Thursday, 15 February 2007

How to ... "Design" a Car

OK so yes you may have noticed a certain anti-ID theme appearing in this series of posts, well science education is something that I take seriously, and one of the anti-science themes that is prevalent in my readings at present (such as Robyn Williams' Unintelligent Design) and hence giving me my ideas for this is ID so that is where I am going but I promise I will diversify (at some point).

I digress, this is somewhat of a response to the "Watchmaker" argument that has been put forward at various times. Essentially it states that something that complex cannot have occurred naturally and hence has to have been designed as a whole. In particular this is a response to the idea of "Irreducible Complexity" (IC) that underpins the the ID arguments.

Essentially if a car was IC then if you removed a bit of it, then it would no longer work. And this is approximately the case (well at least if you consider a very basic car model) especially if you fail to account for other uses of the components - in other words if you take away everything but a wheel you no longer have a car or anything that works as a car does but you still have a wheel which is useful in its own right - which seems to be something that has happened from the IC proponents.

So how have we designed (or perhaps evolved would be closer to the truth) a car:

  • we started with the development of using trees as rollers to aid transporting heavy objects (such as one often sees in depictions of the building of the pyramids in Egypt).
  • later these we modified to a pair of wheels linked by an axle and a bed on which to put things to be transported, so now the wheels stayed with the load instead of being rolled over and then moved.
  • Of course something needs to move this simple cart, and we have had plenty of option in terms of man power (or slave labour) or beasts of burden (horses, oxen etc).
  • Wheels are simplified so that instead of being solid wood they now consist of a rim and spokes radiating out of the centre to that rim, this reduces weight of the wheel and allows for greater speed (for example chariots).
  • A two wheeled cart is not a stable platform, if left to its own devices it will tip forwards or back wards so we will add another set of wheels and now we have a stable platform that does not need to be constantly hitched to something.
  • Brakes can help in the situations where you need to stop.
  • In addition to being pulled wheels can also be ridden on lo and behold we have a bicycle (or at least the fore runner to a bicycle)
  • Pedals and maybe some gearing might help with the riding of the bicycle as it comes towards its modern form.
  • An ability to steer (normally the front wheels but rear wheel steering works too) helps you get more accurately to where you are going.
  • Of course for those of you tied of pedal power or with a lame horse why not power it with a steam engine (trains and tractors are good examples of how this was done).
  • If steam is not your thing then why not try the new fangled internal combustion engine.
  • Multiple gearing that is easily switched between will of course help speed up travel.
  • Oh and don't forget the Pneumatic tires.
And of course now you have a car - although you might want to think about adding a stereo so you can listen to your tunes, maybe 4WD for going off road, GPS for when you get lost etc etc etc.

As you can plainly see that a car did not come fully assembled in one foul swoop, but gradually evolved over thousands of years.