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Biology as Engineering — Specifically, Systems Engineering


Evolutionary biologists should spend more time talking with engineers and doctors — in other words, specialists who deal with large complex systems that work as wholes, and only as a wholes, to a certain purpose. Listening to evolutionists, you often get the impression that they forget life is such an exquisitely orchestrated “performance” (in Stephen L. Talbott’s apt expression).

In a new episode of ID the Future, Todd Butterfield wraps up a great conversation with enterprise architect and Evolution News contributor Steve Laufmann. Their theme is biology as engineering. Laufmann offers his expertise in the interdisciplinary study of systems engineering, which has in turn inspired a new and highly suggestive field — systems biology.

Download the episode by clicking here:


Did I say “new”? Actually, while the name is new, the subject isn’t at all. Rather, as Casey Luskin has observed, it’s a “return to an era when ID-type thinking guided biology.” For more background, see Casey’s articles:

The parallel between engineered systems and biological ones is…eerie. Draw your own conclusion.

Come to think of it, besides doctors and engineers, biologists might profitably chat with a symphony conductor, too. As in a performance by an orchestra, it’s not good enough if a bunch of musicians get together as individuals and start playing their instruments as they please. This will result in nothing but cacophony. What’s needed is a conductor to direct the artists in their work, from a preconceived vision of what the music should sound like.

Now listen to Steve Laufmann, and enjoy.

Image: Collage of engineered systems, by Betelgeuse [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.