Tag Archives: Argumentum Ad Absurdum

“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