I consider myself a scientist and researcher into a very interesting topic-the most fundamental questions of Life and the very foundations of biology. I'm using the phrase I consider myself because in reality I have no publications in any journals with real impact factor and all I have managed to "publish" up until now are a few short excerpts in my native language in printed medias (I really couldn't even call them journals) for a general "scientific" (but more likely for everyone interested in science, than in any particular field of science) audience and from conferences (also in my native language) I have attended. I managed to write about it here and there on the Internet, too, but as you could see there is nothing deserving the title of a real scientific publication, so I don't give those attempts any merit.
Of course, I tried, and am still trying, to manage to write a publication for a "real" journal in English language with an impact factor greater than 0.01 (which is what I think the publishers in my native tongue have) but I have not been successful. I'm either out of scope or don't meet their academical standards. The reason I think is I'm not used to write papers. Of course, I have read hundreds, if not thousands, of papers and am fond of reading them but am not good at actually writing them. So, I think I need some professional guidance here.
But what I think is the greater issue here is the fact that my object of investigation has become so far "off" the current hot research topics in biology that it might have turned into a field in of itself and am having considerable difficulties communicating it to my colleagues. I had such problems ever since I started dealing with these topics about 10 years ago when I was in the middle of my BC in Molecular biology, but what this "deviation" had now turned into something entirely different from all current discourse in all the major fields of biology as far as I can see and I am having really big trouble trying to go "back in track" with my colleagues.
My field used to be a combination of biochemistry and microbiology in the context of theoretical biology with an emphasis on the origins of Life (at least this is where I started from) but as time went by I delved ever deeper into an intersection of biology and philosophy very different from what modern philosophy of biology is about, too. I also touched on various aspects of physics, chemistry and even engineering through the years and in the end came up with a terminology I find seems unintelligible to any field in particular. This is why I feel like I'm stuck with my own concepts and my own terminology and I really can't get anyone from any particular field to look into it with understanding. I guess this is what you get when you go A-wall from every other field or researcher and get into something all by yourself. But, yet, the question remains as to how could I communicate my ideas for evaluation to anybody?
When I started I was planning to use the little I knew from biochemistry and microbiology to develop my own definition of Life and proceed to see how it can fare. This was around 10 years ago when I still was a bachelor student in molecular biology. That time I had the idea that the answer for distinguishing Life from non-Life was its ability to keep a process necessary for its existence outside the causation of external factors. In order to understand me I will give a simple example-consider a vortex in a waterpool. As long as there is strong enough current the vortex is caused by the flow of the current through a particular geometry shape of the bottom of the pool. So there is an external causation responsible for the existence of the vortex. As long as there is this current flowing though this particular shape on the bottom of this particular pool this vortex will result from it. However, if the vortex was to somehow "come alive" and dramatically change its behavior it will start to display patterns of behavior unpredictable by neither the strength of the flow through the waterpool, nor the shape of its bottom. I decided that in order to distinguish Life from non-Life we should concentrate on those pattern which give rise to a behavior impossible to explain by the mere sum of the laws determining the behavior of the system.
Now, that isn't any entirely new idea and in fact I was later able to find many papers pertaining to it, but what is important is that it started a passion I could only enjoy and drove me further and further on a path very different from any of those of my fellow students and peers. While most other students pursued carriers in a well defined fields like physiology, biochemistry, microbiology and so on I ventured on a journey in "no-man's land" where the borders of physics, chemistry, biology and philosophy merged into a single subject existing on the "fringe" of what can be considered a valid scientific enterprise. Or at least that is what some of my peers told me.
My research interests started to get me in troubles with my teachers who preferred narrowly specialized interests which could be channeled into an already existing research programs in the well defined departments of the university and my too broad and unclear (for them, for me what I wanted to do was always crystal clear) topic wasn't anything they were willing to invest their efforts in. This is why they sent me to the philosophy department and was forced to introduce myself with the philosophy of biology. It wasn't my initial desire as I had always considered myself a scientist first but this is what they preferred to call me. So I found an expert in philosophy of biology and started to read up about the field. However, the more I read the more I understood it wasn't my place either.
My concept was centered on the inevitable interconnectivity between emerging organization and the direction processes arising from this organization were heading to. The common element of all Life according to it is its direction, its path, its "strive", not any particular combination of factors or conditions or even characteristics which distinguish it from inanimate matter. If you search genetics journals for papers about the difference between Life and non-Life you could find a few attempts to distinguish a minimal cell from a mere artificial chromosome by the number of genes it needs to contain. That is so because for a geneticist a living organism is mere "list of genes" and if you manage to score the right combination you get a cell, not a mere chromosome. If you ask a biochemist Life emerges when a particular combination of molecules and their interactions manages to build up a closed system of interdependent reactions which reproduces its constituents (this is known as metabolic closure). If you ask a philosopher he or she may give you a list of properties which distinguish a living entity from a mere mechanical object but I surely guess that among the first on the list would be the concept of agency or the ability of an entity to act on its own behalf. All at all it is safe to say that every expert would give you a definition from its own background and it's sometimes very tricky to be able to distinguish one definition from another. But that isn't what I had.
In my view there is a common background behind all and every attempt to characterize life and it comes from the innate ability of living organisms to determine their own behavior and characteristics by themselves. That actually means that any attempt centered to produce a definition of Life from any particular background is destined to fail precisely because it comes from a particular background, e.g. from a particular pool of ideas and methodology for analyzing reality that is external for the object being analyzed. So there would always be some other pool of ideas and some other methodology which could give similar results but makes statements contradictory to the statements made by the first one. The reason is that while both are legitimate paths to discovery in their respective ways what they are trying to analyze is no subject in either of them, therefore when we try to overlap one methodology with the other the end result wouldn't be a perfect self-consistent core of ideas but a "fuzzy" border caused by the impossibility of the core ideas and the results of the application of the methodology of the 2 fields to completely even themselves out. For example if we try to use a genetic definition of a minimal living organism based on the minimum number of genes which can form a metabolizing cell we may come up with very different combinations of synthesizable macromolecules than if we use a biochemical approach striving to produce a self-reproducing pattern of chemical reactions and neither of the 2 could claim their respective results could have all the attributes of a living organism. This is a simple illustration of a fundamental problem in any attempt to characterize Life-when we head from any limited point of view of any particular subfield of science or methodology we always end up with a result which could be considered either too general and will include systems which are living organisms but aren't included in this definition or things which obviously aren't living organisms but are included in it. There is virtually no complete overlap between any 2 separate attempts to determine what constitutes a living organism.
However, the idea that I had was to use an internal "background" to construct a framework of characteristics distinguishing Life from non-Life and to further use it to try to answer all those questions pertaining to Life which can be suggested to be a problem of biology and not any other science. In order to do so I defined self-causation as the distinguishing property of Life and tried to create a list of all systems which could express it and compare it with all those system we perceive as living entities. It was an incredible match!
Instead of creating a short list of characteristics like n number of genes, m number of proteins, membrane boundary etc. to define a living organism I decided I had to focus on only a single issue to distinguish any form of organization from a biological one. It was the idea of a process being the cause of itself. I named this self-sustaining change although that over the years I started to think this naming I now inappropriate and prefer the Latin phrase autocausa sua or what in a "rough" a cause by itself of in itself. The real meaning of these phrases is the ability of a process to serve as a reason for the continuing of the same process only by its own existence. Let me give an example-if there is chemical reactions network constructed by the combined interactions of the reactions which constitute it after a certain point in time the reaction network becomes self-sustaining and what is more important self-modulating, e.g. after this point any quantity of raw materials coming into the network will get "distributed" over all the reaction pathways of the network and not increase the quantity of only those reactions directly utilizing this raw material. I'm sure you can see where I'm going to because if a living organism changes its diet the new food materials don't go only to those cells and tissues who have the enzymes to process that but are turned into "common building blocks" for all cells to process it. And what is even more important is that any changes in the respective topology of the reactions comprising the system start to have global impact on the entire system, not only to the reactions directly connected with them. I don't want to go into greater detail but what is important here is that through the auto-causation definition I managed to come up with a bunch of criteria to describe the topology of networks of chemical reactions and understand how and why certain networks can support what we perceive as living organization and why others can't.
Furthermore the self-causation of determinable processes implies a search of general processes that can be prescribed to the entire system to define Life instead of any particular characteristics. That means that if we want to determine whether a certain entity is alive we need to get a look at its dynamics and not in any particular list of characteristics it constantly has. For example, I'm certain that almost everyone would agree that a dry seed isn't alive but also almost anyone would strongly disagree if we call it "dead". The big difference in a self-causation based definition of Life comes from the fact that we will be looking at the process which builds a certain structure, like the seed is an example of, not at the structure itself per se to determine is the entity displaying that particular structure alive or not. Thus, if we can show that the same process which builds this structure is itself impossible without the structure it builds, then we have the reasons to consider it a living entity. This criterion actually means that alive are always only things which can't be produced by other processes and that inseparable connection between the process that it makes possible and the structure build by that process is THE hallmark of Life. Just like seeds can come only from other seeds and trees come only from other trees, so cells come only from other cells and even we could argue that things like viruses and viroids are alive as long as they require an uninterrupted non-replicatable process for their creation. Actually the auto-causation concept goes further because it states that those structures which can support processes which in turn can build the very structures that support those same processes are the only examples of Life possible and that the structure and the "function" in Nature are actually the very same thing because they are different aspects of a same phenomenon-self-sustaining autocausation spreading in the Universe any way it can.
Now, I understand that if you aren't a philosopher of biology all that may seem to you very vague and you may even wonder what is the point of all that wording but the truth is that this is a major departure of any style for describing biological phenomena as far as I know and it constitutes an entirely new approach to many fundamental biological problems. I don't want to venture into details because than this question would get all the way too long but I should just mention that the "standard" philosophy of biology doesn't "work" that way. The common approach is to tackle particular biological question through the prism of particular philosophical school of thought or methodology of investigation and in the end to come to a conclusion of the various relevance of different philosophical concepts to a particular biological problem. What you see here is not how philosophy of biology usually proceeds! Actually this is a very unusual line of investigation and although it may look like "something philosophical" it's not what you will come across in most papers on philosophy of biology. And this of course creates quite a mess with the editors. And here come phrases as "unclear", "out of scope" and "inappropriate for our audience". But the big problem is the unique thinking employed to arrive at criteria for the distinguishing between Life and non-Life here and the concentration on a single particular thinking pattern which is given not only priority, but outward superiority over all the others. And this isn't something often used in philosophy. It's something used in science.
Furthermore, straight out of the concept of self-causation comes the idea of goal-oriented behavior or teleology as it's known in philosophy which has always been a hot topic of debate. Now, this concept manages to crisscross the boundaries between science and philosophy and at the same time to touch on the "hot" issue of whether or not we can say a living organism has any goals in mind internally and consistently with its very definition. This is something which creates problems for both biologists and philosophers because it ties 2 very important questions altogether-the definition of a living organism and its teleology and that mean double grounds of doubts and double difficulty at conveying the reasoning behind this approach because it now has to touch upon not only on those who doubt the ability to define Life altogether, but also the validity of teleology in biology. And needless to say I had a lot of trouble with people who prefer biology to stay biology and philosophy-philosophy instead of building bridges using radical concepts.
However, the problem is I think reality might has other opinions and the very idea of causation, be it self- or not, also implies a direction where this cause forces the entity to head into and this directed development is the very definition of goal-oriented behavior. Thus, the defining cause of the process which constitutes Life actually set goals for the entity to follow and those goals are exemplified in the behavior it exhibits in order to ease the sustaining of the process which constitutes Life itself for this entity. That way I think teleology can be embedded very deep into a foundation of biology and stem out of the very definition of Life itself. However, I'm meeting serious objections from philosophers not inclined to believe in such an easy explanation for the place of teleology in biology and am having hard time publishing for that audience.
Furthermore, I managed to demonstrate very interesting relationships between the ideas of structure and function in biology using my idea of self-causation as a basis for the definition of Life and the concept of hyperstructures in biology. This idea states that there are special structures created by vital processes for any living entity and the Life of that particular entity is practically impossible without them. Like for example the DNA-replication, transcription and translation complexes, the cell membrane, mitochondria and other structures which could vary in size from a supramolecular complex to an organelle. Even the cell itself can be considered a hyperstructure. This isn't very popular idea and actually here are very few biologists who are familiar with it but I immediately saw the potential to integrate it into the reasoning I managed to develop with mine ideas of goal-oriented behavior arising from the particular processes needed to be supported for their own continuous existence and so, I came up with the idea of interdependence between the vital processes constituting the self-sustaining and self-causing process determining the living state of an entity and the hyperstructures we could find in the same entity. I believe there is a clear and easy to determine relationship between large-scale organizational features of the living organisms and the processes which together constitute the self-causing self-sustaining process defining Life as such. I also believe this is precisely what determines both the organization of a living organism and its evolution and place in the environment and using this line of thought we could establish not only a particular definition of Life but a true General Theory of Life which could eve spring a new science of the fundamental organization of the living organisms and why it is such. This is the content of the publication I want to publish.
I have been working on this paper for almost 7 years I think and I have managed to amount what I consider huge amount of evidence that using the interrelatedness of the concepts of self-causation for a definition of Life and of hyperstructures as the "physical manifestations" of the processes together comprising the self-causing process defining particular form of Life it's possible to create a consistent body of concepts to explain virtually all fundamental characteristics of Life and its behavior. I believe we could touch on the questions what constitutes biological organization and why it is so, why Life needs to evolve and how the different mechanisms of evolution relate to each other, how to distinguish the minimal organization necessary for a living organism and many other questions if we consider the implications of the self-causing and self-sustaining processes materialized through hyperstructures into a real tangible physical organizations. This is what I want to present the world as my General Theory of Life and may be manage to build a solid base for further investigation of the most fundamental questions of biology into a single theoretical framework.
But the deeper I went into that direction the more I distanced myself from virtually all the experts in my field and eventually reached a point where I couldn't communicate neither to biologist, nor to philosophers. I also started to develop my own terminology which was inapplicable to any of the fields I was deriving ideas from and my research took a turn very different from what any of my peers had expected it to be. Needless to say, that meant I was going further and further off track from what any of my colleagues was doing and found myself in various conflicts with my peers. It came to such a point that I wasn't able to proceed following my ideas in the university any more and decided that there wasn't the right place for me. I also had some personal issues at that time and the spending for science in my country was very low. That meant only research which could deliver immediate result was preferred for funding and my far-fetched and difficult to communicate ideas had no chance no matter would they turn out to be true or not. I did manage to came out with a more "moderate" version of my ideas and to actually propose a valid research project but it was nonetheless too far away from what could be funded that time. This is why I eventually decided academia wasn't the place for me and went on to search other jobs. And this is actually pretty much what I'm still doing today. I have managed to pursue my ideas further for years outside of academia and frankly I think I managed to develop a very unique concept that might help us connecting many problems in life sciences by a common "theme"-the very definition of Life itself, so, I don't think all that time and effort had gone into waste.
However, I'm still having one hell of a problem convincing ANY journal to take my manuscripts. As you can see my research has great promises at hand and can build bridges where nothing else as far as I know can, however it uses a brand of thinking and directions for investigations which aren't touched upon by no one as far as I know of it and even the closest thing I can relate to-the concept of autopoiesis in biology is very far away from my ideas of "materialized" self-causing self-sustaining processes by hyperstructures. I have a really hard time making anyone "buy" it, so I have decided to come to this site, tell my story and ask you for advice could a blog help me out. At least do you think anyone would be interested in reading about such ideas as the ones I present here in a blog over the Internet and try to help me find an appropriate publishing medium? Do you think I can draw enough attention to my research by posting it on the Internet for free and people who are interested in how it all can relate to modern biology could advise me where and how to present it?
Actually my biggest problem is that my ideas are very unique and for a lack of a better word-distinct from what anyone else has presented before, so, that is why my colleagues and probably the editorial boards of journals as well are unwilling to invest their reputation on them. At least this is the most obvious conclusion I have come up with. I couldn't find anything "wrong" with my ideas per se and although I did managed to present them to experts everything I managed to get from them was uneasy stance of neither accepting them, nor being able to deny them. Of all the people I have talked with no one has been able to deny me or prove me wrong. I hear way too often that I'm out of the "hot" topics in modern biology or that my concepts are unordinary but I never managed to get anybody to actually deny their validity. That is why I'm so fervorant to try to push them through any way possible. I really don't see anything misleading or incorrect about the Nature of reality in them, only people who are either too specialized in their respective fields or aren't comfortable with my position. But as you may come to understand whether we like or hate something doesn't mean this thing isn't real or not. I'm not able to see any fundamental mistakes in my research, so I want to see how it can go into the wider world but the inaccessibility of academic journals makes it quite difficult, this is why I want to explore my options and would like to ask you what do you think about it?
I really don't do it for the money I could make or the jobs I could take if I get my work published. There was time in the past when I was thinking about that but this isn't the case any longer. I just want to present my work any way possible. I don't mind if I get labeled or called names if I have to as long as the community is forced to at least take a look at my ideas and make a stance on them. What I'm fed up isn't the lack of acceptance for my ideas or the decline to pursue them. It's the utter lack of communicability with both the biological and philosophical communities who seem to be aiming at each in its own subjects of investigation and the lack of intelligibility by their respective journals to consider me seriously. Even if I got proven wrong I will celebrate it as long as the other side actually looks at what I'm presenting and use facts to argument its refusal. But what I do not tolerate is the mere refusal to even engage in discussions about my ideas which is precisely what I'm seeing right now. If people could use their knowledge and expertize to point out mistakes in my actual ideas I would be content but if they just blindly deny me the platform to express myself and the media to present my ideas I really don't know what to say. Or should I ask if modern science has become such "close-circle" enterprise it's now impossible to even present your ideas if you aren't on a payroll in academia?
I just want to get your advice what should I do. I think I managed to present my story and ideas in a detailed enough manner and was able to put up the reasons why I'm having such a difficult time publishing and why I just couldn't go with the "normal" way of convincing experts in the field to publish me in journals. So, I'm now wondering what will come out of my blog and could I get enough attention through the Internet to actually drive some real experts to my ideas and manage to spread them in that way? In the modern world the Internet had proven to be much faster and broadband environment for spreading ideas that the "classical" academic publications could ever have been but at the same it's also had proven to be a medium of much lower standards for information than it. So what my question actually amounts to is whether I would be able to attract enough attention from people who are actually deep enough in science and philosophy to manage to help spread my ideas in the respective fields and eventually give me advice where to publish it "for real". What do you think about that? How are my chances of success? Or would I be "engulfed" by the enormous rubbish of the Internet to the extent when only people without any background would be the only readers I could get and my ideas would be doomed to never enter the academic discourse?
By the way, do you think even if most of my readers are profane they could create enough "buzz" to eventually force a reaction from the professional biologists and philosophers? I mean if something gets popular enough to actually make people talk about it a time comes when the experts in the field can't really ignore it and must devise a response. Or at least I think so. After all they can't just ignore questions forever, right? Could they? So, even if the people I get to read my ideas aren't scientists or philosophers if they could create enough "commotion" to spread them do you think a time may come when the community is simply obliged to take them seriously even if only to try to disprove them? I mean I really don't want to go that road but if the experts aren't willing to even take a look at certain ideas just because the authors don't have affiliations could they be "pressured" to do so by the general public spreading those ideas? What do you think?