Joined: May 2006
I think it must be pointed out before we go any further that the use of the word "design" is inappropriate in this context. In an engineering or software design sense when you look at design you are observing the designer's intent. Why was object-oriented design used in this instance as opposed to top down? Why was a steam turbine used in this case rather than a gas turbine? These questions all can be justified by the designer in terms of better efficiency, available resources and so on and that allows the relative value of the design to be assessed.
This is not the case in biological systems. We can only really assess a few things such as function, composition, and process of formation. We have no context as to why one "design" was preferred over another. We have no access to the intent of the "designer" and are unable to examine his justifications. Even in cases where we can compare similiar function across variable design patterns (i.e. wing designs) we still can not, with any great confidence, determine why a particular design was used in one case while another was used elsewhere. Even where we are somewhat certain as to the process of formation that stills gives us no real information about the intent and justification of the design. I think this is murky because of the insistance of using the word "design" for the sole purpose of implying the exisitence of a "designer". There's just no measurable why to evaluate design in a biological system which is why I think it should be left to the sphere of philosophy where it belongs.
Lenny, to your point, these questions can not be answered in a scientific sense.