Is life and/or consciousness a fractal pattern?


I heard this idea that the whole universe is constructed from fractal patterns and mathematical shapes/equations, even the forms of biological life. But I have a strong intuition that life qua life is not simply an emergent pattern. Maybe I have it due to the belief that life was created directly by God and does not merely emerge naturally from the cosmos.

But I’ve heard the idea that all existence must have one root, with similar laws and principles responsible for it all, which to me sounds rather pantheistic. I think life is a fundamentally distinct reality from the rest of the cosmos, and consciousness much more so. I don’t think it works according to mathematical principles though I might be wrong.

Please help me understand the philosophy of this, with a Catholic oerspective.



I don’t think anyone (so far) quite understands what it is you want to know precisely. You want someone to type up the Roman Catholic view of the origins and nature of life in general and human life in particular? That would have to be a pretty long post, don’t you think? I suggest you read a good book on the matter first, and come back here with more specific questions. But note that Roman Catholicism, being a religion, is primarily concerned with guiding its members in their efforts at working their Salvation. Providing a comprehensive model of how life originated and how it progresses is not the Church’s primary goal. The topic is of some interest, but it doesn’t take center stage.



I think there is plenty of room for reconciliation. We can agree that God alone is the single source and cause of all that exists, the fundamental consciousness of reality. How God expresses and creates the universe can be observed in natural patterns.

Atheist refer the emergent properties when it comes to life and consciousness, is if at some point things just get so complex that they become alive. That may be true to some degree but really does not explain life and consciousness; nor how somethings move toward the life development integration while other things move toward disintegration.



I think that maths, geometry, fractals etc describe some aspects of reality very well but they aren’t to be mistaken for reality themselves. I think that’s a mistake.

And as yet science cannot describe spirit and yet spirit exists.

1 Like


Yes, this is my hunch too. I think that thinking of life as being mathematically representable by equations and such is fundamentally wrong but I dunno why. It just seems that way, intuitively.

To put this in more recognizably Catholic terms, my question involves these two things.

We don’t believe that God is creator by nature but rather by an act of his arbitrary freedom. So the idea that all of existence arises organically from repeating patterns seems to indicate something contrary: that we emerge from God as an off-shoot of sorts.

That’s one view.

The other thing is the idea that we are made in God’s image: What does it mean, ontologically? To these other guys, it would seem to reflect the fractal idea; we are iterations of a fundamental pattern that is God.

That’s what I was asking. Because I do think that the physical universe, the cosmos, is a huge canvas of fractals. But I also think life, and especially human consciousness (our spirit) is something entirely distinct. So I’m reluctant to accept the idea that all reality can be described in fractal terms. I think, like you, that life/spirit etc have the same SOURCE i.e., a creative act of the divine will, but this does not mean that they operate on the same laws/principles.



You got at what I was asking. I feel that life is something very different and can’t be mathematically described very well.

1 Like


Why do you feel life must be “different”? What end does that serve?

I have no problem with an integrated whole held together and sourced in God.



If you think about it, it make sense that life, the universe, and indeed all of reality are representable by equations. Because reality is coherent, in other words it makes sense, and it makes sense because it has some semblance of order to it. Plants, rocks, galaxies, and even thoughts have an order to them. If they didn’t, we’d simply have chaos and there’d be nothing coherent, or any means of differentiating one thing from another. But we can differentiate one thing from another.

Now if things are ordered, then that order can be represented by an equation. But it’s not necessarily that the equation gives rise to the order, but that the ability to represent reality with equations is simply a byproduct of the order inherent within the nature of reality.

The question is, where does that order come from. A theist might consider it the fingerprint of God. An atheist might simply consider it a naturally occurring element of reality itself, and hence no creator is required. But the fact that reality is representable by equations shouldn’t be a surprise. The question is…why? Why are things coherent? Why can we ask why?



Even if it is, it changes nothing.
God is still Creator, we are still His creatures .

Although it’s a neat theory :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like


My issue isn’t so much reality per se but a specific reality: life. Is there a mathematical equation that describes what life is?



I feel it must be different because life seems inherently different from physics in general. Our physical bodies are part of physics but I doubt our actual life can be described using mathematics.

I.e. things like:

  1. Self-moving/perpetuating unities


  1. Self-reflecting, self-directing unities.

Are there mathematical descriptions for that?

These seem to me to be very different realities than the stuff math usually describes, but perhaps I’m wrong.



This raises an interesting question. There’s that which exhibits order, i.e rocks, and plants, and stars and such. And then there’s that which perceives order, i.e conscious minds such as yours and mine. I would think that there could be a mathematical equation that would describe life, but consciousness, that might be a stickier wicket.

In other words, can that which perceives order exist independent of the order that it perceives? The question itself is difficult to comprehend.

I’m a conscious mind. I perceive order. But what would happen to my mind if there was no order to perceive? Would I still exist?

Some believe in a duality. That the mind exists independent of physical reality. But can it?



This is what I believe. It seems to me obvious since God is a mind that obviously exists beyond physical reality.

I don’t know about human consciousness though.

And I don’t know how order operates when it comes to the nature of our being. I mean:
-There must be some order since we are not God. Is it representable by math on some level? I don’t know.
-But there is also freedom. Can you really represent freedom or even being as being mathematically?

X=X doesn’t represents being as being, it seems. In other words, the unconditioned reality that is God…is it really mathematically describable? I highly doubt it.

We are an essence and existence (creatures) and I think that our essence makes us mathematically describable (possibly) but I doubt our existence is mathematically describable.



Also, @RealisticCatholic and @Wesrock…care to comment, please?



Everything can be mathematically defined. Fractals are pretty awesome.

Mathematics quite simply is pattern maintenance.

God created maths. And the Universe and everything we know and don’t know.

Just Because we can define a life support system or shape or law mathematically, this, in no way,disputes God

1 Like


So whats the mathematical definition for life and consciousness?



Two problems:

  1. you might think that, but the list of things in out universe which can be modeled with fractals is not that large, and all of them only modeled in a finite fashion (ie the fractal patterns does not keep getting larger or smaller indefinitely)
  2. saying our universe is a canvas of fractals, or any other type of math function is very poor wording. A mathematical function may be able to represent some aspect of reality, but it is an abstraction, not the real thing. We may even use a mathematical term to describe or name it, buts it’s not that. If a cut a circle out of a piece of plywood, I might call it a circle, but that’s not what it is. A circle is a two dimensional construct with all points equidistant from a common point, it’s not a piece of plywood.


Knowledge is structured. Creation requires knowledge (otherwise you have chaos). Therefore creation is structured.



Mathematics is a part of knowledge, omniscience.



No because humans created math as a means for modeling what they observe. Humans observe facts and then construct a model (math) to explain the facts. The model (math) doesn’t exist in nature, the facts do. The model (math) exist in the human’s brain.
So God invented humans and humans invented math, so the math can’t describe God since by definition math is two levels of creation below God. The most math can do is approximate the behavior of the observable universe. Math involves forms or ideals that do not exist in nature. This is the fundamental Plato (forms/ideals) v. Aristotle (facts/senses) dichotomy.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit