The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Poorly designed

At the training camp I attended a few weeks ago (see preceding post), tradition dictates that every year, on the night before everyone goes back home, there must be a dance party to finalize the weekend (and every year, there are some really good dancers attending). But this year there was an accident on the dance floor. One of the people dancing (who I’d guess to be in his late teens/early twenties; I’ll call him Josh) dislocated his knee. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but my guess is that he slipped on the tile floor and fell on his knee at the wrong angle.

Of course, when we all gathered around him, we were asked to clear the dance floor and continue the party elsewhere. I sat in the lounge a little ways off and watched quietly as the paramedics came. Josh’s teacher (whose name I never learned… I’ll refer to him as Mark) happened to be sitting nearby, and we struck up a conversation as we watched them tend to Josh as he lay on the ground, in silent but obvious pain.

During a brief lull in the conversation, as we both looked on at the injury being tended to, Mark said something that caught my attention. I wish I could remember word-for-word the conversation that followed, but I’ve done my best to capture the essence of what we said:

Mark: If you think about it, we’re pretty poorly designed beings.

Me: …What do you mean?

Mark: Well, it’s all about evolution. It’s just the way we evolved.

Me: But if we’re evolved beings, then we’re not really designed, right?

Mark: All right, to be completely technical about it, we’re incomplete, evolutionarily speaking, not designed.

Me: So… you believe that there’s an ultimate, final stage that we’ll attain some day? That right now we’re imperfect just because we’re not there yet?

Mark: No, I don’t believe that. Evolution isn’t a path to perfection, it’s a path to survival. But it’s also about progress. Think about how easily this sort of thing [gesturing to the dance floor] happens, especially as we get older.

Me: Almost inevitably as we get older.

Mark: Right. But I think one day we’ll get to the point where this kind of thing won’t happen. It just has to do with evolutionary pressures.

Me: Well… but no structure is perfect. Any structure, even if it was well-designed, is going to have some flaws and weak points. What do you mean by evolutionary pressures?

Mark: Well, what’s one thing that would keep you from being able to survive? Say, from eating?

We talked for a bit longer, about how disease is an evolutionary pressure and so on, when we were asked to help clear the area so they could bring Josh through and take him to the hospital.

The party resumed, the dancing continued. I wanted to pick up the conversation where we’d left off. But I didn’t want to seem like I was pushing the subject, so I sort of figured that if God wanted the conversation to continue, it would happen without me prompting it. It didn’t.

I never got to see where that conversation would have gone. Perhaps I should have approached him and asked to keep on going… I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised though; I kind of figured that since, after the exchange, I’d had time to think about what I was going to say, I wouldn’t actually get a chance to say it, at least not then. But now that I have thought about it some, I guess this is the place to share:

The conversation never went far enough for me to really know what Mark believes, but I feel compelled to respond to the claim that we appear to be “poorly designed” beings.

Over the course of the training camp, a lot happened. Demos, testing, and classes of all sorts took place ― forms, weapons, applications, sparring, board breaking, you name it. There were also a few just-for-the-fun-of-it classes, such as a basic parkour/free running class I got to take (keep in mind that what we did was the fundamentals, not quite up to this level).

Josh was also in that class, and being one of the few people who had done parkour before, he was one of the better ones. That busted knee that he was lying with on the dance floor had served him pretty well when he’d been using it to scale walls and vault obstacles. But on the dance floor, something happened that made that knee do something it wasn’t designed to do, and that’s when it was injured.

All structures will experience problems if they’re used (accidentally or otherwise) outside of what they were designed to do. And all machines will deteriorate with use over time. Think about how even something as carefully designed as a car or a computer is liable to not work when it’s used improperly or gets old. Our bodies are far more intricate than even the best that technology has to offer today (one glance at the structure of a cell will tell you that), but no structure, no matter how well-made or well-designed, will last forever in this world.

There are many problems that afflict us physically. Disease and injury are realities that none of us can ignore. But how often do we think about what can go wrong with our bodies instead of what they’re getting right already? (Our bodies usually run so well that we don’t even think about them until something’s wrong.) The human body is capable of some pretty amazing feats ― just what we were doing over the course of training camp (or even just then on the dance floor) stands testimony to that.

Yes, we are imperfect beings, in more ways than one, and in more ways than just physically.

But we are far from being, or even appearing, poorly designed.

As for being incomplete, becoming injury/disease free one day, and evolutionary progression, those are topics for another time. My apologies for my loquacity, and my thanks if you actually read the entire thing.

  ~ Timothy


3 responses to “Poorly designed

  1. westwood June 16, 2011 at 7:08 pm

    Yes, but, these things won’t get “fixed” because by the time we reach an age where our bodies begin to fail us, we have usually already reproduced or passed our reproductive potential. Thus, becoming weak in old age isn’t something that will change or become less pronounced in future evolutionary stages because it isn’t an advantage from a reproductive standpoint. But very interesting conversation, thanks for reporting it, it got me thinking!

    • Timothy June 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

      You bring up an interesting point westwood, one that I didn’t think about. I think the whole old age idea was only a minor point, to emphasize how easily injured we are in general (after all, Josh was in his prime). I’m not an evolutionist, so I can’t say that I approach it from the same perspective as you do, but I greatly appreciate your insight.

      Thank you for your kindness, and I’m glad to hear that this post gave you reason to reflect. And I’m curious, how did you come upon this blog, and specifically, this post? (you commented literally 5 minutes after it was published!)

  2. janimar June 16, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I certainly did finish your well-written blog entry. I am glad you got to have this conversation with Mark and you brought up good points.

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