It is well known that irreducible complexity is important evidence against evolution. However, another important design-related evidence against evolution is ‘overdesign’. A system or object is overdesigned when it has design features that are far beyond what is needed to survive. Overdesign cannot be produced by evolution because, with evolution, every aspect of design must have arisen because of some specific survival advantage. In contrast, intelligent design is easily able to produce overdesign. The concept of overdesign can be seen in the Bible in Psalm 8:5, where we read that man was “made a little lower than the angels and crowned with honour and glory”. Humans have around 24 unique facial muscles that are designed for making facial expressions. Humans have the amazing ability to make and discern up to 10,000 different facial expressions. Evolution has no credible explanation as to why humans need such remarkable abilities in order to survive. Facial expressions are just what would be expected if man had been specially created to be a spiritual and emotional being in the image of God. The huge difference in functionality between humans and apes provides evidence that there is no common ancestor.
It is well known that irreducible complexity is a key test for evolution because evolution is limited to step-by-step change. When we see irreducible complexity in nature this provides very strong evidence that life was specially created and not evolved. However, irreducible complexity is not the only design test for evolution. Another key test for evolution is that of ‘overdesign’. This article explains the concept of overdesign in human beings.
It then focuses on how human facial expressions are an important example of overdesign where there are features and abilities that are far beyond what is required to survive. The article finishes with a summary of other key areas of overdesign in the human being.
Definition of ‘overdesign’
Overdesign and evolution
A system or object is overdesigned when it has design features that are above and beyond what is needed to function. Overdesign cannot be produced by evolution because, with evolution, every aspect of design must have arisen because of some specific survival advantage. In contrast, intelligent design is easily able to produce overdesign because it is not limited to requiring a survival reason for every design feature. Therefore, overdesign represents clear evidence for special creation and against evolution.
Overdesign in engineering
Engineers commonly produce overdesign in products like motor cars in order to achieve levels of luxury and comfort that are far beyond what is actually required for the product to carry out its day-to-day function.1 One example of overdesign in many luxury cars is that of a very smooth suspension system that is much smoother than actually required for transport. Another example is that of luxury materials and equipment that are designed to give a very high degree of comfort to the occupant(s), far beyond what is actually required for transport. Overdesign requires a great deal of design effort and cost. When a car is designed for a basic transport function, it may cost in the order of US$10,000. In contrast, when a car is designed for luxury and enjoyment, it may cost in the order of US$100,000. The overdesign of a luxury car means that the evidence for intelligent design is even greater than if there was no overdesign. In the same way, when we see overdesign in creation, this can greatly enhance the evidence for intelligent design.
Overdesign of the human being
According to evolution, humans have evolved abilities that are needed for survival, such as the ability to hunt, farm, build a den, defend territory, escape predators, find a mate and reproduce. For example, the evolutionist has to argue that human hands have evolved to perform tasks like throwing spears and toolmaking.2,3 However, humans are clearly designed to perform far more than survival tasks. Humans have great skill in many areas, such as carpentry, engineering, medicine, cooking, sewing, science, art, and craftwork. These abilities are due to humans being overdesigned in every part of their body.
Overdesign of the human being in the Bible
The concept of overdesign can be seen in the Bible in Psalm 8:5, where we read that man was “made a little lower than the angels and crowned with honour and glory”. This verse shows that man is far more than an animal, which is fit for just survival and reproduction. The phrase ‘a little lower than the angels’ means that man is deliberately overdesigned to be an intelligent being, able to have skilful dominion over the earth. The concept of overdesign can also been seen in Genesis 1:27, which says that man was made “in the image of God”. This verse implies that man has been designed to be an emotional, creative, and spiritual being and not just a creature that can survive and reproduce. Another consequence of being made in God’s image is that the human being needed to be designed to be worthy of having the deity take on human form. Psalm 139:14 also implies over-design by asserting that humans are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Case study of human facial expressions
The ability to make facial expressions is very important in human communication and relationships. People constantly observe and react to the facial expressions of others around them, even though they may not be aware they are doing this. When a person sees someone looking worried, they usually ask what is wrong and when they see someone smiling, they often smile in response. The ability to make facial expressions comes from numerous, well-designed muscles that are unique to humans.
Unique facial muscles
There are approximately 50 separate muscles in the human face.4 Facial muscles are present in every part of the face, including the eyelids, lips, nose, and ear and also within the cheek and scalp, as shown in figure 1.5 About half of the muscles of the face are needed for tasks such as eating, speaking, and closing the eyes. However, the other facial muscles are dedicated to making facial expressions.
To make facial expressions, a person must learn specific combinations of muscle movements. The ability to move the right combination of muscles is learnt mostly during early childhood years when the whole muscular and nervous system is developing. Some expressions, like smiling, need only around four to six muscles to be activated. Other expressions, like frowning, can involve the use of up to 20 muscles. In contrast to humans, apes have a much smaller number of facial muscles. In studies of the gorilla, fewer than 30 facial muscles have been identified.6
The facial muscles of apes are shown in figure 2. It can be clearly seen that the muscles in the gorilla’s face are much less numerous and much coarser than in a human face. There is a particularly sharp contrast between the cheek muscles of the human and those of the ape. In the case of the human face, there are several delicate cheek muscles. In contrast, the ape has just one enormous cheek muscle for producing strong eating movements with the mouth. The delicate cheek muscles of humans are very important because they are used for making various types of smiles. In contrast, the cheek muscles of apes are incapable of producing a smile.