Can Evolutionists Steal Biomimetics?
For a science about designs in nature, some evolutionists seem eager to take credit for biomimetics.
“Evolution Inspires More Efficient Solar Cell Design,” blares an oxymoronic headline on Science News – contradictory, because inspiration is a spiritual term, and because efficiency and design are engineering terms not in the Darwin Dictionary. What could the article possibly mean?
Using a mathematical search algorithm based on natural evolution, the researchers pinpointed a specific geometrical pattern that is optimal for capturing and holding light in thin-cell organic solar cells….
The researchers employed a genetic algorithm, a search process that mimics the process of natural evolution, explained Wei Chen, Wilson-Cook Professor in Engineering Design and professor of mechanical engineering at McCormick and co-investigator of the research.
“Due to the highly nonlinear and irregular behavior of the system, you must use an intelligent approach to find the optimal solution,” Chen said. “Our approach is based on the biologically evolutionary process of survival of the fittest.”
Only the most convoluted logic could link an “intelligent approach” of “engineering design” to “survival of the fittest” in the “biologically evolutionary” sense. Clearly this was an experiment in artificial selection: having a design goal, using an algorithm, and pinpointing a desired result.
In another example, Live Science began a story that could have been founded on intelligent design theory: “Uncovering the Function of Fish Shapes.” Katherine Gammon’s article states, for instance, that eels are “designed for hiding away and sticking in holes.” She reported how Kara Feilich of Harvard “decided to investigate the theory that the form of a fish’s body yield [sic] information on its functioning.” Information – function – those fit well with ID theory.
But then evolutionary theory took over. Feilich’s mentor Paul Webb described a fish’s shape in terms of “evolutionary strategy” (another oxymoron). Webb explained that “when it comes to evolution, an animal doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to do a little better than its competition.” Next in the article, a museum curator who “studies fish evolution” made a cameo appearance. Then came a very strange section mixing intelligent design, engineering, biomimetics and evolution:
Feilich said that even though she’s more interested in the evolutionary ecology of fish, uncovering the secrets of fish motion can help engineers build better biomimetic robots underwater– and also in the sky.
“What applies to one fluid can apply to another,” Feilich said. “Having different sciences draw from each other to answer evolutionary questions is really important. We couldn’t do this without engineers.“
So while Gammon’s article was primarily about biomimetics and engineering design, evolution made a prominent appearance of doubtful substance, leaving those “evolutionary questions” vague and undefined. Most biomimetics news articles, like this one on spider silk from PhysOrg, don’t even mention evolution.
It is said that a Senator is someone who finds which way the crowd is going, then runs up front and proclaims himself their leader. That’s what Charlie D. is doing here, except a better label might be Sin-ator in In-Sin-uator. He’s terrified that biomimetics is leaving his legacy in the trash heap of history, so he is trying to re-invent himself as the head honcho of engineering. If anyone can figure out what on earth a blind, unguided, purposeless process, whose only outcome is to one-up the competition, has anything to do with designs so efficient our best engineers desire to imitate them, please explain – provided you can list all the chance mutations from sterile laguna to Charlie Tuna. Otherwise, stop the smokescreen gimmicks like “evolutionary algorithm” and “evolutionary inspiration” that presume Evolution is some kind of intelligent goddess haunting the Engineering department. Charlie doesn’t believe in spirits, he doesn’t have the tools, and he can’t order free lunches.