I do wonder about the intelligence of the proponents of Intelligent Design. ID, you’ll recall, is the back-door scam to teach religion (honest Biblical religion, not one of those knock-offs) in schools, as a viable alternative to Darwinian evolution. By showing how wonderfully complex life is, the ID folks hoped to convince school authorities that it couldn’t have just happened by random chance, but that an Intelligent Designer, aka God, must be responsible.

This approach obviously suffers from the same fatal flaw that all such appeals have: who designed God? Putting that aside, though, there’s another major problem with ID, not the “D,” but the “I.” What’s with the intelligence of a designer who, in creating presumably his or her crowning achievement, made such a mess of humans? Consider, for instance:

Eyes: Our retinas face the wrong way. Instead of facing outward, the photoreceptors cells on our retinas (the “screens” at the back of our eyes) point back into our brains! Incoming photons have to travel through a film of tissue and blood vessels to reach those receptors. Meanwhile, the “wiring”—the bundle of nerves leading from each eye to the optic center way in the back of our brains—is facing outward. To get from the front of the retina to the back, the individual wires from millions of photoreceptor cells in each eye converge at the “optic discs,” slap-bang in the center of the retina before passing through the retina, which is why each of our eyes has a blind spot. Don’t believe me? Try this:

(a) Close your left eye and focus on the plus sign with your right eye; (b) move closer to the plus sign until the circle disappears and the yellow rectangle appears continuous. Your brain has filled in the gap where your blind spot is, i.e. where your optic nerve goes through your retina.

Nature didn’t have to make eyes so complicated and inefficient. The retinas of cephalopod (e.g. octopi and squid) eyes, which arose independently from those of vertebrates, face the “right” way. By some fluke of evolution, the retinas of cephalopods are logical—worthy of an intelligent designer!—while ours are as illogical as all get up.

Necks: Our necks are unprotected, as George Floyd’s death reminds us. You don’t need a cop sticking his knee into your neck to choke to death by cutting off your airway, though; some 5,000 Americans die from choking every year. Necks are particularly weak links in human anatomy. Evolution saw to it that our brains are protected in a thick, rigid housing, while lungs and heart are housed in flexible-but-strong rib cages. Necks, not so much. Our tracheas (air-tubes) are super vulnerable, lying just under the thin skin in the front of our necks, easily pierced and, of course (“I can’t breathe”), easily crushed.

Again, it doesn’t have to be this way. Whales and dolphins have blowholes, separate air intakes from their mouths. And the nostrils of most birds and reptiles connect directly to the lungs. Ever see those movies of a snake swallowing a relatively huge animal? If it were designed like we (and all mammals) are, it would choke to death in the process. Its separate breathing tube allows the snake to eat and breathe at the same time.

Bottlenose dolphin. Note blowhole. (NASA)

* One more example of lousy design: vitamins. What sort of designer makes humans reliant on a bunch of nutrients that, instead of synthesizing them in our bodies (like virtually every other fauna and flora), we have to include them in our diet. Take vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid. Sailors of old suffered from scurvy—a fatal disease that starts with anemia and bleeding—due to a lack of vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables on long voyages. According to author Jonathan Lamb, “In 1499, Vasco da Gama lost 116 of his crew of 170; in 1520, Magellan lost 208 out of 230…all mainly to scurvy.” Scurvy is easily cured with vitamin C, but what’s going on here? Why don’t we synthesize it in our bodies, the same way nearly all animals do? (When’s the last time you saw a dog buying supplements?) The answer is probably that it takes energy to do so, and we lost the ability to make it for ourselves because our prehistoric ancestors ate diets rich in fruits and veggies. (Google “GULO” for more on this.)

Vitamin C isn’t the only necessary vitamin that we need to include in our diets. Others (so-called “essential micronutrients”) include vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and D. Without B1 (thiamine), for instance, you’ll get beriberi disease, causing heart failure. Or a deficiency of D will cause your bones to suffer from rickets and osteoporosis.

Beriberi sufferer due to lack of vitamin B1. (U.S. National Library of Medicine)

“What a piece of work is man!” said Hamlet, admiringly. In truth, and compared to the rest of nature, the human body is an inelegant, messy and clumsy kluge. If we are designed in the image of God, that God must be aching all over, probably wearing glasses, and choking when her vitamin C tablet goes down the wrong way. Intelligent design? More like a dumb workaround after a late night on the town.