Reflexive Universe

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* Book: The reflexive universe : evolution of consciousness. by Arthur Young. Delacorte, 1976

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Seth Miller:

"Arthur Young, in his book The Reflexive Universe, aims to “develop a theory of the evolution of the ‘universe’, and by universe we are referring principally to the one of which man is a part.” (Young, 1976, p. xv). In doing so, he endeavors for an inclusiveness that spans the entire gamut of human experience and knowledge. Particularly, Young seems interested in finding an explanatory model that brings together insights from both the contemporary scientific tradition as well as the myriad profound wisdom traditions of the world.

Young was, in a sense, primarily an engineer, who after 19 years of work, invented the Bell helicopter, partly in order to better understand the physical aspects of the world through testable problems (Young, 1976, p. xviii). It is with an engineer’s mind that Young tackles evolutionary cosmology, and The Reflexive Universe reveals this tendency throughout. Each concept or fact is examined and evaluated with respect to its potential placement within the reflexive model. These facts and concepts seem to be primarily viewed from the outside as pieces of a magnificent puzzle, to be properly oriented and joined with its neighbors to complete a unitary picture. The resulting evolutionary landscape that Young paints offers much to be considered. In this paper I will endeavor to illuminate what I believe to be the most promising. What Young primarily inherits from these traditions (including the scientific tradition, which he sees as entirely congruent with the wisdom traditions (Young, 1976, p.xvi)) is the idea that the universe is purposely evolving through a fractally-structured hierarchical process.

The method that Young takes in this work is one of correspondences – he shows how the data available to a modern person familiar with some mild details of scientific knowledge correspond to the different stages of his cosmological evolutionary process model."



=Arthur Young on the Symmetry of Descent and Ascent in Cosmic and Human Evolution

Excerpted from chapter 4 of the Reflexive Universe:

"I use the word structure to denote the relations of symmetry and other properties of what I call the levels through which process descends and subsequently ascends, as we will demonstrate.

Levels of Descent

In the descent, process loses its freedom in three downward steps. Let us imagine that you are trying to capture a wildcat that has climbed a tree. You lasso him with a rope and make the rope secure. The wildcat can still move about, but he can’t get away. Then you lasso him again and make the second rope fast. The wildcat can still move, but whereas his movement was first confined to a sphere, the pull of the two ropes will constrain it to a circular orbit on a plane. (A circle is the locus of a point equidistant from two given points.) A third rope will complete the process and hold the wildcat in one position.

Similarly, the step down from light to the level of nuclear particles constrains the particle to motion within a sphere (which is the orbit of uncertainty of the electron as described by Heisenberg); the second downward step confines the electron to movement in a circle around the nucleus of the atom; the third to a fixed position of the atom, as in a crystal.

The descent is not continuous; it occurs in three steps. But why necessarily three? In the case of the wildcat, it is clearly because there are three dimensions of space. In the case of process, this three-dimensionality carries over into something more abstract, but still threefold.

To demonstrate, I would like to present three ways of describing the entities of physics in four stages involving three downward steps. The individual levels will be described in more detail later in the book; here we are concerned only with a method for structuring this concept.

1. Division of initial unity

Described one way, the descent is, as we’ve mentioned (see pp. 18ff.), a division of the initial unity or wholeness in the quantum of action into Energy times Time, and Energy into Length times Force.

2. From homogeneity to heterogeneity

But there is another kind of division. This is the decline from homogeneity to heterogeneity of the entities themselves:

  • One kind of photon, which has unit spin2 and no charge.
  • Two kinds of nuclear particles, which have half-spin and are charged positively or negatively; i.e. proton and electron.
  • One-hundred-odd kinds of atom, with various chemical properties.
  • Countless kinds of molecule, with many kinds of properties: mechanical, electrical, chemical, physiological.

3. Change in degrees of certainty

The levels also represent the degrees of certainty which it is possible to have about the entities at the respective stages of process, and these degrees can be correlated to electron volts, a measure of energy.

Level I. The photons at level I are complete in their uncertainty: they are unpredictable. As we have noted, the observation of a photon annihilates it, so that there is nothing left to predict. The energy of a photon that can create a proton is about a billion electron volts, to create an electron about one-half million volts. All photons have total freedom.

Level II. The nuclear particles, electron and proton, created by photons, are the first occurrence of permanent mass and charge, the basic substance of the universe, as compared with the activity of the light that created them. But not all of this activity (or, more correctly, angular momentum) is condensed into mass. For reasons which are still unknown, 1/137 of the angular momentum remains uncommitted, and free. (This 1/137 is known as the fine structure constant.) It is this “freedom” which manifests itself in the uncertainty of position and momentum that characterizes the fundamental particles.

Level III. The atom entails a further reduction, not only in the sense that the charge of the contributing particles is neutralized, but in that the free energy which it radiates or absorbs is drastically reduced to about 10 electron volts (for hydrogen).

Level IV. In the molecule, it is the bonds that have energies, which cover a wide range. We will be interested in the energies of approximately 1/25 of an electron volt, which is that of the average molecule at room temperature. Why? Because according to our theory, it is at this energy level that life becomes possible.

This last energy level, it would appear, is the working base that process has to reach before it can start building up again. By this, we mean building the complex organic molecules such as proteins and DNA that are the basis of life, which requires a temperature between O and 45 degrees centigrade."

Symmetry of Descent and Ascent

"There are several possibilities, but the one that is clearest, because it is visual, draws on the well-known, though neglected, symmetries of minerals, plants, and animals. This was first brought to my attention by Fritz Kunz, who discussed the subject in his article “On the Symmetry Principle.”

While D’Arcy Thompson in Growth and Form devotes a large part of his thousand-page work to the subject of symmetry, he does not appear to notice the eloquently simple fact that the kingdoms may be distinguished by symmetry."


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