Book Review: Animal Architecture

Animal Architecture, by Ingo Arndt, text by Jürgen Tautz

There is a deep and fatal inconsistency in this book, and it demonstrates something larger and more troubling at the problems of science as it relates to design.  On the one hand, the vast majority of this book is filled with beautiful photos of the designs of animals in the studio environment as well as in creation that demonstrate the capacity of animals for subcreation in beautiful and elegant forms that we would recognize from our own design expertise.  On the other hand, the text is provided by someone who either does not recognize or does not want to acknowledge that he recognizes the design inferences that one can make from animal architecture, and who feels it necessary to make a wholly inappropriate and unwarranted quotation of the cliche that nothing makes sense apart from evolution even though animal architecture only makes sense from the point of view of a universe that is infused with design in which the creation imitates its creator.  To its credit, the photographer appears to be uninhibited by the evolutionary biases of the dullard who wrote the text in showcasing the beauty of design that one can find in animal’s homebuilding, and the reader can thankfully enjoy the book without recourse to its pitiful text, but still, the book obviously suffers for having such a flaw between its contents and its presentation.

The book’s incoherence begins with the foreword, which promises that the theme of the book and its photographer is an ideal match.  Truth be told, Jim Brandenburg is right to comment that the photographer is skilled at capturing animal designs, but fails to draw the conclusion that the elegance and profusion of animal architecture demonstrates that both animals and human beings design more than they strictly “need” unless one defines needs on a tautological basis.  After this there is a laughably bad introduction that tries to shoehorn the book’s design themes into an evolutionary framework so that it is viewed as scientific and so its design implications are properly ignored by the majority of the book’s readers.  After these two misfires, the book moves to its proper material in looking at the designs of birds (1), articulates (2), mammals (3), corals, bivalves, and snails (4), as well as the author’s note on his own photographic work (5), in which he reveals that he used all Canon cameras for his designs and that he really enjoyed traveling all over the world to take his photos of animal creations.

There are at least a few genuine surprises and pleasures to be found in the photographs.  We see termites skillfully building in order to keep their mounds cool by presenting a broad surface area for morning and evening sun and a small surface area for hotter noonday sun.  We view the decorative and even extravagant bachelor pads of the bowerbird that attract a mate who then builds a simpler house to raise the chicks on her own, a phenomenon that needs almost no commentary on its relevance to human behavior.  The photographer does not avoid more commonplace structures like beehives and spider’s webs, which have their own skillful design purposes executed well by creatures whose example continues to inspire our own creativity.  The author also discusses beaver dams and coral reefs and their construction excellence in terms of size and sophistication, reminding human beings that we are not the only designers in the universe.  If only the person who wrote the book’s introduction was wise to the implications of design, though.  Or perhaps he is, and desperately quotes evolutionary dogma in order to convince himself that all of this creativity in creation can be shoehorned to support a bankrupt worldview instead of being viewed squarely and honestly for what it is.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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