Like millions of other students across the globe, back in school I was taught that humans are the “perfect creation” and that we have been “designed” by a “supreme power” or a “God” who made us “in his own image”. Everytime we would study anything about the human body or human anatomy, the textbook would bring verses from the “holy book” to support the argument that this “perfect design” could have never been the result of chance.
Years passed and I became a biologist. I started to question the idea of our existence more often and was finally convinced that I may have found the answer that I was looking for. It wasn’t “creation”, it was certainly something else. I didn’t know about that answer because the current education system fails to provide us the other side of the argument. I had to find it myself. So, in this article I will use logic, science and rational thinking to replicate the exact thoughts that made me change my mind about the origin of mankind. Before you read further, it is necessary to keep an open-mind and then you can decide for yourself what to believe in.
Perfect design or limited power?
If you are a car mechanic and you have a customer whose car went through a major accident, you will have two options. First, you fix the car perfectly so that he would not need to come back to you. At this point we can safely assume that you know what you are doing and you did it perfectly. Another option is to fix the car but leave something unfixed so that the customer will have to come back to you to fix it once again. If you did it purpose then you are cruel, and if you did it unintentionally then it is safe to assume that your knowledge of fixing things is very limited.
So, how does this even relate to the “intelligent design”? The human body is far from perfect! We have over 6000 genetic disorders, most of them are extremely painful! If you are lucky enough not to be born with one of those, then there is malaria and cancer waiting for you after your birth! Our bodies have to go through a cycle of suffering, illness, aging and eventually death. There is certainly no perfection in that. If humans were intelligently designed, then these flaws in our biology would not have happened in the first place. Hence, it is safe to say that the “supreme power” behind our “creation” either didn’t do a good job for which his/her power is very limited, or s/he intentionally planted these flaws in us and made us suffer, for which s/he is cruel.
Birth defects say otherwise
In the U.S. alone, about 4 out of 100 newly born children will experience some type of birth defects, 30% of these birth defects are caused by genetic factors such as chromosome abnormalities or single gene defects, while the cause of the other 70% is still unknown! Although 94% of children born today are healthy, the word “perfect creation” seems to be misused a lot! Perfect would mean that all the population, 100%, is free of illness, genetic abnormalities and birth defects. This is hardly the case. Genes are the core of our biology, if they are not in the correct order then something is wrong. Some birth defects are physical, meaning you can clearly see them on the child. Some others are hidden and cannot be recognized. These are more dangerous and cause serious health problems later in life. Despite the existence of over 4000 birth defects, some people still call humans the “absolute perfect design”.
Nature doesn’t care about you
There is this notion that humans are “God’s favorite creatures”! Proponents of the intelligent design use this argument to defend our place in the cosmos. That “we are the most important species in existence and everything else has been made just for our pleasure!” This is not only ignorant but also arrogant. There is no evidence to support that. We are just like the rest of the creatures that exist on Earth. We all have predators and preys and go through the some cycle of suffering and torture.
Let’s take ants for example, these tiny little creatures may seem unimportant to some of us due to their small size, but in fact they are super intelligent! They have been here longer than we did, they make their own decisions and work in groups, they mastered agriculture millions of years before we did, they domesticated other species for their own gain, and managed to dominate the planet with their incredible numbers (there are 10 quadrillion ants on the planet at any given time).
But ants have limitation in their own “design” just like us. They travel long distance to gather food because they get hungry, they get sick, they age and eventually die. Thanks to the “intelligent design”, ants have also been “blessed” with a fungus that can control their minds and turn them into slaves. The fungus, which belongs to the genus Ophiocordyceps, hijack’s the ant’s central nervous system and forces it to climb to an ideal location before killing it. Then it consumes its internal parts and grows an elongated stem that erupts from the back of the head of its victim. This stem then releases spores to infect more ants on the ground below. It’s a painful and slow death.
Now, we have two species. A tiny insect and a “mighty creature”. Both go through the same suffering. They work hard to obtain food, they experience some type of sickness at some point in their lives, they age and eventually die. Because humans are “God’s favorite creatures” according to the “intelligent design”, the “supreme power” could have “designed” us with additional traits. Only then it would be safe to assume that we are at the center of attention to whoever made us.
If humans are as important to the “supreme power” as proponents of the intelligent design claim, then we wouldn’t experience sickness like other creatures. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. All creatures on Earth, including us, have to go through the same pain. Even with our complex brain and incredible capabilities, there are still several challenges that our bodies are not equipped to deal with. So, whatever power was behind our existence probably didn’t care. It had one idea in mind: just throw some species on Earth, give them different strengths and see who can survive much longer.
If a giant asteroid hits Earth right now, you would think humans would be safe. After all, we were made in “his own image” and it would be a waste to let all of us – “his perfect creation” – go in vain! But that is not going to happen. A giant asteroid hitting Earth would kill us all. No creature is favored or will be saved because of their rank. Why? Because there is hardly any “designer” to care about anyone.
“It is all part of a test”
Back in school, my teacher told us that all the suffering in the world is part of a “big test” delivered by the “supreme power” to examine the patience of “his creation”! This was his argument for explaining the limitations of the “intelligent design”. I don’t think anyone with the right mind would want to be part of a test that involves experiencing malaria, cancer, paralysis and birth defects. And certainly no one on Earth would want to die hungry when they could have been well fed or “designed” not to get hungry. Not to mention, large groups of people – including me – want to stay young and healthy and live longer rather than experience aging and death. So, this argument is invalid. We can’t be part of a test that is this cruel.
Then how did we come into existence?
Now, let’s summarize my argument above. Humans are weak by default just like other creatures, they are not free of imperfections, they have not been “intelligently designed”, and they certainly are not the favorite creatures to anyone. So, how do you explain our existence?
There is only reasonable explanation: we, along with the rest of the creatures that exist on Earth, have come from the same process: natural selection. This process is unconscious about our existence and it only knows one thing: bring new species and let the strongest one survive longer. This process is not perfect, which is why we see genetic disorders. Perfection is achieved through adaptation. Creatures continue to evolve over million of years to acquire new traits that make them better than their earliest generations.
If you have any frequently asked questions about evolution, please read this amazing article by John Rennie on Scientific American. We have already seen bacteria evolve to acquire new abilities. I think it would be arrogant to ignore such hard evidence for evolution after having seen it with our own eyes! If it happened today, then it must have happened hundreds of millions of years ago when we were not present. This process led to an explosion in biodiversity which we see today across our planet. Not to mention the striking similarities in the genomes of of different creatures. Comparative genomics and evolutionary biology have made it possible for us to trace out the evolution of any creature on Earth, and we can clearly see that they are all connected at a certain point, indicating that no “intelligent design” was involved, rather adaptation and natural selection.
I believe that the “intelligent design” fails to answer some of the basic questions that anyone with a common sense would ask, and hence should not be trusted. On the other hand, I trust that evolution happened based on the existing body of empirical evidence. Natural selection, which is now a proven fact, provides the complete picture of our existence. We are not as important as we thought and we have not been “intelligently designed”, we are simply the products of chemical, biological and physical circumstances that made us happen and helped us come into existence. We were made imperfect because that’s how nature works. No creature is perfect. We all strive to survive and fight for our existence on this planet.