Is this "just" emergence, or is there more to this?

(This is similar to another post I made on GD, but I didn’t get much response. I’m hoping for more here in GQ. My apologies for the re-run)

At certain points within the universe’s history, it seems to me that 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. Consider the following, which are basic and fundamental portions of the theories and facts surrounding the behavior of matter at increasing granularity levels or scales 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. According to asymbiosis, those cells are the result of these complex molecules developing a symbiotic relationship, which is particularly striking when referring to the introduction of chloroplasts in plants and mitochondria in animals.

  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 nature of matter in the universe.

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. These same behavior patterns are part and parcel of the very things that we value in life, such as family, friends, love, religion, academics, sports, entertainment, etc.
  2. 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.
  3. Maslow’s pyramid corresponds with Stability, Unification, and Transcendence.
  4. War, religion, and business (cornerstones in human history) all are catalysts for these behaviors. They all have an underlying effect of unification.
  5. Solitary confinement is a punishment dealt to the punished.
  6. 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 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 since the Big Bang.

I find this idea to be compelling in that it suggests that ideas such as world peace to be not just something that would be “good to have” but instead provides **scientific proof ** that cooperation, communication, and just plain “gettin’ along with each other” to be absolutely vital to humanity’s future. (I know, “Well, duh!”)

Some would call this progression to be merely emergent behavior, but it seems to me to involve more than that because it also includes evolution, as well as technology, which I believe many would argue are very different things.

What the heck am I seeing here?

JMO – You have some interesting analogies, but it’s way short of scientific proof of anything.

A few things that caught my eye…

The universe has no tendency against entropy, it has a tendency towards entropy. The Universe’s history is moving to high entropy. That is directly counter to the common experience of human history, but the entropy is borrowed in ever greater measure to make that seem so.

You might be interested in looking up the anthropic principle if you’ve never done so.

“These same behavior patterns are part and parcel of the very things that we value in life, such as family, friends, love, religion, academics, sports, entertainment, etc.” I have no idea what theis means or how anything you wrote justifies it in the least.

You might also look up game theory, prisoner dilmena, Tit for Tat strategies. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there about the desirability, likelihood, and stability of world peace, and is scientificly based.

Plenty of other stuff in there that to me at least reeks of pseduoscience and not-quite-right thinking, but I’ll stop there. Best of luck developing this.

I must say that this reminds me very much of the - philosophy - of the TM movement and the Maharishi Maresh Yogi. Are you connected with them? If not, they might be a useful (if expensive) source of spiritual enlightment for you.

Robert Wright wrote a book arguing that the history of humanity and civilization is a story of increasing communication and cooperation. You might find it interesting. It’s called Nonzero.

I meant to say “matter” not “the universe”. And the complexity that I’ve laid out, be they galaxies, stars, or life forms, are more than balanced out by the vast seas of disorder surrounding them. This comfortably satisfies the principles of nonequilibrium thermodynamics.

I think it’s hard to see because it’s way too basic, but quite simply none of these things that I list could be possible without people (to one degree or another) coming together, communicating, and cooperating. It is simply impossible without these basic behaviors, just as protons, neutrons, atoms, molecules, DNA, planets, stars, galaxies, and life itself would be impossible without these basic behaviors. It’s really childishly simple, but it seems to me that the simplicity belies the signifigance.

As for the anthropic principle, I think there’s little if any relation. What I’m describing are the basic reactions of matter to the forces of nature. However, not all matter is “successful” in doing so. For instance, the matter in the Standard Model is comprised of 18 fermions, but only up quarks and down quarks become protons and neutrons. The other fermions may also exhibit these behaviors, but only the aforementioned up and down quarks transcend to become part of the atom. (The rest are a bunch of underacheivers :dubious: .) Of the countless molecules in the universe, some of them transcend to become stars, or oceans, or saphhires, and a handful become DNA. Matter behaves in this manner and the results are myriad, and as far as we know, one of those paths leads to life.

One might find correlation in the history of primates. Many different primate species have existed, but only one became man. Furthermore, one of the primary events that make humans so special was the move from Hunter/Gatherers to an Agrarian society. Agrarian societies rely on, and at the same time facilitate the behaviors I’ve listed. Industrial societies continue this to an even greater degree.

Honestly, I’ve suspected not-quite-right thinking in this as well, but I just can’t poke any holes in the idea.

No thanks. I have no use for such things.

Well sure, despite recent events, civilization has exhibited a tendency to resist entropic forces through cooperation and communication. I mentioned invention before. Most anyone would list at least seven of these items on their list of the most important inventions ever:

control of fire
cellular technology
use of electricity
indoor plumbing
the internet

All of these items either directly or indirectly positively affect humanity’s ability to communicate, cooperate, and unite.

I don’t think this is coincidental.

And what’s your supporting evidence?

I think you have to be very careful when you’re playing around with moral lessons drawn from science. Science is not a moral discipline–it’s only intended to study the way things are, not the way they should be.

To be honest, I’m having a really hard time understanding exactly what your idea actually is. I know you wrote about it at great length at the OP, but at least to me, it’s not adding up to any kind of specific thesis that can be examined in any kind of rigorous way. You have a lot of analogies and metaphors and isn’t this neats, but I don’t see any hard claims. Do you think people communicate to each other the way subatomic particles do? Do you think the history of the universe naturally leads to humanity? Do you think World Peace is a natural state? You sort of hint around all kinds of ideas like this, but never really spell it out.

That’s just my opinion, but I’m not going to chip in any further on this OP, because I can’t figure out how it’s a GQ.

I think the evidence is all of science itself. Each of the manifestations of this behavior pattern also corresponds with fundamental concepts in various fields of scientific study; from quantum physics, to chemistry, to genetics, to biology, or even astronomy. It’s a lot like finding a Modus Operandi in a crime. If you look at the history of matter, the **lowest common denominator ** in regards to matter’s MO is to:

come together
exchange information
transcend (in some cases)
repeat (if transcendence is acheived)

This isn’t something I personally made up, it’s very basic stuff. Extremely interdisciplinary, but basic nonetheless.

If you can accept that, then I think it’s not too far of a leap to identify similar patterns in general human behavior. In fact, I think it’s a far more dubious to argue otherwise. Furthermore, I’m not saying that these are metaphors, I’m saying that they are* related*. The actions caused by gravity, the strong nuclear force, electromagnetism, and certain interpersonal relations between many life forms, including humanity, (which is mostly electromagnetism anyway) are all related. And if viewed in such a manner, I think there are some interesting conclusions that can be drawn.
**muttrox ** is right, I’m being quite vague and there doesn’t seem to be a question here. The reason is because in order to understand my question, one must understand this viewpoint (maybe gestalt is the right word). So I’ll post the actual question (actually two questions) in a couple of hours. SDMB folks are tough cookies and I want to make sure I’m getting it uh…straight.

I certainly appreciate the feedback and I know I’m not very good at this so hope you bear with me.

Okay, question one:

I don’t know if anyone noticed, but in my OP, the list of six scales of matter (mind you, I’m not saying there are just six, it’s just for the sake of this post) is also an historical timeline. Soon after the Big Bang (nanoseconds?), quarks formed into protons and neutrons, soon after that they joined with electrons to become atoms. After a certain amount of time, atoms joined and became molecules, which in turn became planets, stars, nebulae, and after some more time, organic molecules. After a long period of time, those organic molecules began to self-replicate and presto! DNA. After a somewhat shorter period of time, those replicators became single-celled organisms, and then after an even shorter period of time, they became multi-celled organisms.

Now put that aside for a second.

Between solid and liquid, or liquid and gas, there’s something called a phase transition.

I honestly don’t understand a lot about PT’s (and from what I understand, few people do), but if you look at the historical timeline that I explained above, it seems to me that the DNA point is a phase transition. My two reasons for thinking this are:

  1. It divides non-living matter from living matter, a transition that (just like ice to water or water to steam) is defined by the addition of energy.
  2. PT’s are non-linear and complex. If we consider again those six scales of matter and how they transcend to larger, stable patterns of increased complexity, you might notice that describing how this takes place at each scale is fairly easy except when it comes to DNA.

a. Up quarks and down quarks become protons and neutrons.
b. Proton, neutrons, and electrons make atoms.
c. Multiple atoms make molecules
d. DNA molecules are made up of genes and alleles. During self-replication, these genes can produce proteins. These proteins are folded into structures that can improve the survival of genes, and thereby create cells.
e. Single-celled organisms stuck together and made multi-celled organisms.

Actually, I totally suck at explaining how DNA works, and someone might be able to do it with less information than what I supplied, but I seriously doubt one could explain it as simply as the others. Also, I completely realize that I might be over-simplifying the other scales of matter in favor of my argument, but at the same time, I think it’s somewhat obvious that DNA is still harder to explain. (Damn. As I’m writing this, I’m seeing the potential error of my ways here, but I hope there might still be some validty to this.)

So question one is:

When DNA arose on the earth and led to life, could that be characterized as a phase transition?

I don’t see how DNA can be considered a phase transaction. They are precisely defined in terms of physical characteristics and each one involves the breaking of a symmetry. You’d have to determine what sort of mathematical symmetry property your earlier level had - that appears to be molecules - and how DNA molecules break it.

Saying living versus non-living isn’t much of a help, since you haven’t defined what that might mean, and you ignore all earlier self-replicating molecules in the process.

BTW, it is not true that “DNA molecules are made up of genes and alleles.” Alleles are simply forms of genes that express differently in the body.

I honestly don’t follow what you’re attempting to say, but it feels to me as if you’re trying to express something that is mathematical in nature in words, without understanding the math, the science, or the words themselves. Most of your changes are not in fact phase transitions. You’re also ignoring all the fundamental forces - the weak and strong forces, electromagnetism, and gravity - for a kind of physical chemistry that just sorta sticks things together when you need them.

So far, this looks to be mere playing around with scientific words to make some science-sounding conclusion. It’s not science of any kind I recognize, though.

You’ll have to work much harder and produce something with vastly more rigor and better understanding of basic science to even approach the level of an argument, I’m afraid.

Question two. This requires a dip into the fantastic. It’s a lot more imaginative, but I’ll try not to get too wacky.

I need to preface this with a quote from Frijtof Capra’s The Tao of Physics.

*To see the nucleus, we would have to blow up the atom to the size of the biggest dome in the world, the dome of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. In an atom of that size, the nucleus would have the size of a grain of salt! A grain of salt in the middle of the dome of St. Peter’s, and specks of dust whirling around it in the vast of space of the dome – this is how we can picture the nucleus and electrons of an atom. *
Let’s pretend that we accomplish wonderous acheivements like in your typical sci-fi story. Maybe there are aliens out there that we begin friendships with, or perhaps we’re all there is in the universe and so we venture out into space, spreading like dandelions in the front yard. Whatever the case may be, let’s say we eventually become some a sort of federation of planets utilizing electro-magnetism or maybe gravity to communicate. Maybe an interplanetary-wide web ( :smiley: ). So here we are slowly growing and remaining unified through communication. We are successful, and our federation expands. (It could happen, right?) The behavior pattern that I mentioned in the OP is being followed.

Now, take a quantum leap and pretend you are Zeus, high upon Olympus, such that you can see the entire universe in a font of water.

Now here’s this thing floating in the water. You’ve never seen it before, but it’s grown large enough to catch your attention. Upon closer examination, you realize that it’s made up of tiny bits of matter. But it’s more than that, because there are forces of nature (our communications or iww) being exchanged between the bits of matter, so there’s a sort of substance to it, despite the fact that the tiny bits of matter are separated by relatively vast regions of space.

That’s a familiar story, isn’t it?

Anyway, since time is one of Zeus’ playthings, fast-forward the universe to see what happens to the thing. Following the same behavior pattern, the thing grows. Maybe other things (alien civilizations) appear and they grow too. Perhaps to Zeus, it looks like the water is freezing. Some sort of crystallization is occurring. To us, our civilization is growing and spreading across the universe.

So here’s the wacky question: Could it be that this expansion of life and technology might serve to provide a mechanism through which the universe ceases to expand? That is, perhaps there’s no need, or less need for Dark Matter. Perhaps WE are the Dark Matter.

Now, I realize that the total mass of all the matter in the universe is the key component to ceasing the universe’s expansion, but then again, the Higgs bozon has never been seen. We’re not really positive about what gives matter mass. If the LHC at Cern doesn’t find the Higgs, and we have to look elsewhere for those answers, could the activities of living matter paired with technology be a viable alternative to solving the universal expansion problem?
A lot of fantasy here, I know, but I thought it was interesting enough and kind of fun to ponder. At the very least, I find it curious how our “federation” takes on a description similar to that of atoms.

Definitely not the math and not all the science (much of which I know requires the math to understand in the first place). Honestly, I have no real scientific background (no shit!) and what I know is from documentaries, books, and magazines. But in the selfish gene, Dawkins said that sometimes scientific advancement isn’t accomplished by finding something new, but rather by looking at what we already know in a different way. That’s all I’m doing.

I agree that cooperation, communication, etc. between people generally make the world a better place, but calling this “scientific proof” is overstating your point. As ultrafilter points out, science make no claims about what’s better. Is a proton better than a quark? I don’t think so – it’s merely more complex. Your examples make the point that complicated things tend to be made from simpler pieces, which are themselves made from even simpler pieces. This is certainly true, but I don’t think it’s terribly surprising. I suppose there could be a universe without different levels of structure, but it’s clearly not the one we’re living in.

Your examples also illustrate that increasingly complex structures have arisen over time. Again, this doesn’t seem that surprising – if the universe began with simple building blocks, and these had the capacity to form more complex structures, then of course it took time for such complexity to reach the level it’s at now. (Plus the universe had to wait until certain conditions to be achieved which were necessary for the formation of such structure – e.g. everything cooling off a bit, etc.)

It also seems to be true that humanity is growing more interconnected over time. Again, there are reasons for this – e.g., it’s taken time for the technology to develop to allow fast communication over long distances. But does any of this prove that we should encourage this tendency? I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should work to continue improving world-wide communication and cooperation, but for much more mundane reasons than “Look, it worked for quarks.”

Sounds a lot like Tielhard de Chardin, to me. From what I’ve read and heard about Tielhard, I think he was full of shit, but a lot of people see him as unifying science and theology.

Much more to my liking is Gordon Kaufman who links what he sees as the creative tendency of the universe to traditional Christian ideas about God and Christ. I like him because he tries to bend theology to fit science, not the other way around. He’s far more succesful than you might think.

Even if you aren’t a Christian and aren’t interested in Christian theology, you might find a kindred spirit in one or both of those authors.

I repeat my earlier statement.

No. The expansion of civilization/life/technology throughout space is entirely unconnected to the total amount of matter/energy in the universe. End of story.

Thanks for the replies. I hope I haven’t overly aggravated anyone with my limited understanding of some of these subjects. Understand that I’m an aspiring sci-fi writer just looking for an angle. The “fi” part is easy. The “sci” part is a lot more work.

I’m not really saying one thing is better than another really. That would be kind of like saying the egg is better than the chicken. It’s as you say, just more complex. I guess the point I’m trying to make on my OP is that when matter does these things correctly and successfully reaches a level of stability, the universe changes dramatically. It’s not just a “Hey, isn’t that nice?” kind of change, it’s a “Holy Shit!” kind of change.

So imagine if you will that we all make nice some day and (to use a vague but understandable reference) fulfill John Lennon’s dream as he expressed in Imagine. The pattern that I’m identifying would dictate that we repeat the process. Think about what that might mean. Now, I could go into communicating with alien civilations and the typical sci-fi fare, but truth is nobody knows. However, it just seems to me that if this progression is not just my human brain doing the whole pattern recognition thing, then something big will happen.

And it’s that which I think is so compelling. What is that big something?

I’m not asking for an answer. I’m just making a statement.