Modern developments in nonequilibrium thermodynamics have significant implications for the origins of life. The reasons for this are closely related to a generalized version of the second law of thermodynamics recently found for entropy production during irreversible evolution of a given system such as self-replicating RNA. This paper is intended to serve as an introduction to these developments.
Dolphin cognitive capabilities have been explored by investigating their neural anatomy, their social behavior in the wild, and by analysis of their complex vocalizations used for communication and environmental perception. After a brief introduction to dolphin hearing, sounds, and neurophysiology, and an even briefer discussion of sound propagation in the ocean, an analysis is given of some representative vocalizations. It is also shown that Mathematica offers a tool for easily synthesizing dolphin-like sounds that could be as basis for constructing a pidgin type language for human-dolphin communication.
This book is an attempt to show the majesty of the immense journey from the coming into being of the universe to the emergence and evolution of life. While it begins with the birth of the universe and the subsequent formation of the matter making up the stars and planets, it is the four and a half billion years since the formation of our sun and its planets that are the main focus of the book.
Part I covers the coming into existence of the universe; Part II the beginning of life on the early Earth; Part III the emergence of consciousness and intelligence; and Part IV, the immense journey of the universe beyond Earth. Part V addresses the problems raised by the emergence of higher-order consciousness in human beings as captured by the phrase “the human condition”.
The late 19th and 20th centuries brought a revolution in the scientific understanding of the universe around us, one whose effects are still being felt around the world as it forces people to change their conception of the universe and the place of human beings within it. Perhaps the greatest remaining mystery is the nature of consciousness itself, which has been a subject of human inquiry for at least the last several millennia. In this essay, I discuss the nature of thought and consciousness and argue that that consciousness and thought are natural biological phenomena.
Updated version (4 April 2016)
The phrase “the human condition” has come to mean many things to different people, but here it simply refers to what history has shown to be the inescapable features of being human. In this essay we take a look at current trends, what they foretell for the remainder of this century, and how the characteristics that make us human might affect the evolution of those trends.
PDF: THE HUMAN CONDITION
USA Today Magazine (November 2012)
“. . . The conflict here and abroad really is between two fundamentally different and mutually exclusive world views; one based on science, reason, and observation; the other on an interpretation of Scripture that dates back to past periods of religious intolerance.”
International Journal of Astrobiology / FirstView Article / October 2012, pp 1- 5
DOI: 10.1017/S1473550412000468, Published online.
International Journal of Astrobiology 12 (1): 94–98 (2013)
It has been argued that the limited set of proteins used by life as we know could not have arisen by the process of Darwinian selection from all possible proteins. This probabilistic argument has a number of implicit assumptions that may not be warranted. A variety of considerations are presented to show that the number of amino acid sequences that need to have been sampled during the evolution of proteins is far smaller than assumed by the argument.
Published version: Int.J.Astrobiology12(1)94-98(2013)
How to cite this article:
Gerald E. Marsh The problem of the ‘prebiotic and never born proteins’. International Journal of Astrobiology, Available on
Emergent behavior that appears at a given level of organization may be characterized as arising from an organizationally lower level in such a way that it transcends a mere increase in the behavioral degree of complexity. It is therefore to be distinguished from systems exhibiting chaotic behavior, for example, which are deterministic but unpredictable because of an exponential dependence on initial conditions. In emergent phenomena, higher levels of organization are not determined by lowerlevels of organization; or, more colloquially, emergent behavior is often said to be “greater than the sum of the parts”. The concept plays an especially important but contentious role in the biological sciences. This essay is intended to demystify at least some aspects of the mystery of emergence.
(This is an updated and expanded version of the original post with some portions rewritten to enhance clarity.)
Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism Vol. 17 (1), Spring-Summer 2009
Creationism and Science
As fundamentalist religious thought strengthens its hold on U.S. politics, and increases its role in politics around the world, enlightened values that form the very foundation of modern society are coming under attack. In the United States the wedge issue being used by fundamentalists is a pseudo-debate over creationism and Darwin’s theory of the descent of man.