Eric Cassell

Eric Cassell has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology (B.S. Biology, George Mason University), a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering (B.E.E., Villanova University), and a Master’s degree (M.A. Science and Religion, Biola University), which included the study of philosophy of science, the history of the relationship between science and religion, and various views of design in cosmology and biology. He has been an engineering consultant for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with over forty years of experience in various aspects of systems engineering related to aircraft navigation, air traffic control surveillance, and safety systems. He is a technical expert in various aspects of the Global Positioning System. His experience also includes the development of several computer models of engineering systems. This included modeling aspects of human behavior (aircraft pilots and air traffic controllers). He has also authored over 30 published technical papers, as well as numerous other technical reports. He has had a long-term interest in various aspects of animal behavior and is the author of Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. His work experience enables him to bring a unique perspective to analyzing aspects of animal behavior that appear to be the result of engineering design.

Archives

Evolution Challenge: The Harvester Ant Foraging Algorithm

On this ID the Future, Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell explores an algorithm in the brains of harvester ants that adjusts their foraging strategy based on how available food is in their environment, thereby guiding the harvester ants toward more efficient foraging. Cassell builds off a March 2022 article in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface to explain how the algorithm in the ant’s tiny brain involves a sophisticated feedback control mechanism that includes both positive and negative feedback systems. As he further notes in the episode and in an article at Evolution News, a mathematical model of the harvester ants’ foraging behavior by Stanford University scientists confirms the control algorithm is largely optimized. Cassell’s recent book, Animal Algorithms,

Hank Hanegraaff and Animal Algorithms Author Eric Cassell, Pt. 2

On today’s ID the Future, radio host Hank Hanegraaff continues his conversation with Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell. Here they look at more insects with strikingly sophisticated innate behavior, suggesting intricate algorithms encoded into their brains from birth, all of which cannot be effectively explained by reference to Darwinian evolution. Cassell and Hanegraaff touch on wasp martial arts; termite altruism and termite architectural skills, including a cooling system that has inspired a human design; interdependent social caste systems that enhance fitness; and spiderweb architecture and the extraordinary properties of spider silk, including the different kinds of silk and the spider’s ability to employ different types precisely tailored for different needs. Cassell looks

Hank Hanegraaff Interviews Animal Algorithms Author Eric Cassell, Pt. 1

On this ID the Future radio host Hank Hanegraaff interviews Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell about insects and other small-brained animals with innate behaviors of astonishing sophistication — desert ants, leafcutter ants, honey bees, spiders, monarch butterflies, and many more. These appear to be hard-wired from birth with complex algorithms coded into their neural networks, and some of the algorithms seem to involve complex mathematics. Also mysterious: many of these innate abilities are do or die. So how could they have blindly evolved one small Darwinian step at a time? Also, how would genetic mutations generate the ability to make navigational calculations (as in the case of some birds) that for humans require spherical geometry? Listen in to learn more about this and other

Animal Algorithms Webinar Pt. 2: Author Q&A

Today’s ID the Future is Part 2 of a recent live webinar with Eric Cassell fielding questions about his new book, Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. He and host Casey Luskin explore the engineering wonders of web-spinning spiders and their extraordinary silk, and the challenge of transforming solitary insects into social insects (with their complex and interdependent caste systems) via a blind step-by-step evolutionary process, and the many thousands of genetic changes required. What does Cassell consider the best explanation? He invokes design theorist William Dembski’s work with No Free Lunch theorems to argue that blind processes are a no-go for explaining their origin. From there Luskin opens the webinar up to questions from the live

Animal Algorithms Webinar: Desert Ants and Honey Bees

Today’s ID the Future brings listeners the first half of a recent live webinar featuring author Eric Cassell fielding questions about his intelligent design book, Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. Center for Science and Culture associate director Casey Luskin hosts. They begin the webinar discussing Cassell’s unique set of qualifications for writing the book, and then they move into a conversation about the amazing desert ant, a master navigator from birth, able to integrate multiple navigation sensors despite having an incredibly tiny brain. Cassell argues that these innate skills point to algorithms programmed into the ant’s brain and genome, and that such programming is far better explained by intelligent design than by any blind

The Miracle of Spiderwebs

Spiders are another of nature’s master engineers. About half of known spider species (order Araneae) construct webs made of silk.

Convergent Animal Algorithms Challenge Darwinism

Today’s ID the Future again spotlights the new book Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. Host and Baylor University computer engineering professor Robert J. Marks talks with Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell about the sophisticated algorithms that appear to be embedded in the brains of colony insects, granting them impressive instinctive abilities. Could these complex programmed behaviors have evolved through a blind Darwinian process? Cassell and Marks discuss the challenges to that idea, beginning with the fact that in our ordinary experience, when random changes are made to a computer algorithm, it inevitably degrades function rather than enhancing it. Digging deeper, they discuss the No Free Lunch theorems of William Macready and

Amazing Insect Colonies vs. Evolution

On today’s ID the Future, Animal Algorithms author Eric Cassell delves into another fascinating portion of his new book, the programmed social behaviors of colony insects and the challenge these instinctive behaviors pose for modern evolutionary theory. Cassell and host Robert J. Marks discuss the complex caste system of these colonies, the impressive signaling systems they use to communicate, and how technologists study these tiny-brained creatures to learn tricks for developing and improving drone swarm technology. How could a mindless evolutionary process have evolved these sophisticated colonies, where various castes appear essential to the functioning and survival of the colony, and possess their division-of-labor skills instinctively? Some colony members also behave