Wisdom teeth crowd most mouths. We no longer use these teeth, so why do they take up space in the backs of our jaws?
Back in 2008, the Wall Street Journal ran an article titled “Smart Riposte to Intelligent Design.” It had claimed that wisdom teeth are “a direct challenge…to intelligent design.”1 How ironic that a 2020 article in the notoriously atheistic Scientific American points to an actually factual cause of the pervasive problem of unwanted wisdom teeth.2 Which view is right: that wisdom teeth came from a design so poor that a good Creator would not have made them, or this new explanation based on research?
ICR noted the “Smart Riposte” article’s argument back when it came out. We wrote in response that “tooth crowding has been reasonably explained within creation literature as the result of modern dietary changes to processed food.” We then cited a creation-believing dentist’s 1998 book that described how modern soft and sugary diets help rot today’s teeth and leave undersized jaws.3
Teeth show such exquisite design that even secularists marvel at their ingenuity. Elia Beniash and colleagues wrote in Nature Communications that tooth structure is “extraordinarily resilient, as it endures hundreds of mastication cycles per day, with hundreds of Newtons of biting force.”4 Healthy teeth offer a lifetime of this service. How do they perform so reliably?
Ungar’s own article expressed marvel at the same design. It shows a tooth structure image with a caption that reads, “Human teeth…are remarkably strong, thanks to the combination of a hard enamel cap and a tough but flexible layer of dentin.” Remarkable, that is, for nature alone to have somehow invented, but just another day at the office for the author of the universe.
Microscopic structures called prisms give enamel its strength. When teeth develop, specialized cells deposit these prisms at various angles to deflect stress that would otherwise crack our teeth after too few chews to survive long enough to reproduce.5
Right in line with the 1998 creation-minded claim that poor diet, not poor design, underlies today’s human teeth problems, Peter Ungar decried the ills of modern food choices for Scientific American. He credited dental researcher Rob Corruccini with discovering that the key change to our diets involved eating soft and processed instead of tough and raw foods. Sugars fuel the bacteria that make teeth-eroding acids. Soft foods fail to stimulate jaw development that would otherwise provide space for wisdom teeth.
Ungar wrote, “Corruccini reasoned that tooth size is preprogrammed to fit a jaw subjected during growth to levels of mechanical stress in line with a natural childhood diet.”2 Did Corruccini notice preprogramming because tooth and jaw development happens through actual programming? If so, who was the Programmer? Ungar deflected all of God’s credit to His creation when he raised the banner of evolution over the ways that dietary changes challenge modern mouths.
He wrote, “An evolutionary perspective reveals our dental disorders as a consequence of an ecological shift.”2 Really? What role did evolution play in this process if indeed it was actually just an ecological shift? Since the ecological shift explains it all, there remains no role left for evolution to have played.
Peoples around the world who once ate tough stuff had healthy teeth and jaws for millennia. Now that we all eat processed food, our jaws grow too small for wisdom teeth to fit, and we get cavities that most of our ancestors never had to deal with. Where’s the evolution here? It’s just diet.
Someone could label the effects of a bad diet on good tooth design as “evolution” or even label the effects of bad gas in a good engine design “magic,” but that doesn’t make either assertion reasonable.
From a Bible-respecting perspective, God created wisdom teeth and the jaws that hold them to develop properly through a range of stresses. We, not He, lessened those stresses. The wise should recognize that God deserves none of the blame from our poor treatment on His marvelously designed wisdom teeth.
1. Klein, J. M. Smart Riposte to Intelligent Design. The Wall Street Journal. Posted on wsj.com August 27, 2008. No longer available.
2. Ungar, P. S. 2020. The Trouble with Teeth. Scientific American. 322 (4): 44-49.
3. Thomas, B. Surviving Exhibit: Science or Indoctrination? Creation Science Update. Posted on ICR.org September 4, 2008, accessed April 15, 2020.
4. Beniash, E. et al. 2019. The hidden structure of human enamel. Nature Communications. 10: 4383.
5. Bergman, J. 2020. The ‘poor tooth design’ claim refuted. Journal of Creation. 34(1): 5-7.
*Dr. Brian Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.
Do Our Wisdom Teeth Show Poor Design?