Another "Meaning of Life" thread?

At certain points within the universe’s history, matter has exhibited behaviors that produce spectacular “universe changing” results. Since humanity is also matter, those behavior patterns remain as an integral part of the human experience, and following those behavior patterns will generally result in “success” – whatever that might mean - and perhaps provide a general outline to the meaning of life…or better yet, the meaning of matter.

  1. Quarks or strings make up atomic particles. Three of them, along with gluon messenger particles, make protons or neutrons based on their configuration.

  2. Protons and neutrons create the atomic nucleus, again using gluons to communicate the strong nuclear force. Then, using Electromagnetism, they join with electrons to become atoms.

  3. Atoms, using electromagnetism, bond with each other to become everything; planets, stars, comets, oceans, organic molecules, etc.

  4. Those organic molecules increased in complexity and learned to self-replicate, eventually becoming DNA. The motor of evolution begins to churn. Over time and in ever-increasing complexity, the first cells were borne.

  5. Single-celled organisms, driven by evolution, remained attached and became multi-celled organisms. In the process, they evolved communications networks – the first nervous systems – to ensure that all the cells work in concert.

  6. Multi-celled organisms have since evolved better “communications networks” with the development of the brain and the ability to communicate between individuals.

So it would seem that the following behavior patterns are key to the meaning of life:

Unification: quarks or strings coming together to make protons and neutrons - coming together as a nucleus - further unification with electrons to become atoms – coming together to make molecules – coming together to make everything in the universe including coming together to make DNA and genes – coming together to make self-replicating cells – coming together to make multi-celled organisms.

Cooperation between different sovereign entities: up quarks and down quarks or strings – protons, neutrons, and electrons – atoms of the same or different atomic weights - different molecules – different nucleotides – different genes – different organelles – different cells – all of these different entities work together and cooperate at their respective levels. Diversity it seems, is a virtue.

This cooperation is facilitated by…

Exchange of information: gluons exchanged between quarks or strings – gluons exchanged between protons and neutrons - photons passed between electrons, protons, and neutrons – electromagnetic signals governing molecular bonds – chemical signals communicated between organelles – electrical signals running along the spinal chord of a multi-celled organism

Transcendence (into larger stable patterns of matter of increasing complexity): from quarks or strings - to protons and neutrons – to atoms – to molecules – to everything including the stars, planets, the oceans, and DNA – to becoming cells – to becoming all the life on our planet

Stabilization and Repeat: once the entity has achieved transcendence, it stabilizes itself and moves on to repeat the whole thing over again at a higher level; to unite through communication with similar entities, thus joining together to become part of something much larger.

As you can see, the mechanics that govern each of these activities vary from level to level, and in most cases are quite different from each other, but despite the details, the overall behavior pattern remains the same. The behaviors listed above repeat themselves, again and again.

So how does this relate to humanity?

  1. Well, these same behavior patterns are part and parcel of the very things that we value in life. If you list the top 10 inventions through history, I guarantee you that at least 7 of them directly or indirectly improve humanity’s ability to follow those behaviors.
  2. Maslow’s pyramid corresponds with Stability, Unification, and Transcendence.
  3. War, religion, and business all are catalysts for these behaviors. They all have an underlying effect of unification.
  4. Solitary confinement is a punishment dealt to the punished.
  5. Behaviors that go against those I’ve listed are considered selfish, antisocial, maybe even evil. These behaviors, to an extent, determine our right and wrong.

I didn’t want to get any more verbose, so I hope that list wasn’t too disjointed, but I think it relays the point.

Overall, these behaviors seem to be geared toward a general resistance to destruction, or entropy, or Satan, whatever you want to call it. But whatever the “why”, the “what” seems pretty clear if one looks are what the universe is/has been doing.

Does this perspective make sense? Because if it does, then I’ve also come to some interesting conclusions based upon it.

I disagree, assuming the Universe’s laws do not change. The way it looks now, humans, while certainly more complex by themselves than many interstellar phenomena, are the result of randomly-determined interaction over billions of years rather than some organized process.

Many events in just the history of the Earth reversed the putatively inevitable drive toward more organization and communication: many human ones, but mainly, the countless die-offs that killed most species on the planet. Who knows what they would have produced if their diversity had not been squelched?

On the other hand, if the current scientific method, which is the only one in the past 500 years that can even begin to replicably explain phenomena, is just a product of a re-arrangement of the world’s metaphysics, then anything is possible.

Heck, the dust mites on my shoulder are more complex that ANY interstellar phenomena (that we know of). And yes, those little guys too are the result of randomly determined interaction. Randomness is prevalent throughout all aspects of matter, living and non-living. The very nature of quantum physics is wrapped around randomness, or “God playing dice”, as is the very nature of evolution. But despite this, the universe still behaves in just the manner that I’ve said.

And mind you, these behaviors are not rigidly adhered to by all matter. There are particles that don’t exhibit this behavior, just as there are animals that prefer solitude…most cats for instance. But this just shows that there is no intelligent design. Since she doesn’t have a map, Nature goes down many roads at once, but only some of them lead anywhere, and the ones that do are characterized by the behavior patterns I’ve laid out.

Well, first you say that’s what the “universe” has been doing, now you claim it’s only a subset of the universe. When I point out that a lot of what humans do is purposely destructive to not only physical entropy but also any purported push toward greater organization, will you then claim it’s only some humans that exhibit these traits?

That’s right, now you’re getting it :wink: !

Consider the various levels of matter (they’re numbered 1-6 in the OP), at the smallest scale, the Standard Model contains a number of different particles, yet only up quarks, down quarks, and electrons become atoms. The periodic table has lots of elements on it, and they in-turn can combine to become countless molecules, but only a few of them combine to become DNA. It’s a kind of cosmic evolution. The universe takes a sort of shotgun approach to find ways to increase complexity, to evolve; a lot of it misses, but some of the buckshot is true to the mark. Those that are on target would equate to what you’ve called a sub-set of the universe. The rest is basically chaos stemming from a lack of what some might call intelligent design.

And yes, this manifests itself in the human world through the fact that people can and will act in ways that are 180 degrees to the contrary of what I’ve said. But other than Ted Kazcinsky, how many hermits have any kind of impact on this world?

Have you read the book the lucifer principle?

I feel that societies, cultures and memes picked up where multicellular organisms left of. We are defined to a large degree by our ability to obey our culture, our memes and our society just as our cells are defined by their ability to do what the body needs them to do.

No I haven’t but thanks for the tip. Bloom certainly seems to be saying many of the same thing I am. I also found correlation in books by Eric Chaisson.

I don’t think there’s any question that societal and cultural behaviors are an extension of evolution. And if you extend evolution all the way back to the Big Bang, then you see that those same behaviors occur over and over again. The mechanisms through which they happen might be vastly different, but the results are very much the same.

In applying these behaviors on a personal level, they still maintain the ability to greatly improve ones chances of success. Unification, communication (information exchange), and cooperation are key aspects to all manner of relationships, business, marriage, sports, politics, you name it. The more that any of these institutions apply these behaviors and “transcend” or act as one, the more likely the measure of success. It’s true in atoms, molecules, evolution, and love.

What’s the measure of success? Lack of entropy? As organisms who grew up in an relatively organized place, we naturally assign organization a positive “success” value.

However, in terms of mass-energy, it appears that disorganized systems, e.g. neutrinos, photons, dark matter, have the upper hand as they constitute the vast majority of the mass-energy in our universe.

For the most part, yes. I think lack of entropy, or more accurately acheiving a stable state of ordered complexity is success.

True, but I’m pretty sure that’s as it should be given the principles of non-equilibrium thermodynamics. The aforementioned stable states of ordered complexity would need to be offset or balanced by a considerable amount of increasing disorder, which as you have said, is more than plentiful.

On the cosmic scale, stability is an illusion of diminished perspective. The Steady-State Universe, elegant as it was, has not shown lifesign for many a year.

I have often thought of life as a localized disruption in the march of entropy. And, given that view one can certainly model “organized” as “good” and “stable organization” as “better”, but those are merely labeling choices. Philosophically, they are no more compelling than hedonism (ethical or otherwise).

Also, when you argue for wars, religions, and businesses as “unifying elements” l find myself suspecting that you have cherry-picked your data.

Perhaps the best question for you to address initially, though, is: **Single-celled organisms still exist, as do inorganic molecules, single atoms, unattached sub-atomic particles, etc. What standard are you using to declare that more organized forms are more “successful” than more random forms? How are you determining that a progression (implying “advancement”) is occuring rather than simply a sequence?

I will admit that I’m using the word “success” in a somewhat loose manner, however I see little trouble in identifying a moth to be a more advanced manifestation of matter than say a single atom, or a quark. However, if you need a quantifiable measurement, one could also measure advancement in terms of energy-rate density, as Eric Chaisson (Director of the Wright Center for Science education at Tufts University) did in a recent article in New Scientist. Here are a few excerpts:

*If we look at energy flow in relation to mass, we find a real and impressive trend of increasing energy per time per mass for all ordered systems over more than 10 billion years of the universe’s existence.

Consider life itself. With few exceptions, energy-flow diagnostics show rising complexity throughout biological evolution. Life forms process more energy per unit mass than any star, and increasingly as they evolve.*

He goes on to say that the same increase in energy-rate density occurred in the hunter-gatherer to agrarian switch. And further still through industrialism.
Does that answer your question?

No doubt. The question is, why should anyone else lend particular weight to your predisposition to favoring one over the other? You have provided no objective support for the idea that the Universe “favors” or “is improved by” the presence of moths rather than quarks.

Quantifiable measurements are one of the things I am least likely to require in a discussion of “the meaning of life”. Energy-rate density is no more “meaningful”, in itself, than “localized entropy” or “symmetric” or “bunny-shaped”.

Here Chaisson indulges in the same cherry-picking of data that you were using earlier. True, stallar and galactic systems have coalesced over the last 10 billion years (according to current cosmological models). But it is also true that stars have exploded into nebula, collapsed into brown dwarves (or neutron stars, or black holes). Similarly, the “life cycle” of quasars is still conjectural but I don’t believe that I have seen a model that argues for a continuing increase in the energy-density of quasars over time.

In absolute terms, of course, the energy-density of the Universe has decreased drastically since the first moments after the Big Bang.

Here, again, we see the fallacy of “directed evolution”. Because complex organisms appear later than single-cell organisms it is a common fallacy to imagine that a complex organism is more “advanced” than a single celled organism. This ignores the simple fact that the single celled organisms in existence today are also the product of millions of years of evolutionary pressure. The harsh and beautiful truth is: evolution does not care. nature expresses no preference for you or for the paramecium.

I think he can support this only be playing a bit loose with his measurements. Everything I have read indicates that average caloric intake among populations decreases when making the switch from hunter-gatherer to early agriculture. What does increase is population density because more calories can be produced per unit of land. That seems a pretty arbitrary data point upon which to make an argument human beings unless one wishes to argue that members of a human community function as a collective organism on the evolutionary scale.

Not really, at least not other than tautologically. Questions of how/why we assign value can be very tricky, but also very useful in forcing us to consciouisly address our own preconceptions.

[drive-by question]

Out of curiosity, is there any non-arbitrary way to determine that a given sequence is not some sort of progression? Or vice versa?

[/drive-by question]

I fear you may be muddling the point a bit. Let’s go back to the question, “What is the meaning of life?”. A typical sub-set of that question would be, “Why are we here?” or “What is our purpose for being here?”. Both are inquiries into what actions we should be taking. And what I’m saying is that based on the historical record of what matter has been doing since the Big Bang, those actions are essentially to:

Generally resist entropy through unification and cooperation between sovereign entities, which is facilitated by information exchange or communication, thereby transcending to become something larger than the sum of its parts, and upon reaching transcendence, stabilizing and starting the process over again.

If these behaviors weren’t followed, all the matter in the universe would never have evolved past the fermions of the Standard Model. But since this Base Set of Instructions (BSI) IS followed, some of those fermions became atoms. Notice however that the atoms are limited in their ability to follow these behaviors. They couldn’t continue down that path by packing on the electrons and becoming atomically obese. Atoms reached a certain size and couldn’t go any further (this might be true for all levels of matter). They instead had to again follow the BSI and become molecules. From there, the pattern repeats itself in infinite variety, and led to everything from heavenly bodies to DNA.

So trying to identify what’s more advanced isn’t really the point. It’s the behavior, the action that matters.

As for cherry picking data, I’m not sure how to convince you otherwise. Religion, war, business, all of these behaviors not only loom large in the history of humanity, they also have an underlying theme of unification. I supposed that the entropic side of human nature obscures that picture, so to provide a clearer example of how important the BSI is to humanity, let’s look at what can be considered a reasonable list of the top 10 most important technological innovations.

Controlling fire
Indoor plumbing
Electric light

All of these directly or indirectly ease our ability to follow the BSI, and at the end of the day they are important to us for exactly that reason.

It occurred to me that calling the behavior pattern I layed out as a set of instructions would imply that there is an instructor. This is not my intention.