Cell biology Intelligent Design

Understanding the engineering of living systems requires acceptance of the design of life

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A recent article at Evolution News featured three major advances for intelligent design: Meyer’s The Return of the God Hypothesis, the “waiting times” paper in Journal of Theoretic Biology, and the Conference on Engineering in Living Systems (CELS)

Now, on that last point:

Conference on Engineering in Living System

A third highlight has been the impact of the Conference on Engineering in Living Systems (CELS). Biologists, engineers, and other academics convened to examine how employing engineering principles to the study of biology yields deeper insight into the organization and operations of living systems. Presenters addressed the revolution occurring in systems biology, which resulted from systems engineers partnering with biologists in their research. The engineers’ experience and insights have forced evolutionary assumptions to be supplanted by design-based assumptions, language, and methods (here, here, here).

Systems biologists increasingly recognize that they must incorporate the core intelligent design concepts into their analyses, albeit using different language, to advance their understanding of biological systems. Michael Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity is implicit in the tenet of holism. William Dembski’s formulation of specified complexity encompasses biologists’ understanding of functional modules. And more generally, the heuristic of intelligent design is simply a more general rubric for the application of engineering principles to the study of life.

Speakers described how engineering-based models better explain adaptation than natural selection (here,here, here, here). And they detailed how the predictions of these models are being confirmed by a torrent of recent research on adaptation in diverse species, including model organisms (here, here, here). In addition, presentations demonstrated the explanatory power of applying the design models to such topics as ecological interactions and molecular machines.

The ripple effects of the conference will continue for years to come. Participants with training in different engineering domains have partnered with biologists to apply their expertise to specific biological systems to further reveal their underlying design logic. We expect the projects to generate publications in leading journals over the next few years that should significantly advance biologists’ understanding of life. We will not immediately advertise the progress of the research teams to protect the careers of the investigators, but over the long term their work will showcase the necessity of design-based approaches.

Brian Miller, “The Year in Review:” at Evolution News and Science Today (December 28, 2021)

After a while, expecting randomness to develop exquisite machinery within a fixed time frame becomes ridiculous. The big question is, how much more might we learn if we assume it isn’t random?

4 Replies to “Understanding the engineering of living systems requires acceptance of the design of life

  1. 1
    jerry says:

    What is life?

    Here is one attempt to understand what constitutes life as we know it. It’s several years old.

    First of all, all known organisms are highly complex chemical systems. They have thousands of interdependent molecular components. The simplest life form is far more complex than the most advanced products of any human technology.

    The second characteristic of all life is that all organisms are composed of cells, which is the unit in which metabolism occurs.

    The third characteristic is that all organisms obtain and use energy. Energy is the ability to do work, to exert a force over a distance.

    The fourth characteristic of all life on Earth is that all organisms reproduce using the same genetic mechanism.

    The fifth characteristic of all life is that all organisms grow and develop. Most organisms change form and capabilities as they get larger.

    The sixth characteristic and final characteristic is that all organisms respond to changes in their external environment while maintaining a relatively constant internal environment.

    Rules out viruses.

    https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/the-six-characteristics-shared-by-living-organisms-on-earth/

    One hopeful point, will this understanding get rid of the DNA model of life and lead to research on just what controls all these processes?

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    It’s odd that Darwin wasn’t thinking more along these lines. Negative feedback is ancient in hydraulic engineering, and British engineers were intensely developing complex feedback systems for clocks, steam engines, and telegraph systems during his lifetime.

  3. 3
    jerry says:

    Here’s a discussion on viruses that considers them living things. Flies in opposition to the above definition of life.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI5E8z89c9U&t=263s

    This is a site that has been providing daily round ups of C19 so is focused on viruses.

    https://www.youtube.com/c/Campbellteaching/videos

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    After a while, expecting randomness to develop exquisite machinery within a fixed time frame becomes ridiculous. The big question is, how much more might we learn if we assume it isn’t random?

    Biology doesn’t assume it’s all random. It just claims that genetic mutations are random with respect to survival value. They may or may not be advantageous depending on the environmental context. This is not a difficult concept.

    Bringing in experts from other disciplines to see if their knowledge can can offer useful insights into biology is a good thing with the caveat that being an expert in engineering does not necessarily make you an expert in the life sciences.

    I’m sure Meyer’s book will sell well to his base audience. Whether it will have any lasting influence on the course of evolutionary research only time will tell. I doubt it myself.

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