Charles Clanton Rogers

Reflections based on poetry, music, visual art, book reviews, history of science, first-person history, philosophical essays and International Blogging

INTERNATIONAL BLOGGING  2016/02/15

“Nature … pushes systems toward disorder and chaos, not toward order and function.” (1) The irrepressible force of Life leaves no stone unturned in seeking ways to extend the invaluable larger Life of which we are the stewards. ccr

image1

Book: What is Life?, Addy Pross

Even the most “active” of non-living molecules such as Cobalt-60, Uranium-238, and Radium-226, “decay”, that is, become something LESS than they were, with Time.  [go down hill!]   decay

There was a time before Life (billions of years ago), when some non-living molecules joined and overcame the normal “deterioration” process.  Life reversed the direction and in the words of Pross:”the car began to ‘run up hill.”  

quill

In sexual reproduction, a male and female each produce highly specialized cells with each providing one-half of the required genetic information required for the “up-hill journey” of developing a new and unique individual.

spermplus ovumyields fertilization  fusion of sperm and egg nuclei When the DNA of the sperm fuses with the DNA of the ovum,  development of the new individual is characterized by increasing complexity and specialization.    

DNA

human embryo

In What is Life?, Addy Pross  describes the improbability of the force driving life in a seemingly teleological force of complexity (improvement of the products of reproduction). Although his descriptions are biochemical, his message attempts to explain an unexplained force of life in spite of the dissembling characteristics of the non-living world.

quillAddy Pross 1
Let us try to examine life from the objective view, how does it relate to the inanimate world, and how did it emerge? Nature, if anything, pushes systems toward disorder and chaos not toward order and function. “It is not just common sense that tells us that highly organized entities don’t just spontaneously come about. Certain fundamental laws of physics preach the same sermon.”(1) So the relationship between the life phenomenon and its extraordinary complexity can now be stated: “complexity is not the essence of the phenomenon, complexity is its consequence. Contrary to reason, “replication [began inducing] complexity, not [the predictable] other way around. (1)
Pross continues: “Even though life is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon, the life principle is surprisingly straightforward.

quill

“Life is the resultant network of chemical actions that emerges from the continuing cycle of replication, mutation, complexification, and selection when it operates on particular chain-like molecules–the nucleic acids.” 

In an attempt to clarify how all life began, Addy Pross opens with biochemistry and molecular biology discoveries, which as a scientist and physician, I found fascinating. I would say that Pross did push earlier into the timeline of the molecular biology of early life, but he failed to explain to me, the inexplicable source and nature of the irrepressible force which continually overcomes the inherent degradation and retrogression of its components. [See Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamis] (15)

quill

Pross describes the improbability of the force driving life in a seemingly teleological force of complexity (improvement of the products of reproduction?). Although his descriptions are biochemical, his message attempts to explain an unexplained force of life in spite of the dissembling characteristics of the non-living material of the world.

quill
Let us try to examine life from the objective view, how does it relate to the inanimate world, and how did it emerge?. Nature, if anything, pushes systems toward disorder and chaos not toward order and function. “It is not just common sense that tells us that highly organized entities don’t just spontaneously come about. Certain fundamental laws of physics preach the same sermon.”(1)

quill
This bears repeating: “So the relationship between the life phenomenon and its extraordinary complexity can now be stated: complexity is not the essence of the phenomenon, complexity is its consequence. Replication induces complexity, not the other way around.”(1) Pross continues: “Even though life is an extraordinarily complex phenomenon, the life principle is surprisingly straightforward. Life is the resultant network of chemical reactions that emerges from the continuing cycle of replication, mutation, complexification, and selection when it operates on particular chain-like molecules— the nucleic acids.”

quill

In my view, these objective observations and descriptions do not, however, explain: what is the source and nature of the force which drives the biochemistry and biological systems forward in spite of the natural characteristics of disorder and chaos. Lacking objective answers to this question, we are in the subjective arena. Some scientists believe these replicative forces toward complex structure and function, are the products of an enormous number of random encounters of non-living chemicals over extremely long periods of time.(10)
“Fred Hoyle, the well-known astronomer, says the likelihood of such an event would be similar to that of a whirlwind blowing through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747. Life’s organized complexity is strange, very strange.”(12)
Several prominent scientist insists that “evolution” does not mean “improvement”. Dawkins (10) proposes that Darwin’s “descent with modification” is explained by random errors in DNA replication with some products having greater survivability than others. In this explanation, we humans are not an improving, higher form of life, just different from our deep ancestors, with, perhaps greater, on average, better survivability. These scientists deny a teleonomic character. Pross disagrees and believes that both the structure and the behavior of all living things lead to an unambiguous and unavoidable conclusion— living things have an ‘agenda’ (Pross’ word). Living things act on their behalf. The Pross “agenda”, I believe is an idea that should be in the subjective arena and not in Pross’ objective analysis..
Pross uses an analogy of an automobile without an engine (pre-life) and a car with an engine (life) to describe the replicating entity. “The entity with an energy-gathering capability is now like a car with an engine— it can go uphill too. That means that a replicating system with an energy-gathering capability would appear to have an agenda. It would seem to be acting purposefully, as it would no longer need to be confined to the downhill thermodynamic path, which we interpret as objective behaviour, but rather the path toward systems of greater organization and function, which could involve the equivalent of rolling some way uphill.” (1) This analogy does not answer the question: where did the “engine” come from and what makes it continue to run “uphill” for billions of years? 

quill
The main body of the book is the physics and chemistry of his thesis. Let us Jump to his conclusion which we find in the last chapter.
Pross’ conclusion: In our “me-first” culture, we tend to value experiences egocentrically. Although individuals are extremely valuable, their value is fully realized only when fulfilled as members of networks (families) and communities. (Individuals function in communities of approximately one hundred and fifty, caring for one another.)(11)
“Each individual is part of a nuclear family, which, in turn, is part of an extended family, which is part of a local community, which is part of larger groups of the human organization. The survival of the community requires more than the individual. Reproductively speaking, individuals are incomplete. Biologically speaking, our individuality is actually non-existent.” That’s why a new pregnancy catches our attention. That powerful and compulsive news resonates with our fundamental selves.

quill
“Just as importantly, we are also emotionally incomplete. Various psychological elements also connect us to the network. We obsessively need to be with others. We think of ourselves as individuals, but we are just components of a network.  Our “lifeboat” is not just many individuals, but an ever-expanding living network. The irrepressible force of Life leaves no stone unturned in seeking ways to extend the invaluable larger Life of which we are the stewards. We obsessively need to be with others. We think we are separate, but we are one. We think of ourselves as individuals, but we are just components of a network. (1)  See also my post on the family and the tribe:

 The Individual, Family, and Tribe

Charles C. Rogers, MD, FACR, emeritus professor, GWU
First published August, 2015,  Extensive revisions for February 15, 2016

“Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”
Robert Frost


banner image courtesy of Myphoung Nguyen
charlesclantonrogers@gmail.com

References:

(1)Pross, Addy, What is Life,? : How Chemistry Becomes Biology. Oxford University Press. 2012 [Pross, Addy
Born: 1945
B.Sc. (First Class Hons): 1966; Ph.D.: 1970, University of Sydney, Australia.
Faculty member Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, 1973; Professor, 1986.
ARC Professorial Fellow, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 1992-1994.
Phone: 972-8-6469352
Fax: 972-8-6472943
Email: addy.pross@gmail.com] Addendum: “But how can this ephemeral and dynamic nature of living systems be explained? In fact, this particular aspect of life is one of the easiest to understand. Pross uses the analogy of a replicating population to a water fountain. “The fountain is stable (persistent) even though the water that makes up that fountain is turning over continuously. Different water, same fountain. For any replicating entity the same proposition holds. In other words, it is the population that is stable, with the individual entities that make up that society always turning over. And this continual turnover holds at all levels of complexity— molecules within cells are always turning over,” cells and organisms as well (1)
(2) Merriam-Webster Dictionary
(3) Hal Hellman, Special to The Washington Post, September 9, 1998; Page H01
(4) Giorgio de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo
(5) http://www.biography.com/people/isaac-newton-9422656
(6) Norman, Andrew, Charles Darwin,: Destroyer of Myths
(7) Isaacson, Walter, Einstein,: His Life and Universe
(8) An introduction to the John Scopes (Monkey) Trial
law2.umkc.edu/…/ftrials/scopes/evolu…
University of Missouri–Kansas City
(The Scopes trial by no means ended the debate over the teaching of evolution, but it did represent a significant setback for the anti-evolution forces. Of the fifteen states with anti- evolution legislation pending in 1925, only two states (Arkansas and Mississippi) enacted laws restricting teaching of Darwin’s theory.)
(9) Andrew Berry and James WatsonWatson, DNA
(10) Dawkins, Richard, The Selfish Gene 30th Anniversary edition
(11) Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens,: A BRIEF HISTORY OF HUMANKIND, HarperCollins, 443 pages, 2014
(12) Fred Hoyle, the well-known astronomer, the likelihood of such an event would be similar to that of a whirlwind blowing through a junkyard and assembling a Boeing 747. Life’s organized complexity is strange, very strange. And how it came about is even stranger. Cited by Pross (1)
(13) http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science…/project_scientific_me…The scientific method is a way to ask and answer scientific questions by making observations and doing experiments. The steps of the scientific method are to: Ask a Question. Do Background Research.

(14) http://therogerspost.com/2015/10/03/individual-tribe/

(15)  http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/newtlaws/u2l3a.cfm
6 THOUGHTS ON “LIFE IS STILL INEXPLICABLE – SUBJECTIVE VERSUS OBJECTIVE CHARACTERIZATIONS”
Laura Grace Weldon says:
August 5, 2015 at 10:13 am (EDIT)
Really interesting. Thanks for bringing us a hearty serving of Dr. Pross’ work.
Liked by you
REPLY
clanton1934 says:
August 5, 2015 at 11:23 am (EDIT)
I’m pleased you found it interesting. I have high-value of your opinion.
Cheers.
Like
REPLY
bbnewsab says:
August 16, 2015 at 10:20 am (EDIT)
Reblogged this on Mass Delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking and commented:
I just reblogged ONE of clanton1934’s many interesting and intriguing blog post about life and its meaning (if there is any at all).
Now it’s time for me to reblog another of clanton1934’s blog articles. I choose this one because the two fit so well together.
Here’s a quote from this second (by me) reblogged article:
In my view, these objective observations and descriptions do not, however, explain: what is the source and nature of the force which drives the biochemistry and biological systems forward in spite of the natural characteristics of disorder and chaos. Lacking objective answers to this question, we are in the subjective arena. Some scientists believe these replicative forces toward complex structure and function, are the products of an enormous number of random encounters of non-living chemicals over extremely long periods of time.
[…]
Several prominent scientist insist that “evolution” does not mean “improvement”. Dawkins proposes that Darwin’s “descent with modification” is explained by random errors in DNA replication with some products having greater survivability than others. In this explanation, we humans are not an improving, higher form of life, just different from our deep ancestors, with, perhaps greater, on average, better survivability . These scientists deny a teleonomic character.
Pross disagrees and believes that both the structure and the behavior of all living things lead to an unambiguous and unavoidable conclusion— living things have an ‘agenda’ (Pross’ word). Living things act on their own behalf. The Pross “agenda”, I believe is an idea which should be in the subjective arena and not in Pross’ objective analysis..
Pross uses an analogy of an automobile without an engine (pre-life) and a car with an engine (life) to describe the replicating entity. “The entity with an energy-gathering capability is now like a car with an engine— it can go uphill too. That means that a replicating system with an energy-gathering capability would appear to have an agenda. It would seem to be acting purposefully, as it would no longer need to be confined to the downhill thermodynamic path, which we interpret as objective behaviour, but rather the path toward systems of greater organization and function, which could involve the equivalent of rolling some way uphill.”
This analogy does not answer the question: where did the “engine” come from and what makes the engine run?

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