught with the pen * taught the human that which the human knew not *

    It seems to me, it is revealed to us in the above verses that we should start reading by having in mind the name Of Allah the Creator, and in general, we should have in mind the attributes and names of Allah Most High Most Glorified as befitting the content of our reading. This in my understanding: means that every human person, after experiencing their selves first as rational adult beings in-the-universe and on earth, simply needs to deal primarily with the question of who is their Creator and inclusively: Who is the Necessary Existent?! This guiding action ground the mind not only to its natural Grounding and Origin in Reality and Being but also to beneficial knowledge and truth and wisdom. Note that the party that does not like for there to be a befitting Conscious Living Creator is working hard to do the impossible, and drive into extinction the honourable and credible expression of The Surrender and Submission to Truth. This terribly needed life-giving expression means it is the human minding system that surrenders to the explicit evidences around and about its environments. This is something to celebrate and praise, one should think!

    You see, the ‘mind’ which is made and meant to adapt to its ‘environments’, which is the universe at large and what the universe contains, particularly the earth and its likes. As part of this special process of adaptation, new knowledge is produced giving rise to increased consciousness, so thus we can learn more about adaptation when we see and realize it taking place in the best of the Creators’ plans in the human, in the form of knowledge and wisdom. I hope you can see right away that atheism is not a system adapted to the universe, Google, for example, the famous refereed Nature Magazine for the article “Down with the Big Bang“! Also, you should see that the radical atheists who advocate, unashamedly that the universe was caused by nothing, thus undermining the whole scheme of science, knowledge and wisdom, are likewise not adapted to the human cognitive system! Not adapted could also be expressed as inconsistent with both the universe and the human mind which is informative enough of the rebelliousness of the atheists and their radicalism. Where radicalism and rebelliousness here are home and abode designations compared to the bought out general media use of those labels to alienate budding and inattentive human minds away from such natural and phylogenetic befitting names like Surrender that brought the Necessary Existent, temporal existence (i.e. the universe), the human mind, and proper revelation together in one piece and one Peace.

    Knowledge as an adaptation leads not only to understanding, but also to applied knowledge, which again leads to an understanding more fine tuned by the God-given ability to create and materialize ideas (i.e. technology). Such an understanding is capable of vanishing the unrealisable miragic understanding of the forced unstable ‘compound’ of atheism and NeoDarwinism. So if knowledge is adaptational in a fundamental way then so is understanding. I believe the realization that knowledge is a unified whole is of great benefit and use to furthering knowledge and understanding. Note the apparent consistency of this understanding of the nature of knowledge with the basic concept of knowledge. From this perspective reflection on gained knowledge can lead to further realization and consciousness. This is the system that our public education systems seem unable to withstand, for it exists on the foundation that triggers their disgust and consequently aversion: the Existence of The Necessary Existent!

    Think about It: can we exist if there was no One Necessary Existent All-Knowing All-Able Timeless Being? Clearly it seems that the Necessary Existent and the necessary argument (see the Kalam Argument) built on the effect of the newly created universe are complementary. Ask your self: what is the Necessary Existent, that we can justifiably assume, that can give rise to the amazing, incredible universe as we know it? And can one be at peace, within ourselves or without, if one assumes a Necessary Existent, that in no way is capable of creating such a marvel or providing guidance for conscious intelligent creatures inhabiting the created universe (example: the Nothing of the so called radical atheists or the Natural Selection blind watch maker of the Darwinists ?!).

    Notice that Dawkins recently (during 2015, surf internet) when asked how can random mutations create the order that we see, he determinately retorted “but natural selection is deterministic”! Thus disregarding the huge literature on natural selection since the early days of Darwinism. This literature demonstrates the conservative nature of natural selection and its inability to innovate. This is not to disregard that a number of evolutionary biologists are working on alternative theories that are aiming at a better explanation of the emergent adaptive and non-adaptive features of design in living organisms, to say the least. We should all, I believe, be involved in finding such alternative theories and visions. And we should count-in the language-based proper revelation as a source of such a grounding, given that some of those familiar properly with the proper revelation as described here may experience higher consciousness and education adequate and timely to the job.

    Also, one cannot ignore the fact that the Book-to-be-read is as usual ahead of the speculation of the scientists on all matters and this matter of evolving (i.e. Creation in stages / Graduation) whether it is the universe as a whole, or living organisms, is not an exception. It should be interesting to note that: consistent with the general Creation plan just mentioned, graduation as a general policy in applying and introducing laws or rules, is part of the Islamic software guidance package (i.e. the Sharia ( the route to water/life)). Here we can see how the evolution and development in the universe and the earth has a direct intelligent application in the realm of Sociology, Psychology and the Law, to mention a partial example.

    The evaluation capability under discussion is also a measure of the confirming belief in The One Creator, a notion that some elites of some modern ideology don’t care about hiding their disgust with. Interestingly Their Maker is aware even of that feeling of disgust they feel, where the Qur’anic verse 39:45 reveals ” When Allah (i.e. the God), the One and Only, is mentioned, the ‘hearts’ of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust; but when those other/lower than ‘Him’ are mentioned, behold, they rejoice!”. So I should say that this insightful expression that you came up with, is a pristine clear accurate understanding of what rational and just humans need to do to build human communities and a world order befitting the intentions and guidance of the Great Creative Creator, The Best of Creators . And if you read the Qur’an with that understanding (i.e. having in mind your job as evaluating your experience on Earth and the Universe) many verses may acquire more plainness and clarity, for example the Qur’anic verse where a disbeliever was questioning the possibility of the crushed ancient bones to be brought to life? In this case the Qur’an provide the answer, that the unbiased mind also should have been able to reach the conclusion, which is within the capability of the human cognitive system. As you can see the answer provided by the Qur’an is : “And he presents for Us an example and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time around; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator. (Qur’an: 36:78 – 81)

    Please note the subtle clue provided in the last verse quoted. For you may ask, and what is the relationship between the creation of another kind similar to the humankind already in existence, and the creation of the universe ?! Then you need to revise your knowledge on what is going on with the universe throughout the ages? Living in this twenty-first century, it should be a given, that we came out of the belly of the universe. So, if one is able to admit that Allah is the creator of the universe and the Earth, then he should follow logically: that as from the universe we know, a humanity that is us, was made to come out, then surely if Allah wills He will be able to create another kind of humanity like them! You can view here the universe as the process by which humanity was created along with every other thing needed as determined by the Best of Creators, the Supreme Creative Creator. Note that being familiar with the Qur’an also means being familiar with a perspective in the Qur’an that cannot come but from the Creator of of the universe-the-earth-and-all-there-is.

    You may note that if the human asking was of the calibre that uses their full capability as mindful persons, they would have figured out this following equation: The Creator can always create if it is admitted that The Creator created in the first place. And here we may realize more the value of evaluating the creation, and all the cognitive chemistry that make us realize the truthfulness of our belief concerning the objects of our thought, their origin and their attributes. And here we come to understand profoundly, as humans befitted with appropriate ‘minds’, the following significant revelation from the Book of Descendant evidences: Qur’an: 51:56: ” I have not created the Jinkind and Humankind but for them to know that I Am their Sole Creator and Benefactor The Supreme Creative Creator, The Best of Creators “. I should note that what may appear as an elaboration on the verse above, is actually a bringing of an inherent meaning according to the original language of revelation and the content of the Qur’an (otherwise you may want to read the verse as translated by other credible translators).. And also, if we have a technologically supported text of the Book-to-be-read, i.e. القرآن you should be able to click on the verb خلقت and get the rest of the network of the derivatives of the root “to create خلق “. There you shall come across الخلّاق, which means The supreme Creative Creator, and احسن الخالقين meaning the Best of Creators and much more. And thus have the best explanation and elaboration possible, for then you will have the Qur’an clarifying itself by itself! And The Glorified Creator knows best.

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