Star Larvae Hypothesis
Nature's Plan for Humankind
Part 1. Metabolic Metaphysics
Sub-processes within nature's metabolism can seem themselves to
be discrete. But these
sub-processes, organisms, cannot operate autonomously, separately from an environment.
tend to view nature against a hierarchy of scale and complexity.
In the hierarchy,
subatomic particles occupy the bottom rung, and complexity then ascends
to atoms and molecules and on to cells and organisms,
ecosystems and biospheres, solar systems and galaxies, galactic clusters
and superclusters and from there to some kind of cosmic beyond, possibly to a multiverse, a population of universes. The hierarchy
includes as many intermediate steps as suits the occasion or as many
as ingenuity can contrive. The problem with the hierarchical model
is that its levels are defined by convention; their discreteness does not inhere in nature, because nature
has no intrinsic joints or seams at which she can be cleaved.
defined level in the hierarchy provides an environment within which subordinate levels
pursue their metabolic interests. And any defined level acts as an
organism that pursues its metabolic interests while embedded in a superordinate environment. Because an organism
exchanges matter and energy with its environment, the definition of the organism comes with a fuzzy edge. Where does the organism
end and the environment begin? This quandary presents itself
not only in the food chains and biological cycles that
run through an ecosystem, but also even in the chemical bonding of atoms, which blurs the atomic boundaries.
When atoms bond to form
molecules, the identity of each participant relative to the environment
becomes fuzzy. A molecule acts as an environment in which atoms share
or exchange electrons, and the relationship that results is the chemical
bond that maintains that environment. As an environment, the molecule
reconstitutes its constituent atoms. Atomic ownership of electrons in
a molecule can become indeterminate.
Under this headline, Neutron Death Mystery Has Physicists Stymied, Scientific American reported (May 13, 2014) that, "Conflicting results in measurements of how long neutrons live has [sic] physicists rethinking their experiments, because solving the riddle may point the way to exotic new physics. Despite decades of taking measurements, scientists cannot agree on how long neutrons live. Neutrons are stable inside atoms, but on their own they decay in about 15 minutes, more or less, into a few other particles." Hmmm, so neutrons "live" but removed from their natural habitat they suffer "death," and they "decay."
science can be more secure than the unconscious metaphysics which
tacitly it presupposes. The individual thing is necessarily a modification
of its environment, and cannot be understood in disjunction. All reasoning,
apart from some metaphysical reference, is vicious."
— Alfred North Whitehead
illustrate the principle of indeterminate boundaries at the suprabiological
end of the spectrum, consider the whole Earth. Researcher
James Lovelock assigned the name Gaia
to the Earth considered as a single, unified, self-sustaining entity—an organism. Gaia was an Earth
goddess, and Lovelock adopted the name to underscore the observation
that life itself actively maintains the terrestrial environment, chemically
and thermally, so as to sustain life.
But, as with
any organism, the living Earth is not a discrete, self-contained system.
It is embedded in the solar system, which is
populated by the sun, other planets, moons, asteroids, and clouds of
comets. The sun plays an essential role. But the other bodies of the solar system also seem to
be essential for complex life to evolve. In Rare
Earth, Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee catalog many of the cosmic
coincidences that make Earth hospitable to the evolution of complex
biological life. For example:
only is Earth the right distance from a star of the right size
to make bio-friendly conditions possible, but its anomalously
large moon is situated precisely so as to stabilize the planet’s
giants, Jupiter and Saturn, act as gravitational vacuum cleaners,
protecting the inner planets, including Earth, from excessive bombardment
by stray comets and asteroids. Some of these projectiles get through,
but Ward and Brownlee calculate that without the gravitational clean-up
work performed by Jupiter and Saturn, Gaia long ago would have been
pummeled beyond recovery.
of Earth's water supply might have been delivered by comets.
It is hardly controversial anymore to suggest that comets probably
also delivered a supply of organic materials to the early Earth,
in effect kick-starting the genesis of biological life, or at least
setting a nutritious table.
of dependencies suggests that Gaia is a misnomer. The planet
Earth is one component of a larger system, which as a whole
can be thought of as constituting a discrete organism. But even that
organism, our solar system, is able to thrive because it resides
in a hospitable environment. Neither much nearer the center of the Milky
Way galaxy nor much nearer the fringes would it find adequately hospitable
conditions. The solar system resides in what cosmologists call a galactic
habitable zone, a region of space characterized by a sufficient
density of the kinds of materials needed so that solar systems can form.
of Life in a Hostile Universe," by Guillermo Gonzalez, Donald
Brownlee, and Peter D Ward, Scientific American, October 2001.) In a
paper published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
(Volume 423, Issue 2, pages 1234–1253, June 2012), titled, Evidence
of Nearby Supernovae Affecting Life on Earth, researcher Henrik
Svensmark presents evidence that as the solar system has traversed the
Milky Way, moving into and out of the galaxy's spiral arms, it has experienced
rising and falling levels of galactic cosmic rays (due to its increasing
and decreasing proximity to supernovae remnants) and that these cycles
of cosmic ray exposure correspond to major climatological changes on
Earth that in turn correspond to observed variations in biodiversity.
That is, evolution is tied to cyclical galactic
speculation has been the salvation of the world—speculation
which made systems and then transcended them, speculations which
ventured to the furthest limits of abstraction. To set limits to
speculation is treason to the future."
— Alfred North Whitehead
Function of Reason
on our solar system’s particulars, Ward and Brownlee dismiss
the prospect of complex life existing elsewhere in the universe. They
argue that the precise arrangement of conditions needed is too unlikely
to occur again. But nature’s propensity to self-organize
raises the question as to what constitutes an unlikely coincidence
and what constitutes a predictable result of nature's
Brownlee interpret Earth's seemingly unique status in secular terms.
But others interpret the same observations in religious terms. These
theorists propose that Earth is a Privileged
Planet, one so uniquely hospitable to biological life that it must
be an artifact of intelligent design. Now that space probes are revealing
planets around other stars—exoplanets—the Rare
Earth and Privileged Planet hypotheses are becoming falsifiable. In
2009 researchers announced that they had detected "rocky" exoplanets and "super" Earths.
The catalog of exoplanets has grown to where in January 2012 astronomers
from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced
that stars without planets appear to be the exception rather than the
rule. In 2012, another team announced the discovery
of a multiplanet system that looks strikingly like our own. Later
in 2012, researchers associated with the ESO detected
molecules of a sugar, glycoaldehyde, in the planet-forming zone around
a sun-like star in a binary system. "What is really exciting
about our findings is that the ALMA observations reveal that the sugar
molecules are falling in towards one of the stars of the system," said
team member Cecile Favre, of Aarhus University, Denmark. "The
sugar molecules are not only in the right place to find their way onto
a planet, but they are also going in the right direction." PDF
file HERE. And HERE are exoplanets located in
their stars' habitable zones. Earthly planets might be neither rare nor privileged. If Earthly planets turn out to be commonplace, and researchers deduce the likely presence of life, and especially if researchers detect the signature molecules of industrial pollution in exoplanetary atmospheres, then scientists and theologians will have to adjust their paradigms.
Identifying any cross section of nature's metabolism as discrete is an
exercise in imprecision. The individual organism might seem to be
an unambiguously delineated unit of nature, but, as the Gaia example,
or any study of biological food chains, reveals, organisms exist
only in a state of dependence on environments, local and cosmic. Perversely, environments
confuse the issue not only because boundaries among nature's levels
of scale are ambiguous, but also because environments introduce
organisms to one another, and this can foster mutually beneficial, sometimes
essential, relationships among them. That result, symbiosis, further
notions of the discrete organism.
NEXT > Symbiosis
Star Larvae Hypothesis:
a genus of organism.
The stellar life cycle includes a larval phase.
Biological life constitutes the larval phase of the stellar life cycle.
hypothesis presents a teleological model of nature, in which
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