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From Physics to Semiotics

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIssues in Science and Theology: What is Life?
EditorsDirk Evers, Michael Fuller, Antje Jackelén, Knut-Willy Sæther
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-27836-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-27834-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Publication series

NameIssues in Science and Religion: Publications of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
ISSN (Print)2364-5717


Since Newton we have sought laws that “entail” the evolution of the system. These dreams range from reductionism, dreams of a final entailing theory, upward. In this chapter I hope to show that no laws at all entail the becoming of the biosphere. Ever new, typically unprestatable, biological functions arise, often as Darwinian preadaptations, and once they exist, they do not cause, but ENABLE an often unprestatable set of “opportunities” forming a new “adjacent possible” into which evolution flows, creating yet new adaptations that enable new adjacent possibles in an unprestatable becoming. Because we cannot prestate the variables, we can write no differential equation laws of motion for evolution, so cannot integrate those equations. Thus no laws entail evolution. Since the biosphere is part of the universe, if the above is correct, there can be no final theory that entails all that becomes in the universe. The discussion rests on the legitimacy of “functions” in biology, subsets of the causal consequences of parts of organisms. Physics cannot distinguish between causal consequences. I try to justify “functions”, whose unprestatable becoming are parts of the ever changing phase space of evolution, hence no entailing laws. “Functions” are justified in the non-ergodic universe above the level of atoms by Kantian wholes such as collectively autocatalytic sets in protocells that can sense, evaluate, and act in their worlds, yielding teleonomy and biosemiotics. Modernity is based on Newton and Darwin: these ideas may take us beyond Modernity.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland