October 30, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Purpose-Driven Science Ignores Darwin

While some Darwinists feel that the Intelligent Design (ID) movement is a major threat to science, many scientists unconnected to ID are acting as if it provides for them a more fruitful approach to research.  Several recent examples illustrated what might be called a silent “de facto” intelligent design movement.

  1. Purposeful proteins:  PhysOrg reported work at the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Japan with the eye-catching title, “Searching for purpose in proteins.”  It’s not that the team is invoking a deity or searching for ultimate meaning in their work; they just want to understand what some enigmatic proteins do.  Going on a kind of “fishing expedition” with fishing tackle known as bioprobes, they have demonstrated the ability to watch how proteins bind, and deduce their role in biological processes.  The case reported in the article concerns tumor progression in cancer, but the methodology assumes that enigmatic proteins have a purpose and are not just cellular junk.
  2. Imitating insects:  Meanwhile, inventors at Penn State, Harvard and the Naval Research Laboratory have their eyes on water striders and butterflies.  They have developed “an engineered thin film that mimics the natural abilities of water striding insects to walk on the surface of water, and for butterflies to shed water from their wings.”  The natural material has what is known as “superhydrophic properties” and is an “active area of research” because producing artificial materials with those properties would have many applications – “The nanofilm produced by this technique, called oblique angle deposition, provides a microscale smooth surface for the transport of small water droplets without pumps or optical waves and with minimal deformation for self-powered microfluidic devices for medicine and for microassembly.”  Inherent in biomimicry is the belief that the thing being imitated is well designed.
  3. Biophysics on birds:  Researchers in Australia were curious why ostriches are such good runners compared to humans, so they compared their leg physics with a computer analysis.  PhysOrg summarized the resulting paper by saying it’s spring in their step.  Ostriches store so much elastic energy in their tendons, they can run as if on pogo sticks.  The BBC News includes a video showing the difference in gait efficiency.

Only the third team even mentioned evolution.  A leader of the team from the University of Western Australia hoped that “the findings could provide insight for biologists looking at the evolution of bipedalism, both in humans and in dinosaurs,” but clearly the focus of the story was on the biophysics, not the phylogeny. 

Notice how many previous entries with the “Intelligent Design” chain link were not about scientists actively promoting ID, but were about subjects that assumed design and had no use for Darwinism (e.g., 10/27/2010, 10/25/2010).  Most of the Biomimetics articles fall in this category (09/24/2010, 09/12/2010, 09/11/2010).  Join the silent ID revolution.  You don’t have to use the maligned phrase, or declare your allegiance to the Discovery Institute.  Just stay focused on the design in your subject, and gradually say less and less about Charlie D.  After enough good design science, fewer people (except for the diehard blowhards) will even miss him.

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