Baraminology Study Group Conference
New St. Andrews College, Moscow, ID
Design has been a key and yet elusive word in the areas of science and philosophy for many years. It seemed to reach its apex in 1802 with Paley’s Natural Theology. However, in the wake of Darwin’s Origin the recognition of design as part of a biological research paradigm has been greatly undermined. Design as expressed in Natural Theology is equivalent to that of a highly tuned machine. The parts are idealized and their relationships are synchronized and static. Although we see design of this type in nature, it has limitations when dealing with dynamic, complex interactions between components of a system. Component interaction can range from that of an organism within a biosphere to that of an organelle within the cell. Could there be a broader definition of design that can provide useful insights into the study of the creation and in turn become part of a fruitful research paradigm?
Here systems theory is used to develop a framework for defining design in a broader fashion. General systems theory, developed in the 1930s by Ludwig Bertalanffy, proposes the existence of properties or laws that describe the interactions between systems. These laws of interaction apply not only to biological systems, but also to social, political and mechanical systems. Cybernetics, a subdiscipline of systems theory, treats each component of a system as a black box. The black box interacts with its environment through inputs and outputs. Although the outputs of a component are dependent on its environment and internal state, it is possible to study component interaction without knowing the internal function of the component. This is a more holistic approach and provides a context from which to study adaptation, complexity and optimal design.
In recent years computer scientists have gained experience working with the design of complex systems. One fruitful approach to software design is Object Oriented Programming (OOP). In this approach complex programs are broken into smaller interacting components. By restricting the amount of interaction between components, the programmer is able to better anticipate the complexities of the system’s behavior and, therefore, control and hopefully eliminate errant behavior. Out of OOP came the concept of design patterns, which are rules of “best practices” when solving certain software problems. Gamma et al. (1995) identified twenty-three such design patterns. Assuming these patterns capture the essence of design in a broader sense, a comparison can be made to biological systems.
From this comparison there is at least an analogous correspondence between OOP and biological systems. This gives confidence that design patterns provide a starting point for developing an inter-disciplinary language of design. As a research paradigm, a design language provides potential solutions to classes of biological problems. Although it does not prescribe the particular solution, it does restrict the number of viable solutions for a well behaved system. As biologists are able to recognize and communicate design concepts effectively, new patterns can be discovered, which can benefit the OOP community as well as others.
As a specific application, systems theory and design patterns can be applied to the study of limits of variability in the creation. Thinking of an organism as a collection of interacting components, it is possible to differentiate between components exercising global control and those exercising only local control. Likewise a distinction can be made between components of interdependent function and components of peripheral function. Although the loss of a peripheral component is not lethal, it may reduce the ability of an organism to adapt to its environment. Assuming there has been a systemic degradation of each holobaramin since the fall, it may be possible to restore some of the adaptive capabilities of an organism by comparing current members of a particular holobaramin.
Creation, creation science, baraminology
Gollmer, S. M. (2005). A Systems View of Life: A Grander Order in the Complexity of Life. Baraminology Study Group Conference.