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Designer humans

December 2006 | by Professor Stuart Burgess

I once designed a small knife – a slender rod with a tiny razor-sharp blade at the end. One of my students came across the knife and started using it to cut up card.

I stopped him and explained that the knife was designed for something far more important – a life-saving surgical operation on newly born boys who have a blocked bladder valve. If the student had looked closely at its intricate design he would have known it was no ordinary knife.

Many today make the same mistake concerning the purpose of human life. Evolutionists assume that humans are just an advanced ape-like creature with no special design or purpose. According to evolutionary philosophy, the ‘design’ of human beings has evolved to meet survival tasks like fighting, hunting and gathering.

For example, evolutionists say that human hands evolved to make weapons, and human faces evolved to make threatening expressions! They say that the human brain evolved to plan survival strategies.



More than survival

In contrast, the Bible teaches that humans are unique creatures designed for much more than survival. Humans are creative, emotional and spiritual beings, designed to have deep relationships with other people and with the Creator.

I have been designing things like medical equipment and spacecraft for 20 years and have studied the purpose of hundreds of complex products. When I look at human beings I see great evidence that they are designed for special purposes far beyond mere survival.

Humans have a unique ability to be creative – for example, in art, music and literature. We have brain-areas dedicated to the appreciation of beauty and creative thinking.

Only humans have hands suitable for creative tasks. Only human hands can make a circular pinch-grip between the thumb and every finger. Only humans have thousands of touch sensors on every finger. Only humans have a large part of the brain dedicated to controlling the hands with precision.

The precision and speed of human hands is astounding. Every day humans perform a multitude of complex tasks hardly without thinking – like cooking, dressing and driving.

Music is one area where the special skill of the human hand is very apparent. Musicians play music with great speed, precision and expression. The human hand is not what we would expect if humans were descended from an ape-like creature; but it is just what would be expected if mankind is made in the image of God.

Designed to communicate

Humans have the unique ability to communicate thoughts and emotions through language. Human speech and writing contain intricate sounds, sophisticated grammar and thousands of words. Language enables humans to teach, learn and develop relationships.

Language requires many complex design features in the human body. There are large areas of the brain dedicated to processing speech. Humans have a uniquely long throat, agile tongue, fine lips, precise vocal cords and fine control of the vocal tract. Up to 100 muscles are at work during speech and the brain is processing information at an immense rate.

Such verbal skills are hardly likely to have evolved just to allow man to be a hunter-gatherer. But language is just what we would expect if humans were created with spiritual needs and capacities.

Designed for emotion

Humans are capable of a vast range of emotions – such as love, joy, sorrow and anger. Scientists know that part of the brain is dedicated to emotional feelings but science cannot explain where such feelings come from. The Bible tells us that everyone has a soul which is the ultimate source of identity and feelings.

Humans also have a physical design that complements their emotional nature – such as the unique ability to cry tears of emotion and an amazing ability to communicate emotion by facial expression. The human face has 50 facial muscles (far more than apes) and the unique ability to make something like 10,000 different facial expressions. Such characteristics cannot be explained by evolutionary forces.


Humans are also designed to derive pleasure in many subtle ways. They can appreciate beauty through all the different senses – sight, sound, smell, touch and taste. Only a human stops to enjoy a sunset or to appreciate bird song.

Designed for spiritual life

Finally, humans are uniquely capable of thought. They are thinking beings who decide what course of action to take – at every moment and in every area of life. In contrast animals are predictably obedient to instinct. Apes don’t worry about the meaning of life!

The ability to think and decide also means that humans are responsible beings. Humans are responsible for their actions and accountable to their Creator if they break his commands.

The Book of Genesis describes how man was designed to steward the earth and to have fellowship with God. Psalm 8 asserts that he is designed to be crowned with glory and honour. But man rebelled against his Creator in the Garden of Eden.

Thankfully, God has also made man capable of receiving new life through faith in Jesus Christ. And those who know Christ are designed to live eternally in glory. As human beings we are designed for far more than mere survival.