Friday, 23 October 2009

The Bats; flight and echolocation

There are 3 groups of flying animals in existence today: the birds, the bats and the insects. Each of these presents evolution with insuperable problems, but my especial favourite is the bat.

It’s a shame they have had such bad press with such films as Dracula etc, because these creatures possess some of the most stupendous and miraculous pieces of biological engineering on the planet. For those who are convinced that evolution did occur, this will make not the slightest difference. For those who believe otherwise, this will be another club to beat their heads with.

Remember, the title of Darwin’s book was ‘On the Origin of Species’. That was what he set out to do, and it is what he singularly failed to achieve. It is on the origin question where he and his theory have failed most lamentably.

Fossil bats

There aren’t all that many of them, that’s for sure, and that may have something to do with the fact that they are flying animals. But what IS remarkable, is that the very first fossil bat looks remarkably like the bats of today: and has the echo-location apparatus in its head.

The author says: ‘These fossils represent essentially modern-looking microchiropterans; bats had evolved all of their characteristic features and begun to diversify by this time. In fact, the oldest known complete fossil bat, the Eocene-age Icaronycteris shown at left, shows specializations of the auditory region of the skull that suggest that this bat could echolocate.’

Remember, these are one of the earliest specimens of bat fossils ever found.

Therefore, they could fly. Now a bat does not fly using feathers, it flies using the skin between its fingers. That’s the origin of the name ‘chiropteran’ – hand-wing.

Here is a diagram to show what that means. Notice the vast difference between the bird’s wing and the bat’s:

There is absolutely NO indication of any fossil ancestor of the bat, which hopped, jumped or leapt. There is absolutely NO indication of where and how they could have obtained the power of flight. None whatsoever. This, of course, is what the creation model predicts.

They fly at speeds of about 11.14 mph. In itself that doesn’t sound like much, but when we compare that with the body length of the animal, it is quite startling. It’s 234432 times its body length (say 3 inches) per hour, as compared with a car 20 ft long which at the same speed is only traveling 36000 times its length per hour.

Evolution is helpless to explain how this could have arisen so swiftly, so unexpectedly and so perfectly. Dawkins has laughably conceded that this gives the appearance of being designed, and then goes on to propound his pathetic fantasies about how this could have evolved. Have a look in Blind Watchmaker, (starting at page 22 where you'll find this:

The Sonar and Radar pioneers didn't know it then, but all the world
now knows that bats, or rather natural selection working on bats, had
perfected the system tens of millions of years earlier, and their 'radar'
achieves feats of detection and navigation that would strike an engineer
dumb with admiration.)
Pity they didn't strike Dawkins dumb with admiration, but one can't have everything!

Flight is one thing – marvelous as it is – but the echolocation system the animal uses beggars description.

In essence, the bat emits a squeak, which like radar, bounces back to the source. Knowing the speed of the radio wave emitted we can work out very accurately how far away an object is.

That’s us. The bats do this as well, but better than we can.

Let’s say that a bat is not moving, and emits a shriek. The sound wave travels to the insect it’s interested in, hits it, and bounces back. Let’s also say the insect is still. What happens then? We know the speed of sound and can calculate the distance to the object from the time it takes for the shriek to get there and reach back to us.

But the bat doesn’t know the speed of sound. So how can it calculate the distance of the insect? Evolution does not know.

Notice 2 things:

1 It has a sound emitter, and a sound receiver, and a computer connected to the two things which is able to calculate at phenomenal speeds, and immediately communicate those results to the muscles and nervous system.

But recall that both the bat and the insect were still.

That is not the case when the bat is hunting.

The bat is flying at up to 11 mph, and the insect is dodging and on an uncertain flight path. The calculations immediately begin to defy belief. Bear in mind too, that there are other bats emitting shrieks. How does our bat keep track of, and identify its own signal?

Answer, it possesses the necessary equipment. That equipment is of extraordinary high quality, as we’ve seen from the requirements.

From a computational neuroscience perspective, bats are remarkable because of the very short timescale on which they operate. The barrage of returning sonar echoes from a bat's near-environment lasts approximately 30 milliseconds following a sonar emission with the echo from a specific target lasting, at most, a few milliseconds.

From an engineering standpoint, biosonar systems (e.g. bats and dolphins) have inspired the design of very sophisticated sonar and radar systems that can map distant surfaces and track targets with great precision. Even with powerful mathematical tools and decades of experience, however, our best systems still do not rival the perceptual capabilities of dolphins. Many bats demonstrate incredible aerial agility, flying in complete darkness through branches and caves while hunting evasive insects. These animals perform such tasks in real-time with a total power consumption (including flight) measured in Watts, not hundreds of Watts. In addition to the ability to navigate in complete darkness by echolocation, both bats and dolphins live in very social environments using echolocation in group situations without any obvious problems with interference. All of these capabilities are highly desired by current military programs developing unmanned-aerial vehicles (UAV) especially since many of the target environments are in places where Global Positioning System (GPS) signals are unavailable and obstacle locations are not mapped.

It gets extremely technical, as we might guess, but the biggest points are very obvious.

Clearly, there is extremely high order design and implementation in this system. The military want to copy the design – which means that the bats’ system is superior to any of their own.

We have high order flight engineering and acoustic engineering allied to extreme efficiency of power consumption (measured in Watts, not hundreds of watts). And meanwhile, the animal is alive, growing, breathing, excreting, responding, moving, feeding, and reproducing. So successful is the group, that they are one of the most numerous sets of animals on the planet, as far as the numbers of species is concerned. They are estimated to be about 20% of all mammalian species.

There is not even a reputable theory to account for the evolutionary origin of bats that I have been able to find. The writers content themselves with mumbling about the as yet undiscovered ancestors of bats.Too soft, they say. But they've found birds, and jellyfish, and spiders and...

The instincts involved: flight and use of this incredible sonar system are mind boggling. Imagine putting an ignoramus in the cockpit of a modern jet fighter aircraft! Because the bat has a brain the size of a brazil nut, or less.

Evolution has failed miserably here, as usual when presented with a concrete case. The animals scream ‘We are designed’ and each little creature is a small hymn of praise to its Maker.

Thomas Addison said it well: “In reason’s ear, they all rejoice, and utter forth a glorious voice….. the Hand that made us is divine”.

Well said, Thomas.


Dawkins, Richard: The Blind Watchmaker




Evolution's Soft Underbelly
by Asyncritus


The Argument Darwin Dreaded…
The Argument No-One Has Developed Before…
The Argument to Which There Is


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