September 21, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Termites: If You Can’t Lick ’Em, Mimic ’Em

Termites, despite their bad rap, have something to teach human homebuilders.  Their mounds are self-sufficient, air-conditioned, environmentally friendly and cheap to run, according to a story in EurekAlert.  “The mounds incorporate a complicated network of tunnels and air conduits designed to channel air flow for the control of internal air quality, temperature and moisture levels.”
    A multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers in the UK is studying termite “smart” mounds in 3D for ideas on how human habitats could “meet all energy, waste management and other needs on site.” 

Maybe the termites in your walls are trying to tell you something: “This is no way to build a house!  Watch us.”  We humans tend to build rectangular things.  The free-form design of termite mounds strikes us as sloppy or makeshift, when really there is a deeper design that provides more efficiency, if we would only shake off our miter-box chauvinism.
    Some “cave men” have lived in structures that look remarkably like termite mounds and possess some of the same benefits.  In Cappadocia in the land of Turkey, people have lived in natural cone-shaped caves for thousands of years (click here for pictures and history).  The dwellings are “naturally air-conditioned; cool in hot summers and warm and easy to heat in harsh winters,” according to the Hidden Turkey travel site.  (For wonderful photos of these dwellings, order the Turkey CD-Rom from Bible Places.)  If the trend in biomimetics (engineering that imitates nature) continues, wouldn’t it be an interesting skyline to see New York as a cluster of buildings resembling termite mounds.
    This otherwise interesting story is marred by Darwinite hot air that adds nothing but halitosis:

  • “Mounds built by highly-evolved African termites could inspire new types of building that are self-sufficient, environmentally friendly and cheap to run.”
  • “Furthermore, the termites have evolved in such a way that they out source some biological functions, for example, digestive functions to a fungus that they farm inside the mound.”
  • “In fact, in physiological terms, the termites have evolved to outsource many of their homeostatic functions, such as thermo-regulation, respiration, moisture regulation, and even digestion, into the mound structure itself.”

As usual, the Darwinites fail to tell us how these termites came up with their efficient and intelligent designs by chance, but just assume they did so, somehow out there on the hot plains of Africa.  Apparently necessity is the mother of emergence (see 02/25/2003 commentary).

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