\ Visualizing Evolution: Automotive Evolution: a metaphor for biology?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Automotive Evolution: a metaphor for biology?

There are no end-points in evolution. It's not a goal-oriented process leading to some perfected peak design, once reached thus ending the process of change. It's continuous; things are constantly revising their shape over and over again. This is true in biology as well as our own man-made industries.

That's what I thought of when I saw this video of the new BMW GINA Light Visionary Model... a car with a fabric 'skin.'

Be sure to watch to the end... the headlights are the best part. The car BLINKS. Not in a retractable-headlight way but in a fleshy closing of the eyelids way. And whether this is awesome or creepy, I have yet to decide. It's like a switch from a car with an exoskeleton to a vertebrate animal with moving hard parts inside a flexible skin!

Personally I find the evolution of automobiles to be a fantastic metaphor for biological evolution. But for teaching, I'm not sure. Because there are many out there still who don't understand how Natural Selection works without an intelligent hand to guide it. Car evolution is guided by consumer choice, studies on safety, advancements in technology, and the artistic flair of the automotive designer:

horses 'evolve'... do cars?

But the evolution of living things is guided by the blind, selective processes of nature. Unfortunately this leads biologically-ignorant people into thinking the entire process is 'random!' Case in point, a ridiculous blog entry from the Discovery Institute called Do Car Engineers Turn to Darwinian Evolution or Intelligent Design? But wait! To save your brain cells and sanity, I'd recommend going straight to the SGU criticism on the most recent Skeptic's Guide 5x5 podcast. The ID blog entry is based on the premise that automotive designers refer to the 'intelligent design' of their cars rather than the 'evolution' of them. (And I guess the implications are that therefore biological evolution is false?)... even if that premise were true, which it isn't, automotive designers DO refer to their changing designs as 'evolution,' and rightly so!

Logos evolve, too.
Though their design has nothing to do with functionality and everything to do with consumer choice. The actual car is a much better model of what happens in biology.


Harrison said...

I love it when technology gets compared to evolution.

Technology kind of reminds me of selective breeding. Great bounds of evolution in a lot less time.

Still crossing my fingers for vat grown meat.

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