Creation not evolution: The “Bad Design” Argument

This series of short articles produced by Bro James McCann of the Riverwood ecclesia(au) is a wonderful resource and provide well-reasoned arguments in support of a creation over theistic evolution (Evolutionary creationism).

The “Bad Design” Argument

You might have heard scientists use the “bad design” argument in order to defend why they believe life must be the result of natural evolutionary processes rather than special creation. In essence they feel that an intelligent designer, like God, would not have made such obvious mistakes or designed creation with flaws.

Is it science?

At first glance, the “bad design” argument sounds very logical. However there is one major issue. What qualifications does science have to comment on a designer and their design? Science is about a method that can observe, test, discover and understand only natural processes, causes and phenomena (methodological naturalism). By its own defined scope it is not able to test or observe, confirm or deny the existence or work of a God or designer. Science is limited to explaining what we can observe of the natural world, and unless it can ask the designer or put God in a test tube, then this does not constitute science.

So it is very surprising that any scientist would feel qualified to use such an unscientific argument, when in fact it is a theological argument. It is even more surprising for a body that is generally very quick to separate itself from creation or intelligent design arguments because it is not “science” (regardless of the value of that evidence).

Unless science has the scope or ability to ask the designer Himself, then it is not an argument a scientist true to their profession would see they are unqualified to test or comment on.

When we look at the Bible we can see that commenting on a design or a designer is definitely a theological issue. In Romans 9v20 the Apostle Paul says; But, O man, who are you, to make answer against God? May the thing which is made say to him who made it, Why did you make me so?”

This highlights a vital point. It is very arrogant of man to claim that he knows better. What part of our natural world and creation have we created? What qualifications do we have to say, “If God designed X, then it should look like Y”. Furthermore, who and what is man to ask God “why”? How can anyone make such a judgement if they have no knowledge of the reason or purpose of WHY this designer did it this way?

As Romans 9 goes onto say; Has not the potter the right to make out of one part of his earth a vessel for honour, and out of another a vessel for shame?”. Here God is likened to a potter who alone knows the purpose of why He created something. If He chooses to make one thing to honour and another to dishonour, who is man to question that or say that God’s design is bad? We ought to humbly accept that this is God’s call alone!

Is it “bad design” or ignorance?

Even if science could ask the designer, what would the examples they cite of “bad design” really tell us?

Not surprisingly, many of the classic “bad design” arguments have recently been shown to be faulty assumptions based on science’s incomplete understanding. Many “design flaws” have been discovered to have reason and purpose, showing the ignorance in the initial claim.

One such example is “Junk DNA”. The “bad design argument” here often goes like this…

“There are sections of DNA that are the same in related lines, showing that the DNA has arisen from a common ancestor…All of the examples of functionless sequences shared between humans and chimpanzees reinforce the argument for evolution…the appearance of the same “error”–that is, the same useless pseudogene or endogenous retrovirus at the same position in human and ape DNA–cannot logically be explained by independent origins of the two sequences.” (Edward E. Max, M.D., Ph.D.

However this is based on the major assumption that these sections of DNA were “functionless”, “junk” or left over. But further studies showed that this was false, and the continuing work on the genome has begun to discover the many diverse and useful functions that “non-coding” DNA sections serve, as Professor Mattick explains:

The discovery of the mosaic structure of genes in higher organisms was the biggest surprise in the history of molecular biology. It was swept under the carpet within a few months of being discovered because everybody “knew” that genes coded for proteins. It was rationalized as junk, as an evolutionary hangover. This stuff is in all the textbooks. But there was never any evidence for it; it was just a straight assumption.”

“…as sequencing and other new technologies spew forth data, the complexity of biology has seemed to grow by orders of magnitude. Delving into it has been like zooming into a Mandelbrot set…our understanding about the most basic things – such as how a cell turns on and off is incredibly naïve”

“The failure to recognize the full implications of this – particularly the possibility that the intervening noncoding sequences may be transmitting parallel information … may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology”. [1]

So what is one of the greatest evidences for evolution by common descent is actually being found to be based on ignorance and incomplete understanding of a language that we are even now only scratching the surface of.

Another classic example is the “bad design” of the eye. It goes something like this:

“Intelligence Design, however, has been rejected by the modern scientific community…When closely examined, the living world is filled with evidence that complex organisms not only could have evolved through evolution’s trial-and-error mechanism, but must have done so, because their structure, their physiology, and even their genetic makeup are all inconsistent with the demands of intelligent design…. errors and design flaws, that no intelligent designer would have committed” (K Miller @ [2]

Any person who can see will attest to the wonder that is the eye and the miracle of sight. Any scientist working on the development of the bionic eye will without doubt confirm the complexity of the organ they are trying to copy.

There are many more examples of bad design being extensively debunked, like the Panda’s thumb and the human oesophagus. [3] This demonstrates that the “bad design” argument is based more on assumption and ignorance than faulty design. Maybe we need to be more honest in acknowledging that it is actually science’s lack of understanding of the complexity of the design than the flaws of the designer.


A very telling example that shows the wonder of design in the natural world is the fact that modern scientists and engineers are spending an ever increasing amount of time and energy looking at the ingenious structures and mechanism that they observe in nature and copying them!

One such area is “Biomimicry”.  Janine Benyus , who coined the term, defined it as “the conscious emulation of life’s genius”. The abundance of current work and study where human problems and issues are being solved by copying the amazing designs in nature around us in growing every day.

Here are some examples:

Scientists have copied nature to enhance aerodynamics.
Engineers have copied plants to create products like Velcro.
Recently studies in ‘superhydrophobicity’ have studied the “Lotus effect”.



Thin film nanotechnology has copied the amazing colour without pigment from butterfly wings.



Not only is there so much evidence in biology on a micro level, but also looking at the entire universe on a macro level there is overwhelming evidence of design and a designer:

The impression of design is overwhelmingThe laws which enable the universe to come into being spontaneously seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.” (Paul Davies, Superforce p243)

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. This Being governs all things …as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God’. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, perfect.” (Sir Isaac Newton)

The Bible and ‘bad design’

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 1 – “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (v19-21)

Paul is referencing the creation of the world in Genesis 1. God made the “heavens and earth” (macro) and “all things therein” (micro). But not only that, he is saying that it is such a clear witness to God’s existence that man is morally accountable (having been made in God’s image and likeness). It should be obvious to man that a power and intelligence above nature is needed by the complexity and design what has been created.

This is the major issue with using the “bad design argument”. Such a position denies the very witness God has said demonstrates His glory. Take the example of the eye, already mentioned. This is something God Himself speaks of:

Prov 20v11-12: Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.”

As a child is known by their actions, so God is known by His actions. When we look at His works, the eye and the ear, these show amazing proof of God’s genius design and purpose. This is exactly the point Paul made in Romans 1, they witness to His eternal power. We just need to literally open our eyes to see how wonderful the eye is!

A Bible believer should “see” that using the bad design argument is contrary to the very words of God Himself who references this example as a mark of His creative power.

Consider the Lilies

The Lord Jesus Christ makes an astonishing comment in Luke 12v27-28:

“Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

Imagine the splendour of Solomon and the glory he displayed (1 Kings 10v1-13, 2 Chron 9v1-12). And yet the glory of God’s creation is far superior! Jesus believed that even the lilies and grass were clothed by God; he did not attribute this to nature’s trial and error evolutionary mechanisms. Jesus saw the biological creation as a witness to the gory of the creator.

Such simple and yet powerful lessons in nature surround us every day. We only need to stop and “consider the lilies” as they cry out the wisdom of the power of their creator, “who is blessed forevermore” (Rom 1v25).

[1] Mattick, J., cited in: Gibbs, W.W., “The Unseen Genome: Gems Among the Junk,” Scientific American, 289(5):26–33.

[2] [3]

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