Autonomous Control and “Mother Nature”

Engineers regularly work with control systems. Autonomous control is a step beyond remote control. Remote control applications allow manual issuing of commands through some sort of transmission device (i.e., a remote controller) that controls something else (e.g., a robot or television) located some distance away from the controller. Autonomous control, on the other hand, uses a computer program to issue the commands. The computer becomes the controller, instead of a human being. It is common knowledge in the engineering community that autonomous control is a subject that is of particular interest today. From autonomous control of ground vehicles (Naranjo, et al., 2006), to autonomous missile guidance systems (Lin, et al., 2004) and aerial vehicles (Oosterom and Babuska, 2006), to autonomous aquatic vehicles (Loebis, et al., 2004) and satellites (Cheng, et al., 2009), and even to autonomous farming equipment (Omid, et al., 2010), notable success is being made in this area of technology.

The amazing thing from a Christian perspective, however, is that many engineers—the designers of the scientific community—are becoming aware of the fact that the world around us is already replete with fully functional, superior designs in comparison to what the engineering community has been able to develop to date. Biomimicry (i.e., engineering design using something from nature as the blueprint) is becoming a prevalent engineering pursuit. However, some engineers are not interested in copying creation in their designs since they simply cannot replicate many of the features that the natural world has to offer. They are realizing that the created order oftentimes comes equipped with natural “sensor suites” whose designs surpass the capability of engineering knowledge to date. Animals possess amazing detection, tracking, and maneuvering capabilities which are far beyond the knowledge of today’s engineering minds, and likely will be for many decades, if not forever. An insect neurobiologist, John Hildebrand, from the University of Arizona in Tucson, admitted, “There’s a long history of trying to develop microrobots that could be sent out as autonomous devices, but I think many engineers have realised [sic] that they can’t improve on Mother Nature” (Marshall, 2008, p. 41). Of course, “Mother Nature” is not capable of designing anything, since “she” is mindless. The Chief Engineer, the God of the Bible, on the other hand, can be counted on to have the best possible engineering designs. Who, after all, could out-design the Grand Designer? In spite of the deterioration of the world and the entrance of disease and mutations into the created order, after some six millennia, His designs still stand out as the best—unsurpassed by human wisdom….

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