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In this essay the ontological structure of reality is explored. The question of reducibility of biology to physics is considered in the context of their ultimate principles. It is shown that biology is an ontologically autonomous science and is based on its own, independent ultimate principle that is independent from that of physics. In the next step it is shown that self-consciousness represents a separate realm with its own, ontologically autonomous, ultimate principle. Understanding that reality is based on ultimate principles, a new possibility arises to interpret the origin of physical laws.
Exploring the ontological structure of reality is a primary task of philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophy in the last thousand years seems to be largely awkward, suffering from fundamental self-inconsistencies, and so the fundamental ontological structure of reality is evaluated differently by different philosophies. Nevertheless, the discrepancies of different philosophies on the basic ontological categories seem to be not disparately unbridgeable. Moreover, modern science may offer a significant assistance by its more systematic approach especially since it seems that we have one science instead of many, which is a significant difference to the case of philosophy. Now since science is based on ontological presuppositions (Bunge, 1967, 291), a unique task may be specified: evaluating the ontological foundations of science. If the consideration leads to the result that the ontology of science is correct, we can find the ontological structure of reality what we need. Now if the consideration leads to another result, telling that the scientific ontology needs some improvements, in making these corrections we may arrive to a better understanding of the ontological structure of reality.
2. The concept of “ultimate reality”
It is advisable to formulate the basic concepts exactly. I regard that the ontological structure of reality is build up from some “ultimate reality”. In this work I use the following definition for the ultimate realities:
Definition 1: an existent is regarded as an ultimate reality, if it is autonomous and universal. A reality is regarded as autonomous, if it is not reducible to other realities. A reality is regarded as universal, if it extends to the whole Universe, if it is possible to show that its existence is not limited in space and time.
2.1 A historical account on the candidates for ultimate realities
What kind of factors may be regarded as ultimate realities? This question accompanies the whole development of thinking of mankind. The nature of the ultimate realities is related to the structure of the world, to the question that the world has one or many substances, layers, levels, and to the basic categories of sciences. The basic realities play a key role in every philosophical system and at the foundation of science. Therefore, it is important to present a short overview of the most important existents regarded by some as realities.
In the Chaldean Magic (Lenormant, 1999, 114) the first realities are the primal principles: “ILU, the First Principle, the universal and mysterious source of all things, which is manifested in the trinity of ANU, the god of Time and and the World; HEA, the intelligence, which animated matter; and BEL, the demiurgus and ruler of the organized universe”. In the ancient Hungarian world-system the basic categories were the first principle of the Universe, E’LET (the life-principle), and ILLAT (the principle of plant life), A’LLAT (the principle of animal life) and E’RTELEM (the principle of human life, reason). Later on, ancient Greeks preserved the more ancient notion of primal principles in the concept of “archi”. Chrysippus, the Stoic (possibly influenced by Scythian and Chaldean teachers) expressed the fundamental realities as: exis (the principle driving existence), physis (the principle driving plant life), psyche (the principle driving animal life), and nous (the principle driving human reason) (Zeller, 1865, 178; Erdmann, 1896, 174). In the Chinese universism (Glasenapp, 1975, 141) the sky-earth-man, moral-spiritual-physical, natural-historical-national categories are the fundamental ones. In the Rig Veda the spirit-life-matter, sky-living beings-earth divisions are made (Glasenapp, 1975). The Egyptian history of Creation (Eliade, 1976, 81) starts with the appearance of the earth (matter), light (energy), life and consciousness. The Indian Sankhya-system regards the universal principle of Spirit and Matter as fundamental (Kunzmann et al., 1991, 19). In the Western culture Thomas Aquinas applies three fundamental categories: that of God, spirit and matter; the material reality shows again a threefold structure of animal, plant and mineral kingdoms. Wolff (1730), after Goclenius (1613) and Micraelius (1652) who were the first using the term ontology, regarded that the three main class of existents are the psychic, cosmic and theos; this division was held also by Kant.
Nicolai Hartmann in his ontology (1949/1955, Section III) describes reality as building up from four levels: the cosmos, the organic realm, the realm of the soul and consciousness, and the spiritual-social world. In this world man is a material, organic, soulful and spiritual being exisitng in three basic forms of individual, nation and history. Mario Bunge (1980, 45) found that the totality of concrete entities may be grouped into five genera – “we may depict (on Fig. 2.1) the structure of reality as a pyramid: physical things - (bio)chemical systems - psycho(bio)systems - social systems - technical systems”. Medawar (1974) and, following him, Peacocke (1986, 17) divides the world into four levels as studied by physics, chemistry, biology, and ecology/sociology. “By 1993 Peacock had foliated the hierarchy into two dimensions: vertically it consists in four levels of increasing complexity (the physical world, living organisms, the behavior of living organisms, and human culture) while horizontally it depicts systems ordered by part-to-whole hierarchies of structural and/or functional organization (eg., in biology: macromolecules, organelles, cells, organs, individual organisms, populations, ecosystems). Peacocke’s analysis undoubtedly reflects the broad consensus of the scientific community” (Russell, 2000).
A certain confusion is observable in evaluating the structure of reality by the different authors. I think that one of the main reasons of this confusion is that the criteria on the basic building elements of reality, the ultimate realities are not formulated unambiguously. At the same time, one can observe remarkable agreements in the different categorisations, too. Moreover, the basic categorisation of sciences seems to follow closely the above found ultimate realities. Divisions like mathematics-astronomy-physics-biology-psychology-sociology or philosophy-natural science – social science show close similarities in structuring the world. Transparently, the main fundamental categories of existence are: material(physical) – biological (alive) – social – technical, physical-spiritual-moral, earthly-human-godlike (heavenly), natural-historical-national-individual. Now what counts as ultimate reality should be judged on the basis of systematic and thorough scientific investigations, by my proposal on the basis of our Definition 1. Therefore, to make the first step, we should consider the old and still unsolved question: is biology reducible to physics?
2.2. The relation of the metaphysical presuppositions of science with the reducibility question
Regarding that this first topic of our essay touches philosophy as well as science, especially the metaphysical presuppositions of science, we at first turn to science to see its position on the ontological structure of reality. Bunge (1967, Sect. 5.9) remarks that “philosophy is a part of the scaffolding employed in the construction of the finished scientific buildings…scientific research does presuppose and control certain important philosophical hypotheses”. Now let us revise shortly what are the most outstanding presuppositions of science by Bunge (1967, 291ff). We touch here only the first two of them. Firstly, he mentions “realism”, the “philosophical hypotheses that there is anything that exist independently from the cognitive subject”. Realism is based on the notion of factual truth, the hypothesis of the reality of facts, the “outer” nature of the facts, the separability of object of research from the inquiring subject. Moreover, the fifth element of “realism” as given by Bunge (1967, 291ff) is that “natural science, in contrast with prescientific views such as animism and anthropomorphism, does not account for nature in terms of typically human attributes, as it should if nature somehow depended on the subject. Thus, we do not account for the behavior of the object in terms of our own expectations or other subjective variables but, on the contrary, base our rational expectations on the objectively ascertainable properties of the object as known to us.” I have to note here that animism is not necessarily anti-scientific. On the contrary, William McDougall, a professor of psychology in Harvard University, wrote a whole book attempting to prove with the methods and aims of all empirical science that from all the thought systems of mankind it is just animism which is the closest to reality and that the conception of soul is indispensable to science (McDougall, 1920).
Now I think that this fifth element of the requirements of realism by Bunge needs more detailed ontological elaboration. If we accept the scientific ontology based on the classification of sciences as physics-biology-psychology/sociology (since I regard that man is a social being in her/his most basic foundation), how should we mean the term “objective”? In the context of “natural” sciences, in contrast with animism and anthropomorphism, the term “objectivity” indicates that we should ignore the ontological levels belonging to human existence. Now if we should also ignore the existence of any animating “psyche” and “spirit” that make the organisms animated, i.e. alive, together with consciousness, or nous, regarded as distinguishing ontological characteristics of human beings, what remains, is the mere inanimate matter. In this way Bunge’s realism seem to be a special, materialist one, since it is based on a “realism” requiring the ignorance of any other ontological levels. I found this requirement unnecessary, oversimplifying, and scientifically not valid.
Let us have another look to this point. The second outstanding philosophical hypothesis of scientific research by Bunge is pluralism: the multilevel structure of reality. “A second, related presupposition is that the higher levels are rooted in the lower ones, both historically and contemporaneously: that is, the higher levels are not autonomous but depend for their existence on the subsistence of the lower levels, and they have emerged in the course of time from the lower in a number of evolutionary processes. This rooting of the higher in the lower is the objective basis of the possibility of partially explaining the higher in terms of the lower and conversely…the principle of methodological reductionism is not to be confused with ontological reductionism or the denial of levels” (Bunge, 1967, 294). Unfortunately, Bunge did not specify the exact meaning of the terms he applied like “autonomous” and “ontological”. Anyhow, his stance expresses a non-reductive physicalism. In his concept, reality as a whole has a material, physical nature. Biology, relevant in a level of the material world, has some kind of autonomy, like chemistry has, but this autonomy has mostly a practical and not of principal significance. If materialist “realism” requires “desanimation” and “desanthropomorphism”, life is not based on its own ultimate principle but on physics. Bunge (1980, 217) expresses his view that “one can maintain that the mind is not a thing composed of lower level things – but a collection of functions or activities of certain neural systems that individual neurons presumably do not possess. And so emergentist (or systemic) materialism – unlike eliminative materialism – is seen to be compatible with overall pluralism.” Now the question is that what does Bunge mean on the term “ontological level” or ‘genera’. In the approach outlined here, Bunge’s ontological pyramid, although consists of five sub-levels, represents only one ontological level, and is pluralistic only within this one ontological level of emergentist materialism allowing materialistic sub-levels. Therefore, regarding ultimate realities as the basic constituents of the ontological structure of reality as a whole, we should evaluate the methodological reductionism of emergentist materialism as an ontological reductionism. Materialism is considered in this approach, as usual, as being a monism, and not a pluralism. Therefore, the claim of Bunge of ontological pluralism within the framework of materialist monism seems to us as controversial. Nevertheless, we will here work out a more detailed picture of physics and ontology. Before making it, we acknowledge about some of the main proponents of present-day science in ontological affairs.
The ontological reduction of biology to physics is one of the oldest and most significant problems of science and philosophy. Today, many eminent scientists expressed their opinions favouring physicalism. For example, Feynman stated that “today we cannot see if Schrödinger equation contains frogs, composers, and morality, or not” (Feynman, 1964, 12). The views prevailing at today’s universities and in handbooks on physics, as well as such influential best-sellers as Stephen Hawking’s The Brief History of Time, express the brute and dangerously antihuman materialistic view that human beings are mere material objects the behaviour of which will be exactly calculated by the soon coming Grand Unified Theory of physics. “Yet if there really is a complete unified theory, it would also presumably determine our actions” (Hawking, 1996, 13). Penrose (1989, 578) formulates his view in the following way: “…as I am suggesting, the phenomenon of consciousness depends upon this putative CQG (Correct Quantum Gravity theory)”. Moreover, physicalism seems to be dominating not only within physicists. As Bertalanffy (1969, 64) remarked, Williams (1966) articulated the common belief among biologists, expressed both in current teaching and in research, as “the theory of selection is based on the assumption that the laws of physical science plus natural selection can furnish a complete explanation for any biological phenomenon, and that these principles can explain adaptation in general and in abstract and any particular example of an adaptation”. Jacques Monod declares: “Anything can be reduced to simple, obvious, mechanical interactions. The cell is a machine; the animal is a machine; man is a machine” (Monod 1970/1974, ix). As Daniel Stoljar (2001) formulated: “Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on the physical…Of course, physicalists don’t deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don’t seem physical -- items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are wholly physical.” But if living organisms, the psychic phenomena, moral and social processes have wholly physical nature, this would mean that the laws of physics would govern live, psychic phenomena, moral decisions and social activity. Harvard Genetics Professor Richard Lewontin, a Marxist expressed his attitude in the followings (Johnson, 1997): “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute…” In How the Mind Works, MIT professor Harold Pinker argues that the fundamental premise of ethics has been disproved by science. "Ethical theory," he writes, "requires idealisations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behaviour is uncaused." Yet, "the world, as seen by science, does not really have uncaused events." In other words, “moral reasoning assumes the existence of things that science tells us are unreal” (Pearcey, 2000). These formulations demonstrate that in practice scientific materialism is a monist view ignoring completely the autonomy of any other ontological levels.
2.3. Anti-reductionist arguments
On the contrary, many people argued in favour of autonomy of biology, most of them I did not find convincing. But there are some people (Bauer, 1935; Polanyi, 1967) who recognised that the decisive point is the regulative mechanism of biology on the boundary conditions of physics. Augros and Stanciu (1987, 31) takes the stance “All the properties of the organisms we have discussed so far – its astonishing unity, its capacity to build its own parts, its increasing differentiation through time, its power of self-repair and self-regeneration, its ability to transform other materials into itself, and its incessant activity – all these not only distinguish the living being from the machine but also demonstrate its uniqueness amid the whole of nature…The organism is sui generis, is a class by itself”. “For these features we have no analogue in inorganic systems…mechanistic modes of explanation are in principle unsuitable for dealing with certain features of the organic; and it is just these features which make up the essential peculiarities of the organisms” (Bertalanffy, 1962, 108). Pattee (1961) noted that “We find in none of the present theories of replication and protein synthesis any interpretation of the origin of the genetic text which is being replicated, translated and expressed in functional proteins, nor do they lead to any understanding of the relation between particular linear sequences or distributions of subunits in nucleic acid and proteins, and the specific structural and functional properties which are assumed to result entirely from these linear sequences”. Bertalanffy (1969, 68-69) remarks that “According to Pattee (1961), the order of biological macromolecules is not adequately explained as an accumulation of genetic restrictions via selection, but replication presupposes well-ordered rather than random sequences. Thus there are principles of “self-organisation” at various levels which require no genetic control. Immanent laws run through the gammut of biological organizations.”
For our understanding the question of the reducibility of biology to physics I found one of the most informative the approach worked out by Polanyi (1967). He called attention to the fact that “machines seem obviously irreducible…They do not come into being by physical-chemical equilibration, but are shaped by man. They are shaped and designed for a specific purpose…Only the principles underlying the operations of the watch in telling the time could specify your invention of the watch effectively, and these cannot be expressed in terms of physical-chemical variables…Nothing is said about the content of a book by its physical-chemical topography. All objects conveying information are irreducible to the terms of physics- and chemistry…The laws of inanimate nature operate in a machine under the control of operational principles that constitute (or determine) its boundaries. Such a system is clearly under a dual control…Any chemical or physical study of living things that is irrelevant to the working of the organism is no part of biology, just as the chemical and physical studies of a machine must bear on the way the machine works, if it is to serve engineering…Biological principles are seen then to control the boundary conditions within which the forces of physics and chemistry carry on the business of life. This dual action of a system is said to work by the principle of boundary control...such shaping of boundaries may be said to go beyond a mere “fixing of boundaries” and establishes a “controlling principle”…it puts the system under the control of a non-physical-chemical principle by a profoundly informative intervention…he question is whether or not the logical range of random mutations includes the formation of novel principles not definable in terms of physics and chemistry. It seems very unlikely that it does include it”. It is clear that the dual nature of machines and organisms mean that the biological principle governs the behaviour of the organism and so the principles of physics and chemistry. Therefore, they necessarily represent a higher ontological level than physics does and they are not reducible to physics.
2.4. The ultimate principle of physics
For a more complete comprehension of the reducibility question, a further step towards enlightening the concept of ultimate reality becomes necessary. I think that the most easy to recognise the ultimately pluralistic nature of reality at the ultimate level. It seems that the discussions and considerations on the emergentist view and its ontological character may last for undetermined times if one does not apply for an analysis at the ultimate level. Actually, it is possible to grasp the most essential and actually ultimate, universal and autonomous element of materialism with the help of physics. The most general statement on what physics is based is the recognition that in the physical approach “all process tend towards the physical equilibrium”. All the equation of motions expresses the fact that in reality physical systems are driven towards the physical equilibrium. Closed physical systems move towards the physical equilibrium in the most efficient way, and reach it as soon as possible. The stone in free fall moves towards its physical equilibrium without any deviation. When the falling of the stone is not completely free, since aerodynamical drag and winds are in action, the stone will follow a path in which it will reach the physical equilibrium as soon as possible within its actual conditions. This recognition is expressed in the ultimate principle of physics, the action-principle or the principle of Least Action (Landau, Lifschitz 1959, 12). “A minimal requirement for respectability of a physical theory seems to be that it admit a variational principle” (Edelen, 1971, 17). The ultimate variational principle of physics, the action principle is at the apex of physics and summarises in an elegant form the laws of motion. Therefore, the action principle may be regarded as the ultimate basis of physics. Although not all part of physics is covered by the action principle, its most significant parts does. Moreover, the remaining cases do not challenge the general tendency that physical processes tend always towards physical equilibrium. It seems to be proper to refer to the general tendency of physical systems to be driven towards physical equilibrium through the context of the action principle. We may regard the action principle as being the ultimate principle of matter (and physics). We may use this recognition for formulating an exact notion of matter:
Definition 2: Material behaviour is shown only when a process follows the laws of physics and only the laws of physics. Material behaviour is ultimately determined by the action principle of physics.
3. The solution of the question: is biology reducible to physics?
3. 1. The life principle of Ervin Bauer and the question of reducibility
By my evaluation, the most thorough, systematic, insightful foundational work of theoretical biology, which is at the same time also explicitly articulated in mathematical formulations is that of Ervin Bauer (1920, 1935/1967). It is hard to evaluate the real significance of his work, and its marginal influence to the present-day science seems to be rooted largely in historical circumstances and in the ignorance of dominant materialism. Ervin Bauer was born (1890) and educated in Hungary. He has been working in the most productive period of his life (1925-1937) in Soviet Union, in Moscow and Leningrad. He became arrested and jailed in prison in 1937 and died as a victim of Stalin’s massacres in 1942 (Tokin, 1963/1965, 11-26).
In his main work “Theoretical Biology” (1935/1967) he formulated the key requirements of living systems. The first requirement is that “the living system is able to change in a constant environment, it has potential energies available to work”. His second requirement tells that a living system acts against the physical and chemical laws and modifies its inner conditions. His third, all-inclusive requirement of living systems tells that “The work made by the living system, within any environmental conditions, acts against the realisation of that equilibrium which would set up on the basis of the initial conditions of the system in the given environment by the physical and chemical laws” (Bauer, 1967, 44). This third requirement does not contradict to the laws of physics since the living system has some internal equipment, the use of which may modify the final state reached from the same initial state in the same environment. “The fundamental and general law of the living systems is the work made against the equilibrium, a work made on the constituents of the system itself” (ibid., 48).
Definition 3. Bauer formulates the universal law of biology in the following form: “The living and only the living systems are never in equilibrium, and, supported by their free energy reservoir, they are continuously invest work against the realisation of the equilibrium which should occur within the given outer conditions on the basis of the physical and chemical laws” (ibid., 51).
“One of the most spectacular and substantial difference between machines and living systems is that in the case of machines the source of the work is not related to any significant structural changes. The systemic forces of machines does work only if the constituents of the machine are taken into motion by energy sources which are outer to these constituents. The inner states of the constituents of a machine remain practically constant. The task of the constituents of a machine is to convert some kind of energy into work. In contrast, in the living systems the energy of the internal build-up, of the structure of the living matter is transformed into work. The energy of the food is not transformed into work, but to the maintenance and renewal of their internal structure and inner states. Therefore, the living systems are not power machines” (ibid., 64). The fundamental principle of biology acts against the changes which would set up in the system on the basis of the Le Chatelier-Braun principle (ibid., 59). The Bauer-principle recognises the problem of the forces acting at the internal boundary surfaces as the central problem of biology. “Modern physiology attributes all the potential differences to the characteristics of phase boundaries or the membranes, i.e. to the conditions prevailing at the internal boundary surfaces” (ibid., 85). The potential differences and the biological modification of the internal boundary conditions are in close relation with the molecular structure of the living matter. In the living state the living molecules show a characteristic elongation, a deformation which is related to electric polarisation and magnetism. The primary significance of bioelectromagnetism in the biological organisation is recognised as well: “if, due to the higher potential of the living matter, assimilation overcomes dissimilation, as it does in the embrional textures, breeding summits, the lattice structure is more deformed, shifted from the equilibrium and therefore such a locus obtains a positive charge. If some stimuli disturbs the processes of assimilation, and therefore also the maintenance of the inequilibrium structure and so the structural energy decreases, the structure becomes closer to the equilibrium and in such a locus a negative wave will develop. Now if the texture dies away, an equilibrium lattice structure will develop, and this place will have a negative charge in comparison to the living parts of the texture” (ibid., 87).
Now Definition 2 and 3 is very useful when evaluating the level of biology if it represents or not an autonomous ontological level irreducible to the physical principle. If new treats emerge on the development or complexification of a system, these emergent characteristics may still belong to the realm of physics. Emergent materialism is a monist ontology based on the belief that physical principles may trigger processes that determine the development of emergent processes, including the living processes, too. With the use of Definitions 1, 2 and 3 I show here that the concept of emergent materialism in the biological context is based on a false belief. The material behaviour (Definition 2) tends towards the physical equilibrium. The biological behaviour is governed by the life-principle (Definition 3) which acts just against the material behaviour. It can do this only by a proper modification of the boundary conditions of the physical laws. The biological modification of the (internal) boundary conditions of (living) organism is behind the realm of physics. The biological activity acts on the degrees of freedom that are not active in the material behaviour. Therefore, we found a gap between the realms of physics and biology. If the biological principle is active, because the conditions of its activity (a certain amount of complexity, suitable material structures, energies etc.) are present, it realises a thorough and systematic modification of internal boundary conditions of living organisms. In comparison, in an abstracted organism in which the biological principle is not active, the same internal boundary conditions would be not modified, and so the organism should fall towards physical equilibrium. In principle, it would be possible to fill the gap with processes in which the biological modification is not realised in a rate necessary to govern the physical processes. In practice, such intermediate processes are strongly localised in space and time, and the ontological gap is maintained by the continuous and separate actions of the physical and biological principles. This formulation offers us an unprecedented insight into the ultimate constituent of reality. Using the newly found formulation of the ultimate principle of matter, our Definition 1 may be formulated in a more exact manner:
Definition 1’: any existent is regarded as an “ultimate reality”, if it is based on a universal and ontologically irreducible ultimate principle.
Now if biology is based on an ultimate principle different and independent from the physical principle, this should mean that biology is not reducible to physics. If the principle of life did not exist as a separate and independent principle from physics, then the accidentally starting biological processes would, after a short period, quickly decline towards the state of equilibrium, towards physical "equilibrium death" (here we generalise the concept of "heat death" including not only thermodynamic equilibrium). But as long as biological laws are irreducible to physical ones, the tendency towards physical equilibrium due to the balancing tendencies of the different physico-chemical gradients cannot prevail, for they are overruled by the impulses arising from the principle of life. The main point is that the biological impulses has a nature which elicits, maintains, organise and cohere the processes which may otherwise set up only stochastically, transiently, unorganisedly and incoherently when physical principles are exclusive.
The essential novelty of the biological phenomenon therefore consists in following a different principle, which is able to govern the biological phenomena even when the physical principles keep their universal validity. Until a process leads to a result that is highly improbable by the laws of physics, it may be still a physical process. But when many such extremely improbable random process is elicited, and these extremely improbable events are co-ordinated in a way that together they follow a different ultimate principle which makes these processes a stable, long lifetime, lawful process, then we met with a substantial novelty which cannot be reduced to a lower level principle.
An analogy may serve to shed light to the way of how biology acts when compared to physics. It is like Aikido: while preserving the will of the attacker and modifying it using only the least possible energy, we get a result that is directly the opposite of the will of the attacking opponent. It is clear that the ever-conspicuous difference between living beings and seemingly inanimate entities lies in the ability of the former to be spontaneously active, to alter their inner physical conditions according to a higher organising principle in such a way that the physical laws will launch processes in them with an opposite direction to that of the "death direction" of the equilibrium which is valid for physical systems. This is the Aikido principle of life. A fighter practising the art of Aikido does not strive after defending himself by raw physical force, instead he uses his skill and intelligence to add a small power impulse, from the right position, to the impetus of his opponent’s attack, thus making the impetus of the attacker miss its mark. Instead of using his strength in trying to stop a hand coming at him, he makes its motion faster by applying some little technique: he pulls on it. Thus, applying little force, he is able to suddenly upset the balance of the attack, to change it, and with this to create a situation advantageous for him.
The Aikido principle of life is similar to the art of yachting. There, too, great changes can be achieved by investing small forces. As the yachtsman, standing on board the little ship, makes a minute move to shift his weight from one foot to the other, the ship sensitively changes its course. Shifting one’s weight requires little energy, yet its effect is amplified by the shift occurring in the balance of the hull. Control is not exerted on the direct surface physical level, but on the level of balance; it is achieved via altering balance in a favourable direction that against much larger forces, the effect of very small forces prevails. However, being able to alter balance in a favourable direction presupposes a profound (explicit or implicit) knowledge of contributing factors, also the attitude and ability to rise above direct physical relations, as well as the ability to independently bring about the desired change. If life is capable of maintaining another "equilibrium of life", by a process the direction of which is contrary to the one pointing towards the physical equilibrium, then the precondition of life is the ability to survey, to analyse, and to spontaneously, independently and appropriately control all the relevant physical and biological states. Thus, indeed, life cannot be traced back to the general effect of the "death magnet" of physical equilibrium and mere blind chance that are the organisation factors available for physics. The principle of life has to be acknowledged as an ultimate principle which is at least as important as the basic physical principle, and which involves just the same extent of “objectivity” as the physical principle. If it is a basic feature of life that it is capable of displaying Aikido-effects, then life has to be essentially different from the inanimateness of physics, just as the principle of the behaviour of the self-defending Aikido disciple is different from the attacker’s one. Thus in the relationship of the laws of life and those of physics, two different parties are engaged in combat, and the domain of phenomena of two essentially different basic principles are connected. Practising the art of Aikido is possible only when someone recognise and learn the principle and practice of Aikido. Now regarding the origin of the principle of Aikido, it results from the study of the art of fight. Regarding the origin of the principle of biology, it cannot result from the physical laws by a physical principle, since the ultimate principle of physics acts just the contrary to the life principle. Therefore, the life principle shows up as an independent ultimate principle above the realm of physics.
3.1. The governance of organism and the reducibility of biology to physics
It is well known that the human body consists of ~1015 cells. Now in each cell regulative processes occur in a number around 105 per second. Physical laws are active on our body and influence the activity of our cells, acting to produce energy dissipation and increase of disorder. Most of the chemical regulative reactions have a vital significance. Therefore, they should necessarily and inevitably occur in a highly coherent way in order to fulfil the vital needs of the organism (and to realise the conscious decisions). The regulation of the physico-chemical processes cannot occur on the basis of physics and chemistry, since it is just the physico-chemical processes that have to be submitted to a higher regulative principle in order to reach macroscopic coherency. Moreover, it would be impossible to realise such a detailed regulation of reactions having a practically cosmic multitude on a physical basis. For a physical regulative factor, all the 1020 reactions/sec of the cells should be observable simultaneously. Although the body may be transparent for electromagnetic (EM) fields, the behaviour of the global organismic EM fields seem to be fixed as belonging to the exclusive realm of physics. How is it possible that living organisms can act reasonably, and a thirsty horse can find the river without any confusion of the inner chemical reactions of her/his organism?
Let us introduce a simplifying picture and exemplify our stance on it. The organism is represented by a house, the cells by its rooms. Now the action of the life principle is on the doors and windows. The life principle is free to act on the doors and window since an energy reservoir in the cellar is connected to all the windows and doors. Now the molecular events of the air happening in the house are substantially determined by the movements of doors and windows. We became accustomed to the material terms and perceive mostly the presence of walls. Therefore, it may seem mysterious and incredible that the flow of air is determined not by the walls but by some additional, subtle factor regulating the workings of doors and windows. Nevertheless, we cannot reach by any kind of movements of any kind of outer walls the state in which there is always fresh air within the house. This means that life (fresh air) and biological action (regulation of the position of doors and windows) is not reducible to the positions of walls (physics). Actually, biological regulation is enormously more economic than any physical one.
Now how can we understand the nature of these “doors” and “windows” and the factor regulating their positions? I think their nature is related to the high complexity of living matter and to the ultimate principle of biology. The high complexity is needed to the appearance of unused degrees of freedom. Actually, every elementary particle or atom have (at least) 3 degrees of freedom, related to the 3 possible directions of their spatial translational motion. When two-atom molecules are formed, additional degrees of freedom are introduced, related to their rotational asymmetries. Two rotational degree of freedoms appear related to the possible orientations of the rotational axis. As more and more complex compounds appear, new, additional degrees of freedom show up. Already the increase of the number of constituents in itself increases the degrees of freedom. For example, the Sun has a practically infinite degree of freedom, since it consists of more than 1056 particles. Now the bullet in a pistol does not have any degree of freedom once the shot occurred. This situation is due to the constraints of the wall of the pistol. Mechanical constraints in the living cell do not extend to all degrees of freedom and therefore with the increase of the number and/or complexity of the compounds, the number of the unused, free degrees of freedom grows.
Unfortunately, the fact that with the growing of complexity the unused degrees of freedom grows enormously, seems to be not widely recognised. For example, in a critic of Polanyi’s non-physico-chemical organising principle Hull (1974, 139) objects: “The only candidate for Polanyi’s ordering principle that originated life is the bounding properties of the chemical elements”. This objection is completely invalid for molecules with a significant complexity. As a matter of fact, with the growing degree of complexity the bounding properties of the chemical elements leave more and more degrees of freedom unconstrained, especially when the molecules may be bound in all the three dimensions and many spatial variations become possible. Cyrus Levinthal pointed out at the end of the nineteensixties that even for a small protein molecule, consisting of only 100 amino acids, each having 4 different possible positions in the protein molecule, the number of the possible configurations is around 1060. Assuming that this protein molecule wants to reach a different state, e.g. one of the states with the minimum energy, it would need 1030 times the lifetime of the Universe if a physical mechanism play a role of “active information” oscillating with a frequency of 1013 Hz. But it was observed that protein molecules normally find other configurations within hours, sometimes within a millisecond. This contradiction is known as the Levinthal paradox. There is no known solution for this paradox (Callender et al., 1994). The proposal this work makes is that such unconstrained degrees of freedom do not need a physical mechanism to organise them since they may be coupled directly to the universal principle of life. Therefore, the life principle supplies the regulating agency in the form of “biological constraints” and the free opening-closing of doors and windows are related to the “biological degrees of freedom”. In this way, the material hardware of the house is represented by physics, and the infrastructure or software of the house is represented by the life principle. Now since the infrastructure or software is not determined by the hardware, the widely held view that biology should be reducible to physics should be revised.
3.2. A Possibly Useful Cosmic Criteria of life and The Sun as a Living Being
Bunge (1985, 4) remarked that: “Students of life become interested in a definition of the concept of life during their freshman year and at the end of their career. In between they are discouraged from trying to elucidate that concept and, in general, from getting involved in philosophical questions. They are encouraged instead to “get on with their business”, which supposedly is anything but trying to understand life…Here we need to recall only some of the properties deemed jointly necessary and sufficient for a thing to be alive. They are metabolism, multiplication, heredity, and variability.” In searching a general criterion of life that is not fixed to terrestrial life forms, I find the above life-criteria overspecialised. All the above-indicated properties of life are more symptoms of life instead of expressing the basic and necessary condition. I regard sensitivity as the real fundamental specification of life. Without sensitivity life would not be worthwhile to be lived. Sensitivity is based on our connections with our internal and outer sources of information. Without having access to any source of information life is not possible. Sensitivity also includes a specific relation to the incoming outer and inner information. This specific relation has to be manifested in an unequal attitude to the information, in dependence on the content of information. Many of the incoming information may be found irrelevant, and only some information may be important. Life in its essence is an activity related to a selection between “important” and “irrelevant” information, and more than that: it also includes an activity expressing the result of the processed information. It is possible to imagine an existent living in the world of information, whose “life” is generated by its “psychic” activity in which she/he selects and processes the selected information. Nevertheless, such an existence would be at most a psychic life, without actual, material life. If we want a real, manifested life, we need actions based on processed information. And, as usual, it is this last step of the life-chain that is the easiest to observe, measure and determine for an outer observer. This last step of manifestation needs a material organisational activity embodied in the bodily world, and certain amplification is a necessarily requisite of the life-process. A material organism has a kind of energetics, and its energetics has to be coupled to the processes occurring in the information level. Therefore, inevitably the material processes have to be governed towards the action corresponding to the processed information (“decisions”).