Towards a Model of Life and Cognition

This essay argues for an alternative scientific foundation for accounting complex phenomena like life, cognition and evolution. The approach taken to the problem is neither reductionism, not emergentism (holism), but a third alternative called assimilationism. The analysis based on the alternative foundation indicated some counter intuitive implications like: chemical reactions can happen independent of heat under idealized conditions; all systems, including non-living, counteract perturbations to exist; non-living systems are more open than the living. Outline: There are abundant building blocks that are systems but not atoms, which perturb each other. The building blocks are heterogeneous (have different functional interfaces). There are mainly two kinds interactions: identity preserving (IP) and identity transforming (IT) interactions. Given only IP interactions the system would reach high entropy — first tendency. Given only IT interactions the system would reach a crystalline state — second tendency. The actual world is a function of these two tendencies. All beings (living as well as non-living) are open, and their adaptation in an environment is an expression of their invertibility of the two tendencies. Living beings are part of a special dialogically invertible space made by amphipathic agents like water molecules on the one hand and agents with multiple interfaces like biomolecules with possibilities of interacting among their own functional interfaces on the other. This space makes possible for a dialogical opposition of the two tendencies: distribution and collection of energy. Thus, living being is described to be a neither-nor-state, between the two extremes. The characteristic of this space is to maintain the state by replacement, reproduction, recycling or feedback. The abundance of little loops produce highly efficient work cycles, minimizing external energy dependence. A self-reproducing network of such beings manages to engulf a process and a counter process within the network of a being, to counteract the two `deadly’ tendencies. A living being is capable of displaying behavioral changes without undergoing change in identity. Thus, living beings are interpreted to be more closed than non-living, for they can neither resist nor repair interactions. And this logic continues to operate recursively to explain physiology, epigenesis, evolution, adaptation, complexity, autonomy and cognition. The initial cognitive base of a living being is rooted in the invertibility of the perturbations from the environment. It is hypothesized that this repairing process itself becomes the difference, and the processes that are induced in turn within the system generate a differentiation of difference, which is defined as knowledge. However, this knowledge is implicit, and cannot account for conscious cognition, which is explicit.

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