I have for some time only operated on a basic understanding of our biological system. That is to say I understood the basics of Cellular action, of photosynthesis and respiration but had never had it explained to me how these reactions take place.
The first main realisation which helped me in visualising these processes was the image of the ocean. If you had asked me what was the main chemical component of either animal life or plant life I would have said water, I might have even been able to express a percentage of the whole which I thought was waters place, however that’s where the understanding stopped. If you had gone on to ask me where all of those water molecules where in the human body for example, my eyes would have glazed over and I would have given an avoidance answer whereby I harp on about something else, perhaps lamenting uselessness of arbitrary numeral based facts in this case. While in that scenario you may still consider myself knowledgeable on the subject the truth would be that I didn’t get that far in biology. I was a student of Chemistry and Physics at high school, biology had never interested me in those years which is probably why I was antisocial and a little bit lonely.
So it turns out that much like a lot of things the solution to my woes, and indeed the visual that my brain had failed to comprehend was that these cellular reactions, and in fact all of these cells themselves were in fact in solution with water.
That simple idea for me helped to connect huge gaps in my knowledge which had languished uncomfortably in the back of my mind when contemplating the development of life in a primordial soup scenario. Knowing now that cells developed with water, both within and without water in fact, has made it far clearer the strength of our current understanding of life. It was not that I did not believe these theories before; I am comfortable with things being true even I don’t fully understand them. For example I am more than happy to accept that there is a town call Maiac in Moldova, I don’t need to know who founded it and when, to believe that exists and is true. What is important though is that it has validity in my own brain.
What’s particularly good about this visual is that it also bridged the gap in my head between what I understood as biology, the study of cells, and chemistry, the study of atoms and molecules. Because the cells are suspended in water it is of course insanely obvious that the atoms and molecules are to. So all you need for life is a solution of various chemical compounds reacting together in increasingly complex ways to satisfy electron issues. This can explain the physical reactions of chemicals but struggles with the metaphysical questions of life itself, what is that property and perhaps the answer is simple. Perhaps life is just what happens when these chemical react. A byproduct of atoms interaction. And on a small level electrons and protons and neutrinos quarks bosons and everything else.
Some might view that as a depressing way to view the world thinking that it questions the idea of free will. Really though there is a real difference between the mind and the body. Just like the physical the metaphysical is evolving, some evolutions lead to great reward such as language or tool making but some do not, what separates the metaphysical from the physical is that we have been in charge of our mental evolution a lot longer than we have managed to meddle with our physical states. There is still much randomness to our reactions and interactions there is still much room for free will. Free will is a byproduct of a metaphysical development, it might not be evolutionary for it does not lead us to great prosperity in the chemical sense, but it does give us command over our environment and understanding of the processes involved which leads to a better maintenance of the reactions themselves.
And this is the important part. That joy of discovery, that connection of dots in my mind over the origins of life and indeed the reactions which make up my own existence are what we as a species should aspire to. It’s only when we understand the world, truly can create a picture for ourselves and internalise that reality that we can pass on that understanding and knowledge to the next generation. And with this we have the human-lead evolution of minds with cultural metamorphosis and innovation. This perception of the world, once understood can lead us to pursue the real mysteries, what is truly around us to investigate and understand