Scientists announce new things "Natural law" which includes living things, planets and stars – GEO

What if evolution wasn’t limited to life on Earth? This is essentially what a team of nine American scientists and philosophers led by the Carnegie Institution for Science proposes in a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (October 16, 2023).

The publication cites the “law of functional information expansion,” according to which all “complex natural systems” – whether life on Earth or atoms, minerals, planets and stars – evolve into “more structured, diverse and complex” states.

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Life, atoms, stars…

What does that mean specifically? Before we get to the examples, we need to define in a few words what the authors mean by “evolution”. A term that is to be understood here as “selection for function”. Stay focused, it’s easy!

While the 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin largely equated “function” with the survival of living beings, i.e. with the ability to live long enough to produce fertile offspring, the authors go one step further by also referring to “stability.” (recognize persistence) as functions) and “novelty” (new configurations).

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To illustrate the selection of “novelty,” the article cites both cases involving living things, such as photosynthesis and multicellular life (when cells have “learned” to work together to the point of forming no more than one organism), and animal behavior . But also examples from the mineral kingdom!

The number of minerals on Earth, of which there were around twenty at the beginning of our solar system, is now almost 6,000. And that from just two main elements – hydrogen and helium – which were formed by the first stars shortly after the Big Bang. About twenty heavier chemical elements then emerged before the next generation of stars, based on this initial diversity, added almost a hundred more elements to produce.

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“Evolution is everywhere”

“Charles Darwin eloquently described how plants and animals evolve through natural selection, with many variations and characteristics of individuals and many different configurations. We argue that the Darwinian theory is just a very special case and very important within a much larger natural phenomenon,” summarizes Professor Robert M. Hazen of Carnegie, who supervised the work, in a press release.

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And his colleague Michael L. Wong, astrobiologist at Carnegie University and lead author of the study, adds: “The universe creates new combinations of atoms, molecules, cells, etc. Combinations that are stable and can produce even more novelties will continue to give.” evolve.”

“This makes life the most striking example of evolution, but evolution is everywhere.”

This new “law of nature,” which describes increasing complexity, is reminiscent of another: the second principle of thermodynamics. This actually says that the “entropy” (i.e. disorder) of an isolated system increases over time – which is why heat always flows from the hottest objects to the coldest objects.

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Open discussion

Forces and motion, gravity, electromagnetism, energy… Most of the “laws of nature” that describe and explain the phenomena constantly observed in nature were established more than 150 years ago.

There is no doubt that the new “law of nature” put forward by the American team – consisting of three philosophers of science, two astrobiologists, a data specialist, a mineralogist and a theoretical physicist – will provoke many reactions within the scientific community.

“At this stage in the development of these ideas, similar to the first concepts in the mid-19th century to understand ‘energy’ and ‘entropy,’ an open and broad discussion is now essential,” Stuart Kauffman commented in the press release . Researcher at the Institute for Systems Biology (Seattle). As a reminder: A theory is only considered “scientific” if it can be refuted…

On the same topic:

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⋙ Emergence of complex life on Earth: Scientists contradict the theory of “oxygen control”.

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