How can we reconcile the argument of intelligent design with supposed design flaws?

Disabilities in people and animals, diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, as well as other things which seem to be design flaws.

If he could not create the world without these things, he is not all powerful. Or would He want suffering in the world? Then He would be evil.

How can we reconcile these seemingly flaws of design with possible intelligent design by God?

(Sorry if this is in the wrong sub forum, mods please move it if it is!)

Suffering does not equate to evil. Suffering is an indicator of hurt or injury – to suffer may mean that whomever is suffering is undergoing some injury, but that does not automatically translate to the injury or hurt being harmful in an absolute sense. A physical workout may cause temporary damage to muscle tissue which is rebuilt to be stronger. This is one of the reasons why weight training causes sore muscles and some “suffering.”

Real evil can only be assessed in light of final ends or purpose. The extinction or short-lived existence of animal species or individuals may appear problematic to us, but that does not mean these are not part of a larger design plan the implementing of which justifies or warrants those apparent (to us) flaws. We don’t have the entire plan in view, so any observations or concerns we might have can only be tentative ones until we see the whole picture.

First, God created the world in a state of growth. He let it developed and grow into what it is now. He likes to watch what His creations do on their own. :slight_smile: Second, there are no design flaws. He created us perfect. HOWEVER, He gave us free will as well. We (that is, Adam and Eve) chose to go against His plan of total perfection, and choose our own plan, which entails flaws like disease and death. His world was flawless - it is we who caused it to break. Also, like Peter Plato said, suffering is something we caused, but it also has a good side. I heard somewhere on this forum that suffering has actually helped us, because without it, we would be less understanding of the monumental goodness of God. We would understand it, yes, but now we know just how awesome (in every sense of the word) He is.

God would not permit suffering to exist if he could not draw far greater goods out of it.

Difficulties build character. A person may struggle to learn an instrument, or to speak a new language. But how much more to their benefit when they look back on how overcoming these difficulties benefited their character. They may even look back fondly on such times.

Certainly the extent to which humans can suffer far exceeds the trials of learning a new skill. That is obvious. But are you then unable to conceive a reward so much greater after death so as to put human suffering in such perspective? The beatific vision of God would satisfy every end and desire and need a person may want and provide perfect understanding and clarity, and that is a severe understatement.

And do you deny any difference in character development between a person who has overcome obstacles throughout his life and a person who has had every need, desire, and want made available to him at his whim since his birth? Could a person in a world without suffering truly understand or feel the total giving of one’s self in love to another, as Christ did for us?

Original Sin and the other consequences of the devil’s rebellion against God. Remember the Tolkien’s Silmarillion, how Melkor was perverting the music of the Ainur? :wink:

Just to throw in another monkey wrench: if disease and death entered into the world when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden, then how did dinosaurs die before Adam and Eve?

Edit: I just found a good article by Jimmy Akin on this very topic:

A very good answer.

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned–” Romans 5:12 NIV

Our first parents were given preternatural gifts by God, including bodily immortality. They disobeyed one command, and here we are.


The human body is arguably living beyond its design limitations; animal biology seems not to care much about its carriers living much beyond procreation.


Thank you for that article. That article explains how I have seen it as well, because of the process of entropy. Actually, philosophically the idea of some kind of evolution of nature makes sense to me. (Although I can not say for sure evolution is true). Since in nature relationships and survival abilities take time to develop. For instance, all humans go through a kind of natural progression from zygote to fetus to infant to child to adult. It seems to me if God had created everything instantaneously where animals just popped into existence out of thin air they wouldn’t know how to survive or even to move their bodies since everything would be new to them. So it seems that some sort of gradual process would be necessary for nature to grow and survive. This isn’t a limitation on God, but on finite creatures needing to survive in a material world. They need time to evolve the complex physical relationships in nature that are needed to survive. So it would be a kind of nature cooperating with God in this process of maturation. Where God allows nature to follow physical laws and develop those relationships while at the same time nurturing and guiding it according to his will.

Science can tell us why there are for instance physical deformations or imperfections. They can be a result of how the genetic information is passed on. Some random mutation for instance. This of course would be consistent with God allowing nature to take its course. While we may not see why God wouldn’t intervene to stop all imperfections from occurring, but the way evolution works is by mutations. Thus some bad mutations must be allowed in order for good ones to come about.

For instance I was born with a physical defect. Does that mean God doesn’t care about me? No, of course not. It just means because I am a material being that means things can go wrong with how the materials come together. it happens all the time. It’s not like God wills it. Its just how material bodies work.

Now if God were somehow supernaturally protecting human bodies from any corruption then that would be different. That would be like Adam and Eve before the fall. However, after the fall their bodies were subject to entropy, like the rest of the animals.

Can’t have design flaws without…design.

That’s right. Design does not invent itself, referring to biological life.


Also, what does that say about God that he loves imperfect material beings? He doesn’t just love himself being perfect. But rather he loves us so much that he became an imperfect human being like us (albeit without sin).

Also, if God had created everything instantaneously then God would have had to program false memories in all the animals on how to move and survive. So that they would instinctively know how to do these things. Imagine an animal coming into existence suddenly without any past experience, feeling hungry, but not knowing what hunger was or if there was anything else or any way to fulfil it.

Even muscle movements have a memory. If muscles haven’t been used before they take time to develop the muscle movement and memory needed to be used. Think of a baby learning to walk. It has muscles why can’t it just walk? It needs time to not only have enough strength but also to develop the movement. Animals coming into existence instantaneously would be like babies learning to walk. Unless God preprogrammed false memories and muscle memories that one time into them. But, not after that

Even the creation story in Genesis doesn’t give creation as instantaneous, but outlines a process occuring over several days. Almost as if intuitively the author knows nature takes time and a process to develop. And of course 7 days? That seems as symbolic to me as can be. coincidentally concurring with the 7 day Jewish week and Sabbath? I think not.

The only thing perfect is God. Thus, anything else compared to him has limitations and even flaws.

302 Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it. We call “divine providence” the dispositions by which God guides his creation toward this perfection:

By his providence God protects and governs all things which he has made, "reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and ordering all things well". For "all are open and laid bare to his eyes", even those things which are yet to come into existence through the free action of creatures. ( CCC 302)

God created me autistic, where and when I am, on the cusp of the Catholic and the protestant, He is a great forward thinker, **I am a masterpiece, I am not a design fault **!!!

Omniscience…that causes many problems for the Christian God.


Might one suffer so much in this life, physically and psychologically, that one is unable to “(give) of oneself in love to another”? Further, how can even the most glorious future, which does not arrive until after one’s death, compensate for the present and past moments of agony one must endure prior to one’s death? These moments of pain cannot be erased but instead are intensely felt by many who suffer, and their character is beaten down rather than improved.

Does that mean that animals and plants will die in the new earth?

That depends how one has set oneself up. The opposite is true of some, who prepared themselves.

As for your middle question, how glorious do you want?

Most of us haven’t met many Christians who demonstrated, manifest, these things. A few of us have met a few of them.

My mother arrived in this country a penniless orphan from a broken family. Her forebears had gone through generations of difficulty. In my youth the family had many difficulties. I saw her get gradually more and more radiant. Her and Dad’s attitude got more and more wholesome which has given me a fine start in life. (She wasn’t very orthodox but her attitude of heart was excellent.)

A friend’s mother with Alzheimer’s and kidney complaints was at my friends’ house. I and some others said evening prayer in her room. They had several generations of family hang around their house for several weeks, in and out of her room. I’m told as she passed away she was heard to mutter, “I’ve been so lucky”.

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