It turns out that nature got there first. Living cells are replete with demonic nanomachines, chuntering away, running the business of life. There are molecular motors and rotors and ratchets, honed by evolution to operate at close to perfect thermodynamic efficiency, playing the margins of the second law to gain a vital advantage. A much-studied example is a two-legged molecule called kinesin. It transports cargo along fibres inside cells, gingerly walking one step at a time, all the while buffeted by a hail of thermally agitated water molecules. Kinesin harnesses this thermal pandemonium and converts it into unidirectional motion, functioning as a ratchet. It isn’t a totally free lunch: kinesin performs its feat by exploiting small, energised molecules known as ATP that are made in vast quantities to pay the fuel bills of life. But by converting information about molecular bombardment into directed motion, it achieves a much higher efficiency than it would by using brute force to slog through the molecular barrage. There are many other examples: our brains contain a type of Maxwell demon called a voltage-gated ion channel. This uses information about incoming electrical pulses to open and close molecular shutters in the surfaces of axons, the wires down which neurons communicate with each other, and so permit signals to flow through the neural circuitry. These gates are operated using almost no energy: astoundingly, the human brain processes as much information as a megawatt supercomputer using little more power than a small incandescent light bulb. (paywall) Paul Davies, “What is life?” at New Scientist
It’s not clear how that’s a solution unless he thinks nature is an intelligent being. He must know that it cannot have fallen into place randomly. But what else can he dare think?
See also: Paul Davies And The “Struggle To Define Life”
Paul Davies: Life’s defining characteristics are better understood as information
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