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Send in the ghosts

The Helix Nebula, a highly ordered part of the galaxy 650 light years from earth. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Spitzer Space Telescope.

People, I think, sort roughly into two categories: Those who want to live in a universe in which some magic and an occasional ghost are possible; and those who insist that magic and ghosts can’t possibly exist.

One might think that scientists are always in the second category, but that’s not necessarily so. It might be going too far to say that Erwin Schrödinger believed in pantheism, but he was certainly interested in it. Werner Heisenberg was probably a Platonist. Roger Penrose writes explicitly about a Platonic realm. As for Albert Einstein, it’s difficult to figure out when he was being metaphorical, but he famously found some parts of modern physics “spooky.”

A few days ago, I came across an article at Axios Science, “Scientists propose a ‘missing law’ for evolution in the universe.” The article is about a new paper by a group of scientists and philosophers, “On the roles of function and selection in evolving systems.”

In a universe with no spooks, everything is tending toward disorder (entropy). But in spite of this ever-increasing chaos described by the undisputed second law of thermodynamics, random occurrences over billions of years eventually produced stars, galaxies, and kittens, without any assistance from anything spooky.

The paper proposes that there is a missing law that is a kind of opposite of the law of increasing entropy. This missing law asserts that, when material things combine in such a way that they are new, stable, and do something interesting, then, over time, complexity increases and evolves, even in nonliving systems.

Just for fun, I searched the paper for the word “Platonic” and actually found one occurrence. That’s in the citations, a paper named “The protein folds as Platonic forms: New support for the pre-Darwinian conception of evolution by natural law.”

If there is such a thing as evolution by natural law, then it is so slow that it may not seem very spooky. But think of it this way. If there was a ghostly, Platonic kitten eons before a living material kitten finally evolved, then a missing law like this might provide a way for that ghostly Platonic kitten to conjure itself into material existence.

I’m a very skeptical sort of person. But as science sorts this out, I’m rooting for the ghosts.

Imaginary AI image created by DALL-E-3


  1. Henry Sandigo wrote:

    Are you using mushrooms?

    Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 3:59 pm | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    No, I swear it! 🙂 It must be the after-effects of Halloween…

    Thursday, November 2, 2023 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  3. MHK wrote:

    It is likely an escape from the reality of living in an area surrounded by 80+% of the population who are dyed-in-the-wool far-right conspiracy non-thinkers.

    Friday, November 3, 2023 at 9:54 am | Permalink
  4. daltoni wrote:

    Hi MHK: People like us belong on some remote island in the Outer Hebrides, don’t we? 🙂

    Friday, November 3, 2023 at 11:26 am | Permalink

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