Why suboptimal design is often better
What do washing machines have to do with intelligent design? Of course, they are designed by "intelligent" agents, so we should be able to see some parallels if the design is truly "intelligent."
Out with the old...
Our tale begins with our 20+ year old washing machine. It had experienced some minor problems in recent years, but one day would not run at all. The question was, "Do we fix it again or get a new one?" The new washers were tempting, since they had a capacity that was probably double our 20 year old model. This feature would be especially appreciated in our household of three very active boys. We decided to get a highly-rated Maytag washer and get rid of the old one.
...in with the new (and improved!!?)
It was several days between the death of the old washer and the delivery of the new one. As a result, the laundry began to pile up when the washer was delivered and installed. Carole was anxious to get caught up, and so ran a load while I was at work. I got the bad news at work - the washer had flooded the garage. It seemed that the drain was unable to keep up with the water pumped out of the washer. When I got home, I tried running a "large" instead of "oversize" load. The results were the same - the drain could not keep up with the washer's pump. The manufacturer recommended that the top of the drain be 36 inches above the floor. Upon measuring, it was exactly 36 inches. I was off to Home Depot for some advice. The helpful people at Home Depot recommended that the height of the drain be increased 6-8 inches. I bought an extension and installed it on the top of the drain. However, the results were the same. I noticed that the drain had a trap at the bottom. My studies of physics told me that eliminating the tortuous course of the drain water would probably increase the flow of water down the drain considerably.
Do we have a design problem here?
The next evening after work, I took apart the plumbing and got rid of the trap. Removing the trap had an additional benefit of raising the level of the drain another 3 inches. The drain was now 46 inches above the floor. The water now had a straight shot down to the sewer pipe. I tested the new plumbing by running a garden hose to the drain and turned on the water full pressure. No leaks, no overflow. This had to work! Confidently, I ran another load. Unfortunately, water flowed over the top of the drain as it had done before. Was I going to have to re-plumb the entire sewer system of the house so that the over-industrious washing machine pump could empty the washer in 30 seconds flat?
A direct hose to the gutter maybe?
Fortunately, in relating my problems to my co-workers, one of them mentioned that her washer dumped its water into a laundry sink. That was the answer! Of course, to put in the laundry sink, I had to move the washer, since the sink would have to be there. The washer had to go where the dryer had been, because of the water hoses and drain side. This meant that the dryer had to be moved and the gas line to the dryer had to be extended, since the dryer was now six feet from its line. In addition, the drain from the wall had to be extended 4 inches, since the sink drain could not get as close to the wall. In the end, it all worked, as our new washer pumped out its 3000+ cubic inches of water into the nearly filled sink in 30 seconds. I am convinced that not any ordinary household drain in the world would be able to keep up with the fabulous pump that came with our new Maytag washer. And, it saves 30 seconds in the washer cycle, since it works so well!
In case you haven't yet figured out what lesson the washing machine teaches us about intelligent design in biology, here it is. Sometimes systems that operate in tandem with other systems must be suboptimally designed in order to work most efficiently. Take the washing machine, for example. A slightly less robust pump would have worked fine - even if it took an additional 30 seconds to empty its load of water. It certainly would have saved me a whole bunch of extra work. In biology, the vertebrate photoreceptors of the retina are "wired in backwards," causing the light to pass through the nerves before striking the receptors themselves. Although this design seems stupid at first glance, there are some very good reasons why the retina is designed this way. In fact, if it were "wired correctly," the system would fail within a short period of time due to other, much larger problems.
More information on why biological systems seem to be poorly designed can be found on the link below:
Reasons To Believe's third in a series of books proposing a testable creation model takes on the origin and design of the universe. Previous books, Origins of Life: Biblical and Evolutionary Models Face Off and Who Was Adam?: A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, examined the origin of life on earth and the origin of mankind, respectively. Creation As Science develops a biblical creation model and compares the predictions of this model compared to a naturalistic model, young earth creationism, and theistic evolution. This biblical creation model is divided into four main areas, the origin of the universe, the origin of the Solar System, the history of life on earth, and the origin and history of mankind.
The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael Behe
Darwin's Black Box author Michael Behe takes on the limits of evolution through an examination of specific genetic examples. Behe finds that mutation and natural selection is capable of generating trivial examples of evolutionary change. Although he concludes that descent with modification has occurred throughout biological history, the molecular devices found throughout nature cannot be accounted for through natural selection and mutation. Behe's book claims to develop a framework for testing intelligent design by defining the principles by which Darwinian evolution can be distinguished from design.
If your old washing machine has died, I recommend trying to get it fixed first, unless you are good at plumbing.
P.S. A couple years after the incident, a plumber wrote to say that the rubber hose could to made to seal inside the pipe (by using a smaller diameter pipe), preventing overflow. For some reason, our installers had cut the top so that it would NOT seal, so it wouldn't have been an option for us, unless we bought a new drain hose. So much for our intelligent designers!
P.P.S. Our new top-rated Maytag washer died after only four years of service (R.I.P., 2002-2006). Needless to say, we didn't get another Maytag. Our new Kenmore washer works fine, although it doesn't pump the water out in 30 seconds. Hopefully it is designed to last longer than 4 years!
Today's New Reason to Believe
Integrating Science and Faith
- 03/30/2015 02:07 AM
Soft Tissue in Mollusk Fossils and the Case for a Young Earth
When it comes to science-faith discussions, the age of the earth is one of the most contentious topics among evangelicals and conservative Christians. Most of the scientific debate surrounding this issue centers on astronomy and geology, but young-earth creationists have recently turned to biology to make their case for a young earth. One prominent argument … Continue reading
- 03/26/2015 02:24 AM
How We Keep Our Eyes on Target
They say it’s harder to hit a moving target. The difficulty increases even more if the weapons platform is moving, too. Consider the tank chase scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy manages to avoid the guns on a lumbering tank by never staying put. Unless on very flat and horizontal terrain, World … Continue reading
- 03/23/2015 02:42 AM
Does Science Make the Case for God, or Not? (Part 1 of 2)
Does science make the case for God, or not? It depends on whom you ask. Author and TV host Eric Metaxas argued the affirmative position in a recent (December 2014) Wall Street Journal piece.1 A month later in response to Metaxas’ article, the New Yorker published an opposite position2 from theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss. Rather … Continue reading
- 03/19/2015 02:40 AM
Blood Moons: An End-Times Sign? (Part 2 of 2)
Popular Bible preacher John Hagee has authored a book and produced a movie by the same name, Four Blood Moons (in theatres March 23 only). On the film’s website the San Antonio megachurch pastor states, “The heavens are ‘God’s billboard.’ He’s been sending signals to earth, and we haven’t been picking them up.” In part … Continue reading
- 03/16/2015 02:15 AM
Blood Moons: An End-Times Sign? (Part 1 of 2)
Four Blood Moons, a theatrical one-night event scheduled for March 23, 2015, and based on Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee’s New York Times bestseller of the same name, has garnered attention. I’m featured briefly in the film as a skeptic of Hagee’s central claim that a sequence of four total lunar eclipses signifies that “world … Continue reading
- 03/12/2015 02:10 AM
Twisted Evidence for Early Life
Anyone working on a home improvement project knows how important it is to have “the right tool for the right job.” This maxim also applies to science. Scientists need the right scientific tools if they ever hope to advance our understanding of the natural world. Perhaps no group of scientists has a greater need for … Continue reading
- 03/09/2015 02:56 AM
Early Life Was More Complex than We Thought
Is Genesis scientifically credible? According to the common narrative in our culture, scientific advance has rendered Genesis (and other creation accounts found in the Bible) untenable. Yet, if the Genesis creation “days” are viewed as long periods of time and the proper frame of reference is identified (Earth’s surface), remarkable agreement emerges between the Bible … Continue reading
- 03/05/2015 02:04 AM
Q&A: Were Dinosaurs Reptiles?
From Jerry in Los Angeles, CA I’m reading your book Navigating Genesis. On page 66 you say, “Given that dinosaurs were reptiles, not mammals…” Wait a minute! I thought it was shown decades ago that dinosaurs were not. They were warm blooded and some were feathered. I thought it was common knowledge that dinosaurs were not … Continue reading
- 03/02/2015 02:45 AM
Q&A: Could “Fresh” Dino Tissue Survive for Millions of Years?
From Nate in Fullerton, CA: Recently I’ve been referred by some young-earth creationist friends to a couple of articles about a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth and a Triceratops-type horn that both underwent an autopsy showing (relatively speaking) “fresher” organic material. Does this affect the time line for the existence of dinosaurs? I appreciate the thought put into this … Continue reading
- 02/26/2015 02:14 AM
Q&A: Are Dark Matter and Dark Energy Just “Props” for the Big Bang?
From Gavin: I always enjoy and profit by listening to RTB’s scholars discussing and interviewing others on various creation-science, theological-philosophical, and biblical topics. I am interested to hear what you have to say about the following. A commentator on a young-earth creation (YEC) website said, I am very impressed with the way YEC cosmologists have … Continue reading
Last Modified December 27, 2006