The “spirit or alien” question
Posted on Friday, 28 August, 2009 | 30 comments
Columnist: Peter Fotis Kapnistos
At the dawn of our social development, humans believed that the sky or firmament was the abode of spirits. In most traditions, a spirit was a ghost or being without a material body. The sky as seen from Earth was called “the heavens” and was accepted in various doctrines as the dwelling place of God and angels –– as well as the blessed after death. Most religions looked upon the spirit as an intelligent life force or “soul.”
The introduction of modern science finally consigned ghosts and spirits to the fantasy zone of delusions and superstitions. In our day, eminent reasoned thinkers are in charge of our scientific and educational systems. But the swift growth of astrobiology in the past few years has presented an exceptional challenge. Several popular theories have been proposed about the possible basis of alien life. The latest phase in the critical analysis of extraterrestrial life now focuses on what physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies recently described as “Q-life.”
“A century and a half after Charles Darwin published On The Origin of Species, the origin of life itself remains a stubborn mystery, and is deeply problematic. The simplest known living organism is already stupendously complex, and it is inconceivable that such an entity would arise spontaneously by chance self-assembly. Most researchers suppose that life began either with a set of self-replicating, digital-information-carrying molecules much simpler than DNA, or with a self-catalyzing chemical cycle that stored no precise genetic information but was capable of producing additional quantities of the same chemical mixture. Both these approaches focus on the reproduction of material substances, which is only natural because, after all, known life reproduces by copying genetic material. However, the key properties of life — replication with variation, and natural selection — do not logically require material structures themselves to be replicated. It is sufficient that information is replicated. This opens up the possibility that life may have started with some form of quantum replicator: Q-life, if you like.”
Q-life –– set apart as a “life form without material structure” –– ironically harks back to our ancient belief in spirits. According to Professor Davies, the benefit of simply copying information at the quantum level, instead of building rigid duplicate molecular structures, is speed: “Q-life can therefore evolve many orders of magnitude faster than chemical life,” Davies pointed out. The environment of theoretical Q-life is unclear, but the surfaces of interstellar grains or the interiors of comets could allow “low-temperature environments with rich physical and chemical potential.”
The possibility of a quantum replicator became evident in 2007, when an international panel from the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Institute of Germany, and the University of Sydney found that under certain conditions galactic dust “comes alive” in outer space. The panel’s chief researcher, V.N. Tsytovich, announced that microscopic corkscrew shapes (helixes and double helixes) could form “spontaneously” in interstellar space. As they have memory and the power to reproduce, the helical strands show the necessary properties to meet the criteria for life. Since that affirmative disclosure, NASA scientists have given weight to a search for what they now call “weird life” –– organisms that lack DNA or other molecules found in life on Earth.
Quantum mechanics predicts that a proton can probably tunnel through the potential barrier separating quantum states of a DNA base pair, thus producing genetic mutations. “Mutations are the driver of evolution,” Davies wrote. “So in this limited sense, quantum mechanics is certainly a contributory factor to evolutionary change.” But how did Q-life evolve into familiar organic life? A possible scenario proposed by Davies is that common bio-molecules were derived by Q-life as a dynamic back-up information storage process.
“A good analogy is a computer. The processor is incredibly small and fast, but delicate: switch off the computer and the data are lost. Hence computers use hard disks to back up and store the digital information. Hard disks are relatively enormous and extremely slow, but they are robust and reliable, and they retain their information under a wide range of environmental insults. Organic life could have started as the slow-but-reliable ‘hard-disk’ of Q-life. Because of its greater versatility and toughness, it was eventually able to literally ‘take on a life of its own’, disconnect from its Q-life progenitor and spread to less-specialized and restrictive environments — such as Earth.” (Paul Davies, "The quantum life," physicsworld.com - July 1, 2009.)
Cambridge astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe first took up the question of quantum life in the 1970s, when they said that self-organizing plasma in interstellar space could have the form of a panspermia life cloud. In 2008, Arvydas Tamulis of Vilnius University described a comparable kind of Q-life progenitor as a molecular quantum computer able to absorb energy from stars, perform digital functions, and travel through interstellar space by means of radiation pressure. A quantum computer cloud in space would use photoactive molecules to convert light energy to floating point operations at extremely low temperatures.
Since a Q-life cloud meets the key criteria for life, but does not require any material substance, it bizarrely suits the limit for an intelligent spirit. The paradigm of a sentient computer cloud also helped to add some details to current reasoning that plasma has willpower –– and water has memory. Emergence theory describes the way complex systems and patterns crop up from simple interactions. For example, the self-organization of plasma (an ionized gas) leads to the formation of membranes, which eventually partition a cell’s genetic material.
Duke University engineer Adrian Bejan and Penn State biologist James Marden recently put forward the idea that “complexity is a function of flow.” Bejan’s 1996 constructal law is based on the principle that flow systems evolve to balance and minimize friction or other forms of resistance so that the least amount of useful energy is lost. The efficiency of a flow system increases as its branching design components become more complex. Since matter is not required for Q-life, it involves only the flow of information. Hence the “will” of a quantum plasma cloud perhaps is merely to fluctuate –– and flow into more complex patterns with a tendency to become smart. This is also called the physics of evolution.
In 1988, French scientist Jacques Benveniste published a controversial paper in Nature, which indicated that water has “memory” –– and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Some researchers now conjecture that water is capable of containing a memory of particle configurations within its molecular structure, which could also trigger access to electromagnetic signaling.
It was recently discovered that plants, animals, and even isolated microbes converse or “talk” to each other with molecular signals (external hormones) called pheromones. Today, we know there are alarm pheromones, food trail pheromones, sex pheromones, and many others that affect life through a sort of sixth sense (most likely related to smell and taste). Assortments of plants emit distress pheromones when grazed upon. Ants mark their trail with pheromones. And a number of organisms use pheromones to attract their mates from a distance of two or more miles.
It is now understood that water is an ideal pheromone-signaling pathway. The surface tension of liquids could retain the pH memory of a pheromone source –– allowing water to store up information (aggregation pheromone concentrations) rather like a hard disk. Pheromones have been shown to act as single molecules or as a mix of chemicals that evolved into an extraordinary system of micro communication. Results of up to date research into water’s memory of structural correlations have allegedly verified that “water even remembers whether it has been recently hot or cold.”
A potential environment for theoretical Q-life was plausibly foretold in 2005, when Professor Stephen Hawking worked on the “information paradox” and announced that information was not lost in black holes. Scientists had previously imagined that nothing could ever escape from a black hole. But it was determined that event horizon quantum fluctuations could allow information to seep out from a black hole. Hawking said that information configured below the atom in size could flow through black holes without wiping out structural complexity –– and be retrieved in parallel universes.
A new discipline called evolutionary developmental biology, or colloquially, evo-devo, was granted its own division in major universities. Leading scientists, from geneticists to paleontologists, published reports and attended symposiums that presented Q-life as a black-hole-analogous reproductive system. The New Yorker magazine covered topical findings in biology and wrote, “Some of the biggest have come from the new science of evo devo.”
A few of the strange and wonderful areas now under discussion are black hole intelligence mergers, intrauniversal intelligences, and new universe creation. Today, the most powerful Q-life computer cloud in space is thought to be the event horizon of an intelligent black hole.
It appears that even the Vatican is paying attention to the new sphere of evolutionary developmental biology. Given that it embodies the event horizon or “Omega Point” (singularity) of an intelligent black hole, sentient Q-life in the universe probably exists beyond our customary sense of space and time. It outwardly emerges from an untold multiverse, and most likely cannot be created or destroyed. On the face of it, Q-life is equivalent to eternal life. For this reason, the transcendent locale of Q-life is amazingly similar to the miraculous realm of God and angels. Pope Benedict XVI recently made a reference to the late French Jesuit scientist and philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who offered an evolutionary theology claiming that all creation is developing towards the Omega Point, which he identified with Christ as the Logos of God. Attesting to a renovation of the world as foretold by St. Paul, Pope Benedict said, “It’s the great vision that later Teilhard de Chardin also had: At the end we will have a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host.”
In 2007, Ruth Gledhill of the London Times interviewed Britain’s foremost atheist, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. When asked about the possibility of design by a cosmic intelligence, Dawkins replied: “But that gigantic intelligence itself would need an explanation. It’s not enough to call it God, it would need some sort of explanation such as evolution.”
The odd notion that skeptics might one day demand an explanation from an intelligent Q-life replicator seems brashly outrageous to many of us. Helical strands of “weird life” take shape spontaneously in interstellar space –– apparently not by evolution or a gradual development from earlier forms. Even so, hulking cynics scoff at a cosmic intelligence by writing it off as the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.”
Since religion’s true mission is to encourage friendship with God, perhaps members of the clergy need to consider the link between perception and the geometry of Q-life –– and to explore its impact on human behavior and emotions. Recent studies at Florida State University and the University of Vienna confirmed that people see human facial features in the front end of automobiles, and ascribe various personality traits to their cars. “One-third of the subjects associated a human or animal face with at least 90 percent of the cars.” If humans can interpret inanimate structures in biological terms even if presented in abstract ways, how would they interpret Q-life? For emotional bonding to come about, a Q-life progenitor must not be imagined as an inanimate object or “thing,” but as a highly evolved living being –– with as much intelligence as necessary to initiate new universe creation.
In 1964 the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev proposed a system to determine the measure of an alien civilization. The most advanced civilization is a Type III or IV civilization that would harness the power of an entire galaxy and tap into the energy produced from a super massive black hole. A Q-life progenitor sending out information at the event horizon of a black hole to merge from a singularity is the best runner for a Type III or IV civilization. Such hypothetical life clouds –– bearing information without material structures –– are so highly developed that in all probability they are immortal.
Gerard 't Hooft and Leonard Susskind recently proposed the holographic principle, which suggests the universe is akin to a giant hologram. David Bohm, Karl Pribram, and Michael Talbot talk about the "whole in every part" nature of a hologram as a new way of understanding reality. Every part of a hologram contains all the information possessed by the whole. If a hologram of an object is cut in half and illuminated by a laser, each half will still contain the entire image of the object. Consequently, information around an event horizon could be pictured as a “Master Hologram” that imparts its thermodynamic symmetries of order and entropy (or archetypal law and revolt). All self-gravitating systems in the universe would be holographic reflections of that Master Hologram. Each and every system would duplicate an allocation scheme according to a “best fit” principle that minimizes wasted resource space while reproducing the positive and negative correlations of the Master Hologram.
In other words, “familiar objects and chronological events” on Earth could be the mirror images of a Master Hologram, modified to simulate our terrestrial best fit. (So too, would every effect in all self-gravitating systems.) Thus, the thermodynamic distortion of “world wars” on Earth could find its cosmic parallel as an equivalent rebellious struggle on another life-sustaining planet. In a planetary system without organic structures, the Master Hologram’s best fit could adjust the thermodynamic distortions to appear as a massive red spot of gas –– for example. If the cosmic holographic principle proves to be technically valid, alien civilizations could be the best-fit holographic resemblances of the Master Hologram – and of us.
Microbiologist recently found that friendly bacteria account for about 90% of the cells in the human body. Some could even be cases of “weird life.” What happens to our friendly microbes when we die? While the body itself might be clinically dead, up to 90% of its cells could continue to live and connect to convection fields or subterranean water basins. Are we holographic copies of Q-life clouds?
Copyright Peter Fotis KapnistosArticle Copyright© Peter Fotis Kapnistos - reproduced with permission.