3. Enormous Gaps in the Chemical Model of Life


Section Headings

Life’s Dynamic & Purposeful Content

Life’s Interactive Relationship with Info

Cell’s Holistic System and a Sense of Time

8 Pages, Don edit entire chapter 5-12-23

Life’s Dynamic & Purposeful Content

The prior article posed many ‘impossible’ questions associated with how the cell’s mutually interdependent systems could have evolved separately from each other. What solutions does the current Chemical model of Life’s Creation pose for these problems? Dead silence. Origins researchers’ strategy tends to be reductionist. They minimize, neglect and ignore a holistic approach, while focusing upon the ‘more important’ issues associated with each specific system.

These are seemingly insurmountable problems associated with Matter’s ‘evolution’ into Life. Yet these major origins related questions may be insignificant compared to what the entire bio-scientific community has conveniently ignored or forgotten by relying upon their Chemical Model of Life.

Consider: cells and all living systems are constantly recycling molecules. Further these tiny particles seem to have a distinct cellular purpose. We can liken a cell to a corporation. Employees, managers, even CEO, stockholders, and board of directors come and go. While at work, each has a distinct function that is related to the business. Nobody is there 24 hours a day, yet the corporation continues to operate. For long-lasting corporations, such as General Motors, the people that constitute the disembodied organism live and die and are replaced by others over time.

This situation also holds for cells. Just as the humans in a corporation, the molecules of a cell come and go. Yet while these tiny particles are inside the cellular membrane, they have a distinct purpose.

There is one major difference worth noting here. While the humans associated with a corporation are always changing, the buildings, chairs and tables of the physical plant are relatively permanent. In contrast, cellular structures are changing content, e.g. membrane and cyto-skeleton. While processes are constant, cellular content is transient.

The physical plant of a corporation is relatively permanent and disassociated from the continual comings and goings of individual workers. Yet the molecules of the cell are both the employee doing the work and the physical plant that provides the structure.  Unlike the corporation, the cell’s functions and structures are essentially united/indivisible.

Within a year, virtually all molecules in a cell have been replaced or recycled. For instance, every day billions upon billions of ATP molecules, our primary source of biological energy, are transformed into another type of molecule and then back again. During hydrolysis and cellular respiration, i.e. types of metabolic processes, a phosphate group is added to another biomolecule. When this phosphate group is released during metabolic processes, it provides the cell with energy. In such a way, the ATP is a rechargeable storage battery for the cell. This recycling process is just one of countless ways in which our molecules are constantly changing.

In contrast, the atoms of a chair or table are the same as the day they were purchased. While exclusively material objects have relatively permanent content, living objects have dynamic content. When defining Life, bio-scientists seem to have forgotten this major difference between living and non-living systems.

How did the static content of material objects evolve into the dynamic content of living systems? What type of complexity could have produced this emergent property? How does the reductionist Chemical Model account for this revolving door of molecules that is a characteristic quality of holistic living systems?

Besides constantly changing roles, the molecules of living systems are devoted to the survival of a unitary, autonomous entity consisting of transitory content. In other words, each of these atomic particles has a specific purpose and meaning in terms of the cell. For instance, the chemical energy contained in a glucose molecule is carefully deconstructed to maximize the number of ATP molecules that are recharged for later use. These recharged molecules are then employed very carefully to enable the entire cell to survive and reproduce. 

In stark contrast, the molecules of inanimate objects are purposeless. They mindlessly obey the mathematical laws of physics, without any greater meaning. They neither care about the survival of the object they belong to, nor about their own welfare. Indeed, molecules can’t care, as Matter doesn’t have a sense of time. Because of this extreme individualism (no concern for the whole), inanimate Matter is perfectly suited to the reductionist thinking that scientists seem to worship.

Unable to provide the holistic perspective that a cell requires for survival, lifeless molecules in order to ‘live’ must have some ‘force’ that binds them together as a unitary being – an entity that has the ‘will’ to live. Mindlessly participating in chemical processes, they don’t have what it takes to move purposefully as a unit towards food and away from toxic environments. How does the Chemical model of Life account for this purposeful, holistic behavior of a cell’s dynamic content?

King edit to top of article 5-22-23

Life’s Interactive Relationship with Info

All of the above-mentioned features are essentially material in nature, i.e. mutually interdependent systems and dynamic content. How does the Material Model account for our interactive interaction with information? The bio-scientific community has certainly done an almost miraculous job of accounting for Life’s reactive interaction with information.

Indeed Biology Professor Steven Nowicki of Duke University in his marvelous lecture series on Biology devoted a full third of his course to Life’s relationship to information. I was so excited! But then the letdown.

The entire series of lectures only addressed our reactive relationship to info. Nowicki gave a thorough account of how genetic info is passed on through DNA-RNA, genes and chromosomes. Dozens of lectures were devoted to this reactive chemical/materialist approach – with not even a nod towards the mystery of how we interact with info. When Nowicki dealt with the hierarchy of Life – ecosystems and such, info interactions were an implicit assumption, but not explicit in any way. He discusses how living systems interacted with their environment, but neglects to address how these occur.

In some ways, this entire Notebook is a reaction to my disappointment and even anger at this serious omission by some of the best minds in science. Shame! And why? Obviously, the materialist paradigm/dogma has clouded their thinking. It is as if the they still believe that the sun revolves around a flat earth. And worse, like Galileo’s critics, they won’t even look through my telescope1 . I know how he must have felt. Ouch!

But no use whining. The fear of social censure is a powerful motivator. Group think is brutal.

Moving on, interaction and reaction are chasms apart – the difference between deliberate choice and involuntary determinism.

Our interactive relationship with info is intimately linked with Attention – our ability to attend and respond appropriately to a dynamic environment. How does the deterministic chemical framework deal with the ability of living systems to pay Attention to their surroundings?

Most biologists believe that our capacity for Attention is somehow correlated to the number of Integral Membrane Proteins (IMPs) that exist in the membrane of the cell. IMPs are a key ingredient of the cell’s sensory-motor network. Under this perspective, natural selection resulted in an increase in the number of IMPs, hence our capacity for Attention.

Under the Emergence framework of the Material Model, Attention is an emergent property of the firing of these IMPs.

Attention = Emergent Property of the firing of 10,000 IMPs

Due to this key role as the foundation of our sensory-motor network, the IMPs are more connected with cellular intelligence than is DNA. As evidence, denucleated cells can live for hours or even days with no DNA to provide instructions. In contrast, cells cease functioning and die once their IMPS are removed.

What does intelligence mean in this context? An intelligent cell responds appropriately to environmental stimuli. While intimately related to cellular intelligence, IMPs are reactive, not interactive, and so cannot respond intelligently to a dynamic environment. However, IMPs do provide the material substrate for Attention.

IMPs = Material Substrate for Attention

Stimulus-Response IMPs can’t provide cellular intelligence

While providing a material substrate, IMPs can’t provide cells with the ‘intelligence’ required to persist as an autonomous entity. Consisting solely of Matter, individualistic IMPs are pure ‘stimulus-response’. They are unable to ‘think’ beyond the chemical reactions they are involved in. They are incapable of even conceiving past the instant to experience the data streams they are generating.

Monitor-adjust ID system, operating upon DS, provides cellular intelligence

 ‘Created’ to consider the whole picture (cells and living organisms), Life’s ID system which includes Attention enables the ‘monitor and adjust’ relationship with a dynamic environment that we and all other living systems require to exist. As such, Attention, which ‘emerges’ from the IMPs, seems to be the source of cellular intelligence. For this reason, Attention is the word we have designated for the collective, holistic intelligence of the Cell – its ability to both monitor and adjust.

Attention = Cell’s Collective Intelligence

Current biological and origins models completely neglect these aspects of living systems or just give them a passing mention. Could bio-scientists conveniently overlook both Life’s dynamic content and her interactive relationship with information because it doesn’t fit into their materialist models? Better to avoid these uncomfortable topics rather than admit that their powerful materialist paradigm is incomplete. Could it be that their overweening pride creates a powerful filter that blocks any evidence that contradicts their dogma? Or is it instead fear of going against the crowd? Why not courageously admit Ignorance before the Mystery?

Cell’s Holistic System and a Sense of Time

There is another set of questions associated with the cell’s mutually interdependent systems. These are qualitatively different from the first. Rather than just origins researchers, these problems are addressed to all bio-scientists with their Chemical model of Life.

The cell creates the parts, the energy, the systems and even the directions it needs to survive and reproduce. Everything that the cell produces is specifically designed to serve cellular needs, i.e. maintaining homeostasis and replicating. Each bit of energy, system, and process has a purpose that is related to the whole, i.e. the entire cell.

In fact, each of these cellular features only has meaning with regards to the whole. In other words, proteins, metabolic pathways, DNA, etc. have no meaning outside the cellular environment. Proteins and DNA are just complex molecules that degrade quickly. Their cellular purpose determines their meaning. Because its parts only have meaning in relationship to the whole, the cell is considered to be a holistic system – by definition.

In contrast, inanimate matter belongs to atomistic systems, where the nature of the parts determines the nature of the whole – the exact opposite of holistic systems. Because of the crucial importance of individual parts, reductionism, i.e. reducing systems to their smallest parts to understand the whole, is an extremely effective method for studying atomistic systems. For this reason, scientists have been able to successfully apply reductionist thinking to material systems.

This chain of reasoning leads to our first question set. For origins researchers: how do atomistic systems evolve into a holistic system? For bio-scientists: How does their Chemical model of Life account for the cell’s holism? Or more generally: what force transforms Matter’s atomistic systems into Life’s holistic system?

The cell’s holistic system requires a sense of the passage of time to survive. A cell can only survive and replicate through time. For instance, the cell stores glucose as a source of energy to be used when needed. ATP, the cell’s energy currency, is a molecular storage battery, whose energy is used upon demand over time.

Virtually everything about the cell happens over time – birth, homeostasis, replication, evolution, and dying. Overall cellular survival requires a rudimentary sense of time, i.e. what happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and what could happen in the future. The internal decision to move towards food and away from poison occurs over time. The cell’s choice is based upon past experience, applied to current conditions, with expectations of potential future results.

In contrast, atomistic material systems don’t require a sense of time to operate. Past, present and future have no meaning for atoms and every other material object, as they just react automatically and instantaneously to stimuli (forces ala Newton). While surviving and moving through time, inanimate molecules don’t plan for the future based upon current conditions and past experience. As they don’t care about survival, they just react mechanistically to immediate forces.

This analysis leads to our second question set. For origins researchers: How does a sense of time evolve from inanimate matter? For all bio-scientists: How does their Chemical Model of Life account for the cell’s sense of time? Or more generally: Where does the cell’s temporal sense come from? Rather than chemistry, could this sense of time come from the way cells digest information?


1 See Galileo's Hubris - Notebook 61:5


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