I. Our Planatural Edition: A 21st Century PhiloSophia, Earthropo Ecosmic PediaVersion
B. Anthropocene Sapiensphere: A Major Emergent Transitional Phase
Hazen, Robert. Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press, 2005. A Carnegie Institute of Washington geochemist and astrobiologist narrates how physical materiality is being found to spontaneously self-organize into complex cellular organisms. Three options then vie: life began with metabolism and genetic molecules later; self-replicating nucleotides first and metabolism after; or life arose as a cooperative chemical phenomenon of both metabolism and genetics. The implicit cosmos which appears throughout then quite takes on the likeness of an intrinsic genesis cosmos. As a result, life’s oriented emergence suggests a universe made from the beginning to evolve into humankind.
Not surprisingly, most origin-of-life investigators favor the view that life is a cosmic imperative and that it is only a matter of time before we figure out how it happened. In this scenario, genesis occurs throughout the universe all the time. (xiv) The arms of spiral galaxies, the rings of Saturn, hurricanes, rainbows, sand dunes, life, consciousness, cities, and symphonies all are ordered structures that emerge when many interacting particles, or “agents” – be they molecules, stars, cells, or people – are subjected to a flow of energy. (12)
Henning, Brian and Adam Scarfe. Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back into Biology. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. In our nascent cerebral noosphere, a grand revolution from moribund machine to a creative genesis seems truly “in the air.” Gonzaga University and University of Winnipeg philosophers provide still another entry within Complexity, Systems Theory, and Emergence; Biosemiotics; Homeostasis, Thermodynamics, and Symbiogenesis; Baldwin Effect, Behavior, and Evolution; Autogenesis, Teleology, and Teleodynamics; and Organism and Mechanism sections. A remarkable chapter is “Wind at Life’s Back —Toward a Naturalistic, Whiteheadian Teleology: Symbiogenesis and the Second Law” by Dorion Sagan and Lynn Margulis. With an essay Foreword from Stuart Kauffman, and contributions by Terrence Deacon, Philip Clayton, Jesper Hoffmeyer, and others, it bodes well for a 21st century synthesis.
It has been said that new discoveries and developments in the human, social, and natural sciences hang “in the air” prior to their consummation. While neo-Darwinist biology has been powerfully served by its mechanistic metaphysic and a reductionist methodology in which living organisms are considered machines, many of the chapters in this volume place this paradigm into question. Pairing scientists and philosophers together, this volume explores what might be termed “the New Frontiers” of biology, namely contemporary areas of research that appear to call an updating, a supplementation, or a relaxation of some of the main tenets of the Modern Synthesis. Such areas of investigation include: Emergence Theory, Systems Biology, Biosemiotics, Homeostasis, Symbiogenesis, Niche Construction, the Theory of Organic Selection (also known as “the Baldwin Effect”), Self-Organization and Teleodynamics, as well as Epigenetics. Most of the chapters in this book offer critical reflections on the neo-Darwinist outlook and work to promote a novel synthesis that is open to a greater degree of inclusivity as well as to a more holistic orientation in the biological sciences. (Publisher)
Challenge Propagations: Towards a Theory of Distributed Intelligence and the Global Brain.
Volume 2/Issue 5,
In a topical edition on Collective Intelligence, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel systems scholar reviews the ramifying emergence of a worldwide cerebral cognizance similar to a human brain. A pioneer theorist in this regard, at VUB he directs the Evolution, Complexity and Cognition Group and the Global Brain Institute, where many papers over twenty years can be accessed. Akin to other articles herein by George Por, Helene Finidori, Pierre Levy, Adebayo Akomolafe, Ashok Gangadean, and others, it is dawning that a planetary sapiensphere is indeed forming over the Earth, which would be well to recognize, facilitate, and beneficially avail. Maybe as a major evolutionary (Maynard Smith) or metasystem (Turchin) transition, it has neural qualities since both brain and Brain can be seen to arise from and exemplify a common complex adaptive self-organization.
Contemporary science sees societies, organisms and brains as complex adaptive systems. This means that they consist of a vast number of relatively autonomous agents (such as cells, neurons or individuals) that interact locally via a variety of channels. out of these non-linear interactions, some form of coherent, coordinated activity emerges – a phenomenon known as self-organization. The resulting organization is truly distributed over the components of the system: it is not localized, centralized or directed by one or a few agents, but arises out of the interconnections between all the agents. The present paper will focus on the distributed intelligence of such a self-organizing system, because this is what most fundamentally distinguishes the new paradigm from the older paradigm, which sees problem solving and decision making as centralized, sequential processes. (51)
Hillis, Danny. The Enlightenment is Dead, Long Live the Entanglement. www.jods.mitpress.mit.edu. An inaugural article on this 2016 online Journal of Design and Science by the MIT Media Lab from a pioneer inventor, engineer, mathematician, entrepreneur, and author of the computational, algorithmic Internet revolution. Since it is easy to reach, it is best to read the whole pithy posting which says the historic age of lawful, knowledge-based prediction is past, set aside by an algorithmic era of nonlinear novelty.
Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. And our process of creation is very different. Contrast that with an image of the global collaboration that constructed the Wikipedia, an interconnected document that is too large and too rapidly changing for any single contributor to even read. A beautiful example of an Entanglement process is the use of simulated biologically-inspired algorithms to design artificial objects through evolution and morphogenesis. Multiple designs are mutated, bred and selected over many generations in a process analogous to Darwinian selection. The artifacts created by such processes look very different from those produced by engineering. An evolved motorcycle chassis will look more like a pelvic bone than a bicycle frame. A computer program produced by a process of evolutionary design may be as difficult to understand as a neural circuit in the brain. (Excerpt)
Hofkirchner, Wolfgang. A Paradigm Shift for the Great Bifurcation. Biosystems. June, 2020. The Institute for a Global Sustainable Information Society, Vienna philosopher (search) posts a current survey of his 21st century project to consider and facilitate a vital revolutionary advance from an olden machine model, now in ruins, to an organic, sustainable milieu graced by integrative, informed, systemic emergence.
This paper is an attempt to understand the global challenges that humanity is confronted with. It is argued that a secular paradigm shift is required away from a mechanistic picture of the world to accounts of emergence, of systemicity, informationality and conviviality, so as to provide a transdisciplinary science. Viewed by this perspective, current social evolution can be seen at a Great Bifurcation. Humankind is both on the brink of extinction, and the threshold of a planetary society. Another leap in integration would respond to the complex dilemma. Human beings as informational agents can establish convivial rules of living together on the way to a worldwide commons. By doing so, they would accomplish another evolutionary step in anthroposociogenesis. I will describe a Global Sustainable Information Society conceptual framework of necessary conditions for local and global conviviality. (Abstract excerpt)
Holmes, Barbara. Race and the Cosmos. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002. In this extraordinary work, Barbara Holmes, theologian, ethicist, activist, and lawyer, argues that the seemingly intractable issues of race and social justice ought to be approached within the encompassing, relational context of a dynamically interconnected quantum cosmology now being articulated by the holistic sciences.
I am suggesting that we view issues of race and liberation from the perspective of the cosmos, and that we begin to incorporate the languages of science into our discussions of liberation. This is a reasonable choice given the reality that the universe is an integral aspect of any human endeavor, even when it is a taken-for-granted backdrop for our activities. I am challenging all justice seekers to awaken to the vibrant and mysterious worlds of quantum physics and cosmology. (3)
Ingold, Tim. The Man in the Machine and the Self-Builder. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 35/3-4, 2010. In an issue on “History and Human Nature: Cross-Cultural Universals and Cultural Relativities,” the University of Aberdeen anthropologist engages this dichotomy with his usual clarity by advocating its obvious complementary resolve. Surely individual diversity does and should abound, but it is necessarily encompassed within “a continuous universe of relations.” For an adage: “Every mind is a node within a matrix of relational pathways that permeates the inhabited world.” While, as Ingold writes, an expanded sense of abidance may elude, and boggle, our particulate West, such a dualness has long been a common concept for prior, non-western cultures. A modern-day reentry and revitalization might then be facilitated by David Bohm’s mystic physics, along with an “extended mind” school, as they serve to open to a “wideware” social cognizance.
The sense in which the human mind is truly universal, however, explodes the very premise on which the classificatory project is based, namely, that the order of the world is explicate (Bohm, 1980). It holds, to the contrary, that every mind is a particular node or nexus within a universe of relations and processes which, as they unfold in the world, are developmentally enfolded into its very constitution. The phenomena of mind, in short, reveal that the world’s order is implicate. Though the universality of the implicate order may be hard for modern western thinkers to grasp, it is self-evident, for example, to the Greenlandic Inuit, for whom “sila,” equivalent to what we would call mind, intelligence or consciousness, while manifest in each and every person, ‘is an all-pervading, life-giving force connecting a person with the rhythms of the universe, and integrating the self with the natural world. (356)
Ismael, J. T.. How Physics Makes Us Free. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. This unique contribution by a University of Arizona philosopher could be situated in between a prior 17th to 20th century male mindset, or lack thereof, and a 21st century Copernican revolution, a term she uses, much underway as this site documents. Initial chapters set aside the determinate, insensate, mechanical model which disallows a creative universe reality and entailed, phenomenal human selves. But what she actually means by “physics” is expanded from past atomic and cosmic infinities to admit a lawful evolutionary emergence of organic life, sentience and persons. A pervasive self-organization via interactive entities which engenders corporeal and neural complexities is seen to proceed from a stochastic bottom-up plenum to progressive top-down individuation. As a novel perception, a phase of self-governance takes over which achieves an autonomous, liberated self-constitution. Part I: The Place of Selves in the Natural Order turns to Part II: The Place of Action in the Natural Order as this organic “physics” alludes to a self-selective procreation of uniVerse and humanKinder. The tacit sense is an innate self-making cosmos whose intent and purpose seems to be our reflective human agency. A brave, rarest, breakthrough synthesis years in the making.
There is an immense literature on human freedom that stretches back almost as far as philosophy itself. My plan is to focus more on the physics side of the question than is customary. I will suggest that physics has developed in recent decades in a way that rather helps the situation, not by introducing quantum randomness, but (1) by showing how the microlaws create the space for emergent systems with robust capabilities for self-governance and (2) by removing threats to freedom that came from notions of causal necessity that physics has outgrown. (xi)
Jeffery, Kate and Carlo Rovelli. Transitions in Brain Evolution: Space, Time and Entropy. Trends in Neuroscience. April, 2020. University College London and University of Aix-Marseille physicists offer a way that might reconcile these seemingly disparate features of our standard scientific model by observing that cerebral cognition can be seen to mitigate thermodynamic costs. Their endeavor is set within the major transitions scale whose nested increase of mobility and memory rises along with entropic expenditures. A concern then becomes our human, linguistic mode in its Anthropocene phase that is capable of this retrospective view. But the emergence course is not seen as physically guaranteed – it could have come to a dead end at some point. In closing, it is noted that this may still happen to we peoples if nuclear armaments and other terminal perils are not resolved.
How did brains evolve to become so complex, and what is their future? Brains pose an explanatory challenge because entropy, which inexorably increases over time, is commonly associated with disorder and simplicity. Recently we showed how evolution is an entropic process, building structures – organisms – which themselves facilitate entropy growth. Here we suggest that key transitional points in evolution extended organisms’ reach into space and time, opening channels into new regions of a complex multi-dimensional state space that also allows entropy to increase. Brain evolution enabled representation of space and time, which vastly enhances this process. (Abstract)
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation.
London: Frances Lincoln,
The British philosopher and architect presents an illustrated chronicle of the extraordinary landscape and sculpture gardens at the Portrack estate grounds in Scotland, originally conceived with his late wife Maggie Keswick. Its grand inspiration is to move beyond mechanistic models to express a self-organizing cosmic and earthly nature suffused with analogy and spontaneity. The new complexity sciences are seen to reveal a living universe wherein microcosm and macrocosm are linked by fractal-like geometric similarities. An overall arc proceeds via a “cosmic code” through stages of energy, matter, life and consciousness which just now awakens to take in the whole emergent, portentous scenario. Jencks goes on to propose a “reconstructive postmodernism” which can create a metanarrative guided by these vistas.
In effect, the universe has pre-ordering possibilities before natural selection ever gets to work. Cosmogenesis produces pattern, harmony, and organized complexity before there is life. (24) Given enough time, a ‘complex adaptive system” will evolve habits, traditions and a culture. To figure out the universe, nature will produce culture. (224)
Molecular Theory of the Living Cell.
The Korean-American scientist has a doctorate in physical organic chemistry from SUNY Albany, and for many years has been a professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology at Rutgers University. I had the pleasure of having lunch with Dr. Ji at a complex systems conference in 2000. The volume is a collated synthesis of his thought and writings as Principles, Laws and Concepts in physics, chemistry, biology, linguistics, semiotics, and philosophy to Molecular Mechanisms in cellular physiology and Applications from molecules to mind and evolution. While couched in abstract terms, its intent is to distill and identify the presence of universal qualities, forces and agencies that recur in creative kind from universe to human. As such, it is a good example of a waxing 2010s synthesis just now becoming possible.
This book presents a comprehensive molecular theory of the living cell based on over thirty concepts, principles and laws imported from thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, chemical kinetics, informatics, computer science, linguistics, semiotics, and philosophy. The author formulates physically, chemically and enzymologically realistic molecular mechanisms to account for the basic living processes such as ligand-receptor interactions, protein folding, single-molecule enzymic catalysis, force-generating mechanisms in molecular motors, signal transduction, regulation of the genome-wide RNA metabolism, morphogenesis, the micro-macro coupling in coordination dynamics, the origin of life, and the mechanisms of biological evolution itself. Possible solutions to basic and practical problems facing contemporary biology and biomedical sciences have been suggested, including pharmacotheragnostics and personalized medicine.
Ji, Sungchul. Waves as the Symmetry Principle Underlying Cosmic, Cell, and Human Languages. Information. Online February, 2017. The Rutgers University professor (search) of pharmacological chemistry advances his considerations of a vital cosmos with its own intrinsic, recurrent lawful phenomena. A universal complementarity sourced in Niels Bohr’s particle/wave form in evinced by citing many more manifestations. As the abstract notes, a natural narrative can be phrased in its relative linguistic modes from universe to us. And isn’t this is our great project to realize and decipher a genesis creation we are meant to discover, and continue.
In 1997, the author concluded that living cells use a molecular language (cellese) that is isomorphic with the human language (humanese) based on his finding that the former shared 10 out of the 13 design features of the latter. In 2012, the author postulated that cellese and humanese derived from a third language called the cosmic language (or cosmese) and that what was common among these three kinds of languages was waves—i.e., sound waves for humanese, concentration waves for cellese, and quantum waves for cosmese. These waves were suggested to be the symmetry principle underlying cosmese, cellese, and humanese. We can recognize at least five varieties of waves—(i) electromagnetic; (ii) mechanical; (iii) chemical concentration; (iv) gravitational; and (v) probability waves, the last being non-material, in contrast to the first four, which are all material. (Abstract)
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