13 questions evolution can answer, intelligent design cannot

Stephen Bratteng, a biology teacher at Westwood High School  in Austin put this together.  I got the list from him when I heard him testify in favor of solid science in biology textbooks, in hearings before the Texas State Board of Education in 2003.

Here are questions that evolution can answer, but intelligent design cannot.

If intelligent design cannot offer any insight into these things, but evolution can, why should we allow intelligent design or any other flaccid “alternative” to evolution into science classes?  (Here’s the Institute for Creation Research, spending hundreds of words to fog over their inability to answer a single one of the questions!)

Why not teach our children the best we know, rather than junk we don’t know at all?

Mr. Bratteng’s 13 Questions

  1. Why does giving vitamin and mineral supplements to undernourished anemic individuals cause so many of them to die of bacterial infections?
  2. Why did Dr. Heimlich have to develop a maneuver to dislodge food particles from people’s wind pipes?

    Dr. Henry Heimlich

    Dr. Henry Heimlich

  3. Why does each of your eyes have a blind spot and strong a tendency toward retinal detachment? But a squid whose eyesight is just as sharp does not have these flaws?
  4. Why are depression and obesity at epidemic levels in the United States?
  5. When Europeans came to the Americas, why did 90 percent of the Native Americans die of European diseases but not many Europeans died of American diseases?
  6. Why do pregnant women get morning sickness?
  7. Why do people in industrialized countries have a greater tendency to get Crohn’s disease and asthma?
  8. Why does malaria still kill over a million people each year?*
  9. Why are so many of the product Depends sold each year?
  10. Why do people given anti-diarrheal medication take twice as long to recover from dysentery as untreated ones?
  11. Why do people of European descent have a fairly high frequency of an allele that can make them resistant to HIV infection?
  12. Close to home: Why do older men often have urinary problems?

    Cedar tree near Austin, Texas

    Cedar tree near Austin, Texas

  13. And why do so many people in Austin get cedar fever?

Of course, I don’t have the list of all the answers!  (Can you help me out, Dear Reader?  List what you know in comments.)


American Red Cross poster on Heimlich Maneuver, from BusinessInsider

American Red Cross poster on Heimlich Maneuver, from BusinessInsider

Update November 2016: Actually, malaria death rates have been below a million/year worldwide since 2000; in 2015, fewer than 470,000 people died. At other posts on this blog you can learn that most of this great progress against malaria has been accomplished without DDT.  Mr. Bratteng’s question remains valid, despite the happy decline in malaria deaths.


17 Responses to 13 questions evolution can answer, intelligent design cannot

  1. Ed Darrell says:

    Another one of those proofs of evolution creationists like to pretend they don’t understand. Maybe they aren’t pretending. It’s a proof, nevertheless.


  2. Nick Kelsier says:

    Serge writes:
    nor by scientists who lean towards the Intelligent Design evidence of how life/the universe began

    Translation: “nor by people claiming to be scientists but are actually frauds because they lean towards the Intelligent Design evidence of how life/the universe began.”

    Oh and by the way, Serge, ID has no evidence.


  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Intelligent design paradigms cannot answer any of those 13 questions except with a special pleading: “God did it that way, um, because God hates humans wanted to do it that way.”

    Read ’em again. Where in ID can any of them be answered? Show me.


  4. Serge says:

    Actually, most of the questions here have nothing to do with Intelligent Design vs. Evolution – they aren’t even answered by “evolution” but instead by the scientific process of observation and testing, which is not denied by neither Evolution scientistds nor by scientists who lean towards the Intelligent Design evidence of how life/the universe began. And some of the answers you provide (i.e. q#2) are just guesses that cannot be observed or tested and hence cannot be relied on.

    Hence, the whole purpose/topic of this thread is misleading. Please stop putting a smoke screen over the true issues of the debate between evolution and intelligent design. Thank you.


  5. Joseph says:

    Thank you very much for this, Mr. Bratteng! I didn’t know about most of these; whether I’ll remember them in a week is another issue, but I’m glad I learned about them.


  6. […] Fillmore’s Bathtub: questions that evolution can explain that creationism can’t! Think about these, then surf to the blog to see the answers (in the comments) Mr. Bratteng’s 13 […]


  7. […] 13 questions evolution can answer, intelligent design cannot … […]


  8. […] Looking for answers, here they are Answers to Steve Bratteng’s quiz, “13 things evolution can answer that intelligent design cannot,” are back up, at that post. […]


  9. […] Does this sound familiar?  Sure — this is just a deeper understanding of the principles behind Austin biologist Steve Bratteng’s 13 Questions. […]


  10. Soumya says:

    Mr. Bratteng,
    the answers are well hidden. I couldn’t find them anywhere! But the brief discussion on your web page did help a little! Bit I had to find most of my answers from other sources!


  11. Ed Darrell says:

    Easily done! I hope they can’t figure out caching yet . . .

    Thank you for devising the quiz. It makes the case for science, I think.


  12. Steve Bratteng says:

    I guess concealing them for a week would be a good idea. They do have an assignment to find the answers; it is due by Friday.


  13. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks for the answers, Mr. Bratteng! (Do I need to hide them so your students can’t find them with a good Google search?)

    Did you see the next post, on the top ten signs of evolution in modern humans? What do you think?


  14. Steve Bratteng says:

    Answers [Disclaimer: some explanations are somewhat simplified versions of more complicated interactions.]

    1. Anemia is one of the body’s ways of combating bacteria because lack of iron limits the bacteria. Malnourished person lack strong immune systems, and giving iron feeds the bacteria, which the body cannot combat.

    2. Evolutionarily our respiratory system developed by forming a connection with the swim bladder of certain fish; this resulted in a crossover between it and the digestive tract. Because of this crossover, people are susceptible to choking on food items accidentally entering the windpipe.

    3. Vertebrate and squid eyes have very different evolutionary origins, arising in very different ways. The vertebrate pattern happens to leave the retina open to a much greater tendency to become detached.

    4. Changes in our life styles, including diet and activity levels have come about so recently that human populations have not had a chance to have natural selection cause compensatory adaptations.

    5. This is a fairly complicated relationship that depends a lot on the greater contact between Europeans and animals than was true in the Americas. Among the effects was that Europeans in general had immunity to many diseases normally found in animals, but native Americans did not.

    6. Morning sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy protects the developing fetus from harmful substances in spicy or other foods with strong flavors. Some of these substances can cause developmental problems because the fetus is at a critical time for development.

    7. In sanitized industrialized countries few people have intestinal parasites. In developing countries the incidence of these parasites is fairly widespread, and the body attacks them using Immunoglobulin E. When no parasites are there to be attacked, these antibodies sometimes attack a person’s own body.

    8. The virulence of a disease is strongly linked to its method of transmission from one person to another. The fact that it has been difficult to eliminate the mosquito vectors, and, the sicker someone is, the more likely it is for the mosquitoes to get to them. Also, the malaria agent is protected by the fact that it develops inside cells where the immune system cannot get at them easily.

    9. As one gets older, the sphincter muscles are less effective in regulating urine flow, and, in women who have given birth, the ligament holding the bladder in position can get stretched so it is in a the wrong place to have the proper control. [A restraint imposed by historical path, and which evolution typically cannot eliminate, inasmuch as it does not present as a problem until after reproductive years.]

    10. Diarrhea is the body’s way to get rid of organisms that should not be there. By suppressing the diarrhea you take longer to remove the problem organisms.

    11. As it turns out HIV uses a similar method of attack as diseases that raged through Europe – as during the Black Death. [Smallpox may also have played a role in this.]

    12. The urethra passes through the prostate gland of males; as men age the prostate often enlarges, and this causes the urethra to be constricted. [Another restraint which evolution typically cannot eliminate, inasmuch as it does not present as a problem until after reproductive years, usually.]

    13. Allergies in general are an over-reaction to harmless substances like pollen. If the immune system did not respond to foreign substances, we would be defenseless against disease agents. This response is likened to having a smoke detector that warns you, if the house catches on fire, but also goes off, if you burn your toast.

    Brief discussion of Darwinian Medicine on my web page:


  15. jd2718 says:

    I think the asthma question leads in a dud direction.

    It is the unevenness of asthma rates that is most curious, spiking in New Zealand and the Bronx – significantly higher in historic west Germany than in the former GDR…



  16. […] sure to check out this list of 13 things that evolution explains that intelligent design cannot — it includes several things that might be good examples of human evolution for a top 10 […]


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