No doubt safely resisting forces is the most important thing we do (the applied science portion of engineering) – but that doesn’t make it the defining thing. Saying Structural Engineering is about safely resisting forces is like saying “Chefs are Applied Non-Burners”. The most important thing for a chef is to make sure they do not burn the food (or undercook). Obviously this is not a defining characteristic of being a Chef. Stress and Strain calcs are actually the easiest part and account for a small portion of our time (10-20%) - so similarly, we are not applied scientists. If an engineer tells me “Not true, I spend 30 hours a week on FEM or Calculations so I am doing science and spending my day resisting forces”. I would say, “Are you really doing science? That is an enormous amount of time spent on analysis – but what is it really that you are doing in those 30 hours? In your Etabs model, why did you choose a steel channel? Is that because of the stress? Why did you use an HSS brace? Because of the forces or because it has worked pretty well in the past in this type of building in this location, etc. Did the deflection cause the structural system, or vice versa? If vice versa, what caused the structural system? How did it become? It became because you made it become, not by science or numbers, but by a creative force formed by know-how experience.
“Engineering is a community of people who are practitioners of a creative form of cognition, engineering design, akin to that practiced by artists.” [Layton, 1984]