We have nearly finished my tour of God or Godless?; this is the eighteenth of the twenty chapters. This one is one of the more interesting ones to me. As such, even without this foreword, I broke my 600 word limit (by seven words). It was a little clichéd, so I spiced it up at the end. Enjoy
In the God-narrative God created two things worthy of discussion here: biology and geography. He designed everything, of course, including the cosmos and stars and our solar system and chemistry and physics etc. But the atheist of the book focuses on these two to discuss the topic of ‘unintelligent design’. And unintelligent design is ubiquitous. Examples start with biology.
Your spine bears the weight of a human being badly, and the spinal cord suffers: that’s what those redundant headaches you have are. The back of your throat has a food hole and an air hole, where the air hole is easily blocked by food, causing some number of people to choke to death. Even the human brain is inelegant as the neocortex is built on the limbic system which is built on our early reptilian brain. And that affects how we think and reason, use language and store and recall our memories (Gary Marcus, Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human). Our appendix and our tonsils are better outside than inside, which is why they are routinely removed if they show any medical complication; they are more likely to kill than to help us. That is a very peculiar design; a feature more likely to terminate the system than to sustain it. Even our genetics: disorders and endogenous retroviruses.
Assuming our geography also leads us to paradoxical circumstances. The benefits of living in volatile areas are profound: soils are highly productive, as are the nearby sea in tectonic areas; coastal areas and rivers are prone to flooding, but resources are abundant. All the good things are where the danger is. Who designed that? Is this the newest Saw film? Even the less volatile areas get floods and heat waves and droughts and pestilence.
In biogeography: scorpions, parasites, illness, disease, predation. The Komodo dragon bites its prey and follows it as it dies over a few days from severe infection. Neurotoxins, poisons… suffering in every corner. Was this designed? And to what end (because it doesn’t seem to be moral love)?
The Christian rebuts the idea that we can draw conclusions based on what happens in this little speck-corner of the universe. That smacks to me of denying God’s omnipotence; we don’t have a big enough sample and God may have just failed in this little corner. Else, we’re remote and He’s forgotten about us.
This debate would have been better if it were presented and thus supported by the other side. If the Christian had proposed this then the Christian would also have to give us some idea of what the designer’s intent was, because that’s how you recognise good design. In fairness, the atheist should also have done that. It looks designed is no good if you don’t know what it looks like it was designed to do. And if the universe was designed to harbour comfortable life, then the design is bad; you can barely move around on this planet: all those oceans and deserts and arctic wastelands. Once you leave the planet you’ve got harsh radiation that would skill you if the cold vacuum of space that will boil your blood, offer no oxygen and freeze you to death doesn’t get you first. And I don’t recommend going to the Moon for safe refuge either: no atmosphere and the nights are literally deathly cold.
One the other hand, if the universe was designed to look like an entirely natural, pitilessly indifferent, barely hospitable place that is very pretty and large, and conceals any evidence of design what so ever then it was very well designed indeed. But we’d be foolish to believe it.