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“Nature’s design and engineering is truly inspirational”

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In another article (http://www.physorg.com/news8333.html), one reads: “It’s amazing that butterflies have evolved such sophisticated design features which can so exquisitely manipulate light and colour. Nature’s design and engineering is truly inspirational.”

Butterfly wings work like LEDs

When scientists developed an efficient device for emitting light, they hadn’t realised butterflies have been using the same method for 30 million years.

Fluorescent patches on the wings of African swallowtail butterflies work in a very similar way to high emission light emitting diodes (LEDs).

These high emission LEDs are an efficient variation on the diodes used in electronic equipment and displays. The University of Exeter, UK, research appears in the journal Science.

In 2001, Alexei Erchak and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) demonstrated a method for building a more efficient LED.

Most light emitted from standard LEDs cannot escape, resulting in what scientists call a low extraction efficiency of light.

Ingenious design

The LED developed at MIT used a two-dimensional (2D) photonic crystal – a triangular lattice of holes etched into the LED’s upper cladding layer – to enhance the extraction of light.

And layered structures called Bragg reflectors were used to control the emission direction. These high emission devices potentially offer a huge step up in performance over standard types.

Pete Vukusic and Ian Hooper at Exeter have now shown that swallowtail butterflies evolved an identical method for signalling to each other in the wild.

Swallowtails belonging to the Princeps nireus species live in eastern and central Africa. They have dark wings with bright blue or blue-green patches.

The wing scales on these swallowtails act as 2D photonic crystals, infused with pigment and structured in such a way that they produce intense fluorescence.

Pigment on the butterflies’ wings absorbs ultra-violet light which is then re-emitted, using fluorescence, as brilliant blue-green light.

Performance-enhancing bugs

Most of this light would be lost were it not for the pigment being located in a region of the wing which has evenly spaced micro-holes through it.

This slab of hollow air cylinders in the wing scales is essentially mother nature’s version of a 2D photonic crystal.

Like its counterpart in a high emission LED, it prevents the fluorescent colour from being trapped inside the structure and from being emitted sideways.

The scales also have a type of mirror underneath them to upwardly reflect all the fluorescent light that gets emitted down towards it. Again, this is very similar to the Bragg reflectors in high emission LEDs.

“Unlike the diodes, the butterfly’s system clearly doesn’t have semiconductor in it and it doesn’t produce its own radiative energy,” Dr Vukusic told the BBC News website “That makes it doubly efficient in a way.

“But the way light is extracted from the butterfly’s system is more than an analogy – it’s all but identical in design to the LED.”

Dr Vukusic agreed that studying natural designs such as this could help scientists improve upon manmade devices.

“When you study these things and get a feel for the photonic architecture available, you really start to appreciate the elegance with which nature put some of these things together,” he said.

DaveScot To imply that I was arguing that any irreducibly complex object is a product of supernatural forces is incorrect. I was saying that when ic is applied to an object found in nature and known not to be created by humans or another animal you are EITHER appelaing to a natural event for which there is no evidence or a supernatural force. jmcd
"you believe that a human eye or a bacteria’s flagellum is irreducibly complex then you are arguing for supernatural intervention which is something that is completely unscientific" Sorry, but it just doesn't follow that irreducible complexity is supernatural. Your computer is irreducibly complex. Ostensibly, according to the theory of evolution you espouse, the intelligence that created your computer is natural. You don't get to have your cake and eat it too. If human intelligence evolved naturally then intelligent design is also natural. No wonder you don't want evolution questioned in 9th grade biology classes. Even kids can see the illogic in it. :-) DaveScot
IF something is irreducibly complex then it is an impossibility that that object is a product of ANY kind of evolution. It had to come into existence as a whole at some point. That cannot happen by natural means outside of an alien putting it on Earth. jmcd
So then is ID simply an inference of intelligent design? Does ID reject irreducible complexity? What then Josh does ID say. Irreducible Complexity is an appeal to the supenatural or a natural event we have no evidence for. Specified Complexity does not necessitate the supernatural although I would say Dembski's application of it to evolutionary theory makes several unfair or unrealitic assumptions. should I ignore Behe's work or just some of it? jmcd
If, on the other hand, you believe that a human eye or a bacteria’s flagellum is irreducibly complex then you are arguing for supernatural intervention which is something that is completely unscientific. ----------------- that is not what ID argues. you've mentioned an appeal to the supernatural many times in other threads, and i've noted that this is not what ID says. jboze3131
Science is unconcerned with design. It is completely irrelevant whether or not something was designed. Design is not a scientific issue. Yes, some scientists are atheists and don't believe in design. Many scientists and evolutionary biologists do believe in design. It doesn't affect the search for natural mechanisms one iota. The controversy over ID has nothing to do with whether or not God or some other designer designed life. This is not a question that science can deal with. The controversy is over how ID is percieved to but heads with evolution. IF ID is simply an inference of design in the universe then it does not contradict anything in science. If, on the other hand, you believe that a human eye or a bacteria's flagellum is irreducibly complex then you are arguing for supernatural intervention which is something that is completely unscientific. The fact that it is unscientific has no bearing on whether it is true or not. It simply means that science ceases to be a tool in explaining certain aspects of how our universe works. At any rate appeals to the supernatural do not belong in a science classroom. Now I supposse that a natural agent could have some how inserted humans on this planet with our irreducibly complex eyes in place, or they could have seeded the planet with life long ago. The problem is that there is not a shred of evidence for such an event. So you are either appealing to the supernatural or to an event that we have absolutely no reason, as of yet, to believe in. What ID needs to do to challenge evolution in the classroom is propose an alternative natural mechanism that explains the spread of life on Earth. Until it can do that it may warrant research but not class time. jmcd
Red Reader "When we start with the premise that all the design we find in nature is just apparant (as opposed to real), then we have no reason to set out deliberately seek and explore extraordinary design for what we may learn. We view it all as accidental, cobbled at best and unfinished. We doubt that the haphazard constructs of nature could be any better than our own." Scientists marvel and mimic nature's design all the time. Your statement could not be farther from the truth. jmcd
I don't doubt that naturalism causes a majority of scientists to reject a priori evidence for design and such. But, I think that's part of the problem- science has become too narrow in how it's defined. Some will say that A and B cannot be tested, so it isn't science, while others point out- we cannot test a lot of things. Empirical science and theoretical science are two different things in numerous ways, but too many conflate the two. Even today, we have many scientists who want to see the hand of God. Even Einstein made that comment and why he did science...yet, he was speaking more of a deism type force in nature as God, not a personal God. But still, pretty strong words no matter. I have respect even for young earth creation scientists- you can say that starting out with the Bible makes it a non-science, but you can't deny they do science all the time...they study the world, they interpret the evidence, etc. They are well qualified in most cases, with Ph.D's and lots of experience and work under their belts. I don't think I agree with their position in general (I'm no scientist...I'm merely taking the words of all scientists together and figuring out what makes sense and what doesn't.), but I still think there are many of them out there and they do their work for God and to learn how his own work...and I don't see them throwing their hands up and saying 'I don't get it, the end.' Many of them are doing some big time work in many fields. I would think that a more atheistic approach would be more likely to make people say, 'who cares?' I mean, if you lean towards an atheism approach and think it's all purposeless and meaningless, that it's all an accident- why would you care? I personally wouldn't care why things work the way they do if I didn't find the overall evidence for God to be strong. I would think that, in general, people's search for purpose and meaning would be one of the biggest motivators into studying science...and that purpose and meaning is closely related to God, the divine, and all that stuff. As for science throughout history- I haven't studied the topic, but from what I do know, it doesn't seem that most scientists, when the majority were strict creationists and the like just stopped productive work at any point. I'd say that many of them discovered natural laws that we know are in effect today and probably always have been, and they saw it as an act of God. I don't think a lot of these guys were waiting for an actual hand of God to be found...but rather, laws that God put into motion working their wonders. To a lot of them, I think God was right there in the wonders of the laws and the workings of the laws within nature. In regards to knowing more...I think, in general, we know a very tiny fraction of all there is to know, in any sense- not just in a scientific sense. I doubt anyone will ever get anywhere close to figuring out half of what there is to know and discover, let alone learn MOST of it. I think Edison said something about men always think they know much more about the world than they really do. I think science a lot of times takes on an elitist attitude, an arrogant stance. Science is great annd all, but it need not be put on a pedestal above all other branches of knowledge, I don't think. Even then, there's so little we truly do know, and so much more to know- it's pointless to be arrogant in any sense. I think there are many brilliant men and women out there who will continue to assume design and a divine nature in the universe and use that to go out and discover the mind of God. As for apparent design or real design- I think it's safe to say that many more scientists than are willing to admit, believe the design we see is real and not an illusion of design. Politics stops many of them, and many of them hold so strongly to naturalism that they fear looking like fools. Human designers use nature all the time (I'd say most designs by people are copied from nature), and I think that says a lot...they see the design, and use it for their own designs, but aren't always willing to admit it, and others just don't realize what they're seeing. jboze3131
"throughout most of science, scientists were working on the assumption that divine design was the cause of everything..." Well spoken! I'll have to concede that somewhat. Lets look harder at this: the vision above certainly does apply to many of the early grand old masters of the enlightenment. It even appeals to me romantically. For a long time it certainly worked pretty well for physics and math, maybe not quite so well for evolution and some of the later sciences that intertwine with it. It certainly worked easier in the days when virtually everthing you could look at contained obvious mysteries -- why does the sun rise? how can it emit heat and light for so long? what could possibly explain a rainbow? Early scientists could hope to find the virtual hand of God, almost just around the next corner. Then for quite a while, it turned out to depend on something else quite interesting around that corner, and maybe God was just one more step away. And so the pursuit continued. Originally the investigation stopped, just accepting the hand of God made what you saw and the workings beyond that were bound to be inscrutable. At long last finding out there were a few more levels made the chase very exciting. Eventually however, it became clear that there were layer after layer of causes explaining the layers above them. And these causes, laws of physics or whatever, didn't seem to be the direct hand of God which was always another layer down. Sometimes even the most brilliant of scientists were stymied by their own conviction, such as the famous "God does not play dice". At that point that speaker stopped doing productive work. It became clear the the best policy was just to presume there was no meddling with the rules at intermediate levels, and until you got to the bottom of things, which might never happen, so the best policy was to presume no devine interference. The same holds for ID. I strongly suspect, one by one, all the apparent imposibilities of evolution will yield to further research, however motivated, and only the very deepest levels of physics will be left to wonder about. Here's one more, perhaps somewhat petty point: Many of the great masters of present science have yet to be properly appreciated. Time had spotlighted the masters of a hundred years ago and further back. More science has been done in the past 50 years than in the entire history of mankind before that. The quantity and wealth of detail makes it harder to realize how many people of the caliber of Newton are alive today. Less and less of those researchers of today have been motivated by wanting seeing the "devine" in the next level of depth of understanding, they just want to see what is around the next corner, whatever the reason for it. Boundless curiosity, and not a small bit of plain ego, are what mostly motivates research today -- aside from the salary and tenure... :-) The beginnings of science, the basis, was the springboard from which a more neutral approach became dominant, and even more successful. And the basis of the motivation evolved. jesguessin
one last thing- i should mention the fact that nature has come up with amazing designs and systems that even the most brilliant men and women cant even get close to competing with or getting anywhere close to creating any even remotely as complex- that would speak of real design to most of us. surely, if intelligent humans cant get anywhere close to matching the design of nature, and considering that the stuff we build is almost always built upon what we see in nature (nature as a blueprint of sorts), that would also point to real design as opposed to some illusion of it. jboze3131
also...what amazing things would we look for if design is apparent that we wouldnt look for if it was real? surely the assumption of real design doesnt make a scientist go- 'thats it, im done' as you seem to be implying. it would seem, as history has shown, that science started in the first place to explore the workings of design that was assumed real (by christians- science never took root outside of the christian areas during the same time period.) jboze3131
Anyway, following the assumption of no divine intervention has led to incredible findings about the nature of life. It’s an extremely useful working hypothesis
im thinking that throughout most of science, scientists were working on the assumption that divine design was the cause of everything, which has lead to many more findings than the assumption of no design, divine or not. the basis of most of the science we have today is the work of devoutly religious men and woman whose main goal in science was to discover the creative works of the divine. jboze3131
Red Reader says: "When we start with the premise that all the design we find in nature is just apparant (as opposed to real), then we have no reason to set out deliberately seek and explore extraordinary design for what we may learn" But on the other hand, if we start out with the premise that all the design we see in nature is real (as opposed to apparant), then we have no reason to look for the fascinating and subtle procces that occur within evolution. Red Rider also says: "We doubt that the haphazard constructs of nature could be any better than our own." But I say the even the most diehard evolutionist admits that nature had done uncountable things that mankind in all it's technology hasn't come close to doing yet. So much for the dangers of prejudice. Anyway, following the assumption of no divine intervention has led to incredible findings about the nature of life. It's an extremely useful working hypothesis, so successful that, even if there is an intelligent intervenor at some level, that agent certainly wanted us to puzzle out the natural, random, and ordinary evolutionary steps first. He certainly left plenty of clues that many parts of evolution occured by the Darwinian process. If we have to stop to think and worry that every new fascinating mystery in the evolutionaly puzzle might be a red herring, then ordinary science becomes mighty disheartening. I could hardly enjoy playing detective in a game when at any step, deus en machina, someone tampers with the evidence and makes me think that a particular part of the puzzle must be cooked, and there's no point following the trail. At least he could be considerate enough to put up a sign here and there: "Dead End", waste your time somewhere else. jesguessin
My question is what will it do for the concept of intellecutal property when we realize that most things have been previously designed and all we're really doing is reverse engineering? Jon Jackson
At the very least, this article illustrates the viability of Intelligent Design as a viable working theory within which design in nature may be explored in research. We don't have to gawk, so to speak, over the design we "accidentally" find. We can approach nature with the premise in place that we will find--when we look--design. We can look for intelligence in systems that are in place in nature. If designed, then obviously by a greater intelligence than our own. We can test, explore and attempt to mimic sublime and useful mechanics we find. We can explore the engineering in nature without having to ask who or what the Designer may be. When we start with the premise that all the design we find in nature is just apparant (as opposed to real), then we have no reason to set out deliberately seek and explore extraordinary design for what we may learn. We view it all as accidental, cobbled at best and unfinished. We doubt that the haphazard constructs of nature could be any better than our own. Red Reader
“Amazing” and “inspirational” seem less than adequate terms to describe it. I agree Dave. Perhaps better terms would have been "purposeless" and "unquided" ;-) ajl
...transport shuttles, error protection software, etc... etc... yep, "nature" sure is clever and purposeful. Bombadill
Nature appears to have anticipated a lot, if not all, of what human engineers have contrived. DNA and ribosomes - essentially a computer controlled assembler capable of making all the components required to build copies of itself with nanometer precision and the cell a self-stocking walled-off warehouse of raw materials and source of energy. "Amazing" and "inspirational" seem less than adequate terms to describe it. DaveScot
"...with which nature put some of these things together" ... Bombadill

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