Never, ever to conclude a peace with dogma
We recognize only one science, the science of history
Only when we place Cosmology in the forefront of our intentions to dialogue with nature, accepting its destabilizing effect on the traditional thinking of physics, thus eliminating the fog that surrounds the formal discourse of science set by the practices that shaped society, it is possible to see clearly the consequences of accepting that the true fundamental science is historical. It is with the understanding of the revolutionary reach of this historicity that we shall deal.
Part 1: The issue
- So far, science has been successful in building a formal structure capable of producing technologies that generate transformations in the everyday life of society. In particular, this project allowed us to think of the construction of global structures as formal consequences of local processes. A sophisticated but equally idealistic version has in practice ensured the conviction that the whole is produced from its parts and some specific circumstances. It was thanks to this illusion that the idea of unification of physical processes was installed in the physicists community as an eldorado to be conquered. Not as a simple simplifying factor, but as an indispensable stage for the understanding of observable phenomena.
- When in the practical exercise of their activities scientists restrict themselves to conversations with their peers, science advances as a conservative scheme. Only when science is brought into dialogue with nature its revolutionary spirit emerges. (For those who are not familiar with the everyday practice of doing science, this statement may sound incoherent — should it not the scientific practice be always like that? The political structure of the scientific organization, however, requires a de facto distance from that practice.)
- There is a widespread belief that a hegemonic idea when it emerges within a given branch of science must be understood as a truth, a provisional one for sure, but still a certainty that transcends mere opinion and is typical of the investigation of nature carried out by scientists. However, that is not always the case. We can point at examples in several areas. A typical case is to be found in the analysis of the explosive origin of the universe as described in the cosmology of the second half of the twentieth century. The scientific community adhered in an almost frivolous way to the single thought that there had been a moment of creation of the universe that occurred a few billion years ago. This unique cosmic cataclysm became known, for its enormous repercussion in the media, by the expression “big bang”.
The term “adhered” was used on purpose here to emphasize its non-scientific character. The details of this accession and the reasons why the international scientific community was seduced by this idea can be found in the books cited at the end.
It is necessary, however, to clarify a confusion that has been systematically and ostensibly propagated concerning the big bang, since this expression has two well distinguished connotations. In its technical use among physicists, it means the existence of a period in the history of the universe where its total volume was extraordinarily reduced. Accordingly, the ambient temperature was extremely high. This is an observational datum supported by a well-accepted theory. Virtually every scientist in the field considers this a correct explanation since it allows one to understand a large number of astronomical observations. A second, more ideological use for the same big-bang expression demands its identification with a singular moment of creation for the universe. In the last few decades it was this second interpretation, concerning the beginning of the universe, which has spread out through our society, occupying the imaginary space of the world creation, hitherto controlled by religion. And it was, nevertheless, just a work hypothesis misrepresented as a scientific truth.
- We recognize only one science, the science of history, say Marx and Engels in The German Ideology. How to understand this sentence within scientific activity, in physics, for example? Only by deepening a self-criticism that allows the origins of its re-foundation in cosmology — the historical science par excellence — to be exhibited. Not exclusively based on the acceptance of the temporal variation of total volume of the universe, but on other explanatory indicators, such as the existence of bifurcation processes in the universe.
- It is true that this historicity has been vaunted here and there, over and over again. The most attractive recent proposal was due to Prigogine, who took a step forward in that direction by proposing a formal alliance between the various sciences and the humanities. However, the extension of his analysis was timid because it did not include cosmology, but rather relied exclusively on processes described in physics and chemistry, local sciences. Only by considering cosmology and its destabilizing function it is possible to see clearly the breadth of this concept — that fundamental science is historical.
- To imagine that the laws of physics are eternal and immutable, as if they were given by a cosmic decalogue, is equivalent to hold an ahistorical view. Only by introducing the cosmic dependence of interactions can one remove any vestige of irrationality in the description of phenomena in nature and affirm the force of the scientific way of thinking the world. It is naive to think that the historical function in cosmology was introduced in the twentieth century only because it was possible (from special interpretations of astronomical data) to characterize gravitational dynamics as a process of universe expansion, denying the cosmic immobilism of the first cosmological scenario proposed by Einstein. The dependence of the laws of physics on the process of dynamic evolution of the universe removes the main content that guided scientists in the search for the unification of physical laws understood as fixed and immutable. The cosmology has weakened this rational peace accepted until then as natural and definitive.
- Physicists did not take that statement of Marx and Engels seriously because almost all scientists believed that these philosophers were only referring to human affairs, the natural territory of historicity. Physics, the science of nature par excellence, has always been associated with a practice that deals with processes that do not submit to the evolution and transformation that that assertion surreptitiously refers. However, there are sound arguments that support the idea that this sentence can effectively be equally applied to physics.
- Are the laws of physics “forever”? It might be important to tell the reader that in dealing with the changes in the laws of physics I am not referring to those modifications that are a natural part of the process of knowledge. We know that Newton’s laws, for example his absolute space scenario and absolute time, were altered by Poincaré and Einstein. Those modifications did not imply that Newton was wrong, but rather limited the scope of his description of nature. This procedure, this correction of course, is commonplace in all social activities, and concerns not the object of examination, nature, but the human condition. It is not to this historicity of the representation of the reality that I am referring, but to the modification of the laws of nature as intrinsic to the cosmos.
- The needs of the modern economic system do not require this historicity, but they are not hostile to it either, at least as long as it does not inhibit the way of scientific production. For in the dominant utilitarian view, what is wanted from science is the framework which allows the unfolding of new techniques capable of generating technologies, products. This is how the practice of scientists is surreptitiously led to subjection to the modes of capitalist domination
- Alienation is not found in the formal action within the scientific community, nor in its social modes, but rather in the scientific activity itself, in the elaboration of new questions, in the paths to its solution and mainly in the abandonment of the highest priority of the scientists: the pure curiosity.
Part II : The solidary universe
- Until very recently, microphysics and, more broadly, terrestrial physics were thought over as if they were out of the cosmic context. They appeared to require no further explanation, being treated as self-referential systems, without admitting any form of extrinsic analysis to constitute a self-consistent reason. However, in recent decades cosmology has abruptly invaded this quiet domain of dominant positivist thinking and destroyed the rational peace of those who believe that Earth and men have a special role in the universe.
- This cosmic interference over local physics should not be understood as the substitution of an absolute reason for another. It is not a matter of exchanging the absolutism associated with the universal character of local physics by that of a global physics. The question is a bit more complex . The mathematician A. Lautman gives a beautiful synthesis of what is at stake in his book Essai sur les notions de structure et d’existence en mathématiques. By examining the local-global dichotomy he proposes an extremely interesting alternative with tentacular consequences, referring to the possibility of producing an organic synthesis between the many mathematical theories dealing with local-global connections and choosing the predominance of one over the other. Lautman argues that a powerful connection must be made between the structure of the whole and the properties of the parts so that the organizing influence of the whole to which they belong is clearly and precisely manifested in those parts. This point of view, which seems to adopt ideas and programs drawn from biology or sociology, may appear in mathematics as a synthesis procedure. To implement this connection one must abandon Russell-Whitehead program of reducing mathematics to atomistic logical structures; as well as the view of Wittgenstein and Carnap according to which mathematics is nothing more than a language indifferent to the content they express. Similarly to what occurred in relativistic cosmology in the last decade with the abandonment of the Penrose-Hawking axiomatization, which was structured to support the identification of the existence of a unique moment of creation of the universe separated from us by a finite time.
- Elsewhere, I will follow this path proposed by Lautman. Here, it serves only as a citation, as an example of analysis of what is happening in the territory of cosmology, to point out that this question transcends our plan of examination of the questions of physics and constitutes, in fact, an area of reflection in several branches of knowledge. That is, once again, we are faced with uncertain limits of a well-defined question in a territory that allows a special analysis in another territory. Although different, these questions deal with something that approximates the different ways of understanding reality and which constitute the whole of the sciences, of nature and humanities. Concrete examples of these ideas have been examined in recent years.
- As I said recently, this places all of us physicists, cosmologists, thinkers from other areas, as great companions on a wonderful journey towards the comprehension of the universe, on the basis of the idea that nature is possibly still in formation. Not only in processes and phenomena, but in the constitution of its own laws.
- And then the question arises, how do these laws change? The stability of the laws of physics observed in terrestrial laboratories stems from the fact that their temporal dependence involves cosmic times. This means that only by looking at the universe on a large scale can we observe this process of modification. Important examples where we can detect this evolution are the nucleosynthesis which determines the abundance of the chemical elements in the universe, as well as the examination of the processes that gave rise to the excess of matter over antimatter in the universe; Exceptional phenomena that occurred at an extremely dense stage of the universe belonging to the early stages of the current phase of expansion.
Part III: Appearances
- The initial question involves the status of the reductionist principle, so important to physicists. This principle, which has had an extraordinary success throughout the twentieth century, claims that any process in nature, any system, regardless of its degree of complexity, can be explained by means of its reduction to fundamental elements, as, for example, those described by microscopic physics. When this principle was applied to the universe, it was concluded, in a simplistic way, that there could be no new effect capable of modifying the laws of physics from the global analysis of the universe. The only change, if any, could be quantitative, but not qualitative. This principle called “from the microcosmos to the macrocosmos” was used as a guide to dealing with cosmic issues.
- On the other hand, we know of the success of understanding the properties of different substances by recognising and exploiting their constituents, their fundamental atoms. Mendeleev’s table has brought remarkable advances in understanding common properties of different substances. Without the notion of atoms, of fundamental elements to all bodies, one should have more difficulties of giving meaning and understanding to a great number of processes encountered in daily life. This success, however, was taken to an extreme that has become no longer a useful tool for analysing reality, but rather a thought-inhibiting concept. It passed from molecules to atoms, and from these to the most elementary components, protons and electrons. And, continuing this procedure, to quarks and possibly other fundamental constituents. The reductionism to elementary components was accepted not as an attempt to understand the behavior of the universe based on observations, but as a practice of thought that should play the role of a super law, to which every scientific proposal should submit: as if it were a truth free from further criticism.
- To dismiss the importance of the action of processes of a global nature that can not be understood by the juxtaposition of elementary processes was certainly a setback in the pioneering path of astronomers who since the sixteenth century began the scientific revolution and established modern science. In the twenty-first century, thanks to the improvement of powerful instruments capable of deepening a new look into the sky, one can produce unexpected ways of understanding and restructuring the laws of nature. Thus, astronomers and cosmologists are once again creating conditions for the emergence of a profound change in the scientific way of describing nature.
Part IV: Practices
- We can learn from the history of ideas about the enormous difficulties that the program of science self-criticism that we are describing inevitably faces.
- This proposal disqualifies the idea that scientific knowledge is identified as the pursuit of the discovery of the Rosetta stone of physical processes – an automatic translator of the laws of nature and their representations – an illusion that ideologically supports many scientific procedures. Curiously, the effectiveness of these procedures is independent of this ideology.
- We then enter the territory of cosmology. But from what we have seen above, we should not be satisfied with the automatic extension of physics to the edges of galaxies, but rather undertake the path traveled by the universe so that we could be in it. Man can not fail to consider his point of view as extremely relevant, producing his history. At the same time he must place his presence in the cosmos as accidental, not as essential, otherwise he would yield to a process of “self-adulation” of the species, an extension of the individual concept introduced by Flavia Bruno.
Part V: Background
- A science like cosmology does not enter the social scene as in the establishment of a political order, but as a knowledge. It is from this territory that it sends messages interpreted as orders and from which consequences will be extracted to act on the social ordering. Arm in arm with other scientific knowledge, it offers, gratuitously, truths.
- We must reflect on this gratuitousness and on these truths. Precisely because they constitute the substratum that allows the conduct of the formal thought and, in modern times, the generation of a definitive (and yet paradoxically mutable) form for almost all certainties that make up this invisible, soft, liquid net that permeates the social commitments and that surreptitiously control our political being.
- It was based on these premises that the present manifesto was elaborated and that I decided to make it public, concluding its writing and leaving the development of the proposals and demonstrations it demands for later.
- We need to clarify some premises and hypotheses that form the background where this critique unfolds, or rather, where we decide to undertake this dialogue to understand the real way of doing science. Being a scientist, the first question that needs to be clarified is this: should we consider this movement as a self-criticism or can we allow others, the non-scientists, to judge our work? Can we let penetrate our territory criticisms that have not been established in our field of action? Those that not even accept our way of choosing what is important and deserves to be the subject of dialogue? Or should we accept only internal dissensions, which are often seen by those on the other side, by those who believe in science and do not question it (perhaps because they feel incompetent for it) as stubbornness of those who (still) do not have “true knowledge “? How can we expose internal criticism that tends to diminish the power accumulated over the centuries by scientific activity?
- The history of science has recorded a large number of these internal battles. But they are almost always seen as a necessary moment, an inevitable passage toward knowledge. This process is commonplace, almost trivial, even if it is associated with a formidable formal battle. But that is not what I want to deal with here, and as we shall see, the main reason is due to the specificity of cosmology.
- Cosmology is becoming (or rather, becoming again, after a long mechanistic period, ideologically geared towards the deterministic formalisation of the world) a territory of reflection and re-foundation of thought. That is where we find today – as in its first movement when astronomers more than three hundred years ago founded modern science – new ways of thinking nature. It is perhaps because of this that at the Humanities meeting held at the Fort Copacabana during the Rio + 20 conference, ecological thinking sought to find in the cosmos its source of inspiration, trying to understand who we are, what world this is, how this universe became structured, the way it happened and what were the possible alternatives.
- We have seen the extension of this movement in the recognition that we must go beyond the anthropocentric and simplistic idea that in order to understand the universe we must first interrogate ourselves. The cosmic thinking is at the basis of this reflection on humanity. We should not restrict our gaze to Earth and our neighbourhood. But it is also important not to forget that there is only this Earth as our habitat, and closing the gaze to the sublunar world is not the way by which one could be able to produce any significant sentence concerning the existence of the universe.
- In the past, religions looked to the sky and brought from there truths and rigid laws to be followed. The power of their priests was a consequence of their knowledge in mediating the relation between man and the universe. Now that science has seized the knowledge about the universe, it was possible to dispense with the old intermediaries. However, we should not replace old priests with new ones. We should not trade priests for scientists to play this role.
- In building a two-way bridge between cosmology and other knowledge we are trying to avoid this attraction, this terrible human desire to be both slave and master.
- In going through the paths that led to the Manifesto, it became clear the question regarding the technique, and also the way in which some philosophers, like Heidegger, established the dependence of our world view on the technique.
- We are not interested in the reasons that are called to mediate the way in which physicists try to disqualify the fundamental role of cosmology as a re-foundation of physics. Rather, what is really important is its role as a way of being of the disqualification of the re-foundation as a formal, technical procedure.
- We can not accept the reduction imposed by the physicists in characterising cosmology as nothing more than an extragalactic physics (with possible modifications, conventional or not), that is, the application of the laws of physics built in terrestrial laboratories and in its neighbourhood to describe the universe. Consequently, ascribing to those who claim to associate the analysis of the universe beyond the simple formal application of the laws of physics as having an external orientation, beyond science, metaphysical — as if this could be a disqualifying accusation. In fact, this procedure has the function of disguising what in the 1920s was understood as the cosmological question, that term being employed to emphasise the problematic aspect of the application of physics to the universe.
- Cosmology has had a huge success in recent years, and the media never gets tired of exhibiting its exuberant effects, a pyrotechnics show from the selection of cosmic catastrophes.
- Nuccio Ordine in his Manifesto, the literary counterpart of this one of ours, talks about the usefulness of the useless. Is this the major fate of cosmology? Is searching the origins of the universe a Sisyphus work? Carefully elaborated to never be concluded?
- When in September 2015 we brought together cosmologists, writers, philosophers, physicists, anthropologists, and mythologists in a meeting we have called Renaissances, we came across the question of ethics, which seemed to us to be the point where we should begin our common journey. Like a fresh start. And there we heard the details of the reasons for always presenting this activity as a fresh start. Only then we understand why the cosmos should be thought of as an ethical compromise, which Galileo, Newton, Giordano Bruno, and others, at the historical beginning of this journey have, consciously or not, bequeathed to us.
Part VI: Declaration
The self-criticism we have been discussing in this Manifesto highlights a malaise that affects the scientific way of conducting rational thinking about what exists.
Science, without losing its original intimacy with philosophy, should serve to free man from submission to a single project of thinking the world. Unfortunately this does not happen due to the role that is assigned to science today, the subordination of its role to technique, in the construction of a world perverting our daily life.
The illusion of the stone-hard configuration of terrestrial physical laws, the hypothesis of its unlimited influence on the cosmos, its tight and complete dependence on the anthropomorphism which dominates it, produces extremely powerful forces that effectively prevent the construction of this freedom.
However, scientific activity, as we identify it in this text, can fulfill this libertarian function, in a very similar way as thought idealistically by the father founders of modern science, in particular by Giordano Bruno. After all, because we are walking the same road, alongside philosophers and other thinkers, we should not even realize that we have chosen different discourses to comment on the world.
Part VII: Process and historicity
- The spatial volume of the entire universe varies with cosmic time. There is a dynamics that carries the origins of the cosmos to a distant time, possibly in the infinite past. We understand this as a process, with different actors dominating the cosmic scene in different periods of condensation;
- This dynamic is an evolution. But it can not be identified with the emergence of historicity in physics, since the conventional, standard setting imposes its description from physical laws given a priori, constant, immutable;
- Elementary processes, such as the disintegration of matter, are frozen, fixed configurations in this scenario, occurring in the same way at any point in the evolution of the universe, even when the universe was extraordinarily concentrated — that is, these are phenomena described in the same way, regardless of whether the process has occurred a few billion years ago or in a terrestrial laboratory, in the CERN or Fermilab. This univocity is understood by the establishment under the label of coherence;
- The cosmic dependence of these elementary interactions, for example processes of matter disintegration, governed by the Fermi interaction, induces a change in this interpretation. To make this process depend on the cosmic time is to introduce, albeit in a limited way, history into the process of its analysis. It amounts to accept that the universe must be understood from the evolution of its physical laws;
- This process of historicity is soft, that is, it admits a description in simple formal terms, associated with known formalisms and that can be understood from the configurations observed in the terrestrial laboratories;
- An example of hard historicity appears when we understand that the phenomena to be described, associated with the evolution of the metric structure of space-time, have bifurcations;
- The formal origin of this lies in the nonlinear character of the gravitational interaction equations that describe these processes;
- At the same time, this non-linear character allows us to understand the self-creation of the universe;
- In other words: it is not necessary to go beyond the analysis of the physical universe to understand its origin, because a non-linear process does not require an external source to give rise to it;
- That is, this self-created universe does not need an external agent to cause its existence.
- It is from these considerations, based on these analyses of the evolution of the universe and its basic laws, that it becomes possible to develop a self-criticism of science.
Part VIII: The issues
At the beginning, it was a question of verbalizing what can and can not be said and, from the scientific discourse, enumerate questions that seem fanciful or are understood as associated with unrealizable processes, that is, controlled utopias. These ideas, although belonging to a correct formal system, stemming from an effective theory, are abandoned by their strange, fanciful appearance, understood even as incoherent, thanks to an anthropocentric reading based on the complete identification of the physical nature with the human nature, ignoring the many levels of complexity and organization that constitute real obstacles to this identification. The origin of the difficulties encountered by this identification, as well as the impossibility of treating all processes – from the microphysics to the universe – making use of the Newtonian dialect, the way of describing reality by means of the classical physics language formulated in the time of Newton and his companions, the everyday language, can be understood by the recognition of the error in its extrapolation which attributed a universal and absolute character to it. Lines of investigation appear, then, that point to questions that are not resolved within the conventional scenario and are then qualified as utopias, associated for example with the sentences that follow.
Part IX: The controlled utopia (what cannot be said)
- It is possible that there have been (the temporal use here is inappropriate) other worlds;
- It is possible that the universe is still in formation or is unfinished;
- The laws of physics are not immutable. The cosmic dependence of interactions requires a new way of understanding the evolution of the universe;
- These variations allow the mapping of different space-time domains of the cosmos;
- As the acausal structure of Godel´s universe shows, to limit our considerations about the universe to only its causal regions constitutes a formal limitation which no scientist can justify apart from an absolutist dogmatism;
- Comments on the past infinity origins of the universe;
- Analysis of bifurcations in the cosmos and the consequent changes in causation throughout the evolution of the universe as the source of its historicity;
- The cosmic void and white holes injecting new matter into the universe;
- The cosmos as an open process, the meeting place of the various forms of knowledge created by man to reflect, to understand, to produce reality.
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- Connecting quarks with the Cosmos (Eleven Science questions for the new century) . The National Academies Press, Washington (2001).
- Novello e S. P. Bergliaffa: Bouncing cosmologies in Physics Reports, Elsevier, 2008.
- Y a-t-il du sacré dans la nature? Ed. Bérengère Hurand e Catherine Larrère (Publications de la Sorbonne, 2014).
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- Louis-Auguste Blanqui: L´eternità attraverso gli astri (una cosmologia fantastica) ed. Theoria (1983); “L´eternité par les astres” (1872).
- Emmanuel Levinas: Totalité et infini (ed. biblio essais, 1971).
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- Leszek Kolakowski; Orrore metafisico (ed. Il Mulino, 1988)
- Raymond Queneau: Piccola cosmogonia portatile (ed. Einaudi, 1920).
- I. Arnold: Catastrophe theory (ed. Springer-Verlag, 1984).
- Heidegger : Prolégomènes à l´histoire du concept de temps, Ed Gallimard (2006).
- Albert Camus: Le mythe de Sisyphe (ed Gallimard, 1942).
- Lautman: Les mathématiques, les idées et le réel physique (1977) (Ed. Vrin, 2006).
- Novello: Le cercle du temps (un regard scientifique sur les voyages non conventionnels dans le temps) Ed.Atlantica (2001); Máquina do tempo (um olhar científico). Ed Jorge Zahar (2005).
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- Facts and Speculations in Cosmology (2008) Jayant Narlikar e Geoffrey Burbidge;
- “Connecting quarks with the cosmos”: raport by National Research Council (National Academic Press, USA, 2002);
- Further references in marionovello.com.br .