Introduction: Does information matter?

Paul Davies, Niels Henrik Gregersen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Scopus citations


It is no longer a secret that inherited notions of matter and the material world have not been able to sustain the revolutionary developments of twentieth-century physics and biology. For centuries Isaac Newton's idea of matter as consisting of ‘solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, and movable particles' reigned in combination with a strong view of laws of nature that were supposed to prescribe exactly, on the basis of the present physical situation, what was going to happen in the future. This complex of scientific materialism and mechanism was easily amalgamated with common-sense assumptions of solid matter as the bedrock of all reality. In the world view of classical materialism (having its heyday between 1650 and 1900), it was claimed that all physical systems are nothing but collections of inert particles slavishly complying with deterministic laws. Complex systems such as living organisms, societies, and human persons, could, according to this reductionist world view, ultimately be explained in terms of material components and their chemical interactions. However, the emergence of thermodynamics around 1850 already began to cast doubt on the universal scope of determinism. Without initially questioning the inherited concepts of corpuscular matter and mechanism, it turned out that the physics of fluids and gases in thermodynamically open systems can be tackled, from a practical point of view, only by using statistical methods; the aim of tracking individual molecules had to be abandoned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInformation and the Nature of Reality
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Physics to Metaphysics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780511778759
ISBN (Print)9780521762250
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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