ID the Future Intelligent Design, Evolution, and Science Podcast
Topic

Conference on Engineering in Living Systems

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Cell membrane, lipid bilayer, digital illustration of a diffusion of liquid molecules through cell membrane, microscopic view of a cell membrane, biology background, medical background
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The Innovative Cellular Engineering That Keeps Us Alive

When left to their own devices, the laws of nature tend toward death, not life. So what does it take for life to exist? On this ID The Future, host Eric Anderson talks 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 in this chat, Anderson and Glicksman explain that it takes more than the laws of nature to keep us from dying. "Chemicals on their own don't have any desire or tendency to turn into living organisms," says Anderson. "They tend to degrade, they tend to break down, they tend to go back to their basic constituents." Glicksman and Anderson discuss examples, including how the human body handles friction, heat transfer, and the crucial task of maintaining chemical balance at the cellular level. And where does all this essential innovation come from? Glicksman points to an intelligent cause that transcends matter and energy. Read More ›
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A whale breaching water.
A whale breaching water. Photo by DW on Adobe Stock

The Pentadactyl Whale Flipper: An Engineering Masterstroke

Does the five-digit design of the whale flipper, curiously akin to the five-digit design of so many different kinds of animal limbs, point to evolutionary common descent? That was Charles Darwin’s argument, and the argument is a staple of high school and college biology textbooks. But no, says distinguished British engineer Stuart Burgess on today’s ID the Future in his conversation with host Eric Anderson. The repeated recurrence of the pentadactyl form is better explained by reference to the idea of common design. That is, a master designer reused the pentadactyl design theme because it achieves an optimal trade-off between strength on the one hand (no pun intended) and suppleness or dexterity on the other. And yes, Burgess says, the giant flipper on a whale needs to be not just incredibly strong but also supple to allow the whale to maneuver adroitly through the water. This reuse of a good design concept shouldn’t surprise us, Burgess says. Just as human engineers reuse the concepts of the wheel, axle, nut and bolt, or pulley, so too the designer of life reuses shrewd engineering solutions in widely different applications, in each case adapting the design concept for the particular use. Burgess also rebuts the claim that whales have vestigial pelvic bones from a land-dwelling ancestor. He then moves from the big to the small, pointing to more positive evidence in favor of common design (over Darwinian common descent) in marsupial and placental rats and in a protein machine best known for one job but that has been found to “moonlight” doing a very different job in a very different biological context. Tune in to hear Burgess unpack the full argument. The conversation took place at the 2023 Conference on Engineering in Living Systems (CELS) in Denton, Texas. Read More ›
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Brian Miller: The Surprising Relevance of Engineering in Biology

Today’s ID the Future brings listeners physicist and engineer Brian Miller’s recent lecture at the Dallas Conference on Science and Faith, “The Surprising Relevance of Engineering in Biology.” Miller rebuts several popular arguments for evolution based on claims of poor design in living systems, everything from the “backward wiring” of the vertebrate eye to whales, wrists, ankles, and “junk DNA.” But the main emphasis of this discussion is the exciting sea change in biology in which numerous breakthroughs are occurring by scientists who are treating living systems and subsystems as if they are optimally engineered systems. Some in this movement reject intelligent design for ideological reasons. Others embrace it. But all systems biologists treat these systems as if they are masterfully engineered Read More ›

wormhole black hole
Singularity of massive black hole or wormhole. 3D rendered illustration of curved spacetime. Photo by vchalup on Adobe Stock.

Engineers Crash the Evolution Party, Rethink Biological Variation

On today’s ID the Future, physicist and engineer Brian Miller sits down with host Casey Luskin to survey exciting developments in intelligent design research that are driven by an engineering model for understanding and studying variations in species. ID researchers are pushing this work, but so too are systems biology researchers outside the intelligent design community. Tune in to hear Miller and Luskin discuss everything from fruit flies, finch beaks, and stickleback fish to mutational hotspots, phenotypic plasticity, and the gravity well model of biological adaptation.

cogs nature
Abstract mechanism with cogwheels on green meadow
Image licensed by Adobe Stock

The Role of Engineers in the Systems Biology Revolution

Today’s ID the Future spotlights systems biology and the role engineers can play in some leading-edge biology. According to guest Steve Laufmann, systems biology is taking the biological world by storm, an approach that treats biological systems as optimally or near-optimally engineered systems and, using that working assumption, seeks to better understand the system. Laufmann says this provides an opening for engineers to contribute, since they have a deep understanding of what it takes to make a complex system work, and what’s required to change one core aspect of an engineered system so that it continues to work with all of the other crucial parts of the system. Many biologists aren’t trained in this, Laufmann says, and most engineers aren’t Read More ›

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Gulliver - Blefuscudian. Date: 1726 Photo by Archivist on Adobe Stock

Dustin Van Hofwegen on Engineering and Evolution in Lilliput

On today’s ID the Future we go behind the scenes at the recent Conference on Engineering in Living Systems, where host Jonathan Witt sat down with Dustin Van Hofwegen, a biology professor at Azusa Pacific University in California. The two discuss the private conference, which brought together biologists and engineers to study how engineering principles and a design perspective can and are being applied to biology — to plants and animals but also to Van Hofwegen’s area of focus, the Lilliputian realm of microbial biology. The two quickly move into a conversation about Van Hofwegen’s article in the Journal of Bacteriology, co-authored with Carolyn Hovde and Scott Minnich, based on research they did at the University of Idaho. As Van Read More ›