Here in the early part of the 21st century there exist a void in our knowledge and understanding of the appearance of the most simplest of life bacteria/archaea from basic inorganic matter. How can matter without the benefit of the process of evolution freely organise itself to become the complexity of that of a cell all the while with the Second Law continuously working away to wash away any organisation that may fortuitously appear.
The probability for the appearance of the most simplest of cell by chance has been compared to a tornado sweeping over a junkyard and serendipitously leaving in its wake a fully functioning 747 jumbo jet. A living cell can be compared to the complexity of a city.
Nobody tackles these problems, at least in the public domain, better than Stuart Kauffman. He is always a fascinating read. I had before read 'Investigations' and 'At Home in the Universe' by Kauffman which are also excellent books. However 'A World beyond Physics' feels the most complete of his works to date. While previous books of his left me in awe and wonder this book covers every aspect of his research and theory. It highlights the way for further experimental work for testing these ideas.
He explains how it might be possible where a source of simple types of inorganic matter residing in a volcanic rock pool in the earths environment billions of years ago where the weather periodically evaporates the pool could be the crucible for matter to form Kantian wholes.
Kauffman discusses chemical reactions that succeed in closure. He mathematically describes the chances of these reactions taking place in the environment stated above. In a non-equilibrium chemical process when chemical reactions are constrained through reaction systems, formation of a protocell (a Kantian whole) is possible. It involves three types of closure - Constraint, work task, and catalytic.
"It is a 'Machine' that does work cycles to build and assemble its own working parts. Cars do NOT do this! Reproducing cells do this!"
Further experimental research is needed to test the theory and ideas. With more information it may be possible to predict the frequency of simple life forms within the current state of our universe. For example what is the chance of finding life on one of the moons of Jupiter or Saturn given the age and conditions of these environments?
Are we able to produce a protocell from inorganic matter in the laboratory when we provide the chemical system with optimal conditions according to theory?
The second part of the book discusses 'World beyond physics' where a complex environment may serendipity open up 'a new way of living' and that new way opens up more degrees of freedom for other 'new ways of living'. These new ways of living are not pre-stateable. Hence as Kauffman suggests are Beyond Physics. This is the source of complexity and creativity in nature.
Here I feel we are on more shaky ground. It really comes down to how you define physics which Kauffman does not go into in much detail.
I think that we can say that physics is as yet not complete (if completion is even possible).
We currently only have theories which most likely will get updated as we learn more about nature. Perhaps either quantum field theory or general relativity will remain intact but is unlikely that both of them will remain the same as we perceive them today. There are currently no true 'Laws' of physics,
Kauffman explains quite clearly how non-algorithmic the process of complexity is. However the functioning of the brain may also be non-algorithmic and these non-algorithmic process may be completely describable by new physics of the future.
I do not necessarily think that its Physics job to predict how all things will exactly behave into the future. Only to describe mathematically the nature of different phenomena.
Although the weather system is an algorithmic process we cannot predict with certainty what the weather today will do in the future but we can predict the behavior of generic weather systems and therefore get better forecasts on what may lie in the future.
If we have a non-algorithmic process with new physics we may not be able to predict exactly how a system will evolve but we may be confident that we understand the nature of the system at a mathematical level and predict/simulate what types of futures could possible come about perhaps using a non-algorthmic information processor.
It is interesting that animals in all the continents have naturally developed similar physical attributes even though the continents have been separated for millennia. Eg the kangaroo in Australia and the gazelle in Africa, the deer in Europe. The dog in Europe and the Thylacine in Australia. There is a convergence on how to make a living and the physical appearance/make up of the organisms that take on these same ways in vastly separated areas of the world. The separate evolution of the eye is another example.
However one aspect that would be interesting to contemplate on predicting pre-adaptations is the feathers and flight of birds. Feathers on dinosaurs was possibly an adaptation for insulation. It has been conjectured that these feathers initially evolved for warmth then became a symbol for sexual selection (like the peacock). After time these feathers developed through sexual selection then found a purpose in flight. That route may be how birds managed to take to the skies.
Try to solve that one with your non-algorithmic information processor. What attributes go into making a sexy feather?
- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press USA; 1 edition (15 May 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190871334
- ISBN-13: 978-0190871338
- Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 2 x 14.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 272 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)