Here the atheist forwards what is known as the argument from poor design..It is usually represented as follows:
- 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.
The Christian will argue that there is a flaw in the 2nd premise that says “Organisms have features that are sub-optimal.”
It is arguably impossible to judge something as sub-optimal without knowing the purposes or the intentions of the designer. One cannot know something is imperfect unless he knows what perfect is. But how does any really know what perfection is? Or what God’s desired intention for something is? As Frank Turek at Cross Examined opines: “When they claim something isn’t designed correctly, they are implying they could tell if it were designed correctly” (1).
Similarly Bill Pratt argues that atheists: “are in a very poor position to judge whether biological organisms are optimally designed or not. Each year, scientists discover new purposes, or functions, for biological organisms, and each year scientists discover more constraints within which biological organisms must function” (2)
The truth is that “Biological organisms are incredibly complex and they operate in an environment that is massively complex. Our current knowledge of biological organisms and of all the earth’s diverse ecosystems is in its infancy. Every year, scientists realize how much more there is to learn. However, science marches onward and we do indeed learn more each year” (3).
“This means that every year the atheist making the argument from poor design will have to retract examples of poor design, and it will always be that way. The overall trajectory of scientific discovery is that the world we live in is more complex than we ever imagined, not less. Science is going in the wrong direction for the atheists making the argument from poor design. Because of that, this argument is simply atheism of the gaps. Atheists fill in their biological knowledge gaps by claiming that certain organisms are designed poorly, only to have to abandon each example of alleged poor design as science advances. This argument, then, is a loser for atheists, and should be dropped. They are literally swimming against the tide of scientific progress when they make this argument. Their “poor design” gaps will continue to be filled in year after year.”
In conclusion Frank Turek provides the following analogy:
“For example, you can’t fault the design in a compact car because it doesn’t carry fifteen passengers. The objective is to carry four not fifteen passengers. The car maker traded size for fuel economy and achieved the intended objective. Likewise, it could be that the design of the panda’s thumb is a trade-off that still achieves intended objectives. The thumb is just right for stripping bamboo. Perhaps, if the thumb had been designed any other way, it would have hindered the panda in some other area. We simply don’t know without knowing the objectives of the designer” (4).
1. Turek, F. 2008. Designer Wouldn’t Have Done it that Way” Argument Backfires. Available.
2. Pratt, B. 2013. Why Is the Argument from Poor Design Simply Atheism of the Gaps? Available.
3. Pratt, B. 2013. Ibid.
4. Turek, F. 2004. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. p. 229