• Biology

    How Living Systems Violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    When James Clerk Maxwell proposed the second law of thermodynamics, he envisioned a thought experiment in which two chambers of gas were joined by a small door under the control of a ‘demon’ who would selectively open the door depending on which direction the gas molecules were moving. If we think of the two chambers as containing mixtures of blue and red molecules, and they were randomly flitting about, the demon would open the door just as a red molecule was about to move into the right chamber or a blue molecule was about to move into the left. The door would remain closed otherwise. If such a demon were…

  • Biology

    Why the Genome Incompletely Describes the Body

    Genetic determinism—or the idea that we are fully determined by our genes taken from our parents—is now a thing of the past. Empirical evidence now shows that genes may exist but may not be expressed. The expression is controlled by some ‘epigenetic’ factors (which are also molecules) but enabled and disabled by the environment. OK, says the geneticist, let’s add the epigenetic stuff into the overall picture, and we can maintain the overall (materialistic) idea that living beings are molecular soups. However, the issue isn’t as straightforward, because there are potentially many things in the genes and the environment which can potentially create different outcomes. How do we select which…

  • Biology

    What is Morphic Resonance?

    Biologist Rupert Sheldrake coined the term Morphic Resonance to describe the idea that the occurrence of events in one place seems to recreate those same events in other places. For example, he notes that once a crystal has been synthesized in one place, synthesizing crystals in other places subsequently becomes much easier, and though the initial synthesis takes a long time, the subsequent syntheses follow much quicker. These phenomena can be explained easily if the world was constructed like an inverted tree, and the crystal was a fruit of the tree. It takes a long time for the tree to grow to maturity before it produces the first fruit. But…