The Not-So-Intelligent Designer:
Why Evolution Ex-plains the Human Body and
Intelligent Design Does not.
By Abby Hafer, Eugene, Oregon:
Cascade Books. 2015.
Intelligent design (ID) maintains that some features of the natural world are best explained by an intelligent cause (presumably God?) rather than by the natural process of evolution. That’s nonsense; evolution explains the natural world much better. Abby Hafer has a doctorate in zoology and teaches human anatomy and physiology at Curry College. She was incensed by the claims of ID, so she wrote this book explaining the history and claims of ID, conclusively debunking it, and demonstrating that no intelligent designer could have created a human body with so many design flaws.
Creationists invented the term intelligent design to get around the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding that creationism is a religion and to try to disguise creationist beliefs as science. They went back to their creationist textbook of Pandas and people and replaced every mention of the word creationism with the words intelligent design, and every mention of creationists by the words intelligent design proponents. But they were careless. The new textbook famously had a cut-and-paste typo that read “edesign- proponentsists.”
Hafer exposes the religious agenda of the creationist Discovery Institute as revealed in the infamous “Wedge” document and shows that the individual members of its staff disagree about almost everything. Some believe Earth is only 10,000 years old; other accept that it is billions of years old. Some believe every species was individually created by God; some accept that humans and chimpanzees have a common ancestor but say that doesn’t explain the differences between the species. Some are HIV/AIDS denialists. Hafer comments, “I am not sure that they could agree among themselves that gravity makes things fall down. “There is only one thing they agree on: they want your children to be taught ID as science and expect you to pay for it.
Hafer chose to describe ten simple design errors, though there are many, many more. Because sex sells, she starts with a sexy example; she points out human testicles are positioned outside the body. Why? Because the human body is too hot for sperm production. That puts a vulnerable organ in a vulnerable position and creates all sorts of inconvenience. But the supposed creator designed some animals with retractable testicles and some with testicles that reside permanently inside the body, including frogs and elephants. Birds have a higher body temperature than humans, and yet they have internal testicles. Hafer asks whether the designer likes turkeys better than us and wonders if the designer is a turkey.
Her other examples of bad design include:
* The birth canal. Kangaroos don’t have the problems humans have. Human women and babies often die in childbirth; obstetric fistuals result from difficult births; and one-third of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. Is the designer an abortionist?
* There is a species of jellyfish that is immortal. Why couldn’t the designer have made human immortal? Does he like jellyfish better?
* The human throat. Air and food passages meet and mix, sometimes with fatal results; whales don’t have that problem.
* The human blood clotting system. The heir to the Russian throne had hemophilia, which contributed to the Russian Revolution. It is sex-linked, occurring only in males. Does the designer prefer women?
* The human eye requires light to pass through many layers or cells before reaching the photoreceptors. In the cephalopod eye, the light hits the photoreceptor calls first, and they see better and in dimmer light than we do and can recognize polarized light. Does the designer prefer squid and octopuses to humans?
* We can’t make our own vitamin C; most animals can. We get scurvy; cats and dogs don’t. What’s worse, we have the entire pathway to make vitamin C except for the last step. We can’t manufacture that one last enzyme.
* We only get two sets of teeth; sharks have replaceable teeth and don’t have to go to the dentist.
* Female sharks can reproduce without males; humans can’t
* The human appendix is unnecessary and only causes problems requiring surgery.
This is not intelligent design. The only logical conclusion is that the designer is incompetent or favors other animals above humans, but ID proponents don’t seem to recognize that.
There are many other flaws Hafer could have covered, but she opted for economy to leave room for an impassioned defense of science and a full rebuttal of ID. For those who want to know more, Nathan Lents covered many more flaws in his book, Hanuman Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes.
Hafer includes a cogently argued defense of science and evolution and shows how science denial causes harm. She provides a two-part Handy Dandy Intelligent Designer Refuter with ansers to every point ID proponents might bring up in an argument. She spends considerable time refuting the “irreducible complexity” argument, explaining how the eye and the flagellum evolved. She ridicules ID promoters for not knowing the difference between a cilium and a flagellum and not knowing that bacteria don’t have cilia. The very organism that creationist Michael Behe writes about is a living refutation of his claims about irreducible complexity. It has a system for building a flagellum that is reducible, and he doesn’t seem to know about this. It is inexcusable that he didn’t do his homework.
Hafer refutes the “academic freedom” argument: “Even college professors do not have the freedom to teach anything they want any way that they want. “She notes that she was hired to reach anatomy and physiology, and she would lose her job if she taught Mark Twain instead. His work is fiction, and she is supposed to teach science.
She refutes the “teach the controversy” argument. We don’t need to teach the flat-earth “controversy.” She comments, “I pity any passenger on an international jet liner whose pilot truly believes that the earth is flat. It could end tragically.” Of the creator’s flawed design, she asks, “Even Detroit does recalls. Why can’t God?”
The Not-So-Intelligent Designer is packed full of information about human anatomy, other animals, and animals that shouldn’t exist according to ID. The many illustrations and the snarky sense of humor make it a delight to read. It’s less than 200 pages, and the chapters are short and easy to digest. Hafer ends by saying she thinks our bodies are beautiful the way they are, regardless of their imperfections, and there is real beauty in our ability to really understand the world instead of just making things up. She says evolution is “the greatest indisputably true story ever told.” She wonders if she is preaching to the choir but says the book’s information and arguments are exactly what the choir needs to defend evolution against pseudo scientists and political pressure groups. ID is an anachronism that has no place in the twenty-first century.
“Jai Shri Ram, a pretext to beat up people”, Forced to say ‘Jai Shri Ram’
West Bengal: Bharat Ratna Prof. Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate from West Bengal attending a seminar at Jadavpur University said, “when someone is asked to alight from a rickshaw, told to repeat a particular phrase (Jai Shri Ram) and then hit if the person refused to say so, then I am alarmed”.
Prof. Sen said Bengalis were not connected to the ‘culture’ of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ or Ram Nami, but this culture was imposed on them to promote divisive politics in the State. He argued that the Hindu Mahasabha once introduced a similar culture in the State to create an atmosphere of divisive politics. “For the same reason this ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan is introduced” he said.
In West Bengal, after the recent general election, a dozen cases have been reported to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’, with some being beaten even after complying with the demand. On 3rd July, an 11 year old boy was thrashed in Hooghly, allegedly for refusing to repeat the slogan.
Jharkhand: At Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Ranchi, three young men of a minority community were thrashed and allegedly forced to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’ by a group of people. Aamir Wasim who lodged a complaint at the Doranda police station said, “we (along with the friends Altaf Ali and Ali Ahmed) were riding our two wheelers and were in kurta and paijama”, when some people besieged us. Without any provocation, they beat us up and told us to chant ‘Jai Shri Ram’. As the crowd got bigger, we fled from the spot.
18 cases of mob lynching
Tabrey Ansari, a 24 year old youth was beaten to death by a mob in Saraikela-Kharsawan district of Jharkhand last month. It is said as many as 18 cases of mob lynching have been registered in the State since 2016.