Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Birds, Insects, and Bats Fly by Design, not by Accident!

Evolutionary philosophy tells us that "we can now safely say (!) that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that — an illusion.” But as any engineer or inventor can tell you, the mind staggers at the amount of planning which would be needed to accomplish this outrageous, systematic “appearance of design.”  The amazing and completely different ways that birds, insects, and bats are able to fly is a case in point, the workmanship of a majestic Creator!

(Selections from Gary Howell, "Naturalistic Evolution: a Dangerous Humanistic Philosophy" published in Creation Matters, a publication of Creation Research Society, Volume 17, Number 4, July/August 2012, to appear at http://www.creationresearch.org/creation_matters/pdf/2012/CM17%2004%20for%20web.pdf)

The grand difficulty revealed with the study of nature is that ineffable, pesky, enigmatic, and inviolable appearance of design; it just won't go away! Worse yet, the more layers that are peeled away, the more design is confirmed.

Speaking as an engineer with 17 domestic and international patents, I maintain that the proposition of complex systematic designs emerging devoid of preparation, concepts, planning, technological building blocks, and thinking is scientifically untenable and insulting. No matter how complex the design interaction, with design interdependency built upon design interdependency, evolutionary philosophy simply insists these only “appear designed.”1

Leonardo da Vinci’s plans for an ornithopter,
a flying machine kept aloft by
the beating of its wings; about 1490.
Another assertion of naturalistic evolution is that multiple solutions to the same problem evolved independently. Take flying for example. Leonardo da Vinci dreamt of it and advanced unsuccessful designs, including the ornithopter.2 It was not until we began to get the drift of differential pressure as a result of airfoil (Bernoulli's principle) did anything near a successful flying machine emerge. But the animal kingdom "solved" this system-intensive problem three different ways: birds, insects, and mammals.

Bird Flight

Birds fly by means of multiple technologies, but principally via a feature called feathers. Feathers are manufactured in hair-follicle variants consisting largely of finger-naillike material, β­-keratin.3
There are numerous feather variants that can be described within six general categories: tail, flight, semiplume, filoplume, bristle, and downy.4  Of these, downy or down is the simplest, having no barbs and barbules, or “hooks” latching adjacent filaments.  Being the “simplest feather” nonetheless, no manmade material to date approaches down’s thermal, weight, and rebound characteristics.

“Light as a feather” is more than a cliché as an engineering design team ponders equaling the feather’s specifications: strength-to-weight ratio, modulus of elasticity, ductility, hollow-tapered-cantilevered central-support beam — and let us not underestimate the incidental design detail — it must grow in place!

Bird wing is a true airfoil
Feathers must be sized and placed quite accurately, and hooked together, creating a contiguous outer surface. Bird-wing architecture is a true airfoil. Its arched geometry causes air passing over the top to travel at a greater velocity than air passing below the wing. This causes negative pressure above the wing which lifts the bird.  It’s fascinating for birds (that are, we’re told, dinosaur derivatives) to have solved this systematic, technological difficulty without intent or intelligence!

It is exactly the means of lift utilized by 747’s and F-15’s. But bird wings are much more complex than modern aircraft wings, because they are variable airfoils! With anticipatory, neural-feedback networks, bird wings adjust to situational events involving propulsion, ascent/descent, air speed, cross winds, air density, proximity, and the like. Modern aeronautical engineers can only dream of variable airfoils, as da Vinci dreamed of flying.

Insect flight

Naturalistic evolutionary philosophy alleges that insects evolved from different origins than did birds, but insects nevertheless "solved" the difficulties of flight with quite unusual features. Not with feathers but with chitin, a naturally-occurring, structural polymer called a polysaccharide.

Insect flight employs some elements of airfoil design, but insect propulsion and lift are largely credited to vortices which are created at the leading edge of the insect wing, and to the flapping motion that causes the vortices to spiral out to the wing tip.5 It is certain that man-made flight abhors vortices (turbulent air flow versus laminar air flow), but insect flight deliberately induces powerful vortices, and uses them effectively for lift, propulsion, and maneuverability!

Schematic reconstruction of wake pattern during wake–wing interaction in fruit fly and dragonfly model wings

Bird lift and propulsion are limited to the downward stroke, but insects are capable of rotating their wings fully backward so that the wing’s upper surface creates lift in the upward stroke also — i.e., every stroke provides lift and propulsion. They can fly upside down, as in landing on a ceiling, or backwards and sideways. The mind staggers at the number of prototypical iterations which would be needed to accomplish this outrageous, systematic “appearance of design.”  Entomologists and aeronautical engineers are just beginning to understand and appreciate the extreme airborne capability of these diminutive creatures.

Mammalian flight

Bat wing anatomy
Bats are mammals — live birth, warm bodies, milk-fed young — and quite different from bugs and birds, but they are creatures that once again solved the flying enigma by altogether different design stratagem and materials selection. Bats, after all, “simply” stretch a skin membrane over a bony structure and take to the air. But it’s hardly that simple, as the skin/bony structure must make up the aforementioned airfoil, with the neuro-muscular systems in place to vary wing geometry and, thus, to sustain intrepid, long-distance flight and crazy acrobatics.

Oh, and dare we mention the incidental, fully integrated, co-developmental echo-location feature! No big deal, according to our best collegial biology professors, but these cavalier academics never designed and developed anything themselves! It is scientifically antithetical and a hopelessly vacuous proposition (let alone a factual imperative) to suggest the mechanisms purported by naturalistic philosophy could produce any of these flying machines, and especially to do so by three distinctly differing methodologies.

Final thoughts

The evolutionary empire has grown so vast and powerful that no other viewpoint is tolerated at any venue. This is especially true in agencies associated with government. No competing view is permitted at schools or work places with government tentacles. Those who dare are ridiculed at best, but most often spurned, dismissed, and persecuted. No written, oral, private, or public dissention is tolerated.

Scriptural premise, especially Christianity, as a competing religion to that of naturalistic evolution, will not be tolerated.

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References (selected)

1.  Dawkins, R. 2006. The God Delusion. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.  [See p.. 139, “We live on a planet where we are surrounded by perhaps ten million species, each one of which independently displays a powerful illusion of apparent design.”; and p. 158, “Darwin and his successors have shown how living creatures, with their spectacular statistical improbability and appearance of design, have evolved by slow, gradual degrees from simple beginnings. We can now safely say that the illusion of design in living creatures is just that — an illusion.”

2. Fuller, J. 2012. Top 10 bungled attempts at one-person flight: 9. Leonardo da Vinci's Complex Ornithopter (c. 1505). HowStuffWorks. Retrieved August 11, 2012, from http://science.howstuffworks.com/transport/flight/classic/ten-bungled-flight-attempt2.htm.

3. Anonymous. 2012. Feather. Wikipedia.  Retrieved August 11, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feather.

4. Kazilek, C.J. 2012. Feather biology. Ask A Biologist, Arizona State University.  Retrieved August 11, 2012, from http://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/feather-biology.

5. Anonymous, 2004. Animal Flight Group: Aerodynamics. Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge.  Retrieved August 11, 2012, from www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/zoostaff/ellington/aerodynamics.html.

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