“Jeremy England, The Man Who May One-Up Darwin” By Meghan Walsh

( It is interesting read after lecture by Babar Sahib on the same subject. It has some divine dimensions also. F. Sheikh)

“Every 30 years or so we experience these gigantic steps forward. …And this might be it.

                            Carl Franck, a Cornell physics professor”

The 101 version of his big idea is this: Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be “alive.” It all depends on how we define life, something England’s work might prompt us to reconsider. “People think of the origin of life as being a rare process,” says Vijay Pande, a Stanford chemistry professor. “Jeremy’s proposal makes life a consequence of physical laws, not something random.”

In the most basic terms, Darwinism and the idea of natural selection tell us that well-adapted organisms evolve in order to survive and better reproduce in their environment. England doesn’t dispute this reasoning, but he argues that it’s too vague. For instance, he says, blue whales and phytoplankton thrive in the same environmental conditions — the ocean — but they do so by vastly different means. That’s because that while they’re both made of the same basic building blocks, strings of DNA are arranged differently in each organism.

Now take England’s simulation of an opera singer who holds a crystal glass and sings at a certain pitch. Instead of shattering, England predicts that over time, the atoms will rearrange themselves to better absorb the energy the singer’s voice projects, essentially protecting the glass’s livelihood. So how’s a glass distinct from, say, a plankton-type organism that rearranges it self over several generations? Does that make glass a living organism?

These are pretty things to ponder. Unfortunately, England’s work hasn’t yet provided any answers, leaving the professor in a kind of speculative state as he doggedly tries to put numbers to it all. “He hasn’t put enough cards on the table yet,” Franck says. “He’ll need to make more testable predictions.” So it remains to be seen where England will land in the end. Other scientists have made similar claims about energy dissipation in the context of non-equilibrium thermodynamics, but none has found a definitive means for applying this science to the origin of life.

So what does God have to do with all this? In his quest for answers, England, of course, finds himself at the center of the classic struggle between science and spirituality. While Christianity and Darwinism are generally opposed, Judaism doesn’t take issue with the science of life. The Rabbinical Council of America even takes the stance that “evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator.”

For his part, England believes science can give us explanations and predictions, but it can never tell us what we should do with that information. That’s where, he says, the religious teachings come in. Indeed, the man who’s one-upping Darwin has spent the past 10 years painstakingly combing through the Torah,interpreting it word by word much the way he ponders the meaning of life. His conclusion? Common translations are lacking. Take the term “creation.” England suggests we understand it not as the literal making of the Earth but rather as giving Earth a name. All throughout the Bible, he says, there are examples of terms that could be interpreted differently from what we’ve come to accept as standard.

That even applies to some of the good book’s most famous players, like Joseph, the ancient biblical interpreter of dreams, who rose to become the most powerful man in Egypt after the pharaoh. Maybe, England suggests, he wasn’t a fortune-teller. Maybe he was a scientist.

http://www.ozy.com/rising-stars/the-man-who-may-one-up-darwin/39217?utm_source=W1&utm_medium=pp&utm_campaign=pp

 

2 thoughts on ““Jeremy England, The Man Who May One-Up Darwin” By Meghan Walsh

  1. “life, a consequence of physical laws, not something random.”
    It will be hard for Jeremy England to claim above statement as his theory and thus “one-up” Darwin as even I have been reading such statements since at least ten years now. When scientists say that life follows Second Law of Thermodynamics, this is exactly what they mean by it. That when universe attains equilibrium and there is no more imbalance (like there is no hot or cold everything is at uniform temperature) that will be the end of everything. Second law of Thermodynamics gives a headache if I try to follow it word by word, and word entropy totally trips my circuit breakers….so simply as I understand is this; When there will be no imbalance, no hot area from where heat will always go towards cold there will be no flow of heat energy. As we see at the very base of cell life is the charge difference (positive ions vs negative ions) across the membrane – equalized charge is death of a cell.
    I do understand him turning spiritual after all the scientific research. At some point we come to the end of our knowledge and are ignorant beyond that point and that explains why isn’t God dead yet – because its much easier to surrender than trying to swim across the ocean of knowledge yet to be crossed.

    Babar

  2. Great comment by Babar Sahib. In my opinion this article is different from the Sunday lecture in the sense that the atoms, which we consider lifeless, may actually already have life. In that regard every atom in the universe is already alive and clumping of atoms together or chemical reactions at the bottom of sea just make the already existing life more visible.

    I think following paragraph in the article alludes to it.

    ” The 101 version of his big idea is this: Under the right conditions, a random group of atoms will self-organize, unbidden, to more effectively use energy. Over time and with just the right amount of, say, sunlight, a cluster of atoms could come remarkably close to what we call life. In fact, here’s a thought: Some things we consider inanimate actually may already be “alive.” It all depends on how we define life, something England’s work might prompt us to reconsider.”

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