The Argument from Suboptimal Design and the Young vs. Old Earth Creationism Debate

The Argument from Suboptimal Design does not support the existence of the God that is portrayed in the Bible: an omniscient, eternal Creator. It claims that God couldn’t have designed the universe because there are many instances in which nature is flawed and “suboptimal” in accommodating humanity’s needs. The premises to the argument are summarized as follows:

  1. As an intelligent Creator, God would have created optimally designed organisms.
  2. Some organisms have suboptimal features (such as unneeded parts on animals, the human body’s inability to ward off some diseases, etc.)
  3. Therefore, either these organisms weren’t created by God, or God is not like we see him depicted in the Bible: intelligent, infinite, and all-knowing.

This argument is flawed because it assumes that God’s “optimal” design is in accordance with that of humanity. The aspects of nature deemed “suboptimal” by humans often are labeled this way because they are inconvenient or have no practical use.

 Assuming that the Argument from Suboptimal Design is not valid and that God, in fact, did create the world and its inhabitants with intention, we are led to the questions of when exactly they were created and whether or not they have evolved since their creation. This debate often divides among two kinds of creationists: “Young Earth” creationists- those who believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis- and “Old Earth” creationists, who argue that the universe and all life began billions of years ago and believe in evolution as well as creation theories.

Young Earth creationists’ values rest upon the premise that Genesis is God’s word; his revelation of himself to man. Therefore, its contents are to be taken literally, as Ken Ham writes that “believing in a relatively ‘young earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator.” Young Earth creationists argue against evolution ever occurring, so they believe that every life form on Earth was created by God in the way that we see now. This notion acts as a refutation for the Argument of Suboptimal Design, as God would have created organisms and all their “suboptimal” qualities with complexity and intention. Because Genesis is interpreted word for word, death did not exist before the sin of man, so any fossil records found are reminiscent of the Great Flood rather than of millions of years ago. Young Earth creationists argue that taking literally the words of the Bible is the only way to interpret it because, assuming it is the true Word of God, not believing all of its contents would be rendering it fallible compared to the word of man.

Contrastingly, Old Earth creationists start from “outside the Bible” in their relating the events in Genesis to what appears to be true in the world. They attempt to tie together creationism and naturalism, as they argue that the universe, Earth and all life were actually created by God billions of years ago and that evolution did occur. This means that organisms were not created in the way they are seen now. Old Earth creationists rely upon empirical evidence as grounds for their interpretation of Genesis; they do not believe that death began after the sins of Adam and Eve, as fossil records show that there were supposedly millions of years of death and suffering prior. Therefore, the sin of man, according to Old Earth creationists, was directly created by God.

Both of these stances embody many different theories of Creation and evolution that incorporate the words of the Bible with what is apparent to man. Ultimately, the argument between Young and Old Earth creationists comes down to how each side determines the meaning of Genesis.



Urlaub, Cristofer. “The Argument from Poor Design.” The Argument from Poor Design. N.p., 15 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.

Ham, Ken. “A Young Earth-It’s Not the Issue!” Answers in Genesis. N.p., 23 Jan. 1998. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.

Morris, Henry M. “Old-Earth Creationism.” Old-Earth Creationism | The Institute for Creation Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.


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