This volume introduces readers to emergence theory, outlines the major arguments in its defence, and summarizes the most powerful objections against it. It provides the clearest explication yet of this exciting new theory of science, which challenges the reductionist approach by proposing the continuous emergence of novel phenomena.
A persistent boast of the historical approach to functions is that functional properties are normative. The claim is that a token trait retains its functional status even when it is defective, diseased, or damaged and consequently unable to perform the relevant task. This is because historical functional categories are defined in terms of some sort of historical success -- success in natural selection, typically -- which imposes a norm upon the performance of descendent tokens. Descendents thus are supposed to perform (...) the associated task even when they cannot. The conceit, then, is that malfunctions are explicable in terms of historical success. The aim of this paper is to challenge this conceit. My thesis is that the historical approach to functions lacks the resources with which to account for the possibility of malfunctions. If functional types are defined in terms of historical success, then tokens that lack the defining property due to defect, and tokens that have lost the defining property due to disease or damage, are excluded from the functional category. Historically based malfunctions, in consequence, are impossible. The historical approach is no better than its non-historical competitors in accounting for the presumed normativity of functional properties. (shrink)
Being human while trying to scientifically study human nature confronts us with our most vexing problem. Efforts to explicate the human mind are thwarted by our cultural biases and entrenched infirmities; our first-person experiences as practical agents convince us that we have capacities beyond the reach of scientific explanation. What we need to move forward in our understanding of human agency, Paul Sheldon Davies argues, is a reform in the way we study ourselves and a long overdue break with traditional (...) humanist thinking. Davies locates a model for change in the rhetorical strategies employed by Charles Darwin in _On the Origin of Species_. Darwin worked hard to anticipate and diminish the anxieties and biases that his radically historical view of life was bound to provoke. Likewise, Davies draws from the history of science and contemporary psychology and neuroscience to build a framework for the study of human agency that identifies and diminishes outdated and limiting biases. The result is a heady, philosophically wide-ranging argument in favor of recognizing that humans are, like everything else, subjects of the natural world—an acknowledgement that may free us to see the world the way it actually is. (shrink)
The social exchange theory of reasoning, which is championed by Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, falls under the general rubric evolutionary psychology and asserts that human reasoning is governed by content-dependent, domain-specific, evolutionarily-derived algorithms. According to Cosmides and Tooby, the presumptive existence of what they call cheater-detection algorithms disconfirms the claim that we reason via general-purpose mechanisms or via inductively acquired principles. We contend that the Cosmides/Tooby arguments in favor of domain-specific algorithms or evolutionarily-derived mechanisms fail and that the notion (...) of a social exchange rule, which is central to their theory, is not correctly characterized. As a consequence, whether or not their conclusion is true cannot be established on the basis of the arguments they have presented. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to clarify and critically assess the methods of evolutionary psychology, and offer a sketch of an alternative methodology. My thesis is threefold. (1) The methods of inquiry unique to evolutionary psychology rest upon the claim that the discovery of theadaptive functions of ancestral psychological capacities leads to the discovery of thepsychological functions of those ancestral capacities. (2) But this claim is false; in fact, just the opposite is true. We first must discover the psychological (...) functions of our psychological capacities in order to discover their adaptive functions. Hence the methods distinctive of evolutionary psychology are idle in our search for the mechanisms of the mind. (3) There are good reasons for preferring an alternative to the methods of evolutionary psychology, an alternative that aims to discover the functions of our psychological capacities by appeal to the concept of awhole psychology. (shrink)
Sober (1992) has recently evaluated Brandon's (1982, 1990; see also 1985, 1988) use of Salmon's (1971) concept of screening-off in the philosophy of biology. He critiques three particular issues, each of which will be considered in this discussion.
One of the most influential physics books of the twentieth century was actually about biology. In a series of lectures, Erwin Schrödinger described how he believed that quantum mechanics, or some variant of it, would soon solve the riddle of life. These lectures were published in 1944 under the title What is life? and are credited by some as ushering in the age of molecular biology. In the nineteenth century, many scientists thought they knew the answer to Schrödinger’s rhetorical question. (...) Life, they maintained, was some sort of magic matter. The continued use of the term ‘organic chemistry’ is a hangover from that era. The belief that there is a chemical recipe for life led to the hope that, if only we knew what it was, we could mix up the right stuff in a test tube and make life in the lab. Most research on biogenesis has followed that tradition, by assuming that chemistry was a bridge — and a long one at that — linking matter with life. Elucidating this chemical pathway has been a tantalizing goal, spurred on by the famous Miller–Urey experiment of 1952, in which amino acids were made by sparking electricity through a mixture of water and common gases. But the concept has turned out to be something of a blind alley, and further progress with prebiotic chemical synthesis has been frustratingly slow. The origin of life remains one of the great outstanding mysteries of science. To take up Schrödinger’s suggestion, a radical solution to the problem, ‘What is life?’ could be that quantum mechanics enabled life to emerge directly from the atomic world, without the need for complex intermediate chemistry. Life must have a chemical basis: organic molecules provide the hardware for biology. But what about the software? When Schrödinger asked, ‘What is life?’ he could already glimpse the central significance of the cell’s information storage and replication processes, even though the role of DNA and the genetic code was yet to be discovered.. (shrink)
The finite age of the universe and the existence of cosmological horizons provides a strong argument that the observable universe represents a finite causal region with finite material and informational resources. A similar conclusion follows from the holographic principle. In this paper I address the question of whether the cosmological information bound has implications for fundamental physics. Orthodox physics is based on Platonism: the laws are treated as infinitely precise, perfect, immutable mathematical relationships that transcend the physical universe and remain (...) totally unchanged by physical processes, however extreme. If instead the laws of physics are regarded as akin to computer software, with the physical universe as the corresponding hardware, then the finite computational capacity of the universe imposes a fundamental limit on the precision of the laws and the specifiability of physical states. That limit depends on the age of the universe. I examine how the imprecision of the laws impacts on the evolution of highly entangled states and on the problem of dark energy. (shrink)
: All known life requires phosphorus (P) in the form of inorganic phosphate (PO43x or Pi) and phosphate-containing organic molecules. Pi serves as the backbone of the nucleic acids that constitute genetic material and as the major repository of chemical energy for metabolism in polyphosphate bonds. Arsenic (As) lies directly below P on the periodic table and so the two elements share many chemical properties, although their chemistries are sufficiently dissimilar that As cannot directly replace P in modern biochemistry. Arsenic (...) is toxic because As and P are similar enough that organisms attempt this substitution. We hypothesize that ancient biochemical systems, analogous to but distinct from those known today, could have utilized arsenate in the equivalent biological role as phosphate. Organisms utilizing such ‘ weird life ’ biochemical pathways may have supported a ‘ shadow biosphere ’ at the time of the origin and early evolution of life on Earth or on other planets. Such organisms may even persist on Earth today, undetected, in unusual niches. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: * 1 The Universe Is Weirdly Fine-Tuned for Life * 2 The Cosmic Code * 3 The Concept of Laws * 4 Are the Laws Real? * 5 Does a Multiverse Explain the Goldilocks Enigma? * 6 Many Scientists Hate the Multiverse Idea * 7 Who Designed the Multiverse? * 8 If There Were a Unique Final Theory, God Would Be Redundant * 9 What Exists and What Doesn’t: Who or What Gets to Decide? * (...) 10 The Origin of the Rule That Separates What Exists From What Doesn’t * 11 Why Mind Matters * 12 The Universe as a Finite Computer Exposes the Fiction of Idealized Laws * 13 Quantum Mechanics Could Permit the Feedback Loop Between Mind and the Laws Of Physics * Notes. (shrink)
Astrobiologists are aware that extraterrestrial life might differ from known life, and considerable thought has been given to possible signatures associated with weird forms of life on other planets. So far, however, very little attention has been paid to the possibility that our own planet might also host communities of weird life. If life arises readily in Earth-like conditions, as many astrobiologists contend, then it may well have formed many times on Earth itself, which raises the question whether one or (...) more shadow biospheres have existed in the past or still exist today. In this paper, we discuss possible signatures of weird life and outline some simple strategies for seeking evidence of a shadow biosphere. Key Words: Weird life—Multiple origins of life—Biogenesis—Biomarkers—Extremophiles—Alternative biochemistry. Astrobiology 9, 241–249. (shrink)
: The oft-repeated claim that life is ‘ written into ’ the laws of nature is examined and criticised. Arguments are given in favour of life spreading between near-neighbour planets in rocky impact ejecta (transpermia), but against panspermia, leading to the conclusion that if life is indeed found to be widespread in the universe, some form of life principle or biological determinism must be at work in the process of biogenesis. Criteria for what would constitute a credible life principle are (...) elucidated. I argue that the key property of life is its information content, and speculate that the emergence of the requisite information-processing machinery might require quantum information theory for a satisfactory explanation. Some clues about how decoherence might be evaded are discussed. The implications of some of these ideas for ‘ fine-tuning ’ are discussed. (shrink)
Andrews et al. subscribe to the view that distinguishing selectionist from nonselectionist hypotheses – or, distinguishing adaptations from mere spandrels or exaptations – is important to the study of psychology. I offer three reasons for thinking that this view is false; that considerations of past selective efficacy have little to contribute to inquiry in psychology.
In attempting to re-think the notion of asymmetry and its relations with 'first philosophy' and to see how that notion is tracked by the provocation of scepticism, the paper demonstrates something about the implications of Levinas' ethical asymmetry. The paper considers Levinas' tendency to introduce the topic of scepticism when confronted by the logical and textual difficulties that necessarily befall his account of the ethical relation. It argues that such an introduction commits Levinas to the claim: first philosophy entails a (...) fundamental (first person) asymmetry and its attendant scepticism. If, for Levinas, scepticism and first person asymmetry are implicated in all attempts at first philosophy, the paper suggests that an intriguing place to set it to work is those pages of Being and Time which prioritize being-towards-death, the polemical focus of Levinas' being-for-beyond-my-death. (shrink)
Jacob Bekenstein's identification of black hole event horizon area with entropy proved to be a landmark in theoretical physics. In this paper we trace the subsequent development of the resulting generalized second law of thermodynamics (GSL), especially its extension to incorporate cosmological event horizons. In spite of the fact that cosmological horizons do not generally have well-defined thermal properties, we find that the GSL is satisfied for a wide range of models. We explore in particular the case of an asymptotically (...) de Sitter universe filled with a gas of small black holes as a means of casting light on the relative entropic ‘worth’ of black hole versus cosmological horizon area. We present some numerical solutions of the generalized total entropy as a function of time for certain cosmological models, in all cases confirming the validity of the GSL. (shrink)
The importance of applying game theory to the evolution of information in the presence of noise has recently become widely recognized. This Special Issue addresses the theme of spontaneously emergent order in both classical and quantum systems subject to external noise, and includes papers directly related to game theory or the development of supporting techniques. In the following editorial overview we examine the broader context of the subject, including the tension between the destructive and creative aspects of noise, and foreshadow (...) the signiﬁcance of some of the subsequent papers in the volume. (shrink)
Fred Dretske asserts that the conscious or phenomenal experiences associated with our perceptual states—e.g. the qualitative or subjective features involved in visual or auditory states—are identical to properties that things have according to our representations of them. This is Dretske's version of the currently popular representational theory of consciousness . After explicating the core of Dretske's representational thesis, I offer two criticisms. I suggest that Dretske's view fails to apply to a broad range of mental phenomena that have rather distinctive (...) subjective or qualitative features. I also suggest that Dretske's view, in identifying conscious experiences with features of our perceptual states, casts its aim too low. It deflates further than it should and, in consequence, fails to capture what are arguably some of the most important phenomena associated with our conscious lives. (shrink)
We derive conditions for rotating particle detectors to respond in a variety of bounded spacetimes and compare the results with the folklore that particle detectors do not respond in the vacuum state appropriate to their motion. Applications involving possible violations of the second law of thermodynamics are briefly addressed.
For decades most scientists assumed that life emerged billions of years ago in a “primordial soup” somewhere on the Earth’s surface. Evidence is mounting, however, that life may have begun deep beneath the surface, perhaps near a volcanic ocean vent or even inside the hot crust itself. Since there are hints that life’s history on Earth extends back through the phase of massive cosmic bombardment, it may be that life started on Mars and came here later, perhaps inside rocks ejected (...) from the Red Planet by large impacts. The traffic of intact rocks between Mars and Earth is now an established fact, and experiments confirm that microbes could survive the rigours of the journey through space if cocooned within such material. Unfortunately, this planetary cross- contamination compromises astrobiologists’ hope of finding a second genesis in the solar system. (shrink)
A quantum particle moving in a gravitational field may penetrate the classically forbidden region of the gravitational potential. This raises the question of whether the time of flight of a quantum particle in a gravitational field might deviate systematically from that of a classical particle due to tunnelling delay, representing a violation of the weak equivalence principle. I investigate this using a model quantum clock to measure the time of flight of a quantum particle in a uniform gravitational field, and (...) show that a violation of the equivalence principle does not occur when the measurement is made far from the turning point of the classical trajectory. The results are then confirmed using the so-called dwell time definition of quantum tunnelling. I conclude with some remarks about the strong equivalence principle in quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The problem of life’s origin remains one of the great outstanding challenges to science. Ever since Charles Darwin mused about a “warm little pond” incubating life beneath sunny primeval skies, scientists have speculated about the exact location of this transforming event. Nearly a century and a half later, we remain almost completely ignorant of the physical processes that led from a nonliving chemical mixture to the first autonomous organism. However, some progress at least has been made on tracking down where (...) and when life first established itself on Earth. Fossil evidence suggests that the biological record extends back at least 3.5 billion years, pointing to a still earlier origin1. But this presents a problem. The cratering record of the moon implies that Earth was subjected to intense bombardment by large comets and asteroids over an extended duration until about 3.8 billion years ago. The largest of these impacts would have released enough energy to swathe the planet in incandescent rock vapour, boiling the oceans and sending sterilizing heat pulses a kilometre into the exposed crust2. This unpromising setting – hardly a secure one for warm little ponds – has prompted some astrobiologists to conjecture that life began somewhere else and came to Earth readymade3. Favourite among extraterrestrial originating locations is the planet Mars4. (shrink)
T he term emergence is used to describe the appearance of new properties that arise when a system exceeds a certain level of size or complexity, properties that are absent from the constituents of the system. It is a concept often summed up by the phrase that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and it is a key notion in the burgeoning field of complexity science. Life is often cited as a classic example of an emergent (...) phenomenon: no atoms of my body are living, yet I am living (see, for example, Morowitz ). Biological organisms depend on the processes of their constituent parts, yet they nevertheless exhibit a degree of autonomy from their parts (see, for example, Kauffman ). How can this be? These seem to be contradictory properties. (shrink)
The problem of how a mixture of chemicals can spontaneously transform themselves into even a simple living organism remains one of the great outstanding challenges to science. Various primordial soup theories have been proposed in which chemical self- organization brings about the required level of complexity. Major conceptual obstacles remain, however, such as the emergence of the genetic code, and the “chicken-and-egg” problem concerning which came first: nucleic acids or proteins. Currently fashionable is the so-called RNA world theory, which casts (...) RNA in the role of both chicken and egg. Other theories assume that protein chemistry and even clay crystal life came before nucleic acids. To be fully successful, a theory of biogenesis has to explain not merely the emergence of molecular replication and chemical complexity, but the crucial information content and information processing capabilities of the living cell. (shrink)
Recent attempts to explain the dark matter and energy content of the universe have involved some radical extensions of standard physics, including quintessence, phantom energy, additional space dimensions, and variations in the speed of light. In this paper I consider the possibility that some dark matter might be in the form of tachyons. I show that, subject to some reasonable assumptions, a tachyonic cosmological fluid would produce distinctive effects, such as a surge in quantum vacuum energy and particle creation, and (...) a change in the conventional temperature–time relation for the normal cosmological material. Possible observational consequences are discussed. (shrink)