This one from the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog is a bit of a classic. It’s titled Feather Design Is Better than Thought, and it has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
Man-made designs often get simpler the deeper you look. Once you get inside a steel girder or wallboard, for instance, the material looks basically homogeneous. Biological materials, by contrast, “are complex composites that are hierarchically structured and multifunctional,” notes Theagarten Lingham-Soliar in a paper on Nature Scientific Reports.
Jeepers — there’s a difference between biology and man-made designs. Here’s the paper to which they refer: Microstructural tissue-engineering in the rachis and barbs of bird feathers. You can read it online without a subscription, but it’s very technical. Let’s see what the Discoveroids can do with it. They say:
We all know that feathers have an elegant shape for flight and insulation: they are self-healing, aerodynamic, and lightweight yet strong. But when this materials scientist from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa inspected bird feathers with a scanning electron microscope (SEM), he found wonderful things — all the way down to the molecular level.
[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — wonderful things! [*End Drool Mode*] They tell us:
The cortical fibers of keratin along the rachis are called syncytial barbule fibers, or SBFs for short. “SBFs form long, continuous filaments of β-keratin, the majority of which are tightly assembled parallel to the longitudinal axis of the rachis,” Lingham-Soliar says —but not all of them. Therein lays a tale. What he found about those SBFs solves two design problems for the bird, and may inspire a new generation of structural engineers.
Wow — those SBFs solve two design problems! Isn’t that incredible? The Discoveroids continue:
Lingham-Soliar could not understand how these SBFs could prevent catastrophic fractures in the feather. If the fibers were all parallel to the long axis, they would have to continuously terminate as the rachis tapers down toward the tip. This would open up thousands of fracture zones where small stresses could exacerbate the fractures, “analogous to the scissor-snip a tailor makes before tearing a piece of fabric,” leading to catastrophic failure of the feather.
Egad! How do feathers avoid catastrophic failure? Let’s read on:
For the first time, Lingham-Soliar could see the answer. He had to look at the detailed microstructure of the SBFs on the order of millionths of a meter (micrometers) with SEM [scanning electron microscope]. What came to light was “a biomechanically ‘ingenious’ and novel architecture of the fibre organization” that solves the fracture problem and does something else, too: it distributes the stress load throughout the feather. This multi-functional “distinctive architecture of the SBFs” is bound to inspire engineers faced with the demands of designing lightweight yet strong materials that can absorb stress without failing.
[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — ingenious and novel architecture! [*End Drool Mode*] The Discoveroids become ecstatic:
Think about the design problem as the feather emerges from the follicle during development. How do some of the SBFs know to bend out into a barb? What teaches these growing fibers to cross over the longitudinal access in successive waves and branch out left and right into the barbs, leaving enough material behind to continue building the cortex all the way to the tip? What concentrates the glue where it is needed, in the right amount? What tells the barbs to grow barbules with hooks and channels that fit just right? Building a machine that could do this by extrusion would seem like an engineer’s nightmare.
Then they tell us how the author of the published paper completely fails to see the supernatural implications of his discovery:
Lingham-Soliar examined the feathers of different birds — chickens, falcons, eagles, swans, geese, ibises, pheasants, macaws, and toucans — and found that all their feathers use this design principle. As an evolutionist, he assumes they all got it from a common ancestor. … Unfortunately, he sticks to the Darwin story:
[Discoveroid quote from the published paper:] It is clear that this extraordinary cortical microstructure of the feather has evolved and been perfected over the millions of years of bird evolution.
The man is obviously a fool! Skipping a bit, here’s another excerpt:
Wouldn’t it be nice if someday soon the shackles of methodological naturalism were taken off, so that authors could freely talk about design in nature? Darwinian evolution and eons of time don’t contribute anything of value to this investigation.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Then they do a bit of quote-mining, and here the bold font is in the Discoveroids’ essay:
He came close. “Their unique morphology, which includes nodes with hooks and rings, plays a major part in the design strategy of keeping the filaments locked together,” he said earlier.
[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh — he said design! [*End Drool Mode*]
And now we come to the end:
We say, toss the evolutionary talk and leave it at that. This is a design paper that inspires design. It can inspire us all to appreciate even more “the genius of birds.” After learning about those SBFs, we will never look at a crow the same way again.
Stripped of all the technical jargon, this is the familiar “Look out the window!” argument creationists always offer as evidence for the supernatural. It shows up all the time in letters-to-the-editor — for example, see #408: Logical Preacher. It’s not surprising that the Discoveroids use it.
Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.