I. Our Planatural Edition: A 21st Century PhiloSophia, Earthropo Ecosmic PediaVersion
B. Anthropocene Sapiensphere: A Major Emergent Transitional Phase
Liebes, Sidney, et al. A Walk Through Time. New York: Wiley, 1998. An evocative, beautifully illustrated journey written with Brian Swimme and Elisabet Sahtouris that tells the new creation story of a self-organizing cosmic genesis. The book website is: www.globalcommunity.org/wtt/walk_online.
The universe has a bias for complexity. The universe began as elementary particles, then began constellating into galactic structures. The creativity of the universe accomplishes all this through its own intrinsic self-assembling or self-organizing dynamics. An atom, for instance, is not put together by some agent outside itself. An atom is a group of particles that organizes itself into a whole and coherent system. So too on larger scales. A galaxy is more that just an aggregation. A galaxy is a self-organizing community of stars. (15)
Litfin, Karen. Towards an Integral Perspective on World Politics: Secularism, Sovereignty and the Challenge of Global Ecology. Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 32/1, 2003. A professor of political science at the University of Washington makes a strong case that the root of our problems is the old materialist, secular, consumptive scenario which causes contingent people to exploit nature and each other. A radically holistic “new story” is proposed via a synthesis from Gregor Hegel to Thomas Berry, Sri Aurobindo, Pierre Teilhard, Ken Wilber and others, along with the Gaia image of a living earth. Since the single-point, object focus of modernity is unsustainable, Litfin bravely advises an idealist, emergent evolution suffused by subjective communion. This integral cosmology can then inform “humanity’s self-finding” and inspire a global ecological concern.
The integral worldview draws no dichotomy between matter and spirit, nature and humanity, objectivity and subjectivity. Rather, mind and matter are two dimensions of a single reality that expresses itself in the self-organizing processes of the universe. From an integral perspective, the human is ‘that being in whom the universe celebrated itself and its numinous origins in a special mode of conscious self-awareness.’ (33)
Programming the Universe.
New York: Knopf,
Reviewed more in An Informational Source, an argument for a cosmos that computes itself into complex existence via an intrinsic program which is run repeatedly.
Longo, Giuseppe and Mael Montevil. Extended Criticality, Phases Spaces and Enablement in Biology. Chaos, Solitons & Fractals. Online April, 2013. The authors have also collaborated with Stuart Kauffman, view on arXiv, about randomness alone or an innate vectorial, creative source. Within a cosmic nature that does “enable” our presence, Kauffman, and others, go on to deny any independent “entailing laws.” The “Black Swan” view of Nassim Taleb contends that predictability is not possible, stuff just happens. But Didier Sornette (search) argues this scheme misses a deep mathematical inherency. In Reexamining the Quantum-Classical Relation Alisa Bokulich (search), extends Sandra Mitchell’s integral pluralism to at once note a vicarious extravagance, along with a deep, necessary lawfulness. Stephen Wolfram (search 2012) likewise opts for a self-existing mathematical intelligibility, rather than Gregory Chaitin’s denials. In this paper, CNRS – École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and Tufts University Medical School, Boston, theorists press on to propose and brace a dynamic balance of “contingency and cause.” There is, as the quotes express, a palliative, revelatory urgency to resolve the dreadful drama of our existence, responses to which often say more about the author than the cosmos. Could “many are called but few are (self)chosen writ large,” somehow be nature’s way, as this site tries to document? For a book length version in early 2014 see Perspectives on Organisms: Biological Time, Symmetries and Singularities (Springer)
This paper analyzes, in terms of critical transitions, the phase spaces of biological dynamics. The phase space is the space where the scientific description and determination of a phenomenon is given. We argue that one major aspect of biological evolution is the continual change of the pertinent phase space and the unpredictability of these changes. This analysis will be based on the theoretical symmetries in biology and on their critical instability along evolution. Our hypothesis deeply modifies the tools and concepts used in physical theorizing, when adapted to biology. In particular, we argue that causality has to be understood differently, and we discuss two notions to do so: differential causality and enablement. In this context constraints play a key role: on one side, they restrict possibilities, on the other, they enable biological systems to integrate changing constraints in their organization, by correlated variations, in un-prestatable ways. This corresponds to the formation of new phenotypes and organisms. (Abstract)
Lovelock, James. Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019. Yes, another epic contribution from the elder British scientific sage, who is hale and hearty at age 100. He can well affirm that his 1970s Gaia vision of life’s self-regulating biosphere, after many contentions, has become a mainstay of Earth system science. A novel situation today is that nature’s vital propensity to modify and form sustainable environs can be set within vast planet-filled heavens. By virtue of his research, while life’s self-maintenance is a robust process, it is contingent on many factors to an extent that our home ecoworld may likely be the only one to get this far. Thus, our regnant, global sapience may have achieved a unique knowing perception within an otherwise insentient cosmos. His cosmic scenario then proposes that to sustain this animate abode, human beings will need to enhance themselves, with all checks and balances, by way of a cyber-technical, artificial intelligence capacity. Once again, James Lovelock gifts us with a grand vista for seeing how significant a rarest living Earth actually can be to the future and fate of the whole universe. The enhancements he broaches will be of concern, but it is assured that they will not be a machine singularity to replace precious peoples. See also a review by Stephen Cave in The Financial Times (July 16, 2019), re the fifth quote.
Gaia must continue her work of cooling the planet because she could be destroyed by shocks to her system, which, in previous ages, would have been shrugged off. I am pretty sure that only Earth has incubated a creature capable of knowing the cosmos. But I am equally sure that the existence of the creature is imperiled. We are unique, privileged beings and, for that reason we should cherish every moment of our awareness. We should now be cherishing those moments even more because our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to an end. (5)
Low, Albert. The Origin of Human Nature: A Zen Buddhist Looks at Evolution. Brighton, UK: Sussex Academic Press, 2008. Dr. Albert Low, the author of many wise works, is founder and director of the Montreal Zen Center. By drawing upon a vista of Eastern and perennial insights, an alternative, beneficial view of universe and human creativity can accrue. Rather than a material machine as touted by Richard Dawkins, bereft of plan or purpose, the unitary cosmos is alive and suffused from its origin with intention and intelligence. As Hwa Yen Buddhism’s vision of Indra’s Net conveys so well, each parcel or entity at once reflects and contains the encompassing numinous cosmos. Human beings are the latest phenomenal manifestation of its grand, yet fraught, task unto awakening, knowing awareness.
Loye,, David, ed. The Great Adventure: Toward a Fully Human Theory of Evolution. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004. At the World Congress of Systems Science in Toronto, July 2000, psychologist Loye and members of the General Evolution Research Group met in an effort to move their project of articulating a holistic, empathic vision of life’s emergence to its next level. A result is this series of papers by Ervin Laszlo (GERG founder), Stan Salthe, Riane Eisler, Sally Goerner, Allan Combs and others who strive for an expanded narrative which can include creativity, consciousness, gender partnership and integral sustainability. In his essay, Loye argues that Darwin originally saw cooperation to be more important than usually attributed and joins this insight with Abraham Maslow’s humanistic and transpersonal psychology. Guidelines for future work along with an annotated bibliography are included.
Luisi, Pier Luigi. The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. The emeritus professor and dean of Swiss macromolecular chemistry writes a frontier text of life’s origin and evolution as now being reconceived in terms of complex systems science. We quote from the publisher’s website.
The origin of life from inert chemical compounds has been the focus of much research for decades, both experimentally and philosophically. Connecting both approaches, Luisi takes the reader through the transition to life, from prebiotic chemistry to synthetic biology. This book presents a systematic course discussing the successive stages of self-organization, emergence, self-replication, autopoiesis, synthetic compartments and construction of cellular models, in order to demonstrate the spontaneous increase in complexity from inanimate matter to the first cellular life forms. The theory of autopoiesis leads into the idea of compartments, which is discussed with an emphasis on vesicles and other orderly aggregates. The final chapter uses liposomes and vesicles to explain the synthetic biology of cellular systems, as well as describing attempts to generate minimal cellular life within the laboratory.
Lupisella, Mark. Cosmocultural Evolution: The Coevolution of Culture and Cosmos and the Creation of Cosmic Value. Steven Dick and Mark Lupisella, eds. Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context. Washington, DC: NASA SP-4802, 2010. A premier chapter in this online volume at http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4802.pdf by the NASA astrobiologist that is one of the best reviews of polar options from a “bio-resistant” universe, the default today, to a waxing sense of an innately fertile conduciveness for emergent life, intelligence, and persons. This approach is taken further, as Paul Davies herein also, to propose a “bootstrapped universe” whereof human cultural knowledge serves, by our conscious witness, to bring such a self-generating creation into full, actual being. As a result, the past centuries of our demotion to utter insignificance is reversed by a “cosmic promotion” of humankind to a rightful place of central, phenomenal importance. This influence can then extend on to “planetary, astrophysical, cosmological, ontological, and metaphysical” realms, in which regard we people are participants in a “self-synthesizing” universal creativity. For more writings, see Lupisella’s succinct paper in Bertka, Constance, ed. Exploring the Origin, Extent, and Future of Life. (Cambridge, 2009).
A potentially helpful distinction in many of these brands of cosmic worldviews is whether culture is in some sense “built-in,” or inherent in the universe, as part of the nature of the universe. On the spectrum shown in Figure 1, the bioresistant, biotolerant, biofriendly, and both weak and strong bootstrapped views would suggest that cultural evolution is not inherent in the nature of the universe, certainly that it is not an inevitable “cosmic imperative.” However, views characterized as teleological, pantheistic, and theistic would likely claim that culture is indeed part of the nature of the universe (i.e., perhaps as part of a trend of evolving self-organizing complex systems) and/or as part of a deeper conceptual metaphysical significance (e.g., spiritual or divine). This distinction is potentially important in that if culture is seen to be a deep manifestation and expected outcome of cosmic evolution, this would engender worldviews in which we are seen to be at home in the universe, to belong to the universe, to be an important part of its fundamental nature. This is a friendly universe, a cosmos in which many will feel a deep sense of comfort and belonging and perhaps a larger sense of objective meaning and purpose—which in turn can have an impact on how intelligent beings think and act in the world and if/how intelligent beings may ultimately influence the evolution of the universe itself. (332)
Malin, Shimon. Nature Loves to Hide. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Quantum physics, properly understood and with roots in Plato and Plotinus, can finally set aside the Newtonian machine to reveal an organic universe springing from an immaterial source. Alfred North Whitehead’s 20th century philosophy of a dynamic cosmic organism is a further resource for Shimon’s thesis. Through this meld of quantum observership and ancient wisdom, manifest human life gains purpose by its creative contemplation of the universe.
Similarly, at the present time, we live, as Thomas Berry said, “between stories.” With the advent of Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity the Newtonian ideas about space and time were thrown overboard. And with the advent of the quantum theory the Newtonian concept of matter was replaced by a radically different concept. These theories provided physics with new paradigms; they did not, however, provide Western civilization with a comprehensive worldview. (xii)
Mandoki, Katya. Everyday Aesthetics. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007. The Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico, professor of aesthetics, semiotics, and design seeks an artistic, poetic, organic essence that graces our daily personal and social lives. After many chapters to set scenes, a consummate section evokes an holistic aura called “matrixes” as a symbolic universe or cosmic context, rife with fractal networks and self-similarities, for our luminous abide. And most prominent is the Family Matrix, our ultimate humane iconic embrace. May we then consider it fitting, truly appropriate, to offer a Family Cosmos milieu for a procreative genesis uniVerse?
The matrixes, from the Latin “mater” are literally and metaphorically the places where identities are bred, sustained, and cultivated. A matrix is to the collective subject what a body is to the individual subject, namely, its indispensable material and morphological condition. (177) Matrix of all matrixes, the family is unequivocally the origin of culture. From that simple albeit infinitely complex act of procreation a great diversity of matrixes unfold through human history. Within the family matrix emerges ….the first step that takes us from the biome to the culturome. (195)
Marro, Joaquin. Physics, Nature and Society: A Guide to Order and Complexity in Our World. Berlin: Springer, 2014. An international scholar with dual doctorates in statistical and computational physics, presently at Granada University, Spain, seeks to continue and expand the survey of condensed matter physics from its 19th century origins to a 21st century “postmodern” integration with the nonlinear dynamics of living and human systems.
Social systems—defined here as large groups of humans relating with each other—are complex in the sense considered here. But it is surprising that, although these systems comprise apparently free and intelligent elements, certain social behaviour observed may be understood by simply assuming that human interaction is similar to that used to understand inanimate matter. This chapter shows how, in effect, cooperative models that underestimate, even deny individuality, manage to describe significant aspects of social reality. (Abstract, “Interacting Humans” chapter)