Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

A search for the most complex thing in the universe?

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In this case, a Theory of the Adjacent Possible (TAP):

Biology and cosmology. Two fields that are normally thought to have nothing in common and nothing to teach each other. We — Stuart Kauffman, Andrew Liddle, Lee Smolin and I — are putting an end to this. By reformulating cosmological physics to include biological systems, we have developed a common currency with which their respective systems can be counted and compared. This ‘currency’ allows us to quantify the value of biologicals systems when set against the character cast of cosmology: galaxies, dark energy and black holes.

This synthesis of biology and cosmology required a shift away from reductionism and the belief that all systems can be understood by breaking them down into their constituent elements. Instead, the new way of thinking makes sense of complex systems and their evolution by considering the number of possible future states those systems could take.

In a technical sense, this synthesis uses the idea of a system’s expanding space of possible outcomes, which Stuart Kauffman established as the Theory of the Adjacent Possible (TAP).

Marina Cortês, “The most complex thing in the universe” at IAI.TV (April 21, 2022)

It could be a lot simpler (but where would that lead?):

Yes, the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. But that’s not even the most remarkable thing about our brains. Our complex brains mirror the universe — 27 orders of magnitude bigger — yet some humans function with only half a brain or split brains.

Comments
Fred Hickson:
No sentient entity can understand anything more complex than itself.
Why is that?ET
April 26, 2022
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There's a fundamental issue here. No sentient entity can understand anything more complex than itself. If human brains are the most complex things in the Universe, fine. But are they? What about God?Fred Hickson
April 26, 2022
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This synthesis of biology and cosmology required a shift away from reductionism and the belief that all systems can be understood by breaking them down into their constituent elements.
This is a step forward for them anyway. Moving away from reductionism and incorporating life into the entire picture is a positive development.Silver Asiatic
April 25, 2022
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Stuart Kauffman offered a good critique of neoDarwinism at one time - claiming self-organization as the mechanism instead of natural selection (sort of). He might have changed his mind on that also.Silver Asiatic
April 24, 2022
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We have a way to quantitatively put a value on life within the cosmos and its value to the Universe is enormous. A tiny, insignificant, barely there, corner of the Universe can create diversity and complexity that compares with that of everything else in the Universe. Through this, cosmology can contribute to the climate change debate by conveying an idea of what we are worth and are risking to lose. Namely, the most valuable contribution to the physical diversity in the Universe. Not even black holes can compete with life.
Thankfully, these scientists have figured out how to quantitatively put a value on life. ' They discovered that life contributes more possible future states to the universe than the physics of matter does. So, their cosmology tells us "what we are worth". We are the biggest contributors to the physical diversity of the universe. Even more than black holes. We are assigned a very big number. And that's good. It's a good score in the value of things. And these are scientists, so they know. This is big for all of us. Before they discovered our contribution to physical diversity, the same atheists were telling us we were worthless. We're just an insignificant species on an an insignificant planet in a universe that cares nothing about us. But now? Oh no, that's all wrong. We almost didn't care enough about important things like the diversity of the cosmos. We almost believed them when they said that human beings were a worthless accident with no purpose, meaning or destiny. But now we know that if humans went extinct, what a shame that would be. The whole universe would be missing out on a great source of possible future states. What a sad day for the universe and all it's molecules. Thanks guys, for giving us a reason to live.Silver Asiatic
April 24, 2022
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Stuart Kauffman, in his book "At Home in the Universe" argues that RNA could not have been the first replicator. His reason? Too unlikely, he said. Yeah, a probabilistic argument. He must have done a 180-degree turn since that book, because the above linked page says that RNA was first. Interesting. And I see from the summary of his new(er) book "Reinventing the Sacred", that he has indeed jumped the shark. Oh well. Happens to the best of 'em.EDTA
April 24, 2022
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Counting "possible future states" isn't a meaningful measure of complexity. It's a measurement that AI can do, thus it's a problem designed to fit the tool we want to use. Every living thing has a perfectly infinite number of possible future states. The number isn't countable, and the states can't be demarcated, because behavior is analog.polistra
April 24, 2022
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