Origins of life, Mind and Cosmos

In a blog post “A major new theory for life’s origins”, Erik Andrulis wrote, “Instead, an overarching theory for life’s emergence is clearly required, one which first of all takes properly into account the thermodynamic requirements inherent in the so-called order-creating processes, those mediating the first steps in the emergence of life in particular, and second takes appropriate advantage of the torrent of new pertinent information pouring out of both the life, and the earth sciences.”


He [Wolfgang Nitschke] sees that life is an “order-packet” floating in the ever-going-disorder torrent.    Thus, the mechanism of how to create an “ordered-packet” in such a disorder torrent is the central issue for the origin of life. His view is not wrong but is very shallow and superficial.


First, this Nature has three parts (or three sons),

a. Physical universe (Earth, Sun, galaxies, … , but excluding the “life”) —- ruled by the laws of physics.

b. Life universe —- ruled by the laws of life.

c. Numbers (Natural number, rational, irrational, real, imaginary, etc.) —- ruled by the laws of mathematics.


The first issue will be that “Are these three parts governed by three different sets of laws?” or “Are they governed by a unified set of laws?” And, there are only two answers. Yet, the Nature will only choose one from these two answers.


Then, the issue of “life origins” can be reduced to “What is life?” Life can obviously be identified with three distinct traits.

1. Life process (reproduction and metabolism)  —- this is an “information-processing” process. That is, life needs a computing device.

2. Life has consciousness —- the ability of distinguishing the “self” from the “other”. This is about the individuality. A mechanism of gaining the individuality is needed for life.

3. Life has intelligence —- it can face-off the challenges.


So, the second issue will be that how life gets those mechanisms (computing device and individuality machine). If life gets these mechanisms from the “laws of physics”, its “origin” has been answered. If it does not get these mechanisms from the laws of physics, then the search must go on. Thus, this is, in fact, a physics issue, and a discussion at a physics blog ( ) did discuss this.


The “Life’s Origins” is much deeper than the order-creating-mechanism.


Erik Andrulis commented, “As for the three parts, sure, that works, but what about symbols, consciousness, emotion, thought, politics, knowledge? Can’t forget those. As for the three distinct traits, I know about those, but also about many, many others.”


I of course did not forget those (emotion, thought, politics, etc.). But, there is the law of “fundamental/emergent”. From a very few fundamentals, there comes many emergent. The “Intelligence-machine (the brain)” is such an emergent (see ).


The above is available at ( ).


Sean Carroll commented at his blog on Thomas Nagel’s book “Mind and Cosmos”, “The claim is that there is something inherently *subjective* about the experience of consciousness, something that cannot be shared with other conscious beings nor described by physics. (Even if you know every physical fact about bats, you still don’t know what it’s like to be a bat.)  … the first point, a purely physical view of the world is incomplete,  … he claims that the standard scientific picture must be augmented by a non-physical notion of teleology — directedness toward a purpose.  …  “teleology requires that successor states . . . have a significantly higher probability than is entailed by the laws of physics alone.”

So Nagel rejects “scientific naturalism” or “reductionism” or “materialism” or “physicalism,” but also rejects theism.  … we might ultimately come to believe that the best explanatory framework for the appearance of consciousness in the universe involves positing mind as a separate category.

 People who deny that physics can ever account for consciousness have a similar idea; even if we had a complete theory that accounted for every possible observable action of purportedly conscious creatures, they would not be satisfied that this qualified as “understanding” or “explanation.” For me, that’s just a misunderstanding of what kinds of explanations we can legitimately hope for.

Namely, point number two above (scientific materialism is incomplete and needs to be augmented by something apart from the physical) actually does follow, under plausible assumptions, from point number one (consciousness cannot be explained in purely physical terms). ”



This is a very old issue. The content of this post could be reduced into one question.


Can physics explain consciousness?


Obviously, this is a question without a settled answer in the mainstream academia thus far. In my view, the major problem of this simple question is neither about physics nor about philosophy but is about the linguistics.


First, *explanation* is a term of sociology, totally subjective. And, Sean Carroll has said very nicely, “People who deny that physics can ever account for consciousness have a similar idea; even if we had a complete theory that accounted for every possible observable action of purportedly conscious creatures, they would not be satisfied that this qualified as “understanding” or “explanation.” For me, that’s just a misunderstanding of what kinds of explanations we can legitimately hope for.”


Thus, we should define the two with a *fundamental /emergent* relationship instead of explanation. Carroll said again, “Except, if mind is not physical, at some point they swerved away from those laws, since remaining in accordance with them would never have created consciousness.  So, at what point does this deviation from purely physical behavior kick in, exactly? It’s the immortal soul vs. the Dirac equation problem–if you want to claim that what happens in our brain isn’t simply following the laws of physics, you have the duty to explain in exactly what way the electrons in our atoms fail to obey their equations of motion.”


Is the *football-game* a part of Nature? If we human are part of Nature, all our activities cannot go beyond the Nature. Of course, there is no *physical-action* in the game can swerve away from the laws of physics. Yet, the *rules* of the game can be completely unrelated to the laws of physics, whatever that physics laws are or will be. That is, something *in* Nature can be completely not related to the laws of physics. One example is enough for existential introduction. Again, this is another linguistics issue. The rules of football game is not *spontaneous* emergent from the laws of physics.


Second, is consciousness a spontaneous emergent of the laws of physics? Thus far, consciousness is defined as the **quality or state** of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. With this definition, we today obviously have not found any fundamental/emergent relation between it and the physics laws. If we can change this definition very slightly to “consciousness is the *ability* of distinguishing a *self* from the others” (that is, by a system of individuality), then there is a *four-color theorem* available for our use. This four-color theorem guarantees that unlimited (perhaps infinite) number of mutually distinguishable balls can be produced. Thus, every four-color system can guarantee the manifestation of a system of *individuality*. As far as we know, *life* is a four-color system, with (A, G, T, C) as genetic-colors. If a four-color system is also embedded in physics laws, then a spontaneous emergent relation between consciousness and physics laws could be established.


The above is available at ( ). 




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