Darwin’s Airplane Made Itself
Article on insect flight ignores requirements
and grants superpowers to evolution
800 times a second: that’s fast! That’s how rapidly a fly’s wings beat. It’s faster than nerves and muscles can directly control. How did that originate? Darwinists’ answer: It “evolved.”
How Insects Evolved to Ultrafast Flight (And Back) (Georgia Institute of Technology, 4 Oct 2023). A stunning image of a moth, looking something like a modern fighter jet aircraft, begins this press release. Below the headline and photo, the e-words “evolved” and “evolution” appear 25 more times. In this treatment of heavier-than-air powered flight, the Darwinian biologists insist that flyers made themselves. No question about it. Examples:
- Evolution has repeatedly turned on and off this particular mode of flight.
- The moth became the key species to unlock this evolution of flight.
- …smaller insects have evolved to use the nervous system to send a pulse of activity to the muscles…
- Modeling Evolution of Flight
New PhD grad Jeff Gau puts on his Darwin-tinted glasses and announces, “We’re looking back 400 million years into how ancient insect muscles must have behaved from an evolutionary standpoint.”
If you look from an evolutionary standpoint, will you see intelligent design? Will you question your standpoint? No; Gau is in the DIDO thinking mode: Darwin in, Darwin out. Evolution evolved powered flight over evolutionary time. When insects needed to modify their aircraft, they evolved it. Their airplanes built themselves. Thanks to evolution, the insects had the foresight to understand the aerodynamic requirements.
First, some terms. Insects have two flight modes: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous mode is slower; in this mode, nerve impulses activate wing muscle contractions one at a time, so the muscles are in sync with the nerves. Asynchronous mode is faster: a nerve impulse sets up an oscillation in a wing that triggers continuous flapping without the need for separate nerve impulses. This is how tiny insects like mosquitoes can flap their wings more than 800 times per second, faster than the nerves can control.
“As insects became smaller, their wingbeats increased to 100 times per second, and when you start getting up to that speed, there’s sort of an inherent speed limit where the muscle can’t contract and relax fast enough,” said Simon Sponberg, Dunn Family Early Career Associate Professor of Physics and Biological Sciences at Georgia Tech. “If they tried to contract and relax the wings, they’d start overlapping and then eventually lock up.”
Instead, smaller insects have evolved to use the nervous system to send a pulse of activity to the muscles, which are then primed to contract whether or not the wing needs to flap. With just a tiny stretch, the muscles activate and automatically generate the wingbeats. Asynchronous flight enables the wings to flap significantly faster than if the nervous system had to activate and relax the muscles each time.
As explained here at CEH (6 Sept 2021), the phrase “evolved to” makes no sense in Darwinism. It assumes that an animal knows what it needs and actively calls on natural selection to reach its goal. All forms of Darwinism forbid such foresight. No mosquito ever reasoned, “If I could evolve asynchronous wing beating, I could fly faster and with better aerodynamic control.” Instead, organisms are to be thought of as passive recipients of the blind effects of random mutations and natural selection. Stuff Happens. In this very press release, reporter Tess Malone three times refers to stuff happening, e.g., “insects happened to evolve this trait….” What kind of scientific explanation is that? What happened to the requirement for necessary and sufficient causes for observed effects?
A key theme emphasized by Gau and colleagues at GA Tech is that (according to their phylogenetic investigations) asynchronous flying in all the orders of flying insects first appeared in a common ancestor. Contrary to previous Darwinian conclusions, they claim that “asynchronous” wing beating did not evolve separately four times, but evolved once and was turned on and off separately in different groups later.
While this asynchrony has been known since the 1950s, scientists originally posited that insects happened to evolve this trait separately. However, new phylogenies, or family trees, of how different species evolved from each other came out recently. Using these phylogenies, the researchers developed models to determine how asynchronous flight evolved.
What they discovered was very surprising. Asynchrony didn’t evolve separately four times but only evolved once for all flying insects. Some insect groups naturally lost that ability over time and switched to synchronous flight, while others kept it.
“One of the biggest evolutionary findings here is that these transitions are occurring in both directions and that instead of using multiple independent origins of asynchronous muscle, there’s actually only one,” said Brett Aiello, an assistant professor of biology at Seton Hill University and former postdoctoral researcher in Sponberg’s lab who helped lead the study. “From that one independent origin, multiple revisions back to synchrony have occurred.”
It’s presented as a victory for Darwinism: one evolutionary innovation is intuitively easier for natural selection to pull off than four. This theme, however, says nothing about the origin of powered flight in insects. It assumes that it evolved. The evolutionary standpoint narrows the focus to only evolutionary thoughts. To these Darwinians, evolved insects used evolution to evolve powered flight in evolutionary time.
Another irrelevant focus in the article is that engineers can learn from the evolution of flight in insects to improve the aerodynamics of their flying robots. This mixes intelligent design with mindless evolution.
“You don’t need robotics to learn something about biology,” said Nick Gravish, an associate professor at UC San Diego. “But there’s something about building a bio-inspired robot that forces you to put yourself in the animal’s shoes.”
Built into that statement is the Darwinian belief that the flying insect engineered itself. How? By evolution.
Effectively, they built the first robot capable of asynchronous flapping and showed that a single robot could recreate the transitions from evolution.
Did the GA Tech team members use their minds and intelligence to recreate a robot capable of asynchronous flapping? If they had run their experiment Darwin’s way, they would have had to wait for random mutations to impinge on a non-flying robot, enabling it to lift itself off the lab table and fly around the room with wings beating over 800 times per second. Perhaps they lacked sufficient “evolutionary time” for that.
Incidentally, the press release never answered what was promised in the headline: “How insects evolved ultrafast flight”.
Bridging two insect flight modes in evolution, physiology and robophysics (Gao et al., Nature, 4 Oct 2023). This is the formal paper, with the press release timed by the convention of embargo to appear on the same day so that it provides immediate interpretive propaganda for laypersons unlikely to understand Jargonwocky. Like the press release, the paper is saturated with Darwinist thinking, using e-words 37 times (not counting references), and 15 times referring to “origin” of asynchronous wing beating by evolution, according to their phylogeny, which assumes evolution. Interestingly, the paper hedges its bets on that theme by raising the perhapsimaybecouldness index with some Bayesian jargon about how evolution “probably” helped the insects build their airplanes:
- We find that there has most probably been only one evolution of flight muscle asynchrony at the order level.
- asynchrony probably evolved only once at the order level
- a single evolutionary origin of asynchronous fibre types is more probable using an insect-wide phylogeny resolved to the ordinal level
Notably, the paper and press release do not mention mutation or natural selection. Evolution has evolved past those primitive concepts.
This is why we must intervene in the middle and high schools to disrupt the inbreeding of Darwinian indoctrination at the universities. Jeff Gau is undoubtedly proud of his PhD D-Merit Badge that grants him access to the cocktail lounges and croissant lunches at academic conferences. It’s so comfortable to sit in the company of fellow believers in the Stuff Happens Law without ever being disturbed by murmurings from the unbadged beyond the sound-proof barrier.
Only those outside the inbred community have the sense to see how silly this is. But they lack the political clout to be heard within the Darwin echo chambers. Gau and his friends sip their Darwine and feel proud of themselves for repeating the Darwin Party line, getting high on Groupthink, never facing the severe criticisms due to those who believe that airplanes build themselves, never realizing that saying “evolution evolved powered flight in evolutionary time” constitutes a ludicrous case of circular reasoning.
But until intervention at the schools becomes possible, Gau will probably evolve into an evolutionary biology professor teaching young impressionable students that the Stuff Happens Law is scientific, but creation is religious. The comparison of this situation with the madrassas that perpetuate antisemitism among the young is not beyond consideration. Unchallenged lies perpetuate lies in a vicious cycle.