• Biology

    How Living Systems Violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics

    When James Clerk Maxwell proposed the second law of thermodynamics, he envisioned a thought experiment in which two chambers of gas were joined by a small door under the control of a ‘demon’ who would selectively open the door depending on which direction the gas molecules were moving. If we think of the two chambers as containing mixtures of blue and red molecules, and they were randomly flitting about, the demon would open the door just as a red molecule was about to move into the right chamber or a blue molecule was about to move into the left. The door would remain closed otherwise. If such a demon were…

  • Biology

    Why the Genome Incompletely Describes the Body

    Genetic determinism—or the idea that we are fully determined by our genes taken from our parents—is now a thing of the past. Empirical evidence now shows that genes may exist but may not be expressed. The expression is controlled by some ‘epigenetic’ factors (which are also molecules) but enabled and disabled by the environment. OK, says the geneticist, let’s add the epigenetic stuff into the overall picture, and we can maintain the overall (materialistic) idea that living beings are molecular soups. However, the issue isn’t as straightforward, because there are potentially many things in the genes and the environment which can potentially create different outcomes. How do we select which…

  • Biology

    What is Morphic Resonance?

    Biologist Rupert Sheldrake coined the term Morphic Resonance to describe the idea that the occurrence of events in one place seems to recreate those same events in other places. For example, he notes that once a crystal has been synthesized in one place, synthesizing crystals in other places subsequently becomes much easier, and though the initial synthesis takes a long time, the subsequent syntheses follow much quicker. These phenomena can be explained easily if the world was constructed like an inverted tree, and the crystal was a fruit of the tree. It takes a long time for the tree to grow to maturity before it produces the first fruit. But…

  • Biology

    The Vedic Evolutionary Model

    The following is the transcript of the fourth episode of my podcast. This episode talks about an alternative model of evolution based upon the notions of matter derived from quantum physics rather than classical physics. In classical physics, a particle established continuity between successive states, but in quantum physics there are successive states but no continuity. The episode discusses how in Vedic philosophy this continuity is established by the presence of the soul due to which even though the bodies are changing through birth, childhood, youth, and old age, the soul remains the same. Also, unlike classical physics where only one state is possible and real at a given time,…

  • Anthropology,  Biology,  History

    Species – The Vedic Perspective

    Species in modern science are defined by the type of body and often by their DNA, and they evolve through random mutations and natural selection by the environment. Cracks in this notion of evolution appear when one zooms out to look at ecosystems. An ecosystem is defined by interrelations between species and the study of ecosystems is concerned with their stability. The stability points in an ecosystem are defined collectively and not individually, which means that no individual species can change independently; rather the ecosystem evolves as a whole, and the individual members of the species adapt to the ecosystem changes. This idea about evolution posits that the big things—i.e. the…

  • Biology,  Philosophy

    Can Biology Be Based on the Nature of the Soul?

    In Vedic philosophy, the soul has three properties—sat or consciousness, chit or meanings, and ananda or pleasure. These three aspects of the soul are also reflected in matter and pervade throughout the body—the parts of the body are due to chit, the functions of each of the parts is due to sat, and the purpose associated with the functions of the parts is due to ananda. Thus, even the world around us is a reflection of the soul (as parts, functions, and purposes), but they are so deeply enmeshed that we tend to think that the part is itself the function, and the function is itself the purpose. This post…

  • Biology,  Computing,  Logic,  Mathematics

    Reasoning and Semantic Computation

    Since the advent of computers, it has been widely believed that the human mind is just like a computer. I have previously described why this is a false analogy due to two problems: (1) the problem of meaning, and (2) the problem of choice. I have also discussed the problem of meaning in computing theory in the book Gödel’s Mistake. However, all these critiques are inadequate without an understanding of how nature itself computes. For example, if nature is governed by some natural laws, then these laws have to be computed on some machine to obtain a prediction. How is nature computing these predictions? Even otherwise, living beings are constantly…

  • Biology,  Cosmology,  Medicine

    Lessons of Ayurveda for Vedic Cosmology

    The previous post discussed the model of the human body in Ayurveda. If you haven’t noticed, the most surprising aspect of Ayurveda is that it remains silent on what modern medicine calls heart, lungs, intestines, brain, pancreas, spleen, etc. It is surprising because modern medical education begins with anatomy and memorizing anatomy is every student’s job in the first year of medical school. Of course, Ayurveda also has a branch called shalya-chikitsa or surgery which relies on anatomy. But for the most part, Ayurveda doesn’t dwell on anatomy because it uses a conceptual model of the body quite different from the perceptual model. This means that the gross body is…

  • Biology,  Cosmology,  Medicine

    The Ayurveda Model of a Living Body

    Vedic knowledge provides detailed information about many aspects of material nature such as cosmology, sociology, psychology, and biology. For example, the Śrimad Bhāgavatam provides a detailed cosmic model. Varṇāśrama is a sociological model. Sāńkhya is a cognitive model. And Ayurveda is a biological model. All these models have structural resemblances and by understanding one model we can understand the others too. This post discusses the Ayurveda biological model. Subsequently, I will show how the biological model is understood in a way similar to the cosmic model. Like a toy car has similarities to the real car, the body is also a universe, and the universe is also a body.

  • Biology,  Linguistics,  Psychology

    The Phonosemantics Thesis

    In earlier posts—such as here—I described the notion of space in which words are identical to their meanings, and connected it to a tree-like structure of space. In the last post I described how this tree like structure of space appears in all languages in trying to decode their meanings. In this post I will briefly discuss the empirical evidence that supports the notion that meanings are derived from the sounds of phonemes. In contrast to the conventional wisdom in linguistics which claims that the connection between sounds and meanings is arbitrary, this post describes how a closer analysis of linguistic roots suggests otherwise. This topic is broadly called Phonosemantics or “sound symbolism”.