Abigail (Abby’) Hafer has a doctorate in zoology from Oxford University and teaches human anatomy and physiology in the nursing programme at Curry College, a small private college of 2,100 students. Her goal for this book was to document what she argues are the many examples of poor design in the human body. From this evidence, she concludes that the body was not designed, but rather it evolved.
All of her examples have been carefully refuted in both the secular and creationist literature. Having taught anatomy for 30 years, I have reviewed many anatomy textbooks in preparation for my classes and am not aware of a single one that makes the claims she does. Rather, they consistently show most of her claims to be erroneous.
She also shows little evidence of reading the Intelligent Design (ID) or creationist literature, as indicated by her false claim that those “who are likely to be persuaded by ID arguments don’t read scientific journals, or lengthy books about evolution, and they never will [emphasis in original]” (p. 1). The irony here is unmissable.
She speaks widely to colleges, universities, and sadly even churches (although she’s a rabid atheist, listed as an American Humanist Association speaker). Her focus is consistently on mocking creationists and ID supporters, as is obvious from the titles of her talks, such as “Who does the Creator like better—us, or squid?” and “Why do men’s testicles hang outside the body, but elephants have their testes inside the body?” As usual, these are really pseudo-theological arguments rather than scientific ones. She spends much time on the mudskipper, which she claims ID advocates say could not exist. Her major poor design claims are reviewed below.
I wish to take a quick break in the text here and note that the best book I have read on Dr. Berman’s notation that Dr. Hafer’s arguments “are really pseudo-theological arguments rather than scientific ones,” is Cornelius Hunter’s book, “Darwin’s God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil.”
Her claim for human testicles is that
- “…if testicles were designed, …why God didn’t protect them better. Couldn’t the Designer have put them inside the body, or encased them in bone, or at least put some bubble wrap around them? Is this the best that the Designer can do?” (p. 5).
Concluding that a structure is poorly designed instead of asking why the existing design exists is a science stopper. The ‘why’ question motivates research into the reasons for the design. When this approach was applied to the human appendix, the tonsils, the backward retina and other examples, good design reasons for the existing design were found in all cases.
She explained that when she was looking for new approaches to refute ID she knew she “had a winner when inspiration hit me in the middle of an Anatomy and Physiology lecture…. The male testicle is a great first argument against ID” (p. 2). She then stated that when she got what she needed for a “political-style argument”, she did “what any sensible woman would do”, email her minister (p. 2). As chance had it, her (Unitarian Universalist) `church’s’ Darwin Day celebration was that Sunday, and her minister used the testicles example to introduce his sermon in honour of Darwin (p. 2). Her main argument is that male testicles are outside of the body, thus are prone to injury, noting that for many animals, including reptiles, the testicles are inside of the body.
If the author were to apply just a modicum of logic, though, she (and her cohort) would realise that male testicles are outside of the body for several important reasons, such as to regulate scrotal temperature for optimal spermatogenesis development.1 When testicle temperature drops, a complex system causes the cremaster muscle to contract, which moves them closer to the warm body. When their temperature rises, the cremaster muscle relaxes, allowing them to move away from the body, insuring that their temperature is kept within a very narrow tolerance. Their temperature is also regulated by increasing or decreasing the surface area of the tissue surrounding the testicles, allowing faster or slower dissipation of their heat.2
A major reason for their close temperature regulation is because humans are fertile year round, and most animals with internal testicles are not. Most animals need to be fertile only for short times, often when outdoor temperature allows maintenance of their proper temperature.
She also ignores the fact that testicles are a secondary sexual trait, similar to female breasts, which are also prone to injury. A parallel argument is the claim that, for this reason, the female breast is poorly designed. Therefore, because its size does not affect either milk production or breast feeding ability, it would be advantageous not to protrude from the body. However, because the baby’s face is quite flat, it’s advantageous that the breast protrude somewhat so the baby can get good suction. Baby mammals with snouts can suckle on flat breasts with teats. That the breast is a major female secondary sexual trait is documented by the fact that mastectomy is a very traumatic operation for most women, and reconstructive surgery is often used to normalize the breasts’ appearance.
 Werdelin, J. and Nilsonne, A., The evolution of the scrotum and testicular descent in mammals, J. Theoretical Biology 196(1):61-72, 7 January 1999.
 Van Niekerk, E., Vas deferens—refuting `bad design’ arguments, J. Creation 26(3):60-67, 2012; creation.com/vas-deferens.