Please cite this article as: John S. Torday, William B. Miller, The Cosmologic Continuum From Physics to Consciousness, Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2018.04.005
Title: The Cosmologic Continuum From Physics to Consciousness
John S. Torday Department of Pediatrics Harbor-UCLA Medical Center Ph: 310-222-8186 FAX: 310-222-3887 Email: email@example.com
Running Head: A cosmological continuum
Reduction of developmental biology to self-referential cell-cell communication offers a portal for understanding fundamental mechanisms of physiology as derived from physics through quantum mechanics. It is argued that self-referential organization is implicit to the Big Bang and its further expression is a recoil reaction to that Singularity. When such a frame is considered, in combination with experimental evidence for the importance of epigenetic inheritance, the unicellular state can be reappraised as the primary object of selection. This framework provides a significant shift in understanding the relationship between physics and biology, providing novel insights to the nature and origin of consciousness.
Key Words: Quantum Mechanics; Biology; self-organization; developmental biology; consciousness, self-reference; zygote
A continuum from physics to biology was first suggested by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (Chisholm 1911). Proving the existence of such a continuum has proven untenable thus far.
Illuminating attempts have been made by the likes of the organic chemist Cairns-Smith (Cairns-Smith 1990), the engineer LL Whyte (1949), the physicist Prigogine (Prigogine and Stengers 1984) and the polymath Polanyi (Polanyi 1968). The frustrating lack of evidence for a relationship between physics and biology led the latter two to conclude that biology is just too complex to be reducible to physics. Despite prior obstacles, the astrophysicist Lee Smolin has used Darwinian evolution to explain such Cosmologic phenomena as stellar evolution and black holes (Smolin 1997), inferring a mechanistic relationship between physics and biology.
Metaphysicians such as Brian Swimme (1994) and Tim Freke (2017) have suggested an arc of Cosmologic ‘evolution’ without addressing how and why physiology might fit into that scheme. More recently, Torday and Rehan (2012) have shown how networking in biology for embryologic development, homeostasis and physiology can be understood based on self-referential self-organization as construed through cell-cell signaling. Using that empirically-based cell biologic approach has proven to be highly illuminating, predicting such phenomena as endothermy / homeothermy (Torday 2015a) and the First Principles of Physiology (Torday and Rehan 2012), redefining such processes as homeostasis (Torday 2015b), the phenotype (Torday and Miller 2016a), heterochrony (Torday 2016a), the cell (Torday 2016b) and the life cycle (Torday 2016c) based on a unifying epigenetic mechanism (Torday and Miller 2016b).
It has previously been advanced that life is defined by cognition (Shapiro 2011; Miller 2016a). Therefore, biological development and its evolution are dependent on the self-referential assessment, deployment and communication of information (Miller 2017). Clearly, all such information-dependent actions can be appropriately categorized as experiential. It has been long argued that all entities in the universe have an embedded experiential component and Whitehead proposed that even the inanimate must be regarded as experiential in nature (Whitehead 1967; Whitehead 1985). He argued that all reality must be regarded as a fundamentally interrelating dynamic experiential and relational process as universal ‘sense-awareness’ (Whitehead 2006). In these terms, there is an aspect of each location in every other universal location. Many other scientists, including the theoretical physicist Bohm, were highly influenced by this perspective (Griffin 1985). Both Whitehead and Bohm were searching for universal ‘underlying wholeness’ in which all causation would have vertical relationships within an enveloping realm of both superimposed implicates and explicates. This unifying perspective was formulated based on deep rational consideration at a time before the Singularity of the Big Bang was legitimized by finding cosmic microwave background as its echo, or the recent direct confirmation of gravitational waves (Collins 2017). Since it is now accepted that universal expansion began as a Singularity, then all that supervenes must emanate forward within its imprint as shared experientiality as a universal inherency. All life is demonstrably self-referential and self-organizing and experiential. If it is granted that all universal properties must have progenitors from within the Singularity and the Big Bang, then biological development and its evolution must extend across quantum space-time as an experiential and relational continuum from that instantiating moment.
Therefore, the living circumstance must be examined on the basis of that experientiality as universal sense-awareness through which everything has intrinsic connectedness. In biological terms, that experiential quality is expressed as self-referential awareness defined as the process capacity to maintain cellular homeostasis through the assessment of information and its energetic transfer as cell-cell communication.
With the cell as its basic living unit, evolutionary development is the living continuous process of remaining in ‘experiential’ unity with the Singularity. This is achieved in seamless continuity with all the quantum properties emanating forward from the Big Bang by the consistent active internalization of the environment as cellular homeostatic equipoise. In consequence, biological heredity can now be viewed as both physical reproduction and the timeless transfer of fundamental universal sense-awareness as a biological counterpart of Whitehead’s continuum of every object connecting to every other universal object.
♦ The Big Bang of the Singularity Gave Rise to both the Physical and Biologic Realms
The Cosmos is approximately 14 billion years old, having resulted from a massive explosion of the ‘Singularity’ (Hawking 2011), giving rise to the physical realm. In turn, the physical realm provided the substrate for biology (Mouritsen and Zuckermann 2004; Deamer 2017). Smolin argued that both the physical and biological aspects of the Cosmos are predicated on the possibility of self-referential self-organization (Smolin 1997). Whitehead (1929), De Chardin (1959) and Gurdjieff (2014) proffered a continuum from the physical to the biologic, overall constituting what we think of as Consciousness.
The question that arises mechanistically is how did that came about? Perhaps a clue can be found within the elegant simplicity of Newton’s Third Law of motion, in which every action has an equal and opposite reaction. It is proposed that self-referential life is best understood to be due to the recoil of the Big Bang, in much the same way that Smolin has attributed Black Holes to forming in response to self-organization (Smolin 1997). After all, if the reaction is equal and opposite to the ‘action’, it would only stand to reason that the reaction would mirror the original. In essence then, both the physical and the biological realms are mini-singularities, authored by the Big Bang.
♦ A valid pathway for quantum evolutionary development through cell-cell interactions
Any coherent biological narrative must center within cellular-molecular principles of morphogenesis, because they are unarguably the only mechanism known to generate biologic form and function. The big experimental breakthrough in understanding the mechanism of embryologic development occurred in the late 1970’s. Up until then it was thought that there was a so-called ‘organizer’, described by Spemann (De Robertis 2006), and that there was experimental evidence that there were low molecular weight substances that passed between the embryonic layers that were responsible for organogenesis, as shown by Grobstein in organ culture (Grobstein 1967).
In 1968, it was discovered that fetal lung development could effectively be accelerated by the simple molecule cortisol (Liggins 1968). Smith (1979) subsequently made the breakthrough discovery that the effect of cortisol on epithelial type II cell surfactant production was indirectly mediated by a soluble factor, which he termed Fibroblast Pneumonocyte Factor (FPF), produced by lung alveolar fibroblasts. That observation led to the realization that pattern formation during morphogenesis was determined by cell-cell interactions, mediated by soluble growth factors activating cognate cell surface receptors, causing intracellular signaling cascades mediated by second messengers for growth and differentiation (Basson 2012). Consequently, many aspects of embryogenesis have been found to be due to the elaboration of soluble growth factors and their cognate receptors.
Interestingly, this mechanistic understanding of embryogenesis has not been applied to evolutionary developmental biology, or EvoDevo (Hall 2003; Futuyma 2017). Smocovitis has explained that cell biology was omitted from evolution theory in the early 20th Century because it had been theorized that gene mutations were the sufficient cause of evolution (Smocovitis 1996). It was not until the beginning of the 21st Century that the evolution of the lung was first hypothesized to have been caused by epigenetic developmental and phylogenetic changes in cell-cell signaling caused by the physiologic stress of the water-to-land transition (Torday 2015a).
This mechanistic means by which vertebrate evolution could be clarified may have been overlooked largely because Darwinian evolution theorists have concentrated on largely random genetic mutations, with only reluctant regard for robust epigenetic mechanisms (Charlesworth et al. 2017). However, consequential and heritable epigenetic mechanisms have been validated that are predicated on the effect of physiologic stress causing internal selection for evolutionary developmental and phylogenetic changes (Torday and Rehan 2012). This same approach has also been corroborated as the physiologic evolution mechanism consistent with the developmental and phylogenetic changes in lung evolution (Torday and Rehan 2007). In particular, there were specific receptor gene duplications that occurred during the water-land-transition (Torday 2015a), all of which were necessary for land adaptation in amplifying their physiologic effects on ontogeny and phylogeny. Moreover, the effects of experimental genetic manipulation of the pathways regulated by those genes are consistent with their causal relationships in the process of lung evolution.
♦ Unification of Mayr’s Proximate and Ultimate Causes of Evolution
The reduction of embryogenesis to networks of growth factors and their cognate receptors has offered the opportunity to identify homologies with Quantum Mechanics (Torday 2018), which can reduce biology to a level that coherently co-aligns with the Singularity of the Big Bang.
In 1952, Ernst Mayr published a watershed paper stating that there was a fundamental difference between the biologic traits underpinning evolution and the process of evolution itself, the former representing proximate, and the latter, ultimate causes of evolutionary processes of evolution (Mayr 1961). The model biological example he used was that of migratory birds. Since that time, a great deal has been learned about the reproductive physiology of birds, particularly the effects of ambient light on the pineal gland, which regulates reproductive physiology (Nishiwaki-Ohkawa and Yoshimura 2016). Such data offer a seamless continuum from seasonal changes in environmental light affecting reproductive physiology of birds based on cell-cell signaling that can be used to explain how and why birds migrate.
Since Mayr’s era, many other cellular-molecular physiologic properties of vertebrates are now known that offer an understanding of evolution, ranging from the lung, to the kidney, skin and brain (Torday and Rehan 2017). However, it is now further understood that many of these cell-cell interactions are examples of quantum processes underpinning significant biological actions. For example, the European robin detects the subtle variations of the angle of the Earth’s magnetic field relative to the Earth’s surface rather than the direct magnetic orientation. It has been shown experimentally that the avian magnetic compass is dependent on quantum superposition and the quantum entanglement of particles (Gauger et al. 2011). Further yet, traditional models of enzymatic kinetics for all organisms cannot account for the thousand-fold increases in speed and amplitude of basic physiological processes without imputing quantum effects via long-range electron and hydrogen tunnelling (Lambert et al. 2013). Indeed, it is now evident that life on Earth has been dependent on quantum processes since its earliest beginnings. Quantum coherence and entanglement have been shown to be the active operating means of excitation of the light harvesting complexes used by photosynthetic bacteria (Sarovar et al. 2010; Caruso et al. 2010).
This conjoining unification of quantum mechanics between the physical realm and biological substrates eliminates the artificial difference between the proximate and ultimate causes of evolution, rendering the process as one continuum. It offers the opportunity to understand the underpinning cellular-molecular mechanisms, not unlike Niels Bohr (1928) resolving the duality of light as an artifact of its measurement. The long-standing debate over whether evolution is gradual or saltatory exemplifies our difficulty in perceiving this inherent duality. For either evolutionary pace, the processes of evolution are one and the same. Both must depend on latent superpositions in a quantum system in which time is a relative variable (Torday and Rehan 2017).
♦ Comparing Apples with Apples
Reduction of vertebrate evolution to the cellular-molecular level offers the opportunity to mechanistically interface biology with the physical environment. Although there is no direct evidence for the molecular origins of life other than the Miller and Urey experiment (Miller and Urey 1959), subsequent steps in vertebrate evolution are well documented. Konrad Bloch (1992) hypothesized that cholesterol was a ‘molecular fossil’ since it took 11 atoms of oxygen to synthesize one molecule of cholesterol. Cholesterol subsequently provided the structural basis for cell surface receptors as lipid rafts that evolved into cell-cell signaling (Mouritsen and Zuckermann 2004). Accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during the early phase of unicellular vertebrate evolution led to an increased concentration of calcium in water due to the formation and erosive effect of carbonic acid on rock (Case et al. 2007). Eventually, the excess levels of calcium in ocean waters caused endoplasmic reticulum stress, which was epistatically balanced by the evolution of the peroxisome (De Duve 1969). The ‘greenhouse effect’ due to further accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere subsequently caused rising air temperatures, drying up bodies of water, driving some vertebrates out of the water onto land (Romer 1949). The skeletal changes that occurred during the adaptation to land are well documented (Clack 2012) and widely accepted, but the effect of that transition on the visceral organs has been completely overlooked mechanistically as an existential component of the process of land adaptation.
It was the experimental deletion of the Parathyroid Hormone-related Protein (PTHrP) gene that highlighted the role of this bone calcium regulatory hormone in the lung, kidney, skin and brain (On et al. 2015), in combination with evidence that the PTHrP Receptor gene duplicated during the water-land transition, offering the opportunity to invoke an evolutionary mechanism (Torday 2015a). The consequences of the adaptation to land can be seen in the physiologic stresses on cell-cell communication in various organs — lung, kidney, skin, bone, brain — allowing for the cell-molecular changes that mediated these tissue-level changes for land adaptation. Direct effects of such environmental factors as oxygen and gravity (Torday and Rehan 2011) on morphologic changes allowed for conceptual connections between the physical and biologic environments that constitute evolution. This was the first time that evolutionary changes were directly attributed to documented sequential geophysical changes in the environment.
Experimentally, when lung or bone cells are exposed to microgravity expression of the PTHrP gene decreases, causing a decline in PTHrP mRNA (Torday 2003). Returning the cells to unit gravity restores PTHrP mRNA expression. Such quantum effects of gravity on cell biology are now well recognized, funneling through the Target of Rapamycin Gene, which directly regulates tubulin in the cytoskeleton (Jiang and Yeung 2006).
♦ The Mechanism of Epigenetic Inheritance Infers the Primacy of the Unicellular State
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck invoked epigenetic inheritance in the 18th Century, but was unable to provide scientific evidence to support his hypothesis. It was not until recently that evidence for direct inheritance of epigenetic ‘marks’ from the environment was shown experimentally (Jablonka and Lamb 1989). Such marks first appear in the germ cells of both males and females as DNA methylation sites, which are passed on to the offspring during the process of reproduction (Schaefer and Nadeau 2015). During meiosis, and then, more particularly, at the level of the unicellular zygote, yet-to-be determined mechanisms sort out which epigenetic marks are retained or discarded (Torday and Miller 2016d). Be that as it may, the evidence is that the gametes and zygote determine the epigenetics of the offspring, not the adults, as would be demanded by Darwinian evolution.
Such epigenetic interactions between biology and the environment can be considered as self-referential ‘echoes’ of the origins of life. Necessarily then, they must proceed through previously enumerated First Principles of Physiology (Torday and Rehan 2012). It is argued that epigenetics can appropriately be regarded as the biologic ‘equal and opposite’ recoil of the Biologic Big Bang. The entropic expansion of the Singularity must have its apposite according to Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Reacting against the universal expansion of the Singularity, biology enacts an entropic endogenization of that expansion via epigenetics, which internalizes aspects of the higher external entropic state of the environment within the negentropic cellular milieu. Therefore, just as the Big Bang ‘gave birth’ to physics and biology, epigenetic inheritance adjusts both offspring structure and function as a biologic analog of thermodynamic recoil against the Singularity in order to sustain the essential equipoise of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. In this manner, the sense-awareness aspect of universal experientiality, as originally postulated by Whitehead and others, can be viewed as a self-organizing force whose required direction is towards continuous organismal-environmental complementarity. Non-Darwinian epigenetic adjustment and inheritance are that active quotient. And, by this same epigenetic means, multicellular eukaryotic reproduction that begins with an obligatory reiteration through the unicellular form as its own microcosmic Singularity and proceeds to vast, multi-trillion cell elaborations is also thermodynamically reconciled.
♦ The Pauli Exclusion Principle as Homolog for the First Principles of Physiology
Mendeleev was successful in formulating a predictive Periodic Table of Elements because he identified atomic number as the ‘common denominator’ that normalized the data describing the elements. As expressed by Harold Morowitz (2004) in his book “The Emergence of Everything”, when the primordial ‘soup’ generated by the Big Bang finally cooled, the particles, electrons and photons came together and matter emerged. The determining factor is that electrons interact with nuclei in certain quantum states as designated orbits. Therefore, this ordering phenomenon is a function of atomic number, which is a derivative of quantum mechanics. The interaction of an electron with a nucleus is characterized by four quantum numbers —n, the principal quantum number, l, the angular momentum quantum number, ml, the magnetic quantum number, and ms, the spin quantum number. The quantum mechanical solutions are the interaction rules, which yield probability distributions for the distribution of the electrons around the nucleus. The Pauli Exclusion Principle demands that no two electrons in an atom or molecule can have the same four quantum numbers, three in space and one in time.
Thus, the Pauli Exclusion Principle (PEP) explains the arrangement of electrons and nuclei that results in the atomic number that can yield the Periodic Table of the Elements, chemical bonding and the different states of matter. This property of matter begins to explain how and why the whole is not equal to the sum of its parts, given that the PEP dictates the behavior of two or more electrons rather than any one electron in isolation. Further, it can be argued that the fact that the quantum state of the first quantum number determines that of the second and third quanta.
However, since the fourth quantum is time-dependent, which can be argued represents an implicate of ‘history’, a noetic or ‘knowing’ character is conferred to the elements of the Universe (Morowitz 2004).
It is further advanced that the First Principles of Physiology, as negentropy, chemiosmosis and homeostasis, offer a profound connection between biology and the Singularity (Torday 2018). Negentropy and chemiosmosis act to determine the constraints that the living circumstance requires, and homeostasis can be envisioned as the homolog of Free Will, with all being connected through the self-referential self-organization that was conferred by the Big Bang.
♦ Non-Localization in Physics and Biology
The concept of non-localization has been discussed at length by Bohm and Hiley (1993). They bring out the fact that the essential new quality implied by the quantum theory is non-locality i.e., that a living system cannot be analyzed into parts whose basic properties do not depend on the state of the whole system. They show that this approach implies a new universal type of description, in which the standard or canonical form is always supersystem-system-subsystem (Bohm and Hiley 1993), and this can be considered as leading into the radically new notion of unbroken wholeness of the entire Universe (Bohm and Hiley 1993).
Biology subscribes to the same description. It is not apparent when seen from a synchronically descriptive vantage-point, but when understood from a diachronic perspective, transcending space and time as a quantum mechanical continuum, it can be understood in the same terms used by Bohm and Hiley (1993) for physics. Akin to Bohm, the physicist Mae-Wan Ho proffered that the reality within quantum mechanics is the opening of a universal system of the superposition of all possible alternatives (Ho 1994). In a self-referential, self-organizational frame, the act of observation settles those potentialities into a definite state. Yet, as the Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen paradox also assumes, there are no preset probabilities within that system (Wiseman 2006). Instead, the probabilities are determined within the system, including any biological one. A significant implication lies within this construct. In biological terms, the combinations of results with the living condition embodies are not compatible with any basic local interaction model. In order to conform, the signals would have to travel faster than light. Therefore, it becomes a necessary conclusion that quantum physics as non-locality extends across biology (Lambert et al. 2013)
That such mechanisms are operative as critical aspects of cell-cell communication is not conjectural. There is a substantial range of research that endorses quantum principles of non-locality, entanglement and quantum coherences as active biological mechanisms. These include such fundamental processes as the quantum coherences that support electron transfer in photosynthesis (Tempelaar et al. 2014)., phototransduction for vision (Schoenlein et al. 1991), the radical pair mechanisms in magnetoreception used for animal navigation (Mouloudakis and Kominis 2017; Bandyopadhyay et al. 2012), and quantum electron tunneling in olfaction (Huelga and Plenio 2013).
Thus, there are mechanisms within a self-referential system wherein the collapse of superimposed implicates is instantaneously communicated through an interconnected whole, no matter the distance. This is not merely theoretical. An instructive example is muscle contraction. Absent entanglement as quantum coherence, waving our arms would not be possible. That coordinated action occurs instantaneously over a scale of distances that is nine orders of magnitude, far exceeding any known biochemical, bioelectric, or mechanical connectivity. As Ho (1994) presciently said, “A quantum world is a radically interconnected, interdependent world where every entity, from elementary particle to galaxy, evolves like an organism, entangled with all there is in nature”.
There is perhaps no more direct analogy between a physical system guided by physical laws and quantum rules within our actual living circumstance as holobionts representing complex collaborations between the entire microbiome of each eukaryote and its innate cells (Miller 2016b). Every multicellular eukaryote (holobiont) is quite well-defined as supersystem-system-subsystem (Miller, 2017). Within that connectedness, the fluid transfer of information by cell-cell communication extends across the entire organism by a variety of quantum means (l-Khalili and McFadden 2014; Miller 2016a).
From this base, a further means of thinking about biology in cellular-molecular terms is exemplified by recalibrating pleiotropy (Torday 2015c). In contrast to the stochastic way of conventionally thinking about pleiotropy as the random expression of genes throughout the organism to generate more than one distinct phenotypic trait, it is actually a deterministic consequence of the evolution of complex physiology from the unicellular state. Pleiotropisms emerge through recombinations and permutations of cell-cell communication established during meiosis, based on the history of the organism, both developmentally and phylogenetically, in service to the future existential needs of the organism. Homologies ranging from the lung to the kidney, skin, brain, thyroid and pituitary exemplify the evolutionarily mechanistic strategy of pleiotropy. The power of this perspective is exemplified by the resolution, for example, of evolutionary gradualism and punctuated equilibrium in much the same way that Niels Bohr (1928) resolved the paradoxical wave-particle duality of light as Complementarity. Hence, seen in this way, biology and physics are both non-localized, acting at all levels to form and maintain their integrated entirety. Therefore, it can be defended that there are identifiable homologies between biology and quantum mechanics, as a congruence at every level, from the Singularity across every aspect of the Cosmos.
Pleiotropy is typically considered as being the same gene expressed in two or more tissues and organs. If widely enough distributed, when challenged physiologically such a ‘network’ would form the equivalent of an electrochemical field due to the synchronicity of the calcium fluxes (Wu and Jia 2007). Currently, we think of this as allostasis (McEwen and Wingfield 2003) in a synchronic sense, describing the coordinate interrelationships between the various organs of the body, acting in concert to execute various bodily functions. But seen as a ‘field’ opens up to a much more robust way of thinking about the interactions of the organism with its environment, more along the lines of Daniel Fels and his colleagues (Scholkmann et al. 2013), considering how cells communicate by unconventional means.
♦ Coherence and Schrodinger Wave Collapse
The concerted actions of calcium waves alluded to above are consistent with the concept of ‘coherence’ in physics (French 2003). As such, calcium wave collapse as biologic action would be a manifestation of coherence. This phenomenon is reminiscent of experiments with microgravity, showing that in pseudo zero gravity yeast lose their ability to mediate calcium flow or bud (i.e. reproduce) (Purevdorj-Gage et al. 2006). In combination, these properties of yeast reveal an insight into the essence of life itself since the organism can no longer commune with its environment or reproduce as a result of the collapse of the cytoskeleton when calcium flux is impaired (Hughes-Fulford 2003). After all, it is the cytoskeleton that determines the physiologic state of the cell as homeostatic, meiotic or mitotic (Ingber 2003). Therefore, it is the cytoskeleton that mediates the communication between the cell and its environment. It can be considered that this exact flux is the foundation of any rendering of consciousness. The biochemical relationship between the cytoskeleton and its internal environment is due to the Target of Rapamycin gene, which mediates all of the metabolic properties of the cell (Najrana and Sanchez-Esteban 2016), and, in turn, supplies critical support to the cytoskeleton (Jiang and Yeung 2006).
Similarly, Hameroff has speculated that anesthetics dissociate us from our environment (render us unconscious) because they bind to the catalytic site of the tubulin gene (Hameroff et al. 2002). He and Penrose have formulated a mechanism of consciousness predicated on the role of the microtubule system of the brain, integrating its activities, forming a network between and within neurons (Hameroff and Penrose 2014).
♦ Heisenberg Uncertainty Accommodates Biologic Ambiguity
The beginning of life on Earth is thought to have been mediated by lipids immersed in the primordial oceans, spontaneously forming micelles (Deamer 2017; Torday and Rehan 2012; Torday and Rehan 2017), as prototypical cells that distinguish the internal from the external environment. Membranes within the cell generate energy via chemiosmosis (Mitchell 1961), allowing for the existence of negative entropy within the cell (Schrodinger 1944), in contrast to positive entropy outside of the cell. These two differing states of flux can be considered a form of ambiguity, since the self-referential assessment of them is based upon the attachment to biological information space which is characterized as imprecise information (Miller 2017). It can be advanced that this forms the beginning of a series of ambiguities that characterize the condition of life, despite its overt material form (Torday and Miller 2017). Life is dependent on information that is communicated between the cell and its environment, or between cells. The sources of information are always compromised, either due to imprecision as to sender or receiver of any communication, sender/receiver time delays, or degradation by transit through any intervening medium. It is this condition that fuels evolution, perpetually trying to resolve the problems that are presented to the cell, which is habituated to its ambiguous condition. This is homologous with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, disallowing the simultaneous determination of position and velocity of matter (Heisenberg 1927). When the Big Bang is the acknowledged progenitor of both the physical and biologic realms, it should not be surprising that there is shared ambiguity in both those domains, rendering them compatible with one another.
♦ Physiology as Fractal Reiterations
It is advanced that physiology is fractal, insofar as a faithful adherence to The First Principles of Physiology can be identified as a continuum that begins with physical energetics, proceeds through unicellular organisms, and then can be traced through complex physiology. Beginning with the spontaneous formation of micelles by immersed lipids in water (Deamer 2017), and the instantiation of the First Principles of Physiology (Torday and Rehan 2012), each subsequent step in evolution references those same First Principles. These reiterating rules are negentropy and chemiosmosis monitored and governed by homeostasis-homeorhesis. So any significant disturbance of cellular equipoise will always be conditional on cellular changes that would re-instate homeostatic-homeorhetic ‘balance’. Such remodeling processes as the evolution of the alveolus (Torday and Rehan 2007), glomerulus (Smith 1953) and skeleton (Clack 2012) were mediated by cell-cell interactions that would alleviate any imbalances, resulting in adaptive changes. The evolution of physiology must be understood through ecological niche construction (Torday 2016b). Our evolution proceeds through cell-cell communication, the physiologic regulation of genes, and heritable reciprocating signals (Torday and Rehan 2011). At the root of this type of fractal approach to physiology is an appreciation of the ubiquity of the cell membrane (Torday and Rehan 2017) that facilitated oxygenation, metabolism and locomotion from its beginnings with the insertion of cholesterol into the cell membrane (Bloch 1992; Mouritsen and Zuckermann 2004).
Clearly, biology and its evolution is dependent upon a cell membrane that demarcates internal and external energy states. It can be considered that if the operating principle of life is self-referential self-organization, then the cell membrane might act as the ‘catalyst’ for life itself (Mouritsen and Zuckermann 2004; Torday and Rehan 2017). The on-going discovery of deep homologies in the physiological systems of widely disparate taxa underscores the fractal nature of physiologic processes. To start, a fractal is a mathematical pattern — it is the math that underlies the dynamics of natural systems — and it drives the evolution of phenomena via a basic function that repeats itself across all levels of time and space, producing self-similarity on all levels of inspection. Consequently, the similarity of ontogeny and phylogeny is not selection dependent. Instead, ontogeny and phylogeny are actually one and the same, as first hypothesized by Haeckel (Richardson et al. 2002), operating at different time levels. Upon an inspection of molecular traits, whether ontogenetic (within an individual across time) or phylogenetic (across generations of individuals), there are specific separable sequences on both time scales. The genes expressed earliest in ontogeny (i.e., immediately following conception) are those that are phylogenetically most ancient. Genes expressed late in development are those that have evolved more recently and have a much narrower phylogenetic distribution (Roux and Robinson-Rechavi 2008). When molecular traits are stressed, they follow a trajectory in reverse, suggesting that there is a common origin for all traits, going back to the unicellular state and the First Principles of Physiology. At an organismal level, this means that the molecular level dynamics are self-similar in nature to actions at the cellular level, which scale up to produce both organ and organ system level interactions that ultimately culminate in holistic physiology. These fractal interrelationships demonstrate a self-similar reiterating pattern of physiology that assists in the adaptation to the external environment (Torday and Rehan 2012). Since the external environment was formed by the Big Bang (Singh 2004), it has been argued that physiology mimicks the external Universe by forming its own internal ‘Universe’ by which homeostasis can be considered as a self-referential, self-organizing framework (Torday and Rehan 2011; Torday and Rehan 2012; Torday and Rehan 2017) .
It can be advanced that this pattern is shared among all living things. For example, Brad Davidson at the University of Arizona has shown that the stem cells for the heart in the tunicate Ciona intestinalis are derived from its tail, suggesting that the beating of the tail for locomotion has been exapted for heart beat (Davidson 2007), though unicellular organisms do not require a heart or a circulatory system. By default, it can be inferred that the heart evolved in support of fundamental biologic traits like respiration, metabolism, and locomotion to support multicellular organisms. If so, then the heart is derivative of the convergence of locomotion (as cytoplasmic streaming), metabolism and respiration. And it can be argued that all of these are derivative of the insertion of cholesterol in the cell membrane (Mouritsen and Zuckermann 2004).
Exaptations such as the evolution of the middle ear bones in vertebrates from the jaw bones of early fishes have generally provided powerful clues to the ancestry of structures and revealed repeating processes of evolution through innovation from pre-existing conditions (Tucker et al 2004; Downs et al. 2008). Similarly, the brain and gut seem to have a shared history in response to the demand for central control of the evolving viscera. For example, cells derived from the neural crest of the central nervous system migrate to the developing gut, where they aid in the formation of the gastrointestinal system, including the epithelial barrier, microvasculature and neuronal enervation (Bronner and LeDouarin 2012; Obermayr et al. 2013).
From the foregoing, it is possible to propose some specific linkages between fractal physiology and nutrition. Biology entrained energy via semi-permeable membranes, promoting the reduction in entropy that is the metabolic driver for evolution as a way of perpetuating self-organizing homeostasis (Torday and Rehan 2012; Miller 2016a; Miller 2017). For example, the entraining of cholesterol in the plasma membrane facilitated both endocytosis and exocytosis by eukaryotes, as well as aerobic respiration, by thinning out the membrane, making it more permeable for gas-exchange. (Torday and Rehan 2012).
Another process in this context is chemiosmosis. It can be argued that semi-permeable membranes allow for the maintenance of ionic gradients that are fundamental to the energy gradients that are the energizing force of life. Thus, entropy and chemiosmosis mechanisms are complementary insofar as they are mutually enacted semi-permeable membranes. As these processes evolved, they had to cope with thermodynamics in a hierarchical manner. Thus, cholesterol was subsequently exapted to facilitate the formation of lipid rafts, which are the structural basis for cell-cell signaling, ultimately culminating in the synthesis of steroid hormones to form the endocrine system. That interrelationship can now be viewed as fractal reiterations in evolution, which, over time, led to vertebrates emerging from water onto land (Bridgham et al. 2006; Torday and Rehan 2011). In this manner, a fractal arc of physiologic evolution can be traced from unicellular to multicellular organisms, from simple to complex physiology. Similarly, Quantum Mechanics homologously links micro-level atomic principles to such macro-level phenomena as Periodicity, non-localization, coherence and Quantum Entanglement (Smolin 1997; Morowitz 2004).
♦ The Narrative Version of Vertebrate Evolution
Identifying the interface between Quantum Mechanics and biology offers the opportunity to understand evolution as one continuous process, beginning with the Big Bang of the Singularity (Hawking 2011).
The ‘recoil’ of that explosion due to Newton’s Third Law of Motion (Smolin 2004) hypothetically caused the equal and opposite reaction in the form of self-organization as a mini-Singularity. That phenomenon offered the opportunity for the formation of the first cell from the lipids present in the primordial oceans (Deamer 2017) since lipids spontaneously form micelles, or semipermeable membrane-bound spheres. In effect, the reaction to expansion as increased entropy is internalized within the cell as the critical negentropy that permits self-organization as its opposed reaction. Importantly too, a part of that counterbalancing internalization includes the embodiment of universal sense-awareness that Whitehead proposed. To support the negentropic state, internal membranes partitioned ions on either side of themselves in the process. Peter Mitchell termed this mechanism Chemiosmosis (Mitchell 1961), providing the bioenergy needed for negative entropy, the overall process being governed by homeostasis-homeorhesis (Torday and Rehan 2012). The internalization of the environment by the protocell was tantamount to the first Niche Construction, i.e. the ‘personalization’ of the immediate environment by the organism (Torday 2016b), furthered by endosymbiotic transfers to enable complex eukaryotic life forms, such as ourselves. Thus, it is averred that the iterative endogenization of the environment in reaction to its ever-changing nature constitutes the process of evolution (Torday and Rehan 2017). This is exemplified by epigenetic inheritance, constituted by the direct assimilation of epigenetic marks by the genome, and then into the egg and sperm during meiosis (Schaefer and Nadeau 2015). The subsequent transfer of the retained epigenetic marks to the zygote, and their adjudication during that critical phase facilitates their ultimate passage to the offspring.
♦ Consciousness as the Aggregate of the Continuum from Inanimate to Animate
As indicated above, the case can be made for the interrelationship between the physical and biologic realms by which both are connected, and each having its own ‘logic’ (Torday 2013; Torday and Rehan 2017). The consideration of self-reference as the interface between the two (De Chardin 1959; Gurdjieff 2014) forms the conduit for the flow of information between the inanimate and animate. This is what is referred to in the literature as the ‘hard’ problem, which becomes the very nature of consciousness.
There is an important codicil to any argument that biology must be understood from the Big Bang forward within the dynamical parameters of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. If physics is the fundament of biology, then through the constraints of the Third Law of Motion, there must be an inevitable reciprocation from biology to physics. Therefore, it must be entertained that biology might be able to teach physics, a ‘new’ physics ( Hunter 2010; Miller 2017).
To read the works of scientists such as L.L. Whyte (1949), Morowitz (2004), Capra and Luisi (2014) and Smolin (1997) on the one hand, and mystics like De Chardin (1959) and Gurdjieff (2014) on the other, there is a continuous, on-going process in Nature that accounts for all that we see, from rock to life, from flora to fauna. We are encouraged in this way of thinking by the feasibility of equating mass and energy as E=mc2 or to conceptualize the merging of all of knowledge as Consilience (Wilson 1999).
The genius of life lies within its self-referential self-organization, yielding the first cell that arose as the consilience of physical mechanisms through the First Principles of Physiology (Torday and Rehan 2012). Single cell division assured that perpetuating dominance. Multicellular organisms devised more complex mechanisms of reproduction, which ensured their own form of organismal-environmental complementarity through robust epigenetic inheritance. The subsequent stages of multicellular life — embryo, fetus, offspring, life cycle — are all dependent upon the epigenetic reinforcement of self- referential self-organization that began with the Big Bang.
Within this integrated Cosmologic perspective lies an identifiable oneness between physics and biology. The prior assumption of passive, sterile random mutation and Darwinian selection is thereby contravened. In its place, there is a self-organizing sense-aware entirety of Universal origins. From this empowering stance, all life is one with the Universe, reiterating across quantum space-time through both classical physical interactions and obscure non-localities.
Apart and together, in quiet proclamation, they have spread out from the Singularity to resonate with Carl Sagan’s profound summation, “We are star stuff which has taken its destiny into its own hands” (Sagan 2011) .
John S. Torday was Funded by NIH Grant HL055268
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