Amidst the void life emerged

Quick Musings on Life and the Universe

Life is energetically expensive and highly unstable, why bother then?

Misael León
Quick Musings
Published in
4 min readSep 5, 2015

I was flying back home, a storm was hitting the ground below. I could see the bolts of lightning flashing through the window pane, then it hit me. A sudden awareness of the “intention” of the Universe and how life fits into the story. What you are about to read is my insight, my revelation from the gods of awe. Dare I say one of many throughout the history of humans? This is my bet on what’s going on.

Life seems to be ruled by a conservation impulse dictated by the genetic code that gave shape to it. DNA is inert, lifeless on its own, but is driven to self-replicate, to make more of itself fixing flaws along the way. Errors inhibit the efficiency of this self-replication process. Genetic errors are mere results of evolutionary experimentation. But at the smaller level, they are just different ways in which molecules and proteins can be arranged. Life will do whatever is more beneficial to this self-replication impulse.

Self-replication is possible because is intrinsic to the behavior of atoms and molecules. We call chemistry the dynamics that govern this relationship between them, how they interact and mix.

The dynamics of chemistry happen because they are embedded in the laws of physics, which describe all possible ways in which the 4 fundamental forces interact with each other. These 4 fundamental constant forces are gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear force; We could say their behavior was set right after the first moment of the Big Bang.

I stop here to ponder: Have they been constant since the beginning or has there been any fluctuation in their values? How does this process of setting up the initial conditions happen? How come nothing became something? What’s the role of the arrow of time? I certainly do not know.

What we do know is that the Universe’s primary motor is entropy. We could even say that the history of the Universe is the history of entropy. This is so because it’s predicted as a result of the very same set of initial conditions.

Entropy refers to the many ways energy can be arranged. It’s commonly known as a measure of disorder as explained by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. “The First Law is that energy is not created or destroyed, and the Third Law is that absolute zero cannot be achieved.” [1]

It is said that in the very long term the atoms in the Universe will be unable to interact with each other because entropy would have reached its maximum momentum so that no more work can be extracted from any source. Maximum disorder. Game over.

While that happens, the Universe is constantly “complexifying” reality by exploring all possible ways in which energy can be organized following the initial set of rules. Put simply, the Universe creates complexity while it can. And so far the Universe is as complex as we observe it.

Out of this complexity-driven game of experimentation, the self-replicative phenomenon of life originated. Amazingly, life challenges entropy, because it leans towards to high-order and balance in the long run. It’s energetically expensive, incredibly unstable in the immediate term, and intrinsically devoid of purpose. [2] It just happened because it was allowed to happen by the laws of physics, and not only that… it was inevitable.

Interestingly enough another phenomenon has risen along life. One that we humans have an active role in is the illusory perception of self; Which deludes the molecule-constituted self-replicator system, that is us, to believe it has an identity of its own, and among other ideas, a purpose.

~Now entering metaphysics.

And since we know the purpose is merely subjective — because it reinforces the illusion of the self by confirming the recipient about itself and its very own existence — we can say that we, who possess the illusion of consciousness, could direct our purpose/intention through science to discover the mechanism that set up those very same initial conditions in the first place.

Life might very well be an opportunity for the Universe to unlock the mystery of its existence. Yes, I guess I’m slightly taking the biocentric route. But this is just me. Not a physicist but a dedicated curious primate apprehensive about storms while flying.

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[1] Entropy Explained by Richard Carrier.

[2] Life’s Restlessness by Addy Pross.



Misael León
Quick Musings

Software Product Manager. Mostly ranting on design, music, philosophy, nature, and art.