Who Makes the World’s Best Fliers?
For more than seven years, Dr. Robert Wood and a team of researchers from Harvard University have been studying flies and attempting to build a life-size, flying robot that can mimic the flight of living flies. The government is hopeful that robotic flies might one day be used as spies in surveillance missions, as well as to detect toxic chemicals used by terrorists. On July 19, 2007, MIT’s Technology Review announced that Wood’s “robotic fly has taken flight at Harvard University” (Ross, 2007). Dr. Ron Fearing of the University of California, Berkeley has been studying the dynamics of insect flight for years. In fact, he is Wood’s former Ph.D. advisor. He called Wood’s robotic flying insect “a major breakthrough” (as quoted in Ross).
What do brilliant scientists have to show for their seven plus years of research on flies? What was the “major project milestone” reported in Technology Review? Why was Wood joyfully “jumping up and down in the lab” (Ross)? Answer: his life-size robotic fly took off. It cannot maneuver in the air. It is unable to be controlled. It cannot avoid obstacles. It cannot slow down and land on a specific target. It does not have its own power source (and even if it did, it could provide no more than five minutes of power to fly). “At the moment, Wood’s fly is limited by a tether that keeps it moving in a straight, upward direction” (Ross). Yet, since “a lot of people thought it would never be able to take off,” such a feat is considered remarkable.
Admittedly, Woods and his colleagues have done a superb job in building a life-size robotic fly that can move upward on a tether by flapping its synthetic wings. It takes extremely intelligent individuals to develop their own fabrication process and manufacture a tiny robot that resembles and mimics (to some degree) living flies. Yet, these same men advocate that real flies, which have “long puzzled scientists and bedazzled engineers” with their “magical,” “sophisticated,” “intricate maneuvers,” are the end result of mindless time and chance, i.e., evolution (Dye, 2007). Such a proposition defies common sense!
Were Woods and his team of researchers to leave hundreds of tiny carbon-polymer pieces lying around in a lab for 100 years (or one billion years!), no reasonable person would conclude that, eventually, time and chance would assemble a robotic fly, much less one that maneuvers as well as a real fly. It has taken intelligent, hardworking scientists more than seven years just to make a robotic fly lift off the ground.
Who made the often imitated, but never duplicated living fly that can “change the direction of its flight by 90 degrees in about 50 thousandths of a second” (Dye)? Who designed the fruit fly’s “spiffy neuron-circuitry” that allows it to rotate from north to west and then zip westward “in one-fifth the blink of a human eye” (Dye)? Who made the fly, its sesame-seed size brain, and its complicated flight dynamics that scientists have been unable to “figure out” fully even after several years of study? Did mere time and chance create the common fly, which Dr. Michael Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology said has “the fastest visual system” and “most powerful muscles on the planet” (as quoted in Dye)? Should we conclude, as did Dr. Wood, that “[n]ature makes the world’s best fliers” (as quoted in Ross)? Certainly not! Only a superior Intelligence outside and above nature’s time and chance logically explains the existence of intricate design. Indeed, God is the builder and maker of all things (Hebrews 3:4).
Dye, Lee (2007), “Scientists Study the Amazing Flight of Flies,” ABC News, [On-line], URL: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97651&page=1.
Ross, Rachel (2007), “Robotic Insect Takes Off for the First Time,” Technology Review, [On-line], URL: http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19068/.