Mod+ Life - It's arrival, it's evolution, and so on [Resources][Biology][Evolution]

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
Like other resources threads, idea here is mostly to provide material for people wishing to investigate the topic.

Some commentary/debate is useful but please, if such discussion seems to be getting long [over 3-5 posts] create a separate thread and link to continue.

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One of Nagel's criticisms in Mind & Cosmos is that no one has explained life arising from nonliving matter to his satisfaction.

Do we have any good working theories on this? I heard a guy from MIT was doing the math to show that life is an inevitable outcome of the universe's starting conditions but I'll have to track that down.
 
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Paul C. Anagnostopoulos

Nap, interrupted.
Member
#3
One of Nagel's criticisms in Mind & Cosmos is that no one has explained life arising from nonliving matter to his satisfaction.
What is he criticizing? The fact that science is incomplete and he wants answers before he dies? Does he criticize historians for the same problem?

Do we have any good working theories on this? I heard a guy from MIT was doing the math to show that life is an inevitable outcome of the universe's starting conditions but I'll have to track that down.
There are various working hypotheses, but no good theory. It's a tough problem.

~~ Paul
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Entropy & Syntropy: From Mechanical to Life Science

23 pages organized as follows:

Ch. 1: Discussion of mechanical concepts w.r.t. time & causality
Ch. 2: Relativity and the "supercausality" of QM
Ch. 3: Syntropy and a unified theory of physics and life
Ch. 4: Discussion on how teleology is outside science's purview as backwards causation cannot be observed directly.
Ch. 5: Attractors and Fractals
Ch. 6: Quantum Consciousness possiblity
Ch. 7: Overcoming the fracture between science and religion

eta: Be sure to check out criticisms of syntropy in this thread.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#6
What life wants: Dead matter has no goals of its own, yet life is constantly striving. That makes it a deep puzzle for physics

Very few scientists would deny that the laws of quantum physics (our most accurate fundamental laws of nature at present) also fully explain the laws of chemistry. Yes, it might be difficult to calculate all the intricate details of certain complex reactions using physics alone, but most scientists agree that chemistry does nevertheless follow in its entirety from quantum theory. Biology seems like a different matter, though. Some parts of biology look detached from chemistry, let alone reducible to quantum physics...

...Before I tackle this question, let me make one thing clear. I am not merely asking whether living systems can exploit the stranger aspects of quantum physics to improve their chances of survival. The simple answer to that is, yes, it appears they do. There is evidence to suggest that even the quirkiest of quantum effects, quantum entanglement, is used by photosynthesising plants to channel light energy towards their energy-producing parts by the most efficient route. Similarly, some birds are thought to use odd quantum effects to detect the earth’s magnetic field during migration. The efficiency advantage that quantum physics could be giving these living systems is that it allows them to perform several tasks at the same time, something computer scientists call parallel information processing. Very few people expected that the full repertoire of quantum physics could survive in macroscopic, warm and wet, noisy environments such as plants and birds. Surprise and excitement at these hints that they do has inspired an emerging field called quantum biology, which captivates a growing body of scientists as much as the public.

But this has little to do with reducing biology to physics. Life also exploits classical mechanics and gravity, and that doesn’t mean that classical mechanics and gravity can explain the evolution of life itself...
http://aeon.co/magazine/nature-and-cosmos/vlatko-vedral-evolution-quantum-physics/
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#7
Life’s restlessness

Why does life resist disorder? Because ever since the first replicating molecules, another kind of stability has beckoned

Living things are low-entropy and energy-consuming, so they are unstable in the thermodynamic sense. Nevertheless, they can still be remarkably stable in the sense of persisting over time. Some replicating populations (certain bacterial strains, for example) have maintained themselves with little change over astonishing periods – millions, even a billion, years. They exhibit what we call dynamic kinetic stability (DKS). And, like entropy, DKS turns out to be driven by simple, powerful mathematics.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
Spark of life: Metabolism appears in lab without cells

"I think this paper has really interesting connotations for the origins of life," says Matthew Powner at University College London. It hints at how more complex enzymes could have evolved, he says, because substances that made these early processes more efficient would have been selected for.

There is one big problem, however. "For origins of life, it is important to understand where the source molecules come from," Powner says. No one has yet shown that such substances could form spontaneously in the early oceans.

A related issue is that the reactions observed so far only go in one direction; from complex sugars to simpler molecules like pyruvate. "Given the data, one might well conclude that any organics in the ocean would have been totally degraded, rather than forming the basis of modern metabolism," says Jack Szostak, who studies the origin of life at Harvard. "I would conclude that metabolism had to evolve, within cells, one reaction and one catalyst at a time."

But Ralser disagrees. In his opinion, whether the reaction is catalysed by an enzyme or by a molecule in the Archean Ocean leads to the same result; "every chemical reaction is in principle reversible, whether an enzyme or a simple molecule is the catalyst," he says.
 
#9
Just the thoughts of a layman:

Years before knowing who Sheldrake was, I used to picture this first little cell miraculously forming, but being in a likely hostile primordial stew, almost immediately dying; I still can't help but speculate this scenario was very likely true . . . Though, who really knows. It was after finding morphic resonance that I realized a mechanism, which, if true, would allow for such a problem to be solved: one cell forms, dies, but now it's more likely to happen again . . . And this could of course apply to building blocks for the cell, too . . . though this certainly seems to imply intelligence being involved, which I believe there was . . .

I actually emailed back and forth with Sheldrake about this a few times.
 
#10
Just the thoughts of a layman:

Years before knowing who Sheldrake was, I used to picture this first little cell miraculously forming, but being in a likely hostile primordial stew, almost immediately dying; I still can't help but speculate this scenario was very likely true . . . Though, who really knows. It was after finding morphic resonance that I realized a mechanism, which, if true, would allow for such a problem to be solved: one cell forms, dies, but now it's more likely to happen again . . . And this could of course apply to building blocks for the cell, too . . . though this certainly seems to imply intelligence being involved, which I believe there was . . .

I actually emailed back and forth with Sheldrake about this a few times.
How could a cell form in a chemically hostile stew? How could the chemical precursors develop? What explanatory power does morphic resonance provide. Specifically, how would a morphic resonance make that hostile chemical stew not hostile? One more question, can you define what you mean by hostile?
 
#11
How could a cell form in a chemically hostile stew? How could the chemical precursors develop? What explanatory power does morphic resonance provide. Specifically, how would a morphic resonance make that hostile chemical stew not hostile? One more question, can you define what you mean by hostile?
Forget "hostile, chemical stew," as the key phrase. The point is that I find it incredibly likely that the first cell to form likely died quickly . . . Due to any number of environmental reasons.
 
#12
Forget "hostile, chemical stew," as the key phrase. The point is that I find it incredibly likely that the first cell to form likely died quickly . . . Due to any number of environmental reasons.
Ok. How does morphic resonance allow the first cell to survive destruction?
 
#14
Ok. How does morphic resonance allow the first cell to survive destruction?
Also one could factor in what I was saying in my last post on Michael's thread on the Darwin's Doubt book about the uncanniness of a cell forming with, of all things, the ability to reproduce itself . . . It seems completely reasonable to expect the formation of this ability to take some trial and error . . . A few tries, if you will.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
Can the New Science of Evo–Devo Explain the Form of Organisms?

What is so frightening about the form of living things? Nothing, it might seem. Much of our biological science is a science of form, a science whose task is to understand why proteins and cells, tissues and organs, plants and animals have the form they do, and how they get that way.

But what is so frightening about the form of living things? Everything, it might seem. For the treatment of form in biology is continually “hushed up” in explanations that are as devoid of form, as silent about form, as we can possibly make them. Today in particular we find powerful urges
to engage the problem of organic form with scientific understanding, and yet an equally powerful reticence to reckon with or even acknowledge the forms we can so readily see, as if every such form somehow masked a shameful or threatening countenance.
Went through this last night, and over certain sections today, and it still leaves me confused. It's an nteresting piece, though it's a bit unclear exactly what Talbott is critiquing. He seems to be calling for a resurrection of Agassiz's idea that form arises from Mind, perhaps related to the observer-participancy proposed by Wheeler and extended by Josephson/Yardley.

He even mentions the word "immaterial", yet later it seems like he's merely talking about aesthetic considerations that don't violate current scientific ideas that exclude Mind from evolution.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Hmmm...It might be lack of sleep but I think the following got deleted during the Forumapocalypse:

Die, selfish gene, die: For decades, the selfish gene metaphor let us view evolution with new clarity. Is it now blinding us?


So I was quite amazed when Rogers told us that grasshopper and locust are in fact the same species, even the same animal, and that, as Jekyll is Hyde, one can morph into the other at alarmingly short notice.

Not all grasshopper species, he explained (there are some 11,000), possess this morphing power; some always remain grasshoppers. But every locust was, and technically still is, a grasshopper — not a different species or subspecies, but a sort of hopper gone mad. If faced with clues that food might be scarce, such as hunger or crowding, certain grasshopper species can transform within days or even hours from their solitudinous hopper states to become part of a maniacally social locust scourge. They can also return quickly to their original form...

How does this happen? Does something happen to their genes? Yes, but — and here was the point of Rogers’s talk — their genes don’t actually change. That is, they don’t mutate or in any way alter the genetic sequence or DNA. Nothing gets rewritten. Instead, this bug’s DNA — the genetic book with millions of letters that form the instructions for building and operating a grasshopper — gets reread so that the very same book becomes the instructions for operating a locust. Even as one animal becomes the other, as Jekyll becomes Hyde, its genome stays unchanged. Same genome, same individual, but, I think we can all agree, quite a different beast.

Why?
This raises a question: if merely reading a genome differently can change organisms so wildly, why bother rewriting the genome to evolve? How vital, really, are actual changes in the genetic code? Do we always need DNA changes to adapt to new environments? Are there other ways to get the job done? Is the importance of the gene as the driver of evolution being overplayed?
According to Wray, West-Eberhard and many others, this recognition of gene expression’s power, along with other dynamics and processes unanticipated by mainstream genetic theory through the middle of last century, requires that we rethink and expand the way we view genes and evolution. For a century, the primary account of evolution has emphasised the gene’s role as architect: a gene (or gene variant) creates a trait that either proves advantageous or not, and is thus selected for, changing a species for the better, or not. Thus, a genetic blueprint creates traits and drives evolution.

This gene-centric view, as it is known, is the one you learnt in high school. It’s the one you hear or read of in almost every popular account of how genes create traits and drive evolution. It comes from Gregor Mendel and the work he did with peas in the 1860s. Since then, and especially over the past 50 years, this notion has assumed the weight, solidity, and rootedness of an immovable object.

But a number of biologists argue that we need to replace this gene-centric view with one that more heavily emphasises the role of more fluid, environmentally dependent factors such as gene expression and intra-genome complexity — that we need to see the gene less as an architect and more as a member of a collaborative remodelling and maintenance crew.
Yet we enter this genomic age with a view of genetics that, were we to apply it, say, to basketball, would reduce that complicated team sport to a game of one-on-one. A view like that can be worse than no view. It tempts you to think you understand the game when you don’t. We need something more complex.

‘And it’s not as if people can’t handle things more complex,’ says Wray. ‘Educated people handle ideas more complex than this all the time. We have a more complicated understanding of football than we do genetics and evolution. Nobody thinks just the quarterback wins the game.

‘We’re stuck in an outmoded way of thinking that should have fallen long ago.’
 
#18
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
A great starting point on Origina of Life theories is Robert Shapiro's book Origins: http://www.amazon.com/Origins-Skeptics-Guide-Creation-Earth/dp/0553343556

It's pretty dated now but most of the major issues have not changed. Shapiro's follow up book about life on other planets also discusses many of the issues. http://www.amazon.com/Planetary-Dre...8JO_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403224912&sr=1-2

In 2007 he published this article in Scientific American on the subject.
Thanks for the recs! Also check out Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life? :

"We have inherited from our forefathers the keen longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge. The very name given to the highest institutions of learning reminds us, that from antiquity and throughout many centuries the universal aspect has been the only one to be given full credit. But the spread, both in width and depth, of the multifarious branches of knowledge during the last hundred odd years has confronted us with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we are only now beginning to acquire reliable material for welding together the sum total of all that is known into a whole; but, on the other hand, it has become next to impossible for a single mind fully to command more than a small specialized portion of it.

I can see no other escape from this dilemma (lest our true aim be lost for ever) than that some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them – and at the risking of making fools of ourselves."


A bit outdated regarding things like quantum biology but still good.
 
#20
One of Nagel's criticisms in Mind & Cosmos is that no one has explained life arising from nonliving matter to his satisfaction.

Do we have any good working theories on this? ...
No.

Problems with the Natural Chemical "Origin of Life" (updated)
http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/838

Top Five Problems with Current Origin-of-Life Theories by Casey Luskin
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/03/top-five-problems-with-current-origin.html

Life did not Arise Through the Unguided Action of Natural Laws
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/03/life-did-not-arise-through-unguided.html

Primer: Summary of Problems with Biological and Chemical Evolution
http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/1510

Materialism Cannot Explain the Origin of the Genetic Code.
http://ncu9nc.blogspot.com/2013/04/materialism-cannot-explain-origin-of.html

Survival of the Fakest
http://www.discovery.org/articleFiles/PDFs/survivalOfTheFakest.pdf
 
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