III. An Organic, Genomic, Conducive UniVerse
B. An Animate Natural Genesis Ecosmos
A continuous thread seems to link together the events of the history of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the advent of Homo sapiens. The striking continuity of the general pattern of evolution suggests that the Universe was pregnant with life since beginning, and the biosphere was right from the start pregnant of mankind. Francesco Gaeta
ABSCICON 2017. www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/abscicon2017. A copious site for this latest Astrobiology Science Conference held in April at the Phoenix Marriot Mesa. Its general subject is Diverse Life and its Detection on Different Worlds as Earthside exoplanetary studies grow in breadth and sophistication. Five main sections are Astrobiology as a Human Endeavor, Solar System Sites, Exoplanets, Origin and Evolution of Life, and New Technologies and Techniques. A Program and Abstracts page, along with an Author Index of several hundred presenters offers a wealth of info. We note a plenary talk, The Theory of Recursive Abiotic Evolution by Leroy Cronin, also Understanding Real-World Open-Ended Systems by Alyssa Adams and Sara Walker, Combinatorial Selection in the Prebiotic Environment by David Deamer and Bruce Damer, and Is There No Scientific Essence of Life? by philosopher Kelly Smith. However these endeavors yet remain “What” descriptors, sans any sense of an implied “Why” greater genesis which seems as innately made for evolutionary life, mind and a special planet able to achieve such a witness. We cite three exemplary descriptors for its flavor.
Sustained Habitability, Life, and the Biosignatures of a Dynamic Early Earth: Earth has remained inhabited for most of its dynamic history, despite experiencing changes as dramatic as a warming Sun and cooling interior; the initiation and evolution of plate tectonics; continents nucleating, growing, stabilizing, and then interacting for the first time; climatic extremes; and fundamental shifts in the redox state of surface environments. Relevant disciplines include molecular evolution, geomicrobiology and synthetic biology, gene and network reconstruction, the evolution of key proteins and metabolic pathways, plate tectonics, biotic and abiotic processes on land, nonmarine aquatic systems, evolving ocean chemistry, climatic and paleoecological drivers, nutrient models, biospheric oxygenation, deep-shallow Earth interactions, and the emergence of complex life.
Cosmic Evolution. www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/cosmic_evolution. A panoramic and informative website created by astrophysicist Eric Chaisson and hosted by Tufts University Wright Center for Science Education which graphically tracks through seven stages the flight of the cosmological arrow of life and planetary culture.
III International Conference “Biosphere Origin and Evolution.
Organized by the Russian Academy of Sciences, this major assembly on the island of Crete in October 2011, situates our inquisitive living planet within an innately fertile cosmic spacescape. Six Trend areas are Astrobiology, Prebiotic Evolution, Emergence of Cells, Early Living Biosphere, Eukaryotes, and Evolution of the Geo-Biological Systems in Phanerozoic. Twelve plenary lectures included “Earth and Planets Origin” by Mikhail Marov of the V. I. Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry, “Molecular Colonies as a Pre-Cellular form of Compartmentalization” by Alexander Chetverin of the RAS Institute of Protein Research, and “Emergent Life Drinks Orderliness from the Environment” by Michael Russell, Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Examples of 28 Oral Presentations are “Hot Abiogenesis and Early Biospheric Evolution” by Helen Piontkivska, Charles Lineweaver, and David Schwartzman, Russia, Australia and the United States, “A Fractal Spatiotemporal Structure of an Open Living System and Fractal Properties of Dynamic Systems on Cosmic Scales” Victor Gusev, Sobolev Institute of Mathematics, and “Stages of Chemical Evolution in Circumsolar Disk” by Valery Snytnikov, Boreskov Institute of Catalysis. Poster Presentations included “Organic Universe & Spontaneous Self-Organizing Systems” by Aditya Kolarkar of the Raisoni Academy of Engineering & Technology, India. Some 276 pages of Abstracts for all contributions can be accessed by clicking that word on the above web page.
*** Abbott, Derek, et al, eds. Quantum Aspects of Life. Singapore: World Scientific, 2008. With Paul Davies as a co-editor, contributors such as Seth Lloyd, Roger Penrose, Lloyd Demetrius, Arun Pati, Stuart Hameroff, and Anita Goel consider whether quantum phenomena can be theoretically discovered to contain an innate, supportive propensity for biological florescence. In other words, another attempt to back physics into a way to realize an organic materiality pregnant with life and mind and persons. The quotes try to say this, but are caught up in their argot and beg translation from mechanical computation. Indian Institute of Science’s Apoorva Patel’s paper “Towards Understanding the Origin of Genetic Languages” is indeed an effort to move from the hardware/software scheme.
The idea is this. The environment serves as a sort of measuring device, and, by hypothesis, it somehow selects for measurement a quantum variable relevant for life. Then even if the amplitude is small, life will be “projected out” of the superposition by the measurement-like interaction. It may even be “steered” towards life by the inverse-Zeno effect. But this implies the environment somehow favours life – that life is “built into” nature in a preordained manner. So an element of teleology remains. (Abbott, et al, 11)
Aerts, Diederik, et al. On the Foundations of the Theory of Evolution. arXiv:1212.0107. Online December 2012, Aerts with coauthors from Belgium, Poland, and Canada including Liane Gabora contribute to the growing effort to forge a more realistic, innovative theory for both quantum domains and its subsequent apply to a novel evolutionary synthesis. From an editorial view, the meritorious paper is filled with native technical terminologies that beg translation to a common parlance to express their deep insights. Once more, post-selection only is seen as inadequate as an explanation. A turn akin to Michael Denton’s independently active “natural law” (a premise of this site) is advised to allow a prior generative agency at work to be admitted. In regard, quantum realms are seen to possess “potentialities” which under due conditions become vitally “actualized.” So life’s processional emergence, via this “more general theory,” can in fact become rooted in a fertile substantial essence. Search Aerts and Gabora herein, and arXiv for more essays. And when might a sufficient chorus arise to say “methinks” it is a cosmos to children genesis uniVerse?
Darwinism conceives evolution as a consequence of random variation and natural selection, hence it is based on a materialistic, i.e. matter-based, view of science inspired by classical physics. But matter in itself is considered a very complex notion in modern physics. More specifically, at a microscopic level, matter and energy are no longer retained within their simple form, and quantum mechanical models are proposed wherein potential form is considered in addition to actual form. In this paper we propose an alternative to standard Neodarwinian evolution theory. We suggest that the starting point of evolution theory cannot be limited to actual variation whereupon is selected, but to variation in the potential of entities according to the context. We therefore develop a formalism, referred to as Context driven Actualization of Potential (CAP), which handles potentiality and describes the evolution of entities as an actualization of potential through a reiterated interaction with the context.
Alper, Joseph. It Came from Outer Space. Astronomy. November, 2002. New spectral evidence implies that the universe generates and is filled with precursor biomolecules for life which constantly bathe the earth in their flow.
Anderson, Mark. Entangled Life. Discover. February, 2009. An update on how an increasing number of biological processes such as olfaction and neural responses are indeed found to draw upon quantum phenomena. But are we, is science, mindful of a greater cosmic creation waiting to be “discovered,” that is by such implication inherently organic in kind?
Arndt, Markus, et al. Quantum Physics Meets Biology. HPSF Journal. Advance Online, 2009. Physicists Arndt, from the University of Vienna, Thomas Juffmann, Oxford University, and Vlatko Vedral, from both Oxford and the National University of Singapore, show in this status review how a real convergence is quite underway from both approaches. While biological research is lately sending roots into quantum realms, as the quote notes, quantum theories now branch into complex systems. Both sciences have historically started with discrete, particulate phenomena, still much the case, but are increasingly noticing interconnective relations. When, one wonders, can such a synthesis, as it proceeds, reveal a “systems universe” that can be realized as truly Organic in kind?
Quantum physics and biology have long been regarded as unrelated disciplines, describing nature at the inanimate microlevel on the one hand and living species on the other hand. Over the past decades the life sciences have succeeded in providing ever more and refined explanations of macroscopic phenomena that were based on an improved understanding of molecular structures and mechanisms. Simultaneously, quantum physics, originally rooted in a world-view of quantum coherences, entanglement, and other nonclassical effects, has been heading toward systems of increasing complexity. The present perspective article shall serve as a “pedestrian guide” to the growing interconnections between the two fields. (Abstract)
Bailly, Francis and Giuseppe Longo. Mathematics and the Natural Sciences: The Physical Singularity of Life. London: Imperial College Press, 2011. CNRS, France, physicist philosophers, as the quotes infer, contribute to the 21st century reunion and resolve of biological life and cognition within a substantial, conducive cosmos that it evidentially arises from. An initial course through Mathematical Concepts and Physical Objects, Indeterminations, Space and Time from Physics to Biology, Invariances, Symmetries and Breakings, and so on, arrives at Extended Criticality: The Physical Singularity of Life Phenomena. But as many of these efforts, a distinction is not yet seen or made between the vying, mingling models of mechanical and organic. For they represent two diametric forms of matter or materiality. For the Ptolemaic moribund multiverse, matter as smashed in Colliders has no vital spontaneity of its own, while as this endeavor avers, an inherent propensity to form self-active, emergent, nonlinear dynamical autopoietic systems abides. See Longo’s extensive publications page at www.di.ens.fr/~longo/download.html for papers with Bailly, Mael Montevil, and Stuart Kauffman.
There is no doubt that there exists a reality beyond ourselves, which enters into “friction” with our actions upon it and which, moreover, “canalizes” them. Husserl uses a word from the idealist tradition to designate this reality: he considers the notion of transcendence. In a very common interpretation of the word, and quite independently from Husserl, the following deduction is usually made, first in physics, then in mathematics: the “properties” of the world are transcendent. They are therefore “already there,” they pre-exist. (23)
Bains, William and Dirk Schulze-Makuch.
The Cosmic Zoo: The (Near) Inevitability of the Evolution of Complex, Macroscopic Life.
The astrochemist authors have postings at MIT Atmospheric and Planetary Science and the Technical University of Berlin. Akin to Lingam & Loeb 2018, they avail a transitional sequence of “key innovations” that appear to distinguish life’s Earthly course from protocells, oxygenesis, multicularity, land animals, intelligence and human culture, along with possible substages. This evident progression, while tinkered and circuitous, does seem oriented toward a generic homo observant sapience. Three working options are cited: Critical Path, Random Walk, and Many Paths. While seen as “highly anthropocentric,” it is concluded that evolutionary developments on stable exo-biospheres will likely follow this axial pathway to complex, cognitive creatures.
Life on Earth provides a unique biological record from single-cell microbes to technologically intelligent life forms. Our evolution is marked by several major steps or innovations along a path of increasing complexity from microbes to space-faring humans. Here we identify various major key innovations, and use an analytical toolset consisting of a set of models to analyse how likely each key innovation is to occur. Our conclusion is that once the origin of life is accomplished, most of the key innovations can occur rather readily. The conclusion for other worlds is that if the origin of life can occur rather easily, we should live in a cosmic zoo, as the innovations necessary to lead to complex life will occur with high probability given sufficient time and habitat. On the other hand, if the origin of life is rare, then we might live in a rather empty universe. (Abstract)
Balazs, Bela. The Role of Life in the Cosmological Replication. http://astro.elte.hu/~bab/Role_Life_Univp.rtf. A paper from the 2002 International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL)conference. A Hungarian astronomer sets aside the old view of a sterile universe to report on the gathering vision of a “super-Copernican” revolution which returns life, intelligence and humans to central significance. A "biocosmological" model is proposed whereby an animate universe develops into a knowing sentience capable of carrying on this emergent transformation. This self-organization evolves along a path of complexity and consciousness to the extent the entire cosmos may become able to replicate itself within its vast multiverse.
Barrow, John, et al, eds.
Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
In the tradition of Lawrence Henderson’s classic The Fitness of the Environment, these proceedings of a Templeton conference go beyond critical physical parameters just right for our anthropic presence and show that many properties of biochemical and cellular materiality also seem tailored for the appearance and evolution of living entities. By this ‘biothropic’ addition, cosmic nature appears to exhibit a fertile propensity for life and persons.
The discovery that the protein universe consists of a finite set of natural forms in a sense completes the molecular biological revolution, revealing finally – five decades after the nature and biological purpose of DNA and RNA were first elucidated – the essential nature of the second great class of biopolymers. It reveals that the purpose of the genetic system is to turn out endless adaptive variants of a set of invariant natural forms. The great complexity of the folds indicates perhaps more clearly than any other previous discovery in the biological sciences, that very great biological complexity may be lawful and need not necessarily be contingent. (Denton 269)