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What interests does “poor design of the human body” rhetoric serve?


Missed this from last summer but looking at it again raises a question: A review of Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. by Nathan Lents that indulges in outdated claims with impunity:

If it’s all that bad, why are there so darn many of us? Why are we supposed to be destroying the planet instead of dying out?

In his new book Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, Nathan Lents, a professor of biology at John Jay College, CUNY, has demonstrated that the human body can’t possibly be considered the product of an intelligent designer. Rather, its flaws tell the story of evolution. No intelligent designer would have put our retinas in backwards, left us with the stump of a tail, deprived us of the ability to make the vitamins and nutrients we need, or sent our recurrent laryngeal nerve on such a circuitous path. No intelligent designer would have filled our genomes with genes that don’t work and viral carcasses of past infections. These and our many other defects are explained only by the quirks of evolution.Harriet Hall, “Human Flaws Demonstrate Evolution, Not Intelligent Design” at Science-Based Medicine

One of the interesting things about this type of rhetoric is that it doesn’t need to be in sync with anything in particular and it can be repeated indefinitely without facing challenges.

Given that it is incorrect and doesn’t make sense, we might be wise to ask, what interests it serves.

See also: Nathan Lents is still wrong about sinuses but is still writing about them

Does Nathan Lents, author of a “bad design” book really teach biology? A doctor looks at his claims about the human sinuses


Bad design of the human mouth enables us to speak

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As a real life (now retired) designer I have given a lot of thought how I would reverse engineer some of the designs we find in nature. To be honest with you the complexity is staggering, if not mind numbing. But if you think you can do better than original designer tell me how. I’m all ears. However, if all you have is a “well he somehow could have done it better” explanation, save your breath. Scientific and technological explanations answer the how questions. If you can’t answer that you don’t know anything– nobody does. For one example, consider that complexity of walking and manual dexterity; something that is essential to human survival and flourishing. In 2015 The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) sponsored a robot challenge. Here is a video describing the event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8P9geWwi9e0 The advantages of even a semi-autonomous android robot is that much of the damage of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster could have been mitigated if we had a robot capable of walking into a highly radioactive environment and carrying out simple manual tasks such as turning valve. The video makes it clear there is still a lot of room for improvement. (At best we’re making little baby steps.) How can anyone argue that there is nothing but poor design in nature when intelligent designers (human beings) cannot even begin to approach the capabilities we find out there in the biosphere? john_a_designer
30 to 40 years ago the optimists were predicting that nuclear fusion reactors were only 30 to 40 years away. They’re still predicting they’re 30 to 40 years away.
Well, cardiac surgery ain’t nuclear physics. :) Ed George
30 to 40 years ago the optimists were predicting that nuclear fusion reactors were only 30 to 40 years away. They're still predicting they're 30 to 40 years away. john_a_designer
I bet this new design is not going to do away with heart transplants.
I agree that this new design will not replace the need for heart transplants. But I wouldn't bet against a viable design being developed within the next fifty years. Call me an optimist. :) Ed George
Remember the artificial heart? Whatever happened to it?
Engineers from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, where artificial heart valves were first pioneered, have designed what they hope will be the first permanent total artificial heart. Artificial hearts are currently seen as a temporary solution for people who are awaiting a heart transplant, because they have a tendency to cause blood clots and, because their pumping action is very different from the natural organ, can even damage the cells within the blood itself. (emphasis added)
https://www.theengineer.co.uk/permanent-artificial-heart/ According to Wikipedia, “The first artificial heart to be successfully implanted in a human was the Jarvik-7 in 1982,” and now, finally, 37 years later we might have a design that can truly be used as a permanent replacement. Isn’t it little more than hubris to claim the natural human heart was poorly designed in the first place when it’s taken us this long to design an artificial one that might work as well. I bet this new design is not going to do away with heart transplants. john_a_designer
I heard Chris Hitchens give a talk, his last tour while dying of cancer, where he said in essence: "I'm so mad at God that I refuse to believe in Him." And rhetorically that is exactly what Nathan Lents book says. Robert Sheldon
I suspect it appeals to those who insist on tying ID in with religion. Ed George
It's akin to saying automobiles couldn't be designed because they can't fly or automobiles couldn't be designed because tires get punctured. Andrew asauber
These kind of publications are best interpreted as religious tracts intended to preserve and bolster the faith of believers in materialism. William J Murray
Have these folks built a better human body, from zygote up? Where is this documented? kairosfocus
Isn’t intelligent design tightly associated with meaning and purpose? Do we fully understand the meaning and purpose of our current biological condition? Were we designed to live forever in this current world? Does our free will have anything to do with our current condition? Does the relation between the “ought” and the “is” come to mind at this point? Do we know everything 100% to make an infallible jugement about design? jawa
>"No intelligent designer would have filled our genomes with...viral carcasses of past infections." Do we know for certain that the human body has no mechanism like CRISPR, that would likewise stash away bits of DNA from past infections? EDTA

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