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Would God flunk a first year engineering course?
December 9, 2005 1:51 AM   Subscribe

Incompetent Design is yet another entry in the battle regarding the origin of humans.
posted by knave (38 comments total)

 
The eye is another good example. There's no good reason, from a design standpoint, for us to have a blind spot.

There's a gillion different example you can find in nature where, if you assume "intelligent design", you find a very unintelligent designer. On the other hand, most of these flaws are obviously explained from an evolutionary standpoint. It's the problem software designers and engineers in general are acutely aware of: backwards compatibility.

As a side note, these "design flaws" are also not a bad test of someone's comprehension of evolution: lots of folks incorrectly believe that natural selection necessarily leads to the optimum functionality, which isn't true.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:17 AM on December 9, 2005


i've always been nonplussed by the design of a system that combines the primary sex organs with the liquid waste disposal system. Intelligent? Hmmmmm.

And if the Great Designer is against anal sex as his/her ardent proponents claim, then s/he put the browneye too close to milady's hoo-ha. too much temptation for too many of the male of the species, imo. Intelligent? Hmmmmm.
posted by klangklangston at 2:29 AM on December 9, 2005


They're color-coded. What do you think you're supposed to do with that eye, read?
posted by trondant at 2:32 AM on December 9, 2005


actually it's "arguable" that the blind spot makes for better cooling or whatever of the retina, ie the backwardsness is something of an advantage. Not that I buy the argument, but fwiw...

One of my fave original thoughts is that the appendix is a time bomb, designed to take out older peeps so that the young can thrive. This perspective is one of the more useful things you can get from evolution (and Dawkins)... our bodies and our lives have evolved to produce successful offspring, not to be supermen ourselves.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:36 AM on December 9, 2005


I had to see a physiotherapist during the year following some car crash entertainment.
He pointed out that there wasn't much he could do to solve the underlying problem because that was caused by my having the backbone of an ape and it having been bodged into shape.
He sounded like an art restorer set to work on Tracy Emin's bed.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:47 AM on December 9, 2005


...lots of folks incorrectly believe that natural selection necessarily leads to the optimum functionality, which isn't true.

As someone who studies evolution, I think this bears repeating.
posted by grouse at 3:05 AM on December 9, 2005


I think the singing on that video is the best evidence for incompetent design.

This guy's not really saying anything new, but it's good to see somebody saying it loudly. I also like his spirit... he's so happy about singing that he finds "gloriously terrible."

Another point: the allergic response seems pretty stupid to me...
posted by dsword at 4:06 AM on December 9, 2005


"Another point: the allergic response seems pretty stupid to me..."

Why? Seems to me to be an inevitable byproduct of an reasonably effective immune system.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:16 AM on December 9, 2005


In general, yes, except that it can end up killing you, and there's no failsafe for it. Yes, yes, there are good reasons for it biologically, but when discussing a designer of such magnificent intelligence, it makes no sense. When designing a car, you don't make it so that depressing the brake causes the car to explode. Likewise, when designing a person, you wouldn't make it possible for defending against, say, a bee sting to cause complete asphyxiation.
posted by dsword at 4:30 AM on December 9, 2005


Actually, dsword, I was reading a fascinating article (probably linked to from here), that claims that allergies may be caused by having too few worms in our modern systems.

Humanity, apparently, has pretty much co-evolved with worms... there's at least one species of worm that lives only in the human intestine. (It does us no harm, it's more of a symbiote than anything.) Our allergic reaction may be our immune system trying to find work for itself in the absence of worms... most, of course, are quite parasitic and bad for us. And we tend to develop allergies to what we're exposed to.

There were some South Seas islanders that were heavily worm-infested, and a particular doctor treated them and left behind anti-worm medication. (there's a specific word for that, but I don't remember it.) He revisited the island some ten years later, and discovered that one of the major complaints of the islanders now was allergies... many of them were now allergic to octopus. Before being dewormed, they had almost no allergies; after being dewormed, their allergy rates were fairly close to most Western countries, though the specific allergies were different.

klangklangston: I saw that observation used as proof that God was a civil engineer... who else would run a toxic waste disposal line through a recreational area? :)
posted by Malor at 4:31 AM on December 9, 2005


Malor, I saw that article as well. I don't recall many of the specifics, but it's hard to draw conclusions, however, from evidence of the effects of medication on a fairly small, presumably close-knit group in an isolated area. It seems like a reasonable idea, but the data wasn't there.

And Ethereal Bligh, anaphylaxis doesn't seem to me to be an inevitable response of a reasonably effective immune system. There are plenty of reasonably healthy individuals who have no known allergies... yet there are still an incredible number who do have them and would be dead if not for a very simple little shot of epinephrine (which your body can produce in large quantities, but, for some reason, hasn't been designed to produce rapidly when confronted with its own immune system killing it over some pollen). It's been a while since I had biochemistry, but I don't know of anything necessitating the absence of a response pathway that increases epinephrine production when a) there's elevated immune activity and b) a severe decrease in blood oxygen levels (a built in epi-pen, if you will). Note that I'm definitely not a cellular-molecular biologist. If there is some good reason for it, I would be fascinated to hear about it (in as much detail as possible, too).
posted by dsword at 5:01 AM on December 9, 2005


.... our bodies and our lives have evolved to produce successful offspring, not to be supermen ourselves.

See, this still sounds narrativist to me. It also is heavily biased toward systems that reproduce. What happens when we develop intelligent systems or if we create forms of life that don't need to reproduce? Dawkins is smitten with his own cleverness, sometimes.
posted by lodurr at 5:02 AM on December 9, 2005


dsword, there's a group of researchers who are currently studying whether worms can reduce allergies by giving themselves worms. It seems like there's something to it.

I discovered this listening to The Naked Scientist. [link goes to the specific show cited]
posted by ursus_comiter at 5:39 AM on December 9, 2005


It also is heavily biased toward systems that reproduce.

News flash: almost all the living things existing today all came about through reproduction.

What happens when we develop intelligent systems or if we create forms of life that don't need to reproduce?

That's not what evolutionary biology is for.
posted by grouse at 5:40 AM on December 9, 2005


Dawkins does love to generalize, though. He tends to play pretty fast and loose with disciplinary boundaries. The "Selifsh Gene" seems to me to be his equivalent of the "will to power"; he applies it wherever he can.
posted by lodurr at 5:56 AM on December 9, 2005


I like the logo in the upper left corner. Make sure you run your mouse over it.

Good article, too. "Pee in morse code" is my new motto.
posted by fungible at 6:19 AM on December 9, 2005


worms can reduce allergies by giving themselves worms.

And if those worms can give themselves worms...
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:31 AM on December 9, 2005


yet another entry in the battle regarding the origin of humans.
posted by knave at 3:51 AM CST (17 comments total)


That's good because there was such a dearth of posts and opinions on that topic.
posted by dios at 7:59 AM on December 9, 2005


MetaFilter: the browneye too close to milady's hoo-ha.

yes, that was dumb.
posted by NationalKato at 8:01 AM on December 9, 2005


Uh oh. I forgot to log out from my father's computer and now he's posting as me...
(Sorry about that, Dad.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:23 AM on December 9, 2005


Look, I happen to know the Designer, OK? And frankly, he's not that bright. He knows perfectly well he screwed up a lot, and he's sensitive about it. So can we please just talk about the good things he did, like flowers and sunsets, and ignore the rest? Oh, and he's pretty embarrassed about the Kansas stuff too. He wishes everybody would just forget the whole thing. The constant stream of publicity makes him want to destroy the universe.
posted by languagehat at 9:18 AM on December 9, 2005


Next time you see him, could you ask him about maybe retrofitting tails onto humans? because dogs look like they have a lot of fun wagging their tails at each other, and, frankly, I'm jealous.
posted by COBRA! at 9:23 AM on December 9, 2005


"Incompotent Design" is a hoot, and Seed looks like an interesting (new?) magazine. I'm glad this was posted!
posted by Western Infidels at 9:38 AM on December 9, 2005


And if the Great Designer is against anal sex as his/her ardent proponents claim, then s/he put the browneye too close to milady's hoo-ha. too much temptation for too many of the male of the species, imo.

Believe it or not, I was just thinking about that yesterday afternoon. There must be some sort of evolutionary advantage to being able to fuck a man similarly to fucking a woman. I suppose it has something to do with the same competitive process that spurs heterosexual men to produce more sperm when in the presence of a homosexual.

Or else men (not being able to get pregnant) are more generally available for fucking than women, and more fucking/ejaculation results in healthier prostates. Just bouncing around in my head yesterday ...

I like the logo in the upper left corner. Make sure you run your mouse over it.

It'd be cooler if all those dots were links to individual articles. (Seed's been around since 2002, though not online, I don't think.)

I would straighten up the pelvis so we wouldn't have to have that bend.

Sounds good to me. That's the strongest (corporal) argument I can think of (aside from that pesky appendix, which used to be valuable) against human bodies being designed by an intelligent being.

Ditto what EB and grouse said.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:12 AM on December 9, 2005


God approves of this meme.
posted by bardic at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2005


Or else men (not being able to get pregnant) are more generally available for fucking than women, and more fucking/ejaculation results in healthier prostates. Just bouncing around in my head yesterday ...

Mr. Grimm, I invite you to turn your head to the right. See that part of your body that kind of flails around separate from the torso? It's called an "arm." If you follow it to its termination, you'll find that it's got what we pointyheads like to call a "hand," which itself splits out into about five relatively slim, bendable body-units we shall name "fingers."

That arm, hand, and fingers are an integral part of a semen-spilling form of entertainment called "masturbation." Surprisingly, most forms of masturbation do not require use of a partner and, thus, do not require the use of a female hoo-ha, nor a male bunghole.

The evolutionary advantage is obvious and, were easy access to pregnancy-free sex a high driver of our evolutionary development, surely we'd have evolved sexier hands instead of conveniently-placed arseholes.

In other words, I'm thinking that chances are, there is not be some sort of evolutionary advantage to being able to fuck a man similarly to fucking a woman.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:06 PM on December 9, 2005


Yes, and the proximity of the anus to the vagina (and thus also the penis to the anus) can be convincingly argued to be more or less inevitable. Maybe not. But I intuit strong reasons why it would be so.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:57 PM on December 9, 2005


It'd be cooler if all those dots were links to individual articles.

Click through to the full-size pylotaxis. They aren't Seed articles, but are meant to give a sense of the "now", so to speak. It changes daily (along with the colors on the mini-phylotaxis, based on the colors of the photos in the articles).
posted by o2b at 1:28 PM on December 9, 2005


Questioning the proximity of the asshole, huh?

I suggest using an evolutionary capitalism view. 'What can Brown do for you?'

Or we could just ask 'If I Had An Anus', whichever's faster.
posted by mystyk at 2:37 PM on December 9, 2005


I'll intuit the best reason why it should be so: most of the life on this planet excretes waste through a single orifice. It is hardly surprising that twained, the holes are separated by the minimum required distance.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:38 PM on December 9, 2005


Yep. And I was thinking about the physical arrangement implied by eating and waste excretion, our older prone posture, and how the reproductive organs pretty much had to be arranged in that context. It's important to think about the one trait in which there's little room for variance: the position of the womb, and thus the position of the exit of the vagina.

But I'm intuiting this, I certainly have not thought about it carefully and I could totally full of shit.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:49 PM on December 9, 2005


I'm still waiting for that third hand to sprout.

What?
posted by deborah at 4:08 PM on December 9, 2005


Me too, deb, me too.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:26 PM on December 9, 2005


This guy is just ripping off U.D...."I mean, WTF? A giant, powerful, grasping… nose?" It looks like something a preschooler would make up.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:01 PM on December 9, 2005


This guy is just ripping off U.D...."I mean, WTF? A giant, powerful, grasping… nose? It looks like something a preschooler would make up."
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:01 PM on December 9, 2005


And if the Great Designer is against anal sex as his/her ardent proponents claim, then . . .

Dude, I think that's just for dudes. Jim and Jill Churchy can ride the Hershey highway on into the sunset. That's actually air-tight (so to speak) evidence for Intelligent Design - The Lord's birth control.
posted by dgaicun at 7:10 PM on December 9, 2005


i knew incompetence had something to do with it...
posted by 0bvious at 1:58 AM on December 11, 2005


Has anyone any suitable suggestions for an alternative location for either hole?

On a side note, the term hoo-ha makes me ha ha.
posted by Zulq at 3:54 PM on December 11, 2005


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