Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Creative Evolution

Author: Keith Riffle

Creative Evolution

It is a common misconception that the Wright Brothers were the first in flight. They were not. Birds (and humans in hot air balloons) beat them to it by who knows how many years. There are also insects, bats, and extinct reptiles which have also accomplished the same feat. Perhaps the idea of flight would never have been fathomed if it had not been observed in nature. The question is, how did the birds, bats, insects, and extinct reptiles figure out how to fly in the first place?

The truth of the matter is that birds, insects, bats, and extinct reptiles didn't need to figure it out, because the assumption is that nature figured it out for them. If this is the case, how did nature figure it out? There is often a very contradictory answer to this question, because the answer supports two forms of reasoning, and these two forms of reasoning don't exactly get along, so to speak. Before getting into what this contradiction is, it is first necessary to ask another question, did nature intend to figure this out?

Technically speaking, it would not be scientifically correct to say that nature intended birds, insects, and bats to fly. If the theory of evolution is true, random mutations are a big reason why birds can fly. These mutations are not called intentional mutations for a reason, because they are believed to have happened randomly. While it could be argued that there are reasons these random non intentional mutations occurred, the important thing to realize is this: if scientific reasoning is correct, flight was not a planned thing. It was unintentional. It just happened. If flight did indeed just happen, the question of why it happened can almost completely be thrown out of the equation because it is irrelevant. The more important question is, how did it happen?

Getting back to the Wright Brothers, both the how and why questions can be answered very easily, although the why question might be a little more difficult to answer because the answer depends on what was going on inside the minds of the Wright Brothers to compel them to build a flying machine in the first place. However, the why question goes deeper than that, because it goes beyond the reasons why the Wright Brothers built their ""flying machine"" and explains why they designed it the way they did.

The Wright Brother's plane could not fly if it was not made with light weight materials. Nor could it maintain speed or altitude, let alone get off the ground without an engine to pull it through the air. The engine would be useless without its propeller, and both the engine and propeller could not work without gasoline. The plane could not stay level without the front rudder, nor could it turn without cables to flex the wings. All of these factors explain how the plane functioned in the earth's atmosphere, yet they also explain why the Wright Brothers built the plane the way they did.

The Wright Brothers studied birds in flight and paid very close attention to how the birds flexed their wings when turning in the air, but had a very difficult time figuring out how they could make their plane turn in the air. One of the brothers was holding a rectangular cardboard inner tube box when he looked at it and began flexing it back and forth, twisting each end in the opposite direction the other end was moving. It occurred to him that he could make the plane turn by designing the plane's wing structure according to what he observed by twisting the box. This discovery of his was accidental, but it is important to note that he was able to take what he learned by accident and apply it to something practical. In other words, he was able to intentionally do something with this idea.

Physics can explain why birds can fly, but what physics cannot explain is how nature could figure out how to make birds fly. Physics can explain why birds can get off the ground, maintain level flight, make turns in the air, but it cannot explain why nature chose specific aerodynamic details to make it possible for birds to accomplish the amazing things they do in the air. This is where the contradiction described earlier becomes apparent, because it is often difficult for scientists to describe why birds are designed the way they are without explaining why nature made them this way (if you watch nature shows on TV about plants, animals, or dinosaurs, listen very closely to what the narrator says, and you'll see what I mean). For example, the statement, ""birds are able to fly because they have wings"" is a huge contradiction to the idea that random mutations could produce flight because of the, BECAUSE statement, which implies that nature intended to give birds wings so they could fly. This would make random mutations intentional, which would imply that nature has a mind.

When the Wright Brothers started to build their plane, they had an end goal in mind. They didn't wear blindfolds and just fumble around with wood, wire, metal, and gasoline with the hopes of flying one day, and even if they did try to design a plane wearing blindfolds and failed miserably at it, this would have been an intentional act with a specific end goal in mind. One more important factor that weighed heavily on how the Wright Brothers built their plane is that in order for it to fly, they had operate within certain laws of physics, and they had to understand how these laws would prevent or allow them to get off the ground.

Having said all of this, it is very ironic to think that a series of random unintentional mutations could produce flight in birds, bats, or even terradactyls. One is faced to admit that birds could not fly if they did not have wings, because without them, they would never be able to get off the ground, and if they could get off the ground without them, it wouldn't be pretty or graceful. Of course, their is much more to flight than a set of wings, but one could argue that in short, birds can fly because they have wings, and they have wings because they were meant to fly. The only alternative is that nature did not intend birds to fly and that this phenomena of flight just happened. Of course, this means that nature was able to accomplish something that the Wright Brothers would not have been able to accomplish without an understanding of physics, engineering, aerodynamics, and last but not least...birds.

Some will say that it is foolish to believe in God, and that Christians are even more foolish to believe that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, was more than just a man, and rose from the grave. I think I'll take my chances on being a fool, rather than rolling the dice to see if nature can unknowingly design birds to fly, without any concept of engineering, the laws of physics, aerodynamics, or a brain.

About the author: I'm just a regular guy living in Nebraska who likes to think outside of the box...

Oh yeah, one more thing....

...this article is dedicated to ""Tuber"", an old fart who lives on the East coast and hates cats...

Please note that no cats were harmed while I wrote this article...

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