Home Forums Deep Time Journey Forum Is the universe a "living system"? Reply To: Is the universe a "living system"?

Ed Lantz

<p>Hi All. Interesting discussion!</p><p>Definitions in science allow useful distinctions to be made in the study of observable phenomena – particularly the study of relationships between the objects being distinguished from one another, or the (conceptual) isolation of one particular type of system under study from other types of systems. The intent behind David Christian’s definition of life (I would guess) is to distinguish inert matter from biological systems. If you blur the distinction between biological life and inert matter, than the word “life” could be less useful to the scientist. I doubt that you will get scientists to let go of that distinction.</p><p>Duane, I would pose this question to you. What do you hope to achieve by defining the entire universe as a “living system?” Also, who do you hope to convince? I am asking this because you have clearly chosen an uphill battle and there is likely a better way to achieve your goals.</p><p>Certainly we can say that the universe is highly dynamic when viewed over a large time scale. And the universe (somehow) spawns biological life. Biological organisms are also known to form superorganisms. And (despite some lingering disagreement) the Gaia hypothesis put forth by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis plus the work of James Hutton, Vladimir Vernadsky and Guy Murchie, suggest that the biosphere is a superorganism. These all seem like reasonable positions to take.</p><p>However saying that galaxies – which can be (nearly) completely modeled and predicted using simple numeric simulations – should be placed into the same general category as a biological organism or superorganism would remove the ability of scientists to make what is a very important distinction between biological systems and matter. </p><p>I also share some of Davidson Loehr’s concerns about the scientific validity of your four criteria (although I differ with Davidson on his critique of mysticism – perhaps another debate for another day). You say:</p><p>”The signature of these self-organizing systems is found in the toroidal architecture throughout the universe—the torus being the simplest geometry of a self-organizing system. This is not speculation but visible, clear, and scientifically evident.”</p><p>Can you please explain what you mean by this and cite some mention of it in recent scientific literature?  I can model a toroidal motion and other natural phenomena using very simple physics. Biological systems are complex and, while we have dissected and analyzed biological organisms and our understanding of them continues to grow, to my knowledge they have not yet yielded to any singular mathematical or numerical model. There is no computer model that can adequately describe a nematode much less a human. </p><p>Perhaps we should instead add non-reducable complexity to David Christian’s criteria for life…</p><p> </p>