It’s understandable why people might think certain animals were designed, even intelligently designed. Butterflies, for instance, are remarkably beautiful and symmetrical, as they fly about, harmlessly and helpfully imbibing on nectar from flowers. Most plants are amazing with the way they get their energy from the sun, water from the rain, and in return they contribute to the atmosphere and prevent ground erosion.
But if you’re going to give a Designer credit for the butterfly and plants, you must also examine the cruel, or poorly put together features as well.
Think about it. If you could design life on earth any way you wanted, would you create carnivores? Carnivores have to eat other animals to survive, which means fear, pain, and suffering for the prey that it eats. It also means for every carnivore, you need more animals. That immediately sets the stage a cruel world. Watch the frantic twitching of a fly in spider’s web. The spider injects it with a chemical that dissolves the flies innards, and then the spider drinks it out, like you sip through a straw. And, yes, animals suffer. Anything with a nervous system feels pain. That is what prevents it from hurting or accidentally killing itself.
The argument invariably moves from animals to people. Besides the fact that people are animals, we aren’t intelligently put together. We eat, drink, and breathe through the same pipe, which results in over 2,500 deaths in the US every year from people choking to to death. Dolphins are better put together in this regard, since they breathe through a different pipe than they eat with. Their problem is that they are air breather’s living in water! Would you design like that?
Additionally, people’s sex organs are in the same general area as their sewage organs. Putting sex and crap in the same area is just gross, not to mention would be of unintelligent design. We also have blind spots in our eyes, and we see only a small sliver of the electromagnetic spectrum. Octopus don’t have those blind spots, but they can’t see beyond eight feet well.
If a god created this world with such cruelty and unintelligent design, he’d have to be morally bankrupt and a cruel joker. An intelligent designer would make it so animals can photosynthesize like plants, or use some of the methods of corrals.
All of this madness makes sense in the light of evolution, however. Evolution is amoral. There are no ethics in evolution. Evolution passes along a genes and mutations regardless. If it turns out that a mutation causes early death, then that species dies out, which has happened a multitude of times.
As for the way some of our “design” is not wisely thrown together, well, most of us carry on fine, managing breathing and eating out of the same pipe without choking to death. So we pass on the same bad pluming to our kids. Ditto for the inconvenient location of sex and sewage organs.
There is a myth that humans are the pinnacle of evolution. Wrong! Humans are not the pinnacle or the height of evolution. We are as messed up as many other animals, and we pass along mutations just as they do. Carnivores exist because eating other animals provides a powerful source of protein. Evolution doesn’t care that other animals suffer in the process, or that if you have one animal you now need a bunch more to feed it, and on and on. That is wildly inefficient in terms of design, but it works.
Mutations aren’t always to a host’s advantage either. Sure improvements slip in there, helping a species be more successful at whatever they do. Evolution does make what we might call mistakes. DNA doesn’t always replicate properly. DNA is amazing in all kinds of ways, but it is not perfect. Mutations can be neutral and do nothing, or they can cause problems, like in cases of dwarfism, which is mostly caused by genetic conditions, sickle-cell anemia, which is inherited, and down dyndrome, where the child has an extra copy of chromosome 21. As long as they don’t prevent breeding, they don’t end our species. Even if it does kill hosts, not all people are inflicted with these mutations, so we carry onward.
Interestingly, some types cancer cells have outlived their victims. Henrietta Lacks is long dead, but scientists have been studying and using her cervical cancers cells to this day. Are cancer cells intelligently designed from a loving god? Cancer makes no distinction between Christian, Muslim, Pagan, or Atheist.
And what about viruses? The HIV virus has been evolving so fast researchers have a challenging time keeping up with it! And not all viruses are bad. In fact, some of our genes came from viruses long ago, and were passed along in our DNA.
Don’t get me wrong, life is amazing all the way down the the atomic level. That we are only 10% human cells, and the rest is bacteria and viruses is fascinating! We are walking hosts for other organisms, and we couldn’t survive without them.
It’s beautiful the way that the fish fins go into the making of human hands, bat wings, and bird wings, and these are a great examples of reuse of a particular genetic pattern.
The sonar in bats and sea mammals is incredibly useful. The fact that spiders’ webs are so strong, and that they spin them into beautiful geometric patters is a wonder in itself. Regular patterns appear in nature often because they are easily replicated. So while they may seem “designed”, they are just easy to repeat. Mathematics is the language used to apply to the patterns we see. The Fibonacci series emerges in sunflowers, sea snails, and galaxies. This is not because god is a mathematician, but because the Fibonacci series a recipe for easy repetition.
Nature is amazing and beautiful, but it is also, in some cases, hideously cruel, inefficient, and sometimes appearing to be cobbled together haphazardly.
I’m not happy or surprised that evolution is amoral. I do resent that humans evolved as hunters. But because we also evolved with a brain that is able to look for options and make decisions, I am a vegetarian. I’m not doing it for my health, but for theirs. I can opt out of creating suffering, and I can use my own morality and apply it to myself. Sadly the spiders, lions, bears, etc. can not. Evolution can be cruel, but it is also amazing, even if sometimes poorly and cruelly born out.
Awesome Books on Evolution & Biology
- Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin
- Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature by Brian Switek
- Evolution: A Very Short Introduction by Brian Charlesworth and Deborah Charlesworth
- The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition–with a new Introduction by the Author by Richard Dawkins
- The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Spineless Wonders: Strange Tales from the Invertebrate World by Richard Conniff