Tag Archives: Tradeoff

Are bad or sub-optimal designs in nature supportive of atheism?

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:

  1. An omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent creator God would create organisms that have optimal design.
  2. Organisms have features that are sub-optimal.
  3. 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.

Pseudogenes: how Darwinian mythology negatively impacts the progress of science

The latest discovery that falsifies Darwinian religion wasn’t without cost. Our search for cures for cancer was negatively impacted by more of their prejudices about pseudogenes.

Uncommon Descent explains the new discovery and why Darwinians opposed it. (H/T ECM)


Because they are generally noncoding and thus considered nonfunctional and unimportant, pseudogenes have long been neglected. Recent advances have established that the DNA of a pseudogene, the RNA transcribed from a pseudogene, or the protein translated from a pseudogene can have multiple, diverse functions and that these functions can affect not only their parental genes but also unrelated genes. Therefore, pseudogenes have emerged as a previously unappreciated class of sophisticated modulators of gene expression, with a multifaceted involvement in the pathogenesis of human cancer.

And the paper concludes:

The function of the great fraction of the human genome (98%) composed of sequences that do not encode proteins remains a mystery. Pseudogenes are technically part of this fraction, and the examples described here clearly demonstrate that they perform a broad and multifaceted spectrum of activities in human cancer. Therefore, the name pseudogenes, which underlies their close sequence similarity with parental counter-parts, should not imply a negative connotation. They might be “pseudo” genes because they do not encode a protein or because they encode a protein that does not function in the same way as that encoded by their cognate genes. Nonetheless, they are functionally disabled but can perform different functions than their parental gene counterparts.

Here are a few of the more recent errors made by religious Darwinians:

Why do these people believe weird things in the absence of evidence, only to have their speculations falsified when the gaps in our knowledge are closed by scientific progress? Well, evidence doesn’t matter to people who are motivated by naturalistic faith. Like belief in a flat-Earth, the delusion of naturalism is not accountable to scientific evidence. They believe what they want to believe. It’s not up for debate. For some people like Richard Dawkins, a prior lifestyle commitment makes theism (and the moral law!) an impossibility a priori. So there is at the root of atheism a fundamentalist close-mindedness that leads to intellectual dishonesty – not just deceiving others but deceiving themselves. They cannot admit to what reason and evidence is telling them. And it really does affect our progress in many areas, such as cancer research.

The war between atheism (anti-rational hedonism) and science is everywhere, across many scientific disciplines. Science makes discoveries about the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the usefulness of non-coding DNA, pseudogenes, etc. Instead of accepting what science says and living consistently with science, the naturalist turns to speculations about something coming from nothing, multiverses, aliens, “junk” DNA and other irrational nonsense. The truth of the matter is that atheists will literally believe anything no matter how irrational it is.

Are Darwinists right to say that the appendix has no useful functions?

Evolution News points to this Washington Post article.


The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria,” said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author. Its location — just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac — helps support the theory, he said. Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said. That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said. If a person’s gut flora dies, it can usually be repopulated easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said. But before dense populations in modern times and during epidemics of cholera that affected a whole region, it wasn’t as easy to grow back that bacteria and the appendix came in handy.

Evolution News adds:

Additionally, Loren G. Martin, professor of physiology at Oklahoma State University, lists various likely functions for the appendix . Writing on Scientific American‘s website, he includes these examples:

  •  being “involved primarily in immune functions”
  • “function[ing] as a lymphoid organ, assisting with the maturation of B lymphocytes (one variety of white blood cell) and in the production of the class of antibodies known as immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies.”
  • helping with “the production of molecules that help to direct the movement of lymphocytes to various other locations in the body”
  • “suppress[ing] potentially destructive humoral (blood- and lymph-borne) antibody responses while promoting local immunity”
  • Additionally, it is “an important ‘back-up’ that can be used in a variety of reconstructive surgical techniques”

Likewise, a few months back David Klinghoffer reported that researchers in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found:

Individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium difficile, [a pathogen common in hospitals,] exactly as Parker’s hypothesis predicted. Recurrence in individuals with their appendix intact occurred in 11% of cases. Recurrence in individuals without their appendix occurred in 48% of cases.

In other words, the appendix performs important immune-related functions. Thus, the appendix is not there to occasionally explode. With the appendix increasingly considered to be an important organ that you wouldn’t want to lose, researchers have also found that antibiotics can cure many cases of appendicitis (see Eriksson et al., 2006  ).

It just goes to show you that it’s a good idea to not decide your worldview by appealing to cartoons and funny one-liners. First of all, just because something is not perfect, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t designed. The Chevy Volt vehicle that Obama subsidizes with your tax dollars might burst into flames unexpectedly, but it’s still designed. Secondly, no designed object can be perfect in every way – every engineered object is a tradeoff of different, conflicting design goals. It might be nice to have a laptop that can last for 16 hours on a single charge, but then it’s either going to either weigh 12 pounds or cost $4000.

Junk DNA

This isn’t the only time that arguments of “poor design” are made by Darwinists, either – I also hear a lot about Junk DNA.

Look at what the peer-reviewed journal Nature says:

In 1961, French biologists François Jacob and Jacques Monod proposed the idea that ‘regulator’ proteins bind to DNA to control the expression of genes. Five years later, American biochemist Walter Gilbert confirmed this model by discovering the lac repressor protein, which binds to DNA to control lactose metabolism in Escherichia colibacteria1. For the rest of the twentieth century, scientists expanded on the details of the model, but they were confident that they understood the basics. “The crux of regulation,” says the 1997 genetics textbook Genes VI (Oxford Univ. Press), “is that a regulator gene codes for a regulator protein that controls transcription by binding to particular site(s) on DNA.”

Just one decade of post-genome biology has exploded that view. Biology’s new glimpse at a universe of non-coding DNA — what used to be called ‘junk’ DNA — has been fascinating and befuddling. Researchers from an international collaborative project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) showed that in a selected portion of the genome containing just a few per cent of protein-coding sequence, between 74% and 93% of DNA was transcribed into RNA2Much non-coding DNA has a regulatory role; small RNAs of different varieties seem to control gene expression at the level of both DNA and RNA transcripts in ways that are still only beginning to become clear. “Just the sheer existence of these exotic regulators suggests that our understanding about the most basic things — such as how a cell turns on and off — is incredibly naive,” says Joshua Plotkin, a mathematical biologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Let’s not be too hasty when making these “bad design” arguments – let’s be guided by the progress of science, and not just by cartoons and snarky terms like “junk DNA”.