Apologetics, Evolution, z4
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Gears before its time


The Issus Coleoptratus uses gears to enable it to jump. Image Wikipedia/Sarefo

The Issus Coleoptratus uses gears to enable it to jump. Image Wikipedia/Sarefo

One of the earliest mentions of gears was made by Aristotle around 330 BC. He was referring to gears in a windlass used to lift heavy weights. He stated by reversing the rotation of the gears, the direction of the load could be changed. It was a wonderful invention for the time.  Archimedes (287-212 BC) an engineer and inventor incorporated gears into many of the inventions he designed.

But it appears gears were in operation centuries before this. They were being used by Issus Coleoptratus (Issus C.) to jump. Issus C. is a simple plant hopping bug common in England and Europe. It is part of a group of insects referred to as Planthoppers.

Jumping for Issus C. is a complicated process. Any difference in thrust or timing between its two back legs would cause it to spin out of control. To solve the problem, Issus C, uses gears. 

In a study released by Malcolm Burrows and Gregory Sutton of the University of Cambridge, the Issus C. — in its nymph form — has 10 to 12 gear cogs on the inside of each hind leg.  These two sets of gears mesh together just prior to a jump, locking the legs to form a single interlocked thrust.

Burrows says it takes about 30 micro seconds (a micro second equals a millionth of a second) for the gears to lock and the odd time it may even slip a gear before making a firm connection. (Click here to view Issus C.’s gears.)

Oddly, In its adult form the gears are missing and the insect uses friction between its legs to lock them together for jumping.

Burrows says the gears tend to break off and during its nymph stage the insect sheds and rebuilds its eco skeleton a number of times, a process which repairs any broken gears.  However, once in its adult form it no longer sheds, so damaged cogs would hinder rather than help. So after the final shed, the cogs are gone.

Design or evolution?

But this is where it gets confusing, according to evolutionary theory the formation of gears in the Issus C. is an act of random chance caused by mutations.  As is the fact, in its final adult form the gears are now suddenly missing, just as they needed to be.

But when we look at gears in our modern world and the complicated machinery they drive is there one of us who believes these occurred by random chance. We know instinctively the gears had a designer and a manufacturer.

It’s interesting that one of the co-authors realized the problem of design in the Issus C.’s gears and its inherent conflict with evolution. In an article on phys.org, Greg Sutton said:

“These gears are not designed; they are evolved – representing high speed and precision machinery evolved for synchronisation in the animal world.”

This sounds like old-fashioned, political, damage control.

The complexity of the design for the Issus C. speaks for itself. Where there is design, there is a Designer.

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