Evolution Icon Evolution
Intelligent Design Icon Intelligent Design

“Pointless Bones”? Nathan Lents Bites at Stuart Burgess’s Ankle

Photo credit: SwapnIl Dwivedi, via Unsplash.

If “poor design” in the human body is evidence of unguided, purposeless evolution — as most evolutionists would agree — then ingenious design must be evidence counter to that. In other words, it must be evidence for guided, purposeful evolution, aka intelligent design. Biologist Nathan Lents wrote a whole book about alleged suboptimal design, Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes. One of his targets is the ankle, and I’ve been wondering when or if he would reply to bioengineer Stuart Burgess’s wonderful takedowns of his complaints about that amazing joint, presented in a video and lecture and in an article in BIO-Complexity. As Burgess notes, the book should have been entitled Lents’s Errors.

Long in Coming

Finally, I see Lents has issued a brief response on his blog and on Panda’s Thumb. Or rather a squeak.

His response consists of 8 numbered paragraphs, 5 of which are complaints about BIO-Complexity (including, point 8, about the fact that the journal’s title includes a hyphen!). Lents quotes a fellow blog contributor for Panda’s Thumb on the subject of the ankle. His own response to Burgess is:

The article itself is simply a summary of the structure and function of the human ankle, which can be summed up by saying the ankle is incredibly complex and good at what it does (notwithstanding the strains and sprains we all get). Somehow, this is offered as evidence against evolution and for intelligent design. [Emphasis added.]


Burgess does a fine job explaining the structure and function of the human ankle, but for some reason takes its functioning as evidence that it was intentionally designed and not evolved. The human body is truly impressive, a point I repeatedly made in Human Errors, but it also harbors abundant evidence of its long evolutionary past including, in my opinion, some examples of suboptimal functional design that are only comprehensible in the light of the limitations of evolutionary processes and our shared ancestry with other animals.

“Somehow”? “For some reason”? Again, in Lents’s own words, if “suboptimal functional design” provides “abundant evidence” for “evolutionary processes and our shared ancestry with other animals,” then it follows that optimal, ingenious design, as in the human ankle, is much more readily “comprehensible in the light of” intelligent design, and provides strong evidence for ID.

In No Way a Rebuttal

As Lents wrote in his book, “The human ankle suffers from the same clutter of bones that we find in the wrist. The ankle contains seven bones, most of them pointless.” These are some of the supposedly “pointless” bones showcased in Lents’s book title. If you watch this video with Burgess, or read his article in BIO-Complexity, you’ll know that that assertion is a massive scholarly fail on Lents’s part. And it’s representative of the larger argument for evolution based on “poor design,” of which Professor Lents has sought out the role of leading spokesman. From an engineering perspective, the bones of the ankle, in their complex and functional artistry, are very far from “pointless.” In no way has Lents rebutted Burgess. If he could do so, I suppose he would. Poor Lents. Watch:

See also Brian Miller’s comments on Burgess’s argument here and Casey Luskin’s here. And don’t miss the new book Your Designed Body, by systems engineer Steve Laufmann and physician Howard Glicksman.