Published at the SCQ: What Kind of Engineer is God?

Posted on 10th September 2008 by Ryan Somma in Geeking Out

After seeing The Aristocrats, and learning about a joke that comedians tell each other, trying to out-do each other with offensiveness, I thought I’d update this old joke to do the same, but in an attempt to out do other joke-tellers in science.

You can read this new spin on and old joke here.

One very fine day, a group of professorial-types of differing backgrounds happened at random to collude at the same table in the University cafeteria. Their conversation evolved from small talk into more substantive topics, and eventually the Professor of Civil Engineering, with a mischievous grin, posed the question, “What kind of a Scientist is god?”

“God,” in this case, being a reference to the natural world, similar to Einstein’s use of the word, synonymous with nature and cosmos, and although such a conversation might seem highly unlikely for a bunch of secularists, the law of really big numbers dictates that such an incredible chain of chance would occur somewhere on planet Earth at sometime. Plus these were Community College Professors, and therefore more prone to undisciplined flights of fancy.

“It’s so obvious even you book worms should get it,“ said the brawny Physical Education Professor, who also happened to coach the football team, and who sought immediately to dominate the conversation, “You only have to look at the way slow and fast twitch, skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscles connect with bone, cartilage, ligaments, skin, and internal organs to produce the bazillions of ways humans can express themselves physically.

The Phys Ed Professor then brandished a mighty bicep to emphasize his point, “No doubt about it, God is definitely a Mechanical Engineer.”

“You meathead!” the Professor who taught a course in Electromagnetism exclaimed, “Human muscles have only a measly 14% to 27% energy efficiency! The Mechanical dimensions of the human body are clumsy and brutish without their electrical components to inform and control them!

“Look at the way the signals in the sensory, motor, and mixed nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System all flow from the extremities into the central nervous system, look at where the fatty myelin sheaths insulate axons from interfering with one another’s signals until they reach the branches of dendrites, all to bring them together into a coherent symphony of functionality.”

The Professor of Electromagnetism pointed to the kinetic watch on her wrist knowingly and folded her arms over her chest decisively, “God is most certainly an Electrical Engineer.”

“You’re a dimbulb,” the Chemistry Professor sniffed contemptuously, “The optic nerve runs right through the retina of the human eye, creating a blind spot in our vision! Cephalopod eyes don’t have such an obvious defect.

“The mechanical and Electrical engineering in a human body are not only fairly reproducible in robots and electronics, but they are also designs easily improved on! No mystery in those imperfect systems.

“Now consider the elegant, self-monitoring system of molecular interactions in a single human cell, from parent DNA molecules to daughter molecules, from messenger-RNA molecules into ribosomes to synthesize all the proteins that run our biological systems – like the inspection-repair enzymes that turn right around and maintain DNA integrity. The system is so complex there won’t be a computer powerful enough to figure it out until 2020!

The Chemistry Professor held up a spoonful of amino acid-rich cottage cheese for all to admire, “We must accept that god is a brilliant Chemical Engineer.”

“But a computer will eventually figure it out lepton!” the Computer Science professor daunted, “Human DNA is 97 percent junk, it serves no known purpose. How can you characterize such a waste of space as ‘elegant?’”

“Only one organ has the ability to overcome the inefficiencies and architectural mistakes of the human body, and that would be the brain. The human mind is plastic enough to let us adapt to and function within all the environments humans were born into over the last several million years. That requires terabytes of information storage and near-instantaneous retrieval, which we currently have no idea how to replicate with today’s computers.

The Computer Science professor leaned in and tapped one finger on her temple, “God is indisputably an Information Architect.”

“Your obsolescence is showing,” the Mathematics Professor chided. “The brain fills in the gaps in our memory with vivid imagination, lying to us to convince us our memories are infallible. The brain, which produces the mind, yet another illusion of consciousness separate from it, is still in the Stone Age of functionality. It hasn’t evolved yet for the Silicon Age where ideas must be digital in their accuracy.

“Mathematics, on the other hand, cannot lie to us. They describe every aspect of our existence. Everything may be broken down into numbers. Wherever you go in the Universe, the life you meet there will speak the same mathematics. They not only describe this Universe, but any other universes that may exist as well.

“God, therefore,” the Professor concluded, rapping his slide rule on the tabletop authoritatively, “must be a Mathematician.”

“Ah baloney! You’re just being trivial!” the Civil Engineering Professor shot back. “Mathematics is 50 percent formulas, 50 percent proofs and 50 percent imagination; and mathemagicians are just machines for turning coffee into theorems. The majority of it is just mind-games.

“We need to look at this empirically. Existence is much more real world than any of you explain it. Just look at the human body. It’s obvious that god must be a Civil Engineer!”

The other Professors’ jaws dropped, “How do you justify that conclusion???”

“Because,” the Engineering Professor replies with a big goofy grin, “only a Civil Engineer would run a sewage line through a recreation area!”

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