Dr Derek Banks wrote this article at Melbourne University in 1973, in association with The Wizard. It was presented as part of the Wizard’s lecture series there on cosmology. The description “Post Modern” Cosmology was chosen some time before the word came into common circulation.
This level of generality is concerned, in the very broadest sense, with matter in its physio-chemical transformations. When approaching the extensive literature concerning this level it is important to bear in mind the distinction between the observed “phenomena”, whose forms are arrived at by induction, and the “noumena” or causal agency which is invoked to explain them, which is deduced from the observations.
PHENOMENA AND NOUMENA
Phenomena, as a term applies at this level to all the various observable transformations of matter in which the chemical elements remain unchanged. At other levels the term would of course refer to super-material or sub-material levels of reality. Thus changes of colour, volume, viscosity, turbity, flow, hardness, changes of phase between liquid, solid and gas, mixing, dissolving, combining, combustion, precipitation and gaseous evolution are all observable physio-chemical manifestations in space and hence phenomena.
Terms such as ‘chemical’ reaction, or ‘chemical’ transformation have not been included in the list since the concepts embodied in the modern use of the word ‘chemical’ tend to slide over into what are, strictly speaking, physiochemical noumena or causal agencies. This will become more apparent later.
Noumena are postulated functional, theoretical or hypothetical forms of intention and the term is adopted to account for, measure, unify, and control phenomena of various kinds, which are extended in space. The list of physio-chemical noumena includes heat, temperature, entropy, energy, work, mass, chemical affinity, electromagnetic potential, ensemble and ensemble averages, together with concepts embodied in statistical mechanics.
It should be noted that concepts such as heat and temperature are frequently, but erroneously, referred to as phenomena. This practise has arisen because these concepts have been “reduced” to terms accounted for by statistical mechanics and are therefore somehow considered to have satisfactorily explained by other ‘more fundamental’ noumena.
Statistical mechanics should be regarded as no more than a general mathematical technique, which may be applied to calculate the noumenal dynamics of any particular level from the base provided by the system immediately below that particular level. For example, statistical mechanics may be applied to the Milky Way Atomic System to create thermodynamic laws, which explain the phenomena of planetary evolution. In a similar fashion, statistical mechanics may be applied to the Universal Hadronic System to create the plasmadynamic laws, which explain the phenomena of stellar evolution.
DYNAMICS AND KINEMATICS
The terms dynamics and kinematics are employed in the new cosmology to refer respectively to processes of change in noumena and phenomena. Thus an observable change in extended reality is called the kinematics of change in the system, whilst the change of laws deduced to account for this are called the dynamic laws of change in the system. At the level of generality concerned here, the level of physio-chemical reality, the dynamics referred to as thermo-dynamics. In mathematical parlance, the dynamics become general equations of state whilst the kinematics which impact on the physio-chemical system follow from the specification of boundary and starting conditions for the particular system concerned.
MICROCOSM AND MACROCOSM
It is important to realise that the phenomena described in each level in the new Post-Modern Cosmology are not restricted by scale. Due to a preoccupation with laboratory experiments as a sign of “true science” the large scale or macrocosmic phenomena are often neglected or relegated to a completely different scientific discipline. Thus, at the physio-chemical level, microcosmic phenomena are at present studied as chemistry, solid state physics, hydrodynamics, and aerodynamics, whilst macrocosmic phenomena are studied as geophysics, geochemistry, geology, atmospheric physics, meteorology, lunar research and planetary astronomy.
Macrocosm and microcosm are essentially complementary and evolve or devolve together. Evolution is of interest only in the macrocosmic disciplines where field observations of ‘natural systems’ have to replace the experimental manipulation of artificially closed systems in the laboratory microcosm. This disastrous division between ‘field’ and ‘laboratory has led to the multiplication in inadequate theories of evolution in the macrocosmic disciplines and the complete lack of theories of evolution in the microcosmic disciplines.
At the physio-chemical level, the planets limit the macrocosmic scale in both space and time. The scale of the molecule and the events in which it partakes limits the microcosmic scale. Between these two extremes phenomena of various scales are included, such as microcosmic fluctuations of gases and liquids (including sound waves) turbulence, cavitations, topography of the earth, volcanic activity, earthquakes, oceans, atmospheric patterns etc., up to the phenomena of the scale of the aurora.
EVOLUTION AND DEVOLUTION
The series of successively higher-level systems that constitute the cosmological diagram of the Post-Modern Cosmology are characterised by increasingly complex organization with decreasing energy available with other levels in the system at the same level. Hence more highly evolved systems are characterised by high information content together with low energy exchange. This agrees with the general observation made concerning thermodynamic systems, that evolution of any subsystem is accompanied by decreasing entropy. Conversely, devolution implies increasing subsystem entropy with more energy available for interaction with other subsystems.
Having investigated the thermodynamics of non-equilibrium chemical systems, Prigogine, Nicolis and Babloyantz have shown how it is possible for such a system to evolve (decrease its entropy) by exchanging energy and matter with its external environment.
EVOLUTION AND INVOLUTION
Separate terms are employed to deal with evolutionary processes in both its phenomenal and noumenal aspects. Evolution properly applies to the observed processes of change in phenomena, which result in the increasing organization, and complexity of physiochemical systems, leading ultimately to the formation of living tissue from the raw material of atomic matter supplied by the sun. Involution, a term borrowed from Teihard de Chardin, properly applies to those increasingly complex dynamic or noumenal processes, which are hypothesized to direct the flow of events in evolutionary phenomena. More particularly the term refers to the changes in noumenal parameters such as entropy and energy flow. Involution implies conformity to thermodynamic laws, which represent the intention of the system at this level.
The realisation of this intention depends upon the extension factors or kinematics. A striking example of such an intention is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that near equilibrium systems must change in such a fashion as to increase the entropy. Note that this intention is independent of particular extension conditions whilst still directing the course of phenomenal events, i.e. the physiochemical changes.
RELATIONSHIP OF MILKY WAY ATOMIC SYSTEM TO SOLAR CHEMICAL SYSTEM
Immediately below and above the thermodynamic-molecular kinematics level in the Post Modern cosmological diagram are the Milky Way Atomic System and the Solar Chemical System. The former consists of the field of all atoms in the galaxy, as created by the stars within the galaxy. The latter consists of all the chemical composites created out of the atomic system through the imposition of thermodynamic intention and which forms the base out of which the Terran biological transmutations evolve.
Evolutionary development from the Milky Way Atomic System to the Solar Chemical System is exemplified in the macrocosm by the evolution of the planets from the cloud of atomic material surrounding the Sun, and in the microcosm by the evolution of those chemical species, which form the starting chemicals of living systems. These two aspects of evolution have, up to now, been studied separately as solar system evolution and biochemical evolution. In the Post Modern Cosmology greater emphasis is placed on the assumption of parallel development of macrocosm and microcosm units.
There are numerous models in existence explaining the origins of the planets from stellar material. Those models most favoured at present hypothesize a vast dust cloud gradually condensing and spinning about its axis. As the radius of the spinning cloud reaches certain critical values the cloud separates, leaving a toroidal ring of material rotating about the central cloud. This may occur several times at quite distinct radii, leaving a series of rings, which eventually condense, into orbiting planets whilst the central mass becomes the Sun.
The most important thing to note is that both sun and planets are assumed to have been created at the same time from similar materials. Thus the atomic elements making up the planets (the Solar Atomic System in the diagram) were mainly generated in stars other than Sol, which have since died out and are radiating their atomic products into the inter-stellar medium. In the course of evolution this material is accumulating to eventually form the planetary systems.
In the process of forming the Solar System specific distributions of the various elements are achieved through a control process we have termed dispersing. The evidence for this process occurring can be found on a macrocosmic scale in the different elemental composition found between the inner terrestrial planets and the outer gaseous planets. The inner planets are rich in nickel and iron whilst the outer planets are rich in hydrogen and carbon. Selective dispersal of material from the individual planets is responsible for the creation of such a patterned distribution of elements within the Solar System.
Accumulation processes should also show a tendency to generate patterned distributions of elements within the planetary system and within the planets themselves. Examples of this can be seen in the division of the oceans from the landmasses and each of these from the atmosphere. Similarly accumulations of different minerals are found even within the Earth’s crust.
The microcosmic developments paralleling the formation of planets in the macrocosm are exemplified by the evolution of steadily more complex molecules, which eventually form the basis for life. A great deal of work has been carried out in this area during recent years in an attempt to determine under precisely what chemical and thermodynamic conditions the evolution of life is possible, and to trace back the formation of the chemicals involved.
MICROCOSM-MACROCOSM HARMONY IN TIME AND SPACE
An important proposition of the Post Modern Cosmology, which has already been mentioned, is that microcosmic and macrocosmic evolution develops simultaneously.The current approach taken in studying chemical evolution is first to assume the formation of the planet and then the subsequent commencement of chemical evolution.
There is evidence for simultaneous progression of micro and macrocosm, planet and molecule, in the discovery of complex organic molecules in meteorites, and even in inter-stellar matter. These molecules appear to be of non biological origin and hence, if one supposes the meteoric material to have accumulated at the same time as the planet, one must further assume that complex molecules have been formed not only throughout the space of the Solar System but also throughout the time of its formation. More theorising needs to be carried out to clarify this point.
The evolution of any chemical system ultimately implies that the evolved chemical is separating itself from the reactive mixture, which gave rise to it. If this does not occur then the reaction is reversible and the product molecules may return to the original reactant molecules, forming a chemical equilibrium.
In any irreversible chemically dis-equilibrating process, which represents a possible evolutionary breakthrough point, the product chemicals must be able to form a phase boundary between each chemical species.
The study of such phase boundaries is the subject of colloid chemistry. The formation of such a boundary is also a requisite for the evolution of living cells. The breakdown of a phase boundary, either through surfactants or through mechanical action, results in the chemical species assimilating back into the broth from which they evolved.
EVOLUTION AS POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE FEEDBACK PROCESSES
The concepts of positive and negative feedback originated in the terminology of electronic engineering and designate two types of a return to an output signal from a circuit, back into the input of that circuit. Analogies based on feedback have proved fertile in many fields of science, and in the Post Modern Cosmology the whole universe is treated as a system, with governor, subsystems, positive and negative feedback.
Positive feedback indicates that the return signal has the same polarity as the input, which means that it reinforces the input signal. Negative feedback indicates that the return signal has the opposite polarity to the input signal, which means that it suppresses the input signal. Examination of the different responses of these two systems to a very short pulse signal at the input demonstrates the important difference between the two. This has considerable significance for the evolutionary process that this model illustrates.
Let us suppose that, for the moment, the ‘black box’ marked “electronic circuit” is simply an amplifier that reproduces the input signals with greater strength and without distortion at the output. Of course in real life the circuit could change the output signal quite radically, and produce quite different effects to those about to be described.
Taking negative feedback first; a pulse in the input would return an amplified pulse via the feedback loop which tends to cancel the original input pulse, hence the system acts as a low gain amplifier, but having the merit of cancelling out altogether input signals below a certain critical threshold strength. As a whole, the system always moves back towards the equilibrium, no signal, no output, state.
In positive feedback, an input signal is returned amplified by the feedback loop to reinforce the original input, hence the system acts as a high gain amplifier. However it tends towards an unstable condition when the signal is above a certain critical threshold (determined by the electronics) and maintained continuously. The output will continue to increase up to a limit set by the electronics. The signal required to drive the system out of the original stable (no signal^ state into the new (steady signal) state, may be as low as the random noise of the electronics, and thereby the system spontaneously generates noise with considerable strength.
The concept of feedback has been widely applied in cybernetics although the study of negative feedback, or control systems, is more common that study of positive feedback, or out-of-control systems. Examples of negative feedback occurring in the field abound in the nervous systems of vertebrates, particularly in movement, where a nerve sends signals back from a muscle, moved to indicate its position and tension, and thereby allow the original signal to be modified in accordance with the new information.
In the Post Modem Cosmology diagram of the universe as a system (the Tree of Life) all important negative feedback lines are indicted with arrows pointing downwards and correspond to control of the conditions in the subsystem below by the system above.
Positive feedback loops can be observed clearly in biological growth and organism evolution, the most obvious instances being the cloning of cells and reproduction of organisms. At the physiochemical level, in thermodynamics, Prigogine et al have recently studied a wide range of positive feedback systems, which, in response to small fluctuations from the original equilibrium state, rapidly progress through an unstable condition to a new stable state quite distinct from the original condition.
They key to chemical systems exhibiting such properties can be found in what is at present termed an autocatalytic reaction. Under autocatalysis the presence of some chemical constituent “X” catalyses, or aids the production of, still more of X from other raw materials.
The overall chemical reactions take the general form of: A + nX -> B + mX , where n and m are positive integers with m greater than n. A and B represent raw materials and waste products of the reaction.
Such a reaction would be irreversible since the presence of X in the reaction mix promotes the production of still more X exactly in accord with the properties of a positive feedback loop.
In The Thermodynamics of Evolution, Prigogine et al. provide greater detail of such chemical reactions. Particularly interesting is the authors’ description of an experiment in which such a reaction is sustained far from equilibrium by removing the waste products. Under these conditions the non-linearity of the reactions take effect and a new steady state is formed which manifests an entirely new structure consisting of alternating bands of reactants instead of the equilibrium uniformity predicted in traditional theory. This reaction may be taken as an example of the general conditions necessary for the evolution of new structures at any level of generality.
Two parallels to the above general chemical reaction come to mind:
- The cloning or division of living cells in which the cell ‘X’ takes in nutrients ‘A’, discharges waste ‘B,’ and eventually doubles itself (2X). This could be expressed as, A + X -> B + 2X
- The stimulated radiation of excited atoms by a photon. Excited atom “A” under the influence of photon “X” de-excites to atom in state “B” with the emission of an identical photon “X”. This again could be expressed as; A + X -> B + 2X.
This process is used to good effect in the laser to produce a coherence or order, which would otherwise not have existed in the light used to excite the system.
A critical point in these examples is that the waste products “B” must be removed rapidly and continuously to insure that the reaction is irreversible and the new structure is stabilised. Thos emphasised by Prigogine and he uses the term dissipative structures.