Paul Davies:
THE FIFTH MIRACLE (Simon & Schuster, 1999)

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(Copyright © 2000 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Australian physicist Paul Davies retraces the history of life and claims that it began inside the Earth, with microbes that lived several kms under the crust of the Earth. His reasoning is that the surface of the Earth and the oceans were just too unstable and dangerous for life to appear and survive. He also thinks that the record of genes show that the ancestor of all life forms lived underneath the Earth's surface at very high temperatures.

However ingenious and plausible this hypothesis, the question remains of how life was created in the first place.

Here Davies introduces a second bold hypothesis: a sort of life force.

His definition of life includes self-determination: he views a bird not as a complex machine for reproduction and metabolism, but as a willing organism, an organism that not only can move around the environment, but can decide how to move. He thus resurrects vitalism: living organisms are more than just matter, they include a "life force" that makes them what they are. This "life force" is, in his opinion, a software program.

Davies thinks that science must accept information as a fundamental quantity of the universe, that can be traded by "information" forces the same way that matter is traded by physical forces. The natural laws of informational forces must be compatible but not reducible to the laws of physical forces. This merely sounds like a different way to endorse self-organization (the discipline of complexity) as a potential explanation for the inevitability of life. Self-organizing systems might create information, in which case they would provide the source of information that Davies is looking for. But so far there is little evidence that any piece of information present in a self-organizing system was not already there (in one form or another) in its constituents or in the process used to "self-organize" the system (all self-organizing systems would not organize themselves if they were alone in the universe, they all use the environment, and thus are not really "self" organizing).

The book is more valuable for the conversational and stimulating survey of modern science than for Davies' theory of life.