Tag Archives: christianity

Unintelligent Design #1: The Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve


The belief that humans are the perfect organisms is an egotistic fallacy that has become all too common throughout human history. The easiest example to cite is Christianity, which promotes the idea that a single, supreme entity created the world with an intelligent design and that world hasn’t changed since then. It also advocates the belief that humans were made in the “image of God.” Whatever mindset allowed this religious belief to proliferate is irrelevant in this post, but it remains that the idea that Homo sapiens are better-made than any other creature is purely a misconception, and quite a self-centered one at that.

Many beautiful examples of what can be referred to as “suboptimal design” exist in our bodies. In other words, if an all-powerful God did create the world, we would expect that world to be optimally, perfectly designed. It follows, then, that any evidence of poor planning or bad engineering can counter the argument for intelligent design. For the first piece of evidence, and one of my favorite examples, let’s take a look at the recurrent laryngeal nerve.

The nerve branches from the the vagus nerve just below your jaw and extends down to your heart, makes a U-turn, and then travels back up to your larynx (your voicebox) supplying motor function and sensation.

But why does it go all theĀ  way down and come all the way back up? Wouldn’t it be easier to just move the couple of inches directly to the larynx instead of all the way to the heart?

I’ll let Richard Dawkins take over:

Pretty cool, right? And props to dissecting an entire giraffe for the first time in, like, 180 years.

So you see, in the most extreme-neck example of a giraffe, the suboptimal design of the recurrent laryngeal nerve. Our ancestors, fish-like organisms, barely had any necks so it was a direct route. Over millions of years, as some species’ necks became a bit longer, the laryngeal nerve extended with it. This is a great argument for a common ancestor of all mammals and fish alike.

So, it may still hold true that some God(s) designed and created the world, but God(s) must not be as smart as we think to have such an unintelligent design. Perhaps it is not so much that we were created in God’s perfect image, but God was created in our imperfect image.

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