Intelligent Design

Michael Levin on the Engineering Approach to Biology

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Michael Levin puts into words the general understanding of the ID community regarding the relevance of design/engineering understandings of the cell, and how intuitions from computer science and other engineering disciplines relate to biology. Starting around 8:30 in the clip below:

Computer science is all about understanding how to build things… You don’t really understand something until you can build one yourself. At the same time, one of the most powerful concepts in computer science is device independence – the idea that you can carry out an algorithm and it’s the same computation whether it’s made of microchips or beer cans and string or living cells or whatever it’s going to be. This is an important concept and it’s a tough one for a lot of biologists to think about it this way. Biologists are really used to thinking that everything is in the details, you have to know exactly which protein it is, which gene it is, the details are what matters. Computer scientists take a slightly different approach, which is “let’s look at all the stuff we could swap out and still have the heart of the process.” If that’s true, we can look for invariants in all these deep ideas.

This one quote helps make sense of about half of the conversations I’ve had with biologists about information theory principles regarding the cell.

2 Replies to “Michael Levin on the Engineering Approach to Biology

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Excellent point about modularity (problem solvers all the way down), but he’s still missing the crucial analog vs digital difference.

  2. 2
    es58 says:

    Polistra@1

    he’s still missing the crucial analog vs digital difference

    Tell us more

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