Between history and physics

“What cannot be wholly understood, need not be wholly abandoned.”

Old Arab proverb

Summary

Biology has traditionally occupied a middle ground between the determinism of classical physics and the uncertainties of history. These issues are analyzed with respect to statistical laws which are applied to the prebiotic domain and strategy laws which characterize evolutionary biology. The differences in approach between biology and physics are discussed in detail. The origin of life is discussed in the context of physical chemical laws. A scenario for biogenesis is presented in terms of known molecular hardware. Evolutionary biology is then examined with respect to the kinds of laws that are possible in a domain where thermal fluctuations (mutations) have macroscopic effects. Game theory is employed to demonstrate the kinds of theory appropriate to this historical domain. The transition point between physics and history is the origin and development of the code. This is discussed and it is concluded that we are not yet able to assign the code to either the deterministic domain or to the arena of history.

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Correspondence to Temple F. Smith.

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Smith, T.F., Morowitz, H.J. Between history and physics. J Mol Evol 18, 265–282 (1982). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01734104

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Keywords

  • Physical Chemical
  • Arena
  • Game Theory
  • Transition Point
  • Thermal Fluctuation