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Brian Miller: “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Engineering in the Biological Sciences”

Brian Miller
Photo: Cavefish (Phreatichthys andruzzii), by Hectonichus, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

At the recent Dallas Conference on Science and Faith, Discovery Institute physicist Brian Miller gave a great talk on the convergence of biology and engineering. It’s up now on YouTube and eminently worthy of being shared. Miller’s theme is that “you see the same engineering principles in human engineering as you see in life.” Funny that that should be the case when you consider engineering is obviously all intelligent design. 

The point about engineering is not merely Dr. Miller’s personal view — it’s the insight behind an emerging scientific field, systems biology, that analyzes how living systems work with their “very clear design logic,” including “pre-programmed or pre-engineered responses” to the environment. Systems biology is quickly displacing impatient dismissals of supposed “poor design” in life — “how cr*ppy our shoulders are,” for example, in the phrase of one journalist who took instruction from biologist Nathan Lents. (See Jonathan Wells’s post on that here.) Miller examines a number of interesting specific illustrations including the celebrated eyeless cavefish, which he “used to think was an absolute win for microevolution.” He refers at the end to a famous paper by physicist Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences.” Brian would like to write a follow-up, he quips, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Engineering in the Biological Sciences.” Watch the whole lecture now: