Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired By Nature, by Janine M. Benyus
I want to make it plain at the outset that I did not like this book. Reading this book was a frustrating experience for many reasons. For one, the tone of the author read like someone who was proselytizing for a false religion, namely the heathen worship of the earth mother, which did not bode well for my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Added to this was the inability of the author to recognize fundamental truths about design and creation that were staring her in the face and that were painfully obvious to me as a reader . Given that the reader continually harps on the high level of design and skill it takes merely to mimic creation, it is striking that she is entirely blind to the intelligence and skill it took to create the same facets of plant and animal life that she views with such rapturous pleasure. Like those whom Paul comments on in Romans 1 who exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of His creation and professed to be wise but became fools, the author undercuts her own worldview by her continual demonstration of the aspects of design in the whole field of biomimicry, to results that are both irritating and occasionally hilarious.
The book itself consists of a series of explorations that the author has into various aspects of bioengineering that seek to take what is best out of creation and apply it to human beings in novel contexts or ways. One can see in the twenty years between this book’s publishing and today that those of the author’s ilk are much less confident about their ability to persuade people to change their ways to adopt what would now be called a more “sustainable” lifestyle without government coercion. Viewing creation as a model, measure, and mentor, the author praises shamans and holds to the ridiculous myths of noble savages that have been around since at least the French Enlightenment of the 18th century. The 300 or so pages of this book are divided into eight chapters that ask why we are talking about biomimicry now, how we may feed ourselves in the future, how we will harness energy, how we will make things, how we will heal ourselves, how we will store what we learn, how will we conduct business, and where we will go from here. Most of the chapters consist of the author attempting to digest the literature of speculation and research and looking for salvation in the efforts of scientists to copy God’s creation.
Ultimately, what this book says is less important and blameworthy than its approach. Throughout its history, the contemporary environmental movement as well as the sort of futurist tendencies that the author demonstrates has been less about means and more about ends. Many of the promising technologies that the author touts here have fizzled and found themselves to be not worth pursuing. There have been fads about all kinds of plants that were supposed to provide medicines (some have) and end our reliance on hydrocarbons (they haven’t), and renewable energy continues to have a fairly pitiful total share of our energy sources even today while fracking has given fossil fuels a new lease on life. The author’s approach, though, that we should celebrate scarcity, worship nature, and accept some kind of technocratic government ruled by unaccountable scientific elites who adopt some sort of socialistic system is shared by many others, and no amount of specific debunking of this or that technology is going to change the fact that the author wishes to drastically reshape our society and whether it is done through the choice to reject contemporary ways made freely by people or by coercion when they do not move far or quickly enough, the author’s ulterior motives are the same. And even when the author is right to criticize selfishness and destructiveness, the author is wrong to worship creation without any regard or respect for God’s ways and laws, and that is simply unacceptable.
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