Concepts and Definitions

Ethical Issues

Pedersen Zari, Maibritt. Regenerative Urban Design and Ecosystem Biomimicry. London: Routledge, 2018.

Blok, Vincent, and Bart Gremmen. ‘Ecological Innovation: Biomimicry as a New Way of Thinking and Acting Ecologically’. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 29, no. 2 (2016): 203–17.

Dicks, Henry. ‘Environmental Ethics and Biomimetic Ethics: Nature as Object of Ethics and Nature as Source of Ethics’. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30, no. 2 (2017): 255–74.

Dicks, Henry. ‘The Philosophy of Biomimicry’. Philosophy & Technology 29, no. 3 (2016): 223–43.

Blok, Vincent. ‘Earthing Technology: Toward an Eco-Centric Concept of Biomimetic Technologies in the Anthropocene’. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 2017.



From Good Enough

Future as the safety net of humanity

Mathematics as the study of perfect, physics as the study of optimal, biology as the study of minimally sufficient

Look up Gould and Panglossian when criticising natural selection

On the breeding of greyhounds: I breed many and I hang many.

Nature fights novelty. Never change what already works. So this is the importance of baselines.

Stagnation is good and change is bad in nature. Gould and Dawkins both agree.

Chance, waste, and stagnation are the properties in nature.

Biology is a science of relative frequencies

Free lunch and idleness in nature. Excellence as the outcome of excess as it is suicidal in nature because of diminishing returns.

Further Notes

The point about adaptation in Gould Urchin book. Pandas are so maladapted and inefficient that they have to eat all the time. The are a poor opportunistic matching, not efficient adaptation. Cooped organs, not adaptation.

So, biomimicry can only cherry pick what already seems efficient to humans. According to pre-existing criteria. And from areas where evolutionary wedging does occur.

Importance of history, by which he means an idiosyncratic sequence of events.

Gould Urchin. Most features are co-options that have not originally evolved for the purpose.

Gould Eight Little Piggies, not fit for purpose is the fundamental rule in evolution. Redundancy is necessary.

Gould in 8 Piggies, natural optimality would bring evolution to a halt.

Problems in Nature

Perhaps this needs to be considered across scales:

  • complexity scale
  • spatial scale
  • temporal scale

Conflicts, Contradictions, and Inefficiencies

Cf. Commons

Genes in one organism can compete with each other, with many acting in ways that are harmful to aspects of the organism.

Burt, Austin, and Robert Trivers. Genes in Conflict: The Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.


  • there is a huge amount of suffering in nature, see

This note is about suffering as cause by humans and in nature.

Reproductive strategies evolve to enable successful transmission of genes, not to maximize happiness, thriving or wellbeing.

Horta, Oscar. ‘Animal Suffering in Nature: The Case for Intervention’. Environmental Ethics 39, no. 3 (2017): 261–79.

"People still don't get how astounding Darwinism is. People think what shocked everybody was that Charles Darwin seemed to be saying we had descended from apes. Well, yes, that's what the public and the cartoonists believe. But actually, what was shocking about it was that it said "all life is struggle." It's necessary for our survival that someone is going to suffer at our expense. With most animals, there are runts who are discarded, and nature just tries again in its merciless, relentless, remorseless way. The discovery of that was profoundly shattering to the late 19th century and early 20th century." (Stephen Fry)


Evolution is not a process to be glorified. It is driven by chance . It is merciless and sacrifices individuals. It invented positive and negative feelings to motivate behaviour. Humans and others are on a hedonic treadmill that encourages them to be as happy without making it possible. Cf. Metzinger's biological ego machines.


Humans have what Metzinger calls 'existence bias', a preference to persist even in the face of suffering.

Some argue that it is better not to exist at all, cf. antinatalism

The Case for Not Being Born

Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Suffering in Artificial Systems

Metzinger, Thomas. ‘Artificial Suffering: An Argument for a Global Moratorium on Synthetic Phenomenology’. Journal of Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness 08, no. 01 (2021): 43–66.

  • ostracism, exclusion of less desirable from sex, groups, eating, etc.
  • forced sex (ducks)
  • predation
  • carnivory
  • parasitism
  • reproductive strategies that lead to pain and death


Sustainability is thought within the models of growth, within a romantic appreciation of nature as something distinct, within the refusal to acknowledge the normality of change. Biomimicry/bio-inspiration then are also romantic and tactical in trying to arbitrarily or, rather, human-selfishly borrow local examples from nature to make them artificial, integrate them into the technospere as (unsustainable) things thus contributing to the integration of nature into the techno-cultural artifice. The final resolution of this can be a complete functional replacement of 'nature' by artificial systems (cf. Freya Matthews)

"But is nature really creative? It's easy to be uneasy with the notion of nature as an inventor. Michael Ruse (1986), in his Taking Darwin Seriously, cautions against too close an analogy between the generativity of nature and the creativity of human beings. Decrying attempts to explain scientific and technological progress on a Darwinian model, Ruse highlights the intentionality of science, its progressive truth-oriented character. In the true Darwinian context, the concept of progress makes little sense. Certainly progress cannot be considered as the development of greater complexity and sophistication, culminating in - ahem! - us. In his Wonderful Life, Stephen Jay Gould (1989) issues just such a warning amid numerous examples of how an inappropriately progressive image of evolution has distorted both popular understanding and professional research. Progress toward higher and more complex organisms is human wishful thinking . Nature cares only about survival , where sharks, cockroaches, and an innumerable array of one-celled organisms have it all over human beings, the nouveau riche of the biosphere."

Perkins, David N. ‘Creativity: Beyond the Darwinian Paradigm’. In Dimensions of Creativity, edited by Margaret A. Boden, 119–42. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994.

Gould, Stephen Jay. Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. New. 1989. Reprint, London: Vintage, 2000.

The problem with or the limitation of science is that it is discovering things that already exist in nature. The understanding gained in this way can lead to innovation, but this is engineering and design.


This needs to be sorted

Whether 'nature' is beautiful or ugly is potentially relevant to the question of biomimicry and the value of nature. My position here is that this is not a meaningful way to think. Instead, it is better to consider multiple umwelten as in Sensory Ecology and biosemiotics.

"The natural world and all its splendour presented to me an infinitely complex design that had at its disposal such minimal resources yet was able to ‘manufacture’ solutions so finely tuned to necessity that they instilled a deep sense of awe." Kirkland, David and Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners Ltd (2004). 'A Process-Oriented Architecture', in Innovation in Architecture, ed. by Alan J. Brookes and Dominique Poole (London: Spon), p. 51

"parts of nature that are decidedly ugly" Stephen_Budiansky, The_covenant_of_the_wild_why, p. 136

At about the same time, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, John Muir promotes wild land preservation with similar themes: “None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild… But the continent’s outer beauty is fast passing away.” in Aesthetics and the Environment

Other cognitivists share Carlson’s emphasis on the essential role of knowledge in natural aesthetics. Marcia Muelder Eaton, Holmes Rolston, and Glenn Parsons all agree that the natural sciences provide the most reliable framework for appreciation, although they elaborate their positions in different ways. Rolston and Parsons have developed approaches to positive aesthetics, which Carlson makes a central feature of his cognitivist account. Parts of nature that might otherwise seem ugly—such as a rotting animal carcass, for example—can be regarded as beautiful if viewed as a necessary component of a healthy ecosystem. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY

ugly in nature, Rosenkranz published Aesthetic of Ugliness (Die Ästhetik des Hässlichen) in 1853. In Niche Tactics, 2015

One aspect of this traditional wilderness/built-environment dichotomy, and the one I will focus on here, involves the aesthetic character of these environments.2 Whereas pristine nature, or certain parts of it at least, has become a paradigm of aesthetic appeal, the built environment is more frequently associated with ‘ eyesores’, visual blight and other forms of ugliness. Indeed, some environmental thinkers have asserted that the aesthetic character of wild nature, unlike that of the built environment or of art, is universally and even necessarily positive: i.e., there is not, and perhaps could not be, anything ugly in wild nature. This view, often called ‘Positive Aesthetics’ about nature, remains controversial among philosophers. Parsons in Vermaas, Philosophy and Design

Well... "Nourishing or ugly, surroundings affect us. Nature-formed places may be harsh, inhospitable, frightening. But never dishonest, aggressively ugly or humanity-devaluing. It’s what we have done to them that brings these qualities. The impact of place on us and us on place is reciprocal: the more we damage our environment, the more damaging it is to us. Likewise, the more we care for and heal it, the more nourishing, health-giving, even healing, its influence upon ourselves." Day, Spirit and Place, 2002


"Evolution, wasteful and haphazard as it is, has had three billion years in which to match organisms to their environments."

Ehrenfeld, David W. The Arrogance of Humanism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Evolution is ongoing, sometimes accelerated.

It always introduces change, destroys the old, destroys old forms of life, species, individuals, ecosystems.

There is no watchmaker, but there is no watch either. The evolution is wasteful, blundering, struggling. But it also results in abundant innovation and creativity (those two are always violent).


  • atavisms
  • inborn diseases and disorders
  • limitations on development
  • limitations on speciation
  • limitations on innovation and creativity, especially without major disasters
  • inherent satisficing, it is not possible and expensive to optimise, for example to collect and then process too much information; all organisms are the worst viable solutions rather than optimal ones
  • all organisms/species are also behind the times in reference to their changing circumstances, playing the catch-up
  • in many cases sexual selection is extravagant, costly, and excessive, wasting resources and harming individuals
  • stages of life, structures, all types of things might be invisible to evolution and thus not optimised or made meaningful at all; they can be random or lead by self-emerging but meaningless trends
  • wasteful, for example, very complex DNA in plants or multiple repeating genes
  • opportunistic, using what is at hand


Competition and natural selection are inherently inefficient. They also lead to suffering by definition.

Cf. sensory ecology: cross-species communication, mimicry, camouflage, deliberate illusions, chasing of prey, etc.


Expression and interaction of genes lead to errors of development/morphogenesis and metabolism. These errors can lead to innovation but much more commonly lead to maladaptations, disorders and inviable organisms.

Epstein, Charles J., Robert P. Erickson, and Anthony Joseph Wynshaw-Boris, eds. Inborn Errors of Development: The Molecular Basis of Clinical Disorders of Morphogenesis. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Thomson, Keith Stewart. Morphogenesis and Evolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Routine Extinctions

"Extinction is as natural and inevitable as emergence" Claire Colebrook

Catastrophic Change

Catastrophic extinctions are often the key reason for innovations such as new species or new body plans. The dramatic reduction in competition after a mass extinction is the reason for easy extension into unoccupied possibility spaces.


Mathews, Freya. ‘Towards a Deeper Philosophy of Biomimicry’. Organization & Environment 24, no. 4 (2011): 364–87.