A Cascade of Design: Appreciating Your Designed Body

A Cascade of Design: Appreciating Your Designed Body

My children have been building a go-cart (of sorts). It started when one of them happened upon two large, plastic reels. Reels roll. Children like things that roll. After rummaging through the garage for lumber scraps, they had found enough to construct a rudimentary frame. Before long they had it rolling across the parking lot. It was surprisingly sturdy, but it had one obvious problem: It couldn’t turn.
So, they went back to the garage, disassembled an old bicycle, and swapped the front reel out for a bicycle wheel. The cart could now turn! But this solution created two new problems. One, they couldn’t effectively reach the wheel, which lacked a handle, to turn it, and two, the tripod design was now tippy, so that every time they did manage to turn the wheel, the whole cart would fall on its side.
So, they went back to the garage, disassembled an old 360 caster trike, and fastened the swivel wheels onto the front of the frame even as they attached an additional board that could be manipulated to turn the wheel. But these solutions left another obvious problem. They had no way to propel the cart, other than going Flintstones and pushing it with their feet.
So, they went back to the garage, found some rope, and tied it to a functional bicycle. One of them hopped onto the bike and one guinea-pigged it on the cart. It worked! Sort-of. They could get going, even turn it (semi-successfully), but now they have another significant problem: No brakes! (I’m sure they’re currently looking in the garage for something to solve this problem!)
The above scenario is a real-life example of something engineers call cascading problems which they face in everything they design. One solution creates multiple new problems that have to be overcome. For example, if a design team wants to improve the aerodynamics of a car, they must consider many realities. If they alter the shape of the vehicle, they must be prepared to solve the following cascading problems: The new aerodynamic shape may compromise the structural integrity of the car, which may require adding weight to strengthen the frame. The changed shape may affect the driver’s visibility and create blind spots. The new design may create unexpected manufacturing hurdles that may add cost to the car. The new shape may affect head room and seat positioning and overall comfort for the driver and passengers. And, it may increase wind noise. These are the cascading problems engineers regularly face.
The human body has similar obstacles. Let’s consider one: Getting oxygen to your cells. You do this thousands of times every single day without thinking about it, but the fact that it happens with such ease is an engineering marvel, a marvel that testifies to the genius of the body’s Engineer: the Lord Jesus.
Consider: Every one of your 30 trillion cells needs oxygen to survive. The body can’t store oxygen like it can sugar and water, so how are you going to get oxygen to your cells? Obviously, you’re going to inhale oxygen. But this creates an immediate problem. Your cells don’t talk. They can’t tell you they need oxygen. How are you going to know when they need oxygen? You’re going to need some kind of sensor in your body to translate your cell’s need to your brain to tell you to inhale.
And this alone is marvelously complex. It requires the sensors, an if/then algorithmic logic that can process the input from the sensors, and an output actuator that can actually get you to open your mouth and suck in air! And we’re only a few steps into this process!
Once your sensors, if/then algorithmic logic, and output actuators are working, you soon discover a new problem (forgetting for a moment your lungs and the alveoli that bring the oxygen into the blood): Oxygen doesn’t dissolve very well in blood. You need something to help with that. The body’s answer is iron, but how are you going to get that? You need to ingest it. And to do that you need your entire GI system and its intestinal cells. But simply ingesting iron into your body doesn’t solve the problem. You need to connect it to your blood, which the body does by using the iron to form a complicated protein called hemoglobin, which it makes in the bone marrow and packs into your body’s red blood cells. So you have another system that you need in order to get the oxygen to your cells!
But that presents another problem because you have to have just the right amount of hemoglobin so you don’t sludge up the lines, because these red blood cells that the bone marrow is making take up space. How are you going to solve this problem? As it turns out, your body has specialized kidney cells (called Erythropoietin) that detect the oxygen levels in the blood and tell the stem cells in the bone marrow to turn on (or off if the levels rise too high) to capture the oxygen to deliver to your cells. So now your kidneys are involved!
So in order to capture the oxygen you need the aforementioned iron, but you need it in the right amounts. Letting too much iron into the blood can be toxic.  So you need to find a way to get just the right amount through the duodenum in the small intestine into the blood. Your liver solves this problem by sending out a hormone (called Hepcidin) to regulate the iron levels being absorbed. So now your liver is involved! Further, the liver makes the transport protein to deliver the iron to the bone marrow that is making the red blood cells, which have been equipped with the proper receptors to receive the iron. And this is necessary to ensure that the right cells get the iron so you don’t end up poisoning the body. 
Now you need to get this oxygen to the cells and you need the cardiovascular system to do this with the heart and all the blood vessels and so on. And when it gets there, you need a system to loosen the oxygen from the iron, which the body does by increasing the concentration of CO2 which weakens the bond, allowing the oxygen-hungry cells to receive their much-needed breath of fresh air. But now you need to get rid of the CO2! But we’ll save that for another cascading problem.
Now, ask yourself, Did the body figure this out by itself? Did it evolve through random genetic copying mistakes? Could non-directed mutations solve all of these problems simultaneously? A step-by-step process won’t do. You have to have all of these systems (plus many more!) functioning simultaneously to get oxygen to your cells. If one isn’t functioning, you die… quickly.  
To put it bluntly: It would take a miracle. And miracles are beyond the reach of nature. But they aren’t beyond the reach of nature’s God. Well did the psalmist understand:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.                                
- Psalm 139:13-14
Your body isn’t a cascade of problems; it’s a masterful cascade of design that testifies to the brilliance of its Creator: the Lord Jesus Christ. 
Now, I should probably go see what the sound is coming from my garage!
-          Pastor Conner

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