Malevolent Design

Ed Babinski sent me a link to a first chapter of a new book called Malevolent Design. In this chapter the biological category of Malevolent Design is discussed. There are four more categories that will be spoken about in the proceeding sections: environmental, cosmological, mythological and finally, chronological. To read this go here. Anyone who wants to claim Intelligent Design needs to come to grips with Malevolent Design. To read what Ed wrote about this same topic go here.


Lee Randolph said...

on a lighter note....

another less heady but no less malevolent example are testicles.

it was insidious to make them dangle between the legs like that, especially as ugly as they are. I don't think i've ever heard anyone say they appreciate looking at testicles, unless we're talking about rocky mountain oysters.

I think i would have tucked them away inside for safe-keeping if I were god.

B H said...

To add to the list of accomodation issues and bad design, it's often surprised me in conversation how many Christians and Muslims insist there should be strictly defined sex/gender differences when the number of people born with any of the large number of intersex conditions is startlingly high. If the designer's plan was to clearly distinguish two sexes, they could have done a much better job. If they somehow fit into the special plan for us, we could have at least been notified in our religious texts not to shun or disfigure these individuals (other cultures managed not to).

SteveJ said...

> I think i would have tucked them away inside for safe-keeping if I were god.

They're outside the body to keep them cool. Heat is bad for sperm cells.

It's also good that women have them there as a target for a knee-kick if some jerk is being abusive.

John W. Loftus said...


Wow, I never thought of it that way before....ouch! God did give women some power after all. ;-)

lowendaction said...

Ed's entire premises is built on HIS version/understanding of God. Our "modern culture" has been working on this image for some time now. The God of the bible, I would say all the way up through the "Dark Ages", was feared as much as He was loved (one might even argue that the scales where slightly tipped towards fear). And yet, in this "enlightened" era that we find oursleves in, God has been effectlively declawed and tamed into to that lovingly old man with the white beard stuck on His cloud-sofa.

Any serious study of scripture will show a God who shares all qualities of harshness, anger, justice, right along side the more familiar and popular love, grace, and mercy.

I personally am drawn to the reality of God because of His real and raw nature. I see the beauty in the balance. I see a reverant fear and respect in His powerful nature.

I think of the first Matrix movie, where they talked about some previous versions of the virtual world the computers had created. And how they were "perfect", but that the humans rejected it because it didn't seem REAL.

The rawness of life is preciceley what makes it real to me (and I dare anyone to question my own level/exposure of suffering). Either we can look at the seemingly needless suffering, and just be depressed about it (or blaim an absent God...), or we can allow this to force us to adapt an external view of life. If we do not limit ourselves to the few moments we are given here on earth, but consider that there might just be more to our existance than what we can touch, see, smell or hear, our perspectie of many of these subjects might come into focus.

DBULL said...

Last time I read up on the garden of eden, "malevolent design" did'nt exist. Something that happened in the garden changed all that. But let's not talk about the bible as it's written. Let's spin it the way we want to see it!

John W. Loftus said...

Did someone just punt to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden as an answer? I didn't think so.

Michael Ejercito said...

Last time I read up on the garden of eden, "malevolent design" did'nt exist. Something that happened in the garden changed all that.
And what happened in the garden?


Lee Randolph said...

Hi SteveJ,
and so god designed sperm to not be compatible with the inside of the human body? I would think that the precedent he set with my liver, birds and lizards would have convinced him "that it was good" to keep things protected on the inside. Other male creatures have their testicles on the inside. Don't see many little wrinkly lizard testicles do you? Ever see any bird balls?

Jospeh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jospeh said...

The point of this article, as I perceive it, is that the Argument from Design is terribly imbalanced (at least as it has been articulated by every Christian writer I have every read). Christians like to call attention to remarkable things they see in the world. "Surely all the things that are beautiful, fruitful and productive are evidence of a great designer who loves us, ala Romans 1:20!"

Ok, fine, but what about all the decay, the violence, the chaos in the natural world and universe. Why isn't that incorporated into the Argument from Design? Why is that never indicative of God's character? I'll tell you why, because it is entirely inconvenient to speak of the Ebola virus or birth defects as evidence of design. These facts just do not fit so tidily into the colorful dvds and storybooks.

But if design demands a designer and and there are rotten, awful things in the "created order," what kind of designer do we have, anyway? A God who is a sadist and likes to inflict suffering on others? Apparently it is his design is to see people die in awful, incomprehensible, and often incurable ways. Blame it on sin, if you want, but according to Scripture, it was ultimately God's design to place the earth under such a hideous curse!

So the argument from design helps the creationist only to a certain point. As long as it stays warm and fuzzy, the design argument seems strong. However, most Christians don't explore it to its logical implications.

GordonBlood said...

The biggest problem with this blog, in terms of content, is how it makes evil sound like a newly discovered reality. The Jews and later on the early Christians knew full well that there exists disease, death, pain etc. That is, at times, a great paradox. How ironic however that many of the greatest Christian writers and thinkers of history suffered from terrible disease and, eventually, death. Blaise Pascal went so far to say that being a Christian means, necessarily, to suffer. He lived to be 39 and had a massive amount of natural diseases. Whatever the mystery of pain is (again, i think there are good explanations but im not going to dwelve into that for sake of time) it should not be abused as some sort of end-all argument against God when, frankly, ancient people's were far more acquainted with it than ourselves.

Jospeh said...

Gordon, I agree with you. The one thing I do respect about the Bible is that it doesn't gloss over the presence of pain and suffering. But does it give the best explanation of it? Were people in the Middle Ages religious out of fear, for want of a better explanation? If they understood disease the way we do today, then maybe they would have been less apt to see it as God's punishment on the wicked.

Michael Ejercito said...

Apparently it is his design is to see people die in awful, incomprehensible, and often incurable ways.
If humans were immortal, they could swim in a sea of E. coli with no ill effect.

But sinners are subject to physical death...

Jospeh said...

And that helps your argument from design how?

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

There are two 'arguments from design,' the argument that the Universe is so complex that it requires a designer, and the anti-evolutionary 'Intelligent Design' argument.

The first is one, as I've said, I'm agnostic about. But I either gag or laugh hysterically at the attempt, if it's made, to link it to the incredibly parochial gods that we attempt to give credit for it.

Too often arguments on both sides of the discussion seem to be locked in a geocentric, 6000 year Universe. The Universe is many billions of years old -- and likely to be around for as long. We inhabit just one planet among billions -- and if the Universe is 'designed,' it seems even more likely that we aren't alone in it. (Why would a designer create this immensity and put life on only one planet? It certainly seems poor design to create all the rest of the galaxies just as 'background.') And given this, the idea that the local god of one tribe on one planet should get the credit seems laughable.

(But it seems equally laughable to argue whether minor features of the design of that one species proves or disproves the existence of that designer.)

As for the anti-evolutionary 'argument from design,' this so absurd that I am surprised that believers have not condemned it as -- from their point of view -- the height of blasphemy. We have vestigial organs. We have systems such as out sinus system that are more suitable for a four-footed animal than for one that walks on two legs -- which is why they go wrong so --- *achooo! --- frequently.

This makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective -- either 'theistic' or 'naturalistic.' But if you argue 'special creation,' you are making your god look like the sort of incompetent architect who so falls in love with one 'design feature' (say cupolas) that he continues to use it on building after building, whether it is appropriate or not.

Were god actually to exist, he would deserve not to be insulted this greatly.

Jospeh said...

In a Time Magazine editorial a few years back, Eric Cornell writes, "Listen: If nature is the way it is because God wants it to be that way, then, by looking at nature, one can learn what it is that God wants! The microscope and the telescope are no longer merely scientific instruments; they are windows into the mind of God." (Time, 11/6/05). That's an interesting perspective deserving closer examination and discussion. If the universe is indeed the product of a Great Designer, then it is fair to say we can we learn about his character and even his intentions from studying what he has designed. That includes all the strange, terrible, malevolent things--not just the wonderful, beautiful, and special things.

So what is preventing Christians from looking at the world and drawing their own conclusions about this God, as Romans 1:20 encourages them to do? What is preventing you from encouraging your children from doing the same, Christian parents? Why don't you ask your pastor or Bible class teachers, "What is the God thinking when he designs a mass plague to wipe out millions in the Middle Ages? Mental illness to impede people's ability to function normally? Babies born with both male and female genitalia?" I would love to hear more of these discussions in my church! C'mon people--have some balls. Ask the tough questions.

Of course, Christians for years have said that AIDS is God's punishment on gays. But when it comes to birth defects, we aren't quite comfortable giving God the credit for his design(though, strangely, we have no problem pinning the blame on "nature gone wrong"). Surely you see the problem here. If we say the malevolence in nature is NOT God's doing, then we must reevaluate claims that he is omnipotent and omniscient--not to mention that he is sovereign.

On the other hand, if we say malevolence IS God's deliberate doing, then we must question why we are spending so much money fighting cancer or tapping resources bring relief to earthquake and tsunami victims. Isn't that deliberately opposing the will of God? C'mon people, take your beliefs to their logical end! More than one Christian minister throughout history has forcefully opposed vaccination for this very reason. My mother was against my getting braces for my overcrowded teeth because, she reasoned, "That's the way God made you. To reject God's design is to reject God." After a while it just gets ridiculous.

The best Christians can offer is to explain natural evil is a complex appeal to the Genesis story. But do you see what's happening? All of the sudden we are playing an entirely new game! We started by playing the design game, but when the opponent got too saavy to the rules, the Christian said, "This isn't fun anymore, here's another game I'd like to teach you."

But if we stay with the argument from design, there is no reason that Christians cannot look at the "design" of nature and explore other, non-traditional views like: (1) there is more than one god, with different moral natures and temperaments (2) god is evil, (3) god is a work in progress, making mistakes along the way (we may be one of her experimental worlds), (4) god died or left us alone, a long time ago, (5) god is merely an explanation for things we can't seem to come to terms with (like death, injustice, and morality), or (6) the natural order evolved gradually over time and in response to varied circumstances, without a god of any kind.

Reverend AtheiStar said...

Malevolent Design doesn't need any scripture to make character statements about hypothetical creator deities. MD works by examining the universe. Look at the mosquito. Look at malaria. Look at the bot fly. Look at bed bugs, ticks, fleas and leeches. Look at the great white shark. Look at the spitting cobra. Look at how many disgusting and disturbing parasites prey on humans all the time! Look at earthquakes, tsunamies, volcanoes, hurricanes and tornadoes. Look at our nuclear fusion reactor in the sky that causes a million cases of skin cancer in the US alone! Look at what happens to a human if a tear appears in his suit! Ever seen what happens in a decompression accident? It's not pretty. Look at comets. Look at giant asteroids cruising around space! How did the dinosaurs go extinct, again? If there be a god, then it delights in our torture. If you believe in intelligent design, then must also acknowledge the malevolence.

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