Terrestrial Alien technology
Digging in the deep jungle tangle, you are in search for lost ancient civilizations. Finding primitive technology is your expected end because of the surrounding primitive cultures.
Your slow sleepy digging suddenly is awakened by the earth’s yawning mouth, you are plunged down into the bowels of the earth. A hidden cavern awaits your arrival. Heart pounding, you crawl over the mess, and then you stumble into a maze of artifacts.
Peeking through the dusty flashlight cut air, you see it, back-dropped by inky blackness. Amazing! Looking around in awe, you can hardly contain yourself. Artifacts from a superior civilization from eons past. Technologically advanced artifacts surround you. Crawling over and around objects, you spot breathtaking tools and machines with similarities, similarities with our advanced modern technology. While differences abound, tools with shapes that look like ours give you enough evidence that they have similar function as our technology.
While this is a fictitious story, I believe it sheds light on something intriguing in the world of science, specifically modern biology. We are told that the biological world evolved from simpler and simpler organisms all the way back to a “protocell” in antiquity. But I don’t think this is true, in fact I believe that the biological world exposes an amazing designer. When one looks at the designs in nature and compares them to our deigns, we see similarity. We are finding advanced and exquisite “machines” and “technology” in the biological world. These machines are amazing, usually microscopic in size and put our technology to shame.
One of budding fields of science is something called bioinspiration (see here), this is where we copy these masterful designs for our engineering and designs. While this naturally exposes an interesting question on why we would copy designs designed from random process (if they were random designs), there is another strange twist with these “machines” and “tools”. Some look a lot like ours. Some function a lot like ours. Some have the same purpose as ours. When biological machines look similar to our technology, or mirror ours, but arose from independent sources, I call that biosimilarity.
Behe’s deduction of the bacterial flagellum’s similarity to an outboard motor and Jim Wallace’s discussion on the “echo of familiarity” in biology run in this same vein. However, what I have been doing is trying to catalog these similar structures and have given this whole area a name, biosimilarity. When I presented my thoughts on biosimilarity to Wallace, he was excited and encourage me to publicize it more.
So, if you will, let me invite you hear the story of five of these amazing biosimilar “technological machines”!
Consider echolocation in animals, like bats and dolphins. Also known as bio sonar or biological sonar, it is where the animal emits sound and that then echoes back to the animal for navigation or nourishment.
The crazy thing about this is that we humans have designed a very similar system called sonar over a century ago. Sonar also uses sounds (similar to radar, which uses radio waves) to help water vessels (and sometimes air vehicles) navigate and find targets. As far as I know, echolocation and our sonar arose separately, we did not copy it. However, it may be a good idea if we could learn something from bio sonar, it is much more advanced than our sonar!
Bio Information Careers
Watson and Crick are some of the most celebrated scientists ever. Their integral work included the accurate description of the DNA double-helix structure. This discovery helped guide future discoveries. Crick once wrote “Both DNA and RNA have been shown to carry some of the specificity for protein synthesis.” Then Crick goes to talk about what he called the “Sequence Hypothesis”. He says this “In its simplest form it assumes that the specificity of a piece of nucleic acid is expressed solely by the sequence of its bases, and that this sequence is a (simple) code for the amino acid sequence of a particular protein” (Crick, Francis. “On Protein Synthesis.”).
In other words, DNA, RNA and peptide chains all are in specified sequences that allow function. These sequences are like a code. DNA and RNA contain four “letters” each. Proteins contain 20 letters. Compare this to computer code, 1’s and 0’s, only two “letters.” Or what about the Morris code, it also contains two letters, dots and dashes. And the English language contains 26 letters.
In other words, DNA, RNA and protein all contain a specific sequence that is functional to the cell, this sequence contains information. But it is not just the sequence of DNA, RNA and protein that contain information. The cellular structure itself contains information. For example, we have information in what we now know as the “sugar code”. We also have many information caring tags that help direct the cell’s activities and manufacturing functions. This all is called epigenetics.
So again, we have another type of similarity, structures that carry useful and functional information, just like our languages and structures that do very similar functions. However, our letters and the “letters” of the cell arose from two different sources.
Energy Storing Springs
We have a problem. I mean both we, as in human technology, and we as in insects (I know, we are not insects, but play along with me here). Many insects need to jump, but their muscles can’t produce enough short bursts of energy. Just like I can’t throw an arrow very well from my hand. However, if I make a bow like structure, I can shoot the arrow at amazing speeds. Flea and grasshopper legs have a similar need. They must accelerate very quickly. Insects have this solved with a spring like structures in their legs.
An article by the BBC notes that “A flea, for example, releases the energy in its legs in one thousandth of a second. A more robust grasshopper manages the feat in 30 thousandths of a second.” The writer goes on to say “When you draw an arrow, all the energy comes from your muscles, but it’s stored by the bow, which amplifies the speed at which that energy is released – propelling the arrow forward.”
The same article goes on to quote Dr. Sutton who says this “There’s a problem in how much energy a muscle can produce, and the way they solve it is the same way we solve it with a bow and arrow.” He goes on to say in that piece “We’ve found examples of springs, made of layers of hard insect cuticle and of a fluorescent blue protein called ‘resilin’. This layering of the two materials gives the springs similar properties as modern composite bows” (BBC News, science and environment “why insects are marvels of engineering”).
Many grasshoppers and fleas have this similar spring set up so that can ratchet this internal bow to store energy for the jump.
The Gas That Runs You
Have you ever wondered what energizes your body, really? Yes, you eat food, but how does that run your muscles? Does the food somehow magically make your muscles work? Actually, your cells convert carbohydrates, fats and proteins into something called Adenosine Triphosphateor or ATP for short. ATP happens to be a chemical, a chemical that not only stores energy but allows us to use it. It is much like the gas in your car or the diesel that powers a truck.
Again, this is another structure that functions much like our technology. In fact, someday I would like to share with you about a little machine, ATP synthase, that is part of the ATP manufacturing assembly line and how it too is biosimilar to some of our technology!
Sticky, Sticky, Gooey, Gooey
We all know the story of “tar baby”, right? Well, the tar in that story acted as an adhesive. However, today, we have come up with all sorts of glues and adhesives, some for paper, some for plastic, some for metal, some for under water pool repair and even some types that are used to close skin in surgery!
However, while I don’t want to burst your bubble on our amazing technology, many organisms have been producing adhesives for millennia. In fact, those adhesives are so good that they not only are similar to ours, but superior! In fact, some researchers are in active research to try to copy them! Again, we see a “technology” in biology that is similar to our technology, but came about from an independent source!
What Does this Mean For Us?
We have only a couple explanations for the designs in nature. The first is is Darwinian evolution. Maybe over the eons of ages there arose cellular structures and “technology” through naturalistic process like genetic mutations and natural selection. However, there is a problem. We don’t see this happening in nature! In fact, I would argue that it is counter intuitive to think that novel and advanced designs arose spontaneously through these processes.
Many have a hunch, mindless process don’t seem like the thing that could design better than us. This hunch starts to surface a puzzling question, why are we looking for “mindless designs in nature”? Are we not the most intelligent and technologically advanced creatures on Earth? Are we not able to do better than the mindless? If true, would this not be embarrassing? Aimless does not seem to be what we see in biological designs. How can one not be skeptical?
While in past generations Darwinism may have been cutting edge, now it is showing less and less explanatory power. The explanation is almost embarrassing. For a biologist, like myself, to even say that some would still believe such superannuated and passé ideas is a little ignominious! No wonder, this “just so story” does not seem so convincing anymore to many.
The more we learn about these amazing machines and “technology”, the more convincing a designer becomes, the only other option.
If our minds, as bright humans, are the grounding for technology, and from experience minds are the only known incubator for these designs, why would biological designs with similar design and/or similar function arise any other way? In other words, structures and machines that look and or function as ours seem to point to similar, but separate, ultimate source, another mind.
Only intelligent beings design technology, at least that is from universal experience. While human technology was designed by humans, biology technology can’t be, because we contain many of these advanced designs in our cells. If we find structures and machines that look and function as ours, it seems to mean that a similar ultimate source must have designed them as well. But it must have been some intelligent cause other than from the biological world.
Engineered Technology Needs an Engineer
A mantra in biology is “shape equals function”, that is true for engineered products as well. Overlapping biological “technology” and human engineered technology also show similar parts, shapes and functions. While some may argue that, from an engineering perspective, some functions require a specific design. In other-words, a specific function limits the design possibilities that exist. However, this does not show us that there was no designer. It only limits the types of designs that designers can make, whether it is God or us.
But here is an interesting point, both the world of technology and biology contain designs that bear no similarity but still have much the same function. This also seems to points to a designer.
In the mind of an engineer, an engineer knows that most things need to go right for a design to work. There is a high level of specificity that is required, otherwise it is broken machine.
Take Home Message!
I guess I don’t have that much faith in some unknown, yet to be discovered, naturalistic process. I would rather put my confidence in the things I know to be true and observable causes.
The designs in nature, that we use, copy or have mirror machines of, points to mental creativity and engineering for the origins. Even the designs in nature that we may never use, copy or have similar machines for, still points to intelligent creativity and engineering.
Intelligence is necessary for origin of complex functional objects. Designs from brilliant human engineers mirror and mimic the deigns in nature. The technology in biology looks engineered, I would say they were finely tuned by The Engineer.
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What are your thoughts concerning this topic. Do you think the deigns in nature point to a designer? If not, why not?
Image source: Widimedia | CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication