Search FQXi

If you are aware of an interesting new academic paper (that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal or has appeared on the arXiv), a conference talk (at an official professional scientific meeting), an external blog post (by a professional scientist) or a news item (in the mainstream news media), which you think might make an interesting topic for an FQXi blog post, then please contact us at with a link to the original source and a sentence about why you think that the work is worthy of discussion. Please note that we receive many such suggestions and while we endeavour to respond to them, we may not be able to reply to all suggestions.

Please also note that we do not accept unsolicited posts and we cannot review, or open new threads for, unsolicited articles or papers. Requests to review or post such materials will not be answered. If you have your own novel physics theory or model, which you would like to post for further discussion among then FQXi community, then please add them directly to the "Alternative Models of Reality" thread, or to the "Alternative Models of Cosmology" thread. Thank you.

Contests Home

Previous Contests

Undecidability, Uncomputability, and Unpredictability Essay Contest
December 24, 2019 - April 24, 2020
Contest Partners: Fetzer Franklin Fund, and The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation

What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fund.

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

Forum Home
Terms of Use

Order posts by:
 chronological order
 most recent first

Posts by the author are highlighted in orange; posts by FQXi Members are highlighted in blue.

By using the FQXi Forum, you acknowledge reading and agree to abide by the Terms of Use

 RSS feed | RSS help

Dizhechko Semyonovich: on 4/7/17 at 10:29am UTC, wrote Dear Sirs! Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of...

Gary Simpson: on 4/3/17 at 18:05pm UTC, wrote Peter, FYI, I have responded to your post in my forum. Best Regards and...

Peter Punin: on 3/23/17 at 14:33pm UTC, wrote Dear Gary, Great thanks. Sometimes feeling torn between the desire not to...

Gary Simpson: on 3/23/17 at 3:05am UTC, wrote Peter, The question you ask at the end of the above post is interesting....

Peter Punin: on 3/22/17 at 20:09pm UTC, wrote Dear Gary, It is a real pleasure to meet you again! Thanks for your...

Gary Simpson: on 3/22/17 at 3:12am UTC, wrote Peter, You are the Platonist! I recall your excellent essay from the last...

Satyavarapu Gupta: on 3/7/17 at 1:23am UTC, wrote Nice essay Dr Punin, Your ideas and thinking are excellent about gap...

Peter Punin: on 3/6/17 at 20:42pm UTC, wrote Dear Luke, This is highly interesting – and so philosophically...


Steve Dufourny: "Hi Georgina and Mr Sturm, Mr Sturm , sad that you have a problem with..." in The Present State of...

Deserdi Chapas: "Hi FQXI Members: We found the courage to asymptotically take one step..." in Alternative Models of...

Georgina Woodward: "I'd like to share with you a thoroughly revised version of the shorter..." in The Present State of...

Steve Dufourny: "I have improved a lot this theory of spherisation withe quantum and..." in Alternative Models of...

David Vognar: "Quantum physics isn't the end of reality; we just need better rulers that..." in Quantum Physics and the...

algo rrithm: "A digital marketing agency in India is showcasing that happens through Web..." in Dark matter effect on the...

algo rrithm: "A branding agency in delhi is a firm having some expertise in the key and..." in The secret of planets’...

algo rrithm: "Advanced advertising assists brands with arriving at their interest group..." in Dark matter effect on the...

click titles to read articles

The Entropic Price of Building the Perfect Clock: Q&A with Natalia Ares
Experiments investigating the thermodynamics of clocks can teach us about the origin of time's arrow.

Schrödinger’s A.I. Could Test the Foundations of Reality
Physicists lay out blueprints for running a 'Wigner's Friend' experiment using an artificial intelligence, built on a quantum computer, as an 'observer.'

Expanding the Mind (Literally): Q&A with Karim Jerbi and Jordan O'Byrne
Using a brain-computer interface to create a consciousness 'add-on' to help test Integrated Information Theory.

Quanthoven's Fifth
A quantum computer composes chart-topping music, programmed by physicists striving to understand consciousness.

The Math of Consciousness: Q&A with Kobi Kremnitzer
A meditating mathematician is developing a theory of conscious experience to help understand the boundary between the quantum and classical world.

January 29, 2023

CATEGORY: Wandering Towards a Goal Essay Contest (2016-2017) [back]
TOPIC: Daring Group-theoretic Foundations of Biological Evolution despite Group Theory? by Peter Martin Punin [refresh]
Bookmark and Share
Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Author Peter Martin Punin wrote on Mar. 1, 2017 @ 20:06 GMT
Essay Abstract

Thanks to its group-theoretic foundations, physical knowledge is time-symmetric. Now, by definition, systems formalizable by group theory “always function in the same manner” through the transformations they express. So it seems hard to expect that mathematical laws may play an analogous role within systems supporting any form of evolution. Until further notice, biological evolution confirms this point. Whereas there are highly convincing models of the history of our physical universe, the evolution having led to human self-awareness giving meaning to concepts like aims or intentions remains the subject of speculation. Contrary to time-symmetric physics ideally escaping irreversibility, evolution falls under the irreversibility it apparently violates. Certainly, Neo-Darwinism claims to resolve this problem by the notion of cumulative selection. But the present paper proves that cumulative selection, far from circumventing irreversibility, confirms its generalized diktat. Since only systems formalizable by group theory escape irreversibility, while group theory and evolution do not go together, a deadlock seems unavoidable. In fact, perhaps there is a group-theoretic approach conciliating evolution and irreversibility. In order not to attribute to evolution any form of determinism, this model must be conceived as a potentiality where several factors comprising chance can realize an infinity of paths. Now, a group-theoretic potentiality must ontologically precede the actually realized evolution, and this point leads to intrinsically controversial Platonism. However, the present paper shows that without Platonist presuppositions, even an explanation of the history of our physical universe would encounter circularity. So, why not dare for evolution an explicit extension of Platonism, implicitly – perhaps unconsciously – assumed by physics?

Author Bio

Holding two french M.Phil. degrees (D.E.A), one in philosophy of physics, and another in cognitive sciences, lecturer at Pôle Universitaire Léonard de Vinci and at IPECOM, Paris, France, I am focusing on mathematical Platonism and physical reversibility/irreversibility. More precisely I argue that in a material world universally subjected to irreversibility, no organized material or partially material entity could manifest/maintain itself without the intervention of essentially immaterial, eternal, and immutable principles existing objectively.

Download Essay PDF File

Bookmark and Share

Branko L Zivlak wrote on Mar. 2, 2017 @ 18:48 GMT
Dear Mr. Punin

I agree with: “Our physical universe is governed by mathematical laws giving physics an extraordinary epistemic power characterized by symmetry between prediction and retro-diction. “

At 1.3 you brilliantly, deny the physical universe as a historical process. How it works, mathematically presented, you can see in my essay. From the formula follows the conclusion of the unsustainability of the physical universe as a historical process and conclusion "matter dominant Universe" and "radiation dominant Universe" coexist in every point in time. Do you agree?

I would be grateful if you would have found a mistake in my formulas or methodology.

Terms multiverse and “parallel universes” are very confusing (see my discussion in Mr. Gibbs place). It is possible that there are bubbles without interaction between them, but there is the same math in bubbles of Universe.

Best regards,

Branko Zivlak

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 09:59 GMT
Dear Mr. Zivlak,

Thanks for your interest in my paper. I will carefully read your article and your reply to Mr. Gibbs before answering your substantive questions.

Here just some details concerning the controversial multiverse theory (theories?).

Perhaps we have to go back to the initial motivation of string theory. The latter was seen as an extremely promising way for the...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Alexey/Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 23:28 GMT
Dear Peter,

First of all, I am happy to see you among the participants of this contest!

I wish to stress that I highly appreciate your courageous attempt to suggest a Platonist paradigm for scientific explanation for the origin and evolution of life. If I understand you correctly, it is another way to suggest reductionism, isn’t it? As I see it, the only difference of your approach from the conventional reductionism consists in the idea of a special set of timeless laws, responsible for life, but negligible for the dead matter. Am I right? If yes, I’d like to suggest to you a couple of my arguments against reductionism.

As you have already read in our essay, we do not believe it possible that thinking can be reduced to fundamental laws of nature. Since life is a bridge between the mental and physical worlds, there must be something important in life, which cannot be expressed by the atemporal laws either.

My second argument against reductionism focuses on the tremendous complexity of living beings. Nothing close is generated by elegant physical laws. Physical structures are very simple compared to living beings. Hence, the related laws of evolution, were they to exist, must be extremely complicated. If so, they would be very different from the simple physical laws, resembling rather a long and detailed set of instructions than laws.

Having said that, I’d like to repeat my great respect for your heroic efforts in understanding the limits and possibilities of reductionism. The question is very important and any step here is very valuable.

Good luck with your essay!



Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Lev Burov wrote on Mar. 3, 2017 @ 23:37 GMT
Dear Peter,

Thank you for your interesting essay. I'm still not very sure I understand you very well, however, so I'd like to summarize your thoughts here. Please correct me, if I'm too wrong.

First, to try boiling down your thesis to a sentence: if a research that has even a small part of the epistemic power of physics is at all possible in the study of evolution, some of the same, minimal metaphysical assumptions are necessary, namely, the existence of immaterial, atemporal and reversible laws, which are to be sought out. You defend this by showing a two-fold contradiction in the alternative scenario: either we decree out of the blue that biology escapes the tendency of nature to move from order to disorder, or we suppose the "emergence" of new laws alongside new phenomena, which is circular reasoning.

What this paper is not, in my understanding, is an attempt at refuting the thesis that life randomly emerged, even though you refute some of the main justifications thereof.

All the best,


Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 14:04 GMT
Dear Lev,

Thanks for your first comments.

Concerning the refutation of the thesis that life has emerged randomly, well, there is a purely contingent problem:the length of our essays is limited to 25000 characters. If I could, I would have evoked more things, but in fact, probably like everyone among us, I was obliged to cut a lot of things in principle useful. This is not a criticism of the fqxi policy – in the context of permanent discussion too long essays would be counterproductive – but it is a constraint.

Now I am sure that most of people seriously working in/on/about physics do agree that allegedly scientific theories requiring the actual occurrence of quasi-infinite improbabilities cannot be credible. Alexey's and your article shows that that this problem, far from being an exclusively probabilistic one, results from a lot of other – also logical, ontological … … – factors. For this reason, I think that our papers are highly complementary, and coming discussions will confirm it.

But in my own paper,the sole – per se obvious probabilistic refutation must be the principal basis for the global approach. It is not only a question of contingent space constraints, but also of a fundamental problem. The current neo-Darwinist discourse is the following. “Of course, the random occurrence of life is too improbable to be envisaged. But non-specialists do not know the difference between single-step selection and cumulative selection. So, we neo-Darwinists have to teach cumulative selection to non-specialists (like physicists and/or philosophers of physics). And so on.

Physicists and/or philosophers of physics have to reply: Even if “biology is not physics”, any system apparently violating irreversibility is embedded in a wider system where irreversibility is reestablished, and in terms of a bit advanced probability theory, cumulative selection does confirm generalized irreversibility.

All the best


Bookmark and Share

Harry Hamlin Ricker III wrote on Mar. 4, 2017 @ 13:23 GMT

There are some things I liked a lot and some I was uncomfortable with. Starting with what I liked a lot was the use of group theory. That has some promise as an analysis tool, but one wonders why you are working only with groups. They are not very powerful in themselves, and need to be combined to create algebras. I noticed that some writers in this contest proposed some very complex groups and noted that as the groups went up the hierarchy they lost some structure. So it needs to be stated what axioms are needed. In my opinion the most important property of a group is the unique identity property that produces uniqueness. Without that what do you have? You focus on the property of inversion in time which is interesting, but maybe not the only property we need to consider important.

I am skeptical regarding the Platonic hypothesis since Aristotle refuted the idea that nature is mathematics, and the current reappearance of that idea is not convincing to me. However, the idea of group extensions does seem to have a useful role in describing nature as we go from simple to complex systems.

There is a lot in your essay that is worth exploring in more detail and so I recommend that people read it and try to understand the concepts involved as I am trying to do.

Harry Ricker

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 15:38 GMT
Dear Harry,

Thanks for your comments; I am glad that you share my conception of the group-theoretic foundations of physics. Of course, the purely formal notion of mathematical group has to be expressed by adequate algebras, but the interesting point is (i) that mathematically speaking, formal group theory does exist in a consistent way, and (ii) that there are natural phenomena...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Anonymous wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 00:24 GMT
Hi Peter,

In Section 1.3, you mention that natural law, must first exist in an immaterial manner, "...preceding its first 'materialization' not only temporally but also ontologically".

Agreed that the notion of Scientific Platonism -- the idea of an objective immaterial reality -- is controversial. At first, identifying the 'objective immaterial' as mathematics, and that in turn as...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 15:45 GMT
Dear Forrest,

To begin, I entirely agree your one page summary I carefully read. There is a non-entropic time arrow, and even a time arrow non-reducible to the sole order/improbability → disorder/probability, knowing that the latter does not necessarily, nor exclusively concern energy degradation. There also are other ways to reach the same result: time-symmetry presupposes metrical...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 10:00 GMT
hi peter,

as a software engineer i appreciate that functional programming languages (such as haskell, hope or miranda) are required to produce exactly the same answers based on exactly the same inputs, and thus it becomes possible to carry out formal proofs. i notice from the following sentence (and its surrounding context) that it would appear that your essay is from this same perspective:

"Or, if you prefer, through all its operations or transformations, Σ always functions in the same manner."

i have a question for you: how, then, is pure randomness (as an input and also an output) of both a system and its state taken into account? what can we infer from either massive replication of a system (with the implication that each copy would encounter entirely different inputs from all other copies), or prolonged exposure (of a single system) to wildly different (random) inputs?

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton wrote on Mar. 5, 2017 @ 11:38 GMT
also i thought you might be interested to know that TN3.1 is the fundamental basis (the underlying algorithm) behind DHTs - Distributed Hash Tables. each "letter" is considered to be one axis along a hypercube. the target node is reached by enquiring throughout the network of closest neighbours if they know of one of *their* neighbours that is closer to the target hash. it's quite funny to see that same algorithm occur as "pseudo-evolution"

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate
Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 20:42 GMT
Dear Luke,

This is highly interesting – and so philosophically controversial – question.

A first attempt to answer a simplified version of your question goes back to the 19th century, to Boltzmann:

Already the precursor formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics due to Sadi Carnot says that even under ideal conditions, each form of energy can be converted into heat,...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Joe Fisher wrote on Mar. 6, 2017 @ 17:30 GMT
Dear Dear Ajay Pokhrel,

Please excuse me for I have no intention of disparaging in any way any part of your essay.

I merely wish to point out that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate.

Only nature could produce a reality so simple, a single cell amoeba could deal with it.

The real Universe must consist only of one unified visible infinite physical surface occurring in one infinite dimension, that am always illuminated by infinite non-surface light.

A more detailed explanation of natural reality can be found in my essay, SCORE ONE FOR SIMPLICITY. I do hope that you will read my essay and perhaps comment on its merit.

Joe Fisher, Realist

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Satyavarapu Naga Parameswara Gupta wrote on Mar. 7, 2017 @ 01:23 GMT
Nice essay Dr Punin,

Your ideas and thinking are excellent about gap between Group theory and Biological systems… For eg…

“deep gap between (i) the group-theoretic foundations of physics allowing the latter to escape irreversibility, and (ii) evolution theories constrained to decree ad-hoc and a posteriori some mysterious suspension of the irreversibility necessarily...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Gary D. Simpson wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 03:12 GMT

You are the Platonist! I recall your excellent essay from the last contest.

You have applied the rigorous mathematical logic of groups and sets to the problem of apparently irreversible evolution, and you have found an idealized group existing in Platonic space. Well done.

The meat of your work really begins with section 2 with subsection 2.2 stating the problem very clearly. I had never considered the Noether Theorem is this way, but it is certainly true. Many Thanks!

I think that many in the FQXi community will struggle with the mathematical formalisms you use. But the precision of those formalisms is essential to making the logic work. Well done.

Lastly, the use of some type of selective mechanism such as Maxwell's Demon is a component of many of the essays in the contest. So that is a major point of agreement with other essays.

All in all, this was an excellent effort.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Author Peter Martin Punin wrote on Mar. 22, 2017 @ 20:09 GMT
Dear Gary,

It is a real pleasure to meet you again! Thanks for your comments.

Concerning the Noether theorem – its intuitive formulation is “If a physical system has a continuous symmetry property, then there are corresponding quantities whose values are conserved in time.” – the quantities to be conserved if you want continuous symmetry are either energy as such, or...

view entire post

Bookmark and Share

Gary D. Simpson replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 03:05 GMT

The question you ask at the end of the above post is interesting. There could be a Platonist set that contains all possible solutions and there could be a subset of solutions within that set that avoids irreversibility. Those solutions might be determined by the random events associated with the environment that you mention. So, each random event might push towards a different solution. And there might be a generic solution that is favored by many paths. For example, a four legged creature becomes bipedal so that it can use two limbs to use tools.

So ... it sounds like a very interesting and very lengthy and difficult problem. It makes me think of a series of books titled "The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy".

On a different note, if you have not already done so, you should read the essay titled "A Tale of Two Animats" by Larissa Albantakis. She uses a set that contains both the history and the future of the species.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Author Peter Martin Punin replied on Mar. 23, 2017 @ 14:33 GMT
Dear Gary,

Great thanks. Sometimes feeling torn between the desire not to lose myself in unbridled speculation and the necessity to find new paths instead of decreeing things which cannot be, your answer reassures me.

Concerning Larissa Albatakis, I read carefully her highly interesting paper, before posting a detailed reply and some questions, a week ago. Well, she prefers to ignore my post; that's her good right.

All the best,

See you soon on your own forum,


Bookmark and Share

Gary D. Simpson wrote on Apr. 3, 2017 @ 18:05 GMT

FYI, I have responded to your post in my forum.

Best Regards and Good Luck,

Gary Simpson

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Dizhechko Boris Semyonovich wrote on Apr. 7, 2017 @ 10:29 GMT
Dear Sirs!

Physics of Descartes, which existed prior to the physics of Newton returned as the New Cartesian Physic and promises to be a theory of everything. To tell you this good news I use «spam».

New Cartesian Physic based on the identity of space and matter. It showed that the formula of mass-energy equivalence comes from the pressure of the Universe, the flow of force which on the corpuscle is equal to the product of Planck's constant to the speed of light.

New Cartesian Physic has great potential for understanding the world. To show it, I ventured to give "materialistic explanations of the paranormal and supernatural" is the title of my essay.

Visit my essay, you will find there the New Cartesian Physic and make a short entry: "I believe that space is a matter" I will answer you in return. Can put me 1.


Dizhechko Boris

Bookmark and Share
report post as inappropriate

Login or create account to post reply or comment.

Please enter your e-mail address:
Note: Joining the FQXi mailing list does not give you a login account or constitute membership in the organization.