Friday, July 27, 2018

Axioms or premises to have a conversation with me about the origin of life as we know it

1. No magic or omnipotence
I am not going to discuss a point if a god (or anything omnipotent or magical or capable of breaking the laws of physics/nature) is going to be invoked either as a conclusion or a starting possibility in any discussion on the origin of life.

2. No argument of "always having existed". I will only have reasonable discussions on this topic if we can agree that there was a time in our universe where life as we know it, did not exist.

3. Abiogenesis as is currently formulated is impossible.
That is, no non-living mixture of any chemical ingredients in any environment, at any complexity can generate anything like life as we know it in terms of metabolism and reproduction.

If anyone reading this can accept all three of these premises (even if just for argument's sake) then I will happily engage in conversation. I can defend these axioms/premises to the hilt. If, when reading this, you believe these axioms to be contradictory, you are obviously not trying hard enough.


Chris Fellows said...

Following on from the general principle that the best environment for abiogenesis is one that has a very high density of matter and energy and many opportunities for complexification, I am open to the idea that the first Life-Not-As-We-Know-It arose in the first few infinitesimal fractions of a second after the 'Big Bang' at energies and densities grossly beyond our ken, and that this Life-Not-As-We-Know-It engineered some other sort of life to carry on its legacy in the cold dead universe that they could see coming, in exactly the same way we (or at least, those of us who are polymaths named Freeman Dyson) can sit down and design sorts of life to carry on in the universe where all the suns have gone out that is cold and dead to us.
To me, however, this is just a baby step from transgressing on your axioms 1 and 2, since I have no real objection to this Life-Not-As-We-Know-It being introduced at the beginning of time by God.

Chris Fellows said...

BTW I think both you and I and at least one Star Trek novel from the late 80s have said something like this before. ;)

Marco Parigi said...

Which star trek novel?

I am starting to have severe doubts about the Big Bang Theory and the universe having a beginning. I think the fruitful thing would be to work just one step back to what sort of life pre-dated life as we know it (LAWKI) and had a hand in "designing" LAWKI.

With regards to "the beginning of time", it's just that we don't have a common premise that we could compare notes with. It just isn't fruitful in terms of figuring things out. Or for that matter, engineering things, which is a side benefit of experiment and observation.

I see that you appear to have embraced Marcomony without really yet understanding how it replaces parsimony. A more cogent explanation was that since parsimony is choosing theories with the least number of assumptions, that marcomony is a retrospective analysis of those assumptions of well established theories. The psychology with established theories is that the number of papers and independent citations which come to the conclusion that the theory is correct is the psychology that the assumptions behind the theory have a great *weight* of evidence behind them and are thus "proven".

eg. - the number of papers/citations which conclude the General Theory of Relativity Is correct lead to the incorrect conclusion that the assumption of Mass as a distortion in space time is proven.

Marcomony leads us to go back and see the chain of evidence of Dark Matter, and see that if Mass is indeed a distortion in space time, that dark matter needs to exist to explain many Galactic scale phenomena.

However, while the weight of evidence of dark matter is huge, its *chain* of evidence relies strongly on an assumption that even Einstein was dubious about. Marcomony states analyse that assumption - demonstrate that there is no current observation of the poisoned fruits of that assumption (dark matter). Find all anomalies to do with mass, space and time not predicted with GR. Then see if there are alternatives to the assumption in play. Input them and start again with the theory and choose assumptions that don't break the *correct* predictions of GR, but satisfy anomalies discovered since. Easy peasy - Unless you are paid only to talk about Dark Matter....

Chris Fellows said...

I wouldn't say I have embraced Marcomony and I would agree that I don't understand it.

I evaluate everything on the grounds of its Utility/Fruitfulness.

As you can see from my first comment, I still think it is likely to be more *fruitful* to work forward from known physics/chemistry to LNAWKI than to go all teleological and try to work out LNAWKI from the LAWKI they designed/accidentally created/morphed into.

That paper you linked me to the other day has reinforced my prior feelings that Dark Energy and Dark Matter are silly and reading one of McCulloch's 2016 papers gives me the feeling he's on the right track.

You might recall I wouldn't put the Big Bang in the 'settled science' basket ( but I am pretty content with it since it ticks all my Primary and Secondary Utility boxes.

And if I remembered the name of the Star Trek novel, I'd have quoted it! Will check the shelves on the slim chance I still have it...

Marco Parigi said...

I think the problem with thinking forward to something unfamiliar to us as life, from something even less familiar to us as life will make a mockery of science. I think we can do that once we can agree on the sequence and type of LNAWKI. Someone on Twitter mentioned the possibilities of Galaxies as a type of LNAWKI and plasma as a substrate for DNA style coding. There is a series of tweets describing the evidence and type of LNAWKI which is very much along the lines of what I was thinking, but independently and quite distant from LAWKI in scale and scope, while I had come to the same conclusion but working backwards, assuming Comets were the mode of laboratory/design/model to chemical life per se, but as I think back and bigger I was thinking plasma life and galaxies anyway.

Not sure if that paragraph was cogent or not, but there is a twitter sequence that may enlighten.

It is quite difficult to embrace something that you do not understand, but really your ideas on fruitfulness and utility amount to the same thing. Certainly, the whole JKAS comet paper alludes to the precise issues at play so well and eloquently that I could not have devised a better real-world example of how to do marcomony. The whole "let's look at the assumptions that underpin the consensus" when the reality is that these same assumptions have parsimony written all over them. The papers that take these assumptions as fact *DENY* that parsimony has anything to do with them. That is the difficulty I have in describing marcomony - The very parsimony that I am challenging/replacing is neither considered an assumption nor anything to do with parsimony at any time!

Marco Parigi said...

I think this paper

should put the death nell on the Big Bang Theory - or at least the CMB being proof at any rate.

Chris Fellows said...

What has never been satisfactorily explained to me is the equation of the size of the visible universe with the actual size of the universe in the cosmological models. I don't see why the observable universe should be anything other than a small fraction of the actual universe.

But, to step back somewhat, why are you beginning to doubt the universe had a beginning? What secondary utility does this premise serve for you?

Chris Fellows said...

Also: I think the problem with thinking forward to something unfamiliar to us as life, from something even less familiar to us as life will make a mockery of science. I think we can do that once we can agree on the sequence and type of LNAWKI

We cannot agree on the sequence and type of LNAWKI in the absence of information, unless information is being beamed into our heads by the Cephalapod Overminds. I assert once again that working forwards from physics and chemistry is the only practicable strategy. When we discover structures or phenomena that shout 'LNAWKI!', then we will have something to talk about... happy to consider your candidates if you have any!

Marco Parigi said...

I am beginning to doubt that the Universe had a (Big Bang style) beginning because of the doubts on the one piece of predicted data being the CMB (we had a one for none primary utility on that with a conversation on cosmology with Winston). The Big Bang Theory hasn't predicted any other *new* facts than that.

Now, Quantised Inertia predicts a "Rindler Horizon" which is the horizon behind which things are moving away from you that the radiation that they emit can never reach you. This will look precisely like the Cosmic Microwave background with the important previso that with a Rindler Horizon, the radiation seen will be *Only* modulated by the accelerating reference frame from that which is observed, and will thus have no information about the early universe, but the different certainty in position relative to the observable universe given that at one patch of the sky you are catching up with part of the observable universe and from others you are pulling away. This is due to the rotation around the sun (At the Sun-Earth L2 point for WMAP) and thus the variation in CMB temperature will reflect the plane of Orbit. This appears to be completely the case, and thus primary utility is best served by setting aside that cosmological question as a question with only secondary utility (ie. not science, but perhaps religion or other non science genre until observations or predictions are repeatable/evident)

Marco Parigi said...

Ok - As far as candidates for LAWNKI go, I may or may not convince you but my argument is as follows.

The whole path of darwininan evolution leaves "breadcrumbs" of the trail of the path that evolution took, but in a way, all "better adapted" species say early man discovering fire and burning the habitats of competing primates and perhaps eating and destroying any evidence of them existing as ancestors.

This is kinda sorta the (I say failed) argument for there not being any evidence for whatever preceded amoeba or the sort of single celled organism that was prevalent on Earth when that was all there was. But Humans cannot destroy all evidence of what came before them whether they are hungry or not, because they depend on an ecosystem of life including precedents of varying genetic and geographical distance. And so maybe no evidence of humanoid monkeys in Africa, but perhaps in the isolated islands of Indonesia or something. At any rate, my idea that whatever life was before LAWKI, it would be impossible to destroy the evidence of their being without destroying LAWKI in the process. Therefore, either there is LAWNKI on Earth, or there is something functionally similar (in the vicinity of Earth) to the reproductive fission of Amoeba and metabolism. Blueprint would almost certainly still be DNA based, and the fission should be visually similar.

Liquid water would be important, as well as an energy source that would guarantee that (some sort of thermal power source and balance). Plenty of "organics" and the sorts of chemicals LAWKI produces (eg. O2, CH4 etc.)

I proffer 67P (as a representative and in partial state of fission) as fitting the functional similarity to single celled organisms. I urge you to consider the evidence for liquid water and bio-signatures without prejudice of "burden of proof".

My argument for *not* requiring convincing proof that we are seeing the reproductive fission of a living comet is that we have no baseline for deciding that alien life is "an extraordinary claim". If comets (and basically most carbonaceous NEA's and active asteroids, etc.) are actually alien life, then it isn't an extra-ordinary claim. If they are all dead, then it would be an extraordinary claim. Until we have a reasonable way to make a baseline estimate based on evidence, we have to take the evidence at face value. If you agree that liquid water is likely on 67P, then it isn't a stretch to say that the evidence is that small solar system bodies are reproducing and metabolising in an analogous way to single celled organisms.

I know I have argued this before, but the evidence that could have gone either way when we were talking about this *before* Rosetta really seems to have gone my way for the moment, despite some of the evidence being ignored by the mission...

Chris Fellows said...

My argument against the living comet hypothesis rests where it always has, on metabolism. You cannot have an ecosystem that consists of one organism. The energy and mass fluxes in and out of the organism need to be vastly greater than the energy and mass contained in the organism at any one time.

The *functional* similarity is no more than the *functional* similarity between a human being and a ceramic garden gnome that might allow them to both to prop up an umbrella.

Chris Fellows said...

BTW I am general agreement with you about cosmology only having secondary utility.

Our working model does have to be consistent with the observed expansion of the universe though, and while before 1998 the principle of we-aren't-anywhere/when-special would kind-of-sort-of seem to be best fit by an oscillating model, the observed accelerated expansion seems more consistent with starting from a much smaller universe-not-as-we-know-it.

Marco Parigi said...

Your metabolic argument is weak and unscientific. On which evidence do you base a quantitative requirement for metabolism? None. Qualitatively, a comet has all the metabolism it needs to harbor life and therefore be life. Humans are life as well as harbouring life. Just because the type of life that we are harbouring appears to predate us as harbourers is irrelevant, as reversing the scales (big living comets predating the tiny life that is harbouring comets) makes a jot of difference. Like saying tiny computers must have predated mainframe size computers because of some feature of tiny computers being of a certain way. Makes for no scientific basis at all. Having life and a certain progress of evolution is not a data point for telling us what came before. Metabolism is of course important but the fluxes are not. Especially if a flux can be established, which it can for comets.

I was considering some LENR reactions as an energy source, but Quantised Inertia has given me the idea that energy to liquify core of KBO's is statutory.

Marco Parigi said...

Regarding cosmology, I was reading Mike Maculloch's take on cosmology, and indeed he agrees that as far as a hotter earlier universe goes, that fits in with the Quantised Inertia model. Working backwards further than that when our Newtonian/Einsteinian dynamical models are so flawed is prejudicial to any future calculations and discoveries to some extent. Current cosmology has taken away almost everything that in my view had secondary utility with Theism as a basis. Not sure where to go with that, but I think that science has strayed so far from its roots based on observations that my life mission is to start again with a core of people like you that have a solid philosophical basis and can capture the imagination of the public by being right about future facts discovered in the new space race.

Chris Fellows said...

My metabolic argument is quantitative and supported by the most secure science there is, thermodynamics. (See, I meet and raise your opening statement...)

I recognise that we can observe a sulfur-bottomed whale, f'rinstance, or a great tree in Asia, with an infinitesimal flux of matter and energy in and out over the timescale that we observe them. Fundamentally, however, these complex systems are dependent on an energy gradient that involves the conversion of chemical energy from one form to another where the entropic trade off in creating order needs more mass to be disordered: there is a flux orders of magnitude greater than the living organism we see spread out over time and space. But comets are not like that: a point of absolute agreement between me and the status quo is that they came into being some time ago (where 'some time' = 'billions of years') and they are not accreting continually from a matter-rich primordial soup out there. Neither are they giving off material in a controlled fashion that shows any sign of being processed to simpler matter within them, like a whale.

"Harbour life" =/= "Be life". If your 'comet organism' is a diaphanous reticulum of something-or-other embedded in a matrix of food/waste, then your idea is not thermodynamically ridiculous and we can proceed. If it is anything else, then I will have to assert an axiom of my own for further conversation: "living comets are off the table". ;)

With regard to cosmology, I am likewise reluctant to trace any further back than energies that are experimentally observable now. We do not know enough about how matter behaves that far from our comfortable human scale, and wherever our extrapolations zoom off to infinity we have to say: 'hmm, this is not physically possible; whatever happened, it was not this.'

Where have your Twitter thread pals gone, btw? We need to get them here in >280 character space.

Marco Parigi said...

There is absolutely no evidence about *when* comets came into existence, or what chemistry goes on inside of them. On twitter I have recently been arguing that Oort cloud objects *cannot* have solid cores based on Quantised Inertia, which looks increasingly like it is true. Of course, I have believed that liquid cores regardless of distance from the Sun is the only way to explain their behaviour/outgassing patterns. I accept that in writing a paper we have to keep to the straight and narrow as to the status quo in terms of what we argue formally, but I have no doubt that accretion is NOT how comets formed. There is no way to confirm or verify any of the "facts" about our solar system formation, so I am loath to add such assumptions to my premises without any more evidence than a consensus of people making stuff up that they think works.

The chain of evidence that KBO's and Oort cloud objects etc. formed by accretion from a molecular cloud about 4.5 Billion years ago is very sensitive to the assumption that accretion is actually physically possible. I contend that accretion is incompatible with the laws of physics, in the sense that at least 99% of random collisions result in more than two gravitationally unbound pieces. Only models which are designed backwards to obtain the desired result of accretion appear to show it, while randomly generated dust and gas and planetismals stay as different random dust and gas and planetismals. Something else dramatic and different is happening. Physicists (that also assume dark matter) assume that some magnetic or other effect herds things into a disk and that objects accrete from that disk. I don't buy it, and I don't buy dark matter either.

That being said, for the benefit of argument, if I did believe that comets were ancient relics (with a complex history before coming into our view) I would agree with your metabolic assessment. But I don't, so I don't agree.

Are they giving off material in a controlled fashion that shows any sign of being processed to simpler matter within them?

I think that they are. The outgassing has a lot of patterns quite independent of solar flux. I would say that a lot of the matter being expelled has less chemical energy than "food", so could be waste products of some kind of metabolism in the same sense that whales do, if you were not privy to the chemical processes inside a whale, it would be reasonable to assume metabolism just based on what you could see coming out if you couldn't work out the input chemicals/energy.

A diaphanous reticulum of something-or-other embedded in a matrix of food/waste, then your idea is not thermodynamically ridiculous. That is actually a good description of what I believe is inside comets. I have invariably described it to myself as a primordial ooze, mixed with crude oil sludge with possibly a cartilage skeleton of sorts, with layers of frozen volatiles sandwiched with crude oil layers closer to the vacuum surface.

I certainly would be happy to take it off the table if the evidence was "thermodynamically ridiculous" but I insist that it is not. The main issue is that there is almost nothing in the mainstream (or even minority alternative) Narrative of Solar System formation that I can agree is correct.

Mindvalley said...

Thanks for the post, great tips and information which is useful for all.