“How Everything in the Universe arises from the
Universal Laws of Physics”
I was aghast!
Last night, Brian Cox, professor of Physics, and a staunch disciple of the standpoint of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, put out the first episode in a proposed TV series on The Wonders of Life.
Now, as a physicist myself, I know that our subject in its current state is totally incapable of dealing with such questions as Life. And having therefore spent a good proportion of my own life redressing the inadequacies of a purely Physics-based position, via a prolonged and detailed study of Geology, Biology, Palaeontology and Philosophy, I wonder how he, a very narrowly defined type of physicist, feels he can tackle such an important subject with such a clearly inadequate grounding. It can only be that he obviously feels absolutely certain that his grounding (in Physics) actually covers Everything!
He has presented many TV programmes, and even series, on Physics over several years now, but here he has presumed to “apply” his very biased and even distorted philosophy on the one area, which has, in the main, successfully held out against the nonsense that is currently perpetrated and even defended in Modern Physics.
He, along with a majority of his fellow physicists, have surprisingly felt able, for almost a century, to insist upon the Copenhagen retreat as some sort of progressive revolution, because he, and they, always considered Mathematics as the distilled essence of Reality, and hence the Queen of all the Sciences, and, without any regrets, he and his ilk had switched the emphasis in Sub Atomic Physics from Explanation-via-Causes to Formal-Description-Only – from Theory to Equations.
But, the one area where such nonsense could never win, was in Biology, and particularly in that Key area concerning its most profound question about the Origin of Life on Earth and its Subsequent Development. And, once more, he also seems to have the audacity(?) to take the questions attempted (with predictable, abject failure by many of his kind in the past (Schrödinger and Gell-Mann come to mind). Indeed the very philosophical basis of Physics guarantees that it cannot add anything of value to the Only Real Questions – “How did Life emerge?” and ”Where does it dwell?”. Can they really just be a subset of Physics?
Yet here was Physics’ pretty-boy-professor putting all those “shallow”, “soft-science” biologists right, and making it absolutely clear that Life was an inevitable outcome from only the Laws of Physics and nothing else.
Now such authority has always been impossible from such a group, and ever since the victory of Bohr and Heisenberg at Solvay in 1927, their Copenhagen position has woefully emasculated Physics, and backed it unavoidably into a purely formal and, at best, pragmatic cul de sac.
All attempts at explanation were condemned by this tendency as merely self-kid. Some things at the Sub Atomic Level were deemed “”Unknowable Things in Themselves” and all that could be relied upon instead as the real driving truths were the formal laws that the physicists have “fitted up” to extracted data. The fact that their position was full of contradictions was considered unavoidable, and the only course was to formulate formal relations that could be used, without any accompanying explanatory narrative.
Yet, here was their pin-up-boy crossing the Rubicon, and extending the realm of his subject to the whole of the sphere of Life! It was, as you would expect, a travesty!
He didn’t deliver any sort of breakthrough. On the contrary, he instead, via a dubious set of arguments, intimated that when the physicists have finally completed their known and defined tasks, they would explain, not only the Double Slit Experiment and Nuclear Physics, but also, indeed, the whole of Living Reality too. Yet, such a path is impossible!
It was nonsense when Laplace defined it physically in terms of knowing the positions and velocities of all particles and their limited set of physical laws of inter-relation, and thus being able to deliver Everything in Reality thereby. And, it is just as useless in the way that Cox has presented it today.
He does, of course, use lots of facts to bolster his speculations. But that doesn’t wash either! Showing us wonders from across the Earth, with enthusiasm does not in any way prove his claims. Indeed, they do the very opposite! His attempt to add his twopennyworth to the Origin of Life with proton gradients in volcanic situations proves nothing! As the fact that complex crustaceans were also found at these present day vents, proves that Life could get there from elsewhere, so no matter how many primitive types were found in those situations CANNOT prove the Origin had to be there!
There are lots of natural sources and storage mechanisms for energy in the Cosmos, but the mere presence, both in living things and in non-living Reality, does not prove that this was a cause of the Origin of Life, just that whatever did create this wholly new Level of Reality did integrate this energy form within the new state. What still has to be explained is what actually created the Systems of Life, which made use of these available sub systems.
Cox made the usual sleight of hand assumption - that if the elements that Life uses, were established, then, if they were all available at the same place and at the same time, Life would automatically, and indeed, inevitably, appear. Not so!
The mechanist, incrementalist stairway to Heaven is not true at all!
Revolutionary developments, such as that of the Origin of Life from entirely inanimate stuff could never be automatic or even necessary. Believe it or not, such a scenario, if true, would certainly assure that Origins of Life would occur many times in many different places, and would still be happening today. They didn’t and they don’t!
As with all major transformations, they never emerge incrementally, but can only arise out of some sort of System Catastrophe!
What mechanists like Cox fail to realise is that their Stable World never allows such revolutions to occur. The very stability is not some natural lowest energy consequence, but is always the result of the establishment of a self-maintaining System. All new rival proto systems would not last a minute, but would be destroyed immediately.
So, for such revolutionary innovations to appear and succeed requires the demolition of the old Stability completely. And perhaps surprisingly, such calamities are NEVER caused by wholly new emerging alternatives, but by weaknesses within the Stability itself, and due entirely to allowed processes within it.
Perhaps amazingly, the first all-embracing collapse of an old Stability is always a catastrophe of epic proportions, which seems to be heading the whole system towards complete oblivion, but which in sweeping away ALL the necessary maintaining processes of the prior Stability, opens the door to numerous new alternative proto systems, that are no longer subdued or prohibited by those essential defensive, maintaining subsystems of a Stable Level. The creative Phase of such a Revolution always occurs following such a catastrophe.
Stability is NOT the natural, simplest or most easily maintained mode of Reality. It is a state achieved out of an almost chaotic starting point, and involves the emergence of many competing alternative proto systems, ultimately resolved by the victory of only one of these and the demise of all other alternatives. And because of this Rebirth nature, and, of course, the continuing presence of the achievements of past stabilities, the new Level is inevitably an advance upon the prior Level. It, to have succeeded, must have included its own defensive processes to suppress any other possible rivals, so will be not only stable, but necessarily conservative.
Yet, every single such Stability is never eternal. It too will in time undergo a similar crisis and catastrophe, and in the process of another Emergence will create another wholly new and higher Level.
Not much like Cox’s inevitable occurrence is it?
Indeed, Life did not gradually grow from small innovatory gains, to conquer the old Stability, but arose out of a calamitous crisis and failure of a prior stable situation. It has become evident that all major creative developments in all spheres of Reality occur only in this way! Cox’s gradualist and inevitable ever-upwards development of absolutely everything from a few elementary particles and enormous amounts of energy is an invention with NO evidence to support it. Yet, the revolutions of entirely new forms from major catastrophes have a great deal of evidence. Even the current Cosmology that is greatly underpinned by Cox’s Copenhagen nonsense, cannot avoid such happenings. One claim often voiced by Cox is that “We are made of stardust”” – in which he shows how the very elements from which we, as living creatures, are made, were created in the catastrophes of Supernovae.
But, they are eclectic add-ons to a basically stability-dominated process of development. At no time does he include any major crises and calamities in his Origin of Life. And to put it all down to Physics is laughable.