Engineer Bill Pratt explains why “bad design” is not supportive of atheism at Tough Questions Answered.
The other day I heard an atheist say that the fact that he sees poor design in the natural world leads him to the conclusion that the Christian God does not exist. Here is the argument:
- An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator God would create organisms that have optimal design.
- Organisms have features that are sub-optimal.
- Therefore, God either did not create these organisms or is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
There are several things wrong with this argument, but I want to focus on premise 2 – organisms have features that are sub-optimal.
I am an electrical engineer who has been designing integrated circuits (IC) for 20 years, either personally or through managing other engineers. I am extremely familiar with IC design. Over the years, I have often heard young engineers, who did not design a particular IC, criticize the design of that IC by saying it is sub-optimal, that they could do a better job. I have then seen these same engineers eat crow when they finally talk to the original designer and discover the constraints that original engineer was under when he designed the IC and the purposes for which he designed the IC.
It is impossible to judge a design as optimal or sub-optimal without knowing the purposes of the designer and without knowing the constraints the designer faced during the design. Young engineers just assume that they know both when they look at somebody else’s design. After being embarrassed a few times, they usually drop this approach and gain some humility.
Engineers know that designs are always a balance between competing NFRs – non-functional requirements. Many of the the NFRs are often opposed to each other, like speed and memory. If you want something fast, it often requires more memory. If you want something cheap, you sacrifice memory and your program runs slower because there is more disk access.
Even more than that, atheists assume that if God designed organisms, then he should have designed it for our benefit – to make us happy, healthy and long-lived. But that is not God’s purpose for making us. He doesn’t want us to be happy (apart from him), he wants us to know him. And there is nothing to say that designs that are “bad” for happiness are also bad for knowing God.