Cosmic Creation Process
From the moment two or more particles aggregate to form a larger structure (quarks to form protons and neutrons in the first few minutes, baryons and electrons to form atoms a few hundred thousand years later, or atoms to form molecules), their combination is a quantum-cooperative phenomenon. It is statistical, a matter of ontological chance whether they succeed in forming an "information structure." We can say that the components have (two) "alternative possibilities," to form or not to form an information structure. They do not choose between these possibilities. The choice is randomly determined by what Paul Dirac called "Nature's choice." An emergent information structure adds new information to the universe. This new information will not be stable and the structure will not be permanent, unless the reduction in the local entropy (information is negative entropy) is compensated by an increase in the positive global entropy, to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics. Part of this global entropy is the heat (of binding energy) radiated away in an exothermic reaction. Local entropy reduction (information structure creation) is only possible because the universe expansion is providing an energy sink in the form of more coordinate-space cells per particle. Momentum-space cells are in principle infinite but their population diminishes with increasing energy as E -kT, as James Clerk Maxwell and Ludwig Boltzmann showed. Boltzmann defined entropy S as the logarithm of the number W of possible distributions of particles among the cells in phase space, S = k lnW, where k is Boltzmann's constant. The expansion of the universe increases the maximum possible entropy, and much faster than the actual entropy can catch up. Think of perfume escaping from a bottle into a room and the room expanding faster than the perfume molecules can fill the room evenly. A few hundred million years after the formation of atoms, gravitational forces pulled together clouds of those atoms and molecules to form the planets, stars, and galaxies. Gravitational attraction involves little chance. Any randomness is averaged out by the immensely large number of particles. This is why the classical mechanics of large objects is "adequately determined." The creation of astrophysical objects like the planets, stars, and galaxies creates new information, but information itself is not involved in their creation, as it will be for living things. Particles in these objects are passive, acted upon, not themselves "acting." Around nine billion years later, on planet Earth, some very complex macromolecules began to replicate themselves. They had encoded the information needed to clone themselves. All earlier information structures were formed passively, under the influence of purely physical forces. The information in these macromolecules was actively involved in their own creation. The creation of living things is a transition from passive participants to active agents. A steady flow of energy with low entropy is needed to support life, as Erwin Schrödinger made famous in his 1944 essay, "What Is Life? He wrote that life feeds on low entropy and the Sun is the source of that negative entropy and order. At some time, active information structures began to notice their neighbors, probably by chemical secretions into the environment. This was the first communication between information structures. Eventually, the information communicated between some living entities consisted of pure abstract ideas, from one thinking being to another. This information is neither matter nor energy, though it needs matter to be embodied and energy to be communicated. It is the basis for all human knowledge. Information goes "beyond logic and language" in its ability to represent nature. All along in the history of the cosmic creation process, information can be altered by accidental errors in the stored data or noise in the communicated signals. Sometimes the noise causes a variation or mutation in the genetic structure. Very rarely, the mutation is an improvement that gives the organism greater reproductive success. This of course explains Darwinian evolution of the species. To summarize, we can divide the creation and evolution of information structures into four cosmic epochs:
1. From the origin to the formation of atoms (~380,000 years). 2. The formation of planets, stars, and galaxies, even supernovae and black holes (~400 million years). 3. The creation and evolution of life on Earth (~9 billion years). 4. The evolution of the human mind and the creation of abstract information stored outside living beings.. Information philosophy (actually information physics and biology) has identified the two steps in the process needed to create any new information structure.
1. The Quantum Step. Whenever matter is rearranged to create a new information structure, the quantum binding forces involve a collapse of the wave function that introduces an element of chance. Without alternative possibilities, no new information is possible. With those possibilities, things could have been otherwise. 2) The Thermodynamic Step. The new information structure reduces the local entropy. It cannot be stable unless it transfers away enough positive entropy to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics, which says that the total entropy (disorder) must always increase. The increase in global entropy is the result of the increase in phase-space cells because the universe is expanding. According to Boltzmann's Principle, the entropy S = k lnW. The increasing volume of space means there are many more possible arrangements W of the finite number of particles in the observable universe. All possibilities are the result of the cosmic expansion.Epoch 1 begins with extraordinarily high temperature and density. The temperature is falling and density is decreasing because the universe is expanding. Quarks are packed tightly as independent particles in pre-hadronic matter until the temperature is low enough for them to be frozen out, bound into hadrons (protons, neutrons). These are the first assembled structures. During much of this epoch the global entropy is near its maximum (disorder, chaos), but is very low compared to what it will become. And the combination of quarks into baryons is the first formation of relative negative entropy objects. The next such phase is when the high-entropy free electron gas starts to bind with protons into the earliest atoms. The free-electron gas was optically thick to the photon gas at temperatures above several thousand degrees, with an extremely short mean free path between scatterings. The first atoms did not become stable entities until at least 380,000 years after the origin of the universe when the temperature was about 5000K. In the first few hundred thousand years of early universe, when matter was a very hot ionized plasma gas, an occasional electron combined with a proton to form a hydrogen atom. In a quantum transition from an unbound quantum state to a bound electronic state, the new atom radiated away the binding energy as a photon, - the electron's wave function collapsed into one of the possible bound states. But immediately, a photon in the hot radiation field re-ionized the new atom. The information in that new atomic structure could not last until the universe cooled down enough to become transparent to radiation. Once the universe became transparent, the radiation could carry away the positive entropy needed to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics globally since the atomic structures left behind were pockets of local negative entropy. We see those escaping photons, coming today in all directions from the cosmic microwave background radiation, cooled from 5000K to less than a few degrees Kelvin today.. Epoch 2. The similar two-step process is needed to form the galaxies, stars, and planets, which were starting to form about 400 million years after the origin. When gravitational forces attract huge volumes of matter, the matter heats up as it collapses. If a gravitating object could not radiate away that heat, it could not become a new information structure like a star or galaxy. The space between the forming galaxies, into which positive entropy can be radiated, is provided by the expansion of the universe. Without the expansion, no new information would be possible in the universe. To be sure, quantum chance plays little or no role in gravitational structures. The force of gravity is overwhelmingly adequately deterministic. The same is true of fundamental particles like protons, neutrons, atoms, and purely chemical molecules. Biological (living) molecules are a completely different story, as we shall see. Some use their internal information, along with environmental information, to decide what to become. All these purely physical, cosmic information structures are informationally passive. Their interactions follow simple laws of "bottom-up reductionist physics. But the biological structures of life on Earth are far from passive. They have the extraordinary active and emergent, "top-down" capability of replicating and processing information, then communicating vital information among their parts. Immaterial information is a causal force managing the matter and energy in a living information structure. Living organisms exhibit purposeful behavior called teleonomy or entelechy, not the teleology many philosophers and theologians think must pre-exist their existence. Living things, you and I, are dynamic growing information structures, forms through which matter and energy continuously flow. And it is information processing that controls those flows! Information is the modern spirit, the ghost in the machine, the mind in the body. It is the soul, and when we die, it is our information that perishes. The matter remains. No doubt some of our human purposes are simply inherited, "built-in," as Immanuel Kant thought. They are "teleological" in the sense that their "telos" pre-existed the individual's existence. But not all of our ancestors had those purposes. At some time, some ancestors acquired new purposes. "What is a priori in an individual was a posteriori in his/her ancestral lineage." Finally, the same two steps, first random alternative possibilities, then adequately determined outcomes, are involved in our minds when we create a new idea! Most of our ideas are simply inherited as the traditional knowledge of our culture, but some new thoughts are the work of our creative individuals. Albert Einstein called them "free creations of the human mind." In that sense, we are all co-creators of the universe. Information philosophy tells a story of cosmic and biological evolution that is one creation process all the way from the original cosmic material to the immaterial minds that have now discovered the creation process itself! Sadly, cosmic creation is horrendously wasteful. In the existential balance between the forces of destruction and the forces of creation, there is no contest. The dark side is overwhelming. By quantitative physical measures of matter and energy content, there is far more chaos than cosmos in our universe. But it is the cosmos that we prize, the information that we value. Information philosophy focuses on the qualitatively valuable information structures in the universe. The destructive forces are entropic, they increase entropy and disorder. Creative forces are anti-entropic. They increase the order and information. We call them ergodic. By information we mean a quantity that can be understood mathematically and physically. It corresponds to the common-sense meaning of information, in the sense of communicating or informing. It also corresponds to the information stored in books and computers. But it also measures the information in any physical object, like a stone or a snowflake, in a production process like a recipe or formula, and the information in biological systems, including cell and organ structures and the genetic code. Information is mathematically related to the measure of disorder known as the thermodynamic quantity called "entropy." Ludwig Boltzmann derived a famous formula S = k log W, where S is the entropy and W is the probability - the number of ways that the internal components (the matter and energy particles of the system) can be rearranged and still be the same system. Thus information is related to probability and possibilities for different arrangements of matter. The information we mean is closely related to "negative entropy," the departure of a physical system from pure chaos, from "thermodynamic equilibrium." "Negative entropy" is simply the difference between the maximum possible entropy (where all the particles in a physical system are in a maximum state of disorder, there is no visible structure) and the actual entropy. In a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, there is only motion of the microscopic constituent particles ("the motion we call heat"). The existence of macroscopic structures, such as the stars and planets, and their motions, is a departure from thermodynamic equilibrium. And that departure we call the "negative entropy." The second law of thermodynamics says that the entropy (or disorder) of a closed physical system increases until it reaches a maximum, the state of thermodynamic equilibrium. It requires that the entropy of the universe is now and has always been increasing. This established fact of increasing entropy led many scientists and philosophers to assume that the universe we have is "running down" to a "heat death." They thought that meant the universe must have begun in a very high state of information, since the second law requires that any organization or order is susceptible to decay. The information that remains today, in their view, has always been here. There is nothing new under the sun. But the universe is not a closed system. It is in a dynamic state of expansion that is moving away from thermodynamic equilibrium faster than entropic processes can keep up. The maximum possible entropy is increasing much faster than the actual increase in entropy. The difference between the maximum possible entropy and the actual entropy is potential information, as shown by David Layzer. Creation of information structures means that in parts of the universe the local entropy is actually going down. Creation of a low entropy system is always accompanied by radiation of entropy away from the local structures to distant parts of the universe, into the night sky for example. As the universe expands (see the figure), both positive and negative entropy are generated. The normal thermodynamic entropy, known as the Boltzmann Entropy, is the large black arrow. The negative entropy, often called the Shannon Entropy, is a measure of the information content in the evolving universe. Entropy and information can thus increase at the same time in the expanding universe. There are generally two entropy/information flows. In any process, the positive entropy increase is always at least equal to, and generally orders of magnitude larger than, the negative entropy in any created information structures. Positive entropy must exceed negative, to satisfy the second law of thermodynamics, which says that overall entropy always increases. Material particles are the first information structures to form in the universe.. They are quarks, baryons, and atomic nuclei, which will combine with electrons to form atoms and eventually molecules, when the temperature is low enough. These material particles are attracted together by the force of universal gravitation to form the gigantic information structures of the galaxies, stars, and planets. Microscopic quantum mechanical particles and huge self-gravitating systems are both stable and have extremely long lifetimes. When stars form, they become another source of radiation after the original Big Bang cosmic source, which has cooled down to 3 degrees Kelvin (3K) and shines as the cosmic microwave background radiation. Our solar radiation has a high color temperature (5780K) but a low energy-content temperature (273K). It is out of equilibrium and it is the source of all the information-generating negative entropy that drives biological evolution on the Earth. Note that the fraction of the Sun's light falling on Earth is less than a billionth of that which passes by and is lost in space. A tiny fraction of the solar energy falling on the earth gets converted into the information structures of plants and animals. Most of it gets converted to heat and is radiated away as waste energy to the night sky.
The Evolution of LifeEvery biological structure is a quantum mechanical structure. DNA has maintained its stable information structure (again, thanks to the extraordinary stability of quantum structures) over billions of years in the constant presence of chaos and noise. With the emergence of teleonomic (purposive) information in self-replicating systems, the same core process underlies all biological creation. But now some random changes in information structures are rejected by natural selection, while others reproduce successfully. The stable information content of a human being survives many changes in the material content of the body during a person’s lifetime. Only with death does the mental information (spirit, soul) dissipate - unless it is saved somewhere. Creation of information structures means that today there is more information in the universe than at any earlier time. This fact of increasing information fits well with an undetermined universe that is still creating itself. In this universe, stars are still forming, biological systems are creating new species, and intelligent human beings are co-creators of the world we live in.
The Evolution of MindThe total mental information in a living human is orders of magnitude less than the information content and information processing rate of the body. But the information structures created by humans outside the body, in the form of external knowledge (we call them the Sum), including the enormous collection of human artifacts, rival the total biological information content. Information philosophy views the mind as the immaterial information in the brain, which is seen as a biological information processor. Mind is software in the brain's hardware.
The "stuff" of mind is pure information. Information is neither matter nor energy, though it needs matter for its embodiment and energy for its communication. In ancient philosophy, mind and body formed one of the classic dualisms, like idealism versus materialism, the problem of the one (monism) or the many (pluralism), the distinction between essence and existence, between universals and particulars, between the eternal and the ephemeral. When mind and body are viewed today as a dualism, the emphasis is on the mind, that is to say the information, being fundamentally different from the material brain. Since the universe is continuously creating new information, by rearranging existing matter, this is an important and understandable difference. Matter (and energy) is conserved, a constant of the universe. Information is not conserved, it is the source of genuine novelty, including new thoughts in the mind leading to new things in the human world. Mental processes are also the result of the two-step core process that creates all information. It is a combination of two distinct physical processes, one quantum mechanical, the other thermodynamic. Understanding this core creative process is as close as we are likely to come to understanding the idea of an anthropomorphic creator of the universe, a still-present divine providence, the cosmic source of everything good and evil. As we have seen, everything created since the origin of the universe over thirteen billion years ago has involved just two fundamental physical processes that combine to form the core of all creative processes. These two steps occur whenever even a single bit of new information is created and comes into the universe. In the mind we describe a two-stage model of creativity and free will. Given the "laws of nature" and the "fixed past" just before a decision, philosophers wonder how a free agent can have any possible alternatives. This is partly because they imagine a timeline for the decision that shrinks the decision process to a single moment.