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What about programming in nature?

 

Do computers and programming happen by accident? What if I said metals somehow came out of the ground, and over millions of years fashioned themselves into a box, that meanwhile inside this box hundreds of wires evolved and connected themselves to each other, that a pile of sand came likewise evolved itself into a glass monitor screen, and that a blob of oil evolved into plastic keys, and that wonder of wonders, those keys happen to make perfect sense and match exactly an alphabet I use to form words and do my writing? Would you believe any of that?

 

I then point out that when electricity brought my computer to life, software programs popped up that I use to write words, make drawings, or perform mathematical calculations. What if I told you that just like my computer, there was no intelligence behind the software programs, they all happened purely by mindless accident?

 

Would you believe my computer, it's programs, and it's perfect meshing together to function as one unit for a purpose, all evolved by accident without an intelligent designer or maker? I really hope not.

 

But - what if.....

What if we find computers in nature? What if we find programming in nature? Clearly identified as such by reputable scientists. What then?

 

Some may say, "Frazier, you are a creationist, you want to see computers and programming in nature, but are they really there"?

 

This article answers that. But let's make it extra difficult - let's use reference material that support evolution.

 

Mini-computers and programming in nature

Christopher O'Toole, an author of many books on nature, is based at the University Museum in Oxford, England. He is also a frequent broadcaster and consultant to a Natural History TV series.

 

In his well researched book, (1) Mr. O'Toole examines the world of insects and concludes that......

1) insects are like miniature computers computers ,

2) and insect behavior patterns are like software or programming.

 

The author starts out with an analogy that explains it very well. The author poses the question: "Imagine you are a chief executive of a high-tech engineering firm...Your chief designer presents you with an idea for a new project...How would you react if that project was nothing less than to design a million or more types of robot, with the following specifications:

Hardware specifications

Miniature, self-replicating robots.

Most kinds will be able to fly, and many will be fast runners and/or jumpers...

All will have on-board sensors for gathering visual, auditory and scent data and transmitters for emitting sound, scent and, in some cases, light signals.

Many will be capable of prosecuting chemical warfare, using either compounds gathered from plants or (even) substances manufactured themselves.

All robots will generate their own energy by resources of animal and/or plant origin. Some will exploit resources in collaboration with a range of fungi, bacteria or single-celled animals.

Some kinds of robots will be programmed to steal components from other robots...

Many types will be programmed to function in co-operating groups. These will construct and maintain their own microhabitats, using building materials manufactured chemically themselves and/or materials gathered from the environment."

Miniature, self-replicating robots.

Most kinds will be able to fly, and many will be fast runners and/or jumpers...

All will have on-board sensors for gathering visual, auditory and scent data and transmitters for emitting sound, scent and, in some cases, light signals.

Many will be capable of prosecuting chemical warfare, using either compounds gathered from plants or (even) substances manufactured themselves.

All robots will generate their own energy by resources of animal and/or plant origin. Some will exploit resources in collaboration with a range of fungi, bacteria or single-celled animals.

Some kinds of robots will be programmed to steal components from other robots...

Many types will be programmed to function in co-operating groups. These will construct and maintain their own microhabitats, using building materials manufactured chemically themselves and/or materials gathered from the environment."

Software

All types will have an on-board computer with software capable of processing and integrating visual and chemical signals. Some will also be able to process audio signals.

All software will be time-sensitive, with adequate memory storage space."

 

All types will have an on-board computer with software capable of processing and integrating visual and chemical signals. Some will also be able to process audio signals.

All software will be time-sensitive, with adequate memory storage space."

 

After setting out the requirements for the one million different robots project, the author sums up: "You may conclude that these specifications are the product of a diseased mind, the effusions of a mad scientist with delusions of grandeur and infinite resources. But you would be wrong. Such self-replicating robots, with precisely these specifications do exist exist. They have dominated the earth for at least 300 million years. Their interactions with plants made our humanity possible. We call these robots insects. And without them, we would die."

 

So there you have it. Computer hardware and software/programming in nature as seen by a widely acclaimed author, who evidently sees something marvelous having taken place, although he gives evolution the credit for it.

 

In fact he takes several pages to explain "Insects and Evolution". Ironically, those evolution explaining pages are part of a chapter entitled, "Designed for Success", with the sub-title of "Miniature Miracles of Engineering".

 

That prompts two questions.

1) Is it logical to have design without a designer?

2) Is it logical to have engineers who have not received instructions from a master engineer?

 

A comparison to humans

The author asked the question, "Are insects intelligent?" He then answers: "Insects can be seen as miniature super-computers. Most of what an insect needs to do to survive long enough to produce offspring is hard-wired in the system - preprogrammed efficiency.

 

He further explains, "As the true miracles of miniaturization insects compress all of this processing power into a tiny brain, an on-board pre-programmed computer...A computer with the processing power of an insect brain, assuming we could build one, would be the size of a small tower block, and maybe even larger if we would include the necessary cooling system."

 

 

Wow! How is that as incredible support for computers and programming in nature? This writer cannot make up stuff that good. Reflect again on his key words:

miniature super-computers,

preprogrammed efficiency,

preprogrammed computer,

miniature super-computers,

in size - humans would have to make a computer the size of a tower block to perform as well as the computer in an insect brain!

 

Another Example

Another Example

I could end this article now. But for some fun, let's go on. Another source (2) sees programming in nature. This matter of fact statement is on page 13, "A male praying mantis is programmed to release sperm (and thus complete mating) even after its head has been severed from its body by its partner."

 

On page 64 more programming is noted. "Mating is a risky endeavor for most male spiders. Usually their prospective mates are considerably larger and more powerful than they are, programmed to interpret any nearby movement as a potential meal."

Could any plants have been programmed?

One evolution supporting author even sees programming in plants! Sir David Attenborough is a highly acclaimed British nature writer and BBC filmmaker. He writes (3), "But they, [the seeds of a Cheese Plant] unlike most shoots, do not seek light. They are programmed to avoid it and they head for the nearest dark shade."

 

Another scientist sees computers and programming

Need more? The New York Times science column (4) had an article on Monarch Butterflies. Included was this "The returning monarchs, each born in the north, rely solely on navigational instructions programmed genetically into one of the tiniest of nervous systems."

 

"If you've ever looked inside the brain of a butterfly, its about the size of a pinhead," said Dr. Bower, "and yet the minicomputer inside that pinhead has all the necessary information to get them to Mexico without having been there before." Very significantly, he then adds, "How this guidance system works is a mystery..."

 

Could ants have been programmed?

Source (7) is an evolution supporting book called "A masterpiece" by Scientific American. The authors inform us "The Pheidole soldiers [ants] remain true to their caste. They do what they are programmed to do: stay on and fight to their death."

The authors tell more on page 130, "This fidelity should come as no surprise. Free-living ants have been programmed to act in such a way, and the slave-makers - programmed in their own special way - have taken advantage of that instinctual rigidity."

 

Programming with latitude to adapt

Back to source (1): "But some aspects of an insect's world are just not predictable enough for a strictly preprogrammed response: the insect computer has to be able to learn and modify its responses. Hence, our smart Polistes wasps and the dance language of the honeybee."

 

Source (5) gives an interesting example of how programming in nature has been given latitude to adapt. Gilbert White, an eighteenth century naturalist wrote"

 

"The more I reflect on the parental love of animals, the more I am astonished at it's effects...The flycatcher.... builds every year in the vines that grow on the walls of my house. A pair of these little birds had one year inadvertently placed their nest on a naked bough, perhaps in a shady time, not being aware of the inconvenience that followed."

 

White then described the scene as hot summer approached and the brood chicks were only half grown. The unshaded wall reflected the hot sun into the nest. White said the tender young would have been destroyed except for the surprising actions of the parent birds.

 

What did the parents do? With wings expanded, and their mouths gaping for breath, the loving parent birds hovered over the nest during the hotter hours to "screen off the heat from their suffering offspring".

 

Isn't that a remarkable example? Consider.....these tiny birds had to:

1) recognize the danger from excessive sun, and

2) make a connection between their shadows falling on the nest and a subsequent cooling, and

3) maintain the vital shadow despite their weariness.

 

Source (1) adds more about an ability to adapt, "Advanced insects such as ants, wasps, and bees have a vast range of such behaviors and therefore can react to a wide range of both internal and external stimuli......This is a tribute to the processing abilities of the insect brain and sense organs. But insects are very selective in the information they take on board. Unlike us, they do not overload themselves with irrelevant information."

 

" An insect, then, is just as intelligent as it needs to be."

 

Question: Did some kind of an intelligence decide that need, and moreover decide, "no more"?

 

A spider specie seen as a programmed engineer

Source (10) is sub-titled, Buildings and the Evolution of Intelligence, which I like to think adds extra credibility to the findings. The book reports on Corolla spiders from Namibia. These particular spiders dig deep tunnel nests with four inch openings. Around the opening they place small stones. Not just any stones, "they are nearly all quartz". Moreover, the spider "...arranges them with the tapered ends pointing toward the tunnel opening".

Why would a spider find certain stones and arrange them a certain way? The authors explain, "The stones are no mere decorations; they are tools, each serves as a kind of sounding board for ground-borne vibrations. The tapering arrangement increases the surface area available for collection. The hunter waits with at least four of its feet on individual stones, localizing the minute vibrations generated by walking prey. The stone circle efficiently increases the area of ground contact beyond that of the cross-section of a spider foot."

 

Imagine that. The authors call the stone arrangement an "effective sound-collecting device" and adds, "It appears more than ordinary programming".

All throughout the book the authors identify, time after time, programming. Yet, they maintain such programming evolved all by itself. One such quote, among dozens, "The extraordinary complexity of the task, and its one-time nature, point to intricate programming."

Have honeybees been programmed?

Source (4?) also gives us information about the various jobs done by honeybees. As noted in the previous example, some latitude to adapt to emergencies seems to have been built-in.

 

"If the colony is attacked and damaged by a large predator such as a honey-badger, the age structure of the colony can be disrupted. In this case, the range of duties is reallocated and bees that were once guards may reactivate their royal jelly glands and revert to being nurses. .......The ability of the colony as a whole to respond and adapt to crises is one of the many secrets of the honeybee success story."

 

Isn't that remarkable? Could considerable thought have gone into the survival of honeybees, so much so that pre-determined job duties can even be re-arranged for emergencies? What is age structure anyway?

 

What is "age structure"?

The author explains: "The tasks performed by worker honeybees are age related. A newly emerged worker spends her first three days as a cleaner. From about days 3 to 10, she is a nurse. Glands in her head become active and enlarged and these secrete royal jelly...She feeds this to the larvae...At day 10, the glands which produce royal jelly atrophy, and at the same time, the wax glands in her abdomen become active; she makes the transition from nurse to worker and makes honeycomb until about day 16. For the next four days she receives pollen and nectar loads from returning foragers and places them in the comb...From about day 20 she is a guard at the nest entrance.... "

 

"After guard duty, the bee spends the rest of her six-week life as a field bee, foraging for pollen and nectar. During this period, she calls upon her considerable powers of information processing to communicate the sources of pollen and nectar to her fellow foragers, using the famous dance language."

 

Let's summarize what we have just been told. Except for very rare emergencies, the honeybee follows a definite, pre-determined, sequence of job duties. Notice:

Age of bee Job duty

3 days Cleaner

4-10 days Nurse

11-15 days Worker making honeycomb

16-20 days Worker placing nectar in the ho. comb

21-few days Guard duty

rest of 6-wk life Field bee foraging for pollen and nectar.

At this point, we need to consider some questions:

1) Aren't these duties highly specialized?

2) Does the honeybee attend school to learn each of these highly specialized jobs?

3) If not school or training, where did she learn to do them, and to do them so perfectly?

 

Just the job of making the honeycomb is in itself a highly skilled, precise job of engineering.

 

To quote Nobel Laureate Karl von Frisch(6) on the matter of honeycomb making, "What truly astounding precision!....Human craftsmen could not to do work of this nature without the use of carpenters' squares and sliding gauges".

 

This writer had always assumed bees were born to do one of the six distinct jobs listed above. (In itself amazing enough.) But to learn that each bee performs all six jobs in an exact sequence was surprising to me. How about you?

 

Doesn't it seem that the knowledge needed to do six different jobs has to have been programmed into every honeybee? Doesn't it seem as if that knowledge is passed to each new generation by something like programming? Doesn't it seem that not only the knowledge of how to do each function had to have been programmed, but also the counting of time and thus a timing mechanism as well?

 

It's more than just programming

In addition to what we have seen reported as mini-computers and programming, author (1) also pointed out these tiny, tiny insects have their own:

1) on-board clocks,

2) magnetic compasses, or

3) gyroscopes as well.

 

He further states that "The ways in which information from their sensors is processed is the envy of all human computer scientists".

 

Imagine that.

 

How about some numbers?

Let's consider some numbers just for insects. Source (1) informs us there are One million identified insect species. And another Fourteen (some say twenty-nine) million species as yet unidentified and unnamed. Book (4) puts the number of insect species at between 15 and 30 million. In the book, (9) it's put this way, "There are as many kinds of insects as there are stars in the sky."

 

So it seems there are at least Fifteen million different "mini-computer" insect body designs and Fifteen million different insect "software" programs.

 

Those are indeed incredibly awesome numbers! My son, Jeff, wants recognition for each computer program he creates. And yet many responsible scientists seriously say that 15 million insect species - each with their own program - that all 15 million are by accident, all 15 million happened without a programmer! What say you?

 

But also consider this......the differences are more than just body design and programming aren't they? Because they also include for each fifteen million species:

1) Different food supplies and feeding methods.

2) Different nesting procedures and materials.

3) Different protections from predators.

4) Different mating and mate recognition methods.

 

Factoring these differences in as well makes the above numbers and the massive amount of programming work involved all the more awesome.

 

The "last word" on programming

Can we agree that perhaps the world's best software expert is probably Bill Gates? For the "last word" on programming in nature, source (8) quotes the master programmer, Bill Gates, as saying this:

"DNA is like a computer program, but far, far

more advanced than any software we've ever created".

more advanced than any software we've ever created".

more advanced than any software we've ever created".

 

You might want to ponder that a minute.

 

In summary

This short article has just scratched the surface about programming in nature. What previous generations without any computer knowledge called "instinct" we can better understand as "programming". As such, it can be seen all over in nature including birds building their nests, spiders making webs, honey bees constructing hives, and on and on.

 

We have seen insects considered as mini-computers-computers, and we have seen programming recognized throughout nature by various authors.

 

A final question

Now that we have briefly studied insect bodies as hardware or mini-computers, and their behavior patterns as programming, are those things more logically the result of:

Evolution, that admittedly is:

, that admittedly is:

mindless, and

accidental chance?

Or, the result of:

planning,

design,

intelligence, even a creator?

 

Which one makes more sense to you?

C, Frazier Spencer

(For those who are interested, the writer's religious comment follows the references.)

 

References and footnotes:

Note: Italics, underlining, or bold are sometimes added to references for emphasis.

(1) "Alien Empire" published 1996 by Crowood Press, Ramsbury, England.

(2) "Insects and Spiders" Discovery Channel, published in 2000 by Random House, USA.

(3) "The Private Life of Plants" Sir David Attenborough, published 1995 Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

(4) "The Science Times Book of Insects" published in 1998 by the New York Times.

(5) "Nature Writing" by Robert Finch and John Elder, published 2002 by W. W. Norton & Co, New York.

(6) "Animal Architecture" by Karl von Frisch, published 1974 by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

(7) "Journey to the Ants" by Bert Holldobler and Edward O. Wilson, published 1994 by the Belknap Press, Harvard.

(8) "Where Darwin Meets the Bible" by Larry A. Witham published 2002 Oxford University Press, Oxford and NY.

(9) "Microcosmos" by Jeremy Burlgess, published 1987 by Cambridge University Press, NY.

(10) "Animal Architects" sub-titled "Buildings and the Evolution of Intelligence" by James L. Gould, published 2007 by Basic Books, NY.

(11) For more on engineers in nature, see my article "Engineers without degrees".

An added comforting observation

"Creation Corner" articles usually end at the above question mark. But for this particular subject the writer would like to add a personal comment: As a believer that we have indeed been created:

"I find it a great comfort and very reassuring every time I realize a God who was able to create 15,000,000 different insect bodies and 15,000,000 insect software programs,

has also promised to take care of me." (And of you.)

has also promised to take care of me." (And of you.)

software programs,

has also promised to take care of me." (And of you.)

(
And of you.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Closer look at Plants

Some general information about plant complexity may be of interest before we get into specifics.

 

A book titled, "The Secret Life of Plants"(1) has some remarkable information. "Worm like rootlets, which Darwin likened to a brain, burrow constantly downward with thin white threads, crowding themselves firmly into the soil, tasting it as they go. Small hollow chambers in which a ball of starch can rattle indicate to the roots the direction of the pull of gravity."