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

Ed Lantz

Ursula Wrote: “I would say that the reduction of biological life to mechanical systems is not a faith-based belief but rather an already-accomplished project, where there are still many many things to learn that will further expand and deepen these understandings.”


Fundamental assumptions can be very difficult to recognize. Like wearing rose-colored glasses, we see the world through these perceptual filters and it can severely limit the questions we ask and, as a result, the answers we get. When pushing into new frontiers, questioning fundamental assumptions is a very healthy scientific practice.


Your article looks fascinating – I will review in more detail. However your statement that “reduction of biological life to mechanical systems is not a faith-based belief but rather an already-accomplished project” is mostly true, but it makes a leap of faith over a chasm that I believe contains the answers to the questions that we are not yet asking as scientists.


The bottom line is this. I can build a car engine from scratch, resulting in a functioning automobile. I cannot build a living, reproducing being from scratch. There are missing ingredients. If we have truly cracked the code of life then we would be creating our own lifeforms. We’ve become quite good at meddling with life and our understanding of biological processes has grown in leaps and bounds. But something is still missing.


The missing piece, in my estimation, has to do with bioinformation.  We do not understand how information encoded in DNA expresses from microscopic to macroscopic spatial forms. We do not understand neural coding. We do not understand memory and consciousness. And we do not understand how computational processes work in the brain. There is an informational language in biology that needs to be decoded.  


I suspect that this discovery will take us into the quantum informational domain and will explode into entirely new fields of study beyond simple chemistry and physics. In this informational domain, biology will appear more as an intelligent life force – a bounded software application – than a machine. Like a computer, the mechanical components are a substrate for some pretty amazing informational processes – firmware, software, and an array of software applications – all of which are invisible to us until we understanding the coding. 


The physicist believes that the quantum wavefunction can – in theory – explain all phenomena of the universe including the emergence of life. This is a leap of faith because the equations cannot be solved. Believing that known physical/chemical/mechanical/biological processes alone will lead to a complete understanding of life is like wearing rose colored glasses. We need to be looking closer at the informational domain.


Many of my scientist colleagues scoff at the idea that quantum informational processes would have anything to do with life and consciousness. This important research has been sidelined and is not being funded in earnest. I’d like to see that change, but as long as we have faith in our current methods the motivation will not be there to try something different.