I. Our Earthuman Edition: A 21st Century, PhiloSophia, eLibrary of eCosmos, PediaPedia Resource
B. An Earthropo to Ecosmo Sapience Finds a Phenomenal, Independent. UniVerse to WumanVerse
Dawkins, Richard. The Ancestor’s Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. The British biologist and science advocate writes an engaging tour of life’s evolution via a procession back in time from Homo Sapiens to 39 earlier rendezvous such as gibbons, screws, marsupials, coelacanths, protosomes, and fungi. But the work is of especial note because it reflects the conflation of opposite worldviews. In the first chapter, The Conceit of Hindsight, Dawkins restates his claim that evolution does not prefer or aim at human persons. But a concluding chapter, some 580 pages on, says that inherent, directional patterns do, in fact, exist. Drawing on the work of Stuart Kauffman and Simon Conway Morris, a case is made that if evolution were to occur over again it would likely converge upon “human-like” beings, contrary to Stephen Jay Gould. So the two book ends do not agree – does the cosmos possess an innate propensity to evolve into sentient consciousness, signifying something, or is this all an illusion without substance, signifying nothing? The writings of Dawkins’ colleague Daniel Dennett (1995, 2002 via search) convey a similar straddle. An aim of this sourcebook site is to sort through these options and to substantiate in the literature a cosmic genesis being found by a worldwide humankind.
De Duve, Christian. Life as a Cosmic Imperative? Proceedings of the Royal Society A. 369/620, 2011. In an issue on recent satellite discoveries that augur for a profusion extra-terrestrial life (search Dominik), the Nobel Laureate Belgian biochemist reaffirms his 1995 tome Vital Dust, that “… life is an obligatory manifestation of matter, written into the fabric of the universe, and that there must be many sites of life, perhaps even intelligent life sometimes, in many parts of our galaxy, and in others.” De Duve notes he has wavered at times, but strong evidence for constant evolutionary convergences now convince him of a fertile, emergent cosmos made to develop complex, smart organisms.
Deacon, Terrence. Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter. New York: Norton, 2011. With the 1997 classic The Symbolic Species (search) to his credit, the University of California biological anthropologist offers this latest work as his extraordinary intellectual opus. I have been with the author at an IRAS Science and Religion week on Star Island in 2006, where he could be often seen with his laptop deep into this project. But the result, as a good review by Evan Thompson in Nature (480/318, 2011) notes, while filled with luminous insights is uneven and dense. By “incomplete” is not meant an unfinished evolution, but nature and artifact as defined by something that is absent. True, but formidable to handle, as these sample chapters try to explain: Absence, (W)holes, Golems, Teleonomy, Emergence, Morphodynamics, Teleodynamics, Autogenesis, Information, Significance, Sentience. Drawing on complex system and semiotics theories, to which he has made large contributions, one senses something surely going on, as if a self-organizing teleology with a linguistic basis and bent. But as Thompson rues, an obscured by many coined terms, which makes it difficult to follow an argument and path from matter to meaning. One might invite Terry to provide a popular journal-length summary.
The central thesis of this chapter (Self) is that the core property which links the selves of even the simplest life forms with that seemingly ineffable property that characterizes the human experience of self is a special form of dynamical organization: teleodynamics. What has not been made explicit, however, is that all teleodynamic processes are implicitly individuated, that is, they are closed in a fundamental sense with respect to other dynamical features of the world. (468) The core hypothesis of this book is that all teleodynamic phenomena necessarily depend upon, and emerge from, simpler morphodynamic and homeodynamic processes. This implies that the complex intentional features that characterize our thoughts and subjective experiences must like wise emerge from a background of neurological morphodynamic and homeodynamic processes. (487)
Denton, Michael. An Anti-Darwinian Intellectual Journey: Biological Order as an Inherent Property of Matter. Dembski, William, ed. Uncommon Dissent. Wilmington, DE: ISI Press, 2004. Although the book tries to propound a untenable (and largely unintelligible) Intelligent Design position, the work of New Zealand microbiologist Denton provides a lucid glimpse of natural, innate principles of organization and emergence, if one is open to them, at work prior and in addition to mutation and selection. By these insights, the universe begins to take on the appearance of something rather than nothing, and by such properties imply a greater identity and presence.
Denton, Michael. Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis. Seattle: Discovery Institute, 2016. The emeritus University of Otago, New Zealand, microbiologist now resides in Seattle where he associated with this group. While an Intelligent Design locus, it gives Denton, a respected scientist, a space to present a minority, correct view upon life’s developmental course to human beings. The well-researched book, which updates and affirms his 1988 volume, puts the conceptual options into clear contrast. The neo-Darwinian paradigm clings to a gradual adaptive or “functionalist” view due to natural selection alone, with nothing else is going on. The once and future alternative, from Richard Owen’s (1804-1892) 19th century mindset to 21st century autocatalytic self-organization, evo-devo homologies, epigenetics and more, is a “structuralist” version. This latter reading can then be braced by an inherent cosmic and Earthly creative guidance, prior to selective forces. By an allowance of something more going on by such intrinsic agencies, with no mention of religion, a quite positive vision of creaturely life and precious persons is availed. See also MDs 2013 article The Place of Life and Man in Nature in the online journal Bio-Complexity (2013) as an update of his 1998 book Nature’s Destiny, and Updating Darwin: Information and Entropy Drive the Evolution of Life by Irun Cohen (search 2016) another senior biologist of similar mind.
More than thirty years after his landmark book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985), biologist Michael Denton revisits his earlier thesis about the inability of Darwinian evolution to explain the history of life. He argues that there remains “an irresistible consilience of evidence for rejecting Darwinian cumulative selection as the major driving force of evolution.” From the origin of life to the origin of human language, the great divisions in the natural order are still as profound as ever, and they are still unsupported by the series of adaptive transitional forms predicted by Darwin. In addition, Denton makes a provocative new argument about the pervasiveness of nonadaptive order throughout biology, order that cannot be explained by the Darwinian mechanism.
Deutsch, David. The Fabric of Reality. New York: Penguin Putnam, 1997. A work of physics and philosophy which finds the central character and measure of the universe to be an increase in relative knowledge as presently embodied by intelligent human beings. This perception, based on four strands of quantum theory, evolution, epistemology and computation, joins life as “knowledge-bearing matter” with the developmental cosmos. As a result, a positive future opens as genetic-like knowledge may proceed with its sustainable transformation.
Thus physical reality is self-similar on several levels: among the stupendous complexities of the universe and multiverse, some patterns are nevertheless endlessly repeated. (95) Thus science and other forms of knowledge are made possible by a special self-similarity property of the physical world. (97) Also, despite appearances, life is a significant process on the largest scales of both time and space. The future behavior of life will determine the future behavior of stars and galaxies. (193)
Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking, 2005. A most significant work reviewed more in Part VII: The Old Earth. A purpose of this website is to provide resources for an ecological cosmology which can support intentional local and global choices of a sustainable future.
Dick, Steven. Cosmic Evolution: The Context for Astrobiology and its Cultural Implications. International Journal of Astrobiology. Online February, 2012. The National Air and Space Museum historian condenses some 14 billion years of cosmic and earth history, and a century of our human ken and encounter, into a summary article not possible much earlier. With the leading players from Harlow Shapley, Pierre Teilhard, Carl Sagan, and Thomas Berry to Eric Chaisson, David Christian, Mark Lupisella, Connie Barlow, and so on, a widest sweep of physical, biological, cultural and onto possible “cosmotheological” phases are recorded. But it remains to envision this scenario as an encompassing genesis, with its own destiny, of which people are an intended phenomenon.
Cosmic evolution encompasses physical, biological and cultural evolution, and may result in a physical, biological or postbiological universe, each with its own implications for long-term human destiny, and each imbuing the meaning of life with different values. It has the status of an increasingly accepted worldview that is beginning to have a profound effect not only in science but also in religion and philosophy. (Abstract)
Dick, Steven and Mark Lupisella, eds. Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context. Washington, DC: NASA SP-4802, 2010. An extraordinary online volume at http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4802.pdf which gathers disparate contributions and versions that try to express a purposeful universe that is seen to be inherently favorable to life, mind and persons. The notable array of authors includes Eric Chaisson, Paul Davies, Kathryn Denning, John Smart, James Gardner, David Christian, and especially Mark Lupisella, see below. While this latest 2010 view bodes for a grand revolution from an old Ptolemaic machine to a waxing Copernican organic genesis, several papers struggle with an entanglement of these options. A critical missing piece still seems to be an explanatory generative source akin to a cosmic, parent to child, genetic code. Please compare with Clement Vidal, ed. The Evolution and Development of the Universe below for a similar significance ‘in the air.’
A few years ago, Stephen Hawking wrote, “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.” His bleak assessment reflects the prevailing view among scientists concerning the place of life in the universe. Traditionally, living systems have been regarded as a trivial and incidental embellishment to the physical world, of no particular significance in the over-all cosmic scheme of things. In this essay I shall argue that the orthodox view is profoundly wrong. Not only do I believe that life is a key part of the evolution of the universe, I maintain that mind and culture, too, will turn out to be of fundamental significance in the grand story of the cosmos. (Davies, 383) (Life, Mind, and Culture as Fundamental Properties of the Universe)
Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana. Computational Dynamics of Natural Information Morphology, Discretely Continuous. Philosophies. Online October 12, 2017. In a paper for a special Natural Computation: Attempts in Reconciliation of Dialectic Oppositions issue, the Chalmers University of Technology, Stockholm, information theorist continues her insightful project (search) with attention to this crucially significant feature of dual phase program (bit) and phenomena (it) realms. But these remain abstractions because that is what passes for all writings of this kind. After listing some 100 dichotomies, along with their notice from G. Leibniz to J. A. Wheeler, a general theme is a particulate digital, and holistic analog contrast, within a both/and, diversity/unity synthesis. Universal and human nature is again distinguished by a once and future archetypal complementarity, as wisdom surely centers, which is seen as a process of “self-individualization.” Her work is dubbed a “pancomputationalism” whence life evolves and emerges from universe to us via an informative source and its overt, sentient, learned manifestation. See also a posting for the IS4SI 2017 Summit DIGITALISATION FOR A SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY in the MDPI journal Proceedings (1/3, 2017) for over 160 mini-papers from this June conference held at Chalmers (search).
This paper presents a theoretical study of the binary oppositions underlying the mechanisms of natural computation understood as dynamical processes on natural information morphologies. Of special interest are the oppositions of discrete vs. continuous, structure vs. process, and differentiation vs. integration. The framework used is that of computing nature, where all natural processes at different levels of organisation are computations over informational structures. The interactions at different levels of granularity/organisation in nature, and the character of the phenomena that unfold through those interactions, are modeled from the perspective of an observing agent. This brings us to the movement from binary oppositions to dynamic networks built upon mutually related binary oppositions, where each node has several properties. (Abstract)
Dodig-Crnkovic, Gordana. Modeling Life as Cognitive Info-Computation. arXiv:1401.7191. The Malardalen University, Sweden, computer scientist and philosopher continues her project with International Society for Information Studies colleagues to understand living, evolving systems as most distinguished by the information processing they do. Life’s consequent knowledge gain is seen to involve self-organization, autopoiesis, software-like program activities, which go on by themselves. By this view and school, an oriented evolution that accordingly grows in cerebral acumen and literal content can be rooted in natural morphological, molecular, chemical origins. These good writings and this scholarly field could benefit by clear, common terms, and a synthesis of theories, somewhat underway. But the main implication seems to be a universal genesis trying to articulate, discover, and know itself.
The Malardalen University, Sweden, computer scientist and philosopher continues her project with International Society for Information Studies colleagues to understand living, evolving systems as most distinguished by the information processing they do. Life’s consequent knowledge gain is seen to involve self-organization, autopoiesis, software-like program activities, which go on by themselves. By this view and school, an oriented evolution that accordingly grows in cerebral acumen and literal content can be rooted in natural morphological, molecular, chemical origins. These good writings and this scholarly field could benefit by clear, common terms, and a synthesis of theories, somewhat underway. But the main implication seems to be a universal genesis trying to articulate, discover, and know itself.
Drescher, Gary. Good and Real. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. Surely well intentioned, but a doctorate in computer science from MIT seems to convince the author of a mechanical, insensate, computational cosmos. And this seems a prevailing mindset at MIT Press, where many books exude such pessimism. But re the quotes, can’t one see that it doesn’t hang together or make sense. If people are automatons, how can relative values be wrung out of a pointlessness that does not know or care we exist. It is not only that such views are flawed, a cognitive faculty to reflect on and recognize this seems in absentia.
I want to describe a particular view of reality: that the universe is a machine, its behavior specifiable by a simple set of regularities (the details of which are not quite known yet, although physicists may be getting close). (1) Chapter 2 explores how inanimate, mechanical matter could be conscious, just by virtue of being organized to perform the right kind of computation. Chapter 7 considers how our choices can have a moral component – that is, how even a mechanical, deterministic universe can provide a basis for distinguishing right from wrong. (12) Our purpose for ourselves (the universe per se has no purpose for us) is to seek fulfillment of various sorts – emotional, intellectual, sensual – rationally guided in part by an obligation to respect and promote others’ interests as well as our own… (321)