November 20, 2002 | David F. Coppedge

Flight Design Inspires Research

There are flying machines hovering over our planet that can turn on a dime, making rapid 90-degree turns.  Their instruments process images ten times faster than we can, and possess precision gyros that tell them how fast they are rotating in space – yet their computers are smaller than the head of a pin.  They’re not UFOs; these are quite well identified, if not completely understood.  They are called fruit flies.
    Michael Dickinson at Caltech is using a $4.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to figure out how they do it, reported National Geographic News.  He discussed his work recently on their program Pulse of the Planet.  Why go to the trouble?  “The more things you take apart, the more intuition you gain about the natural world,” the professor of bioengineering said.  It’s not just about learning how flies work.  Who cares, after all, about a teensy fruit fly?  “In figuring out how something as complex as a fly is put together, you gain insight into many complicated processes,”  Dickinson explained.
    Why is natural engineering a good target for research funds?  “I think it is a valid goal,” he said, “to try to figure out how other interesting organisms on the planet work and not focus exclusively on humans.”  A Cornell specialist in flapping flight agrees.  Jane Wang finds the fruit fly difficult but tractable: “Some things are so daunting we don’t know where to start,” she said.  “Here it’s daunting, but we have some idea of how to figure this out.”  And that can reap benefits.  According to the article, “Dickinson says he is primarily interested in flies not only because they are good models for human genetics but also because of what they can say about the mechanics of many biological systems.”
    For a more detailed entry on what Dickinson’s Caltech lab has learned about fruit flies, revisit our 12/08/2003 story, “The fruit fly in the flight simulator.”  Dickinson describes more of the hardware and software systems in mind-boggling detail.

Reverse engineering is scientific research based on intelligent-design (ID) principles.  Whether stated or not, the assumption is obvious: a scientist detects a sophisticated system that functions superbly, and wants to figure it out.  He applies his intelligently-designed resources to tackle an engineering problem.  The subject selected for study has a large number of parts that work together as a system for a function: in this case, flight.  Performing this kind of research is no different than reverse-engineering a robot or a watch upon a heath.  The fact that this robot is biological makes no difference.  Just like ID philosophers keep explaining, the question of who designed it does not need to be a factor in the actual lab work.  It is sufficient to be able to sense design and then do science on that basis.  Evolutionary naturalism contributes nothing.
    It’s interesting that the substance of the National Geographic article says nothing about evolution, but weirdly, John Roach inserted this parenthesis right after Dickinson’s “insight into many complicated processes” quote: “(Read a related National Geographic magazine feature on limb evolution.)”  Related?  How?  Limb evolution – any evolution – has nothing to do with fruit fly flight (say that five times real fast).  This is like telling Nebuchadnezzar to check the “related feature on Chaldean astrology charts” right after Daniel has interpreted the king’s dream.  Daniel did just fine without their help (and in spite of their help), because he knew the one who had designed that particular information-bearing message.

Carrying this comparison further, you recall from the story in Daniel 2 that the charlatans couldn’t fake their answer without additional information.  They knew that if they had to try telling and interpreting the dream by chance, mean ol’ King Neb would discern that they were fakes.  Similarly, Darwinian explanations are non-starters if randomness is the only input.  They can only proceed by sneaking information and design principles in the side door, making it sound like evolution, like some personified entity, orchestrates the stochastic inputs into place.  The evolutionists thus plagiarize design to perform their magic tricks.

So keep your klepto hands off this science project, Darwin Party; it belongs to intelligent design, inc.  Trying to steal credit for any of it is a violation of intellectual property ethics.
    For more on the National Geographic “limb evolution” story, see our 10/22/2006 entry.  Despite its staunchly pro-Darwin title, the article discussed issues that support intelligent design, argued Casey Luskin in a series for Evolution News: #1, #2, #3.

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