COS 111-10
Life is: A simple synthesis of molecular to circumplanetary living

Thursday, August 14, 2014: 4:40 PM
311/312, Sacramento Convention Center
Kurt Andrew Grimm, Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

We collectively aspire to a simple and testable synthesis of organismal and ecosystemic biology. Much evidence suggests that Life — the phenomenon of Living — is an irreducible phenomenon that occurs along a broader spectrum of dynamical emergent complexity. A unique description of Living is summarized herein as a simple, comprehensive and falsifiable hypothesis. Life is described as self-perpetuation that evolves (changes through time) and can self-repair (healing). The process-patterning of Life is nested, functioning as loops within loops within loops. More specifically, Life exhibits dynamical (functional) self-similarity as a nested coordination of autoregenerative and hypercyclic loops,  coevolving across molecular-to-circumplanetary scales. 


Living arises and collectively self-perpetuates in consortial and organismal configurations, with a very explicit set of shared and contrasting characteristics. Consortial Life (CL) includes cellular trafficking, populations, human gut floras, and the complete spectrum of ecoevolutionary consortia, including forests, marine biosphere, global Biosphere, clades and evolutionary faunas. CL lacks membrane-enclosure, manifests reproducible patterning, and self–regulation via distributed (non-genomic) self-governance, and internally recycles resources/wastes. CL self-regulates amongst ≥2 quasi-stable steady states (homeorhesis), manifests flexible yet reproducible development patterns, evolves perpetually through adaptive cycles, and does not die. Organismal Life (OL) includes every bacterial cell, each eukaryotic cell and every metazoan phenotype. OL collectively self-generates a bounding membrane; some specific manifestations (e.g. brown or blue eyes) are centrally (genome) governed, and they must release metabolic wastes. OL self-regulates around a single central tendency (homeostasis), is specialized and efficient, displays highly predictable development trajectories (ontogeny) and experiences aptotic, senescent or perturbation-driven death. Every prokaryote is a true organism; eukaryote protists and metazoan phenotypes are phenotypic holarchies (fused organismal holarchies). The Life cycle of metazoans, for example, represents stepwise transformations between OL (phenotypic) and CL (genomic) Living.

Bounded Consortial Life (BCL) manifests a very particular set of OL and CL characteristics. BCL collectively self-generates a bounding membrane (OL characteristic) and manifests dynamical self-regulation between ≥2 dynamical steady states via distributed governance (CL characteristics). BCL includes microbial mats/stromatolites, cellular slime molds, lichen, colony-constructing (eusocial) insects ("superorganisms"), the human heart/pericardium and the Climate Consortium (CC), explicitly defined herein. The synthesis may be falsified by presenting any manifestation of Living that falls outside these precise functional groupings; the synthesis generates novel hypotheses and performs well under rigorous testing. A broader phenomenology of hysteresis changing in CL and BCL yields testable forecast for pattern of regional-to-global climate changing: novelty, extremes and spectral (phenological) changing.