Challenge : Cooperating with Others and Nature
I would have liked to mention each fundamental force with its corresponding symmetry in the table below :
|Forces||Symmetries||4 Dimensions||Derived ethical values|
|?||bilateral||width||equality, fairness, balance etc|
|weak nuclear force||mirror||depth||reciprocity, truth, etc.|
|?||scale||height||proportionality, measurement, etc|
|?||time||duration||responsibility, durability etc.|
Alas, one force or another always poses a problem, even though it is apparent to me that the weak nuclear force is described by the mirror symmetry. I consulted a wise physicist at CERN who told me: “The forces work in unison, they are inseparable”. Reductionism is useful for understanding nature, but the latter functions as a whole. It is inseparable like the fundamental forces and space-time. I was skeptical until physicist David Gross ¹, a Nobel Prize winner in physics, ended his lecture in Geneva by stating that the fundamental forces were probably ONE single force with different charges… ²
The view of David Gross helped me understand that ethical values mentioned above should work in UNISON if we want to respect the analogy with how fundamental forces work. In reality, these forces cooperate. They work together and not individually. This means that one can not choose our values “à la carte”! One has to pursue all four symmetries simultaneously like chasing four hares simultaneously ! What a challenge !
I was about to give up when I realized that it wasn’t so difficult at all. Anybody can chew a gum and run up the stairs at the same time ! A car driver can do several things simultaneously: hold the steering wheel while breaking or accelerating. It just means that our ethics choices must not only embody our concerns for life and its evolution, it also must support an array of values such as: equality, equity, proportionality, truth, reciprocity, solidarity, responsibility and long term sustainability. We must not only make sure we do some good here, today, we must also make sure that our choices will not make havoc there… tomorrow for we must also respect the time symmetry between what we do here today and the potential consequences of our choices elsewhere, tomorrow.
Let’s not be frustrated by the apparent difficulty. It is only a matter of practice and besides this new ethics is intended for institutions which are used to discuss problems in all length before taking a decision.
The analogy with the way the fundamental forces operate suggests that one has to cooperate with Others. Working together in a spirit of sharing and cooperation is more fruitful than competing with an “every man for himself” mind set. There is strength in unity. Are rivers not formed by small streams.
The unity of spirit and matter
The interaction of the four forces has shaped the universe and all life therein. Matter and spirit arise from these interactions forming all aspects of our human reality be it natural, cultural or spiritual. The four forces work in harmony and are governed by rational laws: the unwavering, verifiable rules of symmetry.
It is essential to recognize the profound unity of matter and spirit in the sense that they form a “unique nature” with different properties. An apple, for example, is a unique object, but it can be simultaneously red, firm and sweet. By recognizing this unity, we open new prospects for our ethics because the laws governing matter are the same as those governing our mind. This analogy with the laws of nature is probably not entirely coincidental.
Behaving ethically does not require reaching a predefined goal. What matters is the path one takes, the impulse one follows in the search for the various symmetries, the perseverance used in following this path which is ethical in itself. I stress the importance of the path in relation to the goal because I fear those who, with excessive zeal and over-abundant good intentions, invest so much energy in reaching their goals that they could become tyrannical, both to themselves and to others.
You already know the principles of equality, reciprocity, proportionality and responsibility, and their derivatives. What is new is your discovery of the fact that their roots plunge into the very heart of both matter and the universe. They are therefore universal, as are the symmetries. They can form the basis of a new ethical system, one that rises above political, religious or philosophical contingencies. They apply equally to individuals, companies, and nations. Fundamental forces and symmetries existed long before Mankind first appeared, before our planet even existed. Consequently, it is no wonder that they apply to Mankind as well as to Nature and to our social and political constructions, for they lie at the very base of their birth.
This new ethical system does not seek to reinvent a new whipping post; it is a true decision-making aid. In short, there are three ways in which we can err and create an exponential chaos. The first lies in choosing a wrong referential system from which “living reality” is absent. The second is to labour towards dissymmetry by increasing tensions and unbalances, rather than flowing with symmetry as indicated by our four benchmark references. The third is not to do anything, to let things be…
An uncontrolled or poorly-controlled market, according to liberal “laissez-faire” principles, one in which the majority suffers events instead of controlling them, is a market where randomness tends to destroy rather than build, to sow chaos rather than foster order. The world markets are so complex that they evolve naturally towards ever-growing chaos rather than towards a hypothetical stabilization. The more complex a system is, the more it is subject to breakdowns and malfunctions.
There are thousands of ways of forging ahead in the right direction without alienating our freedom of action! This proposed ethical system is like a skeleton or a “support structure”. We need to dress it with our choices to face an ever-changing environment. It still leaves us significant leeway, an incredible playing field. It is not a doctrine, but rather a flexible framework within which we can evolve and shape a common good without harming others. Everyone’s freedom will remain intact, as does his responsibility.
The benchmark-limits that this framework sets up are like elevator doors impeding our falling into the void; they are there for our own safety. But when “near symmetry” conditions are met, these doors open to grant us access to a higher level of relationship with others consisting of empathy, consideration, truth and justice. It is thanks to these doors that the social fabric may become richer.
Contrary to deontology, which only defines our duties, this ethical system stresses our freedom, our rights and those of the others. It allows truth to flourish. It depends essentially on our level of conscience, our common sense, our choices and our good will. Obviously, it is a trifle more complex than the mere notions of “good” and “evil”. Yet it is extremely simple. You just have to take what “IS” as a reference, i.e. Life or living things then work towards slightly broken symmetries and fight the forces working in the opposite direction.
It is a proposal for an ethical system for the future of the major institutions and for individuals exerting some power.
1. Geneva Wright Symposium 2010 (back)
2. In fact, the weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force have been already been reconciled or unified: We now refer to the “electroweak force”. Physicists advance towards the unification of the forces, but do not assume that this implies some new “monotheism”. (back)