The incredible human hand

Naturally engineered or designed by intelligence?


Published: 13 November 2014 (GMT+10)

As part of a television series called Dissected, Britian’s BBC website has published an article written by the show’s presenter Dr George McGavin titled ‘The incredible human hand and foot’.1

iStockphoto hands

In it, Dr McGavin outlines several fascinating features of our hand, which gives us a powerful grip but also allows us to manipulate small objects with great precision. This ability sets us apart from other creatures. The muscles in the hand are ‘strangely’ arranged, since most of the hand’s movements are controlled by muscles not located in the hand but in the forearm. The fingers are connected to the forearm by long tendons that pass through a flexible band.

This arrangement gives the fingers movement and strength that would be impossible if all the muscles were in the hand. In short, the hand looks like a bony puppet controlled by the forearm.

The term ‘bony puppet’ gives a wonderful image of how the hand was designed.

In addition, the skin in the fingers is special because it has cells of fat that give cushion-like protection for the huge number of nerve endings underneath. There are four types of skin receptors that respond to pressure (light and deep), touch, pain and temperature. Fingernails help to judge how firmly to hold anything.

All of this is science, factual things that can be observed and verified.

However, Dr McGavin’s evolutionary bias is on show with the statement: “Both the human hand and foot represent a triumph of complex engineering, exquisitely evolved to perform a range of tasks.”

He continues: “When the first four-legged animals began to move onto the land from the sea around 380 million years ago some had as many as eight digits but the familiar five digit pattern soon became the standard which has since been modified in certain groups such as frogs and birds. The hand is one of the most complex and beautiful pieces of natural engineering in the human body.’’

The writer makes the assumption that these marvels of nature (hands and feet) appeared by random mutation and natural selection in a succession of chance events—without a designer.2

For evolutionists these complex designs are the outcome of natural processes operating in a mindless, self-contained system that does not determine need or purpose in advance, and sets no directions.3 The assumption that nature by itself, without purpose or design, engineered the hand and foot seems similar to finding the Mona Lisa painting in the middle of the forest and claiming that it was done by nature with the passing of time. Of course, evolutionists invoke the Darwinian mechanism of chance plus selection to make such things seem credible. But just saying so does not make it so.

McGavin’s article mixes facts with historical narrative that cannot be verified since no one observed it. The facts are the characteristics of the hand: such as its powerful grip, because of its unusual arrangement of muscles that control it from ‘the outside’, like a puppet. Whereas the narrative that the hand was built by time, chance and selection alone cannot be tested or verified.

Is it even conceivable that such natural processes could have created and engineered hands and feet? The answer is no. Natural selection is a fact, but does not create, it only selects from what already exists, and cannot add the new information required. (Get more answers on natural selection). And the random genetic accidents called mutations have never shown themselves capable of generating the new programs and designs required for such things. (See mutations for further information).

Precision from oddness

McGavin explains in his article how the ‘odd’ arrangement of the muscles mostly being outside the hand gives the fingers movement, strength and also precision when we manipulate small objects. Are your hands the result of mere chance? Or have your hands been designed in advance, with the instructions for the correct assembly of parts coded into the DNA language from the beginning? The Bible gives us the answer in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ”

References and notes

  1. McGavin, G., The incredible human hand and foot, 18 February 2014, Return to text.
  2. Denton, M., Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Adler & Adler, Maryland, 1985, p. 43. Return to text.
  3. Guliuzza, R. J., Clearly Seen: Constructing Solid Arguments for Design, ICR, 2012, pp. 11, 18. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Body By Design
by Alan L Gillen
US $17.00
Dinosaurs by Design
by Duane T Gish
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Universe by Design
by Danny Faulkner
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By Design
by Dr Jonathan Sarfati
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Evolution's Achilles' Heels
by Nine Ph.D. scientists
US $10.00
The Creation Answers Book
by Various
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Readers’ comments

James B.
The quote by Dr McGavin ("Both the human hand and foot represent a triumph of complex engineering, exquisitely evolved to perform a range of tasks") is something I would correct were it in any of my students' submitted work! Anything that is engineered by definition requires planning and design, it does not happen by chance!

It is frustrating when scientists do not follow their own rules of academic rigour, throwing out nonsensical statements that many take as fact because "a scientist said it so it much be true".

Praise God our sovereign designer, who has seen fit to bless us with this incredible mobility; let's use it for His glory!
Gerron E.
"In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence." Isaac Newton [Appealing Extracts from "Advanced Banter" by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson (ISBN 978-0-23373-1)].
basil D.
What about the hands of a - pick one -
Carl Wieland
All are well designed for their purpose, but the human hand is unique. To quote from an article by Dr Joachim Vetter:

"Human hands are unique compared to the rest of the animal kingdom, as are our feet. The combination of an opposable thumb (the thumb being able to touch the tip of any of the other fingers) and our being able to rotate the hand freely (palm up or palm down, shared with primates) gives us an ability to manipulate objects and tools like no other creature alive, even if they felt so inclined."
Eric B.
What an amazing article about an amazing part of the human body! Another proof of God's design, yet sadly looked at by secularists as an evolutionary engineering triumph.
Ian N.
I learnt about the wonder of the hand, the hard way. A work accident meant that I managed to cut a finger and as a result it meant that i needed plastic surgery to repair the severed tendon and the nerve. As a result of the 12 week recovery period I learnt just how amazing the design is and the simple things we do with our hands and feet are basically an highly engineering marvel. Not only the extremities of our bodies are marvels, but they work with the rest of the body Thank goodness for modern surgery since my finger is as good as it every will be, but not quite like it was when God made it, but I will take what I have, which is a fully functioning hand along with the surgically repaired finger and the slight tingling sensation on the side of the finger where the cut was.

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