This innovative book identifies key pressures on the human species, tracing its development from its beginning. Written by a physicist, anthropologist, and political scientist, data from many different fields are analyzed and organized into a new picture of the evolution of societies and of the biology of our species.
Foundations for Social & Biological Evolution contains twelve essays broken into two sections. The first section explores topics in social evolution, such as human sociogeophysics, long term processes in social change, and political spectroscopy. The second section presents topics in biological evolution, such as connections to geophysics, species extinction and continental erosion, how many species, and a model for the origins of life.
Ideas detailed in this book include:
In an analogous fashion, the second half of the book takes on the subject of biological evolution in which the major mechanisms are geophysical-geochemical drives for the living process and its emergence, accounting thus for both life's startup and demise on Earth. To make the case more compelling, the geophysical processes that drive life are Earth's available material substances and its formal fluid processes. Science as a discipline and as outlook, and developments toward sociohistorical sciences of society are briefly touched on.
The way paleontology is taught today is much without physical underpinnings. Evolution has been presented in such a manner that many people think of it as a religious issue. Instead, all systems evolve as they capture small engine process cycles that act independently to drive them for a life span.
Life's origins are being taught as having occurred in an organic soup. However, an ocean of organic molecules could not have provided suitable niches for different experiments to have taken place until working systems evolved. Instead, the interface between solid, liquid, and gas (also known as the sediment/water/atmosphere interface) at continental margins is a more likely place. Large changes in populations and kinds match up with large changes a the continental margins.
Only a physicist, such as Arthur S. Iberall, has done and could look at evolution using such a vocabulary. The physical vocabulary actually makes more sense to scientists and the reading public in general.
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From: Philip W. Anderson
Date: July 20, 2001
At the risk of appearing an antidigerati - if that is the singular of digerati - I have to differ strongly from Seth Lloyd's remarks. Having fought against the arrogant imperialism of the particle physicists - "the Theory of Everything is the theory of particles, so we are the only fundamental guys," - and being subject at the present to the cosmologists' attitude that since the universe is by definition everything, they are the only (fundamental) game in town, along comes Seth saying "everything is information processing, so we information scientists pick up all the chips."
The wonderful thing about the world is its diversity in all manner of ways - in scale, in complexity, in mechanism, in driving motivation, in its sheer richness of phenomena. We happen to be lucky enough to live on a small planet which is particularly highly diverse - let's not throw that away and say - it's all information processing. In particular - there is a tendency at the moment to reduce biology to "bioinformatics", the genome as Turing machine tape. But life is not just the genome. A thing is not living unless it is an individual, unless it has means for controlling energy and matter flows to its own advantage, and probably yet more requirements. Art Iberall may have been the first to see life in terms of overlapping cycles and functions, and Stu Kauffmann has recently expressed some of this at length. The point is, the information processing metaphor gets you nowhere unless you have the physical answer to "how?" and the motivational answer to "for what purpose?" and the mechanistic answer to "how do we do it in the right time and place?"
As far as I can see, Seth is indulging himself in some very sophisticated entropy calculations, assuming that all the entropy is available as "information". (Actually, I'm not sure they are too sophisticated but they are spectacular.) In fact, we always so far have found that it is a valid assumption that useful information is a negligible fraction of the physical entropy flows, and I suspect it is exactly for the above reasons: to use information in any meaningful sense we need a macroscopic object which is big enough to be rigid and warm enough to be irreversible, at the very least. There may be other ways to manage it but they haven't been evolved yet - thankfully!