Why We Aren’t All Smelling Our Butts Right Now

Question from Blink:
Hi guys. A theist asked me this question.

“Why are our eyes (not the anus) placed near our nose? Can you imagine how disturbing it would be if it were placed below our nose in place of our mouth!”

This is one of the many reasons why he believes in God.

I don’t know how to respond to this question, my instinct tells me maybe it has something to do with evolution. What is the appropriate respond to his question? Thanks.

Answer by SmartLX:
The anus is placed away from the mouth and nose because if any of our ancestors had developed the two close together, the species would have quickly been wiped out by anal-oral and anal-respiratory infections. On the other hand, the anus is placed near the genitalia and there’s a constant risk of infection between the two because that kind of infection isn’t usually enough to cause a major obstacle to survival, and there hasn’t been any major selection pressure to change it.

To make the same point more generally, if something being the case confers some kind of survival advantage, or if the alternative would make survival difficult, evolution is likely to encourage it to happen, because life will be easier at every stage for those who are closer to the ideal. Bad “ideas” are weeded out when the life forms that manifest them die.

But forget about evolution for a minute. Your theist asks why a particular thing is the case, and implies that if you don’t know, God must have done it. How utterly arrogant to think that just because the two of you may not be aware of any other explanations, reality must align perfectly with what HE thinks. This is a classic argument from ignorance, and the more people know what that is, the better for logic and reason in the world.

5 thoughts on “Why We Aren’t All Smelling Our Butts Right Now”

  1. Blink – His “logic” is flawed. Because the placement of his eyes, nose, and anus make sense to him, he thinks that is proof that a divine creature exists. But their placement can also be explained rather easily, and rationally, by evolution too. Most terrestrials have eyes at the top of the body, which gives you the highest line of sight possible and the best field of vision. The nose is near the mouth because we use both when assessing the quality of food (think of the old trick of holding your nose while eating potato and you can’t taste it).

    The only thing that the placement of your eyes, nose, and anus proves is that they are indeed located in those spots. It doesn’t prove why they are where they are.

    You could also turn it around and ask him why all animals don’t have eyes, or noses, or even anuses. If the placement of those things is so perfect, why don’t all creatures have and use them? So there must not be a god (This is also an argument from ignorance though, which I normally try to avoid, but sometimes it’s fun to use their own methods against them and see how they handle it)…

  2. Visual, olfactory, auditory and taste organs are close together simply because they’re sensory organs that need direct connections to brain regions that process the incoming information. The evolutionary advantages of this are obvious; we can see a potential food (or poisonous substance), smell it, and then taste it all within a very small region of the body. Or easily hear, smell and see a possible predator. We don’t have to do yoga-like contortions to present a simulus to different bodily areas to get the information we need. Any such organism would be at a distinct disadvantage. Also, the sensory-neural wiring is minimal and so less prone to damage compared with our other sensory organ, skin, that is connected to the brain via the spinal cord. And again, there are obvious reasons why the sense of touch has evolved all over the body (and why sensitivity varies across the body).

    If the anus supplied us with sensory information it too might be located closer to the face. But it isn’t a sensory organ.

  3. In a parallel universe, people’s anuses (I am NOT going to look up the spelling of that word to make sure it’s correct) just might be positioned under their noses. If they were, however, we can pretty much assume that additional differences would exist in our anatomy and physiology. Feces don’t necessarily HAVE to be noxious or smelly. If feces weren’t potentially harmful, there would be no reason for them to smell bad, so having one’s anus under one’s nose wouldn’t necessarily be problematic. (I’ve never owned a rabbit, but I’m told that they sometimes eat their own poop, and their digestive health depends on their doing so.)

    Even as things are currently configured, dogs don’t seem to share the human disgust for anal smells. To a dog, noses and butt holes seem to go together like icecream and apple pie. That, in spite of the fact that a dog’s sense of smell is said to be about 100,000 times more powerful than our own! So, an omnibenevolent Dog God (that’s a palindrome, by the way) might very well have placed the butt hole under the old schnoz.

    There might actually be some practical advantages to the arrangement. For one thing, the nose would be able to ongoingly monitor digestive tract health, as foul odors (signaling ill health, infection, or poor digestion) would be readily detectable. Hygiene might actually be improved, as the close proximity of the nose would encourage meticulous self-cleaning. And, of course, sexual relations would be more pleasant if the nasty apparatus were located away from the vicinity of the sexual organs. Finally, I think it ought to be mentioned that, for some species, the mouth and the butt hole are the very same organ. (Ew!!!)

    As for the position of the nose and the anus being evidence for God– by that logic, wouldn’t the male sexual organ doubling as the male noxious liquid waste disposal organ be evidence AGAINST God? Or the female noxious liquid waste disposal organ being so close to the female sexual organs? How intelligent is THAT design, if you want to encourage your children to be fruitful and multiply? It’s like building a restaurant immediately next to a municipal waste disposal facility. NOT good for business!

  4. I have heard this kind of reasoning from so called christians many times in my life. It is indeed an argument from ignorance. And I have found that most of the time not only are these people ignorant about what evolution is and how it works, but also they are ignorant of what the bible actually says, so they make up thier own ideas of what it says.
    Kinda like Archie Bunker. I have studied both sides of the coin, Intensley, and I can not imagine why any one who is looking for truth or credibility after doing the same as I have done, would choose the bible or the religion it fosters over scientific fact and logic.Perhaps they just have a severe emotional handicap, or need, and can not handle the truth.

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