Biological systems use Quantum Mechanics continually, at the smallest scale. That’s what I think, but I think this, because it’s obvious: molecular biology is all about transporting protons and electrons. Those “elementary particles” are not little balls. They are fully Quantum objects, here, there and everywhere. Quantum Physics describe their behavior. I used to find the Quantum weird, because I was taught that it was weird. But no more: it’s Classical Mechanics which I find weird.
For example, Classical Mechanics has edges: objects terminate with a border. But what is the border made of? Quantum Physics says there are no borders, just fuzzy zones of waning influences.
This is from a biological paper from Rutgers in 2014, “Improvement of DNA and RNA sugar pucker profiles from semiempirical quantum methods”
That the Quantum is fundamental for biology is proven for chlorophyll. Basically Quantum Non-Locality inside the chlorophyll molecule enables to find the lowest energy outcome for electrons excited by light in a way which is (classically) magical.
“On the face of it, quantum effects and living organisms seem to occupy utterly different realms. The former are usually observed only on the nanometre scale, surrounded by hard vacuum, ultra-low temperatures and a tightly controlled laboratory environment. The latter inhabit a macroscopic world that is warm, messy and anything but controlled. A quantum phenomenon such as ‘coherence’, in which the wave patterns of every part of a system stay in step, wouldn’t last a microsecond in the tumultuous realm of the cell.
Or so everyone thought. But discoveries in recent years suggest that nature knows a few tricks that physicists don’t: coherent quantum processes may well be ubiquitous in the natural world. Known or suspected examples range from the ability of birds to navigate using Earth’s magnetic field to the inner workings of photosynthesis — the process by which plants and bacteria turn sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into organic matter, and arguably the most important biochemical reaction on Earth.
Biology has a knack for using what works, says Seth Lloyd, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. And if that means “quantum hanky-panky”, he says, “then quantum hanky-panky it is”. Some researchers have even begun to talk of an emerging discipline called quantum biology… laboratory physicists interested in practical technology are paying close attention. “We hope to be able to learn from the quantum proficiency of these biological systems,” says Lloyd. A better understanding of how quantum effects are maintained in living organisms could help researchers to achieve the elusive goal of quantum computation, he says. “Or perhaps we can make better energy-storage devices or better organic solar cells.”
Massimo Pigliucci, a biology PhD paid as a chaired philosopher, and esteemed enough as a philosopher of science to be invited as a speaker to exclusive conferences for top physicists desperately looking for ideas, somewhere, somehow, anywhere, sort of concurred with me:
“Massimo: “There clearly is a logic to evolution, albeit not a Newtonian one.”
Indeed. As I said so many times before. And we can see this ever more precisely. Newton anticipated several things, but not the Quantum. The Quantum is at the core of physics (= nature), and thus biology. It is just a matter of time, probably only a few years, before the formal scientific proofs are rolled out that Quantum processes guide evolution itself (several teams are at work).
Not to say that “natural selection” does not play an important role. But the Quantum provides with much more intelligent design. Intelligent design is what the Quantum does, teleologically, even across light years (Einstein Podolski Rosen Thought Experiment, now a real experiment across more than ten kilometers).
The Quantum can influence, at a distance and globally. The Quantum sounds very much like one of these gods of lore our primitive ancestors believed in.
At the core of DNA are hydrogen bonds which are sensitive to the environment of said DNA. My guess (philosophical moment) is that the Quantum will provide that life force, or complexity driving principle, that Lamarck hoped for, and Darwin was taught when he was a student at Edinburgh around 1821 CE.
Synred objected: “Intelligent design is what the Quantum does, teleologically, even across light years (EPR)?”Frankly, that sounds silly to me. Time will tell.
I lay my traps, and mammoths fall into them. Nothing changed much that way, in 50,000 years. I replied this to Synred:
Changing the chemical environment around the double helix affects the hydrogen “bonds”. The word “bond” is misleading: a hydrogen “bond” is actually delocalized and interacts with what is outside of the DNA (this, interacting outside, beyond classical limits, is what the Quantum does). The (Quantum) tunnel effect had already been demonstrated with some enzymes.
It may sound silly to you, as it did to Einstein, 80 years ago, but it has been demonstrated, ad nauseam. Surely if a Quantum influence can cross light years, it can cross a fraction of a nanometer.
The whole mystery of Quantum Physics, the core of the debate, ever since the 1920s, has been teleology. The Quantum acts teleologically.
Teleologia is a word coined by the German philosopher Christian von Wolff in 1740. Greek teleos “entire, perfect, complete,” genitive of telos “end, goal, result, at a distance” (see tele-), + -logia (logic).
The Public Relation failure of philosophy is partly due to the fact that too few philosophers know real recent science (Goethe and Helmholtz used to, and contributed to the advancement of science).
Thus all too many Twentieth Century philosophers created their own jargon, not anchored in the study of reality (also known as science). Instead of using scientific semantics, and the notions attached to it. The divorce between philosophy and science is only apparent. Top scientists such as Poincaré and Gödel were also top philosophers, but most philosophers are blissfully unawares of this.
Once in Princeton University, a (then famous) philosopher came, and gave a talk. His main theme was that logic did not progress since the Greeks. Gödel was in the front row. The speaker was unaware of the Gödel incompleteness theorems.
No wonder Gödel became crazy (he starved himself, being at least in part heartbroken from the death of his wife; but the lack of appreciation of the sort exposed above played a role).
So here we are, getting full circle on the theory of evolution. Around 1800 CE, Lamarck demonstrated, with the careful study of mollusks, that biology (a word he coined) evolved. On top of the well-known artificial and natural selections, Lamarck posited two potential forces: a sort of Elan Vital (which Bergson revitalized later), and, or, a force towards greater complexity.
The young Lyell and Darwin were taught Lamarck’s evolution in Scotland, as English universities were in the grip of the Christian Church. Which, naturally enough, hated Lamarck and his evolving life, millions of years old.
That there is a force towards greater complexity is common sense: four billion years ago, life was immensely simple. Now some of the simplest animals around, such as aplysia, the swimming sea mollusk, famed for its memory and 600 neurons, is immensely complex, much more so than any art ever crafted by human beings.
Quantum Physics operate at a distance, it operates by finding (sometimes), at a distance, the lowest energy solution. It computes, mimicking what looks like the most primitive form intelligence could take.
Being teleological, the Quantum is fully capable, given enough time, of helping chance & necessity evolve a little bit of intelligent design. (Nobel Laureate Jacques Monod wrote, in his famous book, that evolution came from chance and necessity. But, central to necessity is the Quantum.)
And of course evolution was bound to stumble on it, and embrace it, all the more as it is the mother nature who gave birth to her.