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Monday, April 21, 2008

Biologic Institute Web site now on line

In the middle of the huge Expelled flap, the ID-friendly Biologic Institute of Redmond, Washington, put up its Web page. A list of the personnel is here and research interests are here , for the convenience of reasonable persons and inconvenience of mindless detractors.

For the convenience of reasonable persons only, there is this:
We are not the only ones expecting big things to come from the connection of engineering to biology. Biomimetics, the growing field that emulates engineering principles found in biology, has similar expectations. What distinguishes us from most scientists, though, is our interest in turning this around—allowing what we know as engineers and designers to inform our understanding of biology.

and an elegant essay by the Institute's Doug Axe, explaining problems with how unguided evolution is supposed to work:
For a succession of changes to illustrate an adaptive process, each one has to provide not just function but function that is helpful in the sense of advancing a principal objective ... New functions are only adaptive if they advance that objective. Language has communication as a principal objective. While these objectives are very different, both imply that functions are very unlikely to be helpful simply by virtue of being new.
For example, imagine needing to communicate something with a vocabulary restricted to four-letter English words. “NEED HELP CALL COPS”, might be the desired message. As a further restriction, suppose you’re granted your first word but have to construct the rest of your message from single-letter variants of that word or subsequent ones. Suppose also that adding a word is permissible only if it advances your communication objective as is. It becomes apparent that your objective needs to be met with your first word—the one given to you—because these constraints virtually preclude adding anything to it. “HELP” on its own is much better than “HELP KELP” or “HEAP HELP”.

Well, I will watch this with interest.

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