Intelligent? No, Incompetent, Iniquitous Design

Being a former Jehovah’s Witness, I occasionally peruse their website just for laughs. Much of what they believe is pretty standard fundamentalist Christian fare. But there is just something about the way they say it that is inimitable. Here is something I found on a page at their site, titled Life, A Product of Design:

Toddlers tumble and bump their heads. Older children fall from trees and off bicycles. Athletes crash into one another on the playing field. Motorists have countless road accidents. Yet, in spite of all these falls, bumps, and crashes, we often escape without serious injury. We tend to take the toughness and resilience of our bodies for granted. But as scientists are beginning to discover, from our bones to our skin, we are the product of truly brilliant designs.

Apart from the bogus reference to new “discoveries” by “scientists”, this little blurb is really quite remarkable: it is so ridiculously naive, optimistic and unrealistic that it would make Dr. Pangloss himself blush.

This kind of “design argument” is a sort of drivel that we nontheists often hear, and the response will generally go the direction of explaining that there is nothing about animal anatomy and physiology that evolutionary biology cannot explain. Of equal importance is to point out to the design proponents that for every example of “good design” they can come up with, there are at least as many, if not many more, examples of “design” that don’t paint such a pretty picture.

There is a wonderful page over at that features a compilation of many such examples. If you’ve never seen it before, it is a must-read. Bookmark it and peruse it when you can. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be inspired. The page is here.

Here is an example, to give you an idea of the content. Most of the entries include citations as well:

Only a Designer would have had the infinite wisdom and compassion to create the nematode known as the guinea worm or medina worm, which grows to be three feet long and reaches sexual maturity inside human beings. The larval form of the worm lives inside a tiny crustacean found in drinking water. A human being who has swallowed such water becomes infected by the worm which travels to the legs (or other parts of the body) where it causes painful inflammation and crippling muscle damage. When you bathe in a chilly lake or stream, the worm sticks its head out of your leg and releases thousands of eggs…

Here is another:

Only a Designer would have had the infinite wisdom and compassion to create the tuberculosis bacterium, the world’s deadliest contagion. In the last two hundred years it has killed an estimated two billion people and disfigured, crippled, and blinded billions more. During the late nineteenth century it killed more people in the United States than any other disease. It presently infects one third of all the people on earth (though most are merely latent carriers), and kills nearly three million people each year…

Behold! The exquisitely designed tuberculosis bacteria, one of God's special gifts to His children.

Behold! The exquisitely designed tuberculosis bacteria, one of God's special gifts to His children.

You get the idea. Not exactly pleasant reading, but then again, reality is chock full of unpleasantries, and the best way to deal with them is head-on. It is instructive to remind certain people of them, people that would like to think otherwise.

Now, there is no reason why we cannot come at this from an angle with a bit more levity to it, and that is exactly what the poet Philip D. Appleman has done with his hilarious poem “Intelligent? Design?” from his book Karma, Dharma, Pudding & Pie, which is written to flow with the melody of Battle Hymn of the Republic*. Here is one of the verses:

You wish a guy’s urethra did
The jobs that were proposed:
Both lover’s clout and waterspout
Is what you had supposed.
Alas, the Great Designer squeezed
A prostate ’round your hose:
Intelligent Design!

Something to sing next time the Jehovah’s Witnesses come to your door.


* This famous American song has been the victim of parody before, most notably at the hands of the extremely capable Mark Twain, who used it to make a scathing attack on the perpetrators of the Phillipine-American War. I’m certain Twain would be disappointed, but not surprised, to learn that through much of the century after the war he hated so much, we’d be at it again. Anyway, his version went like this:

Mine eyes have seen the orgy of the launching of the Sword;
He is searching out the hoardings where the stranger’s wealth is stored;
He hath loosed his fateful lightnings, and with woe and death has scored;
His lust is marching on.

I have seen him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling camps;
They have builded him an altar in the Eastern dews and damps;
I have read his doomful mission by the dim and flaring lamps—
His night is marching on.

I have read his bandit gospel writ in burnished rows of steel:
“As ye deal with my pretensions, so with you my wrath shall deal;
Let the faithless son of Freedom crush the patriot with his heel;
Lo, Greed is marching on!”

We have legalized the strumpet and are guarding her retreat;
Greed is seeking out commercial souls before his judgement seat;
O, be swift, ye clods, to answer him! be jubilant my feet!
Our god is marching on!

In a sordid slime harmonious Greed was born in yonder ditch,
With a longing in his bosom—and for others’ goods an itch.
As Christ died to make men holy, let men die to make us rich—
Our god is marching on.


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