October 24, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Biomimetics: Does It Flatter Darwin?

The imitation of natural design (biomimetics) is a cutting-edge approach to engineering these days.  Many times, the reports on attempts to mimic the amazing properties of cells, plants, and animals have no time to discuss evolution (e.g., 09/24/2010).  Once in awhile, though, scientists or reporters go out of their way to tell their readers that the exquisite designs they want to imitate are the work of billions of years of evolutionary trial and error.  A press release from MIT News is a recent example – and an occasion to investigate the explanatory power of Darwin vs intelligent design.  It begins:

Nature has one very big advantage over any human research team: plenty of time.  Billions of years, in fact.  And over all that time, it has produced some truly amazing materials – using weak building blocks that human engineers have not yet figured out how to use for high-tech applications, and with many properties that humans have yet to find ways to duplicate.

Presumably the human engineers use intelligent design (ID), but want to mimic the products of an undirected natural process (evolution) acting slowly over billions of years.  That’s the thesis.  The advantage humans have is choice: they can choose their building blocks to make their materials.  That’s ID – purpose, goal, choice.
    Most of the article concerns how organisms, such as diatoms, achieve their feats.  First, they use simple local materials: “Nature … often has to make do with whatever is readily available locally, and whatever structures have been created through the lengthy trial-and-error of evolution.”  Second, they take these local, simple materials and employ them in complex ways:

It all comes down to assembling complex structures from small, simple building blocks, Buehler explains.  He likes to use a musical analogy: A symphony comprises many different instruments, each of which on its own could never produce something as grand and complex as the combined rich, full musical experience.  In a similar way, he hopes to construct complex materials with previously unavailable properties by using simple building blocks assembled in ways that borrow from those used by nature.

The MIT team wants to follow nature’s lead: pick simple materials and creatively combine them.  A brick is a simple structure that doesn’t vary with scale.  A protein complex, however, depends heavily on how its simple parts are assembled.  Life builds hierarchical structures – patterns built on patterns at different scales.  “This paradigm, the formation of distinct structure at multiple length scales, enables biological materials to overcome the intrinsic weaknesses of the building blocks,” Buehler said.
    Evolution was left by the wayside, as the remainder of the press release focused on biomimetics.  “Buehler suggests that just as biology has done, humans could engineer materials with desired properties such as strength or flexibility by using abundant and cheap materials such as silica, which in bulk form is brittle and weak.”  The question left begging is how a living thing, like the diatom accompanying the article, could build hierarchical structures with “desired properties” by an impersonal, undirected process like natural selection.  Is evolution really an engineer?  If its method is trial-and-error, who or what decides when success has been achieved?

The answer to that last question, you evolutionists are itching to say, is “survival – adaptation.”  Caught you.  Re-read the first part of the 10/19/2010 entry.  Now, realize also, that you must purge your mind of all teleology, all purpose-driven-life concepts, all personification fallacies, to be a consistent evolutionist.  “Evolution” is not a person, nor is “Nature.”  Natural selection, furthermore, is a chance process: both the mutation part and the selection part.  Why?  Because mutations or “variations” (Darwin’s term) are clearly random, and the environment is random.  Earthquakes and landslides and meteors just happen; they have no goal to push life toward survival.  What do you get when you add chance to chance?  Chance!  Stuff happens!  If all you can say is Stuff Happens, even if you call it a law (SHL; see 12/07/2009, 09/22/2009 and 09/30/2008), it is equivalent to saying, “I haven’t the foggiest idea.”  You may now exit the Science Lab and return to your cult.
    The rest of us sensible people are wondering how evolutionists get away with this shallow tripe year after year after year.  It is illogical, absurd, nonsensical, empty, and devious.  It is dumbness taught to the dumb, and if the dumb lead the dumb, both will fall into the dumpster.

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