In the movie Jurassic Park, chaos scientist Ian Malcolm remarks, “Life will find a way.” The rest of the movie proves him right. A population of dinosaur clones that was supposed to be all-female manages to reproduce anyway, turn aggressive and overrun the island.
That’s not so far-fetched. It’s more or less what has happened with life on our planet, just compressed into a 2-hour plot. As I blogged in the Selfish Gene series, a sterile pool was stirred by Sun and Moon for a few million years until a molecule arose that had the curious property of self-replication, drawing on materials in the surrounding prebiotic soup. Over unfathomable eons, such molecules fell together in increasingly complex but self-sustaining structures until what we would call life emerged. The process was so gradual that an observer would not be able to say, “Here is the first life” but here we are.
To say that “life has found a way” is an understatement. Life has ratcheted its way into the hellish, sulfer-based economy of deep-sea thermal vents; has eked out an existence 2 miles underneath Antarctic ice; and feeds on ammonia on Mount Everest.
Life, based on DNA (or RNA) is essentially information.
Like life itself, information is finding its way into every imaginable intellectual ecosystem. Some habitats are inhospitable, choked with dogma and prejudice. Others are more fertile and welcoming. However, information is resourceful. Its arguments and presentation continually mutate, and will continue to mutate, until truth penetrates every culture and sub-culture.
Why truth and not falsehood? In the world of information, truth is life and falsehood is death. Eventually, falsehood meets reality and is annihilated. The bigot gets to know enough people against whom he is prejudiced, discovers that they are as good as he is, and is forced to revise his views. Circumstances eventually force the biblical fundamentalist to double-check his views and he discovers they are unsupported.
Ways of looking at the world that are dedicated to seeking truth and discarding falsehood advance; backward cultures eventually wither. To see this, one only has to compare the march of science with the retreat of superstition.
This is happening with astonishing speed for, unlike biological life, information can survive and reproduce with almost no raw materials. Furthermore, while biological life consumes what it feeds on, information builds it up: As information is implanted in people, they want more of it, and are better equipped to host it. They even invent and support new habitats for it (the Internet being only the most recent example). The result is a growth of knowledge that is even more rapid than our growth in population.
Considered as a life-form, information is unrivaled. It requires almost no natural resources, can reproduce without limit, and re-engineers its hosts to want more of it.
The world of ignorance is doomed. May Truth live long and prosper!