Flow of energy = flow of information?

Nature to me should not be thought of as this great and beautiful thing. The fact that we are capitalizing it and essentially romanticizing it is in my opinion, naïve. Nature is not something to be thought of as separate. Everything on the earth is “Nature,” and there is not a distinct part of this world that is impervious to the forces of it. This being said, I do agree with the thesis when it says “Human beings are a part of Nature, but Nature is not human.” This statement means that we are as much a part of nature as the trees and bugs and wind. We think we are above the forces of nature and that we can take control of it, but it is obvious that this mentality has only put us in a worse position. Nature is unpredictable, as “it can not be reduced to any calculus of probabilities.”

I agree that the flow of energy is an essential process. However, the flow of information was one that stumped me for a little bit. At first I was very skeptical, as information is something I associate with the brain, and consciousness. Thesis 16 gives an example of a tree drawing water from its roots and reacting to an insect eating its leaves. To me, it doesn’t seem to match up in a biological standpoint, as those processes work in a cyclic manner, and it has nothing to do with awareness or information – the tree has no brain, it is not aware that insects are eating its leaves. All of these processes are cause and effect. But, a tree could not choose one day to not draw up water to its roots, unless there was a chemical process that blocked it for some reason. Information processing to me assumes choice. The tree will automatically shed its leaves during the winter if it is deciduous. If it doesn’t, it is the cause of a genetic mutation, not because the tree chose not to.

After reading on to Thesis 17 however, I started to think about it differently, as it mentions that information requires ‘sentience’ which means being ‘able to perceive or feel things,’ instead of consciousness. I agree that sentience would lead to information processing, but I don’t know how sentient much of the natural world is, other than animals of course. If they are able to ‘feel’ things, what kind of reaction would that mean chemically? Personally I think ‘feel’ is the wrong word. They have forces acting upon them, sure, but that is different than the organism ‘feeling or perceiving’ the force.

Whether trees can feel things or not, it is an interesting topic to bring up and it makes me realize how lucky humans are to be able to process information. It is what has brought us to our current level of domination. While that level has brought down some unfortunate negative anthropogenic effects on the earth, perhaps our higher processing power can be the vital savior to our all encompassing, radically open, ever beautiful “Nature.”

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