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Intelligent Design: Guest Post


Intelligent design?  What’s a thumb doing on my foot?


For whatever reason, I was thinking about the toes on my feet.  Why is the big toe so different from the rest?  It’s clearly not just a bigger version of the other toes.  In fact, it’s as different as a thumb is to a finger.  And of course, that’s exactly what it is - it’s a thumb.  I don’t know why I never thought of that before, but it makes perfect sense.


Supposedly, the human linage split from the chimpanzee linage about 6 million years ago.  All of the other great apes have opposing thumbs on their feet, so it’s pretty certain that our shared ancestor did also.  And a recently found, very complete, 4.4 million year old ardipithecus ramidus skeleton backs that up.  The fossilized skeleton showed that it walked upright, but had very prominent opposing thumbs on its feet.


Well now, when walking on the ground, opposing thumbs on feet just get in the way. And so we would expect to see an evolutionary change for improved walking ability, if that’s what we want to do.  And sure enough, found in 3.7 million year old volcanic ash, a set of well preserved hominid footprints showed the foot-thumb had moved forward.  In those prints, the big toe is splayed out around 28 degrees.  Then, 1.5 million year old footprints believed to be from homo erectus were found in Kenya that show the big toe angled at around 13 degrees.  And in modern humans, the big toe is mostly in line at about 8 degrees.


 Clearly, the big toe started out as an opposing thumb, and over millions of years, moved in line with the other toes. In those ancient footprints, we also see the other toes progressively getting shorter and the bones less curved downward.


So the human foot has come a long way from being a kind of hand, but would you say that it’s perfectly adapted, or intelligently designed?  Hardly.  Think about this:  While the fingers are long and have three joints for good grasping, the toes still retain all three joints yet are too short to grasp anything larger than the diameter of a pencil.  And even then, the toe joints don’t line up.  So why do we need three joints when the big toe functions just fine with only two?


Also, what’s with the deformed and useless little toe?  It still has all three joints, but the last two joints are so close together, that they effectively don’t function at all.  To a lesser extent, that’s also true for the next smallest toe.


And while fingernails are pretty useful on the hand (after all, how would you scratch, scrape, or pull out a splinter without them?), they are pretty useless on the toes.  Sure, you can scratch the back of your leg with your toes, but you could just rub it against a rock, for that matter.  So what's the use of toenails, anyway?  It’s been suggested that maybe they provide some kind of toe-tip protection?  But they require maintenance, are a source of pain (think of bruised, torn, split, or ingrown toenails), and are prone to damage and infection.  Overall, I think that toenails do more harm than good, if they do any good at all.


So while creationists love to point out how well the human hand is designed by God, the same cannot be said about the human foot.




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