Design inference Human evolution Intelligent Design

“Bad design” of the human mouth enables us to speak

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From Philip Lieberman at The Scientist:

In On the Origin of Species, Darwin noted “the strange fact that every particle of food and drink which we swallow has to pass over the orifice of the trachea, with some risk of falling into the lungs.” Because of this odd anatomy, which differs from that of all other mammals, choking on food remains the fourth leading cause of accidental death in the United States. This species-specific problem is a consequence of the mutations that crafted the human face, pharynx, and tongue so as to make it easier to speak and to correctly interpret the acoustic speech signals that we hear.

In humans, however, a developmental process that spans the first 8 to 10 years of life forms the adult version of the SVT. First, the skull is reshaped, shortening the relative length of the oral cavity. The tongue begins to descend down into the pharynx, while the neck increases in length and becomes rounded in the back. Following these changes, half the tongue is positioned horizontally in the oral cavity (and thus called the SVTh), while the other half (SVTv) is positioned vertically in the pharynx. The two halves meet at an approximate right angle at the back of the throat. The tongue’s extrinsic muscles, anchored in various bones of the head, can move the tongue to create an abrupt 10-fold change in the SVT’s cross-sectional area. (See illustration below.)

During the first 8 to 10 years of life, the relative length of the oral cavity shortens and the tongue extends down into the throat. This gives the adult human supralaryngeal vocal tract (SVT) two parts of nearly equal lengths that meet at a right angle: the horizontal portion of the oral cavity and the vertical portion associated with the pharynx. At the intersection of these two segments occur abrupt changes in the cross-sectional area of the SVT that allow humans to produce a range of sounds not possible for infants and nonhuman animals.

As it turns out, the configuration of the adult human tongue’s oral and pharyngeal proportions and shape allow mature human vocal tracts to produce the vowels [i], [u], and [a] (as in the word ma). These quantal vowels produce frequency peaks analogous to saturated colors, are more distinct than other vowels, and are resistant to small errors in tongue placement.5 Thus, while not required for language, these vowel sounds buffer speech against misinterpretation. This may explain why all human languages use these vowels. More.

We’re told that the design of the human larynx, trachea, and oral cavity is poor because humans can choke to death. True, but it is not one of the common causes of death. As noted at ENST,

to put things in perspective, according to the National Safety Council, “5,051 people…died from choking in 2015,” which works out to 0.0018 percent of all deaths in the United States, and of those “2,848 were older than 74.” (See here and here.) There is no doubt some relationship to the prevalence of age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. More.

Yes, many of the deaths from choking occur among elderly people. That fact will inflate choking death statistics in an era like ours when people live longer.

As one expert source notes, “Choking in the elderly is a serious issue and is one of the leading causes of death for adults over the age of 76.” It’s awkward, to say the least, to attribute the death of a human being over seventy-five years of age to “bad design” when mortality is a built-in feature of the world of life. The same person could otherwise die of cancer…

In any event, optimization is all we can hope for in a transient world, no matter who designed it or didn’t. It’s surprising how often that fact gets overlooked.

Nathan Lents, call your office.

Lents’s recent book is Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. 

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

External testicles another instance of bad design? Oddly, in making such a dramatic claim (“there is no good reason that sperm development has to work best at lower temperatures”), Lents does not quote any expert on the subject of temperature and sperm development.

and

Jonathan Wells on Lents’s claim that the human eye is wired backwards

8 Replies to ““Bad design” of the human mouth enables us to speak

  1. 1
    The creationist says:

    From the evolutionary view, there is no design, good or bad. Dawkins says there is “…no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”

    How does one argue about a concept that doesn’t exist? A bad design is still a design.

  2. 2

    Yet another one of those “bad design = no design” books.

    Again, here is my response to such drivel:

    https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/the-not-so-intelligent-designer/

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Speech in and of itself has very deep theological implications.

    In the bible, in God’s first act of creation, it is held that God spoke light into existence,

    Genesis 1:3
    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

    And exactly as Theists would presuppose, it is found that that light and sound have a very deep connection:

    Why do phonons and photons have such similar names? – July 22, 2013
    “Phonons” were named in analogy to “photons”. The prefix “photo-” means “light”, and “phono-” means “sound”. The suffix “-on” means “particle”. That one isn’t Latin, but it is pretty standard. Photons are the smallest possible excited states of the electromagnetic field and are the smallest unit of light, while phonons are the smallest possible excited states of the mechanical system made up of atoms in a crystal and are the smallest possible unit of sound.
    http://www.askamathematician.c.....lar-names/

    The relationship between phonons and photons
    Excerpt: The propagation of low frequency (long wavelength) sound through a solid is described by the wave equation. The propagation of light through vacuum is also described by the wave equation. Since the same classical equation describes both photons and phonons, the calculation of the quantum states and the thermodynamic properites for phonons will be very similar to that for photons.
    https://lampx.tugraz.at/~hadley/ss1/problems/phononfield/Q.php

    Similarities between photons and phonons
    * Both are Bosons, meaning that arbitrarily many can exist in the same quantum state
    * Both have wave-particle duality, behaving like a wave in some contexts and a particle in others. For example, the existence of lattice waves in a crystalline solid is derived by solving a wave equation, but when these lattice waves collide with each other and with other particles (e.g. electrons) they behave like particles.
    https://www.quora.com/What-are-phonons-Are-they-related-with-photons-And-how-do-they-transmit-heat

    Cross-correlation between photons and phonons in quadratically coupled optomechanical systems
    Xun-Wei Xu, Hai-Quan Shi, Ai-Xi Chen, Yu-xi Liu – (Submitted on 13 Mar 2018)
    Excerpt: Further more, we show that phonon (photon) pairs and correlated photons and phonons can be generated in the strong nonlinear coupling regime with a proper detuning between the weak mechanical driving field and mechanical mode. Our results open up a way to generate anticorrelated and correlated photons and phonons, which may have important applications in quantum information processing.
    https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.04671

    Phonons are just lattice vibrations, but we imagine them as particles that carry this vibrational energy in a similar manner to photons i.e. they are discrete and quantized.,, The allowed frequencies of propagation wave are split into an upper branch known as the optical branch, and a lower branch called the acoustical branch.
    https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_is_the_difference_between_an_optical_and_an_acoustic_phonon

    In fact, Engineers have now made sound (with high enough frequency) to bend light on a computer chip

    Engineers make sound (with high enough frequency) to bend light on a computer chip – Nov 26, 2014
    Excerpt: “Our breakthrough is to integrate optical circuits in the same layer of material with acoustic devices in order to attain extreme strong interaction between light and sound waves,”,,
    The researchers used the state-of-the-art nanofabrication technology to make arrays of electrodes with a width of only 100 nanometers (0.00001 centimeters) to excite sound waves at an unprecedented high frequency that is higher than 10 GHz, the frequency used for satellite communications.
    “What’s remarkable is that at this high frequency, the wavelength of the sound is even shorter than the wavelength of light. This is achieved for the first time on a chip,”,,
    They are investigating the interaction between single photons (the fundamental quantum unit of light) and single phonons (the fundamental quantum unit of sound). The researcher plan to use sound waves as the information carriers for quantum computing.
    http://phys.org/news/2014-11-loud-chip.html

    Moreover, sound waves can also precisely position nanowires in repeatable patterns in microelectonic devices.

    Sound waves precisely position nanowires – June 19. 2013
    Excerpt: The smaller components become, the more difficult it is to create patterns in an economical and reproducible way, according to an interdisciplinary team of Penn State researchers who, using sound waves, can place nanowires in repeatable patterns for potential use in a variety of sensors, optoelectronics and nanoscale circuits.
    http://phys.org/news/2013-06-p.....wires.html

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    In fact, specific tones and vibrations are found to produce specific geometrical patterns (i.e. cymatics).

    Evan Grant: Making sound visible through cymatics – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsjV1gjBMbQ

    Some of the geometric patterns produced by sound waves are eerily similar to the geometric patterns found while looking at a cross section of DNA

    Cymatics – piano notes first octave – photo
    http://www.cymascope.com/cyma_.....onotes.jpg

    Cross section of DNA
    https://i.pinimg.com/564x/99/6a/7b/996a7b6b240824190417b58711594421.jpg

    Left: D.N.A. cross-section, courtesy Dr. Robert Langridge of UC, San Francisco.
    Right, laboratory-created “Cymatic D.N.A.”
    http://www.cymascope.com/cyma_.....ection.jpg

    And unlike the now falsified materialistic presupposition of material particles randomly bumping into each other in order to achieve communication in the cell, (Bruce Alberts, Carl Zimmer),,,

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video
    https://youtu.be/LHdD2Am1g5Y

    ,,, unlike that falsified materialistic presupposition, there is now found to be a very sophisticated phonon/photon method of communication within the cells of our bodies

    The Real Bioinformatics Revolution – Proteins and Nucleic Acids ‘Singing’ to One Another?
    Excerpt: the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).,,, More than 1,000 proteins from over 30 functional groups have been analysed. Remarkably, the results showed that proteins with the same biological function share a single frequency peak while there is no significant peak in common for proteins with different functions; furthermore the characteristic peak frequency differs for different biological functions.,,, The same results were obtained when regulatory DNA sequences were analysed.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TheRea.....lution.php

    As the following article concludes, “The new results now imply a much more general role for sound-like delocalized phenomena in biomolecular processes.”

    (“Delocalized” Quantum) Sound-like bubbles whizzing around in DNA essential to life – Jun 1, 2016
    Excerpt: new research in the UK has detected sound-like bubbles in DNA that is essential to life and which will change the fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions inside a cell.
    The research,,, describes how double-stranded DNA splits using delocalized sound waves that are the hallmark of quantum effects.,,,
    Dedicated enzymes responsible for making new proteins read the code by splitting the double strand in order to access the information.
    One of the big outstanding questions of biology has been how these enzymes find the initial hole or “bubble” in the double strand to start reading the code.,,,
    researcher Gopakumar Ramakrishnan said: “It had been proposed by theoreticians that such DNA bubbles might behave like sound waves, bouncing around in DNA like echoes in a cathedral. However, the current paradigm in biology is that such sound-like dynamics are irrelevant to biological function, as interaction of a biomolecule with the surrounding water will almost certainly destroy any of these effects.”,,,
    Researchers in the Ultrafast Chemical Physics group carried out experiments with a laser that produces femtosecond laser pulses about a trillion times shorter than a camera flash.
    This allowed them to succeed in the detection of sound-like bubbles in DNA. They could show that these bubbles whiz around like bullets in a shooting gallery even in an environment very similar to that which can be found in a living cell.
    Thomas Harwood said, a researcher said: “The sound waves in DNA are not your ordinary sound waves. They have a frequency of a few terahertz or a billion times higher than a human or a dog can hear!”
    Professor Klaas Wynne, leader of the research team and Chair in Chemical Physics at the University of Glasgow, said, “The terahertz sound-like bubbles we have seen alter our fundamental understanding of biochemical reactions. There were earlier suggestions for a role of delocalized quantum phenomena in light harvesting, magneto reception, and olfaction.”
    The new results now imply a much more general role for sound-like delocalized phenomena in biomolecular processes.
    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.....539817.cms

    Verse:

    Genesis 1:3
    And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    Even if we see something in nature that appears to be poorly designed it does not logically follow that it was not intelligently designed. Humans make and build things that are poorly designed but poorly designed doesn’t mean that they weren’t designed.

    Take for example the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that was destroyed in a wind storm in 1940.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFzu6CNtqec

    There is no doubt that it was poorly designed. Nevertheless, IT WAS DESIGNED.

  6. 6
    doubter says:

    bornagain77@3:

    The close relation of phonons to photons seems to me to be because sonic vibration in a material is at base an electromagnetic field phenomenon. Sonic vibrational energy is propagated through a material because the outer electrons of atoms at the forefront of the advancing wave impinge on the electrons of adjacent atoms in the material. These atoms don’t admit the pushing atoms because of electric field repulsion, and push back against them. Then they are themselves pushed against the next layer due to the electric field repulsion, and so on as the sonic wave advances through the material. Basically an EM field phenomenon, so it’s not surprising that phonons exhibit wave-particle duality.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    as to “so it’s not surprising that phonons exhibit wave-particle duality.”

    Well you can be ‘non-surprised’ (i.e. “nothing to see here”) all you want, I will continue to, rightly, hold the quantum nature of sound and its deep correlation to light, to be confirming evidence for basic Theistic presuppositions about sound.

  8. 8
    PeterA says:

    #2 ayearningforpublius

    I like what you wrote. Thanks.

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