ANNALS NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, vol. 901, pp. 311-319, 2000

Spontaneous Order, Autocatakinetic Closure, and the Development of Space-Time

Center for the Ecological Study of Perception and Action, Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA
ABSTRACT: Over its 4.6 billion year history, the time-dependent behavior of planet Earth, from the origin and emergence of life to the explosive globalization of human culture today, shows the progressive and accelerating production of increasingly more highly ordered dynamic states. Understanding our place as both productions and producers in this rapidly accelerating global becoming is a requisite step to the meaningful grounding of virtually every other discipline, most particularly those disciplines relating to the endeavors and activities of humans themselves. Recent advances in the study of spontaneous ordering provide both a minimal ontological framework required for causally addressing such systems, and the nomological basis for understanding the ubiquitous or universal generic nature of such ordering itself. This paper briefly outlines the main points.
Given the first law of thermodynamics, which in its deepest sense refers to the time-translation symmetry or continuity of all natural (known) processes, evolutionary or emergent processes can be understood as differentiations or time-asymmetric developments of (or out of) a continuum. The relationship between symmetry, broken symmetry, and what we may now refer to as the development of space-time, has been recognized in various forms; although not well understood from the time of the preSocratic dispute between the Parmenidean and Heraclitean schools. These matters have continued to occupy the attention of the deepest thinkers in modem times, from the likes of Spinoza and Leibniz to such otherwise apparently disparate thinkers as Spencer, Marx, and Engels. One could argue, that as a result of the development of space-time itself, we are in a far better position today to be able to understand these matters. The implications run deep across the disciplines (1-3). Given the limited length of this article, I concentrate on, and briefly review, two main points. The first may be thought of as an ontological assertion that yields a strategic or methodologic point. It addresses the issue of what it is that we must minimally consider, even in some very generalized sense, when we talk about emergent or evolutionary systems and their dynamics (4). The second, is a more recent theoretical point that gives us a principled basis for understanding spontaneous ordering or emergent dynamics themselves. Why, in contrast to what was previously given as an incommensurability between continuum and discontinuum (viz., between biology, psychology, and physics), the supposed infinite improbability of the production of order from disorder, as Boltzmann saw it, we now understand that the opportunist. development of space-time, the development of discontinuum out of continuum, or in different terms the production of progressively higher ordered from lesser ordered states follow directly from natural law (5,6).