Inventors and design engineers frequently look to nature for inspiration. There they find countless insights for new products and procedures. This website and book Discovery of Design describe some of the useful results from this ongoing search. Nature is indeed a master teacher of design. As a bonus, the products and designs found in nature arise from common biodegradable materials. The name biomimicry is often given to the endeavor of discovering design in nature.
There are two distinct explanations for the host of successful ideas that have been derived from nature studies. First, some conclude that credit goes to millions of years of evolutionary change. Over time, beneficial features in living things are said to be optimized while those that are less fit are weeded out and eliminated. It is to be expected that exquisite designs are found in nature. After all, there have been millions of generations of trial and error to get it right. In this view, the brilliant tail of the peacock survives because earlier peacocks with short, drab tails failed in the competition to pass their genes on to later generations. There is, however, a major flaw with this explanation of design in nature: It simply does not work. Patterns and information may be conserved with the passing of generations but there is no increase in complexity. A beautiful peacock tail does not gradually develop from fish scales, or from a knobby skin protrusion, or even from a short, drab tail. The development of genetic mutations, including the occasional production of new species, actually displays an unavoidable loss or limitation of the earlier content of information. Many scholars conclude that there is no convincing natural explanation for the peacock’s tail or for any other design feature in living things.
There is a second explanation for the useful designs found in nature. This alternative approach is a complete reverse of the first explanation. It is proposed that the valuable, practical design ideas surrounding us have been present from the beginning of time. These features were embedded in the material universe by supernatural acts of creation. Beneficial ideas and applications were placed in nature for the purpose that they could be discovered and utilized for the welfare of mankind. This explanation assumes intelligent planning by a beneficient Creator. Some critics might object that a Divine hand in nature is not allowed. After all, today’s science enterprise limits itself to naturalistic explanations for everything with no outside intervention. However, the historic definition of science is the search for knowledge and truth about the physical world, wherever this may lead. And when it comes to design in nature, the path of inquiry leads directly to an intelligent plan.