Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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The Ears Have It: Tiny Muscle Supposedly Undoes Intelligent Design

pull on ear.jpg

Breaking news -- another silly article was just published claiming to refute intelligent design, this one at Live Science and drawing on another in Psychophysiology ("Evidence for a vestigial pinna-orienting system in humans"). It's based on the existence of a small muscle behind the ear with no apparent function -- except to tell when we are happy. It can't wiggle the ear, so it is ruled to be vestigial -- left over from previously functional muscles to twitch the ears.

You know the way the argument goes. If we can't find a function, there is none. The only seeming use is as a mood detector. If you are happy the little muscle gets activated, even when you are lying about it.

The argument against design is based on the claim that an intelligent designer wouldn't have done it this way -- he would never create something with no obvious purpose except a residual one. I suppose that's because being all wise and powerful, he wouldn't waste his time with keeping a very small muscle that can't twitch ears. Or so the reasoning goes. The Live Science article quotes the author of the journal article, University of Missouri psychologist Steven Hackley:

"According to intelligent design and creationism, our body was designed by a being with perfect intelligence," he said. "If that were the case, why would he put circuits in our brains that don't work? Why would you put circuits in our brain which are useful for lemurs that are useless for humans?"

This is another case of an evolutionary argument that depends on knowing how an intelligent designer ought to act. I personally don't know the mind of the designer but apparently some biologists (and psychologists) do.

Never mind all the positive evidence for design in the exquisite efficiency of enzyme catalysis, or the amazing sophistication of the human brain, or the optimal sensitivity of the human retina. Ignore those molecular machines, and that information-bearing code in DNA, or the proof-reading and error-correction mechanisms that permit the faithful transmission of information from generation to generation. One small muscle undoes it all.

I don't know. Maybe the designer put it there to make scientists happy -- busy offering silly speculations about how it disproves intelligent design, and then determining what other use can be made of it.

Hold still while I check to see if this makes you happy, and don't wiggle your ears.

Image: � zinkevych / Dollar Photo Club.