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

3.2. The governance of organism and the reducibility of biology to physics

It is well known that the human body consists of ~1015 cells. Now in each cell regulative processes occur in a number around 105 per second. Physical laws are active on our body and influence the activity of our cells, acting to produce energy dissipation and increase of disorder. Most of the chemical regulative reactions have a vital significance. Therefore, they should necessarily and inevitably occur in a highly coherent way in order to fulfil the vital needs of the organism (and to realise the conscious decisions). The regulation of the physico-chemical processes cannot occur on the basis of physics and chemistry, since it is just the physico-chemical processes that have to be submitted to a higher regulative principle in order to reach macroscopic coherency. Moreover, it would be impossible to realise such a detailed regulation of reactions having a practically cosmic multitude on a physical basis. For a physical regulative factor, all the 1020 reactions/sec of the cells should be observable simultaneously. Although the body may be transparent for electromagnetic (EM) fields, the behaviour of the global organismic EM fields seem to be fixed as belonging to the exclusive realm of physics. How is it possible that living organisms can act reasonably, and a thirsty horse can find the river without any confusion of the inner chemical reactions of her/his organism?

Let us introduce a simplifying picture and exemplify our stance on it. The organism is represented by a house, the cells by its rooms. Now the action of the life principle is on the doors and windows. The life principle is free to act on the doors and window since an energy reservoir in the cellar is connected to all the windows and doors. Now the molecular events of the air happening in the house are substantially determined by the movements of doors and windows. We became accustomed to the material terms and perceive mostly the presence of walls. Therefore, it may seem mysterious and incredible that the flow of air is determined not by the walls but by some additional, subtle factor regulating the workings of doors and windows. Nevertheless, we cannot reach by any kind of movements of any kind of outer walls the state in which there is always fresh air within the house. This means that life (fresh air) and biological action (regulation of the position of doors and windows) is not reducible to the positions of walls (physics). Actually, biological regulation is enormously more economic than any physical one.

Now how can we understand the nature of these “doors” and “windows” and the factor regulating their positions? I think their nature is related to the high complexity of living matter and to the ultimate principle of biology. The high complexity is needed to the appearance of unused degrees of freedom. Actually, every elementary particle or atom have (at least) 3 degrees of freedom, related to the 3 possible directions of their spatial translational motion. When two-atom molecules are formed, additional degrees of freedom are introduced, related to their rotational asymmetries. Two rotational degree of freedoms appear related to the possible orientations of the rotational axis. As more and more complex compounds appear, new, additional degrees of freedom show up. Already the increase of the number of constituents in itself increases the degrees of freedom. For example, the Sun has a practically infinite degree of freedom, since it consists of more than 1056 particles. Now the bullet in a pistol does not have any degree of freedom once the shot occurred. This situation is due to the constraints of the wall of the pistol. Mechanical constraints in the living cell do not extend to all degrees of freedom and therefore with the increase of the number and/or complexity of the compounds, the number of the unused, free degrees of freedom grows.

Unfortunately, the fact that with the growing of complexity the unused degrees of freedom grows enormously, seems to be not widely recognised. For example, in a critic of Polanyi’s non-physico-chemical organising principle Hull (1974, 139) objects: “The only candidate for Polanyi’s ordering principle that originated life is the bounding properties of the chemical elements”. This objection is completely invalid for molecules with a significant complexity. As a matter of fact, with the growing degree of complexity the bounding properties of the chemical elements leave more and more degrees of freedom unconstrained, especially when the molecules may be bound in all the three dimensions and many spatial variations become possible. Cyrus Levinthal pointed out at the end of the 1960’s that even for a small protein molecule, consisting of only 100 amino acids, each having 4 different possible positions in the protein molecule, the number of the possible configurations is around 1060. Assuming that this protein molecule wants to reach a different state, e.g. one of the states with the minimum energy, it would need 1030 times the lifetime of the Universe if a physical mechanism play a role of  “active information” oscillating with a frequency of 1013 Hz. But it was observed that protein molecules normally find other configurations within hours, sometimes within a millisecond. This contradiction is known as the Levinthal paradox. There is no known solution for this paradox (Callender et al., 1994). The proposal this work makes is that such unconstrained degrees of freedom do not need a physical mechanism to organise them since they may be coupled directly to the universal principle of life. Therefore, the life principle supplies the regulating agency in the form of “biological constraints” and the free opening-closing of doors and windows are related to the “biological degrees of freedom”. In this way, the material hardware of the house is represented by physics, and the infrastructure or software of the house is represented by the life principle. Now since the infrastructure or software is not determined by the hardware, the widely held view that biology should be reducible to physics should be revised.

3.3. A Possibly Useful Cosmic Criteria of life and The Sun as a Living Being

Bunge (1985, 4) remarked that: “Students of life become interested in a definition of the concept of life during their freshman year and at the end of their career. In between they are discouraged from trying to elucidate that concept and, in general, from getting involved in philosophical questions. They are encouraged instead to “get on with their business”, which supposedly is anything but trying to understand life…Here we need to recall only some of the properties deemed jointly necessary and sufficient for a thing to be alive. They are metabolism, multiplication, heredity, and variability.” In searching a general criterion of life that is not fixed to terrestrial life forms, I find the above life-criteria overspecialised. All the above-indicated properties of life are more symptoms of life instead of expressing the basic and necessary condition. I regard sensitivity as the real fundamental specification of life. Without sensitivity life would not be worthwhile to be lived. Sensitivity is based on our connections with our internal and outer sources of information. Without having access to any source of information life is not possible. Sensitivity also includes a specific relation to the incoming outer and inner information. This specific relation has to be manifested in an unequal attitude to the information, in dependence on the content of information. Many of the incoming information may be found irrelevant, and only some information may be important. Life in its essence is an activity related to a selection between “important” and “irrelevant” information, and more than that: it also includes an activity expressing the result of the processed information. It is possible to imagine an existent living in the world of information, whose “life” is generated by its “psychic” activity in which she/he selects and processes the selected information. Nevertheless, such an existence would be at most a psychic life, without actual, material life. If we want a real, manifested life, we need actions based on processed information. And, as usual, it is this last step of the life-chain that is the easiest to observe, measure and determine for an outer observer. This last step of manifestation needs a material organisational activity embodied in the bodily world, and certain amplification is a necessarily requisite of the life-process. A material organism has a kind of energetics, and its energetics has to be coupled to the processes occurring in the information level. Therefore, inevitably the material processes have to be governed towards the action corresponding to the processed information (“decisions”).

In this way, I find it promising to search for ultra-sensitive processes in the widely enriched processes of our material Cosmos. Recent astrophysical research raised the possibility that the Sun can have a living nature (see Grandpierre, 1996, 1997a, 1999a, 2000, 2002). The Sun shows the phenomenon of self-initiating activity characteristic to living beings, in the well-known phenomena of solar activity. The Sun is shown to be in an ultra-sensitive state in its basic activity phenomena, selectively amplifying some of its inner and outer perturbations. The astronomically very small effects of planetary tides to the Sun (and perhaps planetary electromagnetism) may play an important role in initiating explosionary processes in the solar core when the tidal waves interact with local magnetic fields. This interaction produces macroscopic heating in the form of local electric currents. The arising local heating in the solar core may lead to a positive feedback since the rate of nuclear reactions grows on a high power of temperature. The positive feedback leads to the acceleration of nuclear reactions, which produce more heat, which accelerates again the nuclear reactions until so hot bubbles are generated which will be accelerated towards the outer layers. When reaching the subphotospheric layers with relatively high velocities, they may produce atmospheric explosions known as solar flares. This recently found ultra-sensitivity of the solar activity is basically similar to the stimulus-response regarded as basic life criteria of earthly beings. The more so, since not only the outer influences of planets, but the local free energy content of the Sun is the one which determines which “stimulus” is to be amplified and how. Moreover, the nuclear resources act to extend the lifetime of the star-state of the Sun with a factor of million times. Therefore nuclear burning seems to play the role at the Sun similar what nutrition plays at the earthly organisms. The photospheric patterns of the Sun show the presence of a yet unknown ordering factor (Grandpierre, 1984; Saniga, 1992a,b, 1993, 1996). The Sun shows up as a sensibly open system to remote control organising its own activity and manifesting a deep order. These new results put the question of the nature of the Sun into a radically new perspective that is already accessible for the scientific inquiry. Following this train of thought, a brain-approach of the Universe has been developed recently (Grandpierre, 1999b).

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  • War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    - John Stewart Mill