Perfection is the Enemy of Evolution

Adrian Bejan

Duke University, US


You may be familiar with the saying “The best is the enemy of the good” (Voltaire), or “Perfection is the enemy of progress” (Churchill). It sounds counterintuitive. Most of us tend to associate the better performing with the more perfect. Is the saying true? This is a physics question. I predict in simple terms the ‘enemy’ relationship between performance and perfection (access to movement, space, and time). The relationship is natural. Everywhere we see it, in vascular designs, human movement (life) in the city, animal design, athletics evolution, business, and diversity on the globe and in universities. From cause to effect, nature ‘happens’ in this direction, not the other way around:

Freedom to change → evolution → performance (access) → diversity.


Adrian Bejan was awarded the 2018 Benjamin Franklin Medal for “his pioneering interdisciplinary contributions in thermodynamics…and constructal theory, which predicts natural design and its evolution in engineering, scientific, and social systems.” He earned all his degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: B.S. (1971, Honors Course), M.S. (1972, Honors Course) and Ph.D. (1975). He is the J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor at Duke University. Prof. Bejan’s research is in applied physics, thermodynamics, theoretical biology, and design and evolution everywhere in nature, bio, and non-bio. He created original methods of theory, modeling, analysis, and design: entropy generation minimization, scale analysis, intersection of asymptotes, heatlines, constructal law, vascular and evolutionary design. He is the author of 30 books and 700 peer-refereed journal articles. Google Scholar: h = 109, total citations 90,000. According to the 2019 ‘citations impact’ world rankings, he is 9th among all Engineering authors in the world, all disciplines. He is honorary member of the ASME and member of Academia Europaea.