Left to their own devices, the natural result of physics and chemistry is death, not life. So how are we still breathing? On this ID the Future, host Eric Anderson concludes his conversation with physician Howard Glicksman about some of the remarkable engineering challenges that have to be solved to produce and maintain living organisms such as ourselves. Glicksman is co-author with systems engineer Steve Laufmann of the recent book Your Designed Body, an exploration of the extraordinary system of systems that encompasses thousands of ingenious and interdependent engineering solutions to keep us alive and ticking. In the “just so” stories of the Darwinian narrative, these engineering solutions simply evolved. They emerged and got conserved. Voila! But it takes more than the laws of nature to keep us from dying.
In Part 1, Glicksman discussed how two laws of nature — diffusion and osmosis — must be innovated by living systems to avoid cell death. In this episode, Glicksman provides another example: how we regulate the flow of water and blood through our bodies without the excess leakage or shrinkage that can lead to cell death. The protein albumin is crucial. Along with helping to transport minerals and hormones, albumin vitally maintains blood volume by regulating the water flow in and out of the capillaries. How does our liver know how to make albumin, or how much of it to make? Can a gradual Darwinian process be credited with these essential innovations? Or do they bear hallmarks of design? Dr. Glicksman explains this remarkable system, just one of many engineering feats our bodies perform every day to keep us alive. Download the podcast or listen to it here.