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The Design in Plants and Biomimetics

Fiber-optic technology, which has recently begun to be employed, uses cables capable of transmitting light and high-capacity information. What if someone were to tell you that living things have been using this technology for millions of years? These are organisms you know very well, but whose superior design a great many people never even consider—plants.

Because so many look at their world around them in a superficial way, out of familiarity, they never see the examples of superior design in the living things that God has created. But in fact, all living things are full of secrets. Asking why and how is enough to let you raise this curtain of familiarity. Anyone who thinks about these questions will realize that everything we see around us is the work of a Creator possessed of reason and knowledge—our All-Powerful Lord. As an example, take the photosynthesis that plants carry out—a miracle of creation, whose mysteries have not yet been uncovered.

Photosynthesis is the process whereby green plants turn light into carbohydrates that human beings and animals can consume. Perhaps at first sight, this description might not seem too remarkable, yet biochemists believe that artificial photosynthesis could easily change the whole world.

Plants carry out photosynthesis by means of a complex string of events. The exact nature of these processes is still unclear. Just this feature alone is enough to silence the proponents of the theory of evolution. Professor Ali Demirsoy describes very well the dilemma that photosynthesis represents for evolutionist scientists:

Photosynthesis is a rather complicated event and appears impossible to emerge in the organelles within the cell. That is because it is impossible for all the stages to come about at once, and meaningless for them to do so separately.38

Plants trap sunlight in natural solar cell parts known as chloroplasts. In the same way, we store in batteries the energy we obtain from artificial solar panels, which turn light into electrical energy.

A plant cell's low power output necessitates the use of a great many "panels," in the form of leaves. It's enough for leaves, like solar panels, to face the sun in order to meet human beings' energy needs. When the chloroplasts' functions are fully replicated, tiny solar batteries will be able to operate equipment requiring a great deal of energy. Spacecraft and artificial satellites will be able to operate using solar energy alone, with no need for any other energy source.

Plants, which possess such superior capabilities and astound the scientists who try to imitate them, bow their heads to God, like all other living things. This is revealed in a verse:

yaprak pil

Shrubs and trees both bend in worship.
(Qur'an, 55: 6)

Protected Surfaces

Any surface can be damaged by dirt, or even by bright light. That is why scientists have developed furniture and car polishes, and liquids to block ultraviolet rays and protect against any possible wear and tear. In nature also, animals and plants produce in their own cells a variety of substances to protect their outer surfaces against external damage. The complex chemical compounds produced by the bodies of living things astound scientists, and designers seek to imitate many examples.

parfüm

What mankind has to learn from plants isn't limited to solar cells. Plants are opening up many new horizons, from construction to the perfume industry. Chemical engineers producing deodorants and soaps are now trying to produce beautiful fragrances in the laboratory by imitating the scents of flowers. The scents produced by many famous houses, such as Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Pierre Balmain, contain floral essences found in nature. (“The History of Parfume;” http://www.parfumsraffy.com/history.html)

Coating wooden surfaces is important to protect them from dirt and wear and tear, particularly against water, which can enter and rot soft timber. But did you know that the first wood coatings were made from natural oils and insect secretions?

yaprak

The external surfaces of leaves are covered with a thin, polished coating that waterproofs the plant. This protection is essential because carbon dioxide, which plants absorb from the air and is essential to their survival, is found between the leaf cells. If these spaces between the cells filled with rainwater, the carbon dioxide level would fall and the process of photosynthesis, essential to plants’ survival, would slow down. But thanks to this thin coating on their leaves’ surface, plants are able to carry on photosynthesis with no difficulty.

Many protective substances used in our daily lives were actually used long before in nature by living things. Wood polish is just one example. The hard shells of insects also protect them against water and damage from the outside.

Insects' shells and exoskeletons are reinforced by a protein called sclerotin, making them among the hardest surfaces in the natural world. Furthermore, an insect's protective chitin covering never loses its color and brightness.39

Clearly, considering all this, the systems construction firms use to cover and protect external surfaces will be much more effective if they have a composition similar to those found in insects.

cila

The Constantly Self-Cleaning Lotus

The lotus plant (a white water lily)grows in the dirty, muddy bottom of lakes and ponds, yet despite this, its leaves are always clean. That is because whenever the smallest particle of dust lands on the plant, it immediately waves the leaf, directing the dust particles to one particular spot. Raindrops falling on the leaves are sent to that same place, to thus wash the dirt away.

This property of the lotus led researchers to design a new house paint. Researchers began working on how to develop paints that wash clean in the rain, in much the same way as lotus leaves do. As a result of this investigation, a German company called ISPO produced a house paint brand-named Lotusan. On the market in Europe and Asia, the product even came with a guarantee that it would stay clean for five years without detergents or sandblasting.40

Of necessity, many living things possess natural features that protect their external surfaces. There is no doubt, however, that neither the lotus's external structure nor insects' chitin layer came about by themselves. These living things are unaware of the superior properties they possess. It is God Who creates them, together with all their features. One verse describes God's art of creation in these terms:

He is God—the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form.
To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names.
Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him.
He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.
(Qur'an, 59: 24)

 

lotus

A lotus leaf with water on it

During his microscopic research, Dr. Wilhelm Barthlott at the University of Bonn realized that leaves that required the least cleaning were those with the roughest surfaces. On the surface of the lotus leaf, the very cleanest of these, Dr. Barthlott found tiny points, like a bed of nails. When a Speck of dust or dirt falls onto the leaf, it teeters precariously on these points. When a droplet of water rolls across these tiny points, it picks up the speck, which is only poorly attached, and carries it away. In other words, the lotus has a self-cleaning leaf. This feature has inspired researchers to produce a house paint called LOTUSAN, guaranteed to stay clean for five years. (Jim Robbins, “Engineers Ask Nature for Design Advice,” New York Times, December 11, 2001.)

lotus

 

lotus

How a raindrop cleans a lotus leaf

The effect of a raindrop on a normal surface

The effect of raindrops on a building exterior covered with Lotusan.

Plants and New Car Design

deniz yosunu

Seaweed

When designing its new ZIC (Zero Impact Car) model, the Fiat motor company copied the way trees and shrubs divide themselves into branches. Designers built a small channel along the middle of the car, in a similar way as in a plant's stem, and placed in that channel batteries to provide the car with the energy it requires. The car seats were inspired by the plant in the illustration and, just as in that original plant, the seats were attached directly to the channel. The car's roof featured a honeycomb structure similar to that in seaweed. This structure made the ZIC both light and strong.41

In a field like automobile technology that freely displays the very latest innovations, a simple plant, living in nature since the very first day it came into being thousands of years ago, provided engineers and designers with a source of inspiration. Evolutionists—who maintain that life came about by chance and whose forms developed over time, always moving in the direction of improvement—find this and similar events difficult to accept.

How can human beings, possessed of consciousness and reason, learn from plants—devoid of any intelligence or knowledge, which cannot even move—and implement what they learn to achieve ever more practical results? The features that plants and other organisms display cannot, of course, be explained away as coincidences. As proofs of creation, they represent a serious quandary for evolutionists.

Plants that Give Off Alarm Signals

Nearly everyone imagines that plants are unable to combat danger, which is why they easily become fodder for insects, herbivores, and other animals. Yet research has shown that on the contrary, plants use amazing tactics to repel, even overcome their enemies.

To keep leaf-chewing insects at bay, for example, plants sometimes produce noxious chemicals and in a few cases, chemicals to attract other predators to prey on those first ones. Both tactics are no doubt very clever. In the field of agriculture, in fact, efforts are going on to imitate this very useful defense strategy. Jonathan Gershenzon, researching the genetics of plant defenses at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, believes that if this intelligent strategy can be imitated properly, then in the future, non-toxic forms of agricultural pest control could be provided.42

When attacked by pests, some plants release volatile organic chemicals that attract predators and parasitoids, which lay their eggs inside the living body of pests. The larvae which hatch out inside the pest grow by feeding on the pest from within. This indirect strategy thus eliminates harmful organisms that might damage the crop.

Again, it is by chemical means that the plant realizes that a pest is eating its leaves. The plant gives off such an alarm signal not because it "knows" it's losing its leaves, but rather as a response to chemicals in the pest species' saliva. Although superficially, this phenomenon appears to be quite simple, actually quite a number of points need to be considered:

  1. How does the plant perceive chemicals in the pest's saliva?
  2. How does the plant know that it will be freed from the pest's ravages when it gives off the alarm signal?
  3. How does it know that the signal it gives off will attract predators?
  4. What causes the plant to send its signal to insects that feed on its assailants?
  5. That signal the plant gives off is chemical, rather than auditory. The chemicals employed by insects have a most complex structure. The slightest deficiency or error in the formula, and the signal may lose its efficacy. How is the plant thus able to fine-tune this chemical signal?

No doubt it is impossible for a plant, lacking a brain, to arrive at a solution to danger, to analyze chemicals like a scientist, even to produce such a compound and carry out a planned strategy. Very definitely, indirectly overcoming an enemy is the work of a superior intelligence. That intelligence's possessor is God, Creator of the plants with all their flawless characteristics and Who inspires them to do what they can to protect themselves.

tütün bitkisi

The manduca moth and the tobacco plant

Therefore, current biomimetic research is making a great effort to imitate the astonishing intelligence that God displays in all living things.

One group of researchers, from both the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya and Britain's Institute of Arable Crops Research, carried out a study on this subject. To remove pests among maize and sorghum, their team planted species that the stem-borers like to eat, pulling the pests from the crop. Among the crops, they growed species that repel stem-borers and attract parasitoids. In such fields, they found, the number of plants infested with stem-borers dropped by more than 80%. Further applications of this incomparable solution observed in plants will make for still further advances.43

Wild tobacco plants in Utah are subject to attack by caterpillars of the moth Manduca quinquemaculata, the eggs of which are a favorite food of the bug Geocoris pallens. Thanks to volatile chemicals that the tobacco plant releases, the G. pallens is attracted, and number of M. quinquemaculata caterpillars is reduced.44

manduca geociris

Manduca moth caterpillar

Geocoris

Fiber Optic Design in the Ocean Depths

Rossella racovitzae, a species of marine sponge, possesses spicules guiding light as optic fibers do, which of course is employed in the very latest technology. The optical fibers can instantly transport vast amounts of information encoded as light pulses across tremendous distances. Transmitting laser light down a fiber-optic cable makes possible communications unimaginably greater than with cables made of ordinary materials. In fact, a strand no thicker than a hair, containing 100 optical fibers, can transmit 40,000 different sound channels.

This species of sponge which lives in the cold, dark depths of Antarctic seas is easily able to collect the light it requires for photosynthesis thanks to its thorn-shaped protrusions of optical fibers, and is a source of light for its surroundings. This enables both the sponge itself and other living things that benefit from its ability to collect and transmit light to survive. Single-celled algae attach themselves to the sponge and obtain from it the light they need to survive.

Fiber optics is one of the most advanced technologies of recent years. Japanese engineers use this technology to transmit solar rays to those parts of skyscrapers that receive no direct light. Giant lenses sited in a skyscraper's roof focus the sun's rays on the ends of fiber optic transmitters, which then send light to even the very darkest parts of the buildings.

This sponge lives at some 100 to 200 meters depth, off the shores of the Antarctic Ocean, under icebergs in what is virtually total darkness. Sunlight is of the greatest importance to its survival. The creature manages to solve this problem by means of optical fibers that collect solar light in a most effective manner.

optik tasarım

Rossella racovitzae

Optical fibers

"The Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something, He just says to it, 'Be!' and it is."
(Qur’an, 2: 117)

Scientists are amazed that a living thing should have used the fiber optic principle, utilized by high-tech industries, in such an environment for the past 600 million years. Ann M. Mescher, a mechanical engineer and polymer fiber specialist at the University of Washington, expresses it in these terms:

It's fascinating that there's a creature that produces these fibers at low temperature with these unique mechanical properties and fairly good optical properties.45

Brian D. Flinn, University of Washington materials scientist, describes the superior structure in this sponge:

It's not something they're going to put into telecommunications in the next two or three years. It's something that might be 20 years off.46

This all demonstrates that the living things within nature harbor a great many models for human beings. God, Who has designed everything down to the finest detail, has created these designs for mankind to learn from and think upon. This is revealed in the verses:

In the creation of the heavens and the Earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for people with intelligence: those who remember God, standing, sitting and lying on their sides, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the Earth:
"Our Lord, You have not created this for nothing.
Glory be to You! So safeguard us from the punishment of the Fire."
(Qur'an, 3: 190-191)

 

Footnotes

38 Ali Demirsoy, Kalitim ve Evrim (Inheritance and Evolution), Meteksan Publishing Co., Ankara, 1984, p. 80.

39 For further details see Harun Yahya's Design in Nature, Ta Ha Publishers, January 2002.

40 Jim Robbins, "Engineers Ask Nature for Design Advice," New York Times, December 11, 2001.

41 Jim Robbins, "Engineers Ask Nature for Design Advice," New York Times, December 11, 2001.

42 John Whitfield, "Making Crops Cry For Help," Nature, April 12, 2001, p. 736-737.

43 Ibid.

44 Ibid.

45 Peter Weiss, "Soaking Up Rays," Science News, August 4, 2001.

46 Ibid.

 

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