Giving Atheists a Hand

monkeyMy son needed some help the other night on social studies. He was working on the Paleolithic Age – the Old Stone Age – a time when man first started working with stone and bone tools. That got me thinking about the greatest “tool” of all – the human hand. It’s something that most people take for granted, but I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that modern civilization would never have arisen without it.

How can the atheist explain something as complex as the hand? Like the human reproductive system that I discussed in my last post, in his worldview, the hand is the product of random mutations over time. We just happened to be lucky enough for everything to fall into place. But think for a moment about the staggering complexity of the hand. Consider first the intricacy of the nerves that allow not just for feeling but for the fine sensitivity of feeling that exists in the fingertips. Consider its placement at the end of a flexible wrist on an arm that is also flexible. Five fingers provide the ability to grip and to manipulate objects, and the five can be used in unison or individually. Two matching hands are vastly superior to one, and the hands just happen to match in size, shape and function. The opposable thumb may be its greatest feature, as it allows for tools to be gripped. There is a versatile muscular system that allows for objects to be firmly, or lightly, gripped, and a feedback mechanism in the nervous system that allows us to know whether we are gripping something so hard as to crush it or softly enough to caress it. All the while, it provides information on warmth and cold, as finely distributed oxygenated blood keeps the tissue healthy and alive. On and on the list goes. It is truly breathtaking as an engineering accomplishment, and despite the best efforts of modern day scientists and engineers, there is no way at present to even begin to replicate its complexities.

Yet we are to believe, according to the atheist, that this amazing feature of human beings is not the product of an intelligent designer, who foresaw and anticipated our use of the tools all around us, but the result of natural, mindless processes occurring over vast periods of time. By why should this be so? Well, the atheist will say, the hand is simply the descendent of more primitive appendages. Small, random changes conferred an advantage on some descendents, which allowed them to succeed and pass on this modification. Really? If this is so, then why haven’t monkeys, and these other even more primitive forms, gone extinct? Clearly, development of a hand that could use tools, as opposed to one suited for climbing trees, was not needed by them in order to thrive and reproduce. Or conversely, why haven’t modern monkeys, which apparently predate humans, not yet evolved human hands, hands finely suited for using and manipulating tools? Why haven’t at least some monkeys, somewhere, shown up in some intermediate form, on the curve from primate to human?

More importantly, what happened before our “ancestors” with primitive, not-quite-yet-human hands evolved? What was that earlier mammalian life form from which the arm and hand emerged? A squirrel? A rodent? What were these life forms doing when they had mere stumps on the ends of their limbs? Or no limbs at all? How did they survive? And why aren’t there other examples in nature of animals who randomly produced hands? Or animals that have partial hands that are somewhere on the road to evolving a complete hand?

To be fair, atheists probably think they are doing the believer a favor by arguing that science is the source of all knowledge. Since believing in God is simply primitive superstition, there must be natural processes which account for the complexity in life we see today. We just need to keep looking, confident that science will one day provide all the answers. What other choice is there, after all, if an intelligent designer is ruled out a priori.  I suspect that most who hold this position have not considered deeply the difficulties it presents. After all, the human hand is just one of dozens of fine-tuned systems in the body, each of which is following millions of lines of coded DNA information that direct the body to grow from a single cell to an adult person capable of intelligent thought. And each system is interconnected and interdependent, operating autonomously which such precision that if called up to consciously control each of our body’s myriad actions, we would not survive. To conclude that all this complexity “just happened” may have made sense in Darwin’s day, when they had no idea that information-rich DNA was directing the process, giving substance and shape to the digital blueprint for a completed life form contained in each cell. If the hand were simply malleable “stuff,” like some type of clay that could be pulled and pushed into shape and retain its vitality, perhaps Darwinism would make more sense. But you can no more reshape the hand by external force than you can make a giraffe’s neck longer by having it reach for the high fruit.

True, science can tell us many things about DNA and how it works. And science will continue to add to that base of knowledge. More and more of nature’s secrets will be revealed about how already existing species undergo change over time, what we recognize as micro-evolution.  But macro-evolution? That life generally, or the human hand in particular, assembled itself without any guidance from a pre-existing mind?

No, in the end, it is the atheist position that is in need of a hand.

Posted by Al Serrato

Facebook Twitter Plusone Pinterest Email

Tags: , , , ,

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.


  1. BGA says:

    Your question is not posed to atheists, but to the theory of evolution.

    You keep repeating the same errors that show you are ignorant of the theory and have made no good faith effort to educate yourself on the subject.

    Many mammals have hands similar to our own. The innovation you are on about is the opposable thumb.

    Humans are not the only animals who use or even fashion their own tools.

    Why are other monkeys and apes not extinct? They evolved other traits that helped them survive. Mainly much more strength and ability to climb.

    Why did other primates not evolve opposable thumbs? Dozens did, including us. The others are extinct, likely because we killed them. Neanderthals, austrolapithecenes, and so on.

    Evolution by natural selection is not random though there is a random element.

    With all due respect your criticisms are about as ignorant as suggesting gravity is impossible, otherwise the moon would fall out of the sky.

    • Al says:

      Brian, your moon example doesn’t help you. After all, science tells us that the moon’s parameters and location make life possible on earth. This adds to the case for an intelligent designer, as even a miniscule change in dozens of laws of nature would make life impossible. And my question is posed to atheists, who have no choice but to conclude that this fine tuning is the result of processes such as evolution. My point is that evolution (in the macro sense) cannot provide an explanation. While it may tell us how already existing species adapt and change, it does not answer why there is anything rather than nothing (i.e.why there is a universe in the first place); why there is such fine tuning; how life emerged from non life; how intelligence is possible, etc. But let’s focus on DNA for a moment: the instructions for the human body amount to a set of coded blueprints for building in three dimensions a living being. The amount of information required to do that makes building a nuclear aircraft carrier seems like childs play by comparison. Yet you see no apparent problem with this information slowly accumulating over time through trial and error. You apparently have no concern about where all this came from in the first place and where DNA specifically first came from. You’re entitled to your beliefs, of course, but labeling my questions as ignorant aren’t going to stop people from seeing that the theory isn’t explaining enough.

      • BGA says:

        You are shifting all over the place and making all kinds of mistakes. The moon has nothing to do with the conditions for life on earth. Some lifeforms on Earth make use of the moon and its cycles as a reference point. If there were no moon life would continue though be disrupted. I see no fine tuning in the universe, though some constants are extremely specific.

        Actually let us not talk about new subjects like a universe from nothing, DNA, abiogenesis and the junkyard tornado gambit. http://wiki.ironchariots.org/index.php?title=747_Junkyard_argument

        Let’s talk about the subject of your post. The fact that there is uncontroversial evidence for other primates using and fashioning tools, this was in my grade 10 class, and that numerous other hominid groups lived that had opposable thumbs and used tools. This is an issue that is well understood by biologists.


        • Al says:

          True, we are talking about a lot of things, but they are important to seeing that the lack of a designer, which you posit, is an irrational position to hold: 1)Without the moon’s influence, the Earth’s orbit and rotation would destabilize to the point that multi cellualr life would not be possible. (see eg. http://www.astrobio.net/index.php?option=com_retrospection&task=detail&id=2507) Coincidence? Perhaps in isolation, but not when considered in combination with the hundreds of other “extremely specific” constants which you, apparently, refuse to see as fine tuning. 2) You introduced the junkyard 747 gambit, not me. I recognize that living things evolve in a way that inanimate things do not; that is the very question under consideration. The ability to evolve is coded into the blueprints – the DNA. You take that as a given, and then conclude that the blueprints themselves arose through some natural force that no one has ever explained. Information requires a source. Consider two things we see in the world: a dam blocking a creek and the Hoover dam. Both perform a similar function. The former may have been accidental, or the product of a child’s play, or the work of a beaver; the latter was built to specifications from a set of blueprints which originated in a mind. When science probed the workings of living things, they found blueprints, not just animated “stuff.” This is what needs to be explained. You keep coming back to the fact that later versions of these blueprints evolved from earlier versions. I’m interested in the original versions. Do you deny that they are specific and complex? Do you believe that they assembled themselves? 3) That primates used tools does not advance your point. Men and dogs both dig holes, but they do so for different reasons. Even assuming that a man’s hand evolved from a monkey’s, you still are no closer to proving that the first living thing evolved from nonliving things. The designer hypothesis,by contrast, recognizes that a designer uses similar features for different purposes when they build different things, just as a gas engine can power a lawnmower or a plane.

  2. R says:

    great article! the last line was pure gold hahaha

Leave a Reply