A friend posed a question to me the other day that I found interesting. I’ve copied it below:
“Given: God is good, all knowing, all powerful.
If he had designed us intelligently, then he would have known that at some point in time, many of his children would become rather prosperous, even those who are considered “the least among us” in the US are reasonably prosperous, compared to Jesus time, and truly most of the world has improved it’s standard of living to some extent, even though there are hundreds of millions if not over a billion that have poor access to water.
Given that he would know that his children would generally become this prosperous, why did he then design us so that we could become obese and diseased (in the various ways that we do) just by being averagely prosperous. Granted, many are extraordinarily or at least partially gluttonous, but many eat more or less reasonably and still become obese and diseased. Is this not, in some manner of thinking, a design flaw? I’m not per se arguing this, but the thought came to me, and I thought that you might enjoy the thought experiment if nothing else.”
Physiologically speaking, my friend raises a great point. In many ways, the human body does seem more proficient at dealing with food scarcity (for example, by utilizing ketone bodies during starvation) than with food excess (for example, its limited means of excreting cholesterol).Theologically speaking, we’re left with an apparent dilemma. It’s true that the mere presence of “design flaws” doesn’t, in itself, undermine the existence of a designer. (If a bridge or building has a structural flaw, it was probably still designed by an engineer or architect). Yet if God is a maximally great being, shouldn’t humans (being God’s highest creation, and all) be optimally designed? Shouldn’t our bodies be flawless, if God is flawless?
I don’t think so – although I do understand why one might ask the question.
My friend (a medical student) was specifically referring to metabolic diseases of the developed world…but I think we can safely lump together all examples of physical flaws. This includes everything from autoimmune disorders and birth defects to cancers and aging.
Speaking for myself, the presence of such flaws is easier to understand when I try to imagine what the absence of “design flaws” would look like. If our bodies were designed flawlessly, wouldn’t that necessarily entail immortality and perfect health? When we look at Scripture, I think the Christian has grounds for arguing that this is exactly what God originally intended for us, and still intends for us.
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” -Genesis 3:17-19 (NIV)
So rather than regarding our physical flaws as a problem of design, I would be more inclined to attribute them to the effects of sin. And this pattern can be found elsewhere, when we stop to examine various aspects of human psychology, sexuality, sociology, etc. The physicalist might claim that humanity’s existence has the markings of randomness, but I believe it has every appearance of a good thing that’s been tainted – a sort of “fallen paradise”, if you will. (For those who are interested, I’ve written more on this topic HERE.)