Your Designed Body

An Engineer and a Physician Explain Just How Remarkable You Are

At first glance my father-in-law doesn’t seem to be doing well. He’s had triple bypass heart surgery, surgery to repair an inguinal hernia, and surgery to keep his sagging eyelids from blocking his vision. He wears hearing aids, glasses, and a supra-pubic catheter. Five years ago, he stopped bird hunting because decades of gun recoil had permanently damaged his shoulder. Three years ago, he fell playing racquetball, gave himself a concussion, and had to have holes drilled in his skull to relieve the pressure; since then his short-term memory hasn’t been great. Last year his doctor told him to stop driving. As I said: not great.

Then again, he’s ninety-two.

What’s surprising isn’t that he’s having problems, but that his body functioned so well for so long, flesh and blood and bone evincing durability and self-repair far beyond that of the many vehicles he has owned and driven over the course of his life. The string of problems described above didn’t start until my father-in-law was almost eighty. By comparison, my dishwasher—mechanically far, far simpler than the human body—has a life expectancy of ten years. Despite all the things that can and sometimes do go wrong, our bodies are engineering marvels.

So say Steve Laufmann and Howard Glicksman in their new book, Your Designed Body (Discovery Institute Press, 2022; I was one of the editors). Laufmann is an engineer, Glicksman a physician. They write not as armchair quarterbacks or abstract theorists, but as real-world expert practitioners. As they note:

Physicians don’t get to make stuff up. They don’t have the luxury to merely observe how life looks or theorize about its superficial qualities. They need to know how the body really works, how the parts affect each other, and what it takes in practical terms to  keep it all working over a (hopefully) long lifetime....

Engineers also must live in the real world. Engineers design, build, deploy, and operate complex systems that do real work in the real world. And it takes yet more work to keep these systems from failing, which is pretty much guaranteed to happen at the least opportune times.

The human body, Glicksman and Laufmann say, is a remarkable system composed of myriad interrelated and interdependent systems, raising the chicken-and-egg question at every turn. They point out that from a design perspective it makes perfect sense that multiple complex systems, all necessary for our survival, dovetail neatly and simultaneously together. From the perspective of evolution and its joint mechanism of natural selection and random mutation, working one tiny functional step at a time? Not so much.

“Life never exists as a formless blob, but instead always exists in an architecturally complex form,” they write. “Nor, of course, does life exist in the often-fertile imaginations of materialist scientists. Life is found in the real world, and reality has a way of humbling theories that are not grounded in the nitty-gritty details of what life requires.”

After walking the reader through some of the complexities and engineering feats of the human body as a system of interdependent systems, Glicksman and Laufmann rebut the common “botched design” objection to the view that humans were created by God. The objection, they note, runs through three stages: 1) the body exhibits bad design, 2) bad design equals no design, and therefore, 3) there is no designer—that is, no Creator God.

Laufmann and Glicksman point up the logical and philosophical problems with this chain of reasoning, but they also challenge some of the examples of supposed bad design, such as the “backward wiring” of the eye and the double-duty of the throat, used for both breathing and swallowing, which opens up the possibility of choking on your food. Here the authors draw on their joint expertise in medical science and engineering principles to show that what may to the uninformed seem like poor design is, in fact, brilliant design that human engineers would love to be able to replicate.

Your Designed Body is a richly informative book that’s also a lot of fun. You can read more about it and see the advance reviews it has garnered here.

Further Reading

Casey Luskin, “Eyeballing Design

Casey Luskin, “Biomechanics

Jonathan Wells, “Greater than the Sum

Stuart Burgess, “Why Human Skeletal Joints Are Engineering Masterpieces,” Part 1 and Part 2

Steve Laufmann, “Coherence and Function: Laufmann on Glicksman’s Series ‘The Designed Body’

PhD, is an editor for the Discovery Institute and the author of four dystopian novels and many shorter works, both fiction and non-fiction. Before turning to editing, she taught as an adjunct English and humanities professor. She and her husband homeschooled their three children.

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