The Ethics of Nature

I remember as a child being completely overcome by the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges, the rain hitting the large ferns that danced to the ambience of the meditative bird sounds echoing from the colossal trees above, the smell of the moisture from the earth below that pirouetted with the scent of plants and wood of the forest and it kindled such joy within me that this emotional affinity continues today. I now often find myself retreating into the cool, forest enclaves across Victoria that ignite the same speechless feeling that I experienced many years ago. There are a number of sources that indicate that our time spent out in nature can improve our physical and mental health, from reducing blood pressure, stress, fatigue and even inflammation that lowers the risk of early death, as well as improvement of mood and even self-esteem that alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enables improved cognition and increased concentration. But, what is this therapeutic benefit, this strong bond or relationship humans have with nature? Like a person who smokes cigarettes, conscious that this is a major health risk but indifferent to the destructive nature of this pointless habit, humanity has become indifferent to the environment, and the ecosystem – like our body – is slowly being poisoned by the damaging effects of greenhouse gases. Do we have a moral obligation to ensure the preservation of our ecosystem and if so, what does the future of this discipline look like?

Several years ago, I went with friends to the Botanical Gardens to watch a movie at an outdoor ‘moonlight’ cinema they created and the noise from the fruit bats living in the surrounding trees brought to light the reasons for their controversial culling. The colonies of flying foxes are migratory and are both a pest as well as a risk to the plants and flowers of the gardens that make them a potential threat to the survival of many rare botanical species. In addition, the fruit bat – also known as the flying fox – carries the Hendra Virus that is transmitted to horses as it ingests food contaminated by bat droppings and other fluids, causing a number of severe symptoms leading to death. This virus can be transmitted to humans from the horse that causes influenza-like symptoms that potentially lead to death. The mortality rate is high and as a consequence fruit bats were ordered to be culled to reduce the growing numbers that reached crises levels. However, animal rights activists called out against the culling of the fruit-bats on account of their declining numbers and the reason for their migration being due to changes to their original habitat. This calls into question the actual problem that should encourage their protection. Indeed, the fruit bat was soon listed by the Federal Government as an endangered species that required an adequate approval process for culling.

When the Prickly Pear Cacti was introduced to Australia in the early twentieth century, the species quickly became an ecological pest that infested millions of hectares of land and devastated the Australian landscape that a radical method to destroy the outbreak was required in order to reduce the invasive botanical spread. Australia did not have the natural resources that could control the cacti and along with the warm climate and bird species that ate and ultimately distributed the seeds, the prickly pear wrought havoc on the land of the early settlers of New South Wales and Queensland. The tremendous effort required to manage the prickly pear cost more then it was worth that a prickly pear destruction committee was developed! It was until the introduction of the cactoblastis caterpillars that they found a solution to successfully control the outbreak and using this biological method – where the eggs and larvae extracted the plants moisture until the plant died – they were finally able to control the infestation of the weed.

It is clear that human behaviour can shape and control some aspects of our environment and our intellectual activity has enabled us to communicate and alter our decisions that allow us to ascertain our responsibility and forecast a sustainable or improved future scenario. To protect the integrity of our ecosystem, however, can sometimes appear to be bigger than us such as the consumption of natural resources including gas and oil that makes the average individual assume an abstract position in this ethical framework, that we can recycle our cans of drink and paper but still drive cars and use the gas stove. What is the difference in value between the prickly pear and the fruit bat? Why do we place more value on the fruit bat over the prickly pear?

Moral consciousness – what I call “love” or our ability to feel empathy and morally deliberate – originates from our understanding of value, where we give objects a moral status or as David Hume would suggest, that moral value is the value that I attach to the object and therefore relational and dependent on the agent. It is aligned with the theory that love is something that we give or entirely subjective and emotive and that what is value is simply what I believe is valuable and does not have an actual real, objective moral value. I clearly have an issue with this despite the logic behind such relational epistemology, because there is an absence of any value at all and thus if nothing has value then morality does not exist either. It also arouses questions on the exclusivity of moral actions – such as human life is intrinsically better than animal life for instance – or whether one outcome is more morally valuable over another. Intrinsic values are deemed to be valuable for itself or ‘in its own right’ whereas instrumental value are actions that are morally permissible based on a number of variables that leads to a moral outcome. If fruit bats were not an endangered species, would culling them be morally wrong?

Kant suggests that intrinsic moral value is the source of morality, that is, that since humanity exhibits as I suggested earlier the rational or cognitive capacity to deliberate moral agency, they thus contain moral value. Humanity contains intrinsic value and thus the agency to rationally will sufficient moral understanding, and while this may be anthropocentric, rights are also aligned with ethical responsibility or that our moral status is multi-faceted and thus we are enabled with the capacity to question and evaluate objects making values variable in nature. This is the nature of the ethical problem at hand, as human beings as moral agents have intrinsic value and with the criterion of rational cognition place value on objects that otherwise are instrumental in value that abandons the moral status to animals or our environment. What that means is that the effects of deforestation in order to power the economic engine of capitalism has more instrumental value than protecting forests, and those for or against deforestation will raise ethical pros and cons of both sides of the argument to try and justify the instrumental value of the environment.

quote-with-all-your-science-can-you-tell-how-it-is-and-whence-it-is-that-light-comes-into-the-soul-henry-david-thoreau-301249

Let’s take a look at McDonalds, with what I believe to be the most strategic and incredibly intelligent marketing campaign that attempts to justify the immorality behind their business by pretending that they are actually going to make a difference to what is their global impact on our environment. McDonalds had started adding “healthy options” to the menu to lure a continuity of customers, to try and be open and accountable about their ingredients to remove doubt as to the quality of their meat, and now are perpetrating a marketing campaign that claims that they are going to reduce their emission intensity by 2030 because of the sheer scale of the food chain’s impact on our environment. How is that possible when aligned with this is their global growth strategy that aims to increase consumer and ultimately business profitability? If the predominant item in the McDonalds menu is beef, let us take a look at cows for a moment. Agriculture is the primary reason for deforestation and not only is this destroying the habitats of thousands of species, but cows that make the meat in the burgers people eat contributes to global greenhouse gases since they produce more methane that has a greater impact on the environment than C02 emissions. What shifty bastards. People are now going to think that since McDonalds is being so-called open and accountable to global warming that eating McDonalds will no longer be immoral when any real attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be to completely stop eating McDonalds, which would contradict their profit goals. It is value-nihilism at best.

Like the gas stove or using the car, people believe their ethical position in this network of environmental change is abstract and that buying lunch at Maccas is really not going to change anything. It challenges the anthropocentrism of our moral position. Intrinsic value is not something exclusive to rational beings who symbolically project from their own mental reality, but rather as Henry David Thoreau states, “to be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and there is no symbolic or spiritual relationship but that moral realism is present in the physical world and can be directly perceived. That nature has intrinsic value and this biocentric angle moulds together the schism between good or bad qualities that we force on nature and thus rational thought and values become inseparable. Consciousness is no longer separate from nature. That like McDonalds, the primary cause of our problems with nature is the coercive projection of our irrational suggestion that only humans have intrinsic moral value; we become a part of nature, giving spirituality or that symbolic or metaphysical moral system a concrete reality (excuse the pun). While there may be a number of limitations to this since everything becomes almost morally impermissible, it certainly avoids that disillusioned or disembodied separateness, an us and them, the same disillusionment between a person who smokes cigarettes and their own body that they treat as an inanimate mechanism.

At the rate of global destruction that has reached a point of existential crises, civil disobedience and our duty to protect the environment and engage against injustice is very clear. I am preparing to embrace this reality around us, that I am not distant or abstract in the world but that spirituality and that symbolic connection is physical and real. As said by Thoreau: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

A Non-Conceptual Nature of Time?

The problem of time and whether it exists has remained a controversial topic in physics, cosmology, and philosophy. Is time relational as Leibniz espouses and therefore measured only in relation to motion, or is it absolute as Newton envisioned, where space and time were fundamental and independent from our perception of it? If we consider time to be real and not an illusion, then time is change, whether these changes are stretched out through our vast universe over billions of years to the immediacy of a thought, though both exist at the very same time in the future. We dream for a few seconds but wake believing we had spent hours in the dream. And yet, there is the past, of consciousness, or is the fundamental nature of reality a series of snapshots contained within the now?

And how is time-consciousness relevant to moral philosophy or love? I have often reiterated that love is eternal. As such, the concept of time became the source of my phenomenological struggles since our perceptions, our experience, thoughts and thus our very being are stitched into the fabric of temporality and all contribute to the essential structure of consciousness, of our perceptions, memory and our imagination and as such preserve our capacity to reach a truthful understanding of our identity. To be honestly self-aware at an atomic level. While I once perhaps held a transcendental-cognitive view that time was merely a construct that my mind created similar to the views held by Kant[1] (however indecipherable his language on the topic!), that our mind contains the necessary conditions to experience the properties of space and time but that experience conforms to our subjective deductions of reality. We must cognitively have innate categories prior to our temporal experience of space and our mind and senses merely verify whether such categories apply to the objects we experience. Think of it as a type of encoded, genetic molecule that converts information as part of a linear yet evolutionary process that continues to expand; without the source of this initial encoded information, there would be no capacity to acquire the preliminary information or experience. A type of thermodynamic entropy of sorts, but the chaos of the immeasurable absorption of information causes the brain by design to transfer large quantities of data and store it elsewhere, for the sake of argument we’ll say our subconscious and instead leaves a residue or ‘picture’ of reality. This is perhaps an unsatisfactory or at the very least an entirely broad understanding of Kant’ view on transcendental deduction. For Kant, ‘categories’ or pure concepts of understanding are unified with our sensory experience; that some apriori concepts (knowledge independent of particular experience) apply to some experiences, but not verified by any empirical means.

When I grew up, I came to realise that such a view on time-consciousness was somewhat unsatisfactory, or at the very least obscure. Whilst I enjoyed traversing through the maximally supersymmetric realm of epistemological foundationalism, the typological concept of time and the relationship between experiences in what ‘appears’ to be linear properties or a temporal order came to be of interest. According to John Ellis McTaggart, there exists a series of temporal positions that appear to us prima facie, namely ‘Earlier’ or ‘Later’ where each position is either ‘Past’, ‘Present’ or ‘Future’ although “an event, which is now present, was future and will be past.”[2] It is because time requires these distinctions that according to McTaggart proves time itself is unreal. In addition, there exists two distinct modes labelled as A-series – where there are a series of positions from past [near and far] to present to future [near and far] – and B-series, which are a series of positions that run from earlier to later.[3] The properties [A-properties] being past, being present and being future, with the relations [B-relations] as being earlier than, being later than, and being simultaneous with.[4] Change is essential to the A-series but an inherent contradiction exists with the properties and relations of change events from future, to present, to past where time appears to be severed from a spatial order of events and instead comprised of timeless properties. Basically, the future, the present and the past are incompatible and yet time itself possesses all three. This infinite regress of temporal attributions or tensed predications is the paradox.[5]

This is the point where I began to muse the possibility that time is an illusion and in doing so, the threads that bounded my existence to reality were suddenly disrupted and I instantaneously collapsed into an anti-social state where ‘vanity’ and ‘existentialism’ seem to consume me within a vortex of a gaping infinity. But, I digress. Phenomenologically, temporality is a requisite for experience, to perceive, to concern or reminisce. Husserl purports that consciousness can intentionally transcend itself, that from infancy we perceive but it is not yet assigned a referent and by referent I mean that the perception of an object is synthesised into a coherent pattern that we ‘see’ and interpret, making perception as interpretation, that the structure of consciousness captures and characterises the modes of temporal objects.[6] From a biological perspective, the brain as a neurological mechanism or tool constructs an interpretation in order to articulate the nature of the physical world, thus reality could remain within the boundary of mere psychology and language [I am planning on writing more on Kant and Deleuze in the near future]. If in the physical world time is an illusion, it seems only plausible and somehow my initial liking to transcendental deduction and the conceptual and subjective formation of time becomes appealing once more. While the brain is fundamental in our capacity to experience the world, the problems of the ‘illusory’ remain. Schrödinger wrote of the paradox of the mechanistic idea of the material world, where atomic singularity is met with a conceived negative tension with the senses:

“Galenus has preserved us a fragment (Diels, fr. 125), in which Democritus introduces the intellect (dianoia) having an argument with the senses (aesthesis) about what is “real”. The former says: ‘Ostensibly there is colour, ostensibly sweetness, ostensibly bitterness, actually only atoms and the void,’ to which the senses retort: “Poor intellect, do you hope to defeat us while from us you borrow your evidence? Your victory is you defeat.”[7]

Thus any objective description of colour – for instance through an electro-magnetic wave – cannot adequately provide an explanation of the conceivable characteristic of it. Is my experience of the taste of pomegranate the same as everyone else? It reminds me of a memory I have when in grade four, where I was sitting at a table with others in my class as we were colouring in and I lifted up the turquoise ‘connecter pen’ with pure joy at both the fact that such a texter could connect with other texters but also the colour, which struck me and in my excitement I turned to the girl next to me to inform her of this blissful opportunity to share the experience I was having. Her perfunctory glance before shrugging her shoulders and turning back to her rather aggressive colouring confused me entirely and I thought to myself that maybe she sees the colour brown, a colour I found aesthetically ugly and had someone shown me that colour that I too would have done the same. I remember actually trying to think of how that would be possible, how I saw turquoise and she saw brown but somehow she was taught to think that the actual, concrete “brown” was called turquoise and though we both saw different colours were somehow tricked into believing the names of those different colours were the same. The problem confused me at that point and I left it at that, a theory I later came to realise was spectrum inversion. There was also a part of me that was sceptical of her state of mind, but physical properties as represented by the object are subjective and that “[w]hat is purely intuitable is not communicable,”[8] thus qualia is subject to intrinsic properties and subjective sensations simply cannot be expressed. Galileo observed that whether a ship was still or moving at a constant speed, the effects on board the ship – such as throwing an apple from one person to another – would be exactly the same and thus, “Galileo had shown that terms like “moving” and “standing still” are merely labels.”[9]

For Einstein, space and time are relative and all events are imbedded into a four dimensional space-time continuum, as said by Minkowski: “Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.”[10] It quite simply just exists, the past and the future stretched on a timeless ‘line’ but rather than delving into the special theory of relativity or time dilation, the relativity of simultaneity returns us back to the question of past, present and future and that it is dependent on the reference frame of an observer. As said by Einstein: “Since there exists in this four dimensional structure [space-time] no longer any sections which represent “now” objectively, the concepts of happening and becoming are indeed not completely suspended, but yet complicated.“ Accordingly, the past, present and future exist simultaneously and that the illusion is to believe that they are separate; to a degree, those moments in time are states that spatially contract to make one whole rather than a static ‘now’.

Quantum mechanics and the theory of time incite discussions of determinism and free will, an especially important debate for me when examining love and our moral obligations. Einstein himself was a determinist and that future events is determined by preceding events, famously stating, “God doesn’t play dice.” This causal completeness purports that therefore a killer will kill at [x] point in time and since it is determined, therein exists no morality or culpability. Newtonian physics fall under the same deterministic umbrella, Halley’s comet an example of causal relationship between the past and nature. According to Michio Kaku, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle challenges nomological determinism since behaviour cannot be absolutely predictable and as such, there exists some free will. From a scientific perspective, this appears inadequate, however, observing the psychological  or cognitive and therefore the perceptions of the individual agent, it naturally leads us to the problem of consciousness. When we observe consciousness at biological level, to be sure determinism plays a major role in mind and ultimately experience, and so it should. Taking a compatabilist approach, why exactly do we need to separate the two? To me, free-will, however, is an extension of determinism, evolutionary to a degree in that competency is designed in the brain and evolves. Having the cognitive capacity to question, to ultimately think “why” in a calculated effort is the very experience of free-will because the moment one questions, they are in a position of responsibility for what comes after, for the deliberation that evolves at conscious level. The obligation rests in our capacity to share information through language and as such, free-will and moral responsibility function mutually.

With the inherent contradictions that capture the enigmatic nature of time, it seems that I would be justified in believing that the universe is a pianola and we are stitched into the musical roll of an eternal pneumatic mechanism that automatically plays “The King Clown” by Joseph Kiefer over and again and yet somehow deluding myself into believing that the opinions of others regarding the way that I dress is existentially relevant. The only element that is disturbing is the possibility of negating free will and yet if ‘now’ no longer exists, then neither does time and thus, neither does existence and therefore death.

 

[1] A. C. Ewing, Kant’s Transcendental Deduction of the Categories, New Series, Vol. 32, No. 125 (Jan., 1923), pp. 50-66
[2] J. Ellis McTaggart, The Unreality of Time, Mind 17 (68):457-474 (1908)
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] L. Nathan Oaklander, Quentin Smith, The New Theory of Time, Yale University Press (1994) 195
[6] W. Hopp, Husserl on Sensation, Perception, and Interpretation, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38:2 (June 2008) 219-246
[7] Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life? Cambridge University Press (1967) 163
[8] Gottlob Frege, The Foundations of Arithmetic, Northwestern University Press (1980)
[9] Dan Falk, In Search of Time, Thomas Dunne Books (2008) 156
[10] W.L. Craig, Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity, Springer Science & Business Media (2013) 191

 

The Cycle of our Nature

Everything in the universe has a life cycle, where nature destroys and renews itself cyclically. For instance, stars are made from a fusion between two hot and light gases – hydrogen and helium – whereby in the core the former burns into helium and gradually begins to form heavier elements such as carbon.[2] Eventually, our sun – considered a yellow dwarf – will become an inert white dwarf but will continue to emit light as it will fall below the main sequence and it emits light as the temperature is still hot due to the presence of nuclear fuels until depleted, becoming black dwarf. Depending on the mass of the star, once hydrogen has been depleted the core will begin to contract [the helium is displaced and the outer surface begins to expand due to the thermal pressure and this contraction loses elements or materials] while the surface expands, leading them to either become supernova or a planetary nebula [the remnants of a supernova] though there are other types of nebulae such as protoplanetary that is causally a result of stars shedding or detaching from the surface.[3] Stars are also born in nebulas. The cycle eventually moves towards – as mentioned – white dwarfs, but also neutron stars where protons and electrons collide to form neutrons from the collapsed core of the star.

That is, a black hole, which is formed when matter is squeezed into a very dense space as a result of the stars’ supernova where the force of gravity is so great that it, collapses into itself. And yet, it is from a black hole that stars are born, driving the galaxy into continuity.[4] Life itself – along with a range of other factors – is only possible through the light emitted by stars, our very own sun a g-type main-sequence star with a temperature between 5,000 – 6,000K.[5] We can see stars such as Bellatrix with our naked eyes despite its distance of 244.6 light years[6] or 76.92 parsecs because it is 8.6x solar masses or the equivalent of 1.671 × 10^31 kg and is 3.16 times bigger than our sun with a radius of almost 2,200,940.06km.[7] All the stars will collapse and form into new ones and when our sun dies, our planet – which is pulled by the gravity of the sun – will ultimately float aimlessly into space until captured by the gravity of another star and be renewed once more. Perhaps intergalactic travel is the very reason why we have life on earth in the first place.

The cycle of our very own seasons is continuously rounded and renews every six months due to our perfectly precise location in orbit around the sun along with our moon orbiting around earth. The celestial sphere is an imaginary radius with earth fixed at its centre (since the earth’s position or axis remains fixed) and earths equator is aligned with the celestial equator, as are both the north and south celestial poles. Since the rotational tilt of the earth that sits at precisely 23.5° and its rotational axis around the sun, the ecliptic plane – which is the path of the sun in this sphere – as it travels and rotates the northern and southern hemispheres are doused with either more or less sunlight.[8] You can see this movement or rotation when the sun rises in the morning or sets in the evening, or as the stars move when gazing at night. The earths circular orbit around the sun and distant stars is the sidereal period, a sidereal day or for a star to reach the same point is 23.56 hours and they rise earlier each night [up to four minutes] as the earth rotates around the orbit.[9] Equinoxes are the rotation when the ecliptic touches the equatorial plane, and a summer solstice contains the most amount of daylight while the winter solstice contains the least or shortest amount.

Everything in nature is a cycle. Everything is born and then dies. As people living in a world where everything dies, including us, well then in that vanity what could possibly be our purpose?

Our capacity for self-reflective practice and to reverse the temporal arrow of time as our experiences remain locked in our memories, this pattern illustrates a cyclic repetition where we are able to study ourselves objectively. When one thinks of scientific cosmology, it is the study of the large, the whole and by understanding the origin, one is able to articulate the evolution and the properties that make up the universe. If we think of cycles, is the universe itself going to infinitely expand or is it going to collapse into itself, or is our universe only one of many ‘pocket’ universes each dying and creating new ones?

Hegelian cosmology is just that, a reality that “is composed of a plurality of finite persons”[10] inclusive of ourselves; being a finite property, our lives are finite and ultimately determined, however rather than analysing the individual components or properties that make our lives, the objects and properties become the tools that enable consciousness, allowing us to transcend and become aware of our personhood as being part of a greater ‘whole’ which, to Hegel, is a supreme Being; that is a part of God.[11] God has no contingent parts and consequently “God is Spirit.”[12] Questioning the nature of reality and being a part of this whole rather than an individual component, immortality or an eternal continuum becomes possible and that our very lives are also non-temporal.[13] If we are a part of something greater than ourselves, our death becomes meaningless and in our lives our only purpose or obligation is to the well-being of that which is greater than ourselves. It being practical, a moral application. ‘I’ may die, but ‘we’ continue to exist.

While it may appear that I am endorsing an atheistic naturalism, I must clarify that I am not here attempting to identify the existence of God through this thesis, but rather attempting to explicate why the transcendence of consciousness enables us to realise the significance of being morally responsible; what becomes our ‘purpose’ and St. Thomas Aquinas also developed a similar thesis that argued a continued existence is dependent on beings.[14] McTaggart who critiqued Hegel’ cosmology, believed that the “passing of time is an illusion, and that nothing ever changes.”[15] His interpretation of time involved a series of contrasts and incompatible determinations between past, present and future through two notions entitled A series and B series and that the world is composed of nothing but souls.[16] But questions of time are impossible to empirically verify and therefore should only be viewed symbolically as representative of our subjective place in an external world.

While we may be a product of a whole, where exactly do ‘we’ or our personhood – free will – come into being? It is sufficient to say that freedom is an extension of determinism, that we possess the faculty through rational knowledge and will that enables us the capacity to become self-aware. That is, consciousness is a product of this deterministic social whole, which is why those that attain this transcendence become aware of their moral obligations and the value of virtue. There is a temporal anomaly here: we get caught or stuck repeating the same mistakes and fail to transcend to this freedom or autonomous consciousness. When I think about individual experiences broken into a shattered narrative that I attempt to dissect and understand, who I am is intricate and complex but when I view myself as part of a sum of all my experiences, there is no longer a temporal domain, but I exist as I am in present and thus view the product of my being as part of the whole. Upon doing so, what I am becomes clear.

[1] Ecclesiastes 1:2
[2] John R. Gribbin, The death of the Sun, Delacorte Press (1980) 180
[3] John Bally, Bo Reipurth, The Birth of Stars and Planets, Cambridge University Press (2006) 181
[4] http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/12/new-discovery-supermassive-black-holes-create-their-own-galaxies.html
[5] Gunter Faure, Teresa M. Mensing, Introduction to Planetary Science: The Geological Perspective, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 461
[6] http://www.astronomyenthusiasts.com/constellations/
[7] http://astropixels.com/stars/brightstars.html
[8] William Millar, The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere, Cambridge University Press (2006)
[9] Ibid.
[10] Jacob Gould Schurman, James Edwin Creighton, Frank Thilly, Gustavus Watts Cunningham, The Philosophical Review, Cornell University Press, Volume 12 (1903) p 189
[11] M.J. Inwood, Hegel: Arguments Philosophers, Routledge (2013) 202
[12] John 4:24
[13] G. E. Moore, “Mr. McTaggart’s “Studies in Hegelian Cosmology”” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, New Series, Vol. 2 (1901 – 1902), pp. 177-214
[14] http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/essencex.html
[15] Brian Garrett, What is this Thing Called Metaphysics?, Routledge (2007) 76
[16] http://www.iep.utm.edu/mctaggar/

Business Law and Vicarious Liability

Business law is complex and international business law is even more convoluted. Definitions of terms such as ’employment’ itself is wholly ambiguous, thus making it difficult to ascertain what legal rights people have in the workplace both for employees and employers. Vicarious liability exposes this complexity. It is a common law principle that purports liability by an employer for the tortious acts of an employee delegated duties as requested and entrusted to act on their behalf. As a legal term, vicarious liability confirms that employers are thus responsible for negligible acts pertaining to discrimination and harassment that occur within the workplace by supervisors and management, individual or group employees, and agencies and contract workers with the ambiguity of the latter certainly exposing the complexity of the subject. It is complicated as an Australian legal doctrine primarily because of the absence of a clear and distinct definition vis-à-vis the various legislative formulations and the broad scope utilised by Australian federal, state and territory jurisdictions along with a culmination of common law interpretations. In addition to this complication, civil cases particularly pertaining to discrimination rarely reach the court due to the associated costs of such litigation and tend to be resolved prior through conciliation.

Employers must ensure that they have taken reasonable steps to demonstrate their commitment to the prevention of any form of discrimination and harassment as required by both Victorian and Federal legislation to prevent liability claims made against them, the liability itself used as a deterred to prevent human rights abuses. Whilst vicarious liability is customarily applied using judicial precedents rather than relying solely on legislation, in some cases particularly relating to sexual harassment the interaction with other provisions can effect and ultimately lead to an incongruous result, for instance in Jones v Tower Boot Co Ltd that exposes the necessary reach of vicarious liability – where an employee commits a serious act of sexual harassment though off-duty and thus appears that the employer is less likely to be liable as a consequence – in addition to claimants selecting one jurisdiction to reduce this probability of an absurd conclusion. The custom to utilise judicial precedents and thus apply the ‘Golden Rule’ of law, namely, to ensure that courts take a purposive statutory approach by appreciating the aim and purpose of the law and thus apply a fluid and flexible method favouring justice for the people, is in effect the reason for maintaining the broad and thus ambiguous definition of vicarious liability.

In order to initiate a better understanding of the subject, it is vital to establish an introduction on the scope of and interactions between legislations within the limitation of a non-exhaustive blog post, thus a brief account of anti-discrimination, human rights and industrial laws. Thus to begin, what exactly constitutes discrimination? In part two of the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic), discrimination is defined as, “direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of an attribute.”[1] Direct discrimination is clearly purposed to treat an individual discriminately based on any of the attributes, whilst indirect discrimination occurs when a condition, practice or any such imposition that is likely to result or have an effect on an individual that disadvantages them due to an attribute.[2] These attributes include age, sex, disability, race and religion amongst others.[3] Discrimination can go even further, such as an individual’ past or intellectual capacity [too smart, not smart enough] or other physical attributes etc &c. As employers themselves must ensure that they do not breach their obligations as set by the law and reiterating the previously mentioned Golden Rule, namely that the law has be established to protect the rights of citizens and democratic principles in general, the scope of vicarious liability sits under the umbrella of human rights.

Generally, the scope of industrial laws fails to afford the protections offered by established anti-discrimination laws. In Victoria, this would include the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic) and the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 (Vic) along with the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic). In addition, a complainant must select which jurisdiction – namely State or Federal – they wish to pursue the proceedings. Under section twelve of the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth) it states that a person is not entitled to institute a proceeding if a law relating to discrimination is dealt with by the State of Territory,[4] thus a complaint can be lodged at the statutory commission within their state jurisdiction; however if so, they cannot proceed the complaint to federal anti-discrimination laws and jurisdiction. What that means is that if a complainant initiates a case under Victorian anti-discrimination law, they are not permitted to withdraw and apply for a recourse under Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws. Similar requirements are stated in other legislations,[5] thus confirming that if someone has already made a complaint under Victorian legislation is therefore unable to commence proceedings at federal level. Nevertheless, there are differences between state and federal anti-discrimination laws – whilst minor – can impact on the application and operation of the law, as a consequence the complainant can initiate and select which jurisdiction they would prefer the proceedings to fall under (dependant on the scope and details of the claim made against the employer). While the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) functions similarly to federal anti-discrimination law, an example of these differences can be seen between the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) that states “circumstances are not materially different because of the fact that, because of the disability, the aggrieved person requires adjustments”[6] obligations of which render a difference to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic).

To continue further and assist with the amplification of pre-existing knowledge hidden in the corners of my mind, what exactly is vicarious liability? According to the Equal Opportunity Act 2010, vicarious liability is a person or agent engaging in conduct that contravenes discrimination as described earlier along with sexual harassment regulations as prohibited by the act.[7] Sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexual advance or requests for sexual favours along with conduct of a sexual nature that offends, humiliates or intimidates.[8] In order to assess whether it is a vicarious liability claim, the negligible behaviour must have occurred during employment in addition to whether the employer has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent such contravention of the abovementioned.[9] “A person who employs others to advance his own economic interest should in fairness be placed under a corresponding liability for losses incurred in the course of the enterprise.”[10] In addition, vicarious liability holds a broader function, namely that the legislative obligations and requirements by employers works as a preventative measure or deterrent to reduce risk of harm against an employee. The ambiguity of vicarious liability lies in understanding the definition of an employee and of even the period during which one is employed. As said by CJ Gleeson, “Lord Wilberforce made the point that to describe a person as the agent of another, in this context, is to express a conclusion that vicarious liability exists, rather than to state a reason for such a conclusion. Nevertheless, some judges refer to agency as a criterion of liability, similar to employment. If that is to be done, it is necessary to be more particular as to what is meant.”[11]

This is clearly observable when ascertaining the difference between a contractor and an employee. While it is generally viewed that independent contractors that are assigned employment carry out the required duties under the principle that they are in business for themselves and as such employers are not held vicariously liable, this has been proven not to be an absolute principle and there are instances in which the employer is deemed responsible for the negligent acts by independent contactors. In Sweeney V Boylan Nominees[12] the High Court rejected the vicarious claim made against the respondent for an injury against the appellant, who had entered a service station owned by Boylan Nominees and opened a refrigerator door that was not correctly serviced by an independent contractor that resulted in injury. Initially, this area of tort law held an employer to be liable for the tortuous acts of an employee but not a contractor as cited in Quarman v Burnett (1840)[13] however as continuous employment conditions and changes within the Australian labour market occur, the concept of contractors and vicarious liability challenges the meaning of what it is to be considered as an employee. Changes to interpreting the relationship between employer and contractor utilising the control test method – namely the attempt to ascertain the degree of control an employer has over a contractor – has also developed in preference for an analysis of the totality of the relationship.[14]

This test of ascertaining the status of an employee in contrasted in the case of Hollis v Vabu[15] that applies indicators which overall ascertain the actual relationship rather than focusing solely on the obligations as required by the contract itself. The plaintiff, a cyclist who was injured in a collision with a contractor that had the defendants’ name of Vabu visible during the accident brought to light the problem regarding the view that employers of independent contractors are not vicariously liable. The high court case thus attempted to clarify the issues respective of what a relationship entails with respect to employers and vicarious liability. As said, “[t]he system which was operated thereunder and the work practices imposed by  Vabu  go to establishing ‘the totality of the relationship’ between the parties; it is this which is to be considered.”[16] Similarly, in Deatons Pty Ltd v Flew, during an altercation at a hotel, the plaintiff was struck in the face with a glass of beer that the barmaid threw following his abuse toward her during an intoxicated scene.[17] As stated, “[a]n employer is liable for the act of his servant only if the act is shown to come within the scope of the servant’s authority either as being an act which he was employed actually to perform or as being an act which was incidental to this employment.”[18] The case of Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society LTD v Producers and Citizens Co-Operative Assurance Co of Australia[19] was mentioned by Justice Kirby in light of the fact that the employer was vicariously liable for the negligence of the independent contractor since the latter was a representative or agent of the employer since he was wearing the uniform.[20] Whilst the absence of a clear distinction that defines the differences between an employee and an independent contractor clearly arouses complications, Justice Bromberg in On Call Interpreters and Translators Agency Pty Ltd v the Commissioner of Taxation[21] discussed the ‘totality approach’ that examines the question, stating;

“Viewed as a “practical matter”:

(i) is the person performing the work an entrepreneur who owns and operates a business; and,
(ii) in performing the work, is that person working in and for that person’s business as a representative of that business and not of the business receiving the work?

If the answer to that question is yes, in the performance of that particular work, the person is likely to be an independent contractor. If no, then the person is likely to be an employee.”[22]

The ‘entrepreneur test’ viewed in a practical manner purports that an independent contractor as a representative can be considered an employee.[23] As mentioned by Justice Kirby in Northern Sandblasting Pty Ltd v Harris, several areas still remain unclear and further analysis on focal points such as non-delegable duty, the retreat from the control test and the increasing use of independent contractors due to changing social conditions requires more coherency.[24] Nevertheless, an independent contractor is advancing the interests of the employer and therefore can be considered representative of the employee and liable accordingly. Thus, attempting to ascertain whether an employer is vicariously liable for the negligent behaviour of independent contractors requires the analysis of the totality of indicators as part of a weighting process, considering whether there are clear benefits for the employer, whether the independent contractor is a representative of the entrepreneur, the terms of the contract ect. &c., until a formulation of the relationship can be ascertained. As was clarified in Sweeney V Boylan Nominees, “Mr. Comninos was not required to accept jobs from Boylan, did not wear a Boylan uniform, was not based on a Boylan premises and invoiced Boylan for the hours of work he performed.”[25]

Liability does not necessarily require geographical or time-related specificity, for instance at the location of the employment or during working hours. In South Pacific Resort Hotels Pty Ltd v Trainor[26], Ms. Trainor was employed at a hotel in Norfolk Island and consequently had a part of the building arranged for the optional living quarters of employees. She had experienced sexual harassment from a fellow employee at the premises whilst both were off-duty and the court nonetheless found the employer vicariously liable since the premises itself was built for the purpose of their employment and the conditions and environment of the building therein allowed for the conduct to occur. “It [vicarious liability] is not premised on any culpable act or omission on the part of the employer; an employer who is not at personal fault is made legally answerable for the fault of his employee. It is best understood as a loss-distribution device.”[27] Exploring the concept of vicarious liability under both Federal and Victorian anti-discrimination legislation, employers can be responsible for the acts made by employees including management, agencies, contract workers among others as long as it is in connection with a person’ employment and does not necessarily require being on or within a specific locale or premises of the employer or within working hours. In Leslie v Graham,[28] Ms. Leslie was subjected to sexual harassment by Mr. [Lincoln] Graham at an apartment outside of working hours and following the situation she was unfairly dismissed by her employer Roger Graham and Associates – with Roger Graham being the father of Mr. Lincoln Graham. The line that separates an employer from the conduct and behaviour of employees or contractors clearly becomes obscured vis-à-vis sexual harassment cases. “Vicarious liability can more readily arise for trespassory torts such as sexual assault, based on a close connection between the employment and the tortious act in question.”[33] Confusion is further amplified when attempting to ascertain the vicarious liability of employers outside of working hours. In the Sex Discrimination Act 1999 (Cth)[34] whereby vicarious liability does not apply when it is established that an employee or agent of a person, “took all reasonable steps to prevent the employee or agent from doing acts of the kind referred to in that paragraph”[35].

The employers’ responsibility vis-à-vis vicarious liability is not solely a matter of where failure itself had occurred, but rather whether the employer had taken reasonable steps to ensure that attempts were made to practicably prevent breaches from occurring. In R v Commercial Industrial Construction Group Pty Ltd[37] CICG had breached health and safety regulations by failing to provide a working environment for its employees that was safe following Peter Bacon – site manager – who had asked labourers to perform unsafe duties that resulted in an accident. As part of the plea mitigation, CICG stated that they had taken all the necessary steps to ensure that a safe working environment had been enforced, thus it was Peter Bacon as a supervisor who failed to comply Job Safety Analysis (JSA) requirements. This was rejected in court, whereby, “[w]hen the employee in question is the person with supervisory responsibilities, including responsibility for ensuring safety at the site, the gravity of the company’s breach is increased, not reduced. It is difficult to understand how the company could have allowed someone with Bacon’s apparent indifference to risk to occupy such as position.”[38] It was concluded that it had not been the case for CICG by employing a site supervisor who failed to adhere to health and safety obligations and consequently behaved negligently. Similaraly, in Gama v Qantas Airways Ltd,[29] Mr. Gama was employed as a licensed aircraft mechanical engineer and who was subjected to racial slurs by co-workers in the presence of supervisors, the latter failing to take reasonable steps to stop the racist behaviour. On the contrary, Mr. Gama was further subjected to discrimination particularly related to his reporting requirements and any opportunity for promotion due to alleged systemic racial intolerance[30] in addition to injuries he sustained during the course of his employment that resulted in less favourable treatment. As a consequence, Qantas was found to be in breach of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth)[31] and the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth), namely that it is “unlawful for an employer or a person acting or purporting to act on behalf of an employer to discriminate against an employee on the ground of the employee’s disability, [d] by subjecting the employee to any other detriment,”[32] and as such vicariously liable particularly for the treatment he received by co-workers in the presence of supervisors.

Vicarious liability is not necessarily about whether an employer authorises tortious acts but rather about whether they are responsible for acts of negligence made by an agent they have employed and as such it is a requirement to ensure that legislation remains broad. Perhaps it is ambiguous to ensure that judges approach the subject on a case-by-case basis by examining the details regarding the nature of the employment. “Vicarious liability is the creation of many judges who have had different ideas of its justification or social policy, or no idea at all. Some judges may have extended the rule more widely, or confined it more narrowly than its true rationale would allow; yet the rationale, if we can discover it, will remain valid so far as it extends.”[39] It is nevertheless commonsensical to assume that should an employee engage in conduct that is deemed offensive outside of the contractual obligations as required by the employer – or “engage on a frolic of his (or her) own”[40] – then the employer cannot be held vicariously liable for such conduct. But should an employer see and fail to do anything about acts of negligence or harassment, then they are absolutely liable.

Comparatively, the legislative and common law processes that we have in place in Australia is certainly commendable when viewing the injustice of the legal systems in other nation-states around the world. It does not, however, change the fact that many employees unfortunately experience discriminate behaviour for personal attributes and ultimately such employers go unpunished.

Also see:

Scott v Davis (2000) 204 CLR 333
Launchbury v Morgans [1972] UKHL 5; [1973] AC 127 at 135.
Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Co Pty Ltd [1986] HCA 1; (1986) 160 CLR 16 at 29.

 

 

[1] Part 2, §7 Equal Opportunity Act 2010
[2] Part 2, §8-9 Equal Opportunity Act 2010
[3] Part 2, §6 Equal Opportunity Act 2010, “(a) age; (b) breastfeeding; (c) employment activity; (d) gender identity; (e) disability; (f) industrial activity; (g) lawful sexual activity; (h) marital status; (i) parental status or status as a carer; (j) physical features; (k) political belief or activity; (l) pregnancy; (m) race; (n) religious belief or activity; (o) sex; (p) sexual orientation; (q) personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes.”
[4] §12 Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)
[5] §6A Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth), §10 Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), §13 Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
[6] §5(3) Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
[7] §109 Equal Opportunity Act 2010
[8] §92 Equal Opportunity Act 2010
[9] §110 Equal Opportunity Act 2010
[10] Fleming, Law of Torts, 410
[11] Scott v Davis (2000) 204 CLR 333, 4; also see Launchbury v Morgans [1972] UKHL 5; [1973] AC 127 at 135 and International Harvester Co of Australia Pty Ltd v Carrigan’s Hazeldene Pastoral Co.(1958) 100 CLR 644, 652.
[12] Sweeney v Boylan Nominees Pty Ltd. (2006) 227 ALR 46; [2006] HCA 19.
[13] Quarman v Burnett (1840) 151 ER 509
[14] Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Company Pty Ltd 1 TLR 101 at 111
[15] Hollis v Vabu (2001) 207 CLR 21
[16] Ibid,. Also see Stevens v Brodribb Sawmilling Co Pty Ltd [1986] HCA 1; (1986) 160 CLR 16 at 29.
[17] Deatons Pty Ltd v Flew [1949] HCA 60; (1949) 79 CLR 370 (12 December 1949) 2
[18] Ibid., 5
[19] Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society LTD v Producers and Citizens Co-Operative Assurance Co of Australia (1931) 46 CLR 41
[20] Ibid.
[21] On Call Interpreters and Translators Agency Pty Ltd v the Commissioner of Taxation (No 3) [2011] FCA 366.
[22] Ibid., 208
[23] Northern Sandblasting Pty Ltd v Harris [1997] HCA 39; (1997) 188 CLR 313; (1997) 146 ALR 572; (1997) 71 ALJR 1428 (14 August 1997)
[24] Ibid.
[25] Burnett, Jonathan — “Avoiding Difficult Questions: Vicarious Liability and Independent Contractors in Sweeney v Boylan Nominees” [2007] SydLawRw 5; (2007) 29(1) Sydney Law Review 163
[26] [2005] FCAFC 130
[27] Barbara Harvey, John Marston, Cases and Commentary on Tort, Oxford University Press (2009) 572
[28] Leslie v Graham [2002] FCA,
[29] Gama v Qantas Airways Ltd (No 2) [2006] FMCA
[30] Christine Fougere, ‘Vicarious liability for race and disability discrimination in the workplace’, Law Society Journal, April (2007) 37
[31] §9 Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth)
[32] §15(2)(d) of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992
[33] Rick Glofcheski, ‘A Frolic in the Law of Tort: Expanding the Scope of Employers’ Vicarious Liability’ (2004) 12 Tort Law Review 18, 1
[34] §106 Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
[35] §106 (2) Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth)
[36] Brook Hely, “Open all hours: The Reach of Vicarious Liability in ‘off-duty’ sexual harrassment complaints.”
[37] R v Commercial Industrial Construction Group Pty Ltd [2006] VSCA 181
[38] Ibid., 43
[39] Glanville Williams, Vicarious Liability and the Master’s Indemnity, The Modern Law Review, 20:3, 220–235 (1957)
[40] Morris v C W Martin & Sons Ltd [1966] 1 QB 716, 733–4 (Diplock LJ), discussed in NSW v Lepore [2003] HCA 4; (2003) 212 CLR 511, 535–6 [40]–[41] (Gleeson CJ), 614 [308] (Kirby J).

What Is Ideology?

With the continuous discourse on ideology that is often accompanied by words such as terrorism, globalisation or imperialism, the definition is not only ambiguous but has an unsavoury association to other terms that are themselves vague. Indeed, there certainly exists an adverse meaning to ‘ideology’ as being a belief system that legitimises a doctrine for violence and subordination. But what exactly is ideology? An ideology is said to be, “[a] cultural representation of the social order that makes this order seem immutable and supremely legitimate… placing it beyond change by human agencies, outside the history of human actions and social relations, and beyond the framework of material constraints, which are its ultimate determinants.”[i] According to Karl Marx, ideology or the superstructure is a conceptual method of social organisation. The collective are enticed into believing in ideological and material values, the latter of which is merely invented by the bourgeois; the oppressed are thus inadvertently supporting the ruling class’ domination. “Everyone believes his [bourgeois] craft to be the true one… [i]n consciousness – in jurisprudence, politics, etc. – relations become concepts.”[ii] Thus the superstructure contains a collection of historically retained ideas that legitimise the dominate classes.

Conversely, Michel Foucault analysed ideology – what he later names discourse – as a social function of truth that authenticates social stratification and hierarchical arrangements, whereby “like it or not, it [ideology] always stands in virtual opposition to something else which is supposed to count as truth.”[iii] Power in discourse can only emerge effectively when interpretation is no longer needed and is automatically processed as truth, which prompts repression and power. However, power in discourse is not always negative, but provides a pleasant and a productive network that efficiently conditions and closes the gap between politics and culture. This distinctly coincides with the superstructure, for not only are the elite exercising dominance over the masses but ideology exists because citizens desire it. Eric Hobsbawm highlighted the existence of what he referred to as the imagined national community,[iv] namely that the values set within ideological beliefs are merely invented to hold the administration of a State together by motivating a national character and providing political and social cohesion. “Politics is so deeply rooted in the native genius of each nation that the continuity of separate political traditions constantly resist the levelling forces at work in the social and economic spheres of modern life.”[v] However, this does not make the nation ‘unreal’ but should instead be viewed as a concept that enables, “[e]xperience and the interpretation of the world.”[vi]

Ultimately, power requires recognition.

The relationship between power and identity is most obvious in the new concept of the nation: the nation, first as a community of equal individual citizens and then as a community founded upon a shared culture, becomes the legitimate locus of power… strategically, identity not only legitimizes power but provides also an effective instrument for mobilization.[vii].

The legitimisation of ideological constructs often involve Othering or the proposition that x is more legitimate than y within essentialists categorisations, which is the view that all properties in an entity must contain the same attributes. Jean-Paul Sartre claims that the anti—Semite creates the ‘Jew’ by becoming an object representing what is loathed and thus causally becoming the very purpose or reason for his being and identity.[viii] The belief in the existence of properties or characteristics that are either universal or essential consequently legitimises these properties that are apparently eternally fixed. For instance, if the properties in x are eternal or essential, than it must be that the properties in y are not and in such instances, the legitimisation of x leads to the domination or subjugation of y. Membership thus requires the acknowledgement that certain properties within the entity are eternal or essential, leading to recognition and thus power.

Nevertheless, subjugation is not always violent and can contain positive elements that are tolerated even by those being subjugated.[ix] As an instrument for political and social development, the ideological attitudes to modernisation have often been used as an apparatus in Turkish political rhetoric. Ziya Gökalp, a Turkish sociologist and political activist who influenced Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, claims that there are two functional processes of modernisation that have caused such massive structural changes in society. “The first was in culture-nations (Durkeim’s term for societies) where the advanced division of labor was creating an occupational group structure in which individuals were incorporated… the second level was that of civilisation, which Gökalp saw as the supranational grouping to which different nations belonged and in which they related.”[x] Atatürk believed that secularisation and modernity will gradually relegate the position religion has in both politics and society, yet, along with many secularists, this imagined interpretations of the possible future has thwarted the possibility of understanding alternative social and political processes. Instead, radical fundamentalism and religious and cultural revivalism are interpreted as a retrograde condition where people are reverting back to the old and inferior position because of their failure to adapt to the precipitating social transformations.

“The sense that religion has no place in contemporary politics is evidence in common claims that people “retreat” or “take refuge” in religion to escape so-called rapid socio-political change. The implication of this language is the theopolitical actors and movements are at odds with historical necessity (almost pathologically so), and should not be as predominant as they are.”[xi] Modernity has paradoxically increased the vitality of religion. Originally thought to be unsympathetic to culture and society, globalisation has instead provided the room for religious and cultural development. Andrew Davison labels this as interpretative perplexity; what we once thought to be clear becomes more perplexing than originally presumed.[xii] Davison attempts to analyse the meaning behind these political prejudices (made especially by political scientists who engage in policy assessment), particularly the convincing idea of historical development and the saturation process of social and political globalisation. Prejudices regarding the apparent direction of secularism have interrupted a better comprehension of theopolitics (theocracy) in contemporary political discourses.

Instead of acknowledging these prejudices and attempting to work comparatively, political theorists and scientists have adopted methodological attitudes that only justify secularisation. Thus, using hermeneutics to explain the interpretation of political language and the deeper expressive meanings behind these interpretations, Davison references Hans-Georg Gadamer’s idea that prejudice guides interpretation.[xiii] Though some have argued that cultural change and development through global expansion and modernity threatens the existence of past traditions and long-established customs, others maintain that it is a necessary historical process that improves the conditions of society. “[P]atterns of behaviour identified as modern tend to prevail over those considered to be traditional… when universalistic norms supersede particularistic ones.”[xiv] Emile Durkeim was an early figure who sought an understanding of the function and significance religious has vis-à-vis maintaining the balance of society. Structural functionalism is a social systems paradigm that analysis how smaller elements in society play a functional role in the whole of the social system.

According to Durkheim, collective representations are conditioned ideals, a type of intellectual and emotional semiotic interaction within a group or society that legitimise shared historical meaning. “It is also a symbolic resource: an actor who does not conceive of him/herself as a link to an historical chain cannot elaborate a discourse of legitimization or a teleological vision that gives a sense to his actions’ he/she cannot give a meaning to his/her present combats.”[xv] According to Lowell Dittmer, symbols transcend objective interpretations and are no longer dependent on referential meaning, thus extending space and time.[xvi] Symbols become the autonomous link between a political structure and political psychology, whereby “[s]ymbols tend to merge with ‘language’ on the one hand and with the substantive ‘reality’ that language represents on the other.”[xvii]

Semiotics expose features of cultural symbolism and the interaction with belief-systems since group symbols can illustrate peculiar features that the materialist approach to social analysis may not achieve. It can provide a useful introduction to the influences and properties of a given culture by reducing communication to symbolic exchanges. “Although it is legitimate to treat social relations – even relations of domination – as symbolic interactions, that is, as relations of communication implying cognition and recognition, one must not forget that the relations of communication par excellence – linguistic exchanges – are also relations of symbolic power in which the power relations between speakers or their respective groups are actualized.”[xviii]

While Sartre believed that all people are essentially free and are built by nothing but the choices that they make, identity and recognition plays a pivotal role in current political and social dynamics that therefore makes it wholly deterministic. This dichotomy between individuality and the deterministic social environment is that the latter can facilitate the decision making process and since individuality or freedom is isolating and thus fearful by extension, or at the very least the co-deterministic environment substantiates this fear of individuality so as to endorse conformity, what eventuates is the diminishment of one’s humanity.[xix] To overcome this fear and escape from freedom, the individual makes one choice and that is to submit to the precipitating social environment; thus identity becomes symptomatic of this conformity and ‘being’ or individuality becomes unconscious and identity inauthentic. This is particularly effective in a social environment that lacks agencies that support individual autonomy, such as education and justice. Thus prejudice becomes a product of this dynamic between the individual and society and is utilised as a socio-communicative tool to interpret the dialectic of nature and historical determinism, albeit the formula is paradoxically detrimental to a just social environment since state legitimacy can be undermined by exclusive identity politics and antagonising relations between citizens and the state.

[i] J. Oppenheimer, “Culture and Politics in Druze Ethnicity”, 1:3 (1977) 623
[ii] Karl Marx, The German Ideology (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1976) 101
[iii] Paul Rabinow, The Foucault Reader (London: Penguin Books, 1984) 60
[iv] E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Sine 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990) 159. See Also Benedict Anderson’ ‘Imagined Communities’
[v] Lucian W. Pye and Sidney Verba, Political Culture and Political Development (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1998) 111
[vi] Martin Sokefeld. Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space (New York: Berghahn Books, 2008) 22
[vii] Ibid., 29
[viii] Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew: An Exploration of the Etiology of Hate
[ix] Martin Sokefeld, op. cit., 30
[x] Andrew Davison, Secularism and Revivalism in Turkey: A Hermeneutic Reconsideration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998) 111
[xi] Ibid., 2
[xii] Davison, op. cit., 114
[xiii] Hans-Georg Gadamer is a German philosopher who wrote Wahrheit und Methode (Truth and Method).
[xiv] Pye and Verba, op. cit., 12
[xv] White and Jongerden, op. cit., 13
[xvi] Lowel Dittmer, “Political Culture and Political Symbolism”. World Politics 29:4 (July, 1977) 577. To extend space and time is to emotionally – rather than rationally – accept words to be true even if it is clearly to be proven false, i.e. Holocaust deniers.
[xvii] Ibid., 558
[xviii]Pierre Bourdieu and John B. Thompson, Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press (1991) 37
[xix] Jean Paul Sartre, Critique of Dialectical Reason

Thermodynamics and the Arrow of Time

To say an ‘Arrow of Time’ is to say that time itself is linear and one-directional. In thermodynamics, the second law dictates that everything moves in one-direction from a state of order towards disorder and entropy is the statistical measurement of this asymmetry in an isolated system. The universe is, for instance, this isolated system and as a consequence it is impossible to reverse this arrow of time and travel backwards just as much as the continuity of disorder will never decrease. Newton’ equations and other laws in physics, however, can be reversed and thus this ‘order’ is arrived from a state of equilibrium as it moves forward toward disorder. We simply understand the past through entropy and yet, while this may be statistically correct, the Poincare’ recurrence theorem in open systems prove that thermodynamic system may actually be paradoxical. The theorem purports that after a length of time the system may return back to its original or close to its original state, such a hot cup of tea eventually reaching room temperature. Statistical physics that attempts to measure the universe as a finite and objective physical entity together with the evolutionary patterns of nature, reached an impasse since the cosmological theory of the universe with the Big Bang started with chaos and eventually formed this smooth, ordered state that works in contradiction to the second law leading to an reductio ad absurdum. Unless we assume that the big bang itself occurred as a ‘fluctuation’ – indeed, a very rare and unique one – and is thus an addition contained inside one meta-system where a number of universes exist. Ludwig Boltzmann did not believe in the reversibility of statistical thermodynamics; I become conscious or self-aware and thus experience a non-equilibrium with nature or the external world because of a random fluctuation in my brain, but intelligence is only available in my brain and so why everything else in this system – body, organs – and thus consciousness is a random fluctuation. If I want to bake a cupcake, the ingredients – such as flour – can be reversed back to wheat, soil, planet earth, milky way, universe etc &c., – and rather than saying that I need a universe to create a cupcake or that I need to create a universe to make a cupcake, it is easier to explain that a cupcake is made from a random fluctuation. Ultimately, however, we do need a universe, milky way, planet earth, soil, wheat, and flour to make a cupcake and thus every system requires time to move forward as well as backward.

Boltzmann’s entropy formula S = k log W describes the statistical domain of thermodynamic systems [log itself aids with minimising the size of the universe with W being the number of microstates giving a probability at macro-level][1] and that entropy is conserved by the monotonic function of ordered sets as the microstates increase. Any corresponding change at macro-level is causally connected to a change with a microstate within the system, but this interconnected dependence between the two states naturally shows that the macro-state itself contains maximal entropy. That is, thermodynamic equilibrium of system is consistent with the constraints of the second law of thermodynamics and that the formula is the statistical evidence of this. In its simplest, ergodicity is merely analogous to ascertaining the averages of behaviour within a system, measuring transformations, recurrence, arbitrary convergence etc &c. or quite simply the dynamics and that over time the probability of visiting every required state occurs. A macro-state in equilibrium is largest in size, thus over ‘time’ [that is, time-average probability] the system spends visiting the phases as it reaches this equilibrium and thus maximum entropy is, well, ergodic. Even so, it is still incredibly difficult resolving arbitrary estimates coupled with the fact that cases involving the second law of thermodynamics do not necessarily require erodicity at all. But when considering the constituency of time in this framework, the idea that the direction or arrow of time will eventually lead a system toward maximum entropy and ergodicity may, in reverse, explain time.

Ergodicity itself is somewhat Epicurean, not to say that it has any connection with Epicurus’ Nature of the Cosmos, but rather the philosopher himself – more notably adhered by Lucretius – believed that it is a mark of an intelligent mind to think of multiple possibilities – from the absurd to the rational – so as to identify and explain a solution to a cosmological problem;[11] even occasionally, multiple descriptions can prove a theorem adequate and inadequate at the same time. Lucretius’ cosmological phenomenology is based on his thought experiment regarding infinite space, whereby should one travel to the end of the universe and throw a spear through it, what would happen to the spear?[12] Either it will hit it and fall, or it will go through the boundary – that the boundary of a finite universe is ultimately illusory – and toward another space that we are not aware of; what this would mean is that all possibilities and possible worlds outside of the finite space that we understand is actually possible.

Therefore the universe is infinite and according to Newton this must be true; his failure, however, was the proposition that the universe was static purported by his assumption of the stars being fixed relative the inertial frame, namely because the distribution of mass would be unstable. The problem of symmetry, however, regarding a state where the universe is accelerating, is how the direction for which this acceleration is determined. In order to substantiate the validity that there is actually a physical system, the universe requires isotropy and since we can acknowledge that when we look out to the universe that in every direction we can observe the CMB radiation, one can conclude that it may very well be a symmetric space.

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Nevertheless, for the sake of avoiding the likelihood of falling down the existential rabbit hole before becoming overwhelmed by the vanity of, well, everything, let us assume that the universe can be modelled as a dynamical system, contained in an isotropic, homogenous and maximally symmetric but statistically within a finite structure and governed by an arrow of time, and in doing so the analysis of erodicity and entropy within such a model seem almost possible. The problem is that, if the arrow of time purports that time itself is moving forward in one direction, that the universe is expanding alongside time as it reaches its maximum state of high entropy, it would mean that therefore the universe had a past and so to not defy the second law of thermodynamics, the early universe would have to be at a state of low entropy. In an environment where the observable universe is much denser or smaller in the past – since the universe is expanding – it would logically imply that it was hotter and the pull stronger. How is it that in that macroscopic parameter consisting of a hot and dense environment instead was smooth and cool? This does not make sense since the early universe was in a state of equilibrium which, given the calculations above, must uphold the thermal law of being in a state of high entropy. In addition, temporal asymmetry works in contradiction to the second law of thermodynamics; motion cannot function without time, it would be like matter frozen in a dimensionless space or swallowed in a blink beyond the event horizon. Time’ arrow works in a manner that directs motion forward, evolutionary of sorts and adapts to the processes within its environment in an attempt to find a state of equilibrium.

In classic thermodynamics, the joule [free] expansion – where within an adiabatic container enclosed with monatomic gas molecules and no energy or thermal properties – the gas densely kept to one side of the container with a closed partition between another empty container that has been vacuumed of any properties at all and therefore completely empty,[13] when the partition is opened and consequently the gas in one container increases in volume and expands into the other, the pressure of the gas that had been densely kept in the other compartment diminishes [like blowing up a balloon with helium gas and then letting it go; the gas is released from the balloon with the rubber shell flying about the place in an awkwardly loud and flatulent manner]. There is no pressure or work, ΔU = q + w = 0 but nevertheless there were changes [in consideration of ideal gas][14] in temperature and therefore PV=nRT whereby the pressure and volume equates to a constant of the gas and the temperature, so the first law regarding the conservation of energy in thermodynamics remains valid. The ergodic hypothesis by Boltzmann was formulated to prove in principle the determination of the distribution of gas molecules and their kinetic speeds in his equipartition theorem, which is mathematically ascertaining the energy of any given physical system through the distribution of generalised coordinates and momenta. The second law of thermodynamics contains the interesting problem vis-à-vis this very blog post, that the law governs the exchange of thermal contact and gradual arrangement toward a fixed equilibrium; that is, the natural evolution of any given system is determined to a state of equilibrium. Once the partition is open and the gases are dispersed, they spontaneously find a state of equilibrium and do not randomly paste themselves to the ceiling of the container etc &c. How can a hot cup of tea become lukewarm as it cools to room temperature and thus asymmetric as it reaches a state of equilibrium with its environment? Or is that a deductive fallacy? Could travel back in time? One of my favourite paradoxes from All You Zombies[15] is as follows:

A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert “her” to a “him.” Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room.

Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, “he” becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop’s Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the “time travelers corps.” Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant.

The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop’s Place in 1970.

The question is: Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson? The girl, the drifter, and the bartender, of course, are all the same person. These paradoxes can made your head spin, especially if you try to untangle Jane’s twisted parentage. If we draw Jane’s family tree, we find that all the branches are curled inward back on themselves, as in a circle. We come to the astonishing conclusion that she is her own mother and father! She is an entire family tree unto herself.

Quantum entanglement is an interesting method of understanding the arrow of time in this context. The uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics[16] asserts that measuring the position of a particle and its momentum is never accurate, furthered in confusion with evidence that sometimes interaction between two particles merge or entangle to form a ‘oneness’ that dictates the momentum and position one to the other that they are no longer two separate particles – though physically it is so –nevertheless communicating invisibly one to the other as a combined force. It is of interest to me where the interaction prior to the amalgam between the particles peaked at a derivative equal to zero, namely the very point where particles enjoin to become a state where they can no longer be classified as autonomous. Reaching this balance of connectivity between particles from a pure particle state to a combined oneness in perfect equilibrium as it relaxes into its new and unchanging form is the real parameter that works comparatively to the notion of thermal equilibrium and thus the evaluation of thermodynamic properties.

It appears that no matter where I am in the universe, I will still get the same answers to the same equations and the physical world would appear to me, well, to be the same in every direction. That is, the symmetry of the expansion rate is homogenous confirmed to a degree through Hubble’s Law, which is the velocity between two galaxies being equal to the Hubble parameter times the distance V=Hod and verifies that objects would appear to be expanding outward relative to the observer; the measurement of the radial velocity determined by the redshift. Thus galaxies are moving away and galaxies even further still at a much faster rate explained by the fact that should both the source and the observer be stationary, there would be no time differentiation or delays viz., the time for the wavelength to reach the observer, hence the Doppler effect. When thinking about the cosmological redshift, whereby light that has been emitted from a distant galaxy reaches us on earth, calculations of the spectral features of photons namely λ =h/p requires attentiveness on how the light itself will shift from the frequency it had when emitted to the frequency we measure when receiving it, that is, the momentum and time it takes for the wavelength to reach the observer, the evolution of this process changes as the photons are stretched. Physicists have thus determined that the universe is not only expanding but also accelerating.

It would seem that the universe is expanding whilst galaxies themselves remain static. When photons emitted from a distant galaxy reach us the observer, the distance and velocity of the wavelength with the time it takes to us from the source is quantified by the Hubble constant times the distance between galaxies. The asymptotic nature of ∆t would purport that the atomic properties in space and thermal energy interact with time in a manner that will continuously interfere in the process of reaching absolute zero, and as stated previously, even a vacuum state still contains energy even though extremely low. Measuring time during the inflationary epoch remains questionable, even with the capacity to measure the smallest possible unit of time through Planck [5.39 × 10^-44 s] whereby probabilities are the only reality attributed to the questionable state of time. Perhaps the total entropy in the universe is already infinite, in which case it was always infinite.

How we experience time remains an unexplained phenomenon. If, indeed, time must move both forward and backward, perhaps the equilibrium that I experience in ‘now’ is really both past and future working in perfect uniformity rather than some random existential fluctuation. Perhaps my past can speak to my future and that is the mystical experience of prophesy? That there is no ‘beginning’ or ‘end’ except this singularity itself, namely God who is ‘alpha and omega’? Or maybe the universe is simply a brain!

 

[1] Don S. Lemons, A Student’s Guide to Entropy, Cambridge University Press (2013) 72
[2] See Lucretius’ cosmology and use of the Principle of Plentitude briefly explained in Michael J. White, Agency and Integrality: Philosophical Themes in the Ancient Discussions of Determinism and Responsibility, Springer Science & Business Media (2012) 4
[3] Philip de May, Lucretius: Poet and Epicurean, Cambridge University Press (2009) 27
[4] Clement John Adkins Equilibrium Thermodynamics, Cambridge University Press (1983) 162
[5] Peter Atkins, Julio de Paula, Ronald Friedman, Physical Chemistry: Quanta, Matter, and Change, OUP Oxford (2013) 576
[6] David Darling, The Universal Book of Mathematics: From Abracadabra to Zeno’s Paradoxes, John Wiley & Sons (2004) 139. See Robert Heinlein’ All You Zombies
[7] K.V.S.Gnaneswara Rao, Engineering Physics, S. Chand Publishing (2008) 38

 

Gravitational Repulsion: Is Zero Building An Eternally Expanding Universe?

Non-inflationary theories of the genesis of the universe or what we know as the big bang effectively only discuss the hydrogen and helium particles etc &c., that fill the universe or what occurred after the birth of the universe, and now that evidence has been shown[1] that the universe is actually expanding, it has led to questions of what could have been prior to the bang in a much more sophisticated manner. And there are multiple theories, such as Brane collision or the collision of two dimensions or that the universe is formed from within a black hole, all of which are interesting particularly with new areas of thought viz., superstrings and the cyclic universe model, but certainly not as persuasive as cosmic inflation and the multiverse theory.

It is a theory that the universe is constantly expanding, while the density remains at a constant and during the process of decay, pockets of new universes form making our universe one of multiple universes in an eternal stretch of fields. The idea of the cosmological constant λ was formulated by Einstein in his theory of general relativity to describe a static universe prior to Hubble’ discovery that the universe was actually expanding and at the time he himself even rejected this equation, however it appears that the answer for cosmic inflation and the uniformity of the universe can unexpectedly be explained by it. How? According to Alan Guth it can be explained through repulsive gravity, namely that negative pressure can push exponential expansion far greater than its capacity for decay.

At this point where I found myself throwing whatever it was in my hand, cursing and walking briskly around the room for no apparent reason other than sheer excitement. How can zero build an eternally expanding universe? At elementary level, the underpinning of the cosmological constant is that gravity is not always attractive and can behave repulsively,[2] a necessary formulation to counter the problem with a static universe and the big crunch [collapse of the universe]; the negative pressure will provide the force that pushes things apart while the positive three-dimensional field will keep it together as they work in uniformity and subsequently expand. Whilst Einstein’ depiction of the universe may have been incorrect and why the theory was abandoned, the equations nevertheless remained functional with the laws of general relativity, hence its revival particularly within particle physics.

Gravitational repulsion requires a negative pressure, the latter along with energy density can produce cosmic gravitational fields.[3] In Newtonian physics, gravity is an attractive force and yet in the absence of pressure [pressure is a form of gravity] produces deceleration, even with gravitational fields having negative energy. As a comparative analogy, Coulomb’s inverse-square law in proportion to two charges divided by the square of the distance between them[4] (viz. gravity), the constant in the law is that the force between two positive charges is proportional to the product of their charges (like how two positive charges repel one another) and to calculate the energy density in an electrostatic field, more charge would induce more electric force that it no longer depends on the quantity of the charge, thus the two cancel each other out. In gravitational energy terms, not everything is positive and there are negative energies, with positive energy inflating or getting larger as long as there is an accompaniment of increasing quantity of negative energy, thus both offset each other and you have expansion locked at an exponential rate. In order for inflation to begin, a portion of this negative pressure is required for the existence of the early universe, namely that within the context of the grand unification theory – the merging of strong and weak nuclear forces along with gravitation and electromagnetism into a singular interaction – and the energy of the electromagnetic forces interact to form a unified energy value. This very portion of what becomes the big bang and the universe as we know it would be about the size of 10^-28cm (assuming energies being at 10^16 GeV – the problem of thermodynamic arrow relates to inhomogeneity[5] in that anything larger or smaller would make the universe blow apart or suck away galaxies into black holes, an important algorithm vis-à-vis temporal asymmetry where the time-dependence of Ω-1 changes, of which I will discuss later). It then grows at an exponential rate to build what we know as the universe and the mass density does not decrease, namely that it expands at a constant density. Where does the energy – that is constant per volume during growth – come from? As energy equals to positive matter and negative gravity, they cancel one another out in perfect harmony and thus the total energy levels for the universe can be measured at zero.

The universe has no energy? *Quizzical look

Acceleration? This is where the concept of ‘dark energy’ [what I call the ‘will’ of the universe] which makes up about ¾ of the universe comes to the fore or what is known as vacuum energy, considered to be empty [although in cosmology whilst the structure is fundamental to empty space nonetheless contains an energy density, namely the conservation of energy can occur at zero]. The total energy at the beginning of the universe must be at zero with the negative contribution to the energy of the cosmic gravitational field cancelling the energy of matter. Inflation as a constant and eternal is only possible at 0 where matter is being created by the inflation but controlled by the non-uniformity in perfect harmony. The repulsive gravity that drives inflation nevertheless decays [t=10^-33 seconds after the big bang] but the inflation itself remains eternal because the growth of the volume is faster – hence the importance of the thermodynamic arrow of time – than the metastable rate of the decay; the material formed during this process thus becomes the particles required to produce the very same material that forms another universe, ad infinitum (radiation density during this time redshifts away – again I will discuss later in addition to how dark energy appeases the early specialness issue by smoothening the inflationary transition). States of equilibrium can nonetheless be achieved in unstable, disordered environments, such as balancing a spinning basketball on an index finger where for a brief moment in time is in perfect equilibrium but certainly not at a stable one. Inflation is really the physics of scalar fields φ and matter; the particles that make up the universe that form the stuff following the initial phase of inflation leading to the big bang are merely the quantum representation of the (Higgs) fields. In particle physics, the nonzero Higgs field – which is responsible for the emergence of elementary particle masses – contains both positive and negative contributions and has a constant value at every space time point. Observable quantum density fluctuations and tensor perturbations in scalar fields can explain the source of temperature anisotropies (along with universal isotropy, its massive size and relative homogeneity) in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation.[6] As the expansion of the universe is accelerating rather than slowing down under the influence of gravity, it indicates that vacuum energy is simply the energy of empty space and though empty has a mass density (which would mean that it is not actually empty).

Nevertheless, there are a plethora of issues raised at this point. The confusion or controversy really boils down to the concept of disorder and the cosmological epoch. Namely, is the universe a n-dimensional De Sitter space dSn, is it a 3-manifold Poincaré dodecahedral space, the flatness problem where Euclidian geometry applies only at a large scale; is it three-dimensional, four-dimensional, or nine-dimensional squished into three as string theorists propose? The other and perhaps more interesting one is the problem of entropy potentially being extremely low at this point. Whilst warm inflation – modelled on the standard or ‘cold’ inflationary theory[7] – purports a small portion of the vacuum energy density is converted to radiation, whereby the radiation density stabilises during the process of coupling [between inflation and radiation fields], during the decay phase, the scalar field oscillates to become radiation particles that slowly reheats the universe and when this occurs [reheating and inflation together] they become coupled into a unified process. The connection between the flatness problem and entropy is a complex one, particularly related to whether the early universe was adiabatic and why spatially the conditions at the beginning were flat. When inflation begins, the energy stored in the gravitational field as it expands increases whilst the energy density remains constant, thus the gravitational field itself has a repulsive energy density as it expands in volume, with the total energy being very close to 0 without violating the conservation of energy. It may mean that inflation requires a non-adiabatic, extremely low entropy to occur, entropy being the measure of randomness and low entropy itself considered perfectly ordered. If inflation increases entropy, it appears that at the point of inflation, the entropy had to be smaller and the uniformity of the energy density during inflation becomes responsible for the low entropy conditions. What is currently in debate is namely why – in the past – did the universe begin with low entropy and yet the product being the second law of thermodynamics?

I want to maintain that the observable universe (and one should note the keyword here being ‘observable’) would imply that the universe is flat (k=0) or that inflation is pushing Ω to 1 with Ω being the mass density divided by critical mass density, thus the asymptotic curvature of the universe is being exponentially flattened by the expansion at 10^35 seconds after the bang. What that means is that should Ω=1 the curvature must equal to 0 (or be extremely close to it) and the effect would be infinite expansion. Thinking about that model, such expansion could causally be the precise reason we have an arrow of time fixed in perfect and irremediable harmony, although no theory of randomness can explain the arrow of time and the problem of low entropy during the early phase of the universe and the successive phase transition of expansion and cooling. When assessing temporal asymmetry, however, the concept of low entropy during the beginning phases of the universe – whilst objectionable or perhaps superfluous – is nevertheless useful when ascertaining the thermodynamic arrow.

The second law of thermodynamics purports that the time flows in a linear direction as we know it, namely from past to present to future. The question here is that as the universe expands and progresses over this time, from an ordered state – namely that of low-entropy – it is moving toward a high-entropy disordered universe. Entanglement in ordinary quantum mechanics, which can perhaps work as a correlation in that the measurements of the relationship between two particles relies on contact sometime in the past, the interaction or exchange following even when these particles are at a far distance and in a disordered state from one another remain organised and can even affect one another’ quantum state. As a consequence, while separate their properties can only be measured as one. There is an invisible but an active link between the particles. In quantum field theory, entanglement entropy rather than being a correlation contains causality under the assumption that symmetry of a pure state that has ergodic properties.

The total energy at the beginning of the universe started at very close to zero and the negative contribution to the energy of the gravitational field cancels the energy of matter and thus repulsive gravity drives inflation with the growth volume faster than the decay, allowing the physical universe to expand exponentially. We are able to confirm relative homogeneity and isotropy through the fluctuations imprinted in the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background and gives light to the conditions of the early universe, which was once filled with plasma but where photons themselves – whilst moving at the speed of light – remained immobile in the density and so velocity stood at zero. As the universe expanded, the plasma cooled and became a gas and as such cosmologists began to question thermal equilibrium, the second law of thermodynamics and entropy, the latter allegedly being low during the early epoch of the universe. Thus in continuation, the problem we face here is that as the universe expands and progresses over this time, from an ordered state – namely that of low-entropy – toward a disordered high-entropy, the latter itself dependent on the arrow of time, how exactly can the early universe in the past, where it was hotter and denser and had a stronger gravitation pull, be perfectly smooth?

Hubble expansion, which is about 70km per megaparsec, is the expansion rate that we see at present with the inflationary epoch ending 10^-32 seconds after the big bang to expand at the rate of the Hubble constant.[8] If the universe was thus once condensed to a very small size until it expanded at a factor of 10^26 due to inflation and eventually ending that lead to a fixed or steady expansion as we know is now taking place, the process itself nevertheless preserves the subatomic smoothness that the initial conditions held. This is particularly coherent when assuming that we are a part of a multiverse. In Einstein’ GR field equations, he applied the cosmological constant Λ in an attempt to explain a static universe prior to Hubble’ expanding one and thus later rejected it, however for both inflation and dark energy, the ubiquitous Λ becomes a necessary algorithm that binds the theory together as the energy density of the latter in particular causally drives expansion and a flat universe that can expand infinitely. With Riemannian geometry, cosmological observations of the CMB radiation through the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) have measured angles that add to exactly 180 degrees, which in a Euclidean space purports a universe that is k=0 or flat[9] and as its density remains constant as it expands, dark energy or the energy of empty space itself plays a vital role. The horizon problem also shows that the temperatures at different directions of the CMB radiation are uniform to almost 1 part in 10^4 [accounting a minor electric dipole] or 1 part in 10,000 and therefore almost the same – something that should not actually be possible – purporting that the only solution to this thermal equilibrium is inflation. That is, for example, regions billions of light years in opposite directions must communicate or interact in some manner to reach this symmetry and the explanation is that they – at one point in time – were interacting and the process of inflation has stretched them out into altered directions, thus favouring the model of an isotropic and homogenous universe.

As there is an arrow of time and as the universe is expanding, in the past the universe would have been infinitesimally smaller particularly as we reach the beginning of time. As such, the density and heat would have been higher – something clearly attributable to the CMB radiation – and the fact that perfection or a state of low-entropy is requisite should we adhere to thermodynamic laws and the direction of time, the conditions of the big bang becomes formidable. In addition, if the initial conditions were not perfectly ordered and smooth, it would have fizzled away. As mentioned, assuming the universe is geometrically flat because of the ratio between the mass density and the critical mass density being very close to Ω =1 and stabilised through the force of repulsive gravity as illustrated by the cosmological constant, is the fabric of the universe smoothing as it expands. I will write more about the Arrow of Time and Thermodynamics in my next post.

[1] Stephen T. Thornton and Andrew Rex, Modern Physics for Scientists and Engineers, Cengage Learning (2012) 578
[2] Behram N. Kursunogammalu, Stephan L. Mintz, Arnold Perlmutter, The Role of Neutrinos, Strings, Gravity, and Variable Cosmological Constant in Elementary Particle Physics, Springer Science & Business Media (2007) 182
[3] Maurizio Gasperini, The Universe Before the Big Bang: Cosmology and String Theory, 160
[4] John Gribbin, Mary Gribbin, Jonathan Gribbin, Q is for Quantum: An Encyclopedia of Particle Physics, Simon and Schuster (2000) 92
[5] Murray Gell-Mann and James B. Hartle, Time Symmetry and Asymmetry in Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Cosmology,  (February, 2008)
[6] Alejandro Gangui, Cosmic Microwave Background Anisotropies and Theories of the Early Universe, SISSA-International School for Advanced Studies (1995)
[7] Mar Bastero-Gil, Arjun Berera, Ian G. Moss, Rudnei O. Ramos, Theory of non-Gaussianity in warm inflation (Dec 2014)
[8] Cesare Emiliani, Planet Earth: Cosmology, Geology, and the Evolution of Life and Environment, Cambridge University Press (1992) 68
[9] Carlos I. Calle, Einstein For Dummies, Wiley (2005) 309
[10] Don S. Lemons, A Student’s Guide to Entropy, Cambridge University Press (2013) 72