Consider the lowly gear – classically an iconic element to indicate human technological progress and design. We all have seen them – mundane right? Actually no. Gears aren’t interesting because of the boring shape, rather because of the design criteria needed for proper function. Nor are they arbitrary or haphazardly designed and fabricated. Teeth and gear spacing, proper alignment and material type, and optimal size and shape are all essential.
As ancient as almost any other human technology and as human of a design as they come, I think we would be stunned if nature contained a beautiful geared system. One is technology, the other is biology. Gears are very mechanical and systematic, seemingly very different than the organic nature of life. I want to changeable this notion.
The Insect Gear Assembly
An unremarkable English insect took the biological world by surprise some time ago, the Issus nymph (1). Interlocking gears studs the trocantera this insects hind-legs (above image hosted by gizmag.com).
Synchronizing the jumping legs, these gears coordinate the action of simultaneous movement in both legs (first image below, hosted by makeagif.com).
The design is essential for this little creature so its jump is synchronized. Moving at high rates of speed through the air, the insect would spiral out of control without this arrangement (second image below from makeagif.com).
Best Explanation For This System?
As you study these beautiful images, again consider what the host of that documentary expressed. Now tell me, what’s your gut reaction, do these gears look designed or do the demonstrate mindless origins as the documentary host said? I’m not asking what you think, but rather your first reaction? If you are like most, you have to agree, they appear designed.
A method that many use to answer historical science questions is to observe the present to understand the past events. While not every historical event may be deduced this way, many concepts can be elucidated. Every new design from our experience has been intelligently designed. I can’t think of an exception. So why wouldn’t we expect agent causation in the designs in nature? Isn’t the most reasonable explanation for at least this design a mind?
It seems that biology has an habit of surprising us, why? We are stunned with the designs. Many times technology and biology overlap in design, which is what I call biosimilarity. We infer design in technology, is it not logical to infer design in biology as well? The design in nature seems to jive well well with our presuppositions of design, not chance and random like process. Intuitively, we can detect design.
In addition, designs in nature seem to be optimally designed for the function intended. In fact, the designs are so good that we, in our quest for technology, copy biological designs in a field of study called bioinspiration or biomimicry. We look in awe at biological artifacts and let them inspire us for tools we make. Technology, while amazing, is clumsily and klutzy in comparison to biology. Brilliant minds spend hours, days and years on designs that are far inferior to what we find in nature.
Elegance At Its Best
Again, let me ask you, from your intuition and from experience, can’t you infer design? Your gut reaction is awe at the beauty of the gear design, you don’t automatically infer randomness in mechanical like structures like this, do you? The only source of new design, from our experience, is intelligence. In fact, we can even learn from optimal designs in nature, including this gear. We are able to copy these structures, even though they are more elegant than our own mindful designs. Our intelligently designed technology comes short. Biology has very advanced designs, while it seems illogical to infer origins from mindless process, it’s not only natural but also logical to infer design on biological structures – even this insect gear system.
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(1) Burrows and Sutton. “Interacting Gears Synchronize Propulsive Leg Movements in a Jumping Insect” http://www.sciencemag.org