Filling in with recent readings

Standard

 

POST 11 – 29-03-2014

 

DSC_1396

Whale watching off Cairns North Queensland last August.

PAUSING

When I started this BLOG I set the program to prompt me weekly. This week I have been caught unprepared.

I saw this weekly setting as the discipline I would need to ensure that I actually got things done. While the weekly interval is completely arbitrary, I am sure I can find something current to fill in if and when I am slack in the personal scholarly matters.

 

So now I am pausing in my series on HOW DID EVERYTHING GET HERE so as to address some recent reading that is of current interest and also affects my central study. I will return to the MEME story soon.

 

  1. GRAVITY AND THE UNIVERSE
  2. UNIVERSAL DARWINISM
  3. QUANTUM DARWINISM
  4. EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY
  5. DARWINIAN CONSCIOUSNESS

These are a few of the things I have read about this week.

 

  1. GRAVITY AND THE UNIVERSE

The recent production of evidence that gravitation waves actually exist supports the BIG BANG theory and the expanding universe (inflation) theory.

I was fascinated to read of the cosmological evidence for gravitation waves and for the Big Bang as well as confirmation of Cosmic Inflation.

A less technical, layman’s explanation here is helpful.

This new information on the origins of it all has led me to think a little wider on my topic of abiding interest – “How did everything get here?” So I have read a bit more widely.

  1. UNIVERSAL DARWINISM

Some reading shows possible links between the origins of the universe and the process of evolution by natural selection that I have been writing about. I have only recently uncovered studies that suggest that the process I have been discussing is more common than I had expected and is referred to by the name “Darwinism” rather than by “natural selection”. I would prefer a less personalised name but I am too late for that.

It appears that Darwinism applies to the three pronged process whereby anything that

1. replicates (or copies itself) and,

2. is subject to variation (or error in the copying process) and

3. competes for survival in its environment

 

The term Universal Darwinism (here and here) has been applied to the widespread occurrence of the phenomenon. I think that calling it “Universal” is a bit of a stretch but it is certainly widespread. An immediate question that arose for me was “What other forms of change are there?”

Immediately, I thought of erosion which is a process in which the change is not involved with replication and leads to disorder or a state of greater entropy. It seems to me that all the processes involved with entropy are non-replicative unless they are among the things that take energy from the system and use it to halt the “downhill” effects of entropy. The main system that has this property is “life”. The biological process of evolution seems to reverse the direction of entropy, for a time, and lead to complexity – increasing order – rather than to disorder. However life is ephemeral and entropy wins in the end.

The other system that may produce a state of low entropy is that involved in quantum reality; the sub-atomic level of particles and the BIG BANG.

  1. QUANTUM DARWINISM

I cannot even pretend to be able to grasp what the quantum reality is. However others say that it may have some of the characteristics of negative entropy. I quote from the article on that hyperlink.

“Quantum physics seems to allow us to have a cake and eat it, in that it allows us to erase information and cool the environment too.

But this, luckily for the second law (though not for would-be inventors of perpetual motion machines), is not the case. Landauer’s insight is still fine, and erasing information adds entropy to the environment. What saves the second law is that, in quantum physics, entropy can actually be negative. Adding negative entropy is the same as taking entropy away. The key phenomenon behind it is the spookiest of all quantum phenomena, entanglement.”

I have emphasised the phrase “in quantum physics, entropy can actually be negative”. If this is the case then the living state and the quantum state are cases of negative entropy and Darwinism can operate. This is a provocative position to consider in relation to the BIG BANG at which time everything moved from a “singularity” to an expanding or inflationary universe at a speed exceeding the speed of light.

This approach suggests that Darwinism occurs in that quantum transitional state as well as in living things. It is then discussed under the name of Quantum Darwinism for example here and here.

  1. EVOLUTIONARY EPISTEMOLOGY

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief.

Evolutionary epistemology refers to three distinct topics: (1) the biological evolution of cognitive mechanisms in animals and humans, (2) a theory that knowledge itself evolves by natural selection, and (3) the study of the historical discovery of new abstract entities such as abstract number or abstract value that necessarily precede the individual acquisition and usage of such abstractions.

Considering the second of these leads to the whole area of memes that I will consider in the next issue.

  1. DARWINIAN CONSCIOUSNESS

My reading uncovered an approach that focuses on the evolution of consciousness as a Darwinian process.

Another article from the same school of thought fascinates me with its approach to the conscious mind and the emergence of creativity.

“Atop a level of codes for objects, one might have a level of relationships (such as simple sentences), and a level of relations among relationships (analogies) atop that. By temporarily stabilizing the intermediate levels, we are sometimes able to tack on an even higher level. A high-level outcome of such a process is what we might want to call consciousness (though the heights vary throughout the day; the relations level may be impossible until after morning coffee). To demonstrate how the cerebral cortex can operate a Darwinian process, and stabilize a new level, I will briefly introduce the essentials of any Darwinian process and then summarize how (the) neocortex can implement one.”

The author of that is William H. Calvin and the article is called “Ephemeral Levels of Mental Organization: Darwinian Competitions as a Basis for Consciousness”. It seems to me to be a core study.

There is a New Scientist article that picks up on this approach and refers to the process of cognitive action involving patterns, pattern recognition and categories. This leads to what is called blending and advanced blending. Analogy, simile, metaphor are types of patterns that may be subject to blending.

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