The Fundamental Principles of the Universe and the Origin of Physical Laws by Attila Grandpierre

2.3. Anti-reductionist arguments

On the contrary, many people argued in favour of autonomy of biology, most of them I did not find convincing. But there are some people (Bauer, 1935; Polanyi, 1967) who recognised that the decisive point is the regulative mechanism of biology on the boundary conditions of physics. Augros and Stanciu (1987, 31) takes the stance “All the properties of the organisms we have discussed so far – its astonishing unity, its capacity to build its own parts, its increasing differentiation through time, its power of self-repair and self-regeneration, its ability to transform other materials into itself, and its incessant activity – all these not only distinguish the living being from the machine but also demonstrate its uniqueness amid the whole of nature…The organism is sui generis, is a class by itself”. “For these features we have no analogue in inorganic systems…mechanistic modes of explanation are in principle unsuitable for dealing with certain features of the organic; and it is just these features which make up the essential peculiarities of the organisms” (Bertalanffy, 1962, 108). Pattee (1961) noted that “We find in none of the present theories of replication and protein synthesis any interpretation of the origin of the genetic text which is being replicated, translated and expressed in functional proteins, nor do they lead to any understanding of the relation between particular linear sequences or distributions of subunits in nucleic acid and proteins, and the specific structural and functional properties which are assumed to result entirely from these linear sequences”. Bertalanffy (1969, 68-69) remarks that “According to Pattee (1961), the order of biological macromolecules is not adequately explained as an accumulation of genetic restrictions via selection, but replication presupposes well-ordered rather than random sequences. Thus there are principles of “self-organisation” at various levels which require no genetic control. Immanent laws run through the gammut of biological organizations.”

For our understanding the question of the reducibility of biology to physics I found one of the most informative the approach worked out by Polanyi (1967). He called attention to the fact that “machines seem obviously irreducible…They do not come into being by physical-chemical equilibration, but are shaped by man. They are shaped and designed for a specific purpose…Only the principles underlying the operations of the watch in telling the time could specify your invention of the watch effectively, and these cannot be expressed in terms of physical-chemical variables…Nothing is said about the content of a book by its physical-chemical topography. All objects conveying information are irreducible to the terms of physics- and chemistry…The laws of inanimate nature operate in a machine under the control of operational principles that constitute (or determine) its boundaries. Such a system is clearly under a dual control…Any chemical or physical study of living things that is irrelevant to the working of the organism is no part of biology, just as the chemical and physical studies of a machine must bear on the way the machine works, if it is to serve engineering…Biological principles are seen then to control the boundary conditions within which the forces of physics and chemistry carry on the business of life. This dual action of a system is said to work by the principle of boundary control…such shaping of boundaries may be said to go beyond a mere “fixing of boundaries” and establishes a “controlling principle”…it puts the system under the control of a non-physical-chemical principle by a profoundly informative intervention…he question is whether or not the logical range of random mutations includes the formation of novel principles not definable in terms of physics and chemistry. It seems very unlikely that it does include it”. It is clear that the dual nature of machines and organisms mean that the biological principle governs the behaviour of the organism and so the principles of physics and chemistry. Therefore, they necessarily represent a higher ontological level than physics does and they are not reducible to physics.

2.4. The ultimate principle of physics

For a more complete comprehension of the reducibility question, a further step towards enlightening the concept of ultimate reality becomes necessary. I think that the most easy to recognise the ultimately pluralistic nature of reality at the ultimate level. It seems that the discussions and considerations on the emergentist view and its ontological character may last for undetermined times if one does not apply for an analysis at the ultimate level. Actually, it is possible to grasp the most essential and actually ultimate, universal and autonomous element of materialism with the help of physics. The most general statement on what physics is based is the recognition that in the physical approach “all process tend towards the physical equilibrium”. All the equation of motions expresses the fact that in reality physical systems are driven towards the physical equilibrium. Closed physical systems move towards the physical equilibrium in the most efficient way, and reach it as soon as possible. The stone in free fall moves towards its physical equilibrium without any deviation. When the falling of the stone is not completely free, since aerodynamical drag and winds are in action, the stone will follow a path in which it will reach the physical equilibrium as soon as possible within its actual conditions. This recognition is expressed in the ultimate principle of physics, the action-principle or the principle of Least Action (Landau, Lifschitz 1959, 12). “A minimal requirement for respectability of a physical theory seems to be that it admit a variational principle” (Edelen, 1971, 17). The ultimate variational principle of physics, the action principle is at the apex of physics and summarises in an elegant form the laws of motion. Therefore, the action principle may be regarded as the ultimate basis of physics. Although not all part of physics is covered by the action principle, its most significant parts does. Moreover, the remaining cases do not challenge the general tendency that physical processes tend always towards physical equilibrium. It seems to be proper to refer to the general tendency of physical systems to be driven towards physical equilibrium through the context of the action principle. We may regard the action principle as being the ultimate principle of matter (and physics). We may use this recognition for formulating an exact notion of matter:

Definition 2: Material behaviour is shown only when a process follows the laws of physics and only the laws of physics. Material behaviour is ultimately determined by the action principle of physics.

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