In Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts author Eric Cassell explores the buzzing, migrating, web-spinning, and colony-building world of ingenious animals blessed with gobsmackingly impressive skills — in many cases, from birth.
How do blind mound-building termites know passive heating and cooling strategies that dazzle skilled human architects? What taught the honeybee its dance, or its hive mates how to read the complex message of the dance? How do monarch butterflies known to fly thousands of miles to a single mountainside in Mexico, to a place they’ve never been before?
The secret, according to author Eric Cassell: behavioral algorithms embedded in their tiny brains.
The Problem for Darwinists
But how did these embedded programs arise in the history of life? There’s the problem for evolutionists. “Specified complexity, irreducible complexity, and the Cambrian explosion are inexplicable from a Darwinian viewpoint,” comments Baylor University computer engineer and intelligent design theorist Robert J. Marks. “In this book, Cassell masterfully adds animal algorithms to the list.”
Several other specialists have praised the book, including an entomologist, a paleoentomologist, and a neurobiologist.
The entomologist, Malcolm Chisolm, describes it as an enjoyable read that is also very well-researched. Melissa Cain Travis, author of Science and the Mind of the Maker, calls it “a fascinating exploration,” and says, “Readers will come away with a clear understanding of why the algorithmic dances of organisms such as bees, ants, and butterflies pose an enormous challenge to the materialist evolutionary paradigm.”
Cassell has degrees in biology and electrical engineering. Much of his professional work has focused on flight navigation systems, including GPS. He has done extensive consulting work for the FAA and NASA.
Learning from the Birds and the Bees
“I happened to read some articles about bird migration and was surprised about how they could navigate so accurately,” Cassel said in explaining what drew him into the study of animal navigation. “Having worked on aircraft navigation systems, I was intrigued to know what method the birds use.”
There was also a bee experiment from his undergraduate days. “We followed bees as they foraged in a field of flowers,” he says. “One conclusion from the experiment indicated that the bees, rather than searching for food in a random manner, were following a specific efficient strategy. That urged the question as to how an animal with such a small brain is able to do that.”
Animal Algorithms promises to delight many of Discovery Institute Press’s loyal fans as well as attract new readers — the sort who might have little interest in molecular biology and fossils but who are fascinated by the macro world of animal behavior. Cassell points to another group the book is well suited for: biologists and engineers eager to learn more about applying systems engineering principles to complex programmed animal behaviors.