Scientists Put Forward a Novel Theory Describing an Essential Law for Universal Evolution
The principle of ‘augmenting functional information’ asserts that natural complex systems progress towards increased complexity over time.
Scientists have introduced a novel scientific principle to explain the evolution of life, minerals, celestial bodies, and all phenomena in the universe. This innovative concept, referred to as the ‘Law of Increasing Functional Information,’ discerns ‘universal selection principles’ governing the evolution of systems, whether animate or inanimate, and addresses the inclination of natural systems in the cosmos to attain greater complexity over time.
The team behind this groundbreaking law included a diverse group of experts, ranging from philosophers and astrobiologists to theoretical physicists, mineralogists, and data scientists. This collaborative effort aimed to tackle one of the profound enigmas of the universe: the driving force behind the progressive increase in functional information in complex systems, including life.
Jonathan Lunine, a professor of physical sciences at Cornell University and a co-author of the study, emphasized the significance of this collaboration, saying, ‘This was a true collaboration between scientists and philosophers to address one of the most profound mysteries of the cosmos: why do complex systems, including life, evolve toward greater functional information over time?’
Published in the journal PNAS on October 16, the researchers’ study unveiled their innovative law. It’s important to note that scientific laws describe observed phenomena without delving into the underlying causes. Nevertheless, they contribute to our scientific understanding and pave the way for future research.
The new law postulates that ‘the functional information of a system will increase (i.e., the system will evolve) if many different configurations of the system undergo selection for one or more functions.’ This principle applies to systems composed of multiple elements, such as atoms, molecules, and cells, which can be rearranged in various ways and selected based on their functions, with only a few configurations surviving.
Expanding upon Darwin’s theory of evolution, the researchers assert that non-living systems also evolve when a novel configuration of elements enhances their functionality. An example of a function mentioned in the study is stability.
The scientific community has reacted positively to this groundbreaking law. Stuart Kauffman, a theoretical biologist and professor emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, praised the study as ‘superb, bold, broad, and transformational.’ Milan Cirkovic, a research professor at the Astronomical Observatory of Belgrade, described it as ‘a breath of fresh air in the challenging realm at the intersection of astrobiology, systems science, and evolutionary theory.
Nevertheless, The Guardian noted that not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for the law, with objections coming from figures such as astronomer Martin Rees, who is a professor emeritus of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge.
According to Rees, “In a vast expanse of space and time, under the influence of the laws of physics and chemistry, a diverse array of materials, environments, and structures will naturally arise in the inanimate realm. However, I do not perceive that this necessarily signifies the presence of any novel underlying principle comparable to the role of Darwinian selection and inheritance in the realm of biology.”
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