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If life might be “programmed into” the laws of nature, why not humans?

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From a review of Universe in Creation: A New Understanding of the Big Bang and the Emergence of Life by astrophysicist Roy R. Gould:

Whichever specific origin of life theory we turn to, the thesis that life is somehow programmed into the universe feels uncomfortable but also attractive. Uncomfortable, because it seems to carry a whiff of creationism: Is this just wishful thinking after all, intelligent design gussied up for the scientifically-minded? It is attractive, however, for the same reason. It means that life is the inevitable, invariant consequence of the laws of physics at work, giving life about as much meaning in the universe as an atheist could in good conscience ask for.

What we want to be true is, of course, irrelevant. The fascinating thing, however, is that Gould’s thesis may very well prove true. If it turns out that life—even the most rudimentary microbial life—is common to the universe, the case, as Gould suggests, is settled. Given the distances humans would have to travel to verify this, it is not something that can easily be proved. But even if there is or ever has been any sort of simple life on Mars—and this is something that could be ascertained in our lifetime—then Shapiro and Gould, although they embrace different theories of the origins of life, are essentially correct. After all, if life emerged independently on two planets in a single solar system, it is nothing unusual. Indeed, that finding alone would be powerful evidence that life has a tendency to emerge, and is presumably widespread throughout the universe. The origins of life would indeed be found in the laws of nature.

But we can’t make too much of that either. For though any such finding would greatly raise life’s stature in the universe, it would do nothing to elevate that of humanity. Even if we prove that life is a property of physics, we humans would still be creatures of chance—and natural selection. Monod would thus be half-wrong and half-right: the universe would indeed have been pregnant with life, but not with humanity. Adam Gaffney, “How Did Life Emerge?” at The New Republic

Gaffney’s second conclusion doesn’t really make sense. If we are willing to think it reasonable that life itself is something found in the laws of nature, why might human life not be so as well? For that matter, there could certainly be other intelligent entities in our universe. We just don’t have evidence either way so we can’t assume it must be true.

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See also: Does nature just “naturally” produce life?

And

Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place?

4 Replies to “If life might be “programmed into” the laws of nature, why not humans?

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    News, life being written into the laws of the universe would be HUGE front-loading. Design would be screaming from the roof-tops. But to suggest such likely reflects that if life is highly contingent (and is extremely functionally specific and complex) then it is maximally implausible on blind chance driven contingency. Necessity, once set, is the opposite of contingency. But, too, “once set” implies level 2 contingency given the high credibility of the claim that the observed cosmos had a beginning. KF

  2. 2
    Belfast says:

    Sure, Doctor Gould, and the Big Bang was written into the physics? And entropy? And the Turin image?
    And physics was woven into DNA to permit mutations to go hammer and tongs against physical laws in DNA to prevent or repair mis-copying?

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    As to this question:

    “If life might be “programmed into” the laws of nature, why not humans?”

    Well, one huge reason “why not humans” is that, in quantum mechanics, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.

    As Steven Weinberg states, (in quantum mechanics) humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.,,, the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.,,, In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure,,, Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,
    http://www.nybooks.com/article.....mechanics/

    And the instrumentalist approach in quantum mechanics, (as opposed to the ‘realist approach’ in quantum mechanics), has now been empirically confirmed by the recent closing of what has been termed the ‘free will loophole’.
    https://uncommondescent.com/science/are-angels-naturalistic/#comment-668722

    Another huge reason why life itself is NOT “programmed into” the laws of nature is that the laws of nature, although they are extremely fine tuned for life to exist in the universe, are a necessary but certainly not a sufficient condition for life to exist.

    As James Tour states, after noting that, “The laws of physics and chemistry’s Periodic Table are universal”,, after noting that James Tour states, “Life should not exist anywhere in our universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the earth.”

    An Open Letter to My Colleagues – James Tour – 2017
    Excerpt: We synthetic chemists should state the obvious. The appearance of life on earth is a mystery. We are nowhere near solving this problem. The proposals offered thus far to explain life’s origin make no scientific sense.
    Beyond our planet, all the others that have been probed are lifeless, a result in accord with our chemical expectations. The laws of physics and chemistry’s Periodic Table are universal, suggesting that life based upon amino acids, nucleotides, saccharides and lipids is an anomaly. Life should not exist anywhere in our universe. Life should not even exist on the surface of the earth.17
    James Tour, “An Open Letter” Inference – .. Tour is one of the leading synthetic organic chemists in the world

    “We have no idea how the molecules that compose living systems could have been devised such that they would work in concert to fulfill biology’s functions. We have no idea how the basic set of molecules, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins, were made and how they could have coupled into the proper sequences, and then transformed into the ordered assemblies until there was the construction of a complex biological system, and eventually to that first cell.
    Nobody has any idea how this was done when using our commonly understood mechanisms of chemical science. Those that say they understand are generally wholly uninformed regarding chemical synthesis. Those that say “Oh, this is well worked out,” they know nothing, nothing about chemical synthesis – Nothing!
    Further cluelessness – From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system. We cannot figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins. Chemists are collectively bewildered. Hence I say that no chemist understands prebiotic synthesis of the requisite building blocks let alone their assembly into a complex system.
    That’s how clueless we are. I’ve asked all of my colleagues – National Academy members, Nobel Prize winners -I sit with them in offices; nobody understands this. So if your professors say it’s all worked out, your teachers say it’s all worked out, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It is not worked out. You cannot just refer this to somebody else; they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
    James Tour – one of the top ten leading chemists in the world
    The Origin of Life: An Inside Story – March 2016 Lecture with James Tour
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zQXgJ-dXM4

    And as kairosfocus highlighted, another huge reason why life itself is NOT “programmed into” the laws of nature is the problem of frontloading.

    Does Front-End Loading & Theistic Evolution Explain the Information in Life? – Stephen Meyer – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW0985W4rks

    How well can information be stored from the beginning to the end of time? – Jan. 13, 2015
    Excerpt: Information can never be stored perfectly. Whether on a CD, a hard disk drive, or a piece of papyrus, technological imperfections create noise that limits the preservation of information over time. But even if you had a perfect storage medium with zero imperfections, there would still be fundamental limits placed on information storage due to the laws of physics that govern the evolution of the universe ever since the Big Bang.,,,
    To do this, they modelled information transmission over a “channel” that is essentially spacetime itself, described by the Robertson-Walker metric. Their model combines the theories of general relativity and quantum information by considering the quantum state of matter (specifically, spin-1/2 particles) as the universe expands. In this model, the evolution of the universe creates noise which, in the context of quantum communication, acts like an amplitude damping channel.
    The physicists’ main result is that, the faster the universe expands, the less well the information can be preserved.,,,
    So to answer the original question of how much information can be stored from the beginning to the end of time, the results suggest “not very much.”
    http://phys.org/news/2015-01-h.....on-be.html

    And if it were even possible to frontload the information into the universe, just how much information would have to be frontloaded for ‘simple’ life to be possible?

    Well, the information content that is found to be in a one cell bacterium, when working from the thermodynamic perspective, is found to be 10 to the 12 bits,,,

    Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy: – Setlow-Pollard, Ed. Addison Wesley
    Excerpt: Linschitz gave the figure 9.3 x 10^12 cal/deg or 9.3 x 10^12 x 4.2 joules/deg for the entropy of a bacterial cell. Using the relation H = S/(k In 2), we find that the information content is 4 x 10^12 bits. Morowitz’ deduction from the work of Bayne-Jones and Rhees gives the lower value of 5.6 x 10^11 bits, which is still in the neighborhood of 10^12 bits. Thus two quite different approaches give rather concordant figures.
    http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~a.....ecular.htm

    ,,, Which is equivalent to about 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. ‘In comparison,,, the largest libraries in the world,, have about 10 million volumes or 10^12 bits.”

    “a one-celled bacterium, e. coli, is estimated to contain the equivalent of 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. Expressed in information in science jargon, this would be the same as 10^12 bits of information. In comparison, the total writings from classical Greek Civilization is only 10^9 bits, and the largest libraries in the world – The British Museum, Oxford Bodleian Library, New York Public Library, Harvard Widenier Library, and the Moscow Lenin Library – have about 10 million volumes or 10^12 bits.”
    – R. C. Wysong

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    And how much information would be needed for a human?,,, In the following video, it is noted that the information to build a human infant, atom by atom, would take up the equivalent of enough thumb drives to fill the Titanic, multiplied by 2,000.

    In a TED Talk, (the Question You May Not Ask,,, Where did the information come from?) – November 29, 2017
    Excerpt: Sabatini is charming.,,, he deploys some memorable images. He points out that the information to build a human infant, atom by atom, would take up the equivalent of enough thumb drives to fill the Titanic, multiplied by 2,000. Later he wheels out the entire genome, in printed form, of a human being,,,,:
    [F]or the first time in history, this is the genome of a specific human, printed page-by-page, letter-by-letter: 262,000 pages of information, 450 kilograms.,,,
    https://evolutionnews.org/2017/11/in-a-ted-talk-heres-the-question-you-may-not-ask/

    The following video states that “There are 10^28 atoms in the human body.,, The amount of data contained in the whole human,, is 3.02 x 10^32 gigabytes of information. Using a high bandwidth transfer, that data would take about 4.5 x 10^18 years to teleport 1 time. That is 350,000 times the age of the universe.”

    Will Teleportation Ever Be Possible? – video – 2013
    https://youtu.be/yfePpMTbFYY?t=76
    Quote from video:
    “There are 10^28 atoms in the human body.,, The amount of data contained in the whole human,, is 3.02 x 10^32 gigabytes of information. Using a high bandwidth transfer that data would take about 4.5 x 10^18 years to teleport 1 time. That is 350,000 times the age of the universe.”

    The following article arrives at approx. the same result, i.e. 10^32,,

    If we forget about recognizing atoms and measuring their velocities and just scale that to a resolution of one-atomic length in each direction that’s about 10^32 bits (a one followed by thirty two zeros). This is so much information that even with the best optical fibers conceivable it would take over one hundred million centuries to transmit all that information!,,,
    (A fun talk on teleportation – Professor Samuel Braunstein –
    http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/~schmuel/tport.html

    Verse:

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Of supplemental note:

    Conservation of information, evolution, etc – Sept. 30, 2014
    Excerpt: Kurt Gödel’s logical objection to Darwinian evolution:
    “The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation].”
    Gödel – As quoted in H. Wang. “On `computabilism’ and physicalism: Some Problems.” in Nature’s Imagination, J. Cornwall, Ed, pp.161-189, Oxford University Press (1995).
    Gödel’s argument is that if evolution is unfolding from an initial state by mathematical laws of physics, it cannot generate any information not inherent from the start – and in his view, neither the primaeval environment nor the laws are information-rich enough.,,,
    More recently this led him (Dembski) to postulate a Law of Conservation of Information, or actually to consolidate the idea, first put forward by Nobel-prizewinner Peter Medawar in the 1980s. Medawar had shown, as others before him, that in mathematical and computational operations, no new information can be created, but new findings are always implicit in the original starting points – laws and axioms.,,,
    http://potiphar.jongarvey.co.u.....ution-etc/

    And Godel’s incompleteness theorem has now been extended to physics:

    In the following article entitled ‘Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics’, which studied the derivation of macroscopic properties from a complete microscopic description, the researchers remark that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,, The researchers further commented that their findings challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”

    Quantum physics problem proved unsolvable: Gödel and Turing enter quantum physics – December 9, 2015
    Excerpt: A mathematical problem underlying fundamental questions in particle and quantum physics is provably unsolvable,,,
    It is the first major problem in physics for which such a fundamental limitation could be proven. The findings are important because they show that even a perfect and complete description of the microscopic properties of a material is not enough to predict its macroscopic behaviour.,,,
    “We knew about the possibility of problems that are undecidable in principle since the works of Turing and Gödel in the 1930s,” added Co-author Professor Michael Wolf from Technical University of Munich. “So far, however, this only concerned the very abstract corners of theoretical computer science and mathematical logic. No one had seriously contemplated this as a possibility right in the heart of theoretical physics before. But our results change this picture. From a more philosophical perspective, they also challenge the reductionists’ point of view, as the insurmountable difficulty lies precisely in the derivation of macroscopic properties from a microscopic description.”
    http://phys.org/news/2015-12-q.....godel.html

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