(High energy physics. Philosophical implications of modern science.
The Tao of Physics)
Context of human cultural evolution:
All civilisations go through the cyclical process of genesis, growth,
breakdown, and disintegration.
the genesis of a civilisation consists of a transition from a static condition
to dynamic activity. A challenge from the natural or social environment
provokes a creative response in a society, or a social group, which induces
that society to enter the process of civilisation.
Breakdown is loss of flexibility. Rigid structures are unable to carry
on the creative process of cultural evolution.
Ancient Chinese: dynamic interplay between polar forces of yin and yang.
Empedocles: ebb and flow of two complementary forces love and hate.
Today Toynbee's pattern fits. Confluence of several transitions eg natural
resources, cultural values. Three important ones:
1. Decline of patriarchy. 3,000 years. Hard to see cycle because no previous
information. Systems "in which men - by force, direct pressure or through
ritual, tradition, law and language, customs, etiquette, education and
the division of labour - determine what part women shall or shall not
play, in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male."
2. Decline of fossil-fuel age. Principle source of energy for the modern
industrial era. Compared to others very short - a mere 2,000.
3. Cultural value change - the paradigm (from the Greek pattern) shift
from the dominant Cartessian belief in the scientific method as the only
valid approach to knowledge. View of the universe as a mechanical system
composed of elementary material building blocks; society as a competitive
struggle for existence; and the belief in unlimited material progress
to be achieved through economic and technological growth
Sorokin (sociologist) writing 1950 believed crisis facing today is one
of great transition phases. Rate of change faster, effect more extensive
We must welcome and re-evaluate our current system.
Opposing Toynbee and Sorokin is Marx who believed the roots of social
evolution is not in change of ideas or values, but in economic and technological
developments. Based on Hegel. Emphasis on conflict and struggle. Paralleled
by Darwin's struggle in biological evolution.
patterns of change
thinking, linear, focused and analytic
I think therefore I am
knowledge based on a direct non-intellectual experience of reality
arising in an expanded state of awareness.
Holistic and non-linear Linear
storage of radio-active waste over enormous time spans Non-linear
One of the most difficult things for people in our culture to understand
is the fact that if you do something that is good, then more of the
same will not necessarily be better.
The emphasis on rational thought in our culture is epitomised in Descartes
statement 'I think therefore I am'.
It equates identity with rational mind rather than whole organism. 'It
has led to the well-known fragmentation in our academic discipline and
government agencies and has served as a rationale for treating the natural
environment as if it consisted of separate parts, to be exploited by different
Our science and technology are based on the C17th belief that an understanding
of nature implies a domination of nature by 'man'. Combined with the mechanistic
model of the universe, also 17th, with excessive emphasis on linear thinking
this attitude has produced a technology that is unhealthy and inhuman;
a technology in which the natural organic habitat of complex human beings
is replaced by a simplified synthetic and prefabricated environment. This
technology is aimed at control, mass production, and standardisation,
and is subjected most of the time, to centralised management that pursues
the illusion of indefinite growth.
Systems theory looks at the world in terms of the inter-relatedness and
interdependence of all phenomena.
As if broken down into the smallest atom, in order to build up again,
into a interrelated structure. Another dimension - of movement.
Arthur Koestler coined the word holons for these subsystems which are
both wholes and parts. Each holon has two opposite tendencies: an interegrative
tendency to function as part of the larger whole, and a self-assertive
tendency to preserve the individual autonomy. Opposite and complementary.
Not static but a dynamic interplay between the two complementary tendencies,
which makes the whole system flexible and open to change.
Our culture has consistantly promoted and rewarded the yang, the masculine
or self-assertive elements of human nature. Now a rising of the yin. Concern
with ecology. Significant shift in values, holistic health, spiritual
Before 15000 dominant world view in Europe was organic, interdependence
of spiritual and material phenomena and subordination of individual needs
to those of the community. Scientific frame word rested on two authorities,
Aristotle and the Church. Thomas Aquinas. Main goal to understand the
meaning and significance of things, rather than the prediction and control.
1500 change - from organic to world as a machine.. Physics and astronomy,
Copernicus and Galileo and Newton.
Copernicus - earth no longer the centre of the universe but merely one
of the many planets circling a minor star at the edge of the galaxy.
Kepler - empirical laws of planetary motion.
Galileo - with telescope - proved Copernicus as valid scientific theory.
Galileo was the first to combine scientific experimentation with the use
of mathematical language to formulate the laws of nature. Recommended
reducing nature to essential properties that could be measured, shape
numbers and movement.
Francis Bacon in England. "Since Bacon, the goal of science has been knowledge
that can be used to dominate and control nature." Nature had to 'hounded
in her wanderings', 'bound into service' and 'put in constraint'. The
aim of scientist was to 'torture natures secrets from her'. Female metaphors
reflect own dubious behaviour towards women.
Decartes: language of nature was mathematics. Foundered analytic geometry.
'My entire physics is nothing b geometry'. Discourse on method. Crux of
method is radical doubt. Doubts everything he can, impressions of his
senses, even the fact he has a body - until he reaches on thing he cannot
doubt, the existence of himself as a thinker. Cogito, ergo sum'
Used analytic method. Breaking up thoughts and problems, arranging them
in logical order - his greatest contribution to science.
There is nothing included in the concept of body that belongs to mind;
and nothing in that of mind that belongs to body' This Cartesian division
between mind and matter has had a profound effect on western thought.
Existence of God essential to his philosophy.
View of nature as the perfect machine, governed by exact mathematical
Newton (born year of Galileo's death 1642), realised Decartes theory.
He combined Kepler and Galileo, by formulating the general laws of motion
governing all objects in the solar system.
Atom like modular structures making up all matter. Particles and force
of gravity created by God, thus not subject to further analysis.
Universe like a machine, working in finite space, with fixed laws.
The overwhelming success of Newtonian physics and the Cartesian belief
in th certainty of scientific knowledge led directly to the emphasis on
hard science and hard technology in our culture.
C18th Age of Englightenment. Philosopher John Lock. Locks ideas formed
basis of Enlightenment and modern development of economic and political
thought. The ideals of the individual, property rights, free markets and
Darwin origin of species. Over turned Cartesian machine. Universe pictured
as evolving and ever changing system. With biology movement towards increasing
order, but in physics the opposite, movement towards increasing disorder.
First law of Thermodynamics the science of complexity, law of conservation
of energy (steam engines)
2nd law of thermodynamics: dissipation of energy - introduced an 'arrow
Einstein 1905 two evolutionary theories - relativity and quantum.
The new physics necessitated profound changes in concepts of space, time,
matter, object and cause and effect; and because these concepts are so
fundamental to our way of experiencing the world, their transformation
came as a great shock.
'In contrast to the mechanistic Cartesian view of the world, the world
view emerging from the modern physics can be characterised by worlds like
organic, holistic and ecological. The universe no longer perceived as
a machine, but as one indivisible, dynamic whole whose parts are essentially
interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process.
Quantom theory. Quanta - light by Einstein, later known as protons. Subatomic
units of matter very abstract - sometimes appear as particals, an entity
confined to a small volume, other times as waves, spread over a large
region of space. It has no intrinsic properties independent of its environment.
At the subatomic level, matter does not exist with certainty at definite
places, but rather shows 'tendencies to exist', and atomic events do not
occur with certainty at definite times and in definite ways, but rather
show tendencies to occur.
Discovery of duel aspect of matter and role of probability has demolished
the classical notion of solid objects.
Einstein and Bohr's famous 1920 debate. Einstein could not accept the
existence of non local connections and the resulting fundamental nature
of probability. He was Cartesian underneath.
The conception of the universe as an interconnected web of relations is
one of the two major themes that recur throughout modern physics. The
other is it is intrinsically dynamic. All the material objects in our
environment are made up of atoms that link up with each other in various
ways to form an enormous variety of molecular structures which are not
rigid and motionless, but vibrate according to their temperature and in
harmony with the thermal vibrations of their environment. There are no
static structures in nature. There is stability, but stability of dynamic
Revolution in time and space