From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning

From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning

From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning

From Complexity to Life: On the Emergence of Life and Meaning

Synopsis

This book brings together an impressive group of leading scholars in the sciences of complexity, and a few workers on the interface of science and religion, to explore the wider implications of complexity studies. It includes an introduction to complexity studies and explores the concept of information in physics and biology and various philosophical and religious perspectives. Chapter authors include Paul Davies, Greg Chaitin, Charles Bennett, Werner Loewenstein, Paul Dembski, IanStewart, Stuart Kauffman, Harold Morowitz, Arthur Peacocke, and Niels H. Gregersen.

Excerpt

It takes only a casual observation of the physical universe to rexUx veal that it is awesomely complex. On an everyday scale of size we see clouds and rocks, snowflakes and whirlpools, trees and people and marvel at the intricacies of their structure and behavior. Shrinking the scale of size we encounter the living cell, with its elaborate customized molecules, many containing thousands of atoms arranged with precise specificity. Extending our compass to the cosmos, we find complexity on all scales, from the delicate filigree patterns on the surface of Jupiter to the organized majesty of spiral galaxies.

Where did all this complexity come from? The universe burst into existence, possibly from nothing, in a big bang about 13 billion years ago. Astronomers have discovered strong evidence that just after the big bang the universe consisted of a uniform soup of subatomic particles bathed in intense heat radiation. Some theories suggest that this state may have been preceded, a split second after the cosmic birth, by little more than expanding empty space. In other words, the universe started out in a simple, indeed almost totally featureless, state. The complexity, diversity, and richness that we see today on all scales of size have emerged since the beginning in a long sequence of physical processes. Thus the complexity of the cosmos was not imprinted on it at the beginning but was somehow implicit in the laws of nature and the initial conditions.

Scientists would like to understand both the nature and origin of this complexity. At first sight, however, the world seems so hopelessly complicated as to lie beyond human comprehension. The audacious asser-

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