26 February, 2013

New Special Issue: Cosmology II

I am convinced that backwards extrapolations of purely-formal present-day relations alone cannot ever deliver even a purely formal description of the Origin of our Universe. The reductionist belief that you can do this is certainly profoundly mistaken. And this is because it uses a still-shot of what is available now, and without any possibility of investigative intervention, to be wholly sufficient to trace all the way back to that very distant Origin. It isn’t! For that trajectory from Origin to Now is full of a transforming and creative History, certainly NOT included in our equations (unless you consider them to be eternal). No matter how it is dressed up, and no matter how far equations and patterns are taken to deliver it, such methods are incapable of delivering the known significant ingredient of this actual Development – the creation of the Entirely New!

Mankind has always had a problem with these unavoidable occurrences, when wholly new and impossible to predict elements, not only appear, but also frequently change the whole game.

NOTE: The total failure of all scientists specialising in that field, to deal with the Origin of Life on Earth, whether creeping ever closer to it from inanimate matter upwards, or tracing evolution backwards from the top down. Neither set of methods can ever deliver: they are the methods of Stability and not of Revolution!

You can see why Gods were considered essential!

But, more practically, these pieces of magic, though inexplicable, did take many clearly universal Forms, and, in addition, the more easily accessed developments did indeed display dependable and repeated phases. So, it was in these areas that Man began to seek a handle upon his World. The former was evidently an embryo Mathematics, and the latter became an embryo Science. This author has for some time been involved in formulating a new kind of scientific investigation, still using Form and its prediction advantages, but concentrating upon a holist view of interactions and developments, particularly when Stability breaks down and what is termed an Emergence transforms the situation totally. The question here is, “Can they deliver an alternative to the current Cosmology?” Let us speculatively muse upon this possibility.

Read the issue

05 February, 2013

Quotes and Inferences from The Wonders of Life

Brian Cox Wonders of Life

What is Life?

Let us consider some of the direct quotes, or occasionally the recast statements that infer certain positions uttered by Professor Brian Cox in the What is Life first installment of his Wonders of Life series for BBC TV, which commenced on Sunday 27th January 2013.

Elsewhere, this writer has written a review of this programme, but the exact meanings of part’s of Cox’s narration really do need to be revealed as exactly as possible as he delivered them, because they do reveal exactly where he is coming from, and what he actually believes, not only about Life, but about the true nature of Reality in general, which he is certain resides primarily in his own specialist subject – Physics.

For Brian Cox is most certainly a fully paid up member of the current consensus in Sub Atomic Physics, He agrees completely with the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, originally put forward by Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and this puts him, and all his colleagues, into a particular and surprising philosophical position.

For the whole group are what are usually termed “shamefaced materialists”, who have steadfastly embraced a purely idealist philosophical position, beloved of such people, which has physical Reality being wholly determined by abstract, disembodied and purely formal laws. These are so pure that they can be most perfectly represented by mathematical equations.

Now, let us be quite clear exactly what is involved in such a position. These laws have to be eternal – in existence throughout the duration of our Universe, and act as driving essences, actually making the concrete material World behave as it does. Now, you may find it hard to believe that there is anyone at all who subscribes to such a position, and especially professional scientists, but I assure you, it is entirely true. They do have reasons, of course, for such a profound retreat from the once steadfastly maintained materialist standpoint, but that will become clearer as this exercise proceeds, along with just a little history of 20th century Physics.

For, this position has been around for some considerable time, and is usually termed as Positivism when applied within Science. But, a much more descriptive label is the philosophical term Agnosticism (“I do not know”), for though the position purports to be materialist, it also says that there are many things not only that we do not yet know, BUT that we can never know: things that are “Unknowable Things in Themselves”.

Clearly, this was the stance made famous by the philosopher Kant, though it has resurfaced several times – a fairly recent interlude being at the end of the 19th century, with what were sometimes called the Empirio-Criticists. This group included both of the scientists Max Ernst and Henri Poincaré.

When, a little later, something like this position was considered necessary to paper over the ever widening cracks in 20th century Sub Atomic Physics, there was already in existence (and fairly “modern”) a body of philosophical suggestions that these physicists could subscribe to, and indeed tailor to their particular needs in their very esoteric area.

Now, in taking what Brian Cox actually says about The Wonders of Life, you certainly must see clearly where he is coming from. He is “in one way” a materialist, stressing the development of Reality without recourse to any spiritual or supernatural input, while, at the same time, rejecting the longstanding purpose of Science to explain why it is as it is. And, to cap it all, he surrenders all impetus in development entirely to a set of eternal Natural Laws – abstract relations (or Forms), which he insists actually “cause” the World to behave as it does, and even develop as it has.

So, nice easy put-downs will not suffice in dealing with such post-modernist eclecticism. The positions taken do NOT form a single coherent standpoint, but a variously based one, with either omissions (not spoken about), or a papering over the cracks (spoken about at length). So, the reason for these extractions from the programme should be clear. If you think that this universally commended paragon has been misquoted by this critic, you can make up your own mind by studying these important quotes. You may find many of his throw away lines more than a little difficult to accept. This fairly extensive collection will reveal many questions, which Cox does not answer, and many arguments that are certainly invalid.

The Quotes:
  1. Are wonderful products of evolution like dragonflies simply complex machines, for when they die nothing remains of what would be called Life?”
  2. The idea of the Spirit is understandable, because otherwise we would have to accept that Life emerges from an inanimate bag of stuff”
  3. It is incumbent on Science to explain what animates Life”
  4. What is the difference between a lump of rock and me?”
  5. It is only recently that Science has begun to answer these deepest of questions”
  6. Life is the result of the same laws which govern everything else”
  7. It is how Life uses energy!”
  8. Energy is indestructible: it only ever changes from one form to another”
  9. What is true for the waterfall, is true for everything in nature. It is a fundamental law of nature. The First Law of Thermodynamics – the conservation of energy law!”
  10. Energy is eternal!”
  1. The story of the evolution of the Universe, is just the story of the transformation of eternal energy from one form to another”
  2. And at some point that transformation of energy led to the Origin of Life on earth!”
  3. Volcanoes transferring energy from the very depths to the surface can produce chemicals and their reactions, which are very similar to those that produced the Origin of Life”
  4. Hydrogen ions (H+) instead of balancing the Hydroxyl ions (OH-) as in neutral water, can be increased in number by energy, hence storing that potential in the heightened number of Hydrogen ions.”
  5. And such a produced proton gradient can do work, and it is through that, somehow, that early Life was able to use that source to drive its necessary processes”
  6. Now there are alkaline sub-ocean volcanic vents, and it is thought that, at the time if the Origin of Life, the oceans themselves were mildly acidic. Hence there was the possibility of a ready source of energy for Life to exploit.”
  7. And the vents are also rich in the chemicals that Life needs”
  8. Now, the energy currency for Life even today is still in that same sort of proton gradient, and it occurs in Mitochondria in every cell of every living thing”.
  9. So, if you are looking for a universal Spark of Life this proton gradient is it”
  10. But, Life doesn’t use energy up. So what does it do?”
  11. The evolution of the Universe involves the changing of energy from one form to another. But, that energy becomes less and less useful. It becomes more and more disordered. It’s the quality of energy that is changed. Light can be absorbed, but it is then re-emitted as Heat. The energy of a lower quality: it can do less. It becomes Heat which is of a very low quality of energy indeed”
  12. Life takes highly ordered, high quality energy from the Sun, and converts it to an equal amount of low quality, disordered energy”
  13. This descent into disorder is happening across the entire Universe”
  14. Everything is converted to Heat, and the Universe cools down to absolute zero, and with NO ordered energy left, and everything comes to a halt, and everything decays away”
  15. Yet, while the Universe is dying, everywhere you look, Life goes on”
  16. How can it be that Life continues to build increasingly complex structures, while the rest of the Universe is falling to bits – decaying away?
  17. (It is) “according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics!”
  18. The key is to look at the energy Life takes in, and the energy that it gives out. Heat is a highly disordered form of energy, and that is what Life gives out, but Life can hang on to a tiny amount of order, just enough to resist the inevitable decay”
  19. Living things borrow order from the wider Universe and export it again as disorder, but they have to export more disorder than the amount of order that they import.”
  20. Living things, being physical structures, must obey the laws of Physics, so they must obey the Second Law.”
  21. Just by being alive, we are part of the energy transformation that drives the Universe.”
  22. All living things share the same fate. Each individual will die, but Life itself endures!”
  23. Something separates Life from every other process in the Universe”

Now, I originally thought of countering every single quote, but let’s face it, they do speak for themselves! I cannot imagine many reading them with a genuine realisation of their truth, and with real pleasure. I am sure that they don’t need me to explain which orifice he is talking out of.

NOTE: For those who might like to hear a more explicit alternative to Brian Cox’s conception of Life, this author has written another parallel paper attempting to do exactly that.

Brian Cox’s Theory of Everything

Brian Cox is wrong
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.