Darwinism Human evolution Intelligent Design Naturalism

At Skeptic: Five Questions about Human Errors for Proponents of Intelligent Design

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From Nathan H. Lents at Skeptic:

Even if ID offered intellectual gains over creationism through the principle of irreducible complexity, and a focus on observations rather than biblical scripture, it did little to explain how poor design could be so rampant in creatures that were specifically designed by an intelligent force. Therefore, glitches in nature, particularly in the human body, call out for an explanation. Evolution usually provides elegant and deeply informative explanations. What are the explanations provided by ID? My book documents scores of these “human errors,” but I would love to know what intelligent design supporters say about these five in particular.

His book is Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes:

5. Why are humans so inefficient with reproduction?

The one thing that a species absolutely must be able to do is reproduce, so this is an area that humans must have mastered, right? Not even close. In fact, humans may be the least fertile of the apes. More than 10 percent of couples have trouble conceiving and when you consider what all can go wrong, it’s understandable.

To begin with, the ovaries are not even physically attached to the fallopian tubes and so eggs are sometimes squirted pointless into the abdominal cavity. Although it’s very rare, a roving sperm can actually fertilize one of these misplaced eggs and start a life-threatening abdominal pregnancy. On the male side, sperm have no sense of direction and swim in right-handed corkscrews, unable to turn left. This is part of the reason why hundreds of millions of them are needed for one to reach the egg. Many men have low sperm count or motility and many women have unpredictable ovulation cycles, meaning that the simple act of helping the meandering sperm and rudderless egg find each other is often not so simple. … More.

One wonders, in that case, how the Population Bomb movement ever got started or why … But that’s clearly not a question that a Skeptical reader would ask.

Readers?

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See also: Vestigial organs?

21 Replies to “At Skeptic: Five Questions about Human Errors for Proponents of Intelligent Design

  1. 1

    If by “fertility” we mean the chances that intercourse leads to conception, then humans are by no means the least fertile of the apes. If bonobos are apes, and have sex, say, 3-10 times per day, but get pregnant at a rate of 1 child/5 years, then we have a “fertility” of 0.00005.
    https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/first/d/dewaal-bonobo.html

    Whereas using numbers from the Catholic Natural Family Planning website, humans are at 0.02, or about 1,000 times more fertile!

    So it isn’t even the philosophy, the theology, and the attitudes in this book that are wrong, even the “facts” are wrong!

  2. 2
    tribune7 says:

    The one thing that a species absolutely must be able to do is reproduce, so this is an area that humans must have mastered, right? Not even close.

    People actually write things like this and expect to be patted on the head for being “bright”.

    LOL.

    OK, here’s a challenge for Mr. Lents: As you claim the “poor” design of the human body is an indication of lack of intelligence, and since obviously you consider yourself intelligent, design (and activate) you animal (or plant or slime mold or spirochaete) from natural elements. Feel free to use the evolutionary process.

    And while your doing that ponder this: Your theory claims that evolution is organisms adapting to the environment. Why would bacteria have to evolve a membrane around a cell nucleus to better deal with an environment considering that bacteria thrive in all environments — and far more effciently — without them?

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    News, a lot of this seems to be the old, I wouldn’t have designed it that way talking point. Let’s see you do an improved version and then discuss. As for the reproduction talking point, perhaps it escapes notice that we are an apex species. Meanwhile all of this is a red herring distractor: it remains that the only empirically observed cause of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information — with a trillion plus of cases seen — is intelligently directed configuration, aka design. It further remains that that is not mysterious as to why, as such FSCO/I naturally comes in deeply isolated islands of function in vast configuration spaces that at 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity start at 3.27*10^150 – 1.07*10^301 possibilities. That thoroughly swamps sol system to observed cosmos scale resources so that blind chance and mechanical necessity based searches are maximally unlikely to hit on any such island. So, we are entitled to infer from FSCO/I to design as material causal factor. KF

    PS: irreducible complexity is just one form of FSCO/I, where there is a core of components that must be all there for function to happen.

  4. 4
    Allan Keith says:

    Why are humans so inefficient with reproduction?

    I don;t think that this is a valid statement. Yes, there are many things that can prevent and disrupt pregnancy, but anyone who has been to India or China would have a hard time concluding that we are not good at reproducing.

    Why do our nasal sinuses drain upward?

    This is one that is harder to explain using ID. This arrangement makes sense for an animal that walks on all fours, but harder to explain for an upright biped.

    Why are humans so bad at absorbing vitamins and minerals?

    These abilities tend to decrease with age. For example, the rate osteoporosis in older women is very high. There is no problem with this from an evolutionary perspective as many of these problems arise long after reproductive years. It is more difficult to explain from an ID perspective unless planned obsolescence was intentionally part of the design. Which, obviously, it could be.

    Why do humans have muscles and bones that have no function?

    This is a difficult one to prove. There are certainly muscles and bones for which we do not know a function for. This does not mean that it does not have a function. It may only have a function as part of embryonic development.

    Why are we designed with nonfunctional pseudogenes?

    This is another one that makes sense from an evolution perspective but is more difficult to explain from an ID perspective.

  5. 5
    Nonlin.org says:

    These are childish questions that Darwinists like to pose to the ID proponents. And why are these questions specifically for ID proponents when the Darwinists can offer no more than “just so” stories in response? If you think these observations are incompatible with design, you’re badly mistaken as they only demonstrate an utter lack of design principles understanding.

    And here are some answers that apply to all the above questions:
    a) Just because you don’t see a function, doesn’t mean there is no function. The function may be temporary rather than permanent – it may be active only in certain phases of embryonic development or other special circumstances.
    b) We’re doing just fine with these “flaws”. Engineering is not about “perfect” design, but about getting the job done… and the job is getting done nicely.
    c) Engineers do ‘platform design’ which means certain makes and models will not implement all functions and appear to be designed with “vestigial organs” (e.g. some cars have fog lamp sockets but no fog lamps).
    d) What looks like suboptimal design to the untrained eye can be due to Design for Manufacturability and other design tradeoffs including design for
    – Reliability,
    – Expandability
    – Programmability
    – Maintainability
    – Compatibility
    – Adaptability
    – Availability
    – Development Status and Cost
    e) Many design decisions are simply driven by esthetics. Designers chose forms and features based on their own personality and, once these decisions are made, technical solutions must follow.
    f) These “questions” are arguments from incredulity against Intelligent Design which is ironic as Darwinists are the ones most likely to complain about this type of arguments.

    Links:
    http://nonlin.org/five-questions-for-id/
    https://www.skeptic.com/reading_room/five-questions-about-human-errors-for-intelligent-design-proponents/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_platform
    http://www.design4manufacturab.....rticle.htm
    http://klabs.org/history/histo.....deoffs.htm

  6. 6
    Latemarch says:

    AK:

    Why do our nasal sinuses drain upward?

    This is one that is harder to explain using ID. This arrangement makes sense for an animal that walks on all fours, but harder to explain for an upright biped.

    I fail to see the problem here.
    The entire upper respiratory tract drains up and does so with great efficiency thanks to the cilia (those irreducibly complex motors). The trachea goes pretty much straight up approx. 11cm. Most sinuses only have to drain up a maximum of a cm. or so.

  7. 7
    Allan Keith says:

    Latemarch,

    I fail to see the problem here.
    The entire upper respiratory tract drains up and does so with great efficiency thanks to the cilia (those irreducibly complex motors). The trachea goes pretty much straight up approx. 11cm. Most sinuses only have to drain up a maximum of a cm. or so.

    Is this the same trachea who’s “design” results in thousands of choking deaths every year? Choking deaths that our four footed brethren don’t share?

  8. 8
    Latemarch says:

    AK:

    Is this the same trachea who’s “design” results in thousands of choking deaths every year? Choking deaths that our four footed brethren don’t share?

    Unrelated.
    Animals also choke to death talk to any vet.
    What’s the angle of the horse trachea…..nearly vertical.
    Dog…45 degrees to nearly vertical depending on breed. Etc. etc.

    But let’s get back to the sinus. For something that’s so bad, why is it conserved in so many species? Monkey sinus drains up. Dog sinus drains up. Horse sinus drains up….and so on and so forth. Let’s hear your just so story about that. Apparently “Evolution” loves sinuses that drain up.

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    AK:

    Per pseudogenes, the paper he cites is from 2003!! There has been tremendous advances since then, so why does Lents go so far back?

    Is it because he knows that recent investigations have shown a very close connection between pseudogenes and brain development?

  10. 10
    Allan Keith says:

    Latemarch,

    Animals also choke to death talk to any vet.

    True. But not as easily as humans. Our weakness is that we can’t breath and swallow at the same time. Or, more accurately, when we try, we choke. But, to be fair, this weakness also comes with a benefit. Our ability to vocalize in the way we do. But surely, a design that enables vocalization with much lower risk of choking is possible.

  11. 11
    Latemarch says:

    AK:

    True. But not as easily as humans. Our weakness is that we can’t breath and swallow at the same time. Or, more accurately, when we try, we choke. But, to be fair, this weakness also comes with a benefit. Our ability to vocalize in the way we do. But surely, a design that enables vocalization with much lower risk of choking is possible.

    Animals throat architecture is nearly identical to ours. They can’t breath and swallow at the same time either. They don’t choke as often because they aren’t so stupid as to try and talk and eat at the same time“;^)

    Not going to talk about sinuses?
    The whole point of talking about the trachea was that it has no difficulty clearing the secretions of the upper respiratory system (you’d drown in your own secretions if the cilia quit working.) Sinuses work just fine, though why they are designed that way is not clear to me. Whether you’re a Darwinist or IDist the conservation of the trait or the design of the trait must be Okay. Ie. it’s a stupid objection on Lents’ part.

    Psalm 139:14
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

  12. 12
    groovamos says:

    AK This is one that is harder to explain using ID. This arrangement makes sense for an animal that walks on all fours, but harder to explain for an upright biped.

    No it’s not. How many animals have the ability to close off one nostril with a digit, then have the brains to know that a sharp blast through the remaining nostril does exactly what’s needed.

    Is this the same trachea who’s “design” results in thousands of choking deaths every year? Choking deaths that our four footed brethren don’t share?

    I’ve seen nothing to indicate that animals cannot choke. Now it is true that infants and toddlers can start to cry while eating. So in which case crying does impact survival from the choking standpoint. So then we have a question for Darwinists. Why do babies (or adults) cry? What evolutionary function does crying accomplish to advance ‘fitness’ so-called, if it increases the chance of choking to death?

    What to do when your cat chokes: https://iheartcats.com/what-to-do-when-your-cat-is-choking/

  13. 13
    News says:

    Suffocation was the cause of 8% of all U.S. deaths from unintentional injury in 2012-2013 among adults over 65. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db199.htm

    I’m guessing that choking was implicated in most such deaths.

    Now, here’s the difficulty: Most animals probably don’t live out a natural lifespan. They die of something unrelated to old age.

    It’s the same principle as hip fractures. One could argue against our fully bipedal human anatomy on account of it predisposing us to such fractures. But hip fractures usually happen to people who are already near or past the traditional three-score-and-ten.

    I too was surprised by the assertion that animals don’t often choke to death. They certainly can and do but – here’s the thing – causes of death are not systematically studied nearly as often. How many animals are the subjects of autopsy? What kind of comparison is really available?

  14. 14
    Mark from CO says:

    I looked, Prof Lents is a biologist, not an engineer. Perhaps he should stay within his own field of expertise and not malpractice in another.

    Mark from CO

  15. 15
    polistra says:

    The author starts with a sneaky bit of bad logic.

    “Because courts in the United States rightly determined that creationism is a religious doctrine, not a scientific one, its proponents changed… etc ”

    Well, that’s only half of the determination. What courts really say: Schools shouldn’t teach creationism because it’s a religious doctrine; THEREFORE schools must teach evolutionism because it’s a secular doctrine.

    Bad logic. The opposite of a religious doctrine is another religious doctrine. The fallacy is easier to see in other contexts…

    Schools shouldn’t teach transubstantiation because it’s a religious doctrine; therefore schools must teach the secular doctrine of consubstantiation.

    Schools shouldn’t teach premillenial tribulation because it’s a religious doctrine; therefore schools must teach the secular doctrine of postmillenial tribulation.

    In reality a truly secular school should SKIP both sides of these theological disputes. Schools should teach the plain facts of biology without invoking either of the explanations, because you don’t NEED either explanation to do useful work in biology.

  16. 16
    Bob O'H says:

    I don’t know, Mark from CO. I reckon how humans work might have something to do with biology.

  17. 17
    tribune7 says:

    The claim that the human body is “bad” design to refute intelligent design is a theological one (and anti-science).

    If something breaks is that “bad” design? How about a fuse?

    What has to be remembered is how we search for and determine design.

    Imagine coming across a white sheet of something. On one part there are random scribbles. On one part there are imagines of different types that appear ordered. The rest is blank.

    Call it my notebook page. Do you reject design because I was testing a pen to see if it had ink and didn’t fill the paper entirely?

    The argument that something isn’t designed because “I would have done it differently” is emotion based, laughable and unscientific.

    As noted earlier, if you want a biological organism perfectly and efficiently designed for survival stick with the archaea and bacteria domains. Of course, doing that pretty much blows the ToE out of the water.

    Why evolve from perfection?

  18. 18
    tribune7 says:

    Polistra @15, great points.

  19. 19
    Eric Anderson says:

    Ah, yes. The old bad design nonsense again. Along with this laughable statement: “Evolution usually provides elegant and deeply informative explanations.”

    Is this guy for real? He can’t even recognize a made-up just-so story when he hears one?

    The track record of bad design arguments, including the old vestigial organ idea, is extremely poor. It is essentially an argument from ignorance, and one by one, the list of bad designs has been knocked off the evolutionist’s list.

    And not once has an evolutionist ever offered a detailed engineering-quality analysis of the alleged bad designs. Instead what we get are vague assertions, bad generalizations, and poor analyses. Usually coupled with a pithy “Would God do it this way?” thrown in to cement the conclusion in the materialist’s mind.

    With all that nonsense, throw in the logical non sequitur fallacy, and then we see what his “deeply informative explanation” amounts to.

    What a joke.

  20. 20
    aarceng says:

    News @ 13
    While choking might be involved in ~8% of deaths in the elderly it is much less for the population overall. It certainly doesn’t rate in the top causes of death I have looked at on line. If it’s such bad design why isn’t it higher on the list?

  21. 21
    News says:

    aarceng, my point in referencing choking as a genuine hazard is that, as you say, it is a significant risk mainly among people who are nearing the end of their lifespan anyway. That’s not a good argument for poor design unless the arguer thinks that the human lifespan should be much longer. But why?

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