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Vol. IV • 1981

There is Nothing New Under the Sun
Jerry Bergman

A cursory examination of the world of product design reveals that most of the thousands of manufactured products copy to a large extent "natural" patterns, designs, etc., that God incorporated in His creation Vinyl, for example as found in car seats, desk tops, chair seats and a myriad of other products is made out of molded soft plastic (a liquid poured into a mold), and proposed to look like either leather or some other "natural" product. The grooves and printed color patterns that are found in the vinyl are not needed, but are incorporated in the pattern so the vinyl looks like animal skin or hide. This "natural" pattern is seen by most as more beautiful than the "plain" vinyl.

Today, more and more products are incorporating the color, grain texture and appearance of cowhide, wood or other "natural" patterns. Most luxury cars as well as many lower-priced models typically contain some type of artificial wood grain pattern on their dashboards and door panels. Artificial grains are usually printed on paper, plastic or some other material by a process similar to printing a "photograph" on a sheet of paper. Looking at the myriad of products available today such as light fixtures, lamps, desks, and most furniture, to name a few, one finds that if they are not composed of some natural product, the metal or plastic is shaped or made to look like some "natural" product.

Even where man has not directly copied the natural world, careful examination shows that his works are invariably a modification of some aspect of it - essentially taking something normally found and changing it in some simple way. This is especially true of oil paintings. Throughout most of history the majority of art works were essentially copies of something in the natural world, i.e., paintings of people, birds, nature scenes, animals or other things normally found in the natural world. Recently, though, various art forms called "surrealism" have proven popular. Although the effort here is to create something "new", this is probably not possible. What is done is that a natural theme in nature is taken and changed in some way, i.e., the sky, instead of being blue, is red, the grass, instead of being green, is purple; or other variations are used which only change something in the natural world. Other changes might include variations in the size and shape (or some other clear alteration) of the various natural objects usually involving such things as color, shape, position, or a recombining of other natural elements. There is one major exception to this, and that isthe design of machines and the painting of "mechanical" shapes, or various solid shapes or masses of color blended in some fashion to show movement (called "modern art"). Most of these manmade shapes, though, are predominantly geometrical, i.e., a combination of clearly round, square, or straight surfaces.

In product design, copying of natural patterns is common. For example, a common type of glass is where the glass contains hundreds of minute cracks. This "natural process" was common and unavoidable at one time, but today it is done primarily for beauty. This is also true of "unevenness" and imperfections (such as air bubbles) in the glass surface, which was at one time a result of the crude methods of making glass, but today is artificially induced to help the object become more "attractive". A popular type of paint, commonly found on medical and scientific instruments and known as "crackle paint," is a type of paint designed so its different layers dry at different speeds (thus buckling up. leaving a bumpy surface). Cracking was at one time a common "problem" with painting, but now is a popular finish: this, too, at one lime resulted from a "natural" occurrence.

When man-made objects are closely compared with "natural" objects. one finds what man has made is often crude, but what is "natural" is not even comparable with man's efforts. If one takes a beautiful watch and looks at it with a scanning electron microscope, one finds the metal parts appear to be crudely machined with many flaws and imperfections On the other hand, if one has seen the many pictures of the natural world taken with the scanning electron microscope, one cannot help but notice that the more carefully the natural world is looked at, the greater the complexity and symmetry of design. It is as if a curtain was removed to reveal a totally different world beyond the world which is apparent around us.

As Barron (1969:10) concludes: "Creativity may be defined quite simply as the ability to bring something new into existence. .since human beings are not able to make something out of nothing the human act of creation always involves a reshaping of given materials whether physical or mental. The 'something new' is a form made by the reconstruction of, or regeneration from, something old." To make an automobile, for example, man simply reshapes materials already existing in nature and does, in essence, nothing more than "move around" the materials. True, it requires a tremendous amount of skill, manpower, energy, etc., in order to properly rearrange the materials, but man, in essence, creates nothing new. Most of man's development has been redoing past work, using very slight "changes" from the natural world. In time he develops his product into something he views as "new." Yet, it is not really "new" at all.

Barron, F. Creative Person and Creative Process, New York: Holt, 1969.

"There is Nothing New Under the Sun"
CSSHS • Creation Social Science & Humanities Society • Quarterly Journal

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