World riddles and natural wonders part I.

(Published in GralsWelt Special Issue 11/2003)


The natural scientist Emil du Bois-Reymond (1818-1896), who teaches in Berlin, gave a widely acclaimed speech in Leipzig in 1872 about “the limits of the knowledge of nature”. He explained that there are a number of scientific problems that are forever impossible to solve. Based on the number of wonders of the ancient world, he spoke of the "seven world riddles":

1. The essence of matter and force (energy)
2. The origin of the movement
3. The Origin of Life
4. The expediency of nature
5. The explanation of simple sensation
6. The Origin of Reasonable Thought
7. The Reality of Free Will.

Du Bois-Reymond concluded his speech with the words “ignoramus et ignorabimus” (we don't know and we never will), which sparked heated discussions. His speech was soon printed and he described the in his opinion unsolvable riddles of nature in more detail in a book "The Seven World Riddles".

Of course there was a dispute about the selection and number of Du Bois' world riddles, and in particular the zoologist and Darwinist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), who taught in Jena, attacked his Berlin colleague vigorously and claimed that there was no question of unsolvable questions. The problems listed by du Bois are partly solvable, partly simply incorrectly posed. Du Bois-Reymond also later admitted (2) that questions 4, 6, and 7 do not necessarily have to be transcendent and therefore unsolvable.

“Human science is like a sphere that is constantly growing. As their girth grows, the number of their points of contact with the unknown also grows. "
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).

After a few years, the discussion about the world riddles subsided and new, seemingly more important questions preoccupied the scientific world, which in the 20th century had to fundamentally revise the worldview of classical physics, also represented by du Bois-Reymond.

But to this day, many questions remain unanswered in the field of natural knowledge, and no one can say whether it will ever be possible to answer the problems that are still unsolved today, as well as many more that are to come.

As far as the "seven world riddles" mentioned above are concerned, our understanding of this problem has changed, so that today hardly anyone would ask these questions in the same form:

The essence of matter and force (energy):
In the 19th century, matter was understood as the totality of chemical elements, which consist of indivisible atoms that can combine to form molecules.

The discoveries of the 20th century that atoms are composed of smaller particles, that matter and energy (often referred to as “force” in the 19th century) can pass into one another, that is, that they are just different manifestations of a fundamental natural condition, changed this question .

Our conception of forces has also changed. Today's physicists know four basic forces of the universe (weak interaction, strong interaction, electromagnetic interaction and gravitation), some of which were still unknown in the 19th century; but no one knows for sure whether these are all forces at work in our world.

The attempt to trace these forces back to a common cause is not yet complete, as is the combination of relativity theory and quantum mechanics called the “world formula” in a (multi-dimensional?) Quantum field theory, which will possibly bring a new level of unification.

However, in physics one no longer asks about the causes, ie according to the “why”, but is content with the description of natural processes, ie the “how”. The search for the causes and the essence of the world are thus left to philosophers and theologians. (See. "Energy, entropy and time"Under" Science ").

The origin of the movement
This question comes from the mechanical understanding of the world in antiquity. Isaak Newton (1643-1727) also spoke of a "first mover" already suspected by Aristotle and was of the opinion that the Creator, after he created the cosmic bodies, would have given them their initial impulse, which enabled them to draw their orbits around the sun.

Today's astronomers see no problem in this; because in the compression of nebula clouds to solar systems, the contraction of these dust clouds to celestial bodies results in the momentum of the planets, which find their elliptical orbits without any external intervention.
Living is also connected with movement, but today this is just as unproblematic as the description of physical effects (e.g. sound) as a form of movement.

The origin of life
How organic life originated from dead matter remains to be speculated. We have reported about it several times in the Grail World (cf.Life on mars", Under" Science "), and we are concerned with the question of whether life on our earth is an exception, or whether life arises everywhere in the universe where the conditions for it are given.

The expediency of nature
The organic life on our earth has adapted in a wonderful way to the conditions of our globe, has been developing further for many millions of years, improving the living conditions of the earth and creating harmonious ecological cycles. Undoubtedly one of the “wonders of the earth”.

Our Darwinian explanation of “natural adaptation” through “trial and error” seems stale and unconvincing. Life is certainly more than matter and energy, even if we have not yet been able to prove this with scientific means.

The explanation of simple sensation
For a century, neurophysiology has been able to gather a lot of knowledge about the reception and transmission of sensory stimuli.

How these various signals are processed in our brain has not yet been satisfactorily clarified, and it will be interesting to see whether scientists in this field of research will still encounter the human spirit or the human soul, which has been banned from natural science, as a prerequisite for sensible decisions and conscious action.

Origin of Reasonable Thought and Language
The solution to this question can hardly be separated from the problem of processing and interpreting sensory stimuli.

It is about the origin of “reasonable action”, that is, targeted decisions, as can be observed not only in humans but also in animals.

The assumption of “behavior programs anchored in the genes” is no longer sufficient for insects; Quite apart from the fact that the origin of such behavior programs can often not be explained by "trial and error" alone.

The reality of free will
In my opinion, this area is outside the natural sciences. Philosophy or religion would be responsible here. 

The problem solving
A physical problem is generally considered to be solved when the natural process in question can be described by a mathematical formalism.

Unfortunately, the algorithms required are becoming more and more complicated and difficult to visualize, and the time is long past when we found vivid models accessible to our human experience for all physical processes. As a result, important research results are increasingly only understandable to specialists.

Then scientists are often accused of clinging exclusively to materialistic concepts, even when such approaches do not seem to be sufficient. A typical example would be neo-Darwinism, which many did not trust to survive the 20th century.

As wrong as this clinging to the scientific theories of the 19th century may seem, one should have a little understanding of those working in science. The scientific approach, which strives to solve mathematical problems, has proven itself in many, almost all areas of practical life, and refuted innumerable superstitious prejudices.

If one were to trace back everything that cannot currently be explained to the “work of higher forces”, what would that be gained? Would it be helpful to introduce a new variable about which nothing definite can be said in order to explain everything (or nothing)? Long enough people were pacified with religiously named, superstitious declarations that only served to maintain the power of the clergy and inhibited any progress.

True scientists will always be open to insights beyond the current view of the world, and it is to be hoped that one day in research, e.g. B. in the field of psychology, the transcendent becomes so clear that one cannot avoid including it in scientific theories, even if it eludes the mathematical description.

Unsolved questions
Not all of the world riddles formulated in the 19th century have been deciphered, and the open border questions have become more rather than fewer.
The nature of the question has also changed compared to the 19th century; because

“... just like that, the natural scientist does not ask: which questions are the most important, but which ones can be solved instantly, or only with which one small real progress can be achieved? As long as the alchemists were merely looking for the philosopher's stone, striving for the art of gold-making, all their attempts were fruitless; Chemistry only created the restriction to seemingly worthless questions. In this way natural science seems to completely lose sight of the great general questions ... ”(4, p. 20 f.).

By restricting it to what currently appears to be solvable, research loses its attractiveness for the general public, which is primarily interested in the basic question, ie in the “New World Riddles” as they are often discussed in popular literature.

In the following we want to take a closer look at some of these new world puzzles, most of which are also wonders of nature. 

Continued Part II.

(1) Aescht, Dr. Erna et al. (Editor) “World riddle and miracle of life, Ernst Haeckel - work, effect, consequences”, Upper Austrian State Museum, Linz, 1998.
(2) Du Bois-Reymond, Emil "Speech to the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences, July 8, 1880".
(3) do. "The Seven World Riddles", Berlin, 1881.
(4) Ferris, Thimothy "The intelligent universe" DTV Munich, 1992.
(5) Gööck, Roland “The last riddles of this world”, Praesentverlag, Gütersloh, 1990.
(6) Haeckel, Ernst "Die Weltträtsel", Emil Strauss, Bonn, 1899.
(7) Jefromow, Iwan “17 world riddles”, DVA, Stuttgart, 1972.
(8) Naab, Friedrich “The great riddles and myths of humanity”, Bechtermünz, Augsburg, 1995.