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Concluding Comments: Playing God vs. Respecting Design

Photo credit: Oregon State University, via Flickr (cropped).

In six previous posts (hereherehereherehere, and here), I have commented on a TEDx talk by a recent MIT bioengineering PhD, Erika DeBenedictis. In her 11-minute presentation, “It’s Time for Intelligent Design,” she says, “Yes!” scientists should “play God.” That is, “We can and we should finally intelligently design life.” To the contrary, my motivation in challenging this video has been to caution against such an idea for I believe it would cause catastrophes in biological engineering. Instead I encouraged respect for biological design which will lead to better human engineering and restoration of the “good design” in biology.

A proper respect for design in biology will result in more productive research questions and hypotheses. Respect of design will also bring extra caution in our approach to manipulating biology. This will help reduce damaging applications while allowing us to restore instances of optimality and robustness to systems that have been damaged or degraded over time.

In the end, zealous scientists like Dr. DeBenedictis and I share a common goal — we wish to address real crises facing humanity and the planet, so it truly matters that we follow the evidence to its logical end and base our research and applications on that end.

In summary, I challenge Dr. DeBenedictis and other readers to recognize the incredible design in biological life and to see the potential for lasting discoveries and applications when we allow ourselves to work within that framework.


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Emily Reeves

Emily Reeves is a biochemist, metabolic nutritionist, and aspiring systems biologist. Her doctoral studies were completed at Texas A&M University in Biochemistry and Biophysics. Emily is currently an active clinician for metabolic nutrition and nutritional genomics at Nutriplexity. She enjoys identifying and designing nutritional intervention for subtle inborn errors of metabolism. She is also working with fellows of Discovery Institute and the greater scientific community to promote integration of engineering and biology. She spends her weekends adventuring with her husband, brewing kombucha, and running near Puget Sound.



bioengineeringbiologyEngineeringErika DeBenedictisintelligent designMIToptimalityResearchrobustnessscientistsTEDx talk