Joel Henkel: Discussions for January 13 and Winteer Chaos Conference, Feb 8-10.

Discussion of Organicist View Compared with Ecologist View

 Let me present a number of talking points for our planned discussions of Mae-Wan Ho's work and how it relates to the ecologist view of mind and matter. We might even begin the discussion over the internet, rather than waiting for a face-to-face meeting. The following points are extracted from Ho's paper, 'What is Schroedinger's Negentropy?'

  Ho redefines the notion of 'thermodynamic state',

  "In other words, the steady 'state' is not a state at all but a  conglomeration of processes which are spatiotemporally organized, ie, it has a deep space-time structure, and cannot be  represented as an instantaneous state or even a configuration of  states7. Characteristic times of processes range from <10-14 s for  resonant energy transfer between molecules to 107 s for  circannual rhythms. The spatial extent of processes, similarly,  span at least ten orders of magnitude from 10-10 m for  intramolecular interactions to metres for nerve conduction and the  general coordination of movements in larger animals."

  The question is how can Ho's conglomeration of processes be translated into the ecologist view?

o  Her organicist 'conglomeration of spatiotemporal processes' corresponds directly to ecological 'presentations' that consist of 'vibrational frequency difference patterns in space-time' that circulate around Bateson's experiential feedback loops.

o The spatial and temporal extent of the (processes / frequency difference patterns) form a hierarchy of levels of complexity for the experiential loops. Each level has a complexity measured by its extropy, the number of its degrees of freedom. The larger,longer processes are more complex in that more degrees of freedom are needed to describe their function.

o Ho uses the term  thermodynamic 'equilibrium' in her statement, local equilibrium  may be achieved at least for some biochemical reactions in  the living system. But acknowledges  "We begin to see that thermodynamic  equilibrium itself is a subtle concept, depending on the level of  resolution of time and space. Strictly speaking, all life processes deviate from equilibrium, so a better term would be 'steady state'. This term brings out the 'balance' property for competing directions of biochemical reactions. In the ecological view, Langer's notion of 'balance of tension' as a property of presentational abstraction is applied to biochemical reactions that make up the space-time frequency difference patterns.

o Ho mentions 'resonant energy transfer in the living systems.' In the ecological view, 'standing wave patterns' describe such resonances.

o Ho mentions "Another important development in the thermodynamics of the  steady state came from Morowitz, who derived a theorem  showing that at steady state, the flow of energy through the  system from a source to a sink will lead to at least one cycle in  the system." Also, "The two results - Onsager's reciprocity relationship and Morowitz' theorem of chemical cycles - I believe, imply a third:  that symmetrically coupled cycles will arise in open systems  which are capable of storing energy under energy flow." In the ecological view, coupled cycles illustrate how the complexity levels of presentations can increase to form a higher level presentation.

o Ho mentions quantum coherence. "Fröhlich19  predicts that as a living organism is made up predominantly of dielectric molecules packed rather densely together, it may represent a special solid state system where electric and viscoelastic forces constantly interact. Under those conditions,  metabolic pumping results in condensation to collective modes of activity or 'coherent excitations', giving macroscopic order and  coordination to the living system. Fröhlich's hypothesis has been  developed by others since20,21. Duffield21, in particular, proves  that the 'Fröhlich state' is an asymptotically stable global attractor. There is, indeed, a growing body of xperimental evidence for coherence and cooperativity at different levels within  living systems: from the action of enzymes22, to whole  organisms23 and populations of organisms24,25." In the ecological view, this corresponds closely with the quantum field theory phenomenon of spontaneous symmetry breaking into quantum condensations and collective modes.

Talking Points from Ho's Biology of Free Will

From Mechanism to Meta-Mechanism

Ho's Summary
  "I shall describe  some new views of the organism arising from new findings in  biology, in order to show how, in freeing itself from the 'laws' of  physics, from mechanical determinism and mechanistic control,  the organism becomes a sentient, coherent being that is free,  from moment to moment, to explore and create its possible

Ecological View
  Ho 's 'laws of physics' are the laws of mechanics and their extended versions in the laws of quantum mechanics. Freedom from these laws means transcending deterministic equations of motion. Explicitly, time-reversible mechanistic dynamics is replaced by the time-irreversible organicist picture, which in the ecologist's view is called organism experience. While Ho does not explicitly develop the notion of  mind, she implies it in the title 'free will'. The ecologicist view explicitly develops the notion of proto-mind, which appears at the lowest level of life. The laws of physics are generalized to an open-system quantum theory, in which an organism is coupled an infinititude of environmental potentiality, available for promotion to actuality. The passage to infinite possibilities is the extension from mechanical to meta-mechanical open system physics. A closed system mechine has a finite number of states, while an open system organism deals with infinite possibilities by invoking quantum field theory and alternative mathematical formalism of symmetry group theory, where the environment helps determine the characteristic of thwe extended space-time wave pattern.  This intrinsically implies free will, the ability to freely choose a course of action.

Organicist/Ecologist Picture of  Space-time Patterns

Ho's Space-time Frames
  "The traditional opposition between mechanists and vitalists already began to dissolve at the turn of the present century, when  Newtonian physics gave way to quantum theory at the very small  scales of elementary particles and to general relativity at the large  scales of planetary motion. The static, deterministic universe of  absolute space and time is replaced by a multitude of contingent, observer-dependent space-time frames. Instead of mechanical  objects with simple locations in space and time, one finds  delocalized, mutually entangled quantum entities that carry their  histories with them, like evolving organisms. These developments  in contemporary western science gave birth to organicist  philosophy."

Ecologist Picture in terns of Presentations
  Ho's 'mutually entangled space-time patterns that carry histories or models of the world with them' goes only so far in giving an organic flavor to the physics of life. What is needed is an explicit observer-dependent description of the organization of these entangled space-time patterns. This is provided by Batson's experiential feedback loops picture of proto-mind, where his circulating basic ideas are the space-time patterns, called 'presentations' in the ecologist view.

Theoretical  Biology Club

"Organicist philosophy was taken very seriously by a remarkable  group of people who formed the multidisciplinary Theoretical  Biology Club.1 Its membership included Joseph Needham,  eminent embryologist/biochemist later to be renowned for his
 work on the history of Chinese science; Dorothy Needham,  muscle physiologist and biochemist, geneticist C.H. Waddington,  crystallographer J.D. Bernal, mathematician Dorothy Wrinch,  philosopher, J.H. Woodger and physicist, Neville Mott. They  acknowledged the full complexity of living organization, not as  axiomatic, but as something to be explained and understood with  the help of philosophy as well as physics, chemistry, biology and  mathematics, as those sciences advance, and in the spirit of free  enquiry, leaving open whether new concepts or laws may be  discovered in the process."

  It might be interesting to review some of this background material for ideas.

Organicist Science

"I am making a case for organicist science. It is not yet a  conscious movement but a Zeitgeist I personally embrace, so I  really mean to persuade you to do likewise by giving it a more  tangible shape. The new organicism, like the old, is dedicated to  the knowledge of the organic whole, hence, it does not recognize  any discipline boundaries. It is to be found between all  disciplines. Ultimately, it is an unfragmented knowledge system  by which one lives. There is no escape clause allowing one to  plead knowledge 'pure' or 'objective', and hence having nothing to do with life. As with the old organicism, the knowing being  participates in knowing as much as in living. Participation implies  responsibility, which is consistent with the truism that there can be  no freedom without responsibility, and conversely, no  responsiblity without freedom. There is no placing mind outside  nature as Descartes has done, the knowing being is  wholeheartedly within nature: heart and mind, intellect and feeling  (Ho, 1994a). It is non-dualist and holistic. In all those respects,  its affinities are with the participatory knowledge systems of  traditional indigenous cultures all over the world."

Ecologist View

Ho's view corresponds to the epistemological picture, where mind  is within nature and also provides organisms with their contact with reality by generating reality through experience of nature.

Energy Storage Under Energy Flow

"These and other considerations led me to identify Schrödinger's  "negative entropy" as "stored mobilizable energy in a space-time  structured system" (Ho, 1994b, 1995a). The key to  understanding the thermodynamics of living systems turns out not  so much to be energy flow but energy storage under energy flow  (Fig. 1). Energy flow is of no consequence unless the energy can  be trapped and stored within the system where it circulates to do  work before dissipating. A reproducing life cycle, i.e., an  organism, arises when the loop of circulating energy is closed. At  that point, we have a life cycle, within which stored energy is  mobilized, remaining largely stored as it is mobilized.
  The life cycle is a highly differentiated space-time structure, the  predomi-nant modes of activity are themselves cycles spanning  an entire gamut of space-times from the local and fast (or slow)  to the global and slow (or fast), all of which are coupled together.  These cycles are most familiar to us in the form of biological  rhythms extending over 20 orders of magnitude of time, from
 electrical activities of neurons and other cells to circadian and  circa-annual rhythms and beyond. An intuitive picture is given in  Figure 2, where coupled cycles of different sizes are fed by the  one-way energy flow. This complex, entangled space-time  structure is strongly reminiscent of Bergson's "durations" of  organic processes, which necessitates a different way of  conceptualizing space-time as heterogeneous, nonlinear,  multidimensional and nonlocal (see Ho, 1993).5"

The Ecologist View

Ho's shell structure of energetic processes corresponds to the ecologist picture of a hierachy of experiential feedback loops. The higher the level of experiential loop, the larger the range in time and space of the processes. See below.

Hierarchy of Cycles

Ho describes a hierarchy of  life cycles which correspond to the hierarchy of experiential feedback loops.

  "On account of the complete spectrum of coupled cycles, energy  is stored and mobilized over all space-times according to the  relaxation times (and volumes) of the processes involved. So,  organisms can take advantage of two different ways of mobilizing  energy with maximum efficiency - nonequilbrium transfer in which  stored energy is transferred before it is thermalized, and  quasi-equilibrium transfer, for which the free energy change  approaches zero according to conventional thermodynamic  considerations (McClare, 1971). Energy input into any mode can  be readily delocalized over all modes, and conversely, energy  from all modes can become concentrated into any mode. In other  words, energy coupling in the living system is symmetrical,  which is why we can have energy at will, whenever and wherever  required (see Ho, 1993, 1994b, 1995a,b). The organism is, in  effect, a closed, self-sufficient energetic domain of cyclic  non-dissipative processes coupled to the dissipative processes.  In the formalism of conventional thermodynamics, the life cycle  can be considered, to first approximation, to consist of all those  cyclic processes - for which the net entropy change balances out  to zero - coupled to those dissipative processes necessary for  keeping it going, for which the net entropy change is greater than  zero (see Figure 3). This representation, justified in detail  elsewhere (Ho, 1996a), is derived from the thermodynamics of  the steady state (see Denbigh, 1951).

The organism is free from mechanical

Deterministic Chaos
"A particular kind of nonlinearity which has made headlines  recently is 'deterministic chaos': a complex dynamical behaviour  that is locally unpredictable and irregular, which has been used to  describe many living functions including the collective behaviour  of ant colonies (see Goodwin, 1994). The unrepeatable patterns
 of brain activities that persuaded Freeman (1995) to declare  brain science in crisis are typical of systems exhibiting  deterministic chaos. Another putative example is the heart beat,  which is found to be much more irregular in healthy people than  in cardiac patients.8 Physiologist Goldberger (1991) came to the  conclusion that healthy heartbeat has "a type of variability called chaos", and that loss of this "complex variability" is associated  with pathology and with aging..... There is much current debate as to whether these  complex variabilities associated with the healthy, functional state  constitute chaos in the technical sense, so the question is by no  means settled (Glass and Mackey, 1988)."

Polychromatic spectrum of Complex Activity

"A different understanding of the complex activity spectrum of the  healthy state is that it is polychromatic (Ho, 1996c), approaching  'white' in the ideal, in which all the modes of energy storage are  equally represented. It corresponds to the so-called f(l) = const.  rule that Popp (1986) has generalized from the spectrum of light  or "biophotons" found to be emitted from all living systems. I  have proposed that this polychromatic ideal distribution of stored  energy is the state towards which all open systems capable of  energy storage naturally evolve (Ho, 1994b)"

Issue of Number of Degrees of Freedom

  "It is a state of both  maximum and minimum in entropy content: maximum because  energy becomes equally distributed over all the space-time  modes (hence the 'white' ideal), and minimum because the modes  are all coupled or linked together to give a coherent whole, in other words, to a single degree of freedom (Popp, 1986; Ho,  1993)."


Entropy is best applied to systems near equilibrium. Here, the levels of energy storage are all operating as dissipative processes. The condition of maximum distribution of energy over all the levels can be stated as the prinicple of 'democracy of experience' or 'maximum distribution of experience/inter-communication.

The notion of an overall linking among many levels does not correspond to a single degree of freedom. Complexity of any mode or level is measured by the number of degrees of freedom, as measured by its extropy. When all the levels are coupled to a coherent whole, this again illustrates maximum experience and communication. The top level of experience, coordinates all the lower levels into a single 'society' or  ecological system. In the ecologist picture, a single degree of freedom is the lowest level of complexity and has no role here.

Failure to Reach Higher Levels of Complexity

"In a system where there is no impedance to energy  mobilization, all the modes are intercommunicating and hence all  the frequencies will be represented. Instead, when coupling is  imperfect, or when the subsystem, say, the heart, or the brain, is  not communicating properly, it falls back on its own modes,  leading to impoverishment of its activity spectrum. Living systems  are necessarily a polychromatic whole, they are full of colour and  variegated complexity that nevertheless cohere into a singular  being." 

Ecological View

Lack of coupling is a case of 'impedance mismatch'. Maximum exchange of information/energy requires impedance matching or matching of level of complexity. In entropy language, matching of negentropies. When the coupling is imperfect, higher levels of experiential feedback fail to become established. The hierarchy is truncated below it natural highest all-encompassing level.

Another notion that applies here is Langer's presentational abstraction, where balance between opposing tensions is a characteristic of the 'essential image'. Here, lack of balance in communication within a level, and among levels, is an imbalance of the presentation, offerring an 'error' signal for correction to regain balance. Accupuncture and 'balance' theories of health come to mind.