18 December, 2011


A regularly used epithet?

Every now and then some individual is celebrated as being a real "genius".

Whether he is merely skilfully juggling a football, singing with great beauty, painting a few walls, memorising vast numbers of names and ideas or coming up with a revolutionary new theory, they all get this extreme title, yet I would be hard-pressed to agree to such an appellation to any apart, possibly, from the last example.

For though most of us spend our lives using what others have given us (in one way or another), the occasional individual does come along who transcends prior conceptions and assumptions, and sees, for the first time, a further dimension of Reality.

To append some built-in, already-existing quality to that individual (He's a genius!) misses the real point entirely. Something has happened in that person's thinking, which completely overturns the usual, generally held ideas, and moves into a wholly new scenario, in which many things begin to make sense, more profoundly than ever before.

If such an overturn happened in Society, it would be called a Revolution, and when a similar thing happened on this planet, among systems of non-living chemical processes within related entities, there was a major transformation, which we have termed the Origin of Life on Earth.

As it turns out, such events have been happening rarely but regularly, and definitely essentially, throughout the history of the Universe. They are termed Emergences!

And they are never just "developments" as we usually conceive of them, but in fact cataclysmic overturns to a current, long-term Stability, and involve a subsequent ascent to a wholly new Level of Stability, with vastly more entities, properties and processes than were possible before that transforming occurrence.

Indeed, when positioned within the normal flow of History, these Emergences are short, dramatic episodes between relatively unchanging and long-lasting Stabilities. And, literally all of our knowledge and understanding is based almost entirely, and very selectively, upon these long epochs of Stability. So we are therefore so lacking in being able to deal with certain areas of Qualitative Change, that the Emergences, when they come, are never predicted as Events, and can also never be described in any predicted detail, even when they are in actual process. What contents they will produce are always totally unpredictable before the event. They are entirely unknowable. 

They are always bolts-from-the-blue, and, even more perplexingly, they are invariably the final result of an enormous catastrophic collapse in the prior Stability, which, if anything, seems to promise only destruction and chaos.

Indeed, via studies (retrospectively) of periods in the history of human societies when Revolutions did, in fact, occur, we could only ever discern the prior drives towards collapse - never any possible positive and constructive moves at all. And dreamers, who desired such events to rid their societies of repressive regimes, always assumed that such events would free things up once and for all.

But serious study of Emergences has shown that they only arrive and remain at a new higher stable Level, by being as strongly conservative as the previous regime - to ensure the continuing survival of the new Level.

So clearly, knowing so little about these events, and also inevitably packing their study with stability-based and extracted "laws" and myths (not to mention dreams), means that when it is the revolution in the thoughts of a "genius", we are hopelessly ill-equipped to say anything meaningful or helpful about what happened in that person's head. Yet as active social revolutionaries know, you cannot just observe a revolution occurring, all by itself, and wait for the "good times to roll". You have to have objectives to be achieved during the creative inner phase of the Revolution itself, for even if the New Level is achieved, major changes thereafter will certainly be impossible. Such can only happen in the mêlée of the event itself.

Now, such lessons can help when we are considering all kinds of other forms of Emergences including, of course, within Thinking. The question must be, "What must be done to facilitate such an Event (if anything)?"

The feature of Emergences which always acts against any such objectives, is the evident opacity of any yet-to-occur overturns of this nature. We cannot predict its detailed creations!

In a world totally without any Life, of any sort whatsoever, living things could never be even conceived of: they appeared on Earth as a kind of miracle, so devastating that a single initial organism rapidly spread to a prodigious extent across the Globe. And also "no one" attempting to predict the nature of such entirely new entities, would ever have got anything even remotely right, even if some sort of alien observer could have been present, and guessing what would happen next!

An Emergence is a very special kind of calamity, best illustrated by the metaphor of "The Phoenix arising from the Flames of Destruction". For that certainly fits most known Emergences. 

But how does this relate to Genius?
Another common metaphor is that, "There is a fine dividing line between genius and madness!" Such clichés are, of course, beguiling suggestions, but one-liners never deliver anything more than the merest glimpse of what is happening: the truism.

But recent research can deliver something, for where Emergences are studied it becomes clear that NO Stability is eternal. Each and every one always contains the seeds of its own demise within it, and when they finally cause the ultimate cataclysm of dissociation, that dismantles that stability, they will return the situation back(?) to some state with no real order, and that means no prohibitory or self-maintaining constraints will remain, they will all have been swept away.

And it is only in such seemingly ultimate turmoil that the productive capacity of Reality towards Order asserts itself. For without the abundant constraints of an established and stable order these can develop conducive and productive relationships and actual multi-process systems begin to appear. Clearly and importantly, such forms of Order will emerge, and they can never be a repeat of the similar process, which established the prior stability. For the very occurrence of that epoch will have changed things, and its produced detritus, after dissolution, will remain despite the calamity, and will enable wholly new forms, impossible in the prior Emergence. Thus as they say, "You can never swim in the same river twice!", it is always a different river, and so it is with the potentials in the Chaos produced by the cataclysm of dissociation that initiates all Emergences.

When it comes to the emergence of genius, the break through will have been precipitated by a breakdown of all bankers, which assured that prior stability. The individual will be cast into such Chaos, and will inevitably see new things and certainly new possibilities.

But, as the Theory of Emergences has shown, there is no obvious or easy ascent! The creation Phase in an Emergence always involves, in fact, a violent zigzag between the creation of new Order, and its immediate dissociation. Such an inevitable absolute cancellation is not what always happens, however, because gains can be made, but only by the marrying of system orientated constraints, which oppose both dissociation and rival constructions too.

A permanent achievement of a new and persisting stability is never guaranteed though. Unless a viable and self maintaining system with adequate constraints is created, the final stability will not emerge, and the situation will either remain in the pair of chaotic alternating construction and dissolution processes, or retrench back to a previous stability. 

Madness in genius is the seemingly permanent limbo of this incessant zigzag.

Of course, when it comes to ideas in the Human Brain, we are effectively in a wholly new realm, that no longer obeys its wired-in patterns of behaviour elicited by triggers in sense perceptions, but instead "simulates" internally the consequences of possible phenomena and their built-in processes. Indeed, this aspect of particularly human thought requires learning, and definitely the ability to think critically; such processes actively seek breakthroughs - Emergences in Thought! 

The initial work on Emergences was by Hegel and addressed this very same area.

So, though we can use the discovered trajectory of "An Emergence" to help us consider such happenings, we are, once again, looking at Form, rather than Content.

To consider a supernova, the Origin of Life and Human Consciousness as exactly the same kind of event, is obviously rubbish. So, what we do is notice their similar trajectories of change, and sequences of phases, even though what is happening in concrete details will be vastly different. And, in an important sense, what happens within the Human Brain is happening in a "different Universe" of possibilities to all prior concrete instances of these Events.

For, instead of them being overtly physical systems (such as those underlying these processes inside the brain as strictly chemical and electrical activities), we are instead considering things at an entirely different Level of the organisation of matter. We will NEVER reduce such things to those physical/chemical processes, just as we will never reduce Life to purely non-living chemical processes. To attempt to understand it that way misses the whole nature of Emergences.

For these mighty versions create wholly new Levels, which, though they include and use multiple processes from prior Levels, are maintained and controlled at the new Level by entirely new meta-processes totally impossible at any prior level alone.

In conclusion, we cannot "arrange for" genius, just as we cannot engineer a revolution. We are more likely to do the opposite of what is required, for such occurrences look like their absolute opposite in their unavoidable primary dissolutionary phase. 

And incorrect uses of the term certainly don't help.
Stephen Fry is not a genius: neither is David Beckam.

Hegel, on the other hand, certainly was.

09 November, 2011

The Red Herring of Observation

I have received much criticism from the YouTube brigade on my Double Slit animation, for not fully addressing the role of the observer / quantum erasers et al. This was never my intention with the work, which was addressing how electrons could build up an interference pattern in the Double Slit, without the need for resorting to probability distribution, which I see as a mathematical "trick" to get the right answer. I hope the following papers will help to clarify my position on this aspect of Quantum Physics.

Issue 21 of SHAPE

First part of a two-part issue on the Shell-Shaped Universe
(see video in previous post)
Part 2 will be published in Issue 22 of the Shape Journal next month.

“Chasing the Do-able” may well accelerate growth in Science, but the consequences will invariably, as in all such undertakings, cause the growth to be both etiolated and aberrant by such a process, with a major canker at its very heart, almost unavoidably included from the start. And Cosmology is certainly no different! Vast strides have been made, but have they all been in the right direction? The answer has to be a resounding,”No!”

How can such conceptions as Physical Singularities and Parallel Universes be anything other than frigs imported from that seductive World of Pure Form alone, which we term Ideality? And the nature of that “door” to such developments can, at the time of opening and entry seem to be not only harmless, but also positively encouraging. For in that wide-open view, all things seem eminently do-able.

The turning points were, of course, Einstein’s contribution on Relativity and the general acceptance of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory as bases for an entirely new turn in Physics and Cosmology.

No longer was Explanation the “number one” priority! Mathematics and the worship of Equations seemed eminently preferable. But also, many consequent assumptions were unavoidably taken as the foundations for this New World, and not least was the belief that light could propagate across entirely Empty Space without any transmitting medium whatsoever, and to “solve” the resulting problems, the Particulate Nature of Light (via moving Photons), became a cornerstone of the new system.

The following, alternative set of ideas, in contrast, turns its back upon such premises, and instead requires a particular form of medium for light propagation, and therefore makes transmission across totally Empty Space impossible. By such changes, the whole Universe is transformed!

Now, to immediately proceed along such a route cannot be done. For, though some sort of self-consistent body of ideas can be constructed, there are other, much more profound and significant philosophical standpoints and consequent methodologies to be addressed too. We must start by not looking forwards to the New Ideas, but by looking back to the Big Bang itself, and seeing it in a wholly new way.

Issue 22 will continue investigating these ideas and look deeper into their ramifications. We also have a new video up on our youtube channel, boldly titled, The Shape of the Universe!

28 October, 2011

The Shell-Shaped Universe

What Shape is the Universe?

A new issue will follow this video in coming days, explaining further how the theory of Empty Photons could have dramatic ramifications on how we see the Universe. Could the known Universe exist in a thin shell? Could every galaxy be an illusion? Watch this space to find out more...

08 September, 2011

New Special Issue on Form & Probability

This Special was a commendable task!

It was intended to reveal the nature of statistical and probabilistic Law as a special type wedded indissolubly to experimental evidence, and the revelation of this was to be a plank in the final and complete criticism of the Copenhagen approach to Science, as put forward by Bohr and Heisenberg. And it is a contribution to that objective! But, it certainly isn’t, as yet, part of a comprehensive argument.

It got deflected into absolutely necessary component issues, and diligently followed various lines, that were revealed as having to be solved to have any hope of completing the full task. In such crucial reversals of methods a whole range of component issues have to be addressed prior to a final integration: The terminally ill but not yet dead semi-copse has to be seen to its final demise, before we bury it for ever!

I am sure that this offering will energise others, as it has this writer, for the task is essential, and the rewards will be prodigious. Sub-Atomic Physics was wrecked upon the rocks of real Qualitative Change and the emergence of Levels within the development of Reality. And such problems (in all areas of Science) will only be properly addressed when the problems raised in this area of Physics are finally solved for good!

14 August, 2011

Issue 20 of SHAPE

This issue of SHAPE Journal contains a closely related series of papers, in which the trajectory of significant qualitative change in an Emergence is tackled,diagrammatically. Of course, the elements of such considerations are still concepts, processes and transformations, but the spatial idioms of diagrams delivers that extra “dimension” of simultaneous portrayal, which does, indeed, allow quite involved transitions to be laid out, considered and significantly improved.

A words-only argument can be as much about winning as revealing, and it is clear to this author that without these kinds of diagrams, we would not only find solving such problems considerably more difficult, but we would also be bereft of the best initial means of communicating the ideas involved too.

The trajectory of Creative Change in an Emergence, such as that of the Origin of Life on Earth, involves contradictions, phase changes, and major transformations – even of the probabilities of events, and it is these features that must be understood. These papers do not complete the job, but they were fundamental in the creation and publication of this author’s Theory of Emergences in 2010.

22 July, 2011

New Special Issue on Empty Photons

What is Intelligence?

In the article Claws for Thought in New Scientist (2819), Emma Young ranges about various studies in the animal world to find evidence that convinces her that “animals lie on a kind of spectrum, from a primitive kind of awareness, to the rich and complex stream of thoughts in the human mind”. And in doing this reveals that she (and those she refers to in her piece) have a pluralist approach to such questions.

By this I mean that every animal is measured against Intelligence (–the human kind) to see if they have it, or part of it, and this seems to reveal a continuous range with Human Intelligence at the top, and lower animals with this same commodity, having ascended, step by step, some way at least towards this ultimately possible state. You might ask why such is deemed to be pluralist (in the philosophical sense and not either the religious or political senses). Well, Plurality sees everything in terms of Wholes and their constituent Parts, and hence any investigative process attempting to reveal the nature of things is basically analytic, applied first to an observable Whole, and subsequently to each of its Parts, to thereafter make possible an explanation of the original Whole.

From the outset, perhaps centuries ago, the property of intelligence was allocated only to Human Beings, and other “mechanisms”, such as hard-wired instincts were awarded to all those below the qualifying limit.

But, such a standpoint has long been severely undermined, but the alternative of a spectrum cannot be any better, for it implies quantity rather than quality – amount rather than wholly new processes, and even, perhaps, that it is sufficient quantity of what is involved that can jack things up to each and every Level in this range of the given facility.

Yet, the study of Development in general shows that such is never the case. Significant Qualitative Change only happens in short-period interludes termed Emergences, which are NOT mere stages in a particular quantitative spectrum of changes, but actually totally transforming revolutions. And these transformations are never incremental. Indeed, they involve seemingly terminal crises initiated by wholesale avalanches of dissolution, which only when that process has dismantled the situation almost to the state of complete chaos, does it turn round and then create the wholly New.

And when this is used as a template for development, and hence in Evolution too, the work must be to first identify these crises, and explain why they occurred, as well as the following creative phase which brings in wholly new qualities and establishes a New Level of Reality. With such a development scenario the changes are neither gradual or incremental, but revolutionary, and each major advance involves a significant step-change in possibilities, so ideally each of these new Levels should have its own unique name: they are not all the same but differing in quantity: no spectrum of these Levels can be constructed.

Therefore, Intelligence in Humanity is not a general quality with different amounts at each Level of development.

To assume the latter merely becomes the apportioning of amount to each phase without any investigation of how the Event of Transformation occurred. Instead, it is assumed to have merely increased by some pedestrian process which when passing an important threshold (merely of quantity) enabled the “new facilities”.

No! I’m afraid this is not how these things occur!

And to do as the researchers into the Origin of Life on Earth do, and merely study the prior conditions for the actual causes of the development will (as it continues to do in that important area) always and inevitably fail. Even the searching for the causes of a Revolution in prior circumstances will also be inadequate.

What has to be addressed is the relationships between Stability and Emergence, - so that the studying of prior circumstances can only deliver reasons for the initial crisis and cataclysm, and not for its resolution within the creative Phase of the Emergence.

For such a study must expose the real dynamic or trajectory of changes within an Emergence, and also deliver why the New is ever possible. My point is that the kind of research related in this article, with its implied current methodology is doomed to never reveal what is actually happening, and why, but indeed it is merely logging what appears and when.

17 June, 2011

Issue 19 of SHAPE

In this issue of SHAPE Journal we carry on with the next installment of The Demise of Formalism. A significant part of this part of the paper addresses the essential change of standpoint that is necessary when tackling Emergent Change, from the usual formal and pluralist approach to a dramatically different holisitic one!

Also in this edition we are trying out a very different structure to a standard issue of the Journal. Not, I must hasten to add, in the Design or in the Content of SHAPE, but both in the quantity that we publish in a single issue, and in the intrinsic relationships between the set of papers included.

In the past we have divided all of the longer papers into a series of installments, which were then spread over a series of issues episodically - and we usually only had three unrelated topics in each issue. The success of the Special Issues of SHAPE has demonstrated to us that that choice was mistaken, and complaints have made it clear that more coherence and continuity would be acheived by publishing related sets of papers within a given issue.

So, for a few issues at least (and maybe for much longer) we will be changing our policy. First, the issues will be larger in size. The articles will be longer than the original 1000 word limit, there will be more of them, and they will tend to be all upon a related or even on an identical topic.

In this issue, therefore, will be seven separate contributions, thus raising the content well above the usual limit, though in this first tryout we have chosen fairly short papers with more diagrams. Most of these were written at different times starting 4 years ago, and it is interesting that the very act of composing this latest version has catapulted the editor into another bout of writing on the same topic. Clearly, it is hoped that this format will reveal something of the actual development of the ideas involved, and may even elicit more contributory responses from our readers.

This current set is on Positive Feedback scenarios, which turned out to be an absolutely crucial concept on the creation of the Theory of Emergences and in radically transforming in the research into the Origin of Life on Earth.

15 June, 2011


Why was there such a thing as Shadow Theatre?
It is, in a way, a kind of minimalist means of telling a story, but it also involves the most striking symbols of the types of people, places and events that are involved. And I characterise them as symbols with good reason: images or representations would be simply not appropriate. For they are immediately recognisable, and can “perform” in standard recognisable ways all sorts of “characteristic” actions, which would be difficult to present in a real theatre with actors and props (though in Far Eastern theatrical traditions, and ancient Greek Theatre, they did also attempt to do it with masks and/or dramatic costumes).

The suspension of disbelief was considered paramount; so the inadequacy of direct portrayal by perhaps less-than-convincing human representations, and the use of symbols seemed to greatly aid this requirement. Also, the ambiguity involved in using shadows allowed the imaginations of the audience to “fill-in” what was not there, and also allowed the effects, possible with shadows, could also be put to “magical” uses. The rhythm of the actions and the possibility of transformations by merely changing the angle of presentation of the puppets (or even the distance from the screen to deliver indefinite, ghostlike” images, could elicit in the audience a magical imperative of a story-line, almost impossible by other means at that time. It was, indeed, a very telling means of delivering a known and striking legend or myth.

Four different shadow views of the same object
demonstrating the illusory effects of shadow distortions

Now, this brief introduction may surprise its readers, when they discover that this essay is actually about Mathematics!

The writer is both a mathematician and a scientist, and has for many years sought a characterisation of what is involved in these two seemingly closely related areas, but which turn out to be very differently grounded. They turn out to be not the most comfortable bedfellows by any measure of means.

By far the most difficult to pin down was always Mathematics. It is, at the same time, considered both as the most abstract representation of Reality, while also its inner imperative – its actual driving force! And these are certainly inherently contradictory characterisations.

How can Form – the substance of all Mathematics, be both abstract and also the cause of all concrete phenomena? The only answer is that it cannot be both!

Yet, some seemingly sublime things can be unearthed by Mathematics alone, so what is actually going on? What is Mathematics really? What does it deliver? Can it really be the essence of Reality?
These are important questions, and are, even by the giants in those fields of endeavour and explanation, very poorly understood. Indeed, the whole History of Science (and even of Philosophy) has displayed a constant oscillation between disembodied Form and Concrete Content as the basis of Everything – indeed between Idealism and Materialism! And sometimes, the imposition of what are clearly idealised Forms upon aspects of Reality has proved amazingly fruitful, and even in the most surprising applications, for solving real, everyday problems.

Nothing could be more idealised than Euclidian Geometry with its dimensionless dots, and lines of zero thickness, not to mention its perfect circles and infinite perfectly flat planes. And yet it proved to be packed full of resonances with certain aspects of Reality and was so formally coherent that sound proofs could be constructed within this Ideal World alone! It empowered Man to solve real problems in his concretely existing World, by tackling them in a totally idealised World! No wonder these early mathematicians endowed their subject with transcendental properties to deliver the actual essences of Reality.

But, of course, it simply wasn’t true! It did not deliver a single CAUSE!

It delivered what came to be called Pure Form (unadulterated by the noise and dirt of the Real World) And knowing and understanding Form of itself could be extremely useful, even when applied in a much more complex real World. Indeed, it proved (much later in History) to be possible to manipulate Reality to clearly expose such Ideal Forms, which “proved” once and for all that these essences simply must be there! How could you reveal something that was merely a figment of your imagination? NO, you were extracting something that Reality actually contained!

The careful construction of appropriate Domains of Reality, with the control and even the suppression of many factors could indeed transform a situation, so that the most important relations were exposed clearly, and could be both extracted and presented mathematically as Equations.

Man did seem to be exposing the hidden essences of Reality, and they were indeed Forms! The World appeared to be constructed out of multiple contributing Forms, which Mankind was getting increasingly better at extracting, manipulating and even using! But, the question still hung there unanswered, “Could purely abstract relations actually cause concrete phenomena, or were the concrete phenomena generating Universal Forms?”

After many attempts to correctly characterise Mathematics, which had to explain how what seemed to be intrinsic Form, it was clear that these could not only be recognised and extracted, but then could be manipulated in isolation from its place in the concrete World, to some really useful purpose. There was something clearly objective even in abstract Mathematics! What could it be?

Perhaps the Shadow Theatre could throw some light upon these questions!

I suddenly realised that doing Mathematics was like shining a powerful light to reveal only the Shape of things by the shadows that they could cast! The analogy was more than a clever, but superficial, construct. It included the possibility that different things could cast very similar shadows, and were also capable of misinterpretation! Shadows require not only a source of light, but also a receiving surface, where the shadows could be cast. And the nature of the latter could certainly both select single Forms from many, or even distorts them markedly. Yet measurements of such shadows would still contain some Objective Content: they would have been caused by real concrete set ups. Even though the receiving surface could be at an angle, or curved, or even uneven, they would never be valueless, they would still contain real features of the original, though mediated by the overall circumstances of their projection upon the receiving surface. Even the nature of the casting light would have its effect but would never be arbitrary. Imagine the difference between the shadows projected by a point source of light upon a flat surface compared with a spherical surface surrounding both the light of the object to be studied.

Giorgio de Chirico's architectures of shadow

Yet the very limitations of Form delivered by such means, was simplified, without totally losing any objectivity. Even in a distorted shadow, there will still be Objective Content from the really existing concrete source. And the mixture of simplification and Objective Content could be very informative, especially if the simplification could be appropriately controlled and adjusted to expose a chosen feature.

Finally, the constancy of capture – shadows on a screen, would certainly impose a consistency on the things studied – a crackable universality. So, if all this is legitimate we have Mathematics as the Shadowland of Reality – a filter and a dramatisation that does facilitate the possibility of a beginning to its understanding.

Yet it also removes forever the idea that Form exposes the driving essences of Reality. That clearly is a myth!

01 June, 2011

New Special Issue on the Origin of Life

SHAPE Special Issue 5

An Assault on The Origin of Life
The Ground and Proposal for a new Miller's Experiment

This Special does not deliver a final solution to the Origin of Life on Earth, but it does both ask and answer many of the crucial questions without which such a task would be impossible.

It defines a new and necessary standpoint for a scientific attempt on this question, which has from the outset been forced to abandon the current, universally accepted ground for all scientific work. It has had to turn its back upon Plurality (the Whole and its Parts), Universal Reductionism, Formal Logic and the wholly idealistic belief in Reality being the product of eternal formal laws, and replace all of these with a steadfastly holisitic view, which turns out to be the only way to address revolutionary Qualitative Changes as are clearly involved in this stupendous Event.

It turns away from the Sciences of Stability and towards the Science of Qualitative Change, and to do this, extracts from a wide range of similar Emergence Events, what must be involved to create the Wholly New. But, to make such a switch is, without doubt, highly dangerous, because unlike the consensus standpoint in the Stability Sciences there is NO well-defined and soundly established standpoint and tested methodology. Nowhere can a holisitic scientific standpoint be looked up and implemented. It has had to be devised! And because of this, it will necessarily be incomplete.

Nevertheless, the gains that came from even a few sound holistic priciples, and a great deal of research, have made the outlines of such an approach conceivable and indeed applicable too. 

The crucial and necessary task was to rescue Miller's wonderful experiment from its unavoidable cul-de-sac, in which, though it was able to demonstrate that amino acids could be naturally produced from an emulation of the Earth's primaeval atmosphere and shallow tropical seas, it could not reveal how this had happened. To intervene in such a complex natural process to check what was going on would have broken the isolation necessary to make it entirely self-moving. But, by employing the new standpoint and using the latest available techniques, those weaknesses have been solved, and a major part of this Special Issue is in a long paper defining the New Miller's Experiment.

Other questions, answered incorrectly by many at present, who are more influenced by the need to acquire funding or join the consensus, than in finding the truth, had to be properly established as part of this approach. The questions "Where?", "What?", "How?", "When?", and "Why?" were addressed, and many important discoveries found, which turned out to be vital in tackling this, the most important of all current scientific questions.

A type of Truly Natural Selection, before Life had arrived, had to be established, and shown to be instrumental in a rapid, directed rush-to-order in this Event. And most important of all was the realisation of unavoidable osciallation between long-term stability, and episodic revolutionary Emergence Events, which constitute the actual rhythm of Development in Reality. This was finally released in 2010 as The Theory of Emergences, and published in a previous Special on this Journal. Finally, the various build-up-to and analyse-down-to routes to the Origin of Life were shown to be profoundly mistaken, and the essential nature of both DNA and the Cell as being the point at which Life actually appeared, debunked to allow the addressing of the real questions.

I have now contributed six years to tackling these questions, and I hope that this initial Special (there will also be several others) will help others to also tread the new exciting path of Qualitative Holistic Science that is being erected now!

11 May, 2011

First Life - Review

In David Attenborough’s new series on BBC TV, he considers the trajectory of Life from just after its Origin onwards. He, so far at least, doesn’t get involved with the so-called pre-requisites for Life, nor the most difficult of all questions – the actual Process of Origin, but he does address the almost incomprehensible tempo of development in Early Life.

He initially starts by standing in Charnwood Forest (near Leicester in England) where he points out a very early fossil, discovered by a pupil from his own school (at which I taught for a while). Indeed, it is perhaps the most famous – Charnia (named after where it was found). But the age of such very early fossils was only somewhat less than 600 million years old (from the Pre Cambrian geological era), and he goes on to reveal the discovery of fossils as old as over 3 billion years that have since been revealed. Yet the crucial question about this early phase in the evolution of Life has to be “Why did it take so long (around 3 billion years) to get from these early, but indisputable glimmerings of Life to Charnia?”

Sadly, though, just as you’re getting interested, he goes on to repeat the current NASA-led prejudice, which insists that the location of the very First Life on Earth was at the Black Smoker emissions in the depths of the major oceans. [A position considered absolutely necessary by NASA for it to continue to get its required prodigious funding. Their argument being “If life could begin on Earth in seemingly impossible places, it might also be found in similarly impossible places in Space, so give us the funding we required to find it!]

Though he doesn’t say it, Attenborough infers that the reason for the deadly-slow early tempo of Life, was the prodigious isolation of the Black Smokers in the depths of the oceans from the required highly conducive areas for the rest of its development. It may have started there, but to develop further it had to get away to better conditions.

But, we aren’t funded by the US government (as is NASA), and we don’t have to take up such a position.

Let us assume the much more likely location for the Origin of Life on Earth – NOT in those dark, pools amid a totally hostile and vastly extended context, but in highly conducive, rich and varying circumstance bathed in the light and heat of the sun, and with world-wide surface currents and quickly moving atmosphere to transport all sorts of different components into an ever changing mix. I’m sorry, but I am amazed at the current consensus on this important question! Don’t these non-experts know that the consensus is always wrong, and is generally created and propagated by those with a vested interest, and the resources to publicise it?

Now, the same vast delay would still have to be explained, but not so easily using the pigeon-holes provided by NASA, and then shelved!

Why would the first Life not immediately diversify?

To really address such a question, we would have to tackle it from the exact opposite end!

Why did Life later on diversify and multiply at ever more accelerated rates? And why did certain forms remain almost unchanged for hundreds of millions of years? And exactly how did the clearly necessary conditions for both these cases actually occur? The question turns out to be a philosophically basic one about Stability and Change. The generally accepted prejudice about such things is that once the impossibility of something has been breached, and the impossible has actually appeared, it will accelerate away in multiple directions. It will accelerate away, but NOT in multiple directions.

It will proliferate in a SINGLE direction!

Nothing persists, no matter how often it appears, unless it is part of a system, which prevents other changes. The New has to become part of a system, which actively maintains itself by acting against all further (and threateningly rival) developments, even if they could be “better”! The norm is that Stability is always very highly conservative, and once established will inhibit, devour or destroy any further, similar forms of change to itself. Indeed, qualitative change is rare, and can only succeed if the currently prevailing stability becomes totally compromised, and a cataclysmic dissociation dismantles ALL its defensive maintaining and inhibitory processes.

You need a calamity to precipitate “real change”

NOTE: Now, before we go any further, we should consider the situation of First Life!
It would NOT be part of any system, when it first occurred, and it would certainly fail! Indeed, many different potentially first Life entities would appear and disappear even in highly conducive circumstances. But, there would be significant changes. A few mutually conducive processes – both living and non living could come together and co-operate as a mini-system, and as such would begin to proliferate at the expense of other less conducive or even mutually contending! Only when a set of processes persisted could we signal the actual beginning of Life.
But it would NOT generate a variety of different forms. On the contrary, its success would depend in its inhibition of such occurrences. The First would proliferate as a SINGLR form, to a vast extent, and everywhere prohibiting further alternative “successes”.
Indeed, as with the much later Stromatolites the norm would always be this vast single-form proliferation. In the case of these Stromatolites, it was worldwide and sufficient to actually change the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, with a vast increase in free Oxygen, in spite of its high reactiveness.

Now returning to our point about the necessity of calamity to cause significant qualitative change. This is embodied in the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Rust never sleeps!), which makes deterioration the most ubiquitous tendency in Reality. Now, even that powerful tendency can be kept at bay, for long periods, but never finally defeated!

Now, the usual optimistic idea of development is that small, incremental improvements can accumulate until a progressive revolution is precipitated, which leads to significant qualitative change.

But that is a hope-filled Myth! The only guaranteed cumulative processes are those towards dissolution, and even without any externally-caused calamity, a given stability will, in the end, fall apart, and an avalanche of dissolutory change will carry the situation towards a total loss of any kind of Form – indeed, towards Random Chaos! But, such a calamity turns out to be the ONLY possible situation in which significant wholly-new changes can begin to occur. And this is because the defensive and attacking processes of the prior stability have been removed!

NOW, anything can happen!

And it does!

All sorts of conducive processes, which reinforce one another will now be selected as against contending ones, and without the policing processes of the prior stability, and will proliferate.

Though the more successful they are, the more the dissolutory processes will again grow to dismantle them. It looks as though all will fail! But, though the overall situation does indeed seesaw between progressive construction and dissolution, a very remarkable alliance is possible. Certain dissolutory processes can turn out to be advantageous to a developing proto-system, for they could benefit from the system for their own required resources. They can emerge as the policemen of the proto-system, and the seesaw changes are nevertheless generally upwards.

At a certain point the proto-system can become established and persist! A new continuing stability or Level has occurred full of wholly new things. But surprisingly its continued existence is, in the last analysis, down to its own defending dissolutory processes aimed specifically at all which are NOT of that system. The revolution only succeeds by being opposed to further change It stops all further qualitative change! Things grind to a halt in innovative terms. Indeed, such systems can proliferate quantitatively, and “take over the World”, but do not allow further or general significant qualitative change.

These revolutionary Events are, of course, Emergences, and the new regimes, which they establish are termed Emergent Levels. Life is just such a Level. The conundrum of why Life doesn’t keep reappearing from non-living situations is thus explained. It is prevented by already existing Life.

Class and Consciousness

I have contributed an article on class to my son's blog, The Red Eye Portal.
Click here if you are interested in reading it.

30 April, 2011

The Red Eye Portal

New blog from Shape Journal contributor Mick Schofield. News, Views and Reviews from the Left of Field.

29 April, 2011

Review: Horizon - Before the Big Bang

At last it seemed that the crucial unanswered questions were finally being addressed.
What had happened before the Big Bang? What had actually caused it to occur?”

But, I should have known better! What causes can you ever find when you have long ago dispensed with such things, for mathematical forms of its essential equations?

New Special Issue on the Big Bang - The Origin

Issue 18 of Shape

Shape Down

Sorry everybody, it would appear we're having some problems with our website host for the journal.
We're still trying to find out exactly why the site is down, and will endeavor to have it up and running again as soon as we can.

02 April, 2011

Understanding Intelligence?

If I was going there, I wouldn't have started from here!

Photograph by Mick Schofield

The expression "You can't see the Wood for the Trees!" is ever resonant in the ways that we usually consider the World. I never realised it before, but it relates to our profound belief (our assumption) that Plurality is the way of the World; that the essence of all phenomena is contained within their "constituent Parts", and the converse of this - that properties of the Whole can be totally reproduced by means of the mere provision and juxtaposition of all these Parts.

Indeed, the major criticism of Plurality is that it exactly equates the Parts revealed, isolated and extracted by artificial erection of Domains, with its "brother" relation, as it exists, in the coherent real World Whole.

But, of course, that is NOT the case! It is merely a "useful" simplification used by scientists.
No matter how much we learn about the specimen forms of trees, grown in splendid and perfectly arranged isolation, such knowledge can never reveal, from that alone, the full full qualities of the Wood or Forest.

Yet, this assumption is ubiquitous (hence the saying above to counter it), and once you realise it, clear cases of it appear absolutely everywhere, and then stick out like sore thumbs, where previously they were "invisible". In a recent New Scientist (2784) there is an article entitled The 12 Pillars of Wisdom which is introduced in the very first sentence with:
    "Can we ever understand intelligence? Only by building it up from its component parts"

The point is proven, is it not?
Now I could belabour the point throughout the whole length of that contribution, but I won't. The key point necessary has been made! Clearly the writer believes he is going to bring together as many aspects of "intelligence" extracted by various pluralist means, in order to deliver the nature of intelligence. But that is impossible. Many new things may be there, and the article will be worth reading for those things alone, but they will not, and indeed cannot deliver the secret of intelligence!

That would certainly involve a very different approach grounded soundly upon some understanding of the episodes of revolutionary qualitative change known as Emergences. For only when we begin to grasp how all such changes emerge, NOT as the consequence of the mere juxtaposition and summation of only small incremental changes, but as the reality-changing result of dramatic revolution.

05 March, 2011

The Life Factory

(Natural Selection before Life?)

Perhaps surprisingly, scientists have finally returned to Miller’s famous experiment concerning the Origin of Life on Earth, but with the purpose of going beyond the limited achievements of that effort so many years ago (1952). In an article in New Scientist (2797) by Katherine Sanderson the ideas of Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow were presented, which put forward a new slant on that experiment. Along with the rest of the NASA-led sheep, he is persuaded that Life did NOT originate in such circumstances as were the basis for Miller’s Experiment, but in much more surprising places, such as the “black smokers” at the bottom of the oceans, or even at one of the many other unlikely places (that could even be found elsewhere in the Solar System, and even more distantly in the Universe, and hence justify the funding that NASA needs “to investigate”)

Now Cronin’s other new point is that there must have been a whole series of developments in the chemistry involved (in our case organic chemistry, but not necessarily there in other parts of the Universe) prior to Life. And in this he is certainly correct!

Of course, the actual mechanism for selection and development, or even “evolution” in these non-living things could not be Darwin’s Natural Selection, for the processes involved in that are predicated upon Life already being in existence, and upon competition between living organisms.
So some very different form of selection and consequent development must have occurred based upon an entirely different mechanism, to take the “organic broth”, to a position in which all the necessary processes, which would later be included into Life itself were made available.
NOTE: BUT both he, and almost all others investigating this field, assumes that Life was the direct result of the presence of such processes, which almost automatically shifted over into this New Form. But this is NOT the only conception of what actually happened. Indeed the main alternative has Life emerging out of a precipitated catastrophe of dissolution of a prior stability.

So taking his conception of pre-Life selection AND his idea of a direct precipitation of Life, he believes that he has a way of investigating such pre-Life developments. AND, significantly, that they could happen anywhere, and NOT just on Earth. [It begins to sound even more conducive to NASA’s conceptions, does it not?]

Cronin et al do indeed recognise an unavoidable pre-Life development period, in which, long before we could call it Life, there were processes “competing” for the same resources, and thus producing a strong selective effect on a sufficiently initially diverse mix of processes to lead to the dominance of certain sequences of systems of processes. Indeed, though his method is to establish such processes as generally available by experiment with his Polyoxometalates, the idea has already been developed theoretically by this author (J. Schofield) in Organic Chemistry in his paper Truly Natural Selection (2009), and published the following year in SHAPE Journal on the Internet. But Cronin’s experiment expects what he calls autonomous developments to occur right there in his apparatus, and considers that the only extras required to take things to significant levels, will be the external adjustments to various available parameters, and this is, I’m afraid, doomed to failure.

This is because he assumes a continuous, incremental series of steps travelling uninterruptedly through to Life itself, and that is never how such things actually develop. Such revolutionary New Levels never appear surreptitiously and automatically, but ONLY via what are generally termed Revolutions, or more technically as Emergences.

Now such Events do indeed happen throughout the history of Reality, and they always the absolute opposite of continuous and incremental changes into the New. On the contrary, they are invariably initiated by a wholesale collapse of the till-then established Stability, as the Second Law of Thermodynamics types of dissociative processes grow at an increasing rate, until they pass a crucial threshold and precipitate a cataclysmic avalanche of dissociations. This catastrophe seems to be sending things careering back towards an inevitable oblivion.
But it doesn’t do that!

Research into such Events has shown that ONLY via such an almost total dismantling of the prior stability can the available processes begin to rapidly form new systems unhindered by the strong forces of stability, which actually allowed the prior Level’s continuing stability. Only when those conservative processes are finally gone, could the actual possibilities of unhindered competition begin to form systems, which could ultimately be resolved into a single dominant system being finally established as the new Level. Life was no automatic transformation, but a successful Revolution, made possible by a prior, and almost total, collapse, of the preceding stability. Only when the old Level is dead could constructive (opposite to the Second Law) developments actually succeed.

Without any idea of the trajectories within an Emergence, NO experiment could ever be conceived of (never mind constructed) to facilitate these necessary Events. Cronin will produce only a confirmation that selection is possible, but the whole dynamic essential for a revolutionary overturn will NOT be present, and as with Miller’s magnificent attempt, it will not lead to real gains on the Origin of Life ON EARTH!

NOTE: This author’s (J. Schofield) design for a new Miller’s Experiment is already available via the SHAPE Journal’s Blog on the Internet.

I, Algorithm

(or Artificial Intelligence with Probabilities)

This article in New Scientist (2797) by Anil Ananthaswamy describes how the old (and now dead) Artificial Intelligence based on Formal Logic and Neural Networks has been re-vamped by the inclusion of Noise and Probabilities. It is, I’m afraid, not a new and great step forward, but an old “solution” to the unanswerable problem, “How do you improve upon a purely formal and pluralistic, and hence totally unchanging, artificial system, which is intended to deliver some sort of machine- based intelligence?”

So, instead of strict determinism only, you merely need to add a bit of random chance, and then deal in the probabilities of various alternative outcomes.To put this new system into the language of the participants, these new systems of Artificial Intelligence “add uncertainty to Formal Logic – in order to reason in a noisy and chaotic World”. It is a proposed “new” application of the same standpoint as was used in the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory almost a century before. But the real world is NOT basically deterministic PLUS “noise”! It is holistic! And to attempt to analyse it pluralistically is doomed to failure. So the trick, as usual, is to continue with that old methodology, but to heighten the “flavour” with the added “spice” of Random Noise and the coherence of Statistical Methods – using averages and probabilities on top of a still wholly deterministic basis.

Now, to echo the revolution that occurred in Sub Atomic Physics may appear to be an important development, and in the same way may allow better predictions in this sphere as it did in Physics, but in BOTH areas it certainly does NOT deliver the Truth! In this particular instance it seems to apply very well in the area of infectious diseases, but we have to be clear why it works there, but also, and most importantly, why it isn’t the general solution that it is claimed to be.

It works when many factors are acting simultaneously, and with roughly equal weights. In such circumstances many alternative diagnoses are available, and hence various distinct results are possible. The important question is, “What is the correct diagnosis in a given particular case?”

Now Neural Networks had delivered a system that could be modified to more closely match real weightings of various alternative situations, but they were crude to say the least: absolutely NO indication of why and how these changes were effected were revealed. It was merely data without a cause!
Now this new version of AI returns to such ideas, but adds the 1764 ideas of Bayes embodied in the Theorem which carries his name:- which is,

if the conditional probability of Q implies the conditional probability of P
the conditional probability of P implies the conditional probability of Q - [Bayes Theorem]

And this was for the first time a basis for being used with Causes and Effects, not only in the usual direction but backwards too (that is diagnostically).

The constructed systems were so-called Bayesian Networks, where the variables were initially purely random, that is of equal weight, BUT thereafter dependant on every other involved variable. Tweak the value of one and you alter the probability distribution of all of the others. Now, this, on the face of it, appears to be very close to Holism, but has a clearly fictitious starting point, where all are equally probable. The “saving grace” was then that if you knew some of the variables you could infer the probabilities of the other contributions. Now, when you think about it, it doesn’t seem likely. Starting from a wholly fictitious starting point, why should the inclusion of some reliable data move ALL of the probabilities in the right direction? Clearly such systems and associated methods would have to be very close to Iterative Numerical Methods, and hence dependant on a convergent starting point for a useful outcome. And, as with such numerical methods, these too needed to be refined and improved until they began to become much more reliable than prior methods.

Even so, it is clear that such methods are full of dangers. How do you know whether you are considering all the necessary factors? Gradually researchers began to produce models in certain areas which were much more reliable. The key was to build them so that new data could be regularly included, which modified the included probability distributions.

But, as it did not deal with answering the question, “Why?”, but only the question, “How?”, it was still dependant on the old methodology, even if it was overlaid with Bayesian add-ons.

Indeed, to facilitate such programs, new languages began to be developed specially designed to help construct such self-modifying models.
To give some idea of their powers AND limitations, it is worth listing the principles on which they were based.

1.Equal likeliness of all contributing factors must be the starting point
2.Algorithms must be very general
3.New data must be straightforwardly included to update the probabilities.

Now, this is clearly the ONLY way that the usual pluralistic conceptions and analyses can be used in a holistic World. The basis is still Formal Logic, but real measured data can modify an initial model in which everything affects everything else, but as to how they do it, there are NO revelations. The ever-new data merely adjusts less and less arbitrary figures, and, by this alone, the model improves. The model learns nothing concrete about relations, but improves as a predictor, based on regularly updated data.

Nevertheless. There could be no guarantees. It is a pragmatic method of improvement and NOT a scientific one.

Also experience has shown that the gathering of new data can be altogether too narrow, and the seriousness with which it is collected much too slight for the methods to always be depended upon. Behind the robot diagnostic program, a very experienced “doctor” would certainly come in handy!
There is also the problem of ”current ideas” guiding the actions of the data collectors, and hence “tending” to confirm those current ideas. You cannot discover a new cause, if you are not measuring for it, can you? The method is NOT a genuine holistic one!

And the most important omission has to be that Time and Trajectory are not part of the schemas. Miller’s famous Experiment was indeed holistic, and produced amino acids from a modelled holistic system, but it too lacked Time and Trajectory information. This author’s (Jim Schofield) redesign of Miller’s Experiment has the same core set up as in the original, but surrounded by a time-triggered set of diagnostic sub-experiments, regularly sampling what was present at crucial positions throughout the set up and throughout the whole time that it was running. The results would then have to be laid out on a series of related timelines, showing WHAT was present and WHEN. The relationships over time and place would then be available and sequences and even cycles of processes could be revealed and interpreted.

The half-cock nature of the latest version of model based on Neural Networks but involving Bayesian principles, though it will produce ever better simulation-type computer programs, is still immovably grounded on pluralist principles, and so will be limited in its applications, and most important of all, will REDUCE the amount of real analysis and explanation to the Lowest Common Denominator of “the computer says that…..”

25 February, 2011

Dominance Breeds Stability, but Rust Never Sleeps

Perhaps there has been some confusion in this author’s papers on both Plurality and Emergence, in that though they refer to both these conceptions, they do not fully explain them.
For example, they do not fully explain why Dominances actually occur, and thereafter how they then not only play the major role in the locality they dominate, but also they even begin to transform the context which produced them. Finally, though the process of analysis may have been fairly clearly explained, it has never been made clear just how that process is, to a major extent, determined by the quite evident dominances, to the detriment of currently insignificant factors, which will certainly not remain so as development proceeds.

Read More

Issue 17 of Shape

11 January, 2011

From a Peak in Darien

The paper Holistic Equations is now quite old.
It was originally written in September 2008, in the latter stages of a long trek, in which I was attempting to see a way forward towards a viable alternative to Pluralistic Science. Much has been achieved in relevant areas since that time, but none have been directly added to that contribution. Though this may seem surprising, I have good reasons for not changing that significant paper, for even its mistakes are revealing. It really should not be touched!
Now, my reasons for these remarkable conclusions are, of course, to do with pedagogy.
I have arrived at some crucial conclusions regarding how you must deliver Theory to those who have no idea of the necessary trajectory of development that must be followed to reveal the New.

Indeed, I now believe that the publication of a final, all-bells-and-whistles paper is almost always a Bad Thing! It does not encourage people to make their own contributions. Indeed, it invariably inhibits them from such undertakings. For such are usually, and sometimes purposely, intimidating, implying the arrogant sub-text that “If you don’t understand this, you are thick!”
So, on the contrary, the best educational papers are certainly not the final ones, but those which marked a realisation of where to go without yet having any experience of actually doing such a thing. As Hegel insisted, “Once you realise that a boundary exists, you have already passed it!”
Such turning points are packed full of real Science – mostly in the inevitable and necessary dead-ends, but also, and crucially, the occasional View as from a Peak in Darien, wherein a wholly new Ocean of Reality is glimpsed for the very first time.

For when the thinker finally stumbles upon such a View, a thousand possibilities are immediately evident within his head. He may currently have found himself up a sizeable Gum Tree, but he is still Full of Delight! He has certainly glimpsed the Promised Land can immediately guess at many of its features.

So, here is that paper from 2 years ago, which elicited a positive Adaptive Radiation of new lines of Thought, for it is when I, after 25 years of asking the same question and never getting any answers, I finally stumbled upon the answer for myself. The seemingly simple question was, “What are Iterative Equations really about?”, and its inevitable riders, “Why do we get different, and more real, behaviours from such equations, than are ever available from the usual pluralist forms, which currently dominate Science?” It took me a long time to realise that the users of such forms just didn’t know the answer, and perhaps even more surprisingly, didn’t want to know it! They worked! That was enough!

But they were profoundly mistaken!
In a trajectory that is only now coming to fruition this scientist and philosopher is only now finally treading the route he observed two years ago.
To deprive people of that experience is unthinkable, not only to communicate what I have gone through, but to experience real Science and not the drivel that is currently peddled everywhere, which certainly does resonate with, “If you don’t understand this, then you are thick!” What utter rubbish! Show me a serious worker, who has had innumerable failures along with his few successes, and I will show you a real scientist.

Holistic Equations was a signpost to NOW!
Its very errors, mistakes and wrong paths were its best qualities. Without them you will never understand!

Read Holisitc Equations