Origins of LifeDespite many controversies about the role of information in biology over the past several decades, we can now show that the creation of information is not only necessary to understand biology, but that biology is a proper subset of information creation in the universe, including the evolution of human minds, which have created the knowledge that we have about abstract immaterial information and concrete information structures. These structures are material, but many also contain energy flows with low entropy that is called "free energy" (energy available to do work). New concrete structures, new immaterial information, and "negative entropy flows" have been and are continuously being created in the universe. A new story of biological evolution is needed, integrating it into the story of cosmic evolution and illustrating the total dependence of life on cosmological sources of negative entropy (free energy and information structures). We cannot appreciate the origin of life without first understanding the origin of information. The first information structures formed in the early universe. Elementary particles, atoms and molecules, galaxies, stars, and planets, are all the result of microscopic quantum cooperative phenomena and macroscopic gravitational forces. These are the very special anti-entropic processes that we call ergodic (information creating). But it is not until the emergence of life that information replication, information communication, and information processing begins. Only then is information itself used in the creation of new information structures. Living things are biological information processors, forms through which matter and energy flows, with capabilities far beyond the electronic digital computers that cognitive scientists think provide a “computational theory of mind.” Most important, living things have “purposes.” They engage in high level communications of information with other living things and with their environment. Their messaging is meaningful, allowing them to be active users of information, compared to passive material things, whose structural information is largely inert and meaningless in itself. Living things also have histories, unlike the elementary particles of physics and chemistry. Since the total of matter and energy in the universe is a conserved constant, it's the arrangement of the matter and energy that is the information. Information philosophy (and science) tells us who or what is doing the arranging.
History and Evolution in the UniverseLong before there was life, the galaxies, stars, and planets had a rich developmental or evolutionary history of their own. Astrophysics tells us that stars radiated energy into space as they dissipated the energy of gravitational collapse (the photons carried away positive entropy to balance the new spherically symmetric order). The stars paused their collapsing when their interiors reached temperatures high enough to initiate thermonuclear reactions, which convert the lightest elements (hydrogen and helium) into heavier elements. Matter is converted to energy (E = mc2). When the fuel is exhausted, the stars resume collapsing, some exploding catastrophically and spewing out into interstellar space their newly formed elements, especially the heavy elements needed for life. Geophysics tells us that the surfaces of planets also go through heating, then cooling, as they radiate away the energy of gravitational binding. Chemical processes produce ever more complex molecules on planetary surfaces, and astrobiology now finds pre-biological organic molecules everywhere in space. Normal | Teacher | Scholar