Published in GralsWelt special issue 11/2003)
THE UNITY OF NATURE
The worldview in the Middle Ages
For a person of the Middle Ages, the question of the unity of nature hardly arose. He lived in a unified, closed world, in the middle of which was the earth. Seven walking stars circled around the earth (moon, Mercury, Venus, sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). The conclusion was the vault of heaven, the windows of which might be the stars. In the interior of the earth, hell was to be sought, which from time to time made itself felt through earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.
This closed world was ruled by a Creator God who was able to intervene directly in earthly events, with the help of angels and through miracles.
Such divine arbitrariness makes an understanding of nature and life impossible. This incomprehensibility could be explained by a wise work of God incomprehensible to humans, whose advice, which stands above all earthly prudence, leads everything to the best.
Religion and natural science did not contradict each other, astronomy and astrology were the same science, theology and philosophy worked together and believed they knew satisfactory answers to the essential questions of being.
Consistently thought through to the end, in this world narrowed by dogmas, people had little chance of determining their own destiny, of escaping the inexplicable arbitrariness attributed to God himself, and of making progress. A person had to feel like a helpless victim of the game of higher powers.
A person who is fundamentalistically limited in this way will think and act hostile to progress because he cannot dare to deviate from dogmatic doctrines. An ideal state for autocratic rulers and power-hungry priests, which they pass off as God's will.
In the West, thinkers of the Renaissance, the Reformation and especially the Baroque questioned many of these prejudices, some of which other cultures and their religions still have to grapple with.
The Copernican Turn
The "New Astronomy" associated with the names Copernicus, Giordano Bruno, Kepler, Galilei and Newton brought about a fundamental change in the Western worldview that forced a change in consciousness.
The closed celestial vault was blown up, and man was referred to a tiny planet that orbits in a limitless universe around its central star, which is only one of many billions of suns.
This new worldview inevitably brought a flood of unanswerable questions, including the meaning of the mission of Jesus in a limitless universe, with possibly countless other planets inhabited by people in need of salvation.
The sciences also split up. Theologians and philosophers no longer got along, astronomy and astrology became sisters at odds. The emerging natural sciences challenged the religions for their claim to leadership and ultimately largely ousted them from practical life.
From now on there were religious and scientific worldviews that were mutually exclusive. The unity of religion and science broke up. Where the religious basis crumbles, one looks for other fixed points for the position of man in the world. Because people need security that can only be provided by a worldview that corresponds to their feelings.
With this began the modern search for the unity of nature, which moves us to this day. Because the uniformity of the laws of nature is one of the fundamental axioms of all natural research.
If the laws of nature were not of unshakable reliability, if they were not valid always and everywhere, then natural processes would be determined by unpredictable coincidences. The exploration of nature would remain questionable and any planning ahead would be a gamble.
The mechanistic worldview
The successes of Newtonian mechanics in the 17th century tempted to explain the world mechanistically. The pillars of this explanation of nature based on physics were
* determinism, that is, the unambiguous determination of everything that happens on the basis of natural laws.
This rigorous physicist determinism went well with the Protestant doctrine of predestination, and it may hardly be a coincidence that a Protestant like Kepler found the laws of planetary motion and a devout Anglican like Newton developed the principles of mechanics. Their church violently rejected the ideas of the Catholics Copernicus, Giordano Bruno and Galilei.
* Predictability, i.e. the possibility of predictability, provided that only the relevant laws of nature and the initial conditions were known.
The creator thus became the “great watchmaker” whose world moved on predetermined paths with the same precision as the gear train of an astronomical clock, a “high-tech” product of its time. This view of the world left little room for coincidence, indeterminacy, and even freedom; Just as the absolutist governments of the 17th and 18th centuries refused to accept civil liberties. Scientific worldviews also reflect the political structures of their time - or vice versa?
* Reversibility. The equations of mechanics allow physical processes to run backwards, i.e. to be reversible.
The practical experience that time only runs in one direction could not explain the mechanistic worldview of the 18th century. It was not until the 19th century that the second law of thermodynamics (entropy law) provided the first answers to the question of why the arrow of time can only point in one direction; a problem that has not yet been fully discussed. (See e.g. 5, p.181 f.).
Not all natural phenomena, such as electricity, could be grasped by the means of mechanics, and the search for the uniformity of the laws of nature had to go on.
The one-tier approach
Monism in the general sense is any doctrine which reduces the multiplicity of the world to a single principle. In the 19th century, many scientists advocated a monistic approach called “materialism” that wanted to see only one cause for this diversity: matter.
In this epoch, Darwin's theories of the “origin of species” emerged, which got along well with the economically liberal theses of the time. "Free path for the able" was the catchphrase, and the conquest of the North American continent could be seen as a prime example of the success of the Anglo-Saxon free trade theory, which even tried to justify the opium war. Karl Marx wrote to Friedrich Engels:
"It is strange how Darwin recognizes his English society among beasts and plants with its division of labor, competition, opening up new markets, 'inventions' and Malthusian 'struggle for existence'."
In Germany at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a "monistic philosophy" propagated by Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) became known. Haeckel, as a biologist, could not satisfy mechanistic approaches, and he believed the unity of nature to be realized through the laws of conservation, i.e. in the
"Basic law of the conservation of force (energy) and matter:
By establishing this highest natural law and subordinating all others to it, we came to the conviction of the universal unity of nature and the eternal validity of the natural laws. The clear substance law developed from the dark substance problem. The 'monism of the cosmos', which we base on it, teaches us the validity of the 'eternal, brazen, great laws' without exception in the whole universe. At the same time, however, it smashes the three great central dogmas of the previous dualistic philosophy, the personal God, the immortality of the soul and the freedom of will. " (2, p. 438).
Haeckel has drawn far-reaching conclusions here. The physical and chemical uniformity of the universe still seems probable to us today, but the conservation laws, which have been tried and tested many times in natural science, are just as insufficient to prove this unity as they are to refute the immortality of the soul and the freedom of will.
Probability instead of predictability
The once postulated strict predictability is not given with real objects, and we have to be content with approximations to reality. Even a comparatively simple astronomical task, such as the “three-body problem”, ie the movement of three point masses acting on each other (eg sun, earth, moon) can no longer be strictly solved.
For the development of biological life forms, however, a long-term stable environment is necessary, which - if not absolutely determined - only needs to form equilibria that fluctuate slightly around mean values.
Physicists speak of “deterministic chaos”, in which information is as real as matter (1), but predictability has limits.
The modeled, non-linear systems of chaos theory become extremely sensitive to even slight fluctuations in the initial conditions. However, since these initial conditions can never be measured with absolute accuracy, any forecast can only be reliable to a limited extent.
One of the most important discoveries of this new physics is that everything is connected with everything, and that when we look to the future, we should speak less of predictable facts than of possibilities.
So if you want to forecast the weather or stock market prices even in the medium term, you are walking on very smooth ice and must never forget that such forecasts are not reliably possible due to physical laws, despite chaos theory, large computers or non-linear neural networks.
This physical world view of the 20th century fits in with the common values of the West, human rights, democracy, the separation of church and state, civil liberty, the information society. The holistic (holistic) view of quantum mechanics also harmonizes with modern globalization efforts.
Who is still surprised that the scientific advances of the last centuries were achieved in secular *) and not in religious-dogmatic societies? And how will one see the unity of nature at the end of the 21st century?
Universally valid laws rule the universe
Our knowledge of nature was collected on a very narrow basis: spatially limited to our small earth, temporally limited to the tiny span in comparison to the age of the universe in which people inhabit planet earth.
Man-made equipment carriers have only been advancing to the planets for a relatively short time, and man himself has dared to make the leap to the earth's satellite - the moon - but has little chance of at least reaching Mars in the next few decades.
In full awareness of the weak basis of our knowledge of nature, however, we apply our knowledge to the universe. Even in antiquity, Greek philosophers dared to use the laws of geometry to calculate the stars, and at least they managed to measure the circumference of the earth very precisely and to find a rough value for the distance of the moon.
From the 17th century on, mechanics and mathematics were used to calculate the orbits of planets, moons and comets.
Ultimately, astrophysics transferred the mathematical, physical and chemical laws discovered on our small planet to the entire universe.
What entitles scientists to describe the birth of the universe, to state its age, or to speculate about the future of the universe? First and foremost, the belief in the unrestricted and unrestricted validity of the laws of nature in time and space, i.e. the conviction that the laws that govern the universe have remained the same since the beginning of the world and will apply unchanged until a possible end.
These laws provide the guidelines for the development of the world, they combine the necessary regularity with the indispensable freedom, including the personal freedom of man, as a prerequisite for the development possibilities of the many individuals as well as of the whole universe.
Nobody knows where these laws come from, whether they existed before the world was born or - as some researchers think - only arose with it.
There is much to suggest that we are dealing with laws of creation that stand above the world that is visible to us and that have arisen from a will that is far superior to us. For religious people, this unity of nature is a clear indication of its creator.
*) Secular = outside the clerical area, especially the separation of church and state.
(1) Görnitz, Prof. Dr. Thomas "Quantum Theory and Business Executives", lecture on July 1st, 2000 in Munich.
(2) Haeckel, Ernst "Die Weltträtsel", Emil Strauss, Bonn 1899.
(3) Hagl, Siegfried “In search of a new worldview”, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart 2002.
(4) do. “If it wasn't a miracle”, publisher of the Grail Message Foundation, Stuttgart 2000.
(5) Hawking, Stephen W. “A Brief History of Time”, Rowohlt, Hamburg 1992.
(6) Weizsäcker, Carl Friedrich v. "The unity of nature", Carl Hanser, Munich 1982.