Comments to DIALOGOS issue #9

The first set of comments are from a teilhardian perspective:

In issue #9 it is stated that most of the evidence seems to suggest an open universe, or this opinion is gaining ground. The implication is that entropy will increase, resulting in the heat death of the universe -- the universe goes out with a whimper instead of a big bang.

It is important to remember that Teilhard discussed two types of energy, radial and tangential. Radial energy is the energy that dominates in mostly inanimate nature, that is, the part of nature that is pre-life. All the theories that describe the open universe describe it in terms of this pre-life condition where radial energy is the dominant energy.

This excludes Teilhard's discussion of tangential energy which is the energy of consciousness which at some point converges, not like our ideas of an open universe. It is the conscious universe which expands and converges even if the pre-life universe diverges.

It is apparent that consciousness is power, even as the universe appears to be losing steam. I do not know how to reconcile these two very different ideas but suggest that if you want to know where the action is, it is where consciousnessas it expands and concverges becomes more powerful, not less as an open universe would suggest.  

David Ham

Editor's Response:  
If Teilhard de Chardin's theories have been left out of the discussion, at least to begin with, it was with an eye to not unduly complicating things.  The fact is that Teilhard, towards the end of his life , although still convinced that the expansion (or better, "increase" ) of consciousness would also eventually result in an ultimate "convergence" of the same (his so-called "Omega-Point"), he was nevertheless growing less and less content with his "tangential" energy  vs. "radial" energy formulation as found in his 1938 masterwork,
which was to be published only after his death as Le phenomene humain (Paris, Editions du Seuil, 1955) and as The Phenomenon of Man (London, Collins, and New York, Harper & Row, 1959). I do not, however, think this formulation or even his afterthoughts had much to do with whether or not the universe was then being currently viewed as "open" or "closed" but instead reflects his conviction that evolution (which he had already deemed to be "infallible" in his 1934 essay "Comment je crois" or "How I Believe") could not come to its conclusion without a lasting or imperishable result. From this point of view, he might just have well have termed these two forms of energy as "physical" and "spiritual" or alternately , "physical" and "psychic".  However, because he was equally convinced that the latter phenomenon or forms of energy emerge from the material or physical matrix, he wished to avoid any terminology that smacked of the ancient matter vs. spirit dualism or which might suggest some kind of extrinsicist or "vitalistic" interpretation of the evolutionary process. For a recent paper delivered on the subject of Teilhard's views reexamined int he light of contemporary cosmology, see this editor's personal web page at http://www.angelfire.com/mi2/stellamar/writings/philtheo/tdccos.htm (RWK. ed)

The next set of comments come from Cristian Andrei in Romania.

The theme of an open-closed universe is obviously something disconcerting. The reason is the concept of infinity the theme is implying. It's not a comfortable concept, with all the progress modernity brought about it. And we are, more than anywhere else, on the ground of hypotheses.

In the summary of his book The Infinite And The World's Infinity: An Epistemological Study (1985),  I. Parvu concludes: "present-day cosmology seeks to gradually accustom itself with the presence of infinites in the multiple dimensions and manifestations of the real, with the idea of a world 'dense of infinites'. From this to the full acceptation of the objectivity and rationality of the infinite the distance is extremely small". (Small, as in the paradox of Achilles and the tortoise.)

I should observe, towards the concise and up-to-date editorial article, that we are facing the same output, in both [the open and closed] scenarios -- homogeneity. Following the scientific effort to explain the "beginning" (before big-bang), with its Grand Unification Theory (GUT), we'll find ourselves putting together "start" and "end" under the label of homogeneity. This is stressed by the self-consistency attribute, advanced by the bootstrap hypothesis (the universe like a subatomic particle) and by the anthropic principle. Cristian Andrei

Yes, and the question of "infinities" would seem to take us back again to both Pascal with his wonderment at the infinitely large and the infinitiely small, as well as to Teilhard with his notion of the "infinitely complex."  In their impressive article on "The Future of the Universe" that appears in the August 1998 issue of Sky & Telescope magazine, Fred C. Adams (University of Michigan) and Gregory Laughlin (University of California, Berkeley) suggest that in the face of the relatively short space of time provided by the evolutionary process within which life as we know it could possibly exist compared to the immensity of the total span of time yet before the universe as it coasts to its inevitable demise, that something like the classical "Copernican Cosmological Principle" (which holds that we do not occupy any privileged location in space) needs to be reformulated in terms of a "Copernican Time Principle" which would hold that "our current cosmological epoch has no special place in the vast expanses of cosmic time...thus exorcis[ing] the last vestiges of anthropocentric thought." (page 39).

It seems to me that like so many other statements pondering the impact of the "Copernican Revolution" on human thought, that they appear to ignore the marvel contained in the paradox that evolution has progressed to the point of complexity where such thoughts can be thought or such articles can be written. That one and a half billion years from now such thought will become impossible on this planet or that in another fifteen billion years that even the stars and galaxies as we know them (hence in all probablity any intelligent life anywhere else in our universe) will cease to exist may be indeed unsettling, but also provocative, we should hope, of another scale of measurement altogether -- one that tips to something other than the quasi-infinity of, or as it turns out, the relative impermanence of space-time. Just as we measure the value of diamonds in terms of their intrisitic quality as the hardest substance on earth as well as their relative scarcity (quantity) in respect to human demand, should not the phenomenon of intelligent thought in the evolution of the universe be seen as a something of great evolutionary significance -- not in spite of its self-referential (hence "anthropocentric") quality but simply as a phenomenon in and by itself?  (RWK)

And now, still more:

I suppose that a strong probability that the universe is open will have serious implications for science and, in particular, cosmology but I have noticed that science (like Christianity) is nothing if not flexible.

As for theological implications arising from an open universe, I cannot think of any which will impact my particular set of beliefs. Both open and closed universes almost certainly have to be enclosed "in" something. That particular something will be the subject of discussion for as long as scientists and theologists choose to speak to each other. And because the something the universe is "in" is objectively unknowable, doubters will continue to challenge and believers will continue to accept.

On another subject, I notice that in many, if not all, articles discussing the relationship of the objective universe to God there is always the unstated assumption that the universe exists only in the present, not in the future nor the past. From a deity's point of view this may very well not be the case. In other words, the apparent randomness of evolution and the required randomness of quantum mechanics are only apparent and required by us, not by the deity. This particular hypothesis has been around for quite some time and is nicely expoused in Victor Stenger's book "The Unconsious Quantum". He has a web site: http://www.phys.hawaii.edu/vjs/www/vjs.html and is definitely worth reading. Perry Bruce

Editor's Comments: Stenger's position in these matters becomes quickly and abundantly clear, especially in his long essay on the anthropic principle as it is being currently debated in the realm of cosmology. Of great interest to me is Stenger's claim that the multiple universe theory does not violate the principle of  "Occam's razor" -- the dictum that in scientific thinking one must not multiply entities beyond what is strictly necessary to explain the phenomenon in question. But this same position is held by Martin Rees, Britain's "Astronomer Royal" in his 1987 book Before the Universe Began: Our Universe and Others. So how many universes does it take to explain the one we've got? (To see my comments about this line of argument, see my review of the Rees book.)


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