http://facebook.com/ScienceReason ... Complexity (Chapter 7): A Short History of Nearly Everything.
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Climbing the Ladder of Structure
It is possible to view the entire history of the universe as a story of complexity emerging again and again from simple systems under the influence of simple rules. The laws of physics bind together the most fundamental constituents of matter electrons and quarks into stable structures called atoms. Atoms themselves are subject to a new set of rules ... pushing and pulling one another, and combining into new forms molecules governed by the laws of chemistry.
Simple molecules of water and carbon dioxide, consisting of only a few atoms, can combine and interact in ever more complicated ways ... building more and more complex structures ... clumps and chains and rings. The rules of chemistry are universal. The same kinds of amino acids that we find in our own bodies can also be found in the cold depths of space.
At some point, very large and complex molecules become capable of something new. DNA molecules make copies of themselves. The chemical metabolism inside of a cell produces and stores energy ... energy that can be used for motion... and reproduction. The raw material of chemistry has given rise to a new kind of complex behavior one that we call life.
Large multi-cellular organisms involve a whole new class of structures ... cells produce tissues and organs and organisms of greater and greater complexity. Driven by natural selection, yet another set of laws, life has been able to diversify and take on more and more complex forms. From the first organism that could sense its environment and react to light, neurons led to nerves and nerves led to brains.
At this level of complexity, an organism can gather information with its senses and then use that information to influence the future what a concept! The human brain is perhaps the most complex structure in the universe, and in its complexity comes the most mysterious phenomenon that science has attempted to understand - consciousness.
At this level of complexity, not only does an organism gather information and use it to influence the future, but it can take notice of itself doing this. It can influence the future with an intention to change itself. It can also cause changes to its species through direct modification of its own blueprint genetic manipulation, and directed evolution!
So, from three fundamental particles, we have now constructed an organism that is alive, conscious, self-aware, and has the ability to understand itself and the universe that it occupies how wonderfully complex.
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