by Mark Trodd
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If a man excavated an old lawn mower and then wrote a paper arguing that it was the result of random chance, no one would take him seriously. Yet a scientist could write a paper about the Bombardier beetle, assuming it to be the result of evolutionary processes (random chance) and no one would question him - except maybe a ‘religious nut’. If the mower is a product of intelligent design, what about the infinitely more complex beetle?
The Bombardier beetle (brachinus) has fascinated scientists for decades. Ever since Doctor Hermann Schildknecht performed microsurgery on the beetle – to discover the process used to create its explosive mixture - scientists have continued to study this strange creature. Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory, at the University of Leeds, has recently been analyzing the beetle with the aim to improving the design efficiencies of jet engines. This beetle is able to mix three chemicals in its body and then shoot the hot irritating liquid at its enemies. The discharge comes out as a series of pulses (500 per second) at high speed (20 metres per second). Two chemicals – hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone – are discharged into a larger water filled chamber in its rear end. When the third chemical – a catalase/peroxidase enzyme made of proteins – is introduced, the two chemicals heat rapidly and the beetle’s rear end transforms into a high-pressure, deadly accurate pulsating cannon. The timing of this mixing and expelling process – using muscular release valves – is critical if the beetle is to deter its enemies and avoid blowing itself up.
Professor McIntosh thinks he may be able to mimic the beetle’s chamber design to develop an engine that can be easily restarted at high altitudes. If the professor succeeds, he will be the designer of a better jet engine. Yet the beetle design he copied is assumed to be the result of random chance? Why do many scientists - intelligence beings whose purpose is to understand an ‘ordered’ universe – look at the universe and life and still say ‘No intelligence’? The reason is not a scientific one.
The first scientists wanted to discover the wonders of the Creators handiwork, to learn how and why things happen, and to use this knowledge to solve problems and create intelligent designs. Then, religious atheists gained a foothold – arguing that a truly objective approach to the scientific method requires you to deny or simply ignore the metaphysical - and the Intelligent Designer was evicted. The great successes of science increased its influence and so a materialistic worldview began to dominate our educational institutions. A religious void - particularly amongst the highly educated - developed in Western societies as people’s confidence in the religious answers to life was shaken by an aggressive skepticism that had nothing to offer in its place. No wonder despair is on the increase. It is hard to feel significant in a universe that started with a random big bang and declares that you are an accident.
An Intelligent Designer, on the other hand, implies that someone made us as a deliberate, purposeful act. Someone wanted us around. “Who is this Intelligent Designer?” and “What is our purpose?” become the next BIG questions needing an answer. But, they also limit our search because only three major religions talk about a personal creator God – Judaism, Islam and Christianity – and they all point back to Genesis as their starting point. We should start there too.
New Scientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99994461>, 24th December, 2003
EPSRC, Newsline, Summer 2003, p 2.
Creation Magazine June/Aug 2005, p50-51
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