My experience is that many people interpret ‘working together to build a better world’ in the sense of ‘acting out of our ‘free will’ guided by the ‘universal knowledge of good’; i.e. out of our ‘purported’ moral and ethical knowledge.

This notion of joining together to make a better world seems to raise in us a feeling of ‘come on, people, we can do it, let’s get on with it’.

But there are spoilsports like myself, who will say things like; ‘Do you really believe in ‘free will’?’   and ‘How do you know what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’?

At this point,  I tend to start getting those nasty ‘what the hell is he going on about’ looks, that if they were utterances, would say;  ‘if you are not with us, you are against us.’

But no, that’s not true.  My work is motivated by the desire for transformation that will bring about a more harmonious world, now and in the continuing present as it will be experienced by coming generations.

What is hard to share, in our culture, but is not in ‘aboriginal cultures’ (these are almost extinct since most aboriginal people have ‘co-opted’ into the western culture), … is that ‘we are not in control’, … ‘we do not make things happen’, … and ‘therefore, ‘we cannot MAKE a better world HAPPEN’, … not with all the ‘rational smarts’ and all the ‘technology’ that all the king’s men can muster.

As the aboriginal traditionalists would say; ‘Man is merely a strand in the web-of-life, he did not invent it, and what he does to the web, he does to himself’.

Now, that is a world view that makes sense to me, and at the same time, it makes nonsense out of the notion of having ‘free will’, … in the context of bringing about a better world.

Do we have ‘free will’ or don’t we?

It is impossible to contemplate the notion of ‘free will’ without (in our imaginations) lifting man out of the evolutionary flow he is inextricably woven into, and setting him back down, notionally, into the empty space inside a fixed frame, and then watching him walk, talk, dance and do somersaults, all on his own.

But he does not really live in the empty space of a fixed reference frame, he is included in a natural space in which everything is continually transforming, a space that physicists would say is, at the bottom of it all behind the visual appearances, characterized by ‘thingless connectedness’.

This is the same understanding of the world as many aboriginal cultures had, hence the title ‘aboriginal physics’ for this newsletter and blog site.

When we reflect on it, we acknowledge that man’s activities include continual consumption of the inflowing material of the habitat he is included in and continual emission of material flowing back into the habitat he is included in.  He couldn’t live if this were not the case (‘life’ is in the flow rather than in the life-form).  So instead of man doing his own tricks in an implicit fixed and empty reference box, as he moves he is consuming the habitat he is included in and at the same time exuding stuff into it, like the fish in the goldfish bowl.

So, the common REPRESENTATION of a man as a locally existing organism with his own local agency is a gross over-simplification that we had better not use as a dependent foundation for our understanding of how we should go about ‘building a better world’.

First of all, the notion of ‘free will’ has to go.  It was never there in the aboriginal culture since if one is merely a strand in the web of life and everyone and everything is shaking their strands of the web at the same time as we are shaking ours, then it becomes impossible to isolate anything me might rightly call ‘one’s own behaviour’.   Ah, no, … its not impossible ‘in the mind’ to notionally isolate and call something ‘one’s one behaviour’, but in nature, there are no absolute reference frames which are what is needed to do this isolating of individual behaviour.

‘Free will’ is thus ‘idealisation’ that we confuse for reality, and at the risk of screwing up what unfolds relative to what we idealise is going to unfold as the result of our exercising our free will, to notionally act in a morally and ethically good way to bring about improvements in the world dynamic.

Meanwhile the world (nature) is not driven by ‘our models of the world’.  Sure, we may use our models to drive our behaviour (the behaviour of what we conceive of as being ‘our self’), but that does not mean that what we think we are causing to happen is actually happening since we are not in charge of what happens, … nature is.    If we don’t have realistic models of our ‘self’ and ‘what we are doing’ then our visions of what ‘what we expect to result from our actions’ are going to be ‘way off’ from ‘what actually results’.

Ernst Mach and Erwin Schroedinger would say that man as a locally existing material system with its own local agency is ‘schaumkommen’; i.e. merely appearances, and further, that we do not have ‘our own behaviour’ but instead, like all inhabitants of nature, are included in nature’s dynamic in the manner that a convection cell is included in a fluid-flow (energy-field flow).   In which case, we can relate our dynamics to the dynamics of the habitat in the following way (Mach’s principle); “The dynamics of the habitat condition the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat”.

This changes the imagery from that of the individual person doing his own gymnastics in an implicit fixed and empty space to something rather different such as a fly living out its life within a swarm of flies (no absolute reference frame) and/or people farting in an elevator, conditioning space in such a manner that has all stepping and fetching and pointing fingers at one another, or in other words ‘conditioning the habitat that is at the same time conditioning their behaviour’ in a way that ‘launders out the identity’ of how has caused what result’ (blending farts is like David Bohm’s example of stirring cream into coffee, once stirred in, it can’t be unstirred).

Sure we can believe in our own free will, which gives the sense of ‘self’ as local, independently existing organisms with our own locally originating behaviour (internal purpose driven and directed by the universal knowledge of good and evil and all that stuff), but anyone can fart in our space and influence our behaviour because space is a commons.  The United States or Iran or Israel can fart bigtime in our common space and our behaviour (all inhabitant-dynamics)  will be ‘conditioned’ by this ‘conditioning’ of the habitat-dynamics that we all share inclusion in.

So, the aboriginals were right (nature validates their contention) in critiquing  the narcissist western colonizers for believing that ‘they were in control’.  Too bad the aboriginals let up on it but the reserves were not good for sustaining their morale.  Too bad also that the aboriginal culture’s traditionalists are now down to five percent of the aboriginal population in North America, according to the aboriginal traditionalists.

Mach’s principle and aboriginal physics say that ‘a man does not have his own behaviour’, his behaviour is the continuing result of the habitat-dynamics he is included in, as with the storm-cell in the turbulent flow of the atmosphere (i.e. the storm-cell does not cause the turbulence in the atmospheric flow, it is the result of it)..

Now, as we know, there is no law, natural or otherwise,  that is going to stop man from BELIEVING that he has his own behaviour and ‘free will’ and all that stuff.  Western man is not going to be held back by ‘reality’.  Western man invented ‘sovereignty’ wherein one can draw some imaginary lines on a map and declare it to be the ‘independent Kingdom of Ralph’, or ‘the United States’ or whatever.  There is nothing ‘real’ about this so-called ‘independent sovereign state’, its so-called existence depends entirely upon having a sufficient number of strong people willing to believe in it, and to bear arms and give their lives, if necessary, to forcefully make believers (or humourers) out of those that ‘don’t respect such beliefs’.  The birds and animals and rivers and flows of the ocean and atmosphere don’t care diddly squat about the contended ‘independent local existence’ of ‘the kingdom of Ralph’ or whatever sovereign state one wants to idealistically define and name label (there are 195 of them in the world today, but that keeps changing as man’s beliefs change, insofar as he can back them up, as in Kosovo (backed up by the UN who can call on their ‘gorillas’ to back up their sovereign-state making or breaking activities).  To the aboriginal, this is the white man making a deal with the devil, since he gets a piece of the pie that is created by this scheme, in exchange for his commitment to bear arms and die if necessary to support continuing BELIEF in it and to deal roughly and firmly with all would be heretics.

So, even though the aboriginal traditional world view, Mach’s principle, and the quantum physics world view as a flowing thingless connectedness (energy field flow) in which we ‘inhabitants’ are ‘flow-features’ or ‘dynamical forms’ that are the result of the dynamics of the habitat, … though not totally without influence since we can condition the dynamics of the habitat at the same time as our inhabitant dynamics are being conditioned by the habitat-dynamics, … we are FREE TO BELIEVE in ‘representations’ of things such as coloured areas on a map (a representation of the terrain of the common habitat), and of course we are FREE TO BELIEVE in representations of ourselves as the guy with local agency  ‘doing his own tricks’ in an absolute fixed and empty reference frame, a idealized frame that gives him the basis for him being able to see himself as a ‘locally existing organism’ with ‘his own local agency’.

So, yes, western man or any man is FREE TO BELIEVE in the reality of ‘representations’;  in other words, man is free TO CONFUSE IDEALISATION (‘appearances’ (schaumkommen) FOR REALITY.   And western man is tenacious about ‘backing up his beliefs’ by forcibly making believers out of others.  Of course, aboriginal traditionalists in North America don’t believe in ‘the existence of the sovereign state of Canada or the sovereign state of The United States’.  When they are prosecuted for ‘crossing the border’ without giving due respect and deference to it, they respond by saying ‘we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us’ (nature takes precedence over the beliefs of bully gangs that impose their BELIEFS on others).

As Donald Kunze (professor of architecture at Penn State University) has pointed out, the big shift to confusing representations for reality came with Enlightenment society in the 15th to 18th century.  He observes;  “in PERCEPTION, these [Enlightenment system] changes were reflected in the way INSTRUMENTS such as telescopes, microscopes, theodolites and other instruments extended the power of the eye; and also in the ways that REPRESENTATIONS such as drawings, maps, and — later– photographs were accepted as reliable substitutes for the visible. …”

Remember when aboriginal people would not let you take a photograph of them because they believed that it would ‘steal their soul’?   Well, what happens when we accept the ‘representation’ of a storm-cell in the atmosphere as ‘reliable substitute for the visible’?  Instead of accepting that the cell is the result of the flow in which it is included (i.e. the nonlocal fluid-dynamical continuum of nature), we turn things upside down and start believing that the cell is a local system with its own local agency as if it is the cause, not the result, of the habitat-dynamic.   In other words, we confuse ‘representation’ (‘appearances’) for reality.

We do the same for man.  When we represent him by his photograph or ‘local appearance’, we ignore that he is the result of the nonlocal fluid-dynamical continuum of nature in which he is included, and we pivot from that ‘representation’ of him to re-render him as a notion ‘locally existing organism with his own locally originating behaviour’ that acts/interacts with other such entities in an absolute fixed and empty reference space.

This is our western ‘sense of self’ that comes from confusing representations for reality.

Then we compound this confusion with the belief that each individual person has ‘his own behaviour’ that we can observe.

Well, does the sand grain falling onto a growing pile of sand have ‘its own behaviour’?  Newton’s laws would have it so, but physics recognizes that the visible aspect of behaviour is not the half of it since we tend to equate ‘behaviour’ with the kinetic activities of material bodies, but there is also the ‘energy-of-place’ otherwise known as  potential energy, and as those sand grains fall, they set up a spatial web of interdependencies in terms of stored potential energy, and by and by, the interdependent web uses its stored spatial web of energy to ‘move’ and then the sand grains become the pawns in the dynamic (that they have sourced by way of conditioning the habitat that they (the inhabitants) share inclusion in).   Physics calls this ‘self-organised criticality’ and/or ‘nonlinear dynamics’, or ‘complexity’ and the triggering of the release of the energy-of-place (habitat) is covered by another branch of physics called ‘chaos theory’ (butterfly effect etc.), … and so it is that when we talk about ‘our behaviour’, we are talking about only one aspect of it, the  visible kinetic activity of representations of ourselves, which is not the half of ‘who we really are’ or ‘what we are really doing’.

We say that we are ‘productive agents’ and that we are ‘contributing to the economy’ but the economy is not just about what is visibly happening, it has a spatially dispersed energy-of-place aspect, like the continually growing and collapsing sandpile (a dynamic bigger than the sand grain dynamics or ‘inhabitant dynamics’, deriving from the fact that the dynamics of the inhabitants are at the same time conditioning the habitat dynamics).  When the interdependent spatial web that is the storehouse of energy of place decides to move, the strands in the web move with it, raising the question as to whether it might not be ‘more true’ to see the dynamics of the inhabitants as being the result of the dynamics of habitat, rather than the cause.

My previous blog, Remembrance, touched on this same topic, of our tendency to think only in terms of visible kinetic activity, but there is also the invisible aspect; i.e. the web of interdependent spatial connections that storehouse potential energy, that includes the individuals and which, when it moves, moves the individuals (conditions their dynamics) without giving them choice in the matter.

Philosophers of physics such as Henri Poincare have commented on this in the context of how we simplify our inquiry, but there is little interest on the part of the average western person who continues to put up with, if not be pleased with the simplicity of the popular mode of inquiry which constrains our understanding of dynamics to the visible kinetics of material bodies (representations).   Poincare points out that our inquiry makes use of major simplifying assumption; e.g.  that the state of affairs of the present is the result of the immediate past, so that in order to understand what is now unfolding, we only have to look to the immediate past and thus find the causal agents, smoking-guns-in-hand, to blame for what is currently unfolding.   This simplification allows us to bypass the full development of the manifest phenomenon, out of remote regions of spacetime.   Hence we can say that the avalanche was ’caused’ by the actions of a particular skier or by the actions of a particular, individual sand grain, or that the forest fire was caused by the actions of a careless smoker or camper.   This ignores the whole energy-of-place aspect of the conditioning of the habitat, and seeks to confine the inquiry to the visible kinetics of ‘local, independently existing objects/organisms/systems with their own (notional) local agency.   ‘Remembrance’ explores whether Hitler was the causal agent of the conflagration of WWII or whether others had a hand in conditioning the forest so that it would be ripe for the actions of a pyromaniac who would draw pleasure from the powerful release  that would nominally point to him as the author of, … using our western simplified mode of inquiry that constrains us to understandings based on the visible kinetics of notional local causal agents with their own local agency.

So, no, … there is nothing stopping us from BELIEVING that the world dynamic results from the actions/interactions of local, independently existing objects/organisms/systems with their own local agency that act/interact in a notional absolute fixed and empty reference space.

That is, there is nothing stopping us from BELIEVING that we humans are such local, independently-existing organisms with our own locally orginating (internal purpose and knowledge of good and evil directed) behaviour.

But that doesn’t mean that the way the habitat-dynamic we are included in ACTUALLY unfolds in anything like the manner that we expect it to unfold based on our BELIEF-BASED view of our ‘self’ and ‘others’ and our BELIEF that the world dynamic can be understood in terms of the visible kinetics of notional ‘local causal agents’.

Do we really BELIEVE that ‘sovereign states ‘exist’?  Does pulling out a representation of the sovereign state on a map, showing it as a coloured- in area, support such a belief?   Did it work for Ralph when he first tried to convince others of the existence of ‘Kingdom of Ralph’?  Or does a strong military that can make believers out of unbelievers (or at least make unbelievers into humorers) give a more pragmatic support for the belief?  When the border police hold a gun to your head and ask; ‘NOW do you believe in the existence of this sovereign state and the reality of the boundary you just crossed?’, … one is liable to say; ‘Yes sir, I do believe.’

The trouble is, all of the ‘authorities’ and ‘experts’ in western society derive their personal power from the authority of the sovereign state, so are they going to look a gift horse in the mouth?

When Doug Caldwell did his real-world experiments with the dynamics of nature; i.e. concerning the growth of multispecies microbial communities (which evolve very quickly compared to larger animals  since life-cycles can be in minutes), his findings were that the microbial community dynamic (habitat-dynamic) took precedence over the dynamics of the inhabitants; i.e. the habitat dynamic not only animated the dynamics of the inhabitants but created (evolved) them.   (See ‘Do Bacterial Communities Transcend Darwinism’, Douglas E. Caldwell, Gideon M. Wolfaardt, Darren R. Korber and John R. Lawrence, in ‘Advances in Microbial Ecology’, Volume 15, 1997)

Well, that was enough for the protectors of BELIEF in the organism as a local, independently-existing system with its own local agency’ to hold a gun to Doug’s head (threatening to discredit him as a biologist/scientist) and say; ‘NOW do you believe in the reality of the independently-existing organism, which is essential to Darwin’s theory and the narcissist view of ‘self’?’.  Doug was not willing to answer ‘yes’ and he was deported from the CRONY ALLIANCE OF BELIEVERS AND BORDER GUARDS otherwise know as the western scientific mainstream.  His refusal to become a believer or a humorer resulted in the loss of his career in biology and the loss of his tenured professorship at the University of Saskatchewan, but was not able to deprive him of his integrity which is making a contribution towards an awakening of our western confusing of representations for reality; i.e. it is another sand grain on the growing pile that is helping us move towards a needed avalanche.

One of the reasons there’s not much overt commentary on ideas such as these (apart from the difficulty in clearly articulating and sharing them) is that they’re downright ‘dangerous’, in the sense of Doug Caldwell experience, that if others start listening, then the border guards will need to bully someone real good to make an example of them.  The recent film ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ gets into how the defence of BELIEFS in Darwinism is rudely, but quietly and stealthily, accomplished (People like Doug Caldwell are portrayed, by the border guards, as non-scientists and a popular approach to discredit them is to impute to them BELIEFS in ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’, as if Darwinism and science was somehow ‘bypassing’  BELIEFS).

So, do we have ‘free will’?  Sure we do, if you want to BELIEVE we live in an absolute fixed and empty box as local organisms with our own local agency that  act/interact with others to whom we impute similar FICTIONAL REPRESENTATIONS.

While we cannot ‘make a better world’ in the sense of using our notional ‘local agency’ to construct it, we can, if we acknowledge that we are the result rather than than the cause of the habitat dynamics we are included in, use our inhabitant-ability to condition the habitat dynamics we are included in which are at the same time conditioning our inhabitant dynamics, in such as manner as to cultivate and sustain harmony in the common flow (interdependent web-of-life’) we all share inclusion in.  We know how to do this.  We do it as friendly drivers in the flow of the busy freeway.