Thursday, August 4, 2011

I live in Japan...

Therefore, I am sometimes surprised when I get Jehovah's witnesses knocking on my door.  Today, it was two nice old ladies that were knocking, so I was on my best behavior.  I don't really speak Japanese, certainly not at the level of abstract language required to communicate about religion, so I didn't understand what they were saying.  They had a book full of colorful pictures.  First she pointed to a picture of a fish and a car.  Then to a picture of a salamander's foot.  I don't really know what this was all about, but I am guessing it has something to do with intelligent design.  On the flip-side, maybe they were saying that cars evolved from fish.  That would be hilarious.


  1. This was evidently from the brochure Was Life Created?, pages 14 and 15, and were examples from the field of biomimetics, where the design features of various creatures are reverse-engineered into everyday products.

    The concept car was designed to imitate the low-drag of the boxfish, and the Gecko's foot is being closely studied for its ability to cling to very smooth surfaces using molecular forces. Next time they stop by, you can ask for an English edition.

  2. Aha! So that is what they were talking about. Thank you for clarifying that.

    That said, I don't think that getting inspiration for design from nature is in any way a compelling argument for evidence of intelligent design.

    After all, a person could receive inspiration while looking at the random shapes of clouds.

    As far as functionality, natural selection could just as easily explain why a fish has low drag or a gecko can climb on walls. These things help them to survive and thereby increase the likelihood that they can reproduce.

  3. I'd recommend that you give the brochure a chance. For example, the next chapter focuses on some of the common assumptions about evolution (including natural selection) and what the observed evidence shows, along with an extensive bibliography from recognized science publications. It's not as straightforward as many think.

    You can request the English brochure by writing to our branch office in Japan at 4-7-1 Nakashinden, Ebina City, Kanagawa-Pref, 243-0496. It's free. Another brochure we offer that's up-to-date with the current advances in scientific research is The Origin of Life; Five Questions Worth Asking. After all, it's good to challenge our views now and then, isn't it? :)

  4. If I get a chance to check out this brochure I will certainly do so. And challenging my views is something that I try to do on a daily basis. In my experience, however, the scientific claims that these kinds of materials present are often either from scientists who are on the very fringe of what can be called science, or have cherry-picked and/or misrepresented the work or words of legitimate scientists. I am not accusing your brochure of necessarily doing that, but I am just saying that that has been my experience.

    As to the origins of life, the only reasonable answer that anyone can give is: I don't know. Nobody does. That's okay. Maybe someday we will. Anyone who claims to "know" the exact origins of life is not being completely honest with themselves, others, or both.

  5. Thanks Mike. I think you'll find that these brochures go out of their way to accurately represent the mainstream scientists that are quoted.

    For example, on page 5 in The Origin of Life brochure, Professor Robert Shapiro is quoted from his article in the journal Scientific American where he comments on the inadequacy of Stanley Miller's experiment to explain the origin of all of the building blocks of life. Yet the footnote is sure to point out that Shapiro "does not believe that life was created. He believes that life arose by chance in some fashion not yet fully understood."