[Paleopsych] Re: from Eshel/paper

HowlBloom at aol.com HowlBloom at aol.com
Tue Sep 21 07:24:41 UTC 2004

Eshel--I dove into your paper and found it exhilarating.  But this is what it 
drove out of me.  Hopefully I'll dive deeper and farther in future days.  

Eshel—I know I may sound obdurate, perverse, and ignorant, but it’s really 
time, in my opinion, to toss the laws of thermodynamics out the window—both of 
them.  First of all, the conservation of energy is a great idea and has done 
extraordinary things for science.  But it is an unproven assumption, one too 
big for me to grapple with here.  Let’s just admit that it’s not necessarily 
true and move on.
Second, the concept of entropy is upside down and backwards.  So let’s look 
for something that concept obscures.  What is the creative, forward-moving 
force of the cosmos, the principle that milks opportunity from catastrophe and 
carries the cosmos forward like a salmon going upstream?  No, let’s cancel that 
image.  The universe IS the stream, and it is going uphill, not downhill.  In 
fact, it is MAKING the hill as it steps upward.  Why and how does it pull this 
An organism doesn’t take a low entropy energy—a formless, random energy—and 
turn it into a high-entropy energy—an even more formless and random form of 
movement (which, at heart is what all energy is--movement).  An organism does 
just the opposite.  It takes an already formful and organized form of energy and 
adds additional form and function, additional Rube Goldberg gadgetry that 
makes the energy travel through a far more complex, ordered, repeatable, 
upgradeable, and exultant path.  Now let’s strip the anthropomorphist poetry from that 
sentence and call the path more ornate, more intricate, and, to use a word you
’ve wisely put into play, but one whose meaning is still mysterious, a path 
that has more meaning, a path that triggers more compressed and repeatable 
Life feeds off the screams of atoms ripped apart in the heart of the sun.  
Those screams are streams of photons.  Streams of photons are highly ordered.  A 
photon alone is a mystery we’ve scarcely begun to fathom.  Why does it pulse? 
 Why does it wave?  Why do any waves wave?  What keeps the photon wobbling 
with amazing precision as it travels a straight line?  Where does the precision 
come from?  Why does the photon continue traveling?  What strange form of 
trapped motion is this that wobbles with precisely the same frequency for vast 
distances and never deviates in direction?  If this is the random universe of 
entropy, then:
v    Photons should not have a precise wavelength—their wavelength should 
shudder randomly
v    Photons should not be organized in precise quanta
v    Photons should sometimes blob, sometimes glop, and should slither and 
slur in ways that make then unrecognizable from one second to the next
v    There should be nothing at all so regular and ordered, so repetitive and 
predictable, that we can call it light and reduce it to photons
We are limited in being able to understand life by the fact that the best 
evidence we have on its origins come from some streaks of iron that seem to have 
been metabolized 3.85 billion years ago, and by the fact that the first life 
we know already had cells, genomes, communication, and social organization.  
Taking the highly ordered rays of sunlight, selecting a small slice of their 
spectrum (another mark of organization, formfulness, and non-randomness) then 
twisting it into a chemical cycle, using it the way a waterwheel uses a stream—
but ever-so-much-more complexly and creatively—is a remarkable feat.
Using it to maintain the vast society of molecules that is a single cell is a 
miracle of vast proportions—highly anti-entropic.  Using some of that 
photon-chemical-machinery-fueled-energy to translate motion from one medium to 
another to another and to many others, that’s anti-entropic, too.  Using some of 
that energy to communicate and keep a social organization going, using some of it 
to communicate to find new food, using some of it to communicate to make 
chemical war with enemies, using other batches of that photon-based energy to make 
each generation’s contribution to the pyramid a succession of billions 
cyanobacterial generations manages to build, a stromatolite, all that is 
negentropic.  Jeesh, I shouldn’t be using this vocabulary.  Believe me, words based on 
entropy are scientific poison.
Then there’s the shit that life-forms excrete.  We know that some bacteria 
attack a batch of food with phenotypes, morphs, that are born to gorge 
themselves.  We know that their shit is poisonous to them.  We know that other morphs 
are born to eat shit and love it. 
What these bacteria excrete, I do not know.  But I suspect it’s something 
Why?  Because I know that the dung of any life form is highly processed 
stuff.  It’s the opposite of random.  And I do know that other life forms rapidly 
find a way to exploit it.  We are all shit eaters, Eshel, because even shit is 
gorgeous in its way.  My shit feeds bacteria.  So does yours.  For 
microorganisms human shit is gourmet food.  Judging from the way flies congregate around 
a bit of shit, I suspect they find the stuff we excrete to be candy and mannah 
We’re shit eaters like the rest.  We love cheese, vinegar, and beer—all 
micoorganismic shit.
But that’s the secret of the universe.  Each form of shit is a gourmet dish 
awaiting the evolution of its eaters.  Electrons and protons lose their 
independence and are imprisoned.  Their imprisonment makes atoms, atoms of new 
wonders, hydorogen, helium, and lithium.  From a torture comes a miracle.
Atoms are shredded in the hearts of suns.  From that vast destruction light 
comes.  Life eats star-shit of two kinds.  It finds good use for the shit 
spewed out when stars go through their agonies and die.  That shit comes out in an 
extraordinarily ordered and extraordinarily constrained way.  It comes out as 
89 new forms of atoms.  A mere 89 new forms in a cosmos with gazillions of 
particles?  That ain’t random.  That ain’t disordered.  And that ain’t a move 
backwards.  It isn’t entropy.
Look what life has done with the resulting 92 natural atoms and the molecules 
that self-assembled along the way.
Every old form’s shit is another new form’s delicacy.  Every catastrophe 
that besets what’s old is a step toward a new kind of wonder.
This is a cosmos of miracles.  But the word miracle implies that only God can 
understand these things, and that we humans are passive admirers doomed to 
sing god’s praises.  Sorry, God does some inexcusably vicious things—like the 
Holocaust and his current torment of  Israel.  We are scientists.  In other 
words, we are the best god has been able to do up until today.  It’s our task to 
understand the incomprehensible, to turn yet more energy into a higher-level 
summary of what this cosmos is about.  
The cosmos, in my opinion, builds on the unfolding of the implications of her 
axioms.  And she builds on self-reflection—on the power of new summaries of 
herself to become new sorts of processes and things.  Life is the cosmos’ 
project of self-reflection lifted to a new degree.  A genome is a portrait of the 
cosmos painted in her own materials, summarizing the past in order to predict…
and build…a future.  Consciousness, passion, religion, and art are summaries of 
the cosmos too, summaries that become the building blocks of whole new kinds 
of things.
That’s how the cosmos works.  Turn an implication into something hard and 
fast.  Use that something hard and fast to summarize the past and to predict a 
future. Use it to digest and to condense. Then use the product, use the bit of 
mind-or-matter-shit , to build, just as the dung beatle turns a bit of feces 
into a treasure trove or as a termite builds a palace with its own small bricks 
of shit.
Then spring a really big surprise, another implication turned into a wildly 
new reality. Toss in something really big and unbelievably new—like particles, 
waves, and gravity.  Like planets, suns, life, and “dark energy”. We are the 
newest generation of  those who yank the implicit into the hard and fast.  We 
are the newest generation of cosmic mirrors helping an entire universe admire 
herself  in our glass.  We are the latest past-crunchers metabolizing a vast 
history to predict what’s next and what with our efforts we can cause to be.  
Every miracle is understandable.  And the task of understanding is up to you 
and me.
Entropy is not a tool of understanding.  It’s a forced denial of all we see.

Howard Bloom
Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of 
History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 
21st Century
Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Faculty 
Member, The Graduate Institute
Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic 
of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The 
Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American 
Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy 
of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International 
Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Youthactivism.org; executive 
editor -- New Paradigm book series.
For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: 
for two chapters from 
The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, 
see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang 
to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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