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Poor design, or poorly used design?

If a design breaks through being poorly used, is that the fault of the design, or those who used the object in a way it wasn’t meant to be used? H.V. from Australia writes:


I was on Youtube and saw a comment speaking about bad design. The argument (theological) is that horse intestines twist when they run and can lead to their death, as it can make a knot. Rabbits are said to have to never stop eating as their digestive system will stop and it can’t “start” again. The octopus brain is also said to be badly designed as it is shaped like a ring around their esophagus, and if they bite something too big for their esophagus it can cause brain damage. The guy lists no sources for any of his claims but I was wondering if you had any arguments for the functions in the creation model. I also read some thing ‘debunking’ one of your antibiotic resistance videos. They did a poor job and avoided almost all of your points, They did however say that bacteria fighting against a mycin drug have beta-lactamase to be resistant. He say that the presence of that enzyme is a gain of function compared to the absence of it, why would some have it absent?

CMI’s Shaun Doyle responds:

Nothing he’s talking about involve design flaws; the problems occur when the design gets used in an improper way. For instance, if you keep using a wrench as a hammer, the wrench will eventually no longer be useful as a wrench. Or, if a little child sticks a fork into a toaster, it can electrocute them. Are these due to a fault in the design of the wrench or toaster? No; they result from an improper use of the wrench or toaster.

First, horses don’t typically get a twisted gut just from running. Rather, it seems that a major cause is a diet not suited to their ecology. Horses (and rabbits) are grazers, so ordinarily they always have food in their GI tract. Considering that their main food in the wild is grass, that’s rarely a problem. Moreover, when the horse’s large intestine consistently has food in it, that provides enough support to stop the gut getting twisted. In other words, if they eat in a manner fitting their digestive anatomy, there won’t be any problems.

Rabbits are somewhat similar. When healthy, they are constantly digesting, which means they need to eat pretty consistently. But they’re grazers; their food (in the wild) is readily available.

Regarding the ‘donut shaped brain’ of the octopus, it doesn’t provide a digestive problem for them. Just because something could be a problem if the constraints of a design are not heeded doesn’t mean something is badly designed. Cephalopods tend to eat slowly, and they are very good at breaking their food up into small enough pieces. So, where’s the problem? In fact, it’s actually a relatively common way to build a brain in invertebrates. Evolutionists like to construe this as evidence for evolution, but if each type of creature had radically different designs, skeptics might just as well ask ‘isn’t that evidence for multiple designers?’ Patterns of structural similarity between creatures not related by reproduction reflect a single designer. For instance, Porsche and Volkswagen cars have historically shared a similar idiosyncratic look because both types of cars had the same original designer, Ferdinand Porsche. See Are look-alikes related?

On beta-lactamase acquisition in bacteria, note that the mycin antibiotics like streptomycin and Dactinomycin don’t have beta-lactam groups. Beta-lactamase works only on beta-lactam antiobiotics, such as penicillin and amoxycillin. Whether this misunderstanding came from you or the YouTube video, always be careful about what you watch on YouTube. There’s a lot of bad misinformation on YouTube.

Nonetheless, for bacteria acquiring beta-lactamase, there is a gain of function, but not through mutation. The information was already present on a plasmid the bacteria acquired. The information came through lateral gene transfer. As Does the acquisition of antibiotic and pesticide resistance provide evidence for evolution? points out:

β-lactamase is manufactured by a set of genes on R-plasmids that can be passed to other bacteria. In 1982, over 90% of all clinical staphylococcus infections were penicillin-resistant, compared to close to 0% in 1952. The reason for the increase was due largely to the rapid spread (primarily by conjugation transfer) of the β-lactamase plasmid.

For more information, please see What about claims of ‘bad design’? and our resource By Design.

Published: 20 October 2018

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