Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, August 31, 2013

From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity: A Treatise on Matter, Information, Life and Thought

I am reading the latest book by Professor Manfred Eigen “From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity: A Treatise on Matter, Information, Life and Thought” which was published by Oxford University Press on July 18, 2013. According to summaries given by the iconic scientist and Nobel Prize laureate in chemistry, the simplicity of inanimate matter is complexified through new adaptations by organisms in which information is transferred between systems.  After discussing inanimate matter at length, Professor Eigen notes what is missing in “information” if “meaning” is excluded. “A phenomenological theory of the generation of ‘meaningful information’” is therefore given. “If we are dealing with genetic sequences, making use of four classes of symbols (referring to the four nucleotides used in nucleic acids), a sequence including n positions has 4n different possibilities. The sequence space is then a point space including 4n points, one for each possible sequence. The distances between any two sequences of this length corresponds to the number of positions occupied by different symbols. A value parameter is introduced which finally determines the population structure. The mutant spectrum appears in the form of a rather dissipated “cloud” that has one or several value maxima, a fact that is due mainly to the presence of “neutral sequences” (i.e. sequences of equal fitness value). The theory confirms formally Darwin’s result. However, the interpretation is completely different from the one generally encountered. Under normal conditions there is no fittest single individual. Rather, fitness is a property of a population, expressed by an eigenvalue of a matrix to which contribution is made by all the individuals present. Since we are dealing with coupled differential equations, the linear case can be expressed by the matrix of rate coefficients." Eigen uses a mathematical theorem by Perron and Frobenius to retrieve the largest eigenvalue of the matrix which is stable. Here he assigns it the term “fittest”. 

Well organized, and full of detailed technical illustrations, this book reflects the expertise of a top scientist in relating the recent discoveries in physics to those in the development in life sciences, and indeed in the indisputable role of information being communicated between entangled particles to information being communicated within sophisticated life forms and organisms. Any serious student, scholar or scientist would do well to read or scan the book in order to get familiar with the big picture of the latest in scientific thought. We await a second book that will cover the complexity of thought and cultures that evolved from this panorama. The book is a step forward in the ongoing dialogue between science, philosophy, and theology. It would be great to have it complemented by advances in human psychological, sociological and cultural studies. The book, probably inadvertently,confirms the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas that in God's providential plan creatures are linked and related to each other as they reflect His inner being that He is "relatedness." of Father to Son in the Holy Spirit.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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