The Applied Science of Intelligent Design-Part IV

We humans like to think we’re pretty good at design and technology – but we often forget that Mother Nature had a head start of 3.6 million years. Now, the way that geckoes climb walls, or hummingbirds hover, is at the centre of a burgeoning industry: biomimicry, the science of “reverse-engineering” clever ideas from the natural world. 1

The above quote is from an article entitled, Biomimicry: why the world is full of intelligent design. Although this is a popular press item, there is the typical anthropomorphism applied to nature (i.e., mother nature). The 3.6 million years suggestion is a bit odd as well. Regardless, the article is interesting when considered from an ID perspective.

If a system is more advanced than anything we have developed, and requires reverse engineering principles in order to determine how it works, then it is likely the product of an intelligent designer. Whether or not you agree with that statement, one can see where a focus on replicating aspects of biological designs for improving our lives can be of great technological benefit. I’d like to see a lot more research money going to this type of work than to those who wish to construct fairy tales about natural history.

Several interesting applications are outlined in the article.

(1). Biomimicry: why the world is full of intelligent design


4 Responses

  1. The real question, to my mind, is whether the ID vs. NTME debate is even relevant to biomimicry. To know that, we’d have to figure out what specific observations are more probable if ID is true, or if NTME is true.

    I don’t think that the mere possibility of biomimicry is enough — that is, I don’t think we can argue that biomimicry is just by itself a point in favor of ID, unless there were some a priori argument to the effect that NTME is astonishingly unlikely to explain the sorts of biomimicry that we can produce.

    But even so, a priori arguments, such as those drawn from probability theory, are at best peripheral to empirical science.

    NTME, by contrast, begins by rejecting the analogy between organisms and machines which is, I think, quite central to design theory. Every time the analogy comes up, it seems to me to be some version of “organisms are exactly like machines, except for all the ways that they aren’t.” That analogy is as fallacious today as it was when Hume attacked it in 1776.

    What’s necessary — though by large it has not been forthcoming — is an ontology of life, which makes clear what it is for something be a life-form, a living thing, what makes life distinct from non-life. I think that doing so would make a massive contribution to this entire debate.

    Dembski seems to take as his main target Jacque Monod’s Chance and Necessity, and set up ‘design’ as the third category: chance, necessity, and design. But ‘design’ is only necessary if one has first capitulated to Monod that a world without design is a world of chance and necessity, and I don’t think this is the right way to go — not at all.

    The alternative, I think, is to go back to the neo-Aristotelianism of John Dewey (Experience and Nature) and Hans Jonas (The Phenomenon of Life), and to work up an ontology of life which respects the distinction between life and non-life, and which pays close attention to the ontological structure of organisms. Recently this approach has been picked up again by Evan Thompson in his Mind in Life, where he argues that all living things have mental properties of some type and degree. It’s a strange view, to be sure, but I find it quite appealing!

  2. “clever ideas from the natural world”

    It never ends.

  3. It never ends.

    Oh yes it does! 😉

  4. If we know DaVinci painted the ‘Mona Lisa’ by blindly hurling globs of paint at the canvas, then what fool would try to reverse-engineer/reproduce it by painstakingly painting one detailed brush stroke at a time? If you really want to reverse-engineer it, then get out your paints and blindfold and start chucking!

    Conversely, if we know DaVinci painted the ‘Mona Lisa’ painstakingly one detailed brush stroke at a time, then what fool would try to reverse-engineer/reproduce it by blindly hurling globs of paint at the canvas? If you really want to reverse-engineer it, then be prepared to spend a lifetime studying and practicing your art!

    So evolutionary scientists “know” the Mona Lisa (nature) was created blindly by the globs of paint** (cosmic/biological evolution), yet they try to see if they can “reverse-engineer” it using detailed brush strokes. To me, that makes them look like idiots. Even moreso if they actually succeed in recreating the Mona Lisa! Because then they will say: “See, the Mona Lisa really WAS created by blind processes! – we just DUPLICATED it!”. When in fact, of course, they will have only shown that their Mona Lisa was created by idiots who just proved the opposite.

    (** hurling itselves at the canvas, no-less. Wow, what clever paint!)

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