Informatics Information Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

Origin of life: Informational principles or “other laws”

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Jeremy England’s origin of life claims have been in the news lately. A friend points us to a paper by Sara Walker:

Origins of Life: A Problem for Physics

Abstract: The origins of life stands among the great open scientific questions of our time. While a number of proposals exist for possible starting points in the pathway from non-living to living matter, these have so far not achieved states of complexity that are anywhere near that of even the simplest living systems. A key challenge is identifying the properties of living matter that might distinguish living and non-living physical systems such that we might build new life in the lab. This review is geared towards covering major viewpoints on the origin of life for those new to the origin of life field, with a forward look towards considering what it might take for a physical theory that universally explains the phenomenon of life to arise from the seemingly disconnected array of ideas proposed thus far. The hope is that a theory akin to our other theories in fundamental physics might one day emerge to explain the phenomenon of life, and in turn finally permit solving its origins.

stromatolites/C. Eeckhout

From the paper:

All else being equal, the thermodynamic benefits of self-replication quantified by Eq. 8 seem to favor the simplest replicators (i.e. the shortest replicators which can replicate and degrade the fastest and therefore maximize entropy production). However, this misses a critical point about information and its role in selection of replicators – all else is not equal. Physical systems encoding the information necessary to replicate fast will do so at an exponential rate [130], whereas sequences of similar length that contain no fitness-relevant information will die. That information and selection matter to life has been one of the most challenging aspects of understanding life as a physical process, and nonequilibrium approaches have yet to address this issue – even if we could identify natural or “intrinsic” macrostates. The forgoing demonstrates that selection for systems that dissipate energy at a fast rate will yield simple replicators. Dissipation is a consequence of selection of information, not a driver of it. Co-polymerization provides one explicit example where dissipation is closely related to information [131]. It seems likely that in the absence of appealing to informational principles, discussions of dissipation and entropy-production alone cannot explain the origins of life (hence Schrodinger’s original appeal to “other laws”). More.

Return to product information It has often been noted here that the origin of life is the origin of complex specified information in life forms. It is not the origin of a complex mixture of elements. Refusal to address that fact has spawned a cottage industry of entertaining what-if?s. They keep pop science mags in circulation but yield little in the way of science advance.

The researchers should start by reading books like Evolutionary Informatics first, to get some idea what question we need to answer.

See also: Biophysicist [Jeremy England]: Order can arise from nothing! I have evidence! – Rob Sheldon replies

and

What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

10 Replies to “Origin of life: Informational principles or “other laws”

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    This whole OOL stuff seems like a waste of time. We need more resources and minds devoted to research in order to understand well how the biological systems function under different conditions, so that new health maintenance plans and medical treatments can be formulated accurately to every person or animal (in the case of veterinary medicine).
    Human immaturity shows up every time we see this OOL or SETI hogwash in the pop sci media.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    “Her research focuses on the emergence of life, but she is broadly interested in topics as diverse as the structure of information hierarchies in biological systems, astrobiological searches for life elsewhere in the cosmos, the dynamics underlying major evolutionary transitions, cancer biology, quantum mechanics and space exploration.”

    That lady’s interest seems all over the map. Is she expert on any of those things?

  3. 3

    “It has often been noted here that the origin of life is the origin of complex specified information in life forms.”

    No escaping the information enigma.

  4. 4
    Dionisio says:

    TWSYF,

    Yes, agree.

    Even Turing’s ideas can’t help to decipher such an enigma.

    BTW, Turing’s widely accepted reductionist approach to morphogen gradients seems lacking explanatory power these days.

    Complex, functionally specified informational complexity, on steroids.

    🙂

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    This should suffice:

    https://evolutionnews.org/2017/08/with-a-footnote-synthetic-chemist-james-tour-delivers-chastisement-to-mits-jeremy-england/

    At least for those who want to listen.

    Yes, I know there are folks who don’t.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    Ok, enough OOL entertainment. Let’s get back to serious stuff.
    🙂

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    “considering what it might take for a physical theory that universally explains the phenomenon of life to arise from the seemingly disconnected array of ideas proposed thus far.”

    The main problem is not that those ideas seem disconnected from each other, but that they’re disconnected from reality.

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    “…a cottage industry of entertaining “what-if” scenarios. They keep pop science mags in circulation but yield little in the way of science advance.”

    Clear compact description of the pathetic state of affairs in this world.

  9. 9
    ichisan says:

    Sarah Walker:

    The origins of life stands among the great open scientific questions of our time. While a number of proposals exist for possible starting points in the pathway from non-living to living matter, these have so far not achieved states of complexity that are anywhere near that of even the simplest living systems.

    The fact that this is a huge problem for science is indicative of the moral bankruptcy and self-delusion of the scientific community. The curse of dimensionality kills any conjecture about the chance origin of physical matter, let alone the chance origin of life. This is because the search space is infinite. For example, the number of possible values for a property as innocuous as the mass or charge of an electron is infinite. In this light, what can be said about DNA?

  10. 10
    EDTA says:

    Actually read the paper last night. Good review of all the dead ends that a/mat OOL theory is stuck in.

    Too bad there’s a typo in the first formula in the paper, too.

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