If God wanted man to fly...
Today I attended a presentation about biomimicry. It was a great presentation, interesting, and an overall good introduction to the topic. It left me with some questions / thoughts which I was unable to fully articulate during the QA session.
Wording is important. Although the group (classmates) mentioned that we are living in the system, and talked about using the knowledge we gain in the context of our environment, the wording that it most often used when discussing something like this is "What can we learn from nature?" It may be insignificant, but I truly believe that such small linguistics slips prevent us from recognizing the fact that we are nature. To that end, I would much prefer that we speak of it in terms of "What can we learn from other parts of nature?"
I was happy that the presentation talked not only about what products and innovations we can create based on other parts of nature as a model, but also, what principles and laws we can derive about how our system works, and how we must work as a part of that system. For example, in the rest of nature, one organism's waste is another organism's food. Given that we agree that this aspect of nature is good, and that we should follow this principle, how do we presume to decide that other aspects we find true in the rest of nature are not to be followed. Even in terms of the production related side of biomimicary... do we see other species attempting to artificially "biomimic" a spider-web like substance for their own use? Is there a reason for this? How do we decide what concepts, principles, or laws from nature's model we reject and what we adopt?
Similarly, I asked about the fact that some species eat their young, yet no one (including me) would look at that and say it is OK to eat your young. But the question remains, how can we decide what to adopt and what to reject. When I tried to raise this question in class, the answer was something about using our rational. I think this is a very dangerous concept... that our rational, based just a few thousand years of society (which is failing) and cultureal norms, is somehow able to guide us and tell us that, when it comes to such drastic (in our culture) methods of population control, nature is wrong? How can we be so presumptuous to think that we know better?
I can't stress enough that I am not suggesting that we adopt extermination as a method of population control, simply using this extreme example as a means of questioning our ability to judge what is "good" and what is "bad" in nature based on something so limited as our rational and cultural norms which have told us that the solution to growing population is to simply grow more food by converting wet-lands to farms, or genetically engineering crops to produce higher yield and ridding the earth of biodiversity that "takes up space" such as the low-yield varieties.
I am left with the impression that biomimicary, while in principle is a great idea, can never reach it's full potential, nor help us move toward a "sustainable" society, so long as it is applied in the context of our flawed vision and understanding of ourselves and our relation to the rest of nature.
I always thought that those people who say "If God had intended us to fly, he would have given us wings" were just some wack-jobs with fantasies about living in the woods. Now I am not so sure.