The Grand Unification Theory (GUT), which is able to show all forces (except gravity) to be aspects of the one underlying force, underlies the Standard Model of Elementary Particles, which in its turn offers the basic structure of matter and its internal interaction through forces (except gravity, that is, except the curvature of space-time). "Standard model of particle physics: A theory of particle interactions, developed in the early 1970's, which successfully describes electromagnetism, the weak interactions, and the strong interactions. The theory consists of two parts, quantum chromodynamics to describe the strong interactions, and the unified electroweak theory to describe the electromagnetism and weak interactions." (Alan Guth, The Inflationary Universe, p. 341) According to this model, matter is represented by fermions, and force by gauge bosons. As particles that transmit forces, many bosons can occupy the same state at the same time. But fermions are different. Only one fermion can occupy a given state at a given time, and this is why fermions are the particles that make up matter: why solids can't pass through one another, why we can't walk through walls -- because of Pauli exclusion principle: the inability of fermions (matter) to share the same space the way bosons (forces) can. Obviously, this property of the fermions constitutes the foundation of the geosphere, as "things" can only form in the process of complexification when atoms can be stacked up upon one another without falling through. Fermions are of two groups, quarks and leptons. Quarks (with its 6 varieties, up, down, charm strange, top, and bottom) always appear, except in the extremely high temperature of the moment immediately after the Big Bang, either in groups of three called baryons (where protons and neutrons belong) or in groups of two (1 quark + 1 anti-quark) called mesons. Baryons and mesons together are called hadrons. Leptons comprise electron, muon, tau, and three types of neutrinos associated with each. Gauge bosons are photon (carrier of the electromagnetic force holding electrons to nucleus), gluon (carrier of the strong nuclear force holding quarks within hadrons), Z, and W+/W- (both carry the weak nuclear force). Only quarks are affected by strong nuclear force, but weak force is felt by both leptons and quarks. Electromagnetism mediates between (is felt by) charged hadrons and leptons (hadrons become charged when the quarks combining into it do not mutually cancel out their charge). Gravity interacts with (is felt by) all. (Lepton, photon, Z, and W, which do not feel strong force, are unified in electro-weak force.)
The whole picture can be presented:
quarks leptons gauge-bosons
| | |
formed by gluon | |
into * electron/neutrino * photon
hadrons * muon/neutrino (electromagnetic)
| * tau/neutrion * gluon
---------------- (strong force)
| | * Z , * W
* baryons * mesons (weak force)
The mesons are: pion, kaon, rho, B-zero, eta-c. Baryons are: proton, anti-proton, neutron, lambda, omega. An extra boson, the Higgs boson, represents the Higgs field, which is hypothesized to permeate the Universe to explain why matter has mass. When particles move through the Higgs field, the interaction (coupling) with the Higgs field by those that interact with it would make them appear to us as having "mass." Photons which do not couple with Higgs boson then do not have mass. (Mass then, is here thought of as the function -- the shadowy effect -- of some underlying structure, just as gravity is the mere effect of the underlying curvature of space-time.) Fermions come in three generations, of which only the first (up and down quarks and electron and electron-neutrino) constitutes ordinary matter, the later two are repetitions by the Universe. Every particle in the Standard Model can be transformed into every other, showing the essential unity of everything except, as yet, gravity. (C.f. Drell at Fermilab.)
The constituents of the geosphere -- matter, i.e. quarks and leptons -- are the products of the nucleosynthesis immediately after the Big Bang. (Here we follow the simple account given by Alan Guth in his The Inflationary Universe.) At 0.1 second, ratio for neutron to proton was 1:1.61. Both were already stable. And for photon to neutron the ratio was 1.7 billion to 1. And 8 photons to 6 electrons, 6 positron, 9 neutrinos and 9 antineutrinos. At 1 second, 3.18 proton to 1 neutron. As the Universe continued to expand, electron-positron pairs started disappearing because the collisions that produced them became rarer due to falling temperature. 30 seconds later half of them vanished. Photons, neutrinos, and anti-neutrinos survived to the present day. Although helium nucleus could be formed by now the instability of deuterium (1 proton + 1 neutron or hydrogen nucleus plus an extra neutron) delayed nucleosynthesis until 3 minutes and a half after the Big Bang. Another important issue is the tiny imbalance present in the early Universe between matter and antimatter which eventually allows us to exist. "At 10-6 seconds after the Big Bang the universe was so hot (1013K) that protons and neutrons could not exist, so we would find only the quarks that would later combine to form baryons... For every 300,000,000 quarks, there were 299,999,999 antiquarks." When the temperature fell, production of quarks and anti-quarks stopped and they disappeared in collisions, "leaving only a single unpaired quark for every 300,000,000 quarks that were initially present. These unpaired quarks rapidly formed into the baryons that we observe today. Thus, a small excess of quarks over antiquarks in the early universe was crucial to our very existence: if the hot soup of the early universe were a perfectly equal mix of quarks and antiquarks, then their rapid annihilation would have led to a universe devoid of stars and planets." (Ibid., p. 108 ) Nucleosynthesis reached fruition "at the time of recombination, about 300,000 years after the Big Bang, the time when the plasma of free electrons and nuclei condensed to form a neutral gas [of hydrogen]." (Ibid., p. 217)
A simplified picture of the history of the Universe is shown below (from www.discovery.com
, April 2002). (Note that the genesis of our Universe is the consequence of inflation, or the decay of false vacuum, in the early history of the Universe, which is not represented in our previous time line, which is intended to show the complexification of the Universe, not its genesis.)
An Inflationary Universe
The universe according to Guth began in the era of quantum gravity, a time when all four forces of the universe... may have been unified. Energy boiling out of this unstable stew grew during the brief inflationary period at an ever-doubling rate, then decayed into an electron-quark soup as those forces began splitting apart. The soup's fundamental particles combined into ever more complex forms as the universe cooled and expanded.(www.discovery.com
To return briefly to our discussion of matter and force being aspects of some same stuff, these two are conceived in the Standard Model as particles, which are really "just quantum bundles of field energy. The distinction is that particles are concentrations of energy in the oscillations of a field. A light wave, for example, is composed of oscillating electric and magnetic fields, and the bundles of energy in the light wave are the particles called photons." (Guth, ibid., p. 170) All particles are in fact quanta which are just discrete manifestations of their respective underlying fields that pervade all of space. The GUT would imply that all these fields of force (except gravitational field) were originally one field and so were fields of matter, so that the three interactions (forces except gravity) were indistinguishable, and so were electrons, neutrinos, and quarks; and that each unified field subsequently suffered "spontaneous symmetry breaking" and differentiated into these different fields corresponding to different particles. To refine the previous characterizations of "means" and "actors" then in terms of this quantum field theory, "one kind of field [the fermionic] produces the material world; the other kind [bosonic] produces the interactions that hold the material world together and sometimes break bits of it apart." (Gribbin, ibid., p. 259) The interactions are understood as the exchange of particles. The essence of GUT lies in the fact that in high energy state of the early universe (10 16 GeV, 1 GeV = 1 billion electron volt or 1 proton mass) the strengths of all three forces coincide, as in the figure below (taken from CERN):
Matter and force, these two sides of the Standard model, must originally be one. It is already common knowledge that pairs of particles and antiparticles (of matter) can be generated from photons at high temperature, such as during the early stage of the universe. Moreover, fermions or matter particles (such as electron) have been shown in quantum physics to be wave-particles, and bosons or force particles (such as photon) to be particle-wave. The fermionic fields and bosonic fields must coincide at one point. This is the search for supersymmetry beyond GUT and the Standard Model, and it means that every fermion, like a quark, must have a bosonic partner, maybe a squark, and every boson, like a photon, a fermionic partner, such as a photino. These partners must have disappeared during Universe's era of original differentiation. And interestingly, "[t]he most dramatic thing about supersymmetry... is that the mathematical tricks needed to change bosons into fermions, and vice versa, automatically and inevitably bring in the structure of space-time, and gravity [i.e. the reflection of geometry of space-time]." (Gribbin, ibid., p. 324) Thus the Superforce, Supersymmetry, will unify everything, matter, force, and space-time/ gravity, i.e. the actor, means and context which we have designated earlier. A "genealogy" of the forces has been reconstructed based on the coincidence of the forces thus unified at the specific energy levels which correspond to stages in the early history of the Universe's differentiation. The moment when gravity and the rest of forces separated (and so the moment when matter, force, and space-time disengaged one from the other) is 10-43 second after the singularity of the Big Bang, which happens to be the Planck time, i.e. the smallest time (time quantum) possible. At 10-35 second strong nuclear force separated out, and at 10-12 second electromagnetism and weak force separated from each other. This genealogy of Universe's differentiation through stages of its expansion and temperature-energy decrease can also be traced backwards on the matter's side, until the first separation between gravity, matter, and (other) forces. "At the beginning of the century, the discovery of Brownian motion with a typical energy particle of 3 x 10-2eV showed that matter is not continuous but is made up of atoms. Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that these supposedly indivisible atoms are made up of electrons revolving about a nucleus with energies of the order of a few electron-volts. The nucleus, in turn, was found to be composed of so-called elementary particles, protons and neutrons, held together by nuclear bonds of the order of 106eV... [Now] we have found that the proton and [neutron] are made up of quarks held together by bonds of the order of 109eV... Our past experience might suggest that there is an infinite sequence of layers of structure at higher and higher energies... However, it seems that gravity should provide a limit, but only at the very short length scale of 10-33 cm or the very high energy of 1028eV ["Planck energy"]. On length scales shorter than this, one would expect that space-time would cease to behave like a smooth continuum and that it would acquire a foamlike structure because of quantum fluctuations of the gravitational field." (Stephen Hawking, Blackholes and Baby Universes, p. 64) This is where Hawking deviates from the standard acceptance of the superstring theories as the most possible mechanism for ultimate unification and proposes supergravity in its stead. "There is a very large unexplored region between our present experimental limit of about 1010eV and the gravitational cutoff at 1028eV. It might seem naive to assume, as grand unified theories do, that there are only one or two layers of structures in this enormous interval. However, there are grounds for optimism. At the moment, at least, it seems that gravity can be unified with the other interactions only in some supergravity theory. There appears to be only a finite number of such theories. In particular, there is a largest such theory, the so-called N = 8 extended supergravity. This contains 1 graviton [spin 2], 8 spin 3/2 particles called gravitonos, 28 spin 1 particles, 56 spin 1/2 particles, and 70 particles of spin 0. Large as these numbers are, they are not large enough to account for all the particles that we seem to observe in strong and weak interactions... One would therefore have to believe that many or most of the observed particles such as gluons or quarks are not really elementary, as they seem at the moment, but that they are bound states of the fundamental N = 8 particles... these bound states arose from the well-defined N = 8 theory..." (Ibid., p. 64 - 5)
The "particle-zoo" is not radical pluralism, but all are ultimately just One. Matter and force are fundamentally speaking just energy, insofar as, as particles (only those with mass), they can be converted into energy following Einstein's E = mc2. Electron and its counterpart positron for instance can collide and completely annihilate each other and their disappearance results in gamma ray (of photons). Since this equation of Einstein's shows that a small amount of mass can be transformed into a tremendously large amount of energy (and this is how nuclear bombs, both of the fission and the fusion type, work), mass -- or matter which we pay particular attention to here -- is just a more concentrated form of energy. Supersymmetry is being sought for, which would be quantum gravity, the unification of relativity and the quantum physics of GUT and of the Standard model. All fields of matter, force, and gravity (for gravity is often represented in the manner of the particle as graviton) should originally be just one. Originally there cannot have been any dichotomy between "matter", represented by particles of (multiples of) 1/2 integer-spin, and "interactions" or forces, represented by (multiples of) integer-spin particles. But this dichotomy must have arisen through the original simultaneous separation between space-time curvature (gravity), matter, and force (context, actors, and means). This is the first, most primordial "symmetry-breaking" which results in the creation of the Universe, in "existence as we know it". In other words, for matter particles to interact with each other through forces, space-time (curvature) has to be present to separate them. But since gravity is negative energy that cancels out all positive energy and matter of the rest of the universe so that the Universe does not exist in the positive sense and the law of Conservation is not violated -- since there is really nothing at all -- this original symmetry, the unified field, should also be nothingness, which decayed into the something of the Standard Model and the negative something of gravity. The most initial differentiation through symmetry-breaking, incidentally, is also the most initial differentiation between positive and negative "existence", the "spread" of zero into the negative and the positive that together still add up to zero. This will be significant for consciousness' constitution as the spiritual meaning of history.
In the transition from the elements of level 2 to the molecules of level 3 there seems to be a divergence of path in the progressive complexification of the Universe. The transition from elements to molecules represents the transition from the physical, dead Universe to the Biosphere. But remaining within the physical Universe there is the transition from elements to minerals, which, as compounds of elements, are on the same par with molecules, and to which the corresponding discipline of enquiry is the earth science. And from mineral we can progress to rock. Mineral is the naturally occurring inorganic solid making up our planet. In exceptional cases it is composed of one element only, e.g. gold and sulfur. Here no progress of complexification from level 2 to 3 takes place. In most cases however mineral is a combination of two or more elements joined together to form an aggregate. Rock would be the next higher level entity, an aggregate formed from two or more minerals. But some rock is equally just one mineral, e.g. calcite or what is called limestone. Here too no transition to higher level takes place.
Mineral is omitted from our consideration of the "ascension" from level 2 of atoms to level 3 of molecules and on to level 4 of cells because it is no more than a mixture, a juxtaposition, of the lower level constituents. Nothing particular can happen here, no emergent property is potential on this path. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin made the same point when he distinguished between "aggregate" -- the path of minerals devoid of potentials -- and "compound" -- the path of molecules seething with possibilities of transcendence (La place de l'homme dans la nature). Just think about how a water molecule or an organic compound molecule (with carbon in it) are different, seeming to be "alive", when compared with limestone. The "means" for them to be truly alive -- to form into an organism of the biosphere -- is non-linear dissipation in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. But mineral and rocks, insofar as they form the basic constituents of the geosphere, play an important part in the complexification of the Universe in that they provide the context for the transition in complexification from elements through molecules to living cells.
The formation of the geosphere -- wherein much of the level 2 (such as the heavy elements synthesized within the stars) and level 3 formations took place -- was the work of gravity, whereas the molecular formations within the geosphere, as well as the formation of the first (e.g. hydrogen) atoms (level 2 before geosphere), the work of electromagnetism. The formation of the biosphere within the geosphere and from the building-up of those molecular formations as a consequence of the thermodynamic flux in accordance with the second law was the topic of the previous section on "the material meaning of life". Note that the second law, specifically with its arrow of time (the irreversibility of movement from order to disorder), takes effect only from around level 3 onwards. This is because order -- which the second law tends to decompose in the first, linear instance (but which it helps form in the second, non-linear instance) -- is in essence the phenomenon of the macroscopic world, and irreversibility (of energy flow/ dissipation) is a function of the incomplete unification of the unity on the macroscopic level in which order as such consists, and entropy-increase really just means the gradual disintegration of the macroscopic unity, due to its incomplete unification, into the original microscopic constituents of which it is composed. Two examples can be given of this: the flow of energy and that of molecules.
In energy a distinction is made between conservative and non-conservative forces. Non-conservative forces convert macroscopic energy (e.g. the mechanical energy of a moving macroscopic object, such as a spring in motion) into microscopic energy, e.g. friction or heat, where the spring loses some of its kinetic energy during each cycle of its vibration to the molecules of air around it, which molecules then acquire motion. This is why the moving spring will eventually stop in the atmosphere. But even in vacuum it will eventually dissipate all its kinetic energy to the molecules making it up, heating these (and so itself) up. Conservative forces (e.g. gravitational or elastic forces) on the other hand do not lose themselves to the microscopic in this way.
Since kinetic energy, as in the case of the vibrating spring, is the conversion to it of potential energy (created, e.g. by squeezing the spring otherwise in equilibrium, i.e. at rest), that is, KE = -PE (maximal kinetic energy = maximal potential energy: conservation of energy), its work done is 1/2mv2 = -1/2kx2, with k = the spring constant (the quality of the spring) and x = position of its tip (away from the point of equilibrium, the position at which it was at rest originally); or more precisely in terms of position (of this tip), 1/2kx2 = 1/2k(xi2 - xf2) = -(PEf - PEi)s (i = initial; f = final); and since, in the real world, mechanical energy (the total of KE and PE) of a macroscopic object is never conserved, but dispersed eventually to heat (movement of microscopic molecules), the law of conservation means only ME + heat = a constant conserved. So Wnet = Wconserved + Wnon-conserved; that is, -DPE = DKE + Wnc (the potential energy converted to a kinetic energy less than it, and to work non-conserved). So a spring thus squeezed at t = 0 has PE, but its kinetic energy as it vibrates after t = 1 has DKE less than -DPE. See figure below.
"The dissipation of energy, which is irreversible at the macroscopic level, according to the second law and to common experience, seems to be composed of completely reversible events at the microscopic level [where the conservation of energy truly lies]. So where does the irreversibility creep in?" (Fritjof Capra, The Web of Life, p. 186) The answer has been given by Boltzmann (ca. 1900) in terms of statistical likelihood, but this statistical likelihood is the reason only because of the incompleteness of the unification of the many microscopic into the one macroscopic. But Boltzmann's explanation involves the second scenario of entropy-increase, that of molecular movement.
"Suppose we have a box, Boltzmann reasoned, divided into two equal compartments by an imaginary partition at the center, and 8 distinguishable molecules, numbered from 1 to 8 like billiard balls. How many ways are there to distribute these particles in the box in such a way that a certain number of them are on the left side of the partition and the rest on the right? First,... all 8... on the left side. There is only one way of doing that. However, if... 7... on the left and 1 on the right, there are 8 possibilities, because the single particle on the right side of the box may be each of the 8 particles in turn. Since the molecules are distinguishable, these 8 possibilities all count as different arrangements. Similarly, there are 28 different arrangements for 6 particles on the left and 2 on the right... [Thus] the number of possibilities increases as the difference between the numbers of particles on the left and right becomes smaller, reaching a maximum of 70 different arrangements when there is an equal distribution of molecules, 4 on each side (see figure [below])." (Capra, ibid., p. 186 - 7)
"Boltzmann called the different arrangements 'complexions' and associated them with the concept of order -- the lower the number of complexions, the higher the order. Thus, in our example, the first state with all 8 particles on one side displays the highest order, while the equal distribution with 4 particles on each side represents the maximum disorder... It is important to emphasize that the concept of order introduced by Boltzmann is a thermo-dynamic concept, where the molecules are in random motion. In our example the partition of the box is purely imaginary, and molecules in random motion will keep going across it. Over time the gas will be in different states -- that is, with different numbers of molecules on the 2 sides of the box -- and the number of complexions for each of these states is related to its degree of order... With the help of his definition of order, Boltzmann could now analyze the behavior of molecules in a gas... [He] noted that the number of possible complexions of any state measures the probability of the gas being in that state. This is how probability is defined. The more complexions there are for a certain arrangement, the more likely will that state occur in a gas with molecules in random motion. Thus the number of possible complexions for a certain arrangement of molecules measures both the degree of order of that state and the probability of its occurrence. The higher the number of complexions, the greater will the disorder be, and the more likely the gas will be in that state. Boltzmann therefore concluded that the movement from order to disorder is a movement from an unlikely state to a likely state. By identifying entropy and disorder with the number of complexions, he introduced a definition of entropy in terms of probabilities... [T]here is no law of physics that forbids a movement from disorder to order, but with a random motion of molecules such a direction is very unlikely. The larger the number of molecules, the higher the probability of movement from order to disorder, and with the enormous number of particles in a gas that probability, for all practical purposes, becomes certainty... In Boltzmann's language the second law of thermodynamics means that any closed system will tend toward the state of maximum probability, which is a state of maximum disorder. Mathematically this state can be defined as the attractor state of thermal equilibrium. Once equilibrium has been reached, the system is not likely to move away from it. At times the molecules' random motion will result in different states, but these will be close to equilibrium and will exist only for short periods of time. In order words, the system will merely fluctuate around the state of thermal equilibrium." (Ibid., p. 187 - 9)
Order as the arrangement with the smallest number of complexion(s) can be again visualized if the particles are colored in black or white. "For the four [particles] in a box that we just considered, there are a total of six equally likely combinations. The one with the highest probability (4/6 = 67%) has a black marble and a white [particle] on each side of the box. This is therefore the state with the highest entropy." The order type, on the other hand, with both black on one side and both white on the other, has a lower probability of occurring. "For six [particles], three black and three white, the equivalent plot is shown [in these figures below]." (David Harrison's example, 1999) As can be seen, the higher the number of particles, the greater the number of complexions for the state of equal distribution on two sides of two types of particles (maximum disorder).
For 100 particles then, "[t]he thing to notice is that the most probable result remains 50% black on the left, 50% black on the right, 50% white on the left and 50% white on the right. [A]s the total number of [particles] increases, the 'peak' becomes more sharp. This means that the probability of getting a result far away from 50% gets smaller and smaller the greater the number of [particles]. You may wish to know that the total number of combinations for this case is about 1 followed by 29 zeroes before the decimal point. For a total of 400 [particles], the point we just made about the peak becoming narrower becomes even more obvious. Here the total number of combinations is about 1 followed by 119 zeros before the decimal point." (Ibid.)
In both cases entropy-increase (the loss of kinetic energy of the vibrating spring to air molecules -- and even to its own; and the dispersion of all gas molecules originally on one side of the box to fill both sides of the box equally) is due to the imperfectness of the unity of the macroscopic order. The vibrating spring and the "mass of gas" are each an aggregate composed of the microscopic constituent molecules, each of which, because it is either not perfectly integrated into the whole (as in the case of the solid spring), or not integrated at all (as in the case of the gas), has its own direction of movement independent of the others or of the whole "mass" (with the solid spring, it is only moving with the whole somewhat; with the gas, it goes its own way in complete disregard of the movement of the whole or of every other). This is why order -- unity -- disperses as a matter of probability: the molecules making up the spring are not entirely insulated from the surrounding molecules and so, in defiance against the "whole" to which they belong, convey some of their kinetic energy to the latter, and even hit against each other to gradually cancel out each other's movement. The case of the gas -- because it is gaseous -- is even worse. None of its constituent molecules care about the movement of the "whole mass" at all: the solid state at least is able to obtain in part the allegiance of the constituents. For absolute conservation to happen on the macroscopic level -- conservation of the kinetic energy of the moving spring or of the fixed unity of the gas -- the constituents of the unity have to move in complete concert with the movement of the whole, that is, all working together without remainder: but the nature of the complexification of the Universe in producing macroscopic order is not so tight a process as to allow no remainder left of the individualities of the constituents differentiated out during the initial period of differentiation. In this way macroscopic conservation depends on all parts of a mere aggregate to move in concert with each other on their own term -- not a very likely event. Hence entropy-increase in the linear fashion in a closed system.
Macroscopic order forms in an open system when the energy gradient is high enough to permit non-linear entropy-increase, as seen. It can here be concluded that the complexification of the Universe up until and including the formation of the geosphere is the work of gravity and electromagnetism, but that from the bio-sphere through the noo-sphere it is the work of non-linear entropy-increase. And also that entropy-increase is the index of the incomplete formation of unity by the complexification of the Universe at the macroscopic level -- due to gravity, electromagnetism, or the conscious construction by bio-spheric orders (organisms) formed through non-linear entropy increase (humans' constructions of spring-vibration or heat machine are all subject to entropy-increase because they cannot overcome the incompleteness of macroscopic unities such as ordained by nature). Human world history is the last stage in the drama of the complexification of the Universe. It is the process of self-replication and, through it, evolution, of a particular type of supra-organism (corm) that is the human social collective. The stages in the evolution of the human collective (from tribes through kingdoms to ecumenic empires and the global civilization of nation states) are reflective of its speciation (the unfolding into species). Human world history is the history of the Noo-sphere. The "Noo-sphere" is used here in a general sense, not in the particular sense meant by, for example, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who used the word to mean a spiritual collective consciousness of humanity which is the Universe-as-evolution-becoming-conscious-of-itself and culminates in a center called the Omega point which, moreover, is characterized in its essence by (a Christian type of) love. It is spiritual because this global self-consciousness is preservative of everything orderly in the manner of love and respect, and also because it is supposed to transcend the geo- and the bio-sphere in being "preserved" after the dissolution of the bio-spheric bodily forms as ordained by the second law. "Noo-sphere" in its general sense as is used here means the realm of consciousness in general, and so certainly includes this spiritual reflexivity of the Universe as part of its meaning. But the search for spirituality hardly exhaustively characterizes the activities of the Noo-sphere, since, in fact, especially in the modern world of consumerism, for most of the people during most of the time the mind is engaged in meaningless consumption just as the body is, except that instead of fast food and junk food it is consuming fast movies and junk music. Thus, in a way, the "meaning of existence" for the Noo-sphere is really not much different than the "meaning of life" for the bio-sphere, i.e. consumption and defecation (defecation now in the form of CDs and movies listened and watched but immediately forgotten and then thrown away after they are done with). The "pure" noo-spheric dissipation "part" of this is the watching of fast movies, etc., and the forgetting of them immediately afterwards. (Such pure "noo-defecation" called "forgetting", where the mind is just a transitory station for the coming and going of meaningless sense impressions, i.e. where the mind, instead of reflecting on the sorrowful intestine through which order [food] passes into entropic waste, is itself reduced to an additional intestine for sense impressions and being dissipated thusly, has the effect of destroying the thinking capacity of the mind -- and the destruction of the mind is essential to the blooming of consumerism, as the latter depends on people's addiction to consumer products and someone capable of "thinking" [e.g. a philosopher] is less likely to take meaningless consumer products seriously.) Below it then is the bio-spheric dissipation (consumption of food and defecation and urination). Intermediate between the bio-spheric and the "pure" noo-spheric dissipation is the consumption of "substitute food" -- the ordinary consumer products: clothing, household objects, [consumer/ mindless/ mass] literatures, toys, electronics through which "pure" noo-spheric consumption is carried out -- which is also proper to the noo-sphere, i.e. much of the "purpose" of consumer products is to stimulate temporary pleasures of the mind, of the senses. In human history, the trend of human consumption habit has been the general replacement of the consumption of food by the consumption of consumer products as the central concern of life -- as the axis of the material meaning of life. By 1990, in the case of the most advanced consumerist society, the U.S., only 3% of its economic work force is engaged in food-production (farm sector) and another 7% in food-processing and distribution (retail). (Lester Brown, "New Era Unfolds", State of the World, 1993, p. 15) The rest are engaged in the production of products, services, and pure noo-spheric consumerism (entertainment industry). This thanks to that peculiar American achievement in world-history: large-scale mechanized and scientific farming, with which a few individuals are able to produce enough food to feed millions, freeing the latter to engage in production and mindless consumption of meaningless "substitute food". This situation compared with the traditional agrarian civilizations, such as imperial China, where well over 90% of the population were engaged in the direct production of food (peasants).
The "defecation" of consumer products (substitute food) -- their disposal as garbage -- is one of the major sources of environmental degradation (the other being carbon emission by the burning of fossil fuel; c.f. Ch. 6d). Biosphere -- food-chain -- is essentially the recycling of chemicals already there (organisms eating each other) with the energy poured in from the sun. The problem with noo-spheric dissipation (defecation) then is that many of its waste cannot be recycled by the natural order: plastic bags and computer chips thrown away are not bio-degradable, thus polluting the environment. Hence human, artificial effort to recycle them.
In this book, "defecation" will be frequently used to refer to the entire, noo-spheric defecation, i.e. the disposal of consumer products as well as the bio-spheric defecation and urination.
The search by consciousness for spirituality (such as the philosophies and religions of the past and this book here at the present) is really a tangential development from the Noo-sphere of which the main trunk of meaning is really just dissipation. Just as a computer built for accounting purposes can also be used to play video games, so a consciousness that has evolved for better exploitation of resources for the purpose of better consumption of foodstuff (and which eventually settles toward the mindless mind consumption of today) can also discover, as a side issue, its ability to (try to) comprehend the meaning of its existence and the truth of the Universe in which it has evolved. Thus the full meaning of life is really a composite thing: it is at once mere consumption and defecation in which most of the people are engaged most of the time with their busying themselves with their "career" -- this is the material meaning of life -- and also the search for the meaning of life and the truth of existence in which certain social outcasts (the philosophers and mystic ascetics) have been engaged from time to time. (Feminism, a central concern of this book, insofar as its purpose will be shown to be the mobilization of the other half of the human population [women] to produce also consumer products and to earn money in the process to mindlessly consume these again, thus doubling the total [noo-spheric] consumption and defecation of a noo-spheric unit [society], is then the extreme form, produced in modern time, of the general human pursuit of the material meaning of life. The danger of feminism is that it is the most successful of all modern movements of this type of material pursuit [e.g. Marxism, Aryanism, humanism] to have fooled people into believing that it represents something like philosophy, some sort of pursuit or fulfillment of the spiritual meaning of life, more than just a movement promoting mindless consumption and defecation.) While the Universe does complexify, Chardin's Omega point -- the converged center of the spiritual, planetary collective consciousness -- or any other sort of postulation of spiritual consciousness as the end-point toward which Universe evolves in its complexification is a tangential development contingent upon the main trunk of evolution which is complexification toward complex dissipative structures.
A Thermodynamic Interpretation of History is dealing with world history in its material aspect, world history as this process moving toward ever more complex dissipative structures in the realm of the noo-sphere -- the sphere of noo-sphere consumption. If the material meaning of life is mindless consumption and defecation, the material meaning of history is also mindless consumption and defecation, except this time it will also involve the destruction of the environment. That tangential development from this trunk of material meaning -- the history of human enlightenment traditions as constituting the spiritual meaning of world history -- will be the subject matter of Scientific Enlightenment (especially the chapters on the genealogy of human enlightenment since the First Axial).
This thermodynamic interpretation of world history (in accordance with its material meaning) is also a theory of power, because, it will be shown, power, when traced to its origin, is ultimately the pressure exerted by the second law of thermodynamics upon the individual constituents (i.e. people) of the supraorganism (society) to conform to the task of augmentation of the metabolism of the social collective (i.e. economy) and the concomitant tighter integration of this collective at the expense of the identities of these individual constituents (just as a multicellular organism is formed by the erasure of the original identities of the single cells making it up and by their specialization, instead, for the particular functions they are made to play in the multicellular organism) -- which is really, overtly or covertly, the goal of every human society.
Two final notes. First, a recurrent pattern in nature, in the "natural" formation of complex things: Within the total pool or substratum of simple elements, a few of them cross over the threshold to attain a new level of potentiality for more complex formation through mutual combination because the slight difference that they possess with respect to others in the pool somehow constitutes a stepping over of the critical level.
Examples in the realm of increasing levels of complexity:
(1) We know that the basic elements, i.e. the energy and matter that make up everything we know in the Universe (the forces: electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear force, and gravity; and the "matter" that is associated with them or reflection of them: quarks, electrons, photons, etc.), are merely a small portion of the total constituents of the Universe. The bulk of the "stuff" that makes up the Universe is "stuff" that we have not even yet been able to detect, let alone analyze and understand: the dark matter. This remains hidden, because, apparently, our senses (and the instruments that aid our senses) are not made to receive it, but only the "stuff" (forces and matter) directly relevant to us in that this makes up us ourselves and the things we interact with (through physical contact, perception, or being affected in any other way): solid things, planets, stars, energies... Then there is dark energy "which seems to comprise in fact about 60% of the total mass/energy of the universe. We don't know what it is.... dark matter, which is another 30%, or maybe almost 40%, of the total matter in the universe... The difference between the two is that the dark energy causes repulsive gravity and is smoothly distributed; the dark matter behaves like ordinary matter in terms of its gravitational properties -- it's attractive and it clusters." (Guth, "A Golden Age of Cosmology", www.edge.org
(Adopted from Wendy Freedman)
"Because the different components of the mass/energy budget evolve differently, the composition changes with time. For example, at earliest times, photons and other relativistic particles were the dominant component; from 10,000 years until a few billion years ago, matter was the dominant component, and in the future dark matter will be the dominant component." (Freedman, ibid.) (Note that ordinary dark matter is called "cold dark matter", while the neutrinos are often called "hot dark matter".) Thus, the Universe at its birth was made up of a total pool of "original constituents", the so-called as yet invisible dark-matter plus the original mass that was to become the matter and energy that we are familiar with today. Within the total pool only the latter (which is a mere 5% of the total [ibid.]), it seems, with its structural peculiarities crossed the critical threshold to differentiate and recombine into the forces and simple atoms (the elements hydrogen and helium), and these simple atoms then were able to interact and recombine among themselves to form the first generation of stars in which heavier elements (such as oxygen and carbon) were produced.
We recall that even in this particular pool that would become the matter and forces that constitute our existence, the initial asymmetry was of crucial importance. The slight imbalance between quarks and antiquarks assured the predominance of matter over antimatter which made possible the existence of galaxies and us ourselves. Another example is the breaking of the symmetry of electro-weak force. While at short distance/ high temperature photons and W and Z particles were one and the same, at large distance or lower temperature when the early Universe was cooling down the two sides separated, but asymmetrically, all mass being left to W and Z with photon becoming massless, and this allowed photon to act in long distance and its effect -- electromagnetism -- becomes pre-eminent and controls most of the chemistry and physics of our everyday life, making possible the process of complexification that was to lead to us.
(2) Now within the total pool of "elements" (those basic constituents of matter as presented in the Periodic Table) which have come to dominate the history of the Universe (since they are what constitute the changes and transformations in the Universe, or what make the Universe interesting at all) after the death of the first generation of stars, only a small portion of them happened to possess the right structural configuration that allowed for formations of the next level complexity through recombination: chiefly, carbon, with its 4-electron outer electronic shell, i.e. outer electronic shell exactly half-filled. This slight peculiarity of the electronic structure of carbon in respect with other elements conferred upon it a potential for endless variety of recombination with other elements that no other element had the fortune to possess. Thus while other elements were forming repetitive, straightforward and uninteresting compounds, the carbon opened up the world of organic chemistry whose varieties of compounds exceeded those of all other elements combined both in terms of number of types and of structural complexity.
As said, the history of the complexification of the universe since the geosphere has been dominated by electromagnetism and gravity -- the strong nuclear force, responsible for the formation of nuclei (with electromagnetism binding them to electrons to form atoms), and the weak nuclear force are no longer participants in the formation of the geosphere. (This is related to the fact that electromagnetism and gravity have infinite range because photons and gravitons are massless.) The initial minor regional variations within the roughly homogeneous Universe of the era of radiation-predominance collapsed into clumps due to gravity to form eventually the galaxies and the stars and the planets. That is, after the era of radiation-predominance and nucleosynthesis and when the first atoms (hydrogen and helium) were formed, while the Universe continued to expand, "in regions that were slightly denser than average, the expansion would have been slowed down by the extra gravitational attraction. This would eventually stop expansion in some regions and cause them to start to recollapse. As they were collapsing, the gravitational pull of matter outside these regions might start them rotating slightly. As the collapsing region got smaller, it would spin faster... Eventually, when the region got small enough, it would be spinning fast enough to balance the attraction of gravity, and in this way disklike rotating galaxies were born. Other regions, which did not happen to pick up a rotation, would become oval-shaped objects called elliptical galaxies. In these, the region would stop collapsing because individual parts of the galaxy would be orbiting stably round its center, but the galaxy would have no overall rotation." (Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p. 119) This is the formation of geosphere by gravity after the onset of the era of matter and gravity. The types of galaxies thus formed and constituting the total phenomenon called the geosphere were classified in Hubble's turning-fork diagram. (Below, adopted from Oxford physics.)
The elliptical galaxies (E0 to E7) make up about one-third of all galaxies; spiral galaxies are of two types, the normal spirals (Sa, Sb, Sc, and sometimes a further type Sd), "with arms unwinding gracefully from the central regions" (Jay M. Pasachoff, Astronomy, 4th ed. 1991, p. 541), and the barred spirals (SBa, SBb, SBc), constituting about one-third of the spirals, with arms unwinding "not from the nucleus but from a straight bar of stars, gas, and dust that extends to both sides of the nucleus" (ibid., p. 548 ). The S0 are called the "lenticular galaxies". "It has been shown... that the amount of gas between the stars in galaxies is different in different types of galaxies." (Ibid., p. 550) Starting from the left and moving to the right, elliptical galaxies seem to have little gas and dust, and spirals a lot. "The relative amount of gas increases from type Sa (or SBa) or Sc (or SBc)." Moreover, "[t]hough no star formation is found in elliptical or S0 galaxies, the amount of star formation increases toward type Sc." (Ibid.) The remaining "few percent of galaxies show no regularity", such as the Magellanic Clouds, and "are classified as Irr". (Ibid., p. 548 ) Then there are other peculiar galaxies, either such as M82, looking like "an explosion has taken place in what might have been a regular galaxy", or as the "ring galaxies" which "probably resulted from the passage of one galaxy through another". (Ibid.) The irregular galaxies have even denser gas in their interstellar medium. "Only in the galaxies with a substantial gas and dust content -- mostly the Sc, SBc, and Irr galaxies -- are the O and B stars to be found." (Ibid., p. 550; stars are classified/ designated in order of decreasing temperature, the hottest being O, then B, A F, G, K, and M, this last with temperature 10 times lower than O.) Giant black holes are often present in the center of galaxies, judging from those nearby. (Ibid., p. 551) These suffice as preliminary comment on the structure of the geosphere. During the beginning formation of the geospheric galaxies, "the hydrogen and helium gas in the galaxies would break up into smaller clouds that would collapse under their own gravity. As these contracted, and the atoms within them collided with one another, the temperature of the gas would increase, until eventually it became hot enough to start nuclear fusion reactions. These would convert hydrogen into more helium, and the heat given off would raise the pressure", and thus this thermal pressure balances gravity's inward pull and stops the contraction. (Hawking, ibid., p. 119; Passachof, ibid., p. 426) The stars remained stable like this for a long time, "burning hydrogen into helium and radiating the resulting energy as heat and light." (Hawking, ibid.) The more massive ones among these first generation of stars also converted in themselves helium into heavier elements like carbon and oxygen. "This, however, would not release much energy, so a crisis would occur... the central regions of the star would collapse to a very dense state, such as a neutron star or black hole. The outer regions of the star may sometimes get blown off in a tremendous explosion called a supernova... Some of the heavier elements produced near the end of the star's life would be flung back into the gas in the galaxy, and would provide some of the raw material for the next generation of stars. Our own sun contains about 2% of these heavier elements because it is a second- or third-generation star, formed some 5,000 million years ago out of a cloud of rotating gas containing the debris of earlier supernovas... a small amount of the heavier elements [left from that gas] collected together to form the bodies that now orbit the sun as planets like the earth." (Ibid., p. 120) Thus generations of stars and planets succeed one another in the geosphere. But the first generation could not produce more complexified (e.g. open dissipative, bio-spheric) structures because the heavier elements (carbon and oxygen) required for the building of molecules making up these structures were just being born within the stars; these complex structures come about only with the second geospheric generation. Note that the fermionic number in the Universe is conserved while the bosonic is not, this meaning that the number of quarks and leptons has stayed the same since they crystallized from the original hot soup of the radiation era, that every atom within us has either been around since the nucleosynthesis 300,000 years after the Big Bang (in the case of hydrogen) or was manufactured in the stars of the first generation (the carbons of which our fingertips are composed have been around for at least 5 or 6 billion years). With the second or third geospheric generation in place, organic compounds (even amino acids) made from the heavier elements frequently and abundantly appeared on the planets and even on meteorites, and it was electromagnetism that allowed chemical reactions to occur between elements to form these molecules which then, eventually, formed into open dissipative structures (living organisms). The energy that these structures dissipate is also mostly carried by electromagnetism coming, for example, from the Sun to the Earth. "Remarkably, all the interactions that are needed to explain chemistry (and, as far as we know, biology) are electromagnetic in nature. Atoms interact electromagnetically to form molecules and compounds. In a sense, therefore, we can claim that electromagnetism... is a 'unified theory of chemistry.'" (Sunil Mukhi) The formation of the biosphere and the noosphere is the work of electromagnetism and linear and non-linear entropy increase. The Sun is pouring energy into the Earth, of course, because of the second law of thermodynamics, i.e. energy always flows from more concentrated regions to less concentrated regions. Dissipative structures, whether organismic or supraorganismic, are aspects, transitional stages, of this flow. Modernity, then, such as feminism or democracy or the extrication of minorities from the yoke of racism in American society, insofar as it is the aspect of supraorganismic formation or the building of a larger open-dissipative structure, is the reflection or a transitory stage of the irreversible flow of electromagnetism from the Sun to the Earth, and furthermore of the disintegration of the solar system or the overall winding down of the Universe. This process ("evolution" and "world history") happens on a small planet orbiting around a medium-size star in a solar system on the outskirt of one of the spiral arms of an ordinary spiral galaxy in a cluster of galaxies (called the "Local Group") located in an inconspicuous corner in the observable universe which must be only a tiny speck of the actual, whole Universe.
Second, the "theory of everything" that the physicists attempt to find today through the superstring theories is the unified theory for the geosphere and below only. It serves as the beginning of the Big Bang model of cosmogenesis and needs to be attached to the chemical theories and evolutionary biology to finish the whole story up to the biosphere. This book covers the story of the noosphere (together with its roots in the two previous spheres), with the thermodynamic interpretation of history summing up its material aspect (formation of supraorganism) and the scientific enlightenment its spiritual aspect -- that human existence as an open dissipative structure always already incorporated into the larger open dissipative structure called society is so fundamentally fallacious (existence is suffering, in Buddhist parlance) that there have always been some enlightened souls seeking a way out (salvation), this history of the enlightened souls culminating in this current work which carries this story of salvation to its final end and thus finishes up logically the story of the Universe. (Materially, we know that the Universe as we see it is only half way through its life cycle.) Therefore the real theory of everything is obtained by putting together theoretical physics (when the superstring theories are completed) with chemistry, evolutionary biology, and this book. (This work will attempt to summarize the previous spheres as much as it can.)
Ken Wilber is noting that the "theory of everything" of the theoretical physics covers "everything" only in the geosphere when he says:
The Greeks had a beautiful word, Kosmos, which means the patterned Whole of all existence [it means order, i.e. the ordered way in which the whole cosmos is put together], including the physical [geo- plus bio-sphere], emotional, mental, and spiritual realms [noosphere]. Ultimate reality was not merely the cosmos, or the physical dimension, but the Kosmos, or the physical and emotional and mental and spiritual dimensions altogether. Not just matter, lifeless and insentient, but the living Totality of matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit. The Kosmos! -- now there is a real theory of everything! But us poor moderns have reduced the Kosmos to the cosmos... we are lulled into the notion that a theory [M theory as the ideal superstring theory] uniting the physical dimension is actually a theory of everything...
The new physics, it is said, actually shows us the mind of God. Well, perhaps, but only when God is thinking about dirt... [Wilber then proposes his genuine Theory of Everything:] An integral vision.... attempts to include matter, body, mind, soul, and spirit as they appear in self, culture, and nature... (A Theory of Everything, 2001, p. xi - xii.)
We do not disagree with Wilber that he has produced an impressive theory of everything. But the current work of ours is distinguished from his in that his is a system, synchronic, and ours a history, genealogical, which we believe is the only form a final theory (the Real Genuine Theory of Everything) can take. His, as the organization and unification of everything known from the contemporary perspective, basically repeats in new form Hegel's Enzyklopaedie or the yijing metaphysics of the Sung dynasty of China, with -- function of modern time -- larger scope, more accurate knowledge, and contemporary concerns. But the contemporary perspective only encompasses a small portion of human consciousness for it is one of amnesia. To quote Eric Voegelin: "Every society is burdened with the task, under its concrete conditions, of creating an order that will endow the fact of its existence with meaning in terms of ends divine and human... [And the attempts succeeded one another, e.g. in the West, from the myths of tribal times through the theological of Medieval Europe to the scientific one such as Wilber's...] That is not to say that every succeeding order is unequivocably marked as progressive or recessive in relation to the preceding ones. For new insights into the truth of order may be achieved in some respects, while the very enthusiasm and passion of the advance will cast a shroud of oblivion over discoveries of the past. Amnesia with regard to past achievement is one of the most important social phenomena [throughout the history of human consciousness and determining its course]" (Order and History, vol. 1, p. ix). If a present perspective, while advancing, had always remembered and incorporated the past perspective whence it came, the history of consciousness -- as the succession of perspectives -- would be different. Wilber has done good to overcome such ideologies as postmodernism or feminism which power throws out to halt the formation of a coherent order of being (Kosmos) for the contemporary consciousness and to destroy the human mind in general in order to reinforce the cycle of consumption and defecation of the consumer society by reducing human beings to mindless consumers unable to awaken from the illusions of consumer products; he has produced a coherent order of being suitable to the contemporary consciousness of humanity dominated by the Anglo-American aspect of it. The genealogical is attempting to produce the final, all-inclusive one by "taking up" (aufheben) the forgotten perspectives of the past and remembering them while organizing the new knowledge. This is the first, and most major difference between the current work and Wilber's. The second difference consists in this, that a sharp distinction, I believe, must be drawn between the material meaning of life and history and their spiritual meaning. Spirituality or Zen applied to business is spirituality no longer, but the opposite; unless it should result in the business being less aggressive, making less money, polluting less environment, and increasing the wisdom of the human mind in general. This goes against the spirit of consumerism.
For a more comprehensive layered structure of the Universe see here.
1. An English translation is available by T. Churchill, Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (1800).