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RECENT POSTS IN THIS TOPIC

Lee Bloomquist: on 5/5/17 at 11:01am UTC, wrote Professor Ellis, B. Josephson's Biological Observer-Participation and...

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FQXi FORUM
May 30, 2017

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Wandering Towards a Goal: The Key Role of Biomolecules by George F. R. Ellis [refresh]
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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 17, 2017 @ 21:15 GMT
Essay Abstract

The key link between physics and life is provided by bio-molecules, such as voltage gated ion channels. They enable logic to emerge from the underlying physics. They can only have come into being via the contextually dependent processes of natural selection, which selects them for their biological function.

Author Bio

George Ellis is a cosmologist and relativist, who has recently turned to the study of complexity and the mind. He has published a major book on how the combination of bottom-up and top-down causation underlies the emergence of truly complex systems such as life.

Download Essay PDF File




Lee Bloomquist wrote on Feb. 17, 2017 @ 23:41 GMT
Professor Ellis,

In your diagrams, I wonder how the feedback loops established by proprioceptors (for example in breathing) and interoceptors (for example in the heartbeat) would fit in.

Best Regards,

Lee Bloomquist

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 06:01 GMT
Thanks for that question. This is a special case of my thesis. Thus in the case of proprioception, "There are specific nerve receptors for this form of perception termed "proprioreceptors", just as there are specific receptors for pressure, light, temperature, sound, and other sensory experiences" and these are based in ion channels such as TRPN. More generally the function of sensory neurons is based in receptor molecules - protein molecules that receives chemical signals from outside a cell. Thus they fit the general pattern. [These links don't seem to be working - I don't know why].

this post has been edited by the forum administrator



Jack Hamilton James replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 11:28 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

I am sure this entry is a winner and will take the time to study it properly to the degree I can. I heard your philosophy talk podcast last year and also read your paper on top-down causation. I just cant understand TDC, if you can assist me briefly? This is my main problem with it, taken from an article i wrote about the philosophytalk podcast:

Like gravity, I argue causation itself a singular event/operation that necessarily requires a singular explanation. We don’t have two explanations for gravity, do we? We don’t say there multiple types of gravity based on its possible directions. E.g. “Up/left gravity” and “Down/right gravity” etc. These would be relative to how gravity, a singular event, that requires a singular explanation, works. These directions would be a superficial explanation of what gravity is. So what I am suggesting is that you could claim only top-down causation as the singular source account of causation, but surely you cannot claim multiple causal sources as the theory of causation itself. Rather the witnessed multiple causal sources between levels (equivalent to directions in which gravity acts) must arise or emerge from this source explanation, and thus adhere to the causation, which is a singular event.

http://philosopher.io/Top-Down-Causation-A-Conceptual-Flaw

Th
anks for your help!

Jack

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 15:58 GMT
Dear Jack

Two points here:

First, I have recently been persuaded that I should really use the term "top down realisation" rather than "top down causation". Causation happens at each level of the hierarchy of structure and causation rather than up or down, whereas realisation is the downward relation and emergence is the upward relation.

That being said, causation does indeed happen at each level at the same time: in the brain for instance, 1. electrons flow in axons according to Maxwell's equations, 2. genes are turned on and off according to the state of gene regulatory networks, 3. information flows down axons to synapses where signals are summed and used to decide if new spike trains should be sent on, 4. pattern recognition takes place via the neural network structures formed by the neurons, and 5. logical thought takes place at the psychological level, for example deciding if Maxwell's equations are a good description of electromagnetism. The lower levels enable the higher levels to function, but it is the logical highest level that decides what the final result is (Maxwell's equations get written down as a good description of reality)

Second, "causation itself a singular event/operation that necessarily requires a singular explanation". No, there are multiple causal relations in action at the same time, as indicated above, and as point out by Aristotle in the Wikipedia article on Four Causes. I elaborate further in my book on top down causation, taking the example of why an aircraft flies. It flies 1. because of air particles impinging on the wing, 2. because the pilot is flying it, 3. because it was designed to fly, and 4. because someone is making a profit out of its flying. These four causes operate simultaneously; and without any one of them, it would not fly. Physics is concerned only with level 1. The other three levels are also essential.

this post has been edited by the forum administrator




Eckard Blumschein wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 14:41 GMT
For the first time in this contest, an essay gave a reference to Hudspeth and other well known to me experts in physiology. I also resonate to mentioning the role of ion channels, of Darwinism, et cetera. Having no serious objections, I am ready to put a sign by my decision for 10 scores. Nonetheless, I would like to defend some aspects of my own somewhat different views. In particular, I would like to add that I see us responsible for more reasonably steering the evolution of mankind.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 19:57 GMT
Thank you for the kind words. "I would like to add that I see us responsible for more reasonably steering the evolution of mankind." I can only agree.



Joe Fisher replied on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 17:15 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

I am sorry that you find the truth about the real visible Universe unacceptable.

Joe Fisher, Realist

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 20:04 GMT
I have no idea what this refers to

George Ellis




Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 15:04 GMT
Dear Ellis,

Good research essay on adaptive selection…

Your words… 1. “outside religious belief, rocks and stars have no purpose.”… Don’t say like that, please have a look in my essay, where the Birth and Quenching of Galaxies were discussed, Here Universe shows a property of life, “Reproduction of Galaxies in the Universe” …

2. ‘ I am taking for granted that living systems are open non-equilibrium systems. That alone does not characterise life: famously, even a burning candle satisfies those conditions.’…. good.

3. “Physics underlies adaptive selection in that it allows the relevant biological mechanisms to work; but adaptive selection is not a physical law. It is an emergent biological process.”.. Good study

Best wishes…………….

=snp. gupta

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 15:24 GMT
'Your words… 1. “outside religious belief, rocks and stars have no purpose.”' - those are not my words, they are quoted from an important article by L H Hartwell, J J Hop field, S Leibler and A W Murray. Hartwell is a Nobel Prize winner for his work on discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle.




Alexander M. Ilyanok wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 17:48 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

I read your essay with great pleasure. I want to mention a few things that I hope will be useful in your research of

adaptation and plasticity Life depends on adaptation to its environment.

We found that in the nanotubes with a diameter of 14.5 nm and a length of a few microns, including carbon ones, there is a giant diamagnetic effect, which is like the Meissner effect in superconductors. This effect is observed from helium temperatures (-270°C) to temperatures of +93.5 °C. This effect we call "hot" superconductivity. For example, our discovery of the "hot" superconductivity clearly explains the effect of diamagnetic levitation samarium cobalt magnets in the man's hand and a live frog at room temperature. US Patent No 6,570,224

We have found that this effect is determined by the diamagnetic properties of the tubulin microtubes that make up the cytoskeleton of cells, rather than the diamagnetic properties of the water of the human body. The inner diameter of the microtubes is about 14.5 nm. As a result, the resonance conditions for motion of electrons inside the microtubules are created. This leads to a giant diamagnetic effect at normal temperatures.

Best regards

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 20:03 GMT
Dear Alexander Ilyanok,

That is very interesting. The question this raises for me is whether the diamagnetic properties of the tubulin microtubes can be used to construct logic gates. If so that would be most interesting, and maybe even important (it might relate to Roger Penrose's conjections about the brain)



Alexander M. Ilyanok replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 17:56 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

More information is available at conference paper A.Ilyanok, I.Timoshchenko “Nanoclusters as superatoms and supermolecules”. For the first time the opportunity of transfer functions of the human cerebral cortex in silicon neurochip of 10 cm3 with 3D nanojet printer is shows. This is due to the fact that in the last 10 years a new direction in nanotechnology has appeared - the creation of organic and inorganic nanoclusters of certain size, called superatoms, that exhibit the unique properties of elementary atoms and can formally establish a new "periodic table". The development of an entirely new field of science opens the possibility to use cheaper isoelectronic analogues instead of expensive items. From the standpoint of superatoms we can consider the physical and chemical properties of proteins like supermolecules formed from superatoms. For example, the protein tubulin which forms nerve fibers and nuclear scaffolds and cells shows unique physical properties. It forms nanotubes with a diameter of 14.5 nm. The developed technology of jet nanolithography allows us to grow inorganic artificial neurons, while watching their growth using the methods of nanophotonics. From these superatoms and supermolecules we can create artificial neural logic elements whose dimensions are 2-3 orders of magnitude smaller than the size of brain cells.

https://www.academia.edu/12908500/Nanoclusters_as_supe
ratoms_and_supermolecules

https://www.researchgate.net/profil
e/Alexander_Ilyanok/publication/278018684______/links/55787d
3808ae7521587037d4.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/278018597_Nanoclust
ers_as_superatoms_and_supermolecules

Best wishes

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 21:29 GMT
This seems a very promising line of work. I will try to keep track of it.

Thanks

George Ellis




Lee Bloomquist wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 19:04 GMT
Professor Ellis, thank you for your reply.

From your answer, it seems to me (just as a participant in this essay contest) that there may be a specific hypothesis to test this idea about a system of systems— that a hierarchy with many levels of structure built upon each other has a different description and vocabulary suitable for each level of the hierarchy that is related to the...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 20:13 GMT
Dear Lee Blomquist,

you say

"From your answer, it seems to me that there may be a specific hypothesis to test this idea about a system of systems— that a hierarchy with many levels of structure built upon each other has a different description and vocabulary suitable for each level of the hierarchy that is related to the effective entities which occur at that level.

And, that a selection from possibilities at a higher level can, by changing context, change the possibilities for a lower level— perhaps making some possibilities at the lower level impossible; perhaps changing the probability for a possibility to be selected at that lower level."

Exactly so, that is a nice summary.

The experimental suggestions sound interesting - I'd have to think about them more, specifically the difference between interoceptors and proprioceptors.

What is a good reference to the computer science concepts you mention?

George Ellis



Lee Bloomquist replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 00:46 GMT
Professor Ellis,

Here's a paper by Samson Abramsky.

In this paper he asks about using Channel Theory to model the three-valued Chu space he obtains as a full representation based on Wigner's theorem.

I've answered, with more references (and references to references) here.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 05:19 GMT
Dear Lee Blomquist

this is very interesting, thanks. It will take time to understand it fully, but it seems to me that it takes seriously the measurement problem by means of the evaluation function eH, which presumably implies collapse of the wave function; and that is a projection operation of the form (8) given in my essay. I developed an approach that is a bit similar (but much simpler in mathematical terms) in a paper on quantum theory here: arXiv 1108.5261.

I will cogitate on this further, and also comment over at your essay.

George Ellis



Joe Fisher replied on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 17:19 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

I am sorry that you find the truth about the real visible Universe unacceptable.

Joe Fisher, Realist

report post as inappropriate


Steve Dufourny wrote on Feb. 18, 2017 @ 20:14 GMT
Hello Mr Ellis,

I loved your general works about our neurons process.The informations always and this evolution of adaptation.

I rank all since many years more than 20 years.It is in ranking that I found this theory of spherisation....H.....CNO....H2C2 HCN CH4 NH3 H2O....ine ase...unicells and this and that givent complexification and increasing mass on this line time.I studied the works of Darwin and Lamarck.Lamarck also was relevant considering the adaptation with environments and mutations.We encode at each instant.Lamarck had found an intersting link with the will.In resume if a giraf has a long neck, it is because an encoding has been made to eat the leaves higher.Darwin, Lamarck and now the modern theories of evolution consider many paramters.The informations and encodings become very complex.The classifications become so universal keys.I am persuaded that we must consider two main systems.One electromagnetic, the other gravitational.The standard model is one thing.The gravitation an other.That said our biology seems correlated only with the earth and the standard model.

Congratulations for your essay and good luck, you are going to be well ranked ,you merit a prize :)

Best Regards

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Steve Dufourny replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 19:33 GMT
You live in a wonderful country Mr Ellis,a lot of things to contemplate,that helps to well understand how this nature buids lifes and consciousness.This consciousness, this mind always,this singularity after all.Our synaps dance in harmony after i n encoding the good informations of evolution.But how to quantify an emotion like the humility or the vanity and how to give an importance to an information? and what about the sortings and synchros.The neuro synaptic encodings and reasonings,why, how,when,where ....it is so simple and so complex.Why we are aware and cosncious after all? why we are emergent lifes and consciousness?How to quantify these improtances ?

I have a simple question Mr Ellis? what is for your the main causality ,the main potential implying lifes and emergent consciousness? do you consider a mathematical singularity permitting to informations a specific architecture of evolution in function of external parameters ? a kind of algorythm of sortings, superimposings and synchros ? And what about this quantum gravitation ?

The consciousness so in a simple resume cannot be created by humans because the system is more complex about consciousness and soul than we can imagine.That said an AI is possible mimating by automata, logic and rational algorythms.

All this to tell you that your work considers themro and photons, not the gravitation which is the main causality.

Best Regards

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Steve Dufourny replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 21:47 GMT
But of course it is not easy of course to forget the electromagnetic chains of this special relativity.It is after our only basis in sciences,the photons.But they are not the primordial codes.They are not the only one piece of puzzle.That has no sense to consider only our standard model.Like if in less of 200 years of science we have understood this universe in its whole with these phtons.It is so reductor like principle whjen we analyse what is this gravitational universal sphere in spherisation of matter energy.The photons are just a fuel and a system of photonic encodings correlated with our gravitational earth.The soul is more than this simple analyse.The evolution of matters, bodies,minds, souls are more complex than we can imagine.

The evolution is universal and general everywhere inside this universal sphere 3D for me.The biology evolves everywhere like the geology, the minerals....,the complexification and optimisation improvement are foundamentals for all matter, bodies, souls,minds, consciousness.If a soul for example must nourrish its consciousness with universalism and altruism,so we can consider than we die electromagnetically but not gravitationally.So if the souls are ramdomly resynchronised in a being of a planet, so the consciousness and brains are correlated .The relevance and God has well made the things is that we are never on the same place.Interesting like evolution.You see that evolution and gravitation are more than we can imagine.Fascinatin,g isn't it ?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 22, 2017 @ 05:01 GMT
Dear Steve

> "All this to tell you that your work considers themro and photons, not the gravitation which is the main causality."

- gravity is important in creating galaxies, stars, and planets, that are the habitats for life. It also provides an important aspect of the environment in which we live (animals must be designed to function in a context where gravity may make them fall). But as far as I know, it plays a minor role in how life functions: it does not directly affect flows of electrons in our bodies, which is rather governed by electromagnetism and quantum theory. That is where the molecular behavior that I discuss comes from. Thermodynamics is important for our functioning at a macro level (e.g. we have to ear food), as are the properties of photons (e.g. in how sight works).

Regards

George




Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 00:38 GMT
Your essay was cogent and well argued. It relies upon the issue of top-down causation or correlation, which as you argue is a sort of emergent biological structure, not a physical law or principle. You make a rather interesting statement:

there is a resulting space of possible proteins of vast dimensions: a kind of Platonic space of possible structures [18].

These structures are then...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 10:59 GMT
Dear Lawrence Crowell

thanks for that. I talked with Andrew Wiles last year about the Platonic nature of Mathematics, and he strongly believes that good working mathematicians all agree they are exploring mathematical structures rather than inventing them. Andreas Wagner in the book I mentioned writes very convincingly about the nature of Platonic spaces of possible biological microstructures: Gene Regulatory Networks, Signal Transduction Networks, Metabolic Networks, and Proteins. I strongly recommend that book. These possibilities all follow from the underlying physics, which is what you are commenting on. Maybe the biological properties follow from the symmetries you mention. Fascinating linkages.

George Ellis



Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 12:56 GMT
I do think there is some objective nature to mathematics. I tend to be dissatisfied with the idea mathematics is just a set of rules as in a game and proving theorems is just playing different outcomes in the game. Plato had his idea on this as a realm of pure forms. Aristotle had the concept of potentia, in particular with the relationship between physical world and mathematics.

It is not that often though one reads a paper discussing scientific matter that platonic ideas come up/

Cheers LC

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 13:11 GMT
Hi,

the key argument some philosophers have had against Platonic mathematics is that there is then no way the human mind could interact with it. However Paul Churchland has clarified how this is possible in his great book Plato's Camera, based on the neural network nature of the mind (which of course is a result of evolutionary adaptation). My favourite example is the fact that the square root of 2 is irrational - a timeless eternal truth. Such facts can be claimed to constitute the deep nature of cosmology. I will be writing a book about this later in the year.

Cheers GE

this post has been edited by the forum administrator




Jeff Yee wrote on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 20:10 GMT
George,

Your essay is my favorite that I've read so far (including the one that my colleagues and I submitted). :)

The first time I read through it, I kept thinking about a computer program to model the logical choices that you describe, similar to the BOIDS program for bird movement that was developed back in the 80s that describes the chaotic movement of bird flocks into simple computer logic that simulates their path. Then, I saw your technical notes and notice that you already mention computer programs. Have you done any work computer modeling any biological examples (you mention a few such as bee dances)?

I imagine that this would be very complex to go from the logic of the electromagnetic force that holds atoms and molecules together (which is where you started with your paper), and then building upon the logical choices as molecules build DNA, which builds sensors such as eyes, etc, to then use this information to make logical choices in the brain. But if each has logical step, it would be fascinating to see if a computer could run these steps over time and if basic electrons and protons would run its course to create complex systems with the ability to make decisions.

Your paper is very thought provoking. Thank you for submitting it.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 20:33 GMT
Dear Jeff,

thanks for those kind words.

I have not done computer modelling of biological examples, but I have done such modelling of decision processes. The key always is the control branching structure in whatever language you are using (implemented for example by IF .. THEN .. instructions, or WHILE ... DO ... loops, or FOR I = 1 To N loops, etc).

Yes what you suggest would be a great project. You mention "the logical choices as molecules build DNA" but the really important choices are the logical choices made as molecules build proteins. DNA is just a step on the way (even though it has had a much better press than proteins!) The process is controlled by the complex logic of Gene Regulatory Networks, and that is where good modelling comes in.

Best wishes

George




Lorraine Ford wrote on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 22:25 GMT
George Ellis,

Sorry to be so blunt, but many parts of this essay are just illogical. In particular, the essay section "5.2 Their coming into being, evolutionary aspects” is illogical: DNA does not really exist outside the cell, and for multi-cellular organisms the cell does not really exist outside the organism. Selection pressures are exerted on the whole organism: the whole organism must first exist for selection pressures to be exerted on the organism and the DNA. I.e. selection pressure does not explain the existence of organisms or the existence of their DNA. Yet this essay muddies the waters on that issue, somehow claiming that “Darwinian adaptive selection” is responsible for their “coming into being”, and that their “existence has to be explained on the basis of natural selection”. It’s the existence of mutation outcomes that need to be explained, not the subsequent selection outcomes. Based on more recent, modern evidence, Masatoshi Nei (one of the founding fathers and pioneers of what is now called the field of molecular evolution) and many other evolutionary geneticists claim that mutation, not natural selection, drives evolution.

But this essay also muddies the waters on the quantum randomness that seemingly leads to much mutation. Quantum randomness is non-deterministic. The existence of instantaneous non-deterministic outcomes at all levels of reality is not explained. As you will appreciate, this issue is quite separate to the fact that long-term outcomes of deterministic complex systems can’t be determined/known because of the complexity of the system.

I also find very muddy and questionable your assertions and arguments that “the key difference between physics and biology is function or purpose” and that “Organisms exist to reproduce”.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 02:23 GMT
Dear Lorraine Ford

thanks for your comments.

My essay had to fit in the limits set by the essay criteria, so I have had to use shorthand for longer descriptions I would have used had more space been available. If it is misleading, I will clear that up in revisions. In essence I agree with all most of your points except the last, but I think you are a bit unfair in how you refer to what I have written.

1. "DNA does not really exist outside the cell, and for multi-cellular organisms the cell does not really exist outside the organism." - agreed, that is a point I make strongly in my book on Top Down Causation. I do not I think imply otherwise here.

2. "Selection pressures are exerted on the whole organism: the whole organism must first exist for selection pressures to be exerted on the organism and the DNA." I essentially make that point clearly in my discussion of the coming into being of sight. Please read it again. It is also made clearly in my book on Top Down Causation.

3. "It’s the existence of mutation outcomes that need to be explained, not the subsequent selection outcome" - wrong, they both need to explained. They have to come into being, and they then have to be selected for, both steps are necessary. I refer in my essay to Andreas Wagner's book "Arrival of the Fittest" where the first step is explained in depth, and to the book by "Cycles of Contingency: Developmental Systems and Evolution" by Oyama, Griffiths, and Gray where the second step is explained in depth. Of course mutation is necessary. That won't get you a entity that fulfills a specific purpose unless it is then selected for.

4. "But this essay also muddies the waters on the quantum randomness that seemingly leads to much mutation. Quantum randomness is non-deterministic. The existence of instantaneous non-deterministic outcomes at all levels of reality is not explained." - I have often made the point that quantum theory is non-derministic, e.g. arXiv 1108.5261 (the case has to be made because there are a number of physicists who don't believe it). I have also written and talked about this effect on evolution elsewhere, for example the last chapter of my book on top-down causation referred to above. In this essay I put in one sentence to refer to this whole deep discussion, which I make a central feature in various articles on the philosophy of cosmology. But in any case, quantum randomnesss is only one of the effects that lead to mutation. There is also for example gene variation due both to sexual combination and horizontal gene transfer.

5. "As you will appreciate, this issue is quite separate to the fact that long-term outcomes of deterministic complex systems can’t be determined/known because of the complexity of the system." Of course I appreciate that.

6. "I also find very muddy and questionable your assertions and arguments that “the key difference between physics and biology is function or purpose” and that “Organisms exist to reproduce”." - That is not my assertion, it is an assertion by Hartwell et al, as is clear in my essay. He happens to be a Nobel prizewinner for the discovery of protein molecules that control the division (duplication) of cells. And if that is not the essential difference, please tell me what is? Are you saying that non living systems have function of purpose? If so, please explain. For example, what is the purpose of the Moon or an electron? Or are you saying that physiological systems do not have function or purpose? That the eye is not there to enable vision, for example? Please read that paper carefully to see the full range of issues that paragraph is intended to summarise. Given what else I needed to say, I could not summarise their paper at greater length in my essay. As to "“Organisms exist to reproduce”, that is a brief summary of Darwinian logic and an explanation of existence of crucial physiological systems and of a great deal of animal behaviour. If they are not there for that purpose, why do they exist?



Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 06:59 GMT
Addendeun:

see section 8.3 in this article

"Philosophy of cosmology"(in case the link does not work: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics Volume 46, Part A, May 2014, Pages 5–23)

for an explicit statement of the effect of quantum uncertainty on evolution.



Lorraine Ford replied on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 15:08 GMT
Dear George,

Thanks for your detailed reply. From what you say and from your "Philosophy of cosmology" paper, we seem to agree that the mutation issue is important, but we don’t agree about how multiple theoretically possible outcomes could turn into actual outcomes. I maintain that physical structure is built on what amounts to rules/laws; and so reality resolves multiple theoretically...

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Branko L Zivlak wrote on Feb. 19, 2017 @ 22:56 GMT
Dear Mr.

Your essay is excellent.

I Agree:

“Adaptive selection is not the same as energy minimisation, although that will play

an important part in determining what can happen, nor is it entropy maximisation. It

cannot be deduced by statistical physics methods, nor by a consideration of force laws

such as (2-4) or from the standard model of particle physics. It is not implied by physics,

which has no concept of survival of a living being (or for that matter, of a living being),

but is enabled by it...

But if we just want to find the cause derived from physics, it's the attractions and repulsion. This physical process is common and essential to all levels of structures and phenomena. For adaptive selection too.

Regards,

Branko

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 22:02 GMT
Dear Branko,

> if we just want to find the cause derived from physics, it's the attractions and repulsion.

- Indeed: particularly those between protons and electrons. But causes derived from physics are not the only causes (see my discussion above of Aristotle's 4 causes )

> This physical process is common and essential to all levels of structures and phenomena.

- Yes agreed

> For adaptive selection too.

Well that link is not so clear. Attractions and repulsions may be key to selection, but I can't see a direct relation to the deletions that are a crucial part of adaptive selection

Regards

George




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 05:17 GMT
Dear Branko,

Thank you. I agree with you: at the very bottom, if we just want to find the cause derived from physics, it's the attractions and repulsion between electrons and protons. This physical process is common and essential to all levels of structures and phenomena, particularly flow of electrons and ions. But it only has its biological effect because of the molecular, cellular, and physiological structures in which it takes place. In an indirect way, it will underlie adaptive selection too.

Regards

George




sridattadev kancharla wrote on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 22:02 GMT
Dear George,

I have read your beautiful essay and concur with top down causation or realization process that you have laid out to explain how biological life drives evolution, what if we can extend this theory to levels of consciousness and see that a higher level of consciousness being responsible for manifestation of different lower levels of it self. A gene is a part of organism and there is no organism with out the gene, it's a singular system. So is consciousness a singularity and we are all a part of it. I request you to kindly read There are no goals as such it's all play

Love,

i.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 22:06 GMT
Dear i.,

> what if we can extend this theory to levels of consciousness and see that a higher level of consciousness being responsible for manifestation of different lower levels of it self.

- that may well be possible

> A gene is a part of organism and there is no organism with out the gene, it's a singular system.

- It's an integrated system. Not sure what is intended by `singular'

> So is consciousness a singularity and we are all a part of it

- I don't understand that. I know what a singularity is in mathematics or physics. I don't know what is mean here.

Best

George



sridattadev kancharla replied on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 13:46 GMT
Dear George,

Please see the attached diagram for levels of consciousness i envisioned.

By singularity i mean the feeling of oneness we experience as spiritual beings, that we are one with the universe. Please see the video divide by zero and pay attention to 0/0 segment in it and compare it with the diagram of SOUL that i am attaching here, you will see what i mean by singularity of consciousness, with out that point of origin none of this duality or relative existence is possible.



Love,

i.

attachments: 3_Consciousness.jpg, 3_SOUL.jpg

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Feb. 20, 2017 @ 22:49 GMT
I have been down with influenza so have been slow and still am. Thanks for the link to Churchland's book. This get into philosophy, which was a minor I did in college, which is fun and helps to frame thinking. Roger Penrose goes on a track of sorts with physics, mathematics and the mental world all connected as joints in a paradoxical triangle.

I tend to focus a bit more locally in my thinking in that if there is a duality between IR and UV physics, then maybe quantum hair on black hole horizons, such as what Strominger argues with BMS symmetry, has structure that appears in the more ordinary world. Black hole quantum or BPS hair is in the UV domain that appears by red shift in the IR range, think of a highly time dilated Planck mass oscillator. I think somehow this equivalency between UV and IR gives what might be called euphemistically a yin and yang relationship between bottom up and top down causal or correlations.

Cheers LC

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 22:10 GMT
Dear LC

> have been down with influenza so have been slow and still am.

I hope it is better

> Roger Penrose goes on a track of sorts with physics, mathematics and the mental world all connected as joints in a paradoxical triangle.

Indeed. We do not understand that link yet.

> I tend to focus a bit more locally in my thinking in that if there is a duality between IR and UV physics, then maybe quantum hair on black hole horizons, such as what Strominger argues with BMS symmetry, has structure that appears in the more ordinary world.

- I can't see how that would work. Black hole horizons are far removed from the everyday world.

> I think somehow this equivalency between UV and IR gives what might be called euphemistically a yin and yang relationship between bottom up and top down causal or correlations.

- an interesting idea. maybe so.

Cheers GE




Natesh Ganesh wrote on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 02:13 GMT
Professor Ellis,

A wonderfully written essay! Learnt a lot from it. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the differences between the logic of physics vs biology. I had the following question that I was hoping you would help me with:

If we took the example of a bacteria detecting poison and moving away from it, the poison would correspond to context C; let us call the bacteria system S, and we can form the corresponding context dependent statement "If C,THEN S will move away, ELSE S will move toward." Would you agree that if I decided to redraw the 'boxes' differently and looked at the joint system (C,S) together, then the earlier context dependent statement can be restated as a statement one would expect under the logic of physics? If the global (C,S) joint system has to follow physical law and can be analyzed from it, we should then be able to understand the 'purpose' in the local relationship between C and S. Would you agree on that?

Thanks.

Natesh

PS: I explore this C-S relationship in my submission 'Intention is Physical' which I have turned in, and should be up sometime next week. I would be happy if you could take a look at it, and any and all feedback is welcome.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 22:20 GMT
Dear Natesh

> If we took the example of a bacteria detecting poison and moving away from it, the poison would correspond to context C; let us call the bacteria system S, and we can form the corresponding context dependent statement "If C,THEN S will move away, ELSE S will move toward."

- Right

> Would you agree that if I decided to redraw the 'boxes' differently and looked at the joint system (C,S) together, then the earlier context dependent statement can be restated as a statement one would expect under the logic of physics?

- Interesting idea. You may be expressing the idea of supervenience in a new way. But I think l I disagree, because the joint system J := (C,S) is not guaranteed to have only physics style causal relations.

> If the global (C,S) joint system has to follow physical law and can be analyzed from it, we should then be able to understand the 'purpose' in the local relationship between C and S. Would you agree on that?

- I think I disagree as per above, but it is a good question that I'll need to consider further



Natesh Ganesh replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 23:37 GMT
Professor Ellis,

Interesting point on J=(C,S) not necessarily following physics style causal relations. I should have stated myself better. Perhaps the following might clear it up with where I am going.

Let us redraw the boxes as the following. For every system S, we will divide the universe into an observable domain O and the rest as B. O is not fixed and can change in time, thus...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 22, 2017 @ 06:42 GMT
Dear Ganesh,

thanks for that.

1. > Let us redraw the boxes as the following. For every system S, we will divide the universe into an observable domain O and the rest as B. O is not fixed and can change in time, thus changing the O-B boundary. Any context system C has to be in the observable domain O of S to be able to affect it at that time, and S also has to be in its own...

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Jochen Szangolies wrote on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 12:18 GMT
Dear Prof. Ellis,

you've provided a cogent and well-argued essay. One point that---perhaps only to me---has some special significance is where you present Maxwell's equations: I remember very well the moment when I first understood them, which I guess a more religiously minded person might call 'revelatory'. As you note, those few, simple equations, together with gravity, govern essentially...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 21, 2017 @ 22:29 GMT
Dear Jochen

Thanks for that thoughtful comment.

> you appeal to the 'logic' of ion channels; but I feel one must be a bit more careful not to conflate semantic, meaningful information with the essentially syntactic operations occurring at the physical ground level. One risks introducing what was meant to be derived into the basic assumptions, at least courting circularity.

- I agree completely with you on the difference between those two kinds of information. semantic information only comes into being at higher levels. But that occurs through combining lower level logical elements capable of syntactic operations into higher level logical circuits such as neural networks that can do the higher level work. That is only possible if the lower level elements are there, ready to be incorporated into interaction networks. That is why they are the key link between physics and logic.

> As an example, I would not say that an overflowing basin implements the logic 'if water level w > h, emit water' (where h is the depth). So even though the basic process can be brought into a 'if...then...else'-structure, I don't think that this automatically licenses us to attribute any genuine information-processing to a system.

- Right. They have to be built into the right kind of higher level structure. You can use that basin as part of a Turing Machine, if you do it right.

> It's possible that you intend to circumvent this difficulty by appeal to biological function, as introduced via evolution, in a similar manner to the 'biosemantics' of Ruth Millikan and others, perhaps utilizing the (effective) downward causation to get the 'evolved meaning' to the ground level of ion channels and the like. If so, then I think this line of argument may have merit, and would like to see it fleshed out some more.

- Indeed. I only had 9 pages to work in. And as I have said elsewhere, that downward causation is essential to this kind of emergence.



George Simpson replied on Feb. 22, 2017 @ 14:59 GMT
Hi George, thanks for your encouraging comments on my essay. I particularly appreciated your words:

"I think you are touching on some important ideas here that are not often recognised because they are unpopular. But I think most of what you say is correct, and is congruent with my own ideas and my own essay."

They excited me because the goal of FQXI is to identify important ideas that are not recognised because they are unpopular.

I think I am seeing a pattern in the submissions.

Starting from generally accepted premises, one is able to make steady progress towards explaining how goal-oriented systems arise, as you do brilliantly. But there seems to be a barrier that is hard to cross, to get to aims and ambitions, which are properties of minds.

In order to cross that barrier, a different starting point is required, which is the theme of my "Reality Envisaged". One needs a new framework in which minds and thoughts are given a physical description. Then one can begin to build the mathematics.

In that sense, I would suggest our essays are complementary, rather than congruent.

best regards, and thanks again, ...george simpson...

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George Simpson replied on Feb. 22, 2017 @ 15:03 GMT
George, in your comments on my essay, you say

"The Ideas Field consists of symmetries among information patterns (minds)". I would prefer to talk about multiple realisations of the same abstract patterns."

I am quite comfortable with this - the symmetries are at an abstract level. I think you will agree that such symmetries could in principle be measured in artificial minds.

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Mulugeta Wudu wrote on Feb. 22, 2017 @ 19:11 GMT
Dear Mr. George F. R. Ellis,

Your essay looks an epitome of science itself. It may win the prize because it has all the elements that the community of science are looking for. I am going to comment here and my comment has nothing to do with prizes or such things as ornamental matters. The earth is in great danger and I am making a last minute pleading in a bid to avert the danger. I see...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 23, 2017 @ 03:29 GMT
Dear Mulugeta

"You claimed the existence of "physical laws."" - yes I did. So do all scientists. "Clearing all the semantics and going to the substance of it, 'law' does not imply inevitability but it does imply purpose." - You are entitled to your view. "How do you know the moon does not have a purpose? You assumed authority in saying so. " - I did not assume any authority, I stated my view.

"Mr. Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen's experimental report of 1903 demonstrated clearly that an organisms genetic line is unalterable by the environments encountered by its members." - life has moved on in the past century.

Regards

George Ellis



Mulugeta Wudu replied on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 06:13 GMT
Dear Mr. George F. R. Ellis:

You, like Mr. Stephen Hawking, are at the pinnacle of science. I am challenging you on the foundational questions of science because you are science's standard bearer. I understand prestige takes center stage in science quarters but it is not about you in person, it is about science - the whole enterprise. I am showing here that science is the tower of babel made of bricks of falsehood. You have to engage here in reason because you have made a public submission for open commentary. I am presenting facts here. The results of experiments carried out hundred years ago hold true today. "Life moved on" regarding evolution after Mr. Wilhelm Ludvig Johannsen's lie-shattering experiment only in the political sphere, not in the arena of truth. OK, let's get down to today. The long term evolution experiment on E-coli bacteria that has been going on at Michigan State University for the last twenty nine years speaks loudly against Mr. Darwin's idea. Science's evolution claims the wild ape became bipedal and then became the thinking European man in close to eighty thousand generations. Mr. Richard Lenski's e-coli bacteria are the same e-coli bacteria after sixty-seven thousand generations despite the mutation rate of the e-coli bacterium being much higher than the ape. The experiment proved beyond a shadow of doubt that there is no such thing as descent with modification from preexisting species; but the political circus to promote adaptation as evolution is rampant. The dishonesty of the science culture and language is appalling.

Regards,

Mulugeta

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Feb. 24, 2017 @ 12:42 GMT
Dear Mulugeta

"I am showing here that science is the tower of babel made of bricks of falsehood." - well there goes scientifically tested drugs such as penicillin that have saved countless lives, cell phones and all else that follows from Maxwell's equations, nuclear power, solar power systems, GPS systems, aircraft that fly, etc etc ... all those outcomes that are based on scientific understanding. Do you really not understand that these are the outcomes of scientific thought? Or are you claiming that none of them work?

You know perfectly well that evolutionary theory is not my area of expertise. But I do know that we have a lot more detailed knowledge about evolution than we did over a century ago - when we had no idea of the existence and structure of DNA. We have far more evidence than then. Do you really not understand that we now know a lot more about genetics than when Johannsen wrote his paper? And as to Lenski's work, please see the the Wikipedia page on the E. coli long-term evolution experiment (LTEE) ("an ongoing study in experimental evolution led by Richard Lenski'). It says there, "Over the course of the experiment, Lenski and his colleagues have reported a wide array of phenotypic and genotypic changes in the evolving populations". Which is the opposite of what you claim.

Please try to check your claims more carefully before indulging in these kinds of immoderate attack.



Mulugeta Wudu replied on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 08:31 GMT
Dear Mr. George F. R. Ellis:

Long before the modern science of the west, people built structures, made medicine, rode horses, did agriculture etc. - all with moderation. The point is, the faculty that man has to do stuff is bestowed on man by God, not by science. The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who built and flew the airplane knew no science at all. All science does is manipulate...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 20:48 GMT
Dear Mulugeta

I am ignoring your first paragraph of your comment as it does not relate to my essay.

As regards the second paragraph, "I want to prove to you that there is only God's law in nature and I will demonstrate to you that God lives and that your discussion of a purposeless dummy law in nature that governs the whole world is wrong. Laws in nature have purpose. The things that living things do have purpose and this purpose is God's."

This is proof by assertion, with no evidence of any kind to support it. In other words, it is just your opinion.

"The proof is reproduction. Asexual reproduction is not made by the desire of the organism because the organism doesn't think. Sexual organisms have motivational elements to drive them to sexual union and their motivation is sexual union, not reproduction, but their union leads to reproduction. From this two facts it can be established that the purpose of the sexual motivational elements is reproduction."

Actually I agree with the core of what you are saying here. The motivational elements you are talking about are Panksepp's primary affective systems, and they include one that drives sexual reproduction. However that does not prove anything about God. Rather it shows the evolution has channeled our biological systems in such a way as to create the primary affective systems, as this increases our reproductive effectiveness. There is no need to introduce God into this argument, as Laplace said.

As to your comments on evolution, I recommend you read the wikipedia article on the topic here. It is more reliable than whatever reference you have been using. Notice that I am not supporting the Dawkins toy model of evolution, but the current much more sophisticated evo-devo view.

George Ellis



Mulugeta Wudu replied on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 07:53 GMT
Dear Mr. George F. R. Ellis,

You said you agree with the core of what I am saying about reproduction but you commented that "there is no need to introduce God into this argument." I am not asking you to introduce God in science. Science is a doctrine of falsehood which is not compatible with the majestic, loving and life-giving ways of God. What you should have done is quit science as soon...

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 12:31 GMT
The essay is crystal clear, elegant and interesting.

Could all the dynamics in the biologic system a statistical dynamics of simple conditional expression? So that is there an overlap of many simple conditional expression like your basic selection process?

Another point, I think that the complexity of the Turing test is only the language, so that an Artificial Intelligence could be verified using a low-level language: a crow does not speak, but it has intelligent behavior; so that a game player (little number of rules and a conditional programming), or a conditional movement (low-level answers like movements) in a labyrinth or in a hostile environment could make human control indistinguishable from an artificial control, and the lack of a certain response could be an indication of an intelligent behavior (if the conditional expression have not guaranteed results, like some statistical results).

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 19:50 GMT
Dear Domenico

thank you for your comment.

> Could all the dynamics in the biologic system be a statistical dynamics of simple conditional expression? So that is there an overlap of many simple conditional expression like your basic selection process?

I think that is worth exploring, but I don't think a statistical dynamics will work in the end. It is the specific connections in a network that make it work as it does, building up higher level logic out of lower level logic; and that is captured by black-boxing rather than coarse graining, as I briefly mention in my technical notes.

George Ellis




Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 16:27 GMT
Dear George,

Your essay gives a very good understanding of two emergent phenomenae : life and physics. Each form of life is conscious. Physis is one of the ways we are trying to understand life and the perception of life of reality.

I almost am convinced to say that consciousness is the counter force of entropy in the reality awareness that we are experiencing. In my perception reality is just an excitation, we seem to have arrived throug "living" in our memory the NOW moment, that becomes directly past.

I hope that you can find some time to read just another different approach of the subject and read and maybe rate my essay "The Purpose of Life".

best regards

Wilhelmus de Wilde

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 20:02 GMT
Dear Wilhelmus

"I almost am convinced to say that consciousness is the counter force of entropy in the reality awareness that we are experiencing. In my perception reality is just an excitation, we seem to have arrived through "living" in our memory the NOW moment, that becomes directly past."

- you are expressing a view on the passing of time that agrees very much with my own view.

I will look at your essay.

Ragrds

George




Gary D. Simpson wrote on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 17:02 GMT
George,

Your essay is the most informative to me that I have read thus far. I have read it several times to glean as much as possible from it. Previously, I was very skeptical of the notion of emergence. It seemed to me like magic rather than science. You have convinced me that emergence is true.

What stands out the most to me is the need for CONTEXT. This is linked to the ability of some things to have more than one function. Concepts that you do not mention but that might be significant are competition and scarcity. For example, if food availability cycles between abundance and scarcity, then the ability to store food as fat is a significant advantage. If the climate is cold, then this layer of fat has the added benefit of acting as thermal insulation. But if the food supply is unlimited, then morbid obesity results and fat storage becomes a liability unless organisms choose to limit food intake or compensate by some other means.

Allow me please to ask a somewhat ignorant question regarding equation 4. I am educated as an engineer. One of the standard problems we must solve is to compare the strength of electro-magnetism to that of gravity. We are also taught that the net force acting upon an object is the vector sum of all the individual forces. So, I understand exactly how you get equation 4. My question is "Has this relation ever been empirically confirmed?". The reason for my question is fairly simple. Suppose that both gravity and electro-magnetism are mediated by the vacuum. It might be possible that they are mutually exclusive. The vacuum might be able to mediate one or the other but not both simultaneously.

All in all, an outstanding effort.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 25, 2017 @ 19:59 GMT
Dear Gary,

thank you for your kind comments.

> What stands out the most to me is the need for CONTEXT.

Right: this is key.

> This is linked to the ability of some things to have more than one function.

Indeed. This is true at many levels, from epigenetics to the way the brain works as a whole.

> Concepts that you do not mention but that might be significant are competition and scarcity. For example, if food availability cycles between abundance and scarcity, then the ability to store food as fat is a significant advantage. If the climate is cold, then this layer of fat has the added benefit of acting as thermal insulation. But if the food supply is unlimited, then morbid obesity results and fat storage becomes a liability unless organisms choose to limit food intake or compensate by some other means.

Good. Context changes selection criteria and so changes adaptive outcomes.

> Allow me please to ask a somewhat ignorant question regarding equation 4. I am educated as an engineer. One of the standard problems we must solve is to compare the strength of electro-magnetism to that of gravity. We are also taught that the net force acting upon an object is the vector sum of all the individual forces. So, I understand exactly how you get equation 4.

Good

> My question is "Has this relation ever been empirically confirmed?". The reason for my question is fairly simple. Suppose that both gravity and electro-magnetism are mediated by the vacuum. It might be possible that they are mutually exclusive. The vacuum might be able to mediate one or the other but not both simultaneously.

Good question. You need to look at the motion of charged particles on the surface of the Earth (as that equation uses a constant gravitational acceleration). It never occurred to me that it needed testing. It surely can be done. Indeed maybe it has been tested in cloud chambers.

Best regards

George




Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Feb. 26, 2017 @ 15:28 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for your answer on my essay "The Purpose of Life" and the reference to von Helmholz.

I agree with you that NOW is never eternal in our emerging reality, we experience a FLOW of time.

This 'flow" is the result of the capacity of our memory. The continuation of this flow is created by the addition of a new NOW moment. This new NOW moment is originating from Total Simultaneity where it is a timeless entity (so eternal) and I called it the ENM. The ENM is NOT existing in our emergent phenomenon called REALITY.

Our experience (like you are saying is continually changing) of NOW is entangled with its "ENM" in TS but NOT existing in our experience of reality. The timeless ENM becomes an addition to a timeless experience in our memory.

I hope to have explained my interpretation.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 27, 2017 @ 05:53 GMT
Dear Wilhelminus

thanks for that.

> I agree with you that NOW is never eternal in our emerging reality, we experience a FLOW of time.

yes.

> This 'flow" is the result of the capacity of our memory.

I'd see it the other way round: Memory is a record of that flow, but not the cause of that flow.

> The continuation of this flow is created by the addition of a new NOW moment.

Yes. That is what makes it a growing block universe.

> This new NOW moment is originating from Total Simultaneity where it is a timeless entity (so eternal) and I called it the ENM. The ENM is NOT existing in our emergent phenomenon called REALITY.

This is the part I can't grasp. I don't know what Total Simultaneity means or where it lives. The field equations of general relativity show how a new 3-geometry emerges at time t+dt from the one at time t. How this happens is dicussed here.

> Our experience (like you are saying is continually changing) of NOW is entangled with its "ENM" in TS but NOT existing in our experience of reality. The timeless ENM becomes an addition to a timeless experience in our memory.

Well memory is a rather fallible thing and is not timeless (if you are talking about real human memory). But yes what happens at each transient present moment gets added to our memory.

Ragrds

George



Wilhelmus de Wilde replied on Feb. 27, 2017 @ 16:33 GMT
Dear George

* I perceive our emergent memory also as an excitation of the Eternal NOW Moment in Total Simultaneity. The ENM "contains" the whole memory, so we become aware of the flow via the ENM.

*Total Simultaneity is a "dimension" without space and time that can be reached by trespassing the Planck Wall in our emergent reality. As this is impossible ( we can reach out only hyperbolical) Total Simultaneity is source of all emergent realities because I argue that it is a Hilbert space , of ALL ENM's (also from so called paralel universes and every universe predicted by MWI.

* As each emerging NOW moment is an excitation (maybe of a Planck time) that directly becomes past (inluding ALL memory) it is through our emerging experience that time (for us) seems to enter, in fact in my proposition the whole of our life is just ONE excitation. The origin of this awareness (illusion) lies in the timeless (eternal) ENM. Of its own character it could be compared to a singularity. Now imagine a sphere around this singularity which is very difficult in a spaceless entity, the surface of this sphere contains like a hologram your whole life. Your emergent NOW moment is entangled with its ENM....Space and Time are created as emergent phenomenea...

In my essay I am explaining how this perception can explain some quantum unrealities like "spooky action at a distance".

In my article : Total Consciousness in Total Simultaneity, published in the "Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research (vol 8 nr 1 2017) I also treat the subject of time travel.

best regards

Wilhelmus

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Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Feb. 27, 2017 @ 22:26 GMT
Dear George,

In your approach, you are trying to see the scientific ground for subjectivity. I fully agree that this line of thinking is important; however, I suppose the essence of subjectivity is still going to be missed in this way. At best, an objective door for all subjectivity could be found, like QM uncertainty showed a possibility for the free will. I appreciate your efforts and think your approach is complementary to ours. Your comments to our paper are more than welcome.

Yours, Alexey Burov.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Feb. 28, 2017 @ 17:16 GMT
Dear Alexay,

your essay deals with important aspects of the higher (philosophical/ mental) level. I am dealing with the lower levels that provide the basis on which those higher levels can emerge, having their own logic and causal powers. Thus our essays are indeed complementary. Both are needed.

Best regards

George




Avtar Singh wrote on Feb. 28, 2017 @ 20:43 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis:

Your paper is presents an elegant biological framework built upon the fundamental theme of the purposelessness of physics as you state in your paper- “The key difference between physics and biology is function or purpose. There is no purpose in the existence of the Moon or an electron or in a collision of two gas particles. By contrast, there is purpose and function in all...

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Avtar Singh replied on Feb. 28, 2017 @ 20:49 GMT
Second Try - The corrected link to my paper is - FROM LAWS TO AIMS & INTENTIONS - A UNIVERSAL MODEL INTEGRATING MATTER, MIND, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND PURPOSE by Avtar Singh.

Thanks

Avtar

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 05:46 GMT
Dear Avtar

I have commented over there. It is an interesting try, but in the end I stick with the statement “The key difference between physics and biology is function or purpose. There is no purpose in the existence of the Moon or an electron or in a collision of two gas particles. By contrast, there is purpose and function in all life". Quantum randomness is not equivalent to purpose, as your essay seems to suggest. And I do not believe that dark matter has anything to do with mind or consciousness.

I do think an integration is a great idea. But I think it must separate physics from biology, and show how the latter can arise from the former.

regards

George



Avtar Singh replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 19:19 GMT
Dear George:

Thanks for your time and I deeply appreciate your comments on my paper- FROM LAWS TO AIMS & INTENTIONS - A UNIVERSAL MODEL INTEGRATING MATTER, MIND, CONSCIOUSNESS, AND PURPOSE . Below are my responses to your comments/questions:

1. GE Comment: “You say "The physics of the spontaneous decay phenomenon is integrated into a physical model of the universe that allows a...

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attachments: 3_FOP_Manuscript-Universal_Relativity_based_on_Mass-Energy_Equivalence.pdf

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Member Rodolfo Gambini wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 13:27 GMT
Thank you for your very well written essay. We fully agree with your emphasis on the role of emergence as key for the understanding of the origin of adaptive selection in physical terms.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 17:55 GMT
Thank you. I think we agree on many things.




Peter Jackson wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 16:12 GMT
George

Excellent job again.

I don't have the reservations expressed above as we seem to agree on all fundamentals including key roles for Maxwell, QM, Darwin, Branching logic, gates, hierarchical structures, remorseless repetition, importance top down AND bottom up influence, inadequacy of thermodynamics, undecidability of an origin, etc. My essay is thus similar in ways but deals more with the top and a 'lower' bottom. By comparison yours fleshes out the important centre from proteins upwards quite brilliantly. But some questions;

1. Do you really think 'Life' always; "collects and analyses information in order to use it to plan and execute future purposeful actions"? Do you not agree most sensory input is 'collected' ad-hoc for no such specific purpose?

2. You 'wave towards' QM frequently. I agree that's valid because logic fails when stepping closer. So do you subscribe to the belief that logic will always fail at that scale? or that our understanding may one day improve?

Perhaps answer that last one both before and after reading mine because I venture to identify a shocking revalation anticipated by John Bell and allowing classical derivation (down to reducing fractal recursion) of the full predictions! (you may recall precursors in my last 2 essays).

I'd greatly value your opinion.

Very Best

Peter

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 18:02 GMT
Dear Peter

I am glad about our agreements!

>> 1. Do you really think 'Life' always; "collects and analyses information in order to use it to plan and execute future purposeful actions"? Do you not agree most sensory input is 'collected' ad-hoc for no such specific purpose?

Well life collects whatever information is available, sifts it for meaning, and compares it with our predictions of what ought to be happening. If it is what was expected, it is ignored; if it is unexpected, it becomes the focus of attention. So a great deal is collected just in case! Most is discarded - but that which is used is crucial.

>> 2. You 'wave towards' QM frequently. I agree that's valid because logic fails when stepping closer. So do you subscribe to the belief that logic will always fail at that scale? or that our understanding may one day improve?

Well its not so much logic that fails at that scale as predictability; also the nature of existence is somewhat different. What we don't understand is the quantum to classical transition. That may well be understood one day.

>> Perhaps answer that last one both before and after reading mine because I venture to identify a shocking revalation anticipated by John Bell and allowing classical derivation (down to reducing fractal recursion) of the full predictions! (you may recall precursors in my last 2 essays).

I'll take a look.

Best wishes

George



Peter Jackson replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:14 GMT
George,

"If it is what was expected, it is ignored; if it is unexpected, it becomes the focus of attention."

I have to disagree, though I hope you may prove yourself correct. I venture that if you or colleagues read an essay here or paper withe a proposition that doesn't conform to your expectations, then far from always focussing on it you'll tend to dismiss or ignore it. Results of 10yr experiment support that! I wait with interest.

"Well its not so much logic that fails at that scale as predictability. Do you propose QM is classically 'logical'!? That is quite a departure, including of course from Einstein, Bell, Feynman etc. Do you not think it may be the departure from Logic that leads to the apparent un-predictability?

If someone came along and showed a way of producing QM's predictions from an unexpected classical mechanism (no 'hidden variables') as anticipated by John Bell, do you propose;

a) You and colleagues would focus on it in the interests of advancing science? or

b) You and all would dismiss it as it's unexpected and unfamiliar and can't be right as it's logical and too different from present doctrine, so dismiss and ignore it.

If b) as findings to date suggest, then do you agree you may also prove wrong that; " the quantum to classical transition... may well be understood one day."

Do you agree that what most say and what they do in science mostly prove to be quite different things, i.e. that we must look and account for hidden self delusion? (I've found that a valuable but rarely employed analytical tool).

Best

Peter

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 21:37 GMT
Dear Peter

>> If it is what was expected, it is ignored; if it is unexpected, it becomes the focus of attention."

> I have to disagree, though I hope you may prove yourself correct. I venture that if you or colleagues read an essay here or paper withe a proposition that doesn't conform to your expectations, then far from always focussing on it you'll tend to dismiss or ignore it.

Nice comment. I'm talking of the way senses such as vision work, not the way rationality works. Please see the book Making up the Mind: How the Brain Creates Our Mental World by Chris Frith.

>> "Well its not so much logic that fails at that scale as predictability.

> Do you propose QM is classically 'logical'!? That is quite a departure, including of course from Einstein, Bell, Feynman etc. Do you not think it may be the departure from Logic that leads to the apparent un-predictability?

As I see it, quantum physics has its own logic, which is not the same as that of classical physics. Sure we'd welcome a hidden variable theory that really works (pilot wave theory is closest)

Regards

George



Peter Jackson replied on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 14:30 GMT
George,

"Sure we'd welcome a hidden variable theory that really works"

Thanks That's excellent news, though why does it have to be a "hidden variable" theory? I agree with Bell they can't work! He thought the error lay in the assumptions, even pointing to where! (I found later).

And 'Astonishingly' (his word too), I've derived and presented one, dead simple, (from just a rotating sphere and detectors) simply reproducable and falsifiable. Nobody has been able to disprove it (most just run and put their heads in the sand - including editors of course!) But it just keeps reproducing all of QM and resolving it's (classical) illogicalities.

Please do have a go - ask any questions and please challenge whatever you like.

Best

Peter

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 18:30 GMT
George,

Your argument is clear and cogent. I can understand your distinction between living systems and the inanimate, but the distinction is less crisp when you think of microorganisms and some new theories like Jeremy England’s. Does a virus, bacteria, fungi or protozoa have a goal or purpose and does it grow, reproduce or metabolize?

Jeremy England’s new theory regarding the second law of thermodynamics says the difference between the animate and the inanimate is that living things are much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat.

“You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

Well done link of physics to logic, but is there also a cosmic or long-term link between physics and logic. What is the mixed-bag process of clouds of supernova elements forming into rocks vs microorganisms and are the latter alive or potentially alive but not the former?

Obviously we have limited space to present our views. In the allotted space you have done a tremendous job of clearly presenting your views.

Sincerely,

Jim Hoover

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 07:25 GMT
James,

thanks for your thoughtful comments.

>> I can understand your distinction between living systems and the inanimate, but the distinction is less crisp when you think of microorganisms and some new theories like Jeremy England’s. Does a virus, bacteria, fungi or protozoa have a goal or purpose and does it grow, reproduce or metabolize?

I am not an expert on all...

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James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 00:53 GMT
Thanks for your comments, George. Hope you have time to check out my essay and furnish your own valuable thoughts.

Jim

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James Lee Hoover replied on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 18:33 GMT
George,

Just ran across a new book in NY Times Book Review that seems relevant to this discussion called Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. Prior books in his series trace man's evolution. This book sees living creatures as an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection. His vision is that humans are doomed by superhuman biological or computational machines. Do you think man can somehow duplicate "the key link between physics and life .. of voltage-gated ion channels" your abstract speaks of?

Jim Hoover

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Ines Samengo wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 21:31 GMT
Thank you so much for your essay, it was a pleasure to read. In the title, you focus in macromolecules. In the essay, however, you also make of evolution a key character. I tend to believe that the latter is more fundamental that the former. So this is my question. Could the emergence of goal-directed behavior also be possible in a substrate that is not based on the chemistry of carbon? Your question at the beginning seems to be how to connect the logic of physics with the logic of life. The logic of life, however, is not limited to be implemented by biochemistry, at least not from a logical point of view. So do you think there is an essential feature that these macromolecules have, that allow them to do the job? Could that feature be found in some other structure? Or do you think macromolecules are the only possible solution?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 07:33 GMT
Dear Inez

Evolution is of course the key, but it has to have something to work on. I believe the only possible substrate is carbon, because it alone allows existence of molecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins. It is the latter that are truly extraordinary: a wonderful book about this is Protein Stucture and Function (Primers in Biology). Yes I believe macromolecules are the only possible solution.

George




Robert Bennett wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 22:27 GMT
After just the few three sentences, already…a problem.

To state that lifeless beings have no purpose must be a self-evident metaphysical axiom…since there’s no evidence offered to support it. So there’s one problem – it’s not self-evident.

If the lifeless are purposeless, then why do they exist? If life forms have a goal, what is it?

Granted that life has a...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 07:37 GMT
I'm not going to write another essay, so I'll respond just to the first things you say:

"To state that lifeless beings have no purpose must be a self-evident metaphysical axiom…since there’s no evidence offered to support it. So there’s one problem – it’s not self-evident. If the lifeless are purposeless, then why do they exist? If life forms have a goal, what is it?"

As stated in my previous response, that quote is not a metaphysical statement about the meaning of life, but rather refers to the obvious purpose of physiological systems in all living organisms.




Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 23:05 GMT
Dear Mr. Ellis

Sorry, this is not related to your essay. These are questions for you as cosmologist.

What do you think about these attitudes?

1. The universe is inevitable;

2. "Matter dominant universe" and "radiation dominant universe" coexist in every point in time;

3. Mass and space of the universe and any other phenomenon is finite but universe is eternal.

4. Terms multiverse and “parallel universes” are very confusing. It is possible that there are bubbles without interaction between them, but there is the same math in bubbles of Universe.

I concluded that using my methodology, equations, especially Eq. (17) of my essay:

Regards,

Branko Zivlak

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 07:47 GMT
Dear Branko

sorry I'm not going to do a cosmological discussion here.

George




Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 07:12 GMT
george, hi,

in reading your essay i was encouraged that you also noted, as i do in my essay, that randomness in neural structures is very important. i was wondering if you had any further thoughts on its significance.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 07:44 GMT
Hi Luke

biology thrives on disorder at the molecular level, as very nicely explained in Hoffman's book Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos. The randomness in neural structures is a special case. The key role of that randomness is providing a repertoire of alternatives from which a choice can be made according to higher level needs. Thus the higher context is able to select what happens through the opportunities opened up by this randomness.

regards

George




Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 12:05 GMT
Dr Ellis,

I hate to add one more comment on this thread, considering that you must be exhausted by now reviewing and replying to all of them.

Your essay is no doubt a very solid one, well argued and well developed from your proposed abstract. I think though that it is better situated in the context of discussion about the distinction between inanimate objects and animate objects...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 14:33 GMT
Dear Joseph

the essay criteria state

"Essays should address questions such as (but not limited to):

1>How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world?"

so my essay is clearly on target.

>> "The idea that there is more life and more teleology to a human being or even a single eukaryotic cell than there is to a planet, a star or a galaxy is a blatant anthropomorhic notion"

I have no idea how you are defining life, nor how you impute teleology to a star or galaxy.

>> "there is no “emergence” of life but only a “distinction” in lifeforms to be debated.""

There was no life 13 billion years ago. It emerged after then.

>> "What happens to humans on planet earth with all their great aims and intentions, if only one day, the sun-star shut off its rays? What happens if it does so for a whole earth-year?"

Of course life depends on its astronomical environment. That does not mean that that environment is living.

George Ellis




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 14:41 GMT
Addendum:

The usual definition of life is here: "Life"

It does not resemble a star or galaxy.




Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 16:15 GMT
George –

Thanks for another first-class essay. Your strategy of choosing specific cases to illustrate each type of logic and their linkages works well, and lets you pull a remarkable variety of phenomena into a coherent picture.

Clearly you’re right that “there’s no purpose in the existence of the Moon.” But in focusing on the deterministic aspect of physics in Section...

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Anonymous replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 20:54 GMT
Dear Conrad

thanks for the kind remarks.

> Without proposing any new theory, I’ve tried to show that three very different realms of meaning – in physics, biology and human interaction – can all be conceived in terms of recursive processes built up through natural (accidental) selection.

Yes, agreed. It is a profound principle for creating order.

> I suggest that “measurement” and “human consciousness” have been hard to conceptualize for the same reason “life” is – because they all involve many different, interdependent functions.

Yes indeed. They can't be reduced to a few simple functions. They can be reduced to a great many simple functions interacting in very complex ways. It is the nature of those emergent networks of interactions (which can only be described at a higher level than that of their constituent entities) that enables complex emergence.

> So far we have no such clarity about the basis of classical physics in QM, or about the basis of human intersubjectivity in biology.

I agree again in both cases. Both are unsolved.

> My goal is not to “solve” these problems, but to explain why they’ve been so difficult to approach, and suggest a picture in which these three remarkably different informational technologies are understandable in principle. I'd very much appreciate your perspective on this.

I'll take a look.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 05:15 GMT
That was me of course




Member Rick Searle wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 18:46 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

I am a great admirer of your work and am honored to participate in a contest with someone as distinguished as yourself. Apologies for the simplicity of my question but when you say:

“Physics underlies adaptive selection in that it allows the relevant biological mechanisms to work; but adaptive selection is not a physical law. It is an emergent biological process.”

Do we mean to imply that biology and thinking being emergent are not just non-fundamental but non-deterministic and that we are in some sense therefore free?

I would be honored if you checked out my own much more literary entry in this contest “From Athena to AI."

Best of luck,

Rick Searle

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 06:14 GMT
Dear Rick

>>> “Physics underlies adaptive selection in that it allows the relevant biological mechanisms to work; but adaptive selection is not a physical law. It is an emergent biological process.”

>> Do we mean to imply that biology and thinking being emergent are not just non-fundamental but non-deterministic and that we are in some sense therefore free?

Biology and thinking are indeed emergent, and obey the appropriate laws of behaviour, according to their function, at each emergent level. Thus neurons use energy to propagate action potentials along axons; neural networks carry out pattern recognition and prediction functions; the brain as a whole undertakes logical and psychological tasks. These kinds of interactions are not *determined* by the lower levels lying under them, rather they are *enabled* by these lower levels.

I would not use the word "non-deterministic: at these higher levels: there is an appropriate logic in operation at each level that decides what happens in a logical way. The different levels all work in concert with each other to enable this to happen, the developmental processes of the body having constructed them so that this will be so; this is the marvel of physiology.

Where things are non-deterministic is at the lower levels: there is both quantum indeterminism at the atomic level, and a huge amount of randomness in the molecular storm at the molecular level. My view is that this lower level randomness allows the higher levels to select what to do from a repertoire of options they make available. This is set out in my book How Can Physics Underlie the Mind?. Yes I think we are free to act in accordance with our own character, make meaningful decisions, and argue logically on the basis of evidence. That is why it is meaningful to carry out the discussions taking place on this website.

Regards

George



Member Rick Searle replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 02:43 GMT
Thank you for your extensive reply George- you must be exhausted from all the replies you have written.

I will definitely check out your book.

Again, best of luck-

Rick Searle

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Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 21:01 GMT
Dear Prof. Ellis,

First off, what I understood was that the main call of the contest is for a mathematical formulation of human aims and intention, and that in its defect (if one is unable to hit this hard target) one may entertain other approximations such as the one you invoked >> How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world

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Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 22:12 GMT
Dear Prof. Ellis,

First off, what I understood was that the main call of the contest is for a mathematical formulation of human aims and intention, and that in its defect (if one is unable to hit this hard target) one may entertain other approximations such as the one you invoked >> How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world

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Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 22:24 GMT
Dear Prof. Ellis,

First off, what I understood was that the main call of the contest is for a mathematical formulation of human aims and intention, and that in its defect (if one is unable to hit this hard target) one may entertain other approximations such as the one you invoked “How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world “and...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 05:48 GMT
Dear Jean-Claude

>> "You say: “I have no idea how you are defining life, nor how you impute teleology to a star or galaxy.” I am sure you don’t, because your proposition is a reductionist anthropomorphic idea."

Here you fail to give a definition of life. Instead you claim I propose reductionist ideas, which is the opposite of what I in fact do. So I still don't know how...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 05:57 GMT
Addendum:

In response to your failure to give a definition of life, I repeat what I stated above: The usual definition of life, with which I concur, is given here: "Life". It requires, as stated there,

* Homeostasis: regulation of the internal environment to maintain a constant state; for example, sweating to reduce temperature

* Organization: being structurally composed of one or more cells — the basic units of life

* Metabolism: transformation of energy by converting chemicals and energy into cellular components (anabolism) and decomposing organic matter (catabolism). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.

* Growth: maintenance of a higher rate of anabolism than catabolism. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter.

* Adaptation: the ability to change over time in response to the environment. This ability is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity, diet, and external factors.

* Response to stimuli: a response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism to external chemicals, to complex reactions involving all the senses of multicellular organisms. A response is often expressed by motion; for example, the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun (phototropism), and chemotaxis.

* Reproduction: the ability to produce new individual organisms, either asexually from a single parent organism or sexually from two parent organisms.

This does not resemble a star or galaxy. Or for that matter a mathematical equation.




David C Cosgrove wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 13:03 GMT
George,

A good essay – with interesting content, as usual for your writings

(and I also became well acquainted, in this contest’s case, with how hard it was to fit a comprehensive narrative about fundamental issues into only 9 pages!)

From your essay, and the comment threads, I envision we probably have roughly similar views on our inherent ability to actually make decisions and the freedom to act on those choices (i.e. macro level entities not being fully constrained in their behaviour by the unitary evolution of the wavefunction for their constituent quantum particles)…

I have long argued for objective wavefunction collapse (perhaps related to information content thresholds) to be developed as an integral part of quantum formalism – and that for complex entities like us to have free will (and intentionality) is not compatible with a fully deterministic underlying dynamics (e.g. of the Schrodinger equation) to apply at all levels and for all time.

Though so many other physicists seem to feel that standard quantum mechanics can be applied to macroscopic bodies (a la the Many Worlds interpretation etc), which I find hard to credit.

Since you deal here with the emergence of purpose, at higher levels of complexity, I take it you are open to the likelihood of objective collapse being real?

Regards,

David C.

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Anonymous wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 15:33 GMT
In view of the question raised in the contest, “how can… intention” you’ve displayed a wonderful command of scientific procedure and knowledge. But the problem with science is that it sometimes unwittingly exceeds scientific boundaries. Purpose and Intention literally transcend the physical and biological interactions they build upon, and if science fails to appreciate its own disciplinary limits it will either deny Purpose and Intention or sneak them in with a

There is no intentionality in the scientific description of metabolism, or neurology. Every molecular, every electro-chemical interaction, is considered discrete and purposeless. And there is no conceivable bridge from purposeless to purposeful.

To your conception of biological logic:

IF x is evident THEN do y ELSE do z

consider the leap that would have to be made to evolve to:

IF x could be THEN maybe y1 should be ELSE maybe y2 or y3 or y4 should be OR maybe nothing else could be better than UN-x anyway.

Physical and biological systems are positive. Could, should, and maybe are negatives, they are not about WHAT IS, they transcend and negate reality, and that basic but wondrous fact is beyond the strict scientific consideration of the IS.

Intentionality depends on all the processes you analyze, but it eludes scientific explanation.

I believe my essay will appear soon, and help show that science and philosophy are interdependent but separate and legitimate pursuits.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 16:17 GMT
Dear James Arnold

thanks for that.

> "There is no intentionality in the scientific description of metabolism, or neurology. Every molecular, every electro-chemical interaction, is considered discrete and purposeless"

- By who? Metabolism is there to supply energy, it's very complex processes (and underlying molecules) have been selected for in order to do so. Neural processes are there to convey signals between synapses, they have been selected for to do so. Use the word "function" here rather than "intentionality". All physiological systems have a biological function (else they would not exist),and in that sense they have a purpose. And they are not discrete - they interact with each other in enormously complex ways.

> "consider the leap that would have to be made to evolve to:

IF x could be THEN maybe y1 should be ELSE maybe y2 or y3 or y4 should be OR maybe nothing else could be better than UN-x anyway."

- of course those more complex logics occur. But they are built up by combining more the elementary logical steps based in AND, NOR, NOT, etc. together with mathematical functions such as underlie Bayes' Theorem. You need the basic steps in order to get the more complex.

I don't think I claimed to have explained intentionality.

Regards

George



James Arnold replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 19:16 GMT
George,

I think "function" rather than "purpose" or "intention" is a crucial difference. My heart is functioning while my mind is intending this reply. "Intention" implies a component of un-caused willfulness, which of course many scientists would deny.

> I don't think I claimed to have explained intentionality

Well, the question is "How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention"

I suspect we're going to disagree on a number of points. But thanks for responding.

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James Arnold wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 15:37 GMT
Sorry -- I thought I was logged in. And in my first paragraph I bracketed "presto!", which was interpreted as a (meaningless) HTML tag. I wanted to write "... with a presto!"

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 16:05 GMT
Dear David C,

>> From your essay, and the comment threads, I envision we probably have roughly similar views on our inherent ability to actually make decisions and the freedom to act on those choices (i.e. macro level entities not being fully constrained in their behaviour by the unitary evolution of the wavefunction for their constituent quantum particles)…

Indeed so. And...

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David C Cosgrove replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 11:45 GMT
George,

Thanks for the Kohn link – I am always interested in any arguments (especially dimensional or scale-based estimations) that might have a bearing on limitations to entanglement or superposition.

I have seen some summary results before from that survey you mention, but had not seen those detailed tabulations until now.

I suppose it is gratifying to see that the bizarre Many Worlds Interpretation is only accepted by a relatively small proportion of physicists – but I was quite chagrined to see such low proportions expressing any knowledge concerning the measurement problem at all!

I can somewhat excuse the “Shut up and calculate” camp (i.e. aware of the issues, but choose to disregard until it impacts on their experimental setups) – especially if dealing with fairly prosaic fields of research. But that large parts of my professional community are not even aware of such an important philosophical issue (underlying our understanding of nature), I find rather mortifying (and perplexing!)… Sigh.

Regards,

David C.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 11:52 GMT
Hi David

Well there is now a flourishing field of quantum foundations that is indeed leading to some interesting experiments, e.g. Leggett-Garg inequalities. So maybe things are changing.

George



David C Cosgrove replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 03:27 GMT
Hi George

Yes, I have to acknowledge that there have been considerable amounts of interesting new material and approaches in the field of quantum foundations over recent times – and avidly await the results of such experimentalists (progressively refining their investigative precision around probes of macroscopic superposition/entanglements)!

I even think it possible that, down the track, larger and more fully functioning Quantum Computers might actually turn out to be suitable test beds for QM interpretations - i.e. by not working entirely like adherents of standard unitary-evolution QM expect them to!

David C.

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Joseph J. Jean-Claude wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 18:57 GMT
Dear George,

No, no intended spamming. Just that my post was being truncated due to a quotation symbol that created a parsing problem with the software in use here. Removed it and 3rd attempt successful. So let’s leave behind the animosity here. But just like you told Robert Bennett that you are not going to write another essay, I am not either. So I’ll be as brief as I can.

The...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 19:19 GMT
Ok I don't understand "Karyotic building block" or "higher karyotic gauge group." Maybe your essay will elucidate what this is.

George




Mark Pharoah wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 22:15 GMT
Hi George

Three points:

1. You say, “Life collects and analyses information in order to use it to plan and execute future purposeful actions in the light of memory.”

This is a viewed that would be shared by most. But there is no known transition that explains the naturalisation of the process that turns raw physical interaction into physical interaction where some...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 04:38 GMT
Dear James Arnold

>> I think "function" rather than "purpose" or "intention" is a crucial difference. My heart is functioning while my mind is intending this reply.

Indeed

> "Intention" implies a component of un-caused willfulness, which of course many scientists would deny.

"Uncaused" may not be the right phrase. Randomness is not what one wants here, but purposefulness.

>> I don't think I claimed to have explained intentionality

> Well, the question is "How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention"

Sure, but nobody can fully explain that. You need to get the building blocks in place. I go somewhat further down the road in my book on Downward Causation.

George




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 05:07 GMT
Dear Mark Pharoah

>>> 1. You say, “Life collects and analyses information in order to use it to plan and execute future purposeful actions in the light of memory.”

>> This is a viewed that would be shared by most. But there is no known transition that explains the naturalisation of the process that turns raw physical interaction into physical interaction where some...

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Anonymous replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 21:54 GMT
Thanks George to your responses to my 3 points. But...

pt 1... To say that "Sensory systems of some kind" are the device of nature that turns the physics of interaction into the commodity of information is dismissive and ducks the question. If a sensor registers 484kHz in the electromagnetic spectrum and another 528kHz, in what way is that information to system (noting also that sensory...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 06:24 GMT
Dear Mark Pharaoh

>>> pt 1... To say that "Sensory systems of some kind" are the device of nature that turns the physics of interaction into the commodity of information is dismissive and ducks the question. If a sensor registers 484kHz in the electromagnetic spectrum and another 528kHz, in what way is that information to system (noting also that sensory systems cannot 'count'...

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Mark Pharoah replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 22:08 GMT
George, just to pick up on two points in my attempt to focus on key issues:

1. You respond, “You can redefine words if you want to” regarding the term 'equilibrium', but "That is the physics understanding of the word." “life in the real world is surely not a state of equilibrium even in your extended sense.” Fortunately for me and my argument, we can look to chemistry: "In...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 05:28 GMT
Dear Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton

>>> “The key difference between physics and biology is function or purpose. There is no purpose in the existence of the Moon or an electron or in a collision of two gas particles.".

>> george, i would be interested to hear how you arrive at this conclusion. are you in effect saying that particles or larger objects cannot *by definition* have either aims or intentions?

In effect, yes.

>> if so i would be interested to know why you would believe that to be the case.

Look in any physics textbook. Please find me a discussion of the purpose of the Moon or of an electron or of a collision between two gas particles. How can the Moon have intentions? It has no brain.

The whole point about physical laws is that purpose does not enter into them. They just describe how physical systems interact. Please explain to me an experiment that will determine the purpose of an electron collision or the intention of a proton. Energy minimisation will not do the job: physical systems just do it, they do not intend to do it. If it was an intention, they could decide not to do it. That option is not open to them.

George



Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton replied on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 16:10 GMT
>>> george, i would be interested to hear how you arrive at this conclusion.

>>> are you in effect saying that particles or larger objects cannot

>>> *by definition* have either aims or intentions?

> In effect, yes.

ah. i have to admit to being confused and... saddened, on hearing that.

perhaps it is my fault, having asked the wrong...

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Stefan Keppeler wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 09:54 GMT
Dear George,

I would have thought that a discussion of the basic ingredients and mechanisms of emergence -- multiple realizability, top-down causation, coarse graining vs. black boxing etc., topics upon which you touch in your technical notes 4 & 5 -- would have been more in line with the theme of the contest. Instead you chose to focus on biomolecules and convincingly argue that they may be the crucial link between lower level physics and higher level biology. Luckily, your choice leaves room for complementary pieces. :-)

Cheers, Stefan

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 12:29 GMT
Dear Stephan

It would in many ways, but that would have been just a repeat of what I did in a previous FQXI contest (which is published in a book arising out of that contest). I could not see the point in doing that.

So yes, this leaves room for complementary pieces: and there are indeed some.

Cheers

george




Lee Bloomquist wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 20:02 GMT
Professor Ellis,

These FQXI blog tools are a great opportunity for me to ask experts like yourself about an idea I began discussing with Professor Tejinder Singh over multiple blog posts, starting with "this one".

Here's the idea: for each particle there is a "properTime = (clockTime, properTime)".

Then there should then be a mapping from clockTime to the set of all possible coordinate times.

Finally, each coordinate time should be assigned a possibility Ψ sub i.

Of course, there should be more to come. This is just the extent of the idea so far.

I would appreciate anything at all you might want to say about this!

Very Best Regards,

Lee

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 20:52 GMT
Dear Lee

I'm afraid I'm too busy responding to comments relevant to my essay to also respond to other unrelated queries. Sorry.




Robin Berjon wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 20:06 GMT
Dear George,

thank you very much for a clear and thought-provoking essay, and for your patience in engaging in discussion here! I was not aware of your book on physics and the mind and have now gladly added it to my reading list.

I have a few questions and notes.

The first thing that jumped at me in your essay is your statement that "The key difference between physics and...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 20:50 GMT
Dear Robin

Well it seemed so obvious to me it did not need further support. But here it comes: to be more precise I should have used the word teleonomy, see the Wikipedia article on telonomy. There you will find the following:

" In 1970, Jacques Monod, in Chance and Necessity, an Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology, suggested teleonomy as a key feature that defines...

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George Kirakosyan wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 08:07 GMT
Dear professor Ellis,

As I understand your question addressed to me because I am one only here up to now. You are right of course and I can say you sorry, because I have gone on a little bit side to my favorable theme. (See in Christian Corda forum)

Then let me ask you contrary question.

Why you somewhat changed contest question?

There was - "How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?"

And you hawe openly replaced it as - "How can a universe that is ruled by natural laws give rise to aims and intentions?"

Is this same this two questions in your opinion?

And you narrate your nice tractate .... about microbiology!

I hope we are gents and we will not touch each to other, as a continuation.

Regards

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 08:51 GMT
Dear George

Please see the essay rules where it says

"The theme for this Essay Contest is: Wandering Towards a Goal: How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention? .... How does this work? How do goal-oriented systems arise, and how do they exist and function in a world that we can describe in terms of goal-free mathematical evolution? Essays should address questions such as (but not limited to):

1. How did physical systems that pursue the goal of reproduction arise from an a-biological world?

2. What general features — like information processing, computation, learning, complexity thresholds, and/or departures from equilibrium — allow (or proscribe) agency?

3. How are goals (versus accomplishments) linked to “arrows of time”?

4. What separates systems that are intelligent from those that are not? Can we measure this separation objectively and without requiring reference to humans?

5. What is the relationship between causality – the explanation of events in terms of causes – and teleology – the explanation of events in terms of purposes?

6. Is goal-oriented behavior a physical or cosmic trend, an accident or an imperative?"

My essay addresses 1, 2, and 5

George




George Kirakosyan wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 12:50 GMT
My kindly professor Ellis!

Sorry for spending your time.

Of course I read the listed rules. And first question for me become there - and where is the ready answers from these we must chosing the right one as, a) ... b) ... c) ?

My dear, do you not thinking that science is not correct to build in such way? What is going on here actually? Some clever man has offering to us the questions that he see how is better to formulate. He give to us all details and all the right instructions also how need to move, on what direction to move etc - then let he tell to us also - where need to reach! Then tell me please what kind of valuable new result can we hope to obtain if we will agree to serve them as such exemplary soldiers? I have gone a little side of question because I see this question bring us to a wall. Let me say you also silently have gone a little side (and you also do right!) And we seen M-r Corda also (but a little bit more than we, I am agree with you here!) ....

If this conversation you see interesting please try to read my essay. This about it. I felts that it will seem to you some strange and maybe will difficult job for you, because we are very different people really - and what we can do with this?

With good wishes to you,

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William L Stubbs wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 14:31 GMT
Mr. Ellis,

My compliments on your very well composed essay. After reading it, I see why it has received so much praise and a relatively high rating. You make several points here that I make in my essay, but much more eloquently than I do.

However, most of your discussion addresses higher forms of life. For example, you discuss the logical workings of the brain. I understand and agree with everything you said, but I am not sure that this type of discussion addresses the intent of the essay. I likely misinterpreted the theme for the essay, but I thought we were supposed to be discussing how mathematical laws come together to transform inert matter into purposeful entities. In other words, what caused the fire, not how is the fire now burning. The next to the last sentence of your essay makes this point,

“The key thing that enabled this all to happen was the origin of life…”

but you conceded to it in your final sentence,

“We still do not know how that happened.”

and really did not address it in your essay. I thought that is sort of what the essay theme was really about, the thing(s) that made that happen.

To me, the question ‘how can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions’ is asking for thoughts on how the jump was made from non-living entities that are at the mercy of their environments, to living entities that have some control over their fates, via the mathematical laws. Your thoughts?

Regards,

Bill Stubbs

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 20:38 GMT
Dear Bill

emergence has three aspects:

1. Evolutionary, over timescales of hundreds of millions of years. There was no life on Earth billions of years ago, now there is. Darwinian type evolutionary processes lead to this emergence.

2. Developmental, over timescales of weeks to decades. We each were one cell, now we are 1013 cells. Developmental processes lead to this outcome.

3. Functional, over timescales of milliseconds to hours. We are each made of billions of protons, neutrons, and electrons, out of which at each moment biomolecules, cells, physiological systems, and whole animals emerge. Physiological systems at all levels (micro to macro) underlie this emergence.

"To me, the question ‘how can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions’ is asking for thoughts on how the jump was made from non-living entities that are at the mercy of their environments, to living entities that have some control over their fates, via the mathematical laws." - but the issue arises in each of these contexts.

It is hardly possible to deal with all aspects in depth in 9 pages. I was in effect concentrating on the third. For the first I essentially relied on referring to Andreas Wagner's great book Arrival of the Fittest, together with the idea of adaptive selection on evolutionary timescales.

Regards

George




Anonymous wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 17:13 GMT
Dear professor Ellis,

I very much appreciated your essay. Thank you for sharing your thought with us. In regards to its content, I noticed that it has a very close relation to mine, because I also addressed the issued 1,2 and 5, but instead of focusing on a more general point of view, I put a perspective of appearance of life and evolution. I also talked about protein signaling, but in the perspective of evolution. The mathematics I based upon my essay, was also similar, base on operators which measure thresholds, which I think it is the most basic element which mathematics and biology share: inequality relations.

I propose that the most basic form of life are chemical clocks (since they are fundamentally about inequality relations, which results in osculation), where they started in the primitive oceans, carried by currents. and evolved in trying to find against turbulence and against instability caused by their encounters. Life as we know happened when some of these chemical clocks adapted to function within alkaline hydrothermal vents, where organic chemicals were probably in abundance. This is the link to my essay. I would be very happy if you commented there:

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2846

Thank you for your time!

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Daniel de França Diniz Rocha replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 17:14 GMT
Sorry, I posted there without being logged in.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 20:46 GMT
Dear Daniel,

>> " I also talked about protein signaling, but in the perspective of evolution."

A very valid perspective. please see my reply to Bill above.

>> "The mathematics I based upon my essay, was also similar, base on operators which measure thresholds, which I think it is the most basic element which mathematics and biology share: inequality relations."

Well they can form a key element of logical operations. So I think that can well agree with my view. In particular the voltage gated ion channels are based on inequality relations.

>> "I propose that the most basic form of life are chemical clocks (since they are fundamentally about inequality relations, which results in osculation)"

Maybe oscillation??

>> "where they started in the primitive oceans, carried by currents. and evolved in trying to find against turbulence and against instability caused by their encounters. Life as we know happened when some of these chemical clocks adapted to function within alkaline hydrothermal vents, where organic chemicals were probably in abundance."

An interesting idea. They still need to get reproduction going. Maybe clocks are a good starting point.

regards



Daniel de França Diniz Rocha replied on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 13:33 GMT
Dear Geogte

Yes, oscillation. Sorry, for taking long to answer here, but it seems we are not notified when someone else answers on other people's entries... But I would like you to comment there and see really what I wrote in the paper. Would mind? There are also many other things there...

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/2846

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Erik P Hoel wrote on Mar. 8, 2017 @ 22:13 GMT
Hi George, thanks so much for this essay. I thought your delineation between underlying natural laws versus logical functions was interesting, but I had a question about it.

You say that: "The key point is that the functions T(X), F1(Y) and F2(Z) are not determined by the underlying physical laws; they can be shaped by evolutionary or developmental processes in highly complex ways (as for example in the citric acid cycle), or planned by human thought to produce any desired outcome."

I was wondering what you mean by saying that functions "are not determined by the underlying physical laws"? Because the definition of supervenience is that the lower level properties of something determine (or fix) its higher level properties. The higher level functions you describe will supervene on their underlying physical laws. That is, the higher level functions definitionally will be determined by whatever is going on at underlying lower levels. Even something shaped by evolutionary processes is still going to be fixed in its properties by its underlying lower levels.

Thanks so much for your time!

Erik P Hoel

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 07:06 GMT
Dear Eric

thanks for that, it is a key question (which faces you just as much as me!).

First, please see my answer to Bill above (Mar. 8, 2017 @ 20:38 GMT). Superveniece happens at each instant - thus if my brain has a specific set of detailed cortical connections and also specific set of excitations then it can recall and argue logically about arbitrary theories T. the underlying...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 07:37 GMT
Addendum:

Francis Crick famously made the following comment: " 'you,' your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules." Now from a truly reductionist point of view, this is quite funny. Crick is denying causal power to the psychological level, but assigning such powers to the cellular and molecular level. But cells and molecules are made of protons and neutrons and electrons, which are made of quarks, and so on; if you are truly reductionist the entities Crick assigns causal powers to have no causal power because they supervene on the underlying physics.

So why does he assign causal power to that level? - its because its the level he works at and understands! And if they do indeed have causal power - which they do - it is because they orchestrate the movement of electrons and ions at the lower levels through the structuring of the brain and the action of signal transduction networks and gene regulatory networks. Thus as emphasized by Denis Noble, every level is equally real. They all have causal powers, realised in an orchestrated way. But the higher levels decide what will happen, such as baking a cake, and the lower levels carry out the work.

George



Erik P Hoel replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 14:14 GMT
Thank you very much for all this detail George. I appreciate it because it's very helpful to differentiate between our different approaches.

I think our key difference is how seriously we take what Jaegwon Kim called "the exclusion argument." If some higher level supervenes on some microphysical level, and the future of the system can be described entirely in terms of the dynamics of this...

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 04:35 GMT
No problem!

Professor Ellis, Here's a quote about a model— as in model theory.

It supports your axioms about Context!

Very Best Regards

Lee Bloomquist

.. "self = (self)"

Situation theory provides a coherent system, philosophically formal and with coherent mathematical foundations so far as the effect of situations on facts. Here, situations change the interpretation of facts, effectively altering the fact itself when examined. In the experienced world, multiple heterogeneous situations can bear on a fact, each time with a different emphasis.

self = (thinking, self)

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 11:12 GMT
Dear Lee

I like that quote very much. Very appropriate: "situations change the interpretation of facts, effectively altering the fact itself when examined"

That is precisely the kind of top-down effect that I consider in my writing on causation.

Regards

george




Richard David Stafford wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 07:44 GMT
I apologize to George Ellis and to everyone else for this comment on his "Key Role of Biomolecules" essay. I make this post for the simple reason that the essay subject is supposed to be what "How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intentions?" I have chosen his essay to post my comment because he has achieved the highest community rating and yet, from my perspective, does not...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 9, 2017 @ 12:46 GMT
You state

>> "If one accepts the "mindless mathematical laws" standing behind science (and absolutely nothing else) I then show that a great number of presumed "laws of science" must be true. In my opinion, this is a rather astounding conclusion and attacks the very issue as to how these mindless laws give rise to science (the very essence of "aims and intentions")."

It would indeed be an astounding conclusion if it were correct. However it is based on a category mistake. Mathematical laws are investigated by deductive process based in abstract logic. The "laws of science" are determined by painstaking theoretical analysis and experimental testing. There are many different ways mathematical laws could have given rise to physics, and we have to determine which are the relevant ones by that experimental process of scientific investigation. Claiming to deduce them without relying on the outcomes of experiment cannot reliably lead to the physical laws that describe accurately the behavior of matter, as many historical examples show.

>> "Over and over, you brings up common issues of modern science under the assumption that no defense of these propositions is warranted. (You clearly believe you are right!)"

I do indeed believe that common issues of modern science are correct, because of the vast basis of experimental testing they have undergone. I see no need whatever to defend that stance. If you wish to disbelieve modern science, good luck to you.




Avtar Singh wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 19:26 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis:

Your paper eloquently and uniquely focuses on the purposefulness of biological systems and physical processes that support it. However, it ignores entirely the purposefulness of the universe and cosmic order governed by the universal laws at the top (deepest fundamental) level. Biological life appeared in the universe long after the birth of the universe and hence represents...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 05:22 GMT
Dear Avtar

>>"At the top level or cosmic level, universal laws represent a cosmic order of conservation of existence (mass/energy/space/time) stating that what exists always existed and will always exist. This is the genesis of the fundamental purpose of life to realize the eternity of all existence at cosmic level including the biological life at the lower level."

You are presenting metaphysical speculation about the purpose of life, which are matters of belief and hence controversial: others hold opposite views, and there is no way to *prove* that one is more correct than another. Stating "that what exists always existed and will always exist" is certainly not true if we refer to the physical level. So I don't know how you intend that to be interpreted.

From a cosmic perspective, i.e. in terms of what physical cosmology refers to, we cannot claim there is a purpose to the universe. From a philosophical perspective we can argue for such purpose, perhaps by referring to the existence of purposeful life in support of that argument. But physics by itself does not support that view. However physics is not all that there is, there are many other dimensions to causality and existence in the real universe, such as ethics and aesthetics. They also give evidence about the nature of the universe.

regards

George Ellis



Avtar Singh replied on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 23:12 GMT
Dear George:

FQXi is a unique forum to address key open issues related to science that impact humanity and life. The mainstream science has treated the universe, laws, and fundamental particles as inanimate entities devoid of life, consciousness, or free will. As a result, the mainstream theories of science are also devoid of consciousness or free will. While science, especially quantum...

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Chi Ming Hung wrote on Mar. 10, 2017 @ 20:47 GMT
Dear Prof.Ellis,

It's always a pleasure to "attend" your talks/lectures (via YouTube mostly) and to read your essays/papers, including this one. Not sure whether this has been discussed in the many comments before, but it seems to me that "chance" does indeed play a crucial role when we discuss intentionality, because in both a purely deterministic and purely random universe, it's quite hard to imagine how one can have meaningful discussions about intentionality. While you did mention the possible role of chance in section 5.5 of your essay, it's just an afterthought. Could you please elaborate a bit more about the role of chance, especially in the form of quantum uncertainty? I'm particularly interested in this question because it happens to be the topic of my essay :)

Thanks!

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 05:36 GMT
Dear Chi Ming Hung

thanks for that. I elaborated on the role of chance in this article:. IN brief I argue that because of the role of quantum uncertainty, the specific present state of the universe is not predicted from initial data in the very early universe, hence genuine emergence (facilitated by a combination of bottom up and top down effects) must occur. I quote Samoilov, Price, and...

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Rajiv K Singh wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 06:36 GMT
In subsection 'Information usage', the term information is used as if it is a result of the interpretative logic of data, or as an inference drawn by an intelligent interpreter. But unless the system like brain has the ability to store, process, and transmit information by natural means, no information may ever come to reality. Therefore, either information has a reality of its own in the function of the universe, or it can never come about.

In eqn 5, it appeared, in the context C, if T(X) is observed, F1(Y) holds otherwise F2(Z) holds. That is, F1(Y) or F2(Y) were the conclusive information, not the specification of action. But in the cat example, they take the form of suggestive action. Because in the suggestion of action, 'aims and intentions' have already been implicitly included. Though it is possible that F1(Y) and F2(Z) are action outcomes of mindless physical laws without any suggestive part, then there is no 'aims and intentions'.

Starting from an example of bacteria, the author lays down a physicalist scenario of how to create more sophisticated form of bacteria (higher level organism), which can deal with more complex contexts. But then, if the bacteria did not have 'aims and intentions' even though it could take right actions, the more sophisticated organism also would have only a sophisticated action selector without having to deal with 'aims and intentions'. Representation of the information of the 'need' requiring action as a consequence is the key to the 'aims and intention'.

Furthermore, in order to express the need, there has to be an universal language suitable for nature to express abstractions of the need. I have attempted to deal with such issues in 'The Language of Nature'.

Rajiv

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 09:52 GMT
>> In subsection 'Information usage', the term information is used as if it is a result of the interpretative logic of data, or as an inference drawn by an intelligent interpreter. But unless the system like brain has the ability to store, process, and transmit information by natural means, no information may ever come to reality.

- correct. Information is an abstract entity that is...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 20:03 GMT
A general comment:

For those interested, here is a detailed paper by Bhutia et al on one specific set of logical interactions at the microbiology level in the plasma membrane of specific cell types, specifying the roles of citrate transporters (Figure 1) and citrate in the cytoplasm of neurons (Figure 2) [click on the top right hand corner of the figures in the webpage to see a readable version].

I emphasize the words "roles" and "functions" that occur in this paper. This fits in precisely with what I state about biology at the start of my essay, which has been queried by a number of commentators.




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 11, 2017 @ 21:28 GMT
And here is an article from the other end of the scale: the macro level of the brain.

"Neuroscience Needs Behavior: Correcting a Reductionist Bias"

by John W. Krakauer, Asif A. Ghazanfar, Alex Gomez-Marin,Malcolm A. MacIver, and David Poeppel.

Abstract: "There are ever more compelling tools available for neuroscience research, ranging from selective genetic targeting to optogenetic circuit control to mapping whole connectomes. These approaches are coupled with a deep-seated, often tacit, belief in the reductionist program for understanding the link between the brain and behavior. The aim of this program is causal explanation through neural manipulations that allow testing of necessity and sufficiency claims. We argue, however, that another equally important approach seeks an alternative form of understanding through careful theoretical and experimental decomposition of behavior. Specifically, the detailed analysis of tasks and of the behavior they elicit is best suited for discovering component processes and their underlying algorithms. In most cases, we argue that study of the neural implementation of behavior is best investigated after such behavioral work. Thus, we advocate a more pluralistic notion of neuroscience when it comes to the brain-behavior relationship: behavioral work provides understanding, whereas neural interventions test causality."

In other words, the logical work carried out at the psychological level is needed to understand what is going on.




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 05:30 GMT
General comment: Jonathan Kopel has suggested the following very interesting addition to my essay (shown in italics below):

4.2 The link of physics to logic: the molecular basis



The logic of what happens is enabled by voltage gated ion channels in axon and dendrite membranes [3, 11]. They lead to controlled flow of sodium, potassium and chlorine ions into and out of the...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 06:35 GMT
I should have added:

Jonathan J. Kopel is in the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC)



Rajiv K Singh replied on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 11:30 GMT
Dear George,

Since you have continued to take the points forward, I trust, you are interested in settling the issue.

>> Therefore, either information has a reality of its own in the function of the universe, or it can never come about.

- Not sure I understand that. Once it is realised, say in DNA or a brain or a computer, it has come about in a physical sense and does...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 19:44 GMT
Dear Rajiv

1. “all state descriptions of physical entities correlates with certain definitive information … given the laws of natural causation, the observed state must naturally correlate with, or bear an association with, or represent, information about the contextual relation among the interacting states that caused the state… ..all state descriptions of physical entities...

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Rajiv K Singh replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 10:59 GMT
Dear George,

Your responses this time allow us to move towards heartening convergence.

1. "all state descriptions of physical entities correlates with certain definitive information..."

- Indeed. But the processes carry on without worrying about whether anyone is making a description of the state or not. ... They just talk about either forces or potentials and the outcomes...

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Laurence Hitterdale wrote on Mar. 12, 2017 @ 23:16 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

Thank you for your thought-provoking essay. Are there examples of information collection, processing, and utilization outside of living things? Or is the logic of life found only in living things, and perhaps also in artifacts, such as computers, which are devised by living things? I realize of course that there is no purpose in the existence of most inanimate objects, or in their behavior. Your opening sentences and quotation clearly state this. However, information storage and logical operations can be physically realised in a variety of ways. In view of this variety, the question arises whether there might be a few instances, though rudimentary ones, of informational logic outside of biological systems. But perhaps informational logic is not only distinctive of living things but wholly confined to them.

Laurence Hitterdale

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 05:46 GMT
Dear Laurence Hitterdale

>> Are there examples of information collection, processing, and utilization outside of living things? Or is the logic of life found only in living things, and perhaps also in artifacts, such as computers, which are devised by living things?

This is an excellent question. The problem here is that it is notoriously difficult to define "information". In...

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Alexey/Lev Burov replied on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 21:33 GMT
Dear George, dear Laurence,

Thinking about a difference between, say, a fire and a living cell, I see essentially only one well-defined parameter which make them dramatically different: their complexity. Fire is essentially described by ~ 10 parameters (volume, pressure, temperature, chemical constituents, seems that's it). The fire existence is not sensitive to infinite number of its specific details, which dynamically change; fire is simple in that sense. To describe the living cell, many orders of magnitude more crucial parameters are needed. If only one of them were wrong, the cell would be dead.

All the best,

Alexey Burov.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 05:56 GMT
Dear Alexey

The difference is indeed complexity, but that is not easy to characterise in a meaningful way.

>>> The fire existence is not sensitive to infinite number of its specific details, which dynamically change; fire is simple in that sense.

Yes

>>> To describe the living cell, many orders of magnitude more crucial parameters are needed.

Yes. They relate to organised complexity - the parts have functional relations to the whole. They each serve a purpose.

>> If only one of them were wrong, the cell would be dead.

No. The cell is very robust - its mechanisms thrive on randomness, see Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos by Peter M. Hoffmann. It is digital computers that are sensitive in this way. The cell also has preferred range.

George




Member Tejinder Pal Singh wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 03:47 GMT
Dear George,

Excellent essay, beautifully written.

Is it possible to identify physics principles which underlie adaptive selection? Why does life sustain itself? Could it be that that there are some physical quantities that a living system tends to conserve, despite being an open system? Naively, it seems that the purpose of reproduction is to create more low entropy states (progeny) as the entropy of the parent(s) increases due to aging and eventual death.

Thanks and regards,

Tejinder

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 06:14 GMT
Dear Tejinder

>>> Is it possible to identify physics principles which underlie adaptive selection?

I don't think so: its an emergent law that requires for its formulation the concept of a living being. That is not a physics concept.

>>> Why does life sustain itself? Could it be that that there are some physical quantities that a living system tends to conserve, despite being an open system?

Well it exchanges matter and energy with the environment all the time (we eat many times our own weight each year!), nevertheless maintaining its essential nature (the famous fact that each of us will be made of completely different molecules in 7 years time but will still in some sense be the same person). So it maintains its physiological systems including the brain despite these interactions. That is a dynamic stability maintained via homeostasis and developmental processes that for example heal wounds.

>> Naively, it seems that the purpose of reproduction is to create more low entropy states (progeny) as the entropy of the parent(s) increases due to aging and eventual death.

This is something like what Jeremy England claims. I find it contradictory to talk about a purpose in relation to entropy production. The core nature of entropy production, as explained beautifully by Eddington and Penrose, is that is has no purpose; it is an outcome simply of randomness together with the nature of phase space

Regards

George




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 13, 2017 @ 07:25 GMT
Addendum:

>>> Is it possible to identify physics principles which underlie adaptive selection?

At a certain level, it is matter and energy conservation together with the 2nd Law of thermodynamics that underlie it, because we need usable energy and usable matter to live; we die without them. But this does not begin to take into account features such as predation on the one hand and reproduction on the other, which occur at the biological level.




Christopher D. Fiorillo wrote on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 11:06 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis,

Thank you for your interesting essay. I agree that the biological processes you describe are essential to the goals of biology. It is another matter whether they are essential to goals in general. It seems that you are only making an assertion when you state that goals are lacking in non-biological systems. You explicitly presented that as an assertion at the start, and...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 14, 2017 @ 20:30 GMT
Dear Christopher D. Fiorillo

Than you for your thoughtful comments.

>> It seems that you are only making an assertion when you state that goals are lacking in non-biological systems. You explicitly presented that as an assertion at the start, and I did not recognize a subsequent argument to support it.

Several others have raised similar issues; I am surprised by this....

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Christopher D. Fiorillo wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 08:30 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for your response. I now understand your ideas much better, and I think I see the main source of our disagreement. I understand you to mean that the dynamics of physical systems are bound to follow the laws of physics, whereas biological systems can follow many different dynamics depending on their design. I agree with that, at least as an approximate description.

You focus on the dynamics of a system, but I think it is important to distinguish the configuration of particles (structure) from the laws of dynamics (the laws of physics). The actual dynamics of a system will naturally depend on both the configuration and the laws, whether or not the system is biological. The laws of dynamics are the same for biological and non-biological systems, whereas the structures (configurations of particles) are different. The question then is whether there is a dichotomy between the configurations of biological and non-biological systems that corresponds to intentionality versus no intentionality. Do some configurations have intentions while others have none? I argue that there is not a dichotomy, but that biological configurations are better designed to survive (to be stable and grow). Biological systems are better at achieving the goal of survival. That probably does not make much sense as I have written it here, but hopefully it makes more sense in my essay.

Best wishes,

Christopher

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 10:13 GMT
Dear Christopher

> I understand you to mean that the dynamics of physical systems are bound to follow the laws of physics, whereas biological systems can follow many different dynamics depending on their design. I agree with that, at least as an approximate description.

Indeed. And a key point is that biological systems, and made made computational artefacts, can act in a top-down...

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George Simpson replied on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 16:36 GMT
Hello, I hope you don't mind me butting in here.

A sandpile or brick does not have intentions, neither does a fire or the wind or the sea, but a mouse or person does.

It seems to me we are blurring categories here. Goals are what mice can have, but aims and intentions only humans can have. I say this because people define new aims and intentions, whereas while mice may choose among different goals - this cheese or that - they can never formulate an aim or intention. Mice do not aim to put a mouse on the moon.

While the progress we have made towards understanding goal-oriented behaviour is considerable, the vast world of minds ideas, aims and intentions, is largely unexplored territory.

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Anonymous replied on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 19:03 GMT
Hello

You say "people define new aims and intentions, whereas while mice may choose among different goals - this cheese or that - they can never formulate an aim or intention. Mice do not aim to put a mouse on the moon."

Hmm, interesting. Not sure we know enough to be certain about the first sentence (the second is obvious). A mouse does not have an intention to build a nest? Or to clean itself? See 11-common-mouse-behaviors-explained/.

I suppose they key is you say "formulate" an intention. So can you have an intention that is not formulated, presumably in some kind of language, but rather is thought in some more intuitive way? I think this may be possible, at least in the cases of wolves, lions, and wales, which all hunt cooperatively, see e.g. Humpback Whale: Hunting Technique. They seem to set common goals, and somehow communicate them amongst themselves.

So to be safe, I'll meet your comment by reformulating as follows:

"A sandpile or brick does not have intentions, neither does a fire or the wind or the sea, but a whale or person does."

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 15, 2017 @ 19:04 GMT
Aaargh, that was me.




Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Mar. 16, 2017 @ 22:58 GMT
Dear George F. R. Ellis

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.

2) They usually enjoy this wander of their searches around it.

3) For millenniums this wander has been shared by a lot of creative people around the world.

4) What if suddenly, something considered quasi impossible to be found or discovered such as “Time” definition and experimental meaning confronts them?

5) Their reaction would be like, something unbelievable,… a kind of disappointment, probably interpreted as a loss of wander…..

6) ….worst than that, if we say that what was found or discovered wasn’t a viable theory, but a proved fact.

7) Then it would become offensive to be part of the millenary problem solution, instead of being a reason for happiness and satisfaction.

8) The reader approach to the news would be paradoxically adverse.

9) Instead, I think it should be a nice welcome to discovery, to be received with opened arms and considered to be read with full attention.

11)Time “existence” is exclusive as a “measuring system”, its physical existence can’t be proved by science, as the “time system” is. Experimentally “time” is “movement”, we can prove that, showing that with clocks we measure “constant and uniform” movement and not “the so called Time”.

12)The original “time manuscript” has 23 pages, my manuscript in this contest has only 9 pages.

I share this brief with people interested in “time” and with physicists who have been in sore need of this issue for the last 50 or 60 years.

Héctor

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 17, 2017 @ 05:12 GMT
Dear Héctor Daniel Gianni

I note that you believe you understand time better than all physicists. Perhaps you are unaware that many physicists have spent a great deal of time looking at the nature of time.

I invite you read my work The Evolving Block Universe and the Meshing Together of Times.

George Ellis




Jack Hamilton James wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 00:57 GMT
Dear George,

Thanks for helping me understand TOC and Emergence. You may like this short informal essay I wrote upon further reflection.

Best,

Jack

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 06:16 GMT
Dear Jack,

thanks. Nice essay.

George




Shaikh Raisuddin wrote on Mar. 18, 2017 @ 15:31 GMT
George F. R. Ellis,

What is the difference between "random" and "purposeful" behaviour?

Randomness is an insignia of lack of control. While purposefulness means things are "controlled" to produce a desired or predictable outcome. For example radioactivity is random but it becomes purposeful when harnessed in atomic reactors where there is a system of controls.

Your essay is missing the design and development or formation of system of control for goal-directed behabviour.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 19, 2017 @ 04:57 GMT
Shaikh Raisuddin

In this essay, I was making other points.

If you look at my book on top down causation, systems of control for goal-directed behaviour are characterised as providing one form of top-down causation (TD2). Their formation and development by natural methods is via adaptive selection, which is another form of top-down caausation (TD3); the purposeful design and development or formation is by adaptive selection of feedback goals (TD4) and adaptive selection of adaptive selecetion criteria (TD5).




Member Tommaso Bolognesi wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 10:48 GMT
Dear George,

I found the idea to distill the logic of Physics and Life by two fundamental formulas quite brilliant!

Formula (1) involves an equal sign ‘=‘ which is not found in formula (5), but the two examples provided (cat and fuel control) suggest that assignments ‘:=‘ of values to variables are involved. Would it be meaningful to distinguish between ‘=‘ and ‘:=‘...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 18:25 GMT
Dear Tomasso

Thanks for that.

>>> Formula (1) involves an equal sign ‘=‘ which is not found in formula (5), but the two examples provided (cat and fuel control) suggest that assignments ‘:=‘ of values to variables are involved. Would it be meaningful to distinguish between ‘=‘ and ‘:=‘ (e.g., ‘assignment’ perhaps suggesting some form of...

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 17:43 GMT
Dear George Ellis

You collected a good inventarium of logical gates in living creatures. But according to all this it seems that you think that free-will is not necessary, because logical gates do everything? With the exception, that you maybe think that top down causation includes free-will?

I am interested also in your opinion about quantum consciousness and about quantum biology,...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 18:45 GMT
Dear Janko Kokosar

too many items to answer all, I'll deal with a few.

>> But according to all this it seems that you think that free-will is not necessary, because logical gates do everything? With the exception, that you maybe think that top down causation includes free-will?

I did not say free will is not necessary, I was only dealing with the lower level foundations that may help meaningful free will emerge

>>> You, Hoel and Sara Walker write positively about top-down causation. Is here in this contest anyone else? I like analysis of this causation, although I think that this is not all what explains life. As I wrote, I think that consciousness and free will are also important factors.

Indeed they are. I did not write about top down causation here because I did that in a previous essay.

>> You are against influence of gravity, what is common sense.

I am not against the influence of gravity. It just is not important in the way that neurons function.

>>> You separate physics and biology. I do not. By my opinion, everything is physics, also information, principles of computer working, etc.

I think that physics provides the foundations for these things to happen, but they involve other forms of causation than just physical.

>> What interpretation of quantum mechanics do you prefer?.. quantum mechanics is valid everywhere, not only on the first level, there are some experiments, which shows similarly.

It is only valid everywhere on some scales, not on all scales. See lanl.arxiv.org/abs/1108.5261 for a full discussion.

>>> I claim that some sort of consciousness exists also in unicellular creatures. I claim for panpsychism. What is your opinion?

I don't understand it.

Best regards,

George Ellis



Janko Kokosar replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 18:58 GMT
Dear George Ellis

>>>>>> I claim that some sort of consciousness exists also in unicellular creatures. I claim for panpsychism. What is your opinion?

>>>I don't understand it.

Panpsychism is defended also by Tononi and Koch, therefore it is not an unimportant theory. My variant of panpsychism is that the basic elements of consciousness are collapses...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 20:14 GMT
Dear Janko Kokosar

Thanks for the post. I'll have to read more about panspychism. There is a nice Wikipedia article about it: Panpsychism.

Regards

George Ellis




James Lee Hoover wrote on Mar. 20, 2017 @ 21:28 GMT
George,

Just ran across a new book in NY Times Book Review that seems relevant to this discussion called Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. Prior books in his series trace man's evolution. This book sees living creatures as an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection. His vision is that humans are doomed by superhuman biological or computational machines. Do you think man can somehow duplicate "the key link between physics and life .. of voltage-gated ion channels" your abstract speaks of?

Jim Hoover

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 06:52 GMT
Dear Jim,

>>> This book sees living creatures as an assemblage of organic algorithms shaped by natural selection.

That seems to fit nicely with my view.

>>> His vision is that humans are doomed by superhuman biological or computational machines.

What are they made of? How do they come into existence? If they are made by humans, how do they escape our control? Is he supposing they will be conscious? I think we are more likely to be doomed because of the actions of humans.

>>> Do you think man can somehow duplicate "the key link between physics and life .. of voltage-gated ion channels" your abstract speaks of?

Not impossible. Synthetic biology is now a very active field, creating designed macro-molecules.

Regards

George




Akinbo Ojo wrote on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 14:02 GMT
A very interesting contribution sir.

You use reproduction as the hallmark to differentiate living organisms that have purpose from non-living like rocks and stars. This distinction has its own blurry aspects as you also mentioned, fire being an example of something that can start small, grow big and reproduce. It can also be said to have a metabolism of sorts, ‘breathing’ in oxygen and ‘breathing’ out carbon dioxide; ‘dying’ if deprived of nutrients and flourishing in the abundance of nutrients. On the other hand we have certain viruses that can be classified as non-living since they cannot carry out any metabolism neither can they reproduce on their own but require living cells to do so.

With regard to your statement, “Life depends on adaptation to its environment”, would you support the theory that dinosaurs became extinct because of a change in Earth gravity which subsequently made them heavier? This theory is not originally mine but I also referred to it in my essay as a possible evidence along with other terrestrial ones that Earth mass/gravity is not a constant but has varied. It may be an example of how physics determines the variety of life.

Best regards,

Akinbo

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 21, 2017 @ 14:18 GMT
Dear Akinbo

I agree with your first statement.

As to the second,

>>> With regard to your statement, “Life depends on adaptation to its environment”, would you support the theory that dinosaurs became extinct because of a change in Earth gravity which subsequently made them heavier?

No I don't: Dirac proposed that the strength of gravity might change with time, but we have not found evidence that supports that theory.

best regards,

George




Robert Groess wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 03:45 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for your beautiful and concise essay. It inspired me to think about the specifics of biomolecules and carbon in particular which makes it so unusual and essential to biological processes (as we know them). I have also come to appreciate the importance of simultaneous emergence and realization across multiple levels of scale. The second last sentence in your conclusion succinctly summarizes what I thought this essay contest was all about. "The key thing that enabled this all to happen was the origin of life, when adaptive evolutionary processes came into being."

I have already rated your essay a few weeks ago, but I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it.

Best regards,

Robert

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 05:17 GMT
Dear Robert

many thanks, appreciated

George




Yehuda Atai wrote on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 16:22 GMT
Hi George,

Very interesting essay especially the loop feedback between "Higher level controls of gene expression" and the "protein machinery".

I would suggests that selections (higher or lower levels) are not based on Causality principle unless the selection result is inevitable. i.e. Causality is a special case in the occurrence of a phenomenon and the mode of selection of an action out of many (or few) potential action is related to the best optimal equilibrium for the phenomenon, especially (or even) if it is a "Protein Machinery". Philosophically speaking there is Freedom of Choice even in the Protein machinery" .

In my philosophical essay: "We are together, therefore I am" I expand the subject and explain how we ratify reality and maintain our self-organization while we ever changing in the continuous present.

thanks for your insights

Yehuda Atai

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 18:08 GMT
Dear Yehuda

>>> I would suggests that selections (higher or lower levels) are not based on Causality principle unless the selection result is inevitable.

Well selection is based on having a variety of things to choose from, and they are usually a random set so the result is not inevitable because of this randomness. Any one of a number of solutions that is good enough will do.

>> i.e. Causality is a special case in the occurrence of a phenomenon and the mode of selection of an action out of many (or few) potential action is related to the best optimal equilibrium for the phenomenon,

In the case of living systems, it may not be an equilibrium solution. It might be dynamic. Nevertheless selection to fulfill some goal can be regarded as an emergent causal principle.

>. Philosophically speaking there is Freedom of Choice even in the Protein machinery"

At that level, I'd rather say there is a lack of determinism.

Regards

George Ellis




Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 09:28 GMT
Dear George

I enjoyed reading your essay, as regards how purpose emerges in biological systems. No doubt this is a hot area, and the emerging field of quantum biology will be one to watch.

I wanted to suggest my own interpretation of the fundamental laws of physics. I note a few of the other essayists have challenged the idea that inanimate life - which includes the laws of the universe - is devoid of purpose. Obviously these laws of physics have an enabling function which serves to allow for the existence of complex life forms. I will summarise some of the argument from my essay From Nothingness to Value Ethics here.

If the universe began from nothing (and multiple lines of evidence suggest this to be a possibility) then it is responsible, within itself, for the creation of the what/when/where that we call "reality". This may be an open-ended process - indeed the universe seems to go on creating time and space in an unlimited fashion. So where can we go from this fairly justifiable set of statements to a deeper understanding of the "what"?

The majority of the laws of the universe, in combination, create a matrix in which complexity can continually expand in a seemingly limitless fashion. The laws may be unchanging by necessity, as to change the fundamental laws of reality would disrupt the whole process. Therefore the laws may have a purpose that is more than analogous to those that support space and time - a complexity dimension, as I call it, allowing for an open-ended creation of "what-ness".

Best regards

Gavin

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 25, 2017 @ 11:41 GMT
Dear Gavin

>>> I note a few of the other essayists have challenged the idea that inanimate life - which includes the laws of the universe - is devoid of purpose. Obviously these laws of physics have an enabling function which serves to allow for the existence of complex life forms.

Correct.

>>> If the universe began from nothing (and multiple lines of...

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Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 10:05 GMT
Dear George

Thanks for your thoughts on this line of reasoning. Our first major point of difference was:

GR> If the universe began from nothing (and multiple lines of evidence suggest this to be a possibility) then it is responsible, within itself, for the creation of the what/when/where that we call "reality".

GE> I can't agree that multiple lines of evidence suggest...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 10:48 GMT
Hi Gavin

>>> ""How did the universe begin? Even before we ask this question we should perhaps ask - did it, indeed, have a beginning? Multiple lines of evidence strongly suggest that it did, and since 1965, when Penzias and Wilson discovered the microwave background radiation, most have considered the evidence to be overwhelming. It appears as if the universe began in an explosion (the “Big Bang”) approximately 13.7 billion years ago, and has been expanding ever since."

The use of nomenclature is confusing here. We believe that very early on, the universe underwent a period of `inflation', a rapidly accelerating expansion when the universe expanded a huge amount. This epoch lasted an incredibly short time; at its end, ordinary matter and radiation came into being through the decay of the field that drove inflation, giving rise to a very hot mixture of matter and radiation. Nowadays cosmologists refer to the Hot Big Bang as the era after inflation, up to the time of decoupling of matter and radiation. This is indeed about 13.7 billion years ago, and we have very good evidence for existence of this epoch. However we have no solid evidence as to what happened before inflation - when quantum gravity would have ruled supreme. Some quantum gravity theories suggest the universe had no beginning, but this is subject to dispute: others claim the universe must have had a singular start. We do not know which is correct.

So the evidence for the hot big bang era is very strong. This is not the same as evidence the Universe had a beginning, which refers to a earlier time. And even if we had such evidence, that would not necessarily mean the universe "came from nothing", whatever that paradoxical statement means.

Regards

George Ellis




Gavin William Rowland wrote on Mar. 26, 2017 @ 11:54 GMT
Hi George

Yes I am talking cosmic origin - pre inflation, first moment. There are a lot of assumptions in the standard discourse here, and the focus is too narrow, too driven by theoretical physicists. "Quantum gravity would have reigned supreme" - who knows whether there even IS such a thing as quantum gravity. Quantum gravity "theories" are not theories in the proper sense. They are mathematical playgrounds for theoretical physicists and they tend to create more unsolved problems rather than solve problems. String theory itself assumes supersymmetry, which is basically dead in the water thanks to the negative results of supercollider experiments. For all we know quantum and gravity may be separate entities created in those first moments. To ASSUME that we have the right kind of models here may be a mistake.

Regards

Gavin

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 06:27 GMT
Hi Gavin

yes the discussion is driven by theoretical physicists because they deal with the mechanisms that are relevant. I agree it is possible there is no such thing as quantum gravity - but that is a theoretical physics discussion.

I stated "I can't agree that multiple lines of evidence suggest universe began from nothing. I don't know what such evidence would be." That remains my position. Your discussion is interesting but is a philosophical discussion that does not provide such evidence.

>> " But I hope to demonstrate that thinking metaphysically from a cosmic origin ex nihilo is worthwhile"

- I don't dispute that. But precisely because its a metaphysical argument, it is not *evidence* as to whether it happened or did not happen. It's an argument about what the outcome would be *if* it did happen. That can give philosophical reasons for preferring that option to others. It's still philosophical reasoning.

Regards

George



Anonymous replied on Mar. 27, 2017 @ 10:20 GMT
Hi George

In the abstract of my essay, I say "Foundational problems are often approached from the point of view of the current theoretical framework. That is, taking our current understanding of the universe, and attempting to rework that framework to satisfy the gaps in our understanding. I propose that many foundational problems would be better approached by starting with the origin of...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 11:57 GMT
Dear Gavin

To make it fly, you'd need to show what mathematical laws express this progression, and then suggest how we might test them.

Regards

george




David Pinyana wrote on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 11:31 GMT
George, I see you will be one of the winers of this first essay contest... congratulations, I already read your essay and rated it.

Please, consider to have into account my essay which main proposal is:

"A essay that could revolutionize the future of Cosmological Physics: Aristotle, Newton, Einstein,…"

The Dynamic Laws of Physics (and Universal Gravitation) have varied over time, and even Einstein had already proposed that they still has to evolve:

ARISTOTLE: F = m.v

NEWTON: F = m.a

EINSTEIN. E = m.c2 (*)

MOND: F = m.a.(A/A0)

FRACTAL RAINBOW: F = f (scale) = m.a.(scale factor)

Or better G (Gravity Constant) vary with the scale/distance due to fractal space-time: G = f ( Scale/distance factor)

(*) This equation does not correspond to the same dynamic concept but has many similarities.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 11:59 GMT
Dear David

thanks for that. However I can't see how it relates to the essay topic.




Cristinel Stoica wrote on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 17:54 GMT
Dear George,

I enjoyed reading your essay, which is well written and very logical in proposing an answer to the question "How can a universe that is ruled by natural laws give rise to aims and intentions?" in terms of voltage gated ion channel. I liked how you identified logical processes in living systems, and give examples from real life, and resumed these to "biomolecules perform logical operations". If I understand well, this makes possible to identify into living beings computations similar to those taking place into a computer, and propose explanations of how these came into being. While quantum interactions are involved, this seems to be limited to classical logic. Do you believe it is possible to also have biological equivalents of quantum gates in the living beings? Also, do you think it is possible that biomolecules computations can make an important breakthrough in computation? Also, may I suggest a reference that may be of interest to you (more at chemlambda project).

Best regards,

Cristi Stoica

The Tablet of the Metalaw

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 28, 2017 @ 19:26 GMT
Dear Cristi

many thanks for that.

>> Do you believe it is possible to also have biological equivalents of quantum gates in the living beings?

It is perhaps within the bounds of possibility, give the evidence for quantum effects e.g. in the way birds detect magnetic fields

>> Also, do you think it is possible that biomolecules computations can make an important breakthrough in computation?

An interesting question. It is not so much the individual molecules that perform complex computations, but the networks in which they are imbedded, which do indeed do very complex logical computation; but the question is how programmable they are. I'd be open minded about this; they are certainly contextually controlled. The key point is how robust these bio-operations are, in contrast to digital computers that crash if a single full stop is out of place. So you are pointing out a very interesting question.

>> Also, may I suggest a reference that may be of interest to you (more at chemlambda project).

Thank you - that is indeed interesting.

Best regards

George Ellis




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 12:33 GMT
Hi Christi

I have now looked at your chemlab example, and it is right on target except for one thing:

"We present chemlambda (or the chemical concrete machine), an artificial chemistry with the following properties: (a) is Turing complete, (b) has a model of decentralized, distributed computing associated to it, (c) works at the level of individual (artificial) molecules, subject of reversible, but otherwise deterministic interactions with a small number of enzymes, (d) encodes information in the geometrical structure of the molecules and not in their numbers, (e) all interactions are purely local in space and time."

(e) is not true in biological modules such as a cell, because local interactions are influenced by signalling molecules coming from the larger context, see Figure 2 in my Essay. But the project could be broadened to include such top-down effects. Just one other thing: they express their project in terms of lambda-calculus. I wonder if there might not be a clearer way to express it?

Best regards

George Ellis




Georgina Woodward wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 19:07 GMT
Hi George,

you have written a lot of great stuff. It is good that you have described how biology can arise from simple underlying physics and that emergence has a role to play too.

I don't think selection is needs based though. Needs are for something not yet existing or certain. Instead it is based on advantage existing Now, in those life and death situations, and competition for resources, territory and mates. The peacock tail is a good example. There is no need for it for survival but it provides advantage in the Now of courtship of a peahen.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 29, 2017 @ 19:22 GMT
Hi Georgina

>>> I don't think selection is needs based though. Needs are for something not yet existing or certain. Instead it is based on advantage existing Now, in those life and death situations, and competition for resources, territory and mates. The peacock tail is a good example. There is no need for it for survival but it provides advantage in the Now of courtship of a peahen.

- interesting thought. I think it can be either. "Needs are for something not yet existing or certain" - well in evolutionary history this applies to coming into being of sight and wings. But one also gets examples like the peacock tail. So I'll go for either being a possible driver.



Georgina Woodward replied on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 01:41 GMT
Hi George, thanks for your reply.

How do the lower level physical processes, like electrostatic attractions, or higher level selection from the population, know/decide what is not yet but is needed and so should be formed? I think they don't.

The outcome of a change can provide an advantage without there having been prior identification of need or design for a purpose. E.g. a mutation providing better flight feathers, allowing better flight rather than fluttering, can lead to these types having greater chances of survival and reproductive success. It is only in hindsight that it can be argued that the better feathers were intended for better flight. Tomasso Bolognesi talks about the this issue of linguistics in his essay.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 05:01 GMT
Dear Georgina,

thank you for that and for your pointing out the relevance of Bolognesi's interesting essay. I agree with a lot but crucially disagree with him in some aspects. He says,

>> TB: "I guess you are tempted to criticise my approach as being too restrictive, since: (i) it illustrates artificial processes, like computer programs, but ignores natural processes; (ii) it...

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Jesse Liu wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 08:09 GMT
Dear George,

This is a really lucidly written and interesting essay - thank you such an enjoyable read from which I learned greatly. As a particle physicist in training, many of the more biological concepts I learned in writing our essay with my coauthor were new but therefore fascinating, especially drawing similarities and contrasting differences with fundamental physics. I particularly enjoyed you making the logical formalism of contextual decisions and selection process so accessible. I'd have to read more about your biological example of ion channels, but your argument that protein structures provide a key link between the micro and macro is very interesting.

Our submission also tries to reconcile how fundamental physics could be reconciled with emergence of goal-oriented phenomena, but from a slightly bigger picture view and examining the role of information. While we could not do justice to top-down causation due to our scope and essay constraints, I'd like to extend my gratitude for your influential work in the subject when we were doing our literature survey. It is certainly an idea largely absent from my world of collider physics, which as you've argue probably should not be so. We took a good deal of inspiration from Walker and Davies for addressing the essay question, which of course contains top-down causation at its fundamental level.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning a lot about the scientific literature written in this field about the origin of life from your work, and look forward to reading further in the future.

Best,

Jesse

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 30, 2017 @ 13:15 GMT
Dear Jesse

thank you for those kind words. I think your nice essay and mine are essentially in agreement, just dealing with different aspects. You might note the discussion above with Georgina about the difference between goals and adaptive selection criteria.

I particularly agree with your statement "information has two hallmarks: 1) substrate independence|we regard information without referring to its medium of instantiation; 2) interoperability|we move information across media and its properties are unchanged" The same two points underlie the way logic works, as outlined in my essay. And of course I agree with the Walker and Davies proposal you quote: "Life begins as a phase transition when information gains top-down causal efficacy over the matter that instantiates it."

I also agree about the transition to intelligence "to a distinct phase of `high intelligence' distinguished by metacognition|the awareness of our own cognitive state and the wider environment ... language provides a powerful means of information storage, synthesis and propagation for an agent to achieve goals". I wish I understood more the neural mechanisms that made this last step possible: how our brains differ from those of the great apes in such a way as to make systematic symbolic structures possible. There is some kind of qualitative change there, not just quantitative (i.e. larger brains)

Best wishes

George




Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 16:25 GMT
george, i apologise for pointing this out, but are you aware that your essay is a whopping 80% over the set character limit of 25,000 keystrokes for this contest? i did notice that you've corrected the error of the number of pages (one paragraph was over onto page 10) but the number of keystrokes used is somewhere around 45,000 when the limit is clearly set at 25,000 "characters" (keystrokes).

i initially thought that the limit was 9 pages or 25,000 *words* (which is much more practical) and was forced to cut my essay length in half on extreme short notice, destroying much of the logical linear flow and removing much of its content in the process.

in speaking to brendan foster multiple times regarding the fact that a huge number of the essays are well over-limit i have not received a response. i wondered if you had had any success in speaking with him or had observed that your essay is one which does not meet the contest's criteria for submissions.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 17:45 GMT
luke, if you use the online character counter provided by fqxi here on my essay, you will find out the following:

"Your file contains 24,323 characters",

which happens to be less than 25,000 characters.

i apologise for pointing this out, but the rules say "The length of the body of the essay must not exceed 9 pages, including figures and equations... The following can be appended to these 9 pages: one page of references, and up to two pages of technical endnotes." Thus there is no error in my number of pages: I have 9 pages of text, one of references, and one of notes. I have no idea why you say one paragraph was over onto page 10.




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Mar. 31, 2017 @ 17:53 GMT
addendum:

using the character counter on your untitled essay produces the following result:

"Your file contains 17,716 characters"




Héctor Daniel Gianni wrote on Apr. 1, 2017 @ 23:47 GMT
Dear George F. R. Ellis

I invite you and every physicist to read my work “TIME ORIGIN,DEFINITION AND EMPIRICAL MEANING FOR PHYSICISTS, Héctor Daniel Gianni ,I’m not a physicist.

How people interested in “Time” could feel about related things to the subject.

1) Intellectuals interested in Time issues usually have a nice and creative wander for the unknown.

2) They usually enjoy this wander of their searches around it.

3) For millenniums this wander has been shared by a lot of creative people around the world.

4) What if suddenly, something considered quasi impossible to be found or discovered such as “Time” definition and experimental meaning confronts them?

5) Their reaction would be like, something unbelievable,… a kind of disappointment, probably interpreted as a loss of wander…..

6) ….worst than that, if we say that what was found or discovered wasn’t a viable theory, but a proved fact.

7) Then it would become offensive to be part of the millenary problem solution, instead of being a reason for happiness and satisfaction.

8) The reader approach to the news would be paradoxically adverse.

9) Instead, I think it should be a nice welcome to discovery, to be received with opened arms and considered to be read with full attention.

11)Time “existence” is exclusive as a “measuring system”, its physical existence can’t be proved by science, as the “time system” is. Experimentally “time” is “movement”, we can prove that, showing that with clocks we measure “constant and uniform” movement and not “the so called Time”.

12)The original “time manuscript” has 23 pages, my manuscript in this contest has only 9 pages.

I share this brief with people interested in “time” and with physicists who have been in sore need of this issue for the last 50 or 60 years.

Héctor

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 05:16 GMT
Fear Hector

This is spam. It is a duplicate message of one already posted here, and on many other threads.

I answered it above.

I suggest you learn some physics.

George Ellis




Member Marc Séguin wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 04:33 GMT
Dear George,

Congratulations for a great essay. I learned a lot of new things about biology, but I found it particularly interesting since I have been thinking a lot lately about "top-down causation" --- or as you quite rightly prefer to call it, "realisation". I particularly liked how you described your views to Rick Searle in one of the above posts:

"Biology and thinking are...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 05:23 GMT
Dear Marc,

thank you for those kind words.

>>> "I believe now that giving any label to the ground level of existence (abstract, concrete, physical, mental, material, mathematical, computational, even "divine") is bound to be problematic. I recently read about "neutral monism", the simple view that there is "something" unique that unifies and underlies all of reality, without being commital about its nature. In our current understanding of the universe, I think it is a reasonable position to take. "

I think that is a reasonable position. When we talk about the ground level, we are trying to use human words to understand things that are beyond human experience. That effort is bound to fail in some regards. Our words and equations are partial models of the true complexity that exists out there, and it is probably a mistake to believe they encompass all elements of reality, as some of my colleagues do.

>>> "I think that by combining emergence and realisation, we can imagine that, out of all the ways a universe can be, regular domains are somehow "singled out". This could explain the fact that the universe is understandable without having to postulate regular laws of physics as an unexplainable starting point."

I take them as effective laws, that somehow emerge from a deeper reality.

Thanks for your thoughts.

George



Alexey/Lev Burov replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 03:06 GMT
Dear George,

Does your agreement with that empty "neutral monism" mean that Einstein was wrong, that science without religion is actually not lame?

Thank you,

Alexey Burov.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 18:19 GMT
Dear Alexey Burov

I don't believe I took a stance on neutral monism, I have no view on it; and I did not say that Einstein was wrong on anything

Anyhow this is off topic.

George Ellis




Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 09:22 GMT
Dear George F. R. Ellis

If you believed in the principle of identity of space and matter of Descartes, then your essay would be even better. There is not movable a geometric space, and is movable physical space. These are different concepts.

I inform all the participants that use the online translator, therefore, my essay is written badly. I participate in the contest to familiarize English-speaking scientists with New Cartesian Physic, the basis of which the principle of identity of space and matter. Combining space and matter into a single essence, the New Cartesian Physic is able to integrate modern physics into a single theory. Let FQXi will be the starting point of this Association.

Don't let the New Cartesian Physic disappear! Do not ask for himself, but for Descartes.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential in understanding the world. To show potential in this essay I risked give "The way of the materialist explanation of the paranormal and the supernatural" - Is the name of my essay.

Visit my essay and you will find something in it about New Cartesian Physic. After you give a post in my topic, I shall do the same in your theme

Sincerely,

Dizhechko Boris

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 17:49 GMT
Dear Dizhechko Boris

This is yet another spam posting - identical irrelevant posting on a lot of other people's threads.

I won't be giving you a post on the topic.

Sincerely

George Ellis




Natesh Ganesh wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 20:05 GMT
Professor Ellis,

I am back again! We had a conversation much earlier on your page about top-down causation (/realization, which I must admit I find as the more agreeable term). I have gone away to better understand the idea and viewed some wonderful lectures on it. I have a few questions/thoughts that I figured I will clarify with you.

In the models I work with, I assume that the brain can behave like a Markov finite state automata and it's next state can be affected by external inputs and current states. If we are the view the macrostates of the cortex for example at a certain level, as such states of finite state automata, with many microstates in the cortex functionally corresponding to the same macrostate; is it correct to say the current macrostate to next macrostate mappings are confining the microstate mappings? Would this fall under top-down realization, with the microstates belonging to each macrostate corresponding to equivalence classes?

Thanks

Natesh

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 07:12 GMT
Dear Natesh

thanks for that.

>> If we are the view the macrostates of the cortex for example at a certain level, as such states of finite state automata, with many microstates in the cortex functionally corresponding to the same macrostate; is it correct to say the current macrostate to next macrostate mappings are confining the microstate mappings?

Essentially yes. "A finite-state machine (FSM) or finite-state automaton (FSA, plural: automata), finite automaton, or simply a state machine, is a mathematical model of computation. It is an abstract machine that can be in exactly one of a finite number of states at any given time."

- that describes the logical operations you are modelling, which thus represents logic happening at the psychological level. It is realised in physical terms via the spike trains of axon potentials which in turn are realised through ions flowing through voltage gated ion channels. But it is the logic of the FSM, realised through all the lower levels of causation acting simultaneously in accordance with this high level logic, which drives what happens at those lower levels. That is why you are able to meaningfully model the brain in this way.

>> Would this fall under top-down realization, with the microstates belonging to each macrostate corresponding to equivalence classes?

Exactly so. The identical FSM logic can be implemented by many different detailed flows of ions through the ion channels (there is a huge statistical variation at those levels) which all result in precisely the same logic emerging at the psychological level. The concept of lower level equivalence classes that correspond to a higher level state or action is key to top-down causation.

Regards

George



Natesh Ganesh replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 14:34 GMT
Professor Ellis,

"- that describes the logical operations you are modelling, which thus represents logic happening at the psychological level. It is realised in physical terms via the spike trains of axon potentials which in turn are realised through ions flowing through voltage gated ion channels. But it is the logic of the FSM, realised through all the lower levels of causation acting simultaneously in accordance with this high level logic, which drives what happens at those lower levels."

--> I should be able go to an high enough level, where I can view the whole brain as a single macrostate that maintains itself as it receives inputs and generates outputs. This would be a top down realization with the single whole brain macrostate (with the property being a stable structure) thus placing the top-down constraint of being a stable macrostate, on how lower psychological state levels would map onto each other. Would you agree?

If the above is a reasonable statement in line with top-down realization, it adds a lot to my understanding. If a larger macrostate is maintained as described above, the fluctuation theorems can be used to convert this into an equivalent thermodynamic constraint. And the brain can be seen as a special realization of this top-down thermodynamic constraint. Think this is what I showed in my work, but without the vocabulary of top-down realization, it always felt like a piece was missing.

Thanks for answering my questions.

Natesh

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 15:23 GMT
Dear Natesh

>>> I should be able go to an high enough level, where I can view the whole brain as a single macrostate that maintains itself as it receives inputs and generates outputs.

Well it would have to be a very high dimensional macro state. With that understanding, yes.

>>> This would be a top down realization with the single whole brain macrostate (with the property being a stable structure) thus placing the top-down constraint of being a stable macrostate, on how lower psychological state levels would map onto each other. Would you agree?

Yes: it would chain down the various levels till it reaches the electronic level

>> If a larger macrostate is maintained as described above, the fluctuation theorems can be used to convert this into an equivalent thermodynamic constraint. And the brain can be seen as a special realization of this top-down thermodynamic constraint.

Ok I'll have to look at that. It seems a but like what Karl Friston is saying, or perhaps Jeremy England.

>> Think this is what I showed in my work, but without the vocabulary of top-down realization, it always felt like a piece was missing.

Ok I'll have to think about that. I am sure its not just thermodynamic constraint, there is also adaptive selection taking place. The former provides constraints on the latter.

regards

george




James Gordon Stanfield wrote on Apr. 2, 2017 @ 23:26 GMT
Dr. Ellis,

Over the years I have greatly enjoyed your thoughts on a number of fundamental aspects of physical law, particularly the expanding block universe and crystallizing block universe explanations of space and time. You are my go-to source for the best explanations and the best examples of top-down causality.

In this latest paper, you have a very good description of the...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 07:42 GMT
Dear Jim,

that is a nice perceptive set of comments. Thank you.

>> "As hard problems go, purpose seems to be less intractable than consciousness."

- yes.

>> "A sentient being is an individuated organism which is connected to and reacts to the variations in its environment by way of receptor and proprioceptor nerve endings."""

-...

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Edward Kneller wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 03:53 GMT
Prof. Ellis

Thank you for the great essay. You approach the subject head-on with clear rational arguments, and you have connected key topics across physics, chemistry, biology, and evolution to make your argument within nine short pages.

Your essay references a subtext of hierarchical structure, which is specifically called out in Fig. 1, sections 5.1 and 5.4, and in the Conclusions. Given this subtext of hierarchical structure, I thought you might be interested in my essay, The Cosmic Odyssey of Matter, which formally defines a hierarchical structure based on precise formations of matter (PFMs). The hierarchical structure of PFMs starts with protons and neutrons and continues through chemical elements, organic molecules, cell structures, organisms, and social organizations.

My essay does not address the hard problem of the emergence of goal-oriented systems per your own essay. However, by formally describing the sequence of precise forms, I attempt to provide some context of how living organisms and social groups relate to the broader universe.

link to The Cosmic Odyssey of Matter

Regards, Ed Kneller

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 07:50 GMT
Dear Ed Keller

Thanks for that.

You say "This wander-gather-assemble (WGA) pattern broadly repeats across four stages in the universe’s timeline: the big bang, stars, biospheres, and social organizations. The essential step in the WGA process is the assembly of precise formations of matter (PFMs), defined here as formations having precise configurations and precisely connected components."

- I agree very much with this, and with your emphasis on distinct components, precise connections, and precise configuration. This is what I characterise as modular hierarchical structures, which is what is required to underlie genuine complexity (as opposed to say sandpiles or the kinds of patterns generated by the reaction diffusion equation, which is just the foothills of true complexity).

So yes our essays are complementary and in essential agreement.

Regards

George Ellis



Edward Kneller replied on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 14:55 GMT
Prof. Ellis,

Thank you very much for your comments on my essay.

Regards, Ed Kneller

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 05:10 GMT
George,

The contest is drawing to an end, and I am reviewing those I've read and am not sure that I rated. Yours I did on 3/1. Short memory.

Hope you enjoyed the interchange of ideas as much as I did and still do.

Jim Hoover

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 06:53 GMT
Thanks Jim.

Indeed.

George




Michael Alexeevich Popov wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 16:46 GMT
George,

When physicists assume an existence of the first quasi - particle into becoming Universe, they also must assume an existence of mathematical rules for such particle as well as transcendental constants. Thus, physics without mathematics or particle without some mathematical rules cannot exist at all. This is well - forgotten Kantianism. Kant used notion "Synthetic a priori judgments" in order to understand an existence of such sort of a priorism of the becoming processes.

Similarly for biological processes - there is no such things as simply physical stone, biological cell, CRISPR cas9 immunity rules, etc. without mathematical rules and goals. Thus, purely scientific materialism is very limited. Probably Kurt Godel was right when he suggested that Einstein's Relativity contains embedded Kantian idealism ( some details of such forbidden approach could be found in my obviously - must - be- rejected essay entitled " Kantian answers " ).

with the best wishes

Michael.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 18:00 GMT
Dear Michael

>> When physicists assume an existence of the first quasi - particle into becoming Universe, they also must assume an existence of mathematical rules for such particle as well as transcendental constants. Thus, physics without mathematics or particle without some mathematical rules cannot exist at all.

Well that is one approach. Yes many physicists adopt it. It assumes mathematics rules physics rather than just describing it.

>>> This is well - forgotten Kantianism. Kant used notion "Synthetic a priori judgments" in order to understand an existence of such sort of a priorism of the becoming processes.

I will have to study that more. It is an interesting debate.

>> Similarly for biological processes - there is no such things as simply physical stone, biological cell, CRISPR cas9 immunity rules, etc. without mathematical rules and goals.

Rules and goals, yes. Mathematical - well that is how we describe them. I'm not sure it is intrinsic to them. There are rigid Platonic possibility spaces for biology at each level, as described for example by Andreas Wagner in his book Arrival of the Fittest. They can be described by genotype to phenotype maps that have a Platonic nature, hence these are abstract relations.

>> Thus, purely scientific materialism is very limited.

Are, true.

>> Probably Kurt Godel was right when he suggested that Einstein's Relativity contains embedded Kantian idealism

I tend to go towards Platonism.

Best wishes

George




Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 4, 2017 @ 20:05 GMT
Greetings Professor Ellis,

I greatly enjoyed this essay, although it required considerable effort to read and digest, despite my knowing a bit about neurology as well as Physics. It appears your main intent was to elucidate how bio molecules evolved - through a combination of bottom-up and top-down processes - to be information carriers. Is this correct? I have long been a student of how...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 19:22 GMT
Dear Jonathan

thanks for that.

>>> It appears your main intent was to elucidate how bio molecules evolved - through a combination of bottom-up and top-down processes - to be information carriers. Is this correct?

Yes indeed.

>> I have long been a student of how the two creative modes operate interactively, and how both are necessary to some goals or...

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Jonathan J. Dickau replied on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 12:44 GMT
Thanks George for your thoughtful reply..

I think you'd greatly enjoy Young's book "The Reflexive Universe" for a very different look at how the top-down / bottom-up paradigm plays across all categories of form in the universe. It explores how things move from the abstract toward the definite, and then in a reflexive arc swing back the other way - where life is seen to incorporate layers of variability and abstraction on top of fixed forms. In this way; it is the progression from abstract to definite, and from definite back toward the abstract, that creates what we see as an evolutionary trend.

Organic molecules that can move or change form to serve as conduits or receptacles of information are the first step toward greater abstraction, from the mineral state where molecules have their greatest fixity - so they indeed start the process arc moving back toward motivity. You prove that point quite eloquently. Which is why I agree with the consensus that your essay is one of the best.

Warm regards,

Jonathan

All the Best,

Jonathan

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 04:45 GMT
Hi Jonathan

thanks for that.

... "Organic molecules that can move or change form to serve as conduits or receptacles of information are the first step toward greater abstraction, from the mineral state where molecules have their greatest fixity - so they indeed start the process arc moving back toward motivity. "

Please see my post of Apr. 6, 2017 @ 19:06 GMT for an interesting further note on this.

Regards

George




George Bizadellis wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 15:18 GMT
Mr. Ellis:

Your essay is excellent. It is well reasoned and well presented. I liked the framing statement “Life collects and analyses information in order to use it to plan and execute future purposeful actions in the light of memory (stored information).” This sets the stage for integrating the entire essay and for addressing some of the approached suggested in the contest’s description.

I enjoyed your step by step build up from non-living systems to man in your narrative, from the logic of physics to the logic of life. It mirrors the steps in reality that might have occurred, which is a wonderful symmetry.

Also excellent is the caption under figure 1. “Epigenetic control of lower level processes by higher level contexts, which control which logic will operate at lower levels by switching genes on and off.” The path from epigenetic control influenced by environmental factors, chance included, closes the loop quite nicely!

Roger Penrose, in his book ‘Shadows of the Mind’, has an interesting theory of the specific brain structures that give rise to man’s consciousness. He believes that in man the “appropriate physical action of the brain evokes awareness, but this physical action cannot even be properly simulated computationally.” He makes a sharp distinction between the computational nature of a Turing machine with the noncomputational nature of human consciousness, which he assigns to possible quantum dynamics occurring in the dimers of micro tubes in the brain. This could account for the flexibility you discuss in section 3.1 in your essay. And it also might provide a physical substrate for the ion channels you discuss in section 5 of your essay.



Thank you for a great, thought provoking essay. I have rated it very highly. Good luck in the contest.

Highest regards,

George Bizadellis

(Author of the essay Wu)

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 5, 2017 @ 19:29 GMT
Dear George Bizadellis

Thanks for those kind comments.

>> Roger Penrose, in his book ‘Shadows of the Mind’, has an interesting theory of the specific brain structures that give rise to man’s consciousness. He believes that in man the “appropriate physical action of the brain evokes awareness, but this physical action cannot even be properly simulated computationally.”

That seems plausible to me.

>> He makes a sharp distinction between the computational nature of a Turing machine with the noncomputational nature of human consciousness, which he assigns to possible quantum dynamics occurring in the dimers of micro tubes in the brain. This could account for the flexibility you discuss in section 3.1 in your essay. And it also might provide a physical substrate for the ion channels you discuss in section 5 of your essay.

This is controversial but worth exploring. Where I disagree with him is the idea that gravity is involved in this process (if that were the case, astronaut's brains might not function when they were in free fall). I think the quantum wave function collapse process might relate to consciousness, as you say allowing some freedom for local top down processes to select what happens.

Best regards

George Ellis




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 6, 2017 @ 19:06 GMT
General note: a great article by Noa Liscovitch-Brauer et al just appeared here , with this abstract:

"RNA editing, a post-transcriptional process, allows the diversification of proteomes beyond the genomic blueprint; however it is infrequently used among animals for this purpose. Recent reports suggesting increased levels of RNA editing in squids thus raise the question of the nature and...

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Lorraine Ford wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 01:01 GMT
Dear George,

I commented on your essay in late February, but I had to get my own (third attempt at an) essay in.

If you don’t mind me saying so, your essay has not demonstrated a deterministic (i.e. logical) emergence of new function (i.e. new rules) as a consequence of the existing rules/laws-of-nature that control the universe-system. Models show that a system is...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 05:08 GMT
Dear Lorraine

>>> ... your essay has not demonstrated a deterministic (i.e. logical) emergence of new function (i.e. new rules) as a consequence of the existing rules/laws-of-nature that control the universe-system.

Two things: I emphasized that the universe is not deterministic, because of quantum effects. And new functions/rules have indeed emerged if you look at...

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Lorraine Ford replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 06:45 GMT
Dear George,

The whole point of what I'm saying is that reality emerges from the rules that control the system. The rules define the full possible functionality of the system. No new functionality can emerge unless you add a new rule.

Controlling rules do not miraculously emerge from within a system that is controlled by an existing set of rules. As Tommaso Bolognesi says in his blog: "...nobody has ever been able to set up a simple program that exhibits more than one level of emergence", (September 28, 2016, https://tommasobolognesi.wordpress.com) , and what he calls "emergence" is not rules that actually control the system.

The fact that new rules seemingly "emerge" in reality requires a proper explanation. You can't just say that they emerge, and leave it at that, as though no explanation is necessary. "Emergence" is all about the emergence of rules, not about the emergence of structure: structure depends on the rules.

Regards,

Lorraine

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 07:33 GMT
Hi Lorraine

>>> The whole point of what I'm saying is that reality emerges from the rules that control the system. The rules define the full possible functionality of the system. No new functionality can emerge unless you add a new rule.

Ah, Ok, what you are talking about is what I call possibility spaces. These are timeless unchanging Platonic spaces that underlie what...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 16:20 GMT
General posting:

an example of the kind of higher level logic that emerges out of the interactions of lower level component. Dr Arthur Guyton's computer model of the cardiovascular system is an example of a non-linear physiological relationship at the system level, expressed in a signal-flow graph. At lower levels its is based in protein properties.




Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 16:26 GMT
Here is the missing image (I hope)

Guyton's physiological systems





Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 16:30 GMT
Ok that was not really legible. A nice discussion of it is here




Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 10, 2017 @ 09:24 GMT
George,

I posted the below on our conversation string some way above on Friday but it was well hidden so I re-post it here. Well done for the 2nd place score. Peter;;

I'm impressed and pleased by the response of most to my hypothesis deriving QM's predictions classically, though far from all are really qualified to rigorously assess it.

Unfortunately a number still remain notable by their absence. That wasn't unexpected but I'm disappointed that so far still includes you, though you promised to study it. If you have read it and think it's nonsense please do say so, and why. I know that's good science! I also understand it's dense and needs more than one read. The derivation also needs skilled help to properly understand and develop.

If you're to busy for the moment please do read it after the scoring date. Falsification is far more important than prizes! Someone did suggest I may have upset you!? Perhaps my "most just run".. comment? that was accurate!, but I apologise if you thought I inferred that of you. I respect you far more than that.

I've just found that the identity of Pauli's; 'two valuedness' of vallance electrons; a condition of his solution of the spectral lines problem, never was resolved! It seems then that the additional momentum I identify may finally provide a solution to that issue too. You may recall Bohr rather dismissed Pauli's work and Werner H wasn't a buddy, so Bohr only ever did employ a single (final) 'state' for his entangled pairs.

Most agree this looks a very important derivation so I do sincerely hope you won't be one of those ignoring it.

Many thanks in anticipation.

Peter

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Apr. 10, 2017 @ 19:26 GMT
Hi Peter

I have tried to grasp it, but I remain mystified by it. I don't see how you get quantum results such as those embodied in the 2-slit experiment or black body radiation or the photoelectric effect out of classical physics.

You seem to be focusing on the effects of spin, which are of course a key quantum mechanical effect but far from the whole. So I don't get it.

Regards

George




Peter Jackson wrote on Apr. 11, 2017 @ 15:18 GMT
George,

Ah! I see. You assume the quanta 'goes'! It doesn't (that'd be {UV}catastophic!) so no black body or 2 slit issues (see below). The quanta remains (and QM's algorithm) but is simply 'explained' in logical causal terms by using a different STARTING assumption to Bohrs; Two ACTUAL (and perpendicular) momentum states, on EACH of the pair. (Exactly as Maxwell's electricity and...

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Jeffrey Michael Schmitz wrote on Apr. 13, 2017 @ 14:14 GMT
George,

I know the contest is over, but could you read my essay and comment? I think we are trying to do the same thing, but in two very different ways.

Thank you for your help,

Jeff Schmitz

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 16, 2017 @ 20:55 GMT
Dear Jeff,

I agree with your characterisation of intelligence, and yes it does fit with what I am saying.

But I have a problem with "Biological evolution is an intelligent system. There is a goal – to reproduce the species".

- Individuals struggle to survive, more fit ones reproduce better, reproduction of the species is a byproduct rather than a goal of this process. The species per se does not have a goal.

Regards

George



Jeffrey Michael Schmitz replied on Apr. 17, 2017 @ 22:46 GMT
George,

Thank you for reading my essay and your comments.

The goal - to reproduce, is there by default or the species would disappear. This system intelligence is a minamal threshold, non-self-aware, intelligence that is the line between chemistry and biology. Intelligence is mathematically different (not better or worst) from non-intelligence. Something can be intelligent and not be alive, but all life is an (often unwilling and unknowing) part of an intelligent system. Intelligence will make mistakes and no individual would wish to be a failed datapoint, but would not exist this risk.

Sincerely,

Jeff

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Giovanni Prisinzano wrote on Apr. 14, 2017 @ 10:35 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

having read carefully your essay, I can only admire its rigor, clarity, and consistency. Unfortunately, the limits of my knowledge, especially in biology, prevent me from grasping all its implications. I have no objection, but I would like to make two remarks. The first concerns top-down causation. I have studied and taught philosophy and this kind of causality...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 16, 2017 @ 20:38 GMT
Dear Giovanni

Thanks for that.

1. Those Kantian themes seem to me to echo Aristotle.

2. "Mow the question: can we say, following Kant, that top-down causation is a necessary condition for the existence of goals and intentions, but is not a sufficient one?"

- Yes Indeed. Top down causation occurs in many contexts that have nothing to do with goals and intentions; but is necessary for them to exist, as they are realised via an interaction of bottom-up and top-down causation in the brain, between the psychological and neural levels.

3. "However, Platonism has the limit of placing mathematical entities in a superempirical dimension, so failing to account for the "Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences".

- One must distinguish here between mathematical Platonism, which has to do with logic and its consequences, and the effectiveness of mathematics in the physical sciences, which is to do with the nature of physical laws. Mathematical Platonism is necessary but not sufficient for the latter.

4. "perhaps it is possible that, properly ordered, the real numbers are space and time, even if I don't think that this identity is actually demonstrable.'

- I am not sure what that means. I can agree with it if you are saying that space and timer must be discrete at a foundational level.

regards

George




Stefan Weckbach wrote on Apr. 15, 2017 @ 15:30 GMT
Dear George,

i now read your essay which is quite technical, but interesting.

As far as i understood it, there is an unimaginable huge space of possible interactions for molecules on the basis of your approach. Adaptive selection works on this huge space, the results are cause-and effect relationsships which are best suited to be more stable than others over time, being there still...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Apr. 16, 2017 @ 20:47 GMT
Dear Stefan,

1. I agree with you about the importance of emotions in the way the brain functions. My new book with Mark Solms, out later this year, will make this explicit.

2. "But we should not forget the environment. So the next question for me is, if the existence of logics, together with the physics we have, is a mere accident without any cause whatsoever (and therefore also without any reason), or is the fact that logics exists (instead of for example nothing at all) a hint for a general purpose of the universe and of life to achieve through time? My answer is a clear yes, because otherwise the existence of logics without a reason seems to me to be irrational."

- This is the issue of why these possibility spaces exist. And I agree with you. I will be writing a book about this soon, it is an important argument. You will find some of my arguments about it here.

Regards

George



Lee Bloomquist replied on Apr. 26, 2017 @ 20:47 GMT
Professor Ellis,

The link in your previous post, to your interview about fine-tuning, makes me wonder if— in addition to the possibilities that you mention— fine-tuning of both the cosmological and the fine-structure constants may be the goal of a learning algorithm.

(Inferring from G. 't Hooft's Cellular Automaton Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that algorithms may underlie Hilbert space, in which case learning algorithms may underlie Hilbert space.)

If so, do you think it would be possible to demonstrate fine-tuning with a computer simulation?

Lee Bloomquist

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Apr. 17, 2017 @ 09:49 GMT
Dear George,

thank you so much for your reply and the link you gave. Fortunately the video interview is available as a transcript and i eagerly read it – because my flash video does not work for this site. I am happy that we have you here on FQXi, since you take the deep questions seriously, you aren’t philosophically naïve but a deep thinker.

Let me contribute some thoughts...

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Lee Bloomquist wrote on May. 5, 2017 @ 11:01 GMT
Professor Ellis,

B. Josephson's Biological Observer-Participation and Wheeler’s ‘Law without Law’ seems related to the ideas in your essay--

"It is commonly assumed that nature can be described in terms of fixed mathematical laws. However, the discovery that the Standard Model cannot be reconciled with general relativity in a straightforward way has created problems for this point of view. An alternative is Wheeler’s proposal to the effect that participation by observers, as postulated in some formulations of quantum mechanics, is the mechanism whereby physical laws emerge. According to Wheeler, that principle might, in the end, account for everything."

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