Sunday, September 25, 2011


A brief digression is in order on the subject of movement.   We have said that the "and" and the "or" underlie all physical history based upon the primacy of movement.  Human movement, of course, involves an interplay of the "and" and the "or".  When we walk, we dig our feet into the ground, attempt in a sense to push the ground back, and use that force to propel us forward.   The pressure that our feet experience is in fact caused by the repulsive force between the electrons on the ground and those on our feet (two negatively charged particles repelling each other).  It is, in fact, the repulsive force of these electrons that prevent us from falling into the earth, and literally becoming one with the earth.  In any event, we see the presence of the "and" as we dig our feet into the ground, trying to achieve unity with it, and the presence of the "or", as we use the pressure and the repulsive force of these similarly charged particles to draw ourselves away from where we were and towards a new place.  As we continue walking,  we will continue to come into contact and draw away from the earth to which we are anchored.   During this process, we also come into contact with air molecules (this coming to to contact with is the  "and"), they bounce off us (the or) and we continue moving until we reach our destination.
Movement in general, it seems, is very fundamental to who we are.  During the first 80 to 90% of our history we were nomadic hunter gatherers, and the incorporation of the "and" and the "or" into our daily lives undoubtedly put us in greater touch with our environment.   It has only been during the last 5000 or so years that we have attempted to become permanently routed to an address, perhaps denying the "or" of our nature and nature in general.  Our cats and dogs and virtually all animals are wanderers at heart.  In our quest to deny this fundamental aspect of who we are, we have leveled forests and built cities.  What is tragic is that in our quixotic quest to extinguish our nomadic nature, we have extinguished the diversity that nature took billions of years to create.   Which of course is not to say that it is unnatural to have a home. Birds have nests. Snails have shells (and look how far that has got them!!).   But building permanent settlements or homes is a relatively recent development.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chemical reactions

A chemical reaction can often be described as an elaborate and/or dance.   The number of each type of atom (whether it be oxygen atoms, carbon atoms etc.) remains the same before and after the reaction occurs.  However, the atoms pull apart from each other and realign with each other in new ways, forming new alliances.   Take the simple reaction of wood being combined with oxygen to form fire.  Wood consists largely of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms, and it is combined with oxygen gas to produce fire, which in this case is a combination of carbon dioxide gas and water vapor.  The number of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms in the fire is the same as the number of said atoms in the wood and oxygen gas.  However, they are aligned differently.   Thus, the carbon atom in the molecule of wood has broken away (the "or") from the hydrogen and oxygen atoms and combined (the and) with what was formerly the oxygen gas to form carbon dioxide gas. Similarly, the hydrogen atom in what had formerly been the wood molecule aligns with other oxygen atoms to form the water vapor.   Most reactions are far more complex and contain a far more intricate and in some cases spectacular interplay of the "and" and the "or".   There are some reactions that principally feature the "or", causing sets of previously combined atoms to be broken apart, and some that principally feature the "and".  In any case, the number of atoms for each element remains the same before and after the reaction.  Only their alliances have changed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Back to the "and" and the "or" in chemistry

That the "and" is present in the different types of bonding between elements is self evident. To continue our phenomenological description of these types of bonding, we have already described how in ionic bonding,  an electron on the outer shell of an atom pull away from this shell (the "or" in action), travels to  the outer shell of an adjacent  atom and joins the community of electrons there (the "and").   The attractive forces of the differently charged atoms binds them together.
In metallic bonding (which results in pieces of metal), we again see the "or" when an electron leaves the outer shell of an atom. Electrons leave the outer shells of other atoms, resulting in a sea of electrons outside the atoms (the "and" again).  This sea causes the different atoms to cluster together (another case of the "and") and also prevents them from moving.
 In covalent bonding, we see a compromise between the "and" and the "or". The electron doesn't quite leave the outer shell of one atom or join that of another.  Rather, the outer shells of different atoms share varying numbers of electrons with each other.  These shared electrons act as the glue that holds the atoms together.
As we've said, these differing types of bonding work to the benefit of the "and".  However, they also promote diversity (the "or") by enabling a seemingly infinite variety of combinations to be formed.


We have already discussed how various ethical commandments, laws and mores are an example for the "and" imposing restrictions upon the "or" for the benefit of both.  Thus, the above post was largely an argument that the benefit of both is good.  It could be argued that the human race is destroying diversity, and antisocial behavior, or a descent into anarchy, as has occurred in such places as Somalia, would be good in the long run, as it would result in more starvation and death, the end of the human race, and ultimately the protection of diversity.   While this may have some surface appeal, antisocial behavior in general includes a disregard for all life, both human and nonhuman, the plundering of the environment and the promotion of famine.   What seems more sensible is that we include in the definition of ethical behavior behavior that both inures to the benefit of society and the benefit of the planet.  Commandments against murder and theft are not inconsistent with this definition if we have the confidence that human society is capable of thriving without destroying the planet.  Certainly, the exercise of measures to protect against overpopulation, such as the use of birth control, and the development of green technologies would seem to suggest human society has this potential.
We must also acknowledge that promotion of diversity among life forms has not been linear.  There were mass extinctions, from which both the "or" and the "and" recovered.  Thus, it is possible that human society can thrive at the temporary expense of the "and" and the "or".
 In the end, while we can say that the human represents the "and" and the "or"'s crowning achievement, and that it is beautiful, and destroying this beauty is bad (as we said in the last post), we cannot allow its crowning achievement to result in the destruction of the planet, and the death of diversity.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Andorian Philosophy

I must digress from my discussion of chemistry to name my philosophy. I will call it Andorianism for reasons that should be evident.  I have tried to begin sketching Andorian metaphysics (the basis for physics and in fact all science), Andorian epistemology (a theory of knowledge), Andorianism as a basis for language, Andorian sociology, and a few other things.  
And now I may as well begin to sketch Andorianism as a basis for morality or ethics. For how, it may be asked, can science, or something that favors a scientific approach, constitute a foundation for ethics?  For some, my answer may appear unsatisfactory.  It may appear quasi-religious in a Platonic sense. (Plato spoke of a form of the Good, which some assert is God.)
 What we can say is that is that simplicity begets diversity, and when we can view this, when we see the diversity burgeoning before our eyes and see how it occurs, we encounter beauty.  We are awestruck. And this diversity is the closest thing to God, if it is not God.  And it is this that we can worship simply by seeing with no need for stories or fables.
And there is nothing that has benefited diversity more than the appearance of life.  Prior to the appearance of life, there may have been thousands or types of molecules.  From these thousands of types of  molecules have sprouted billions or trillions of life forms.  Thus, doing something that benefits the diversity of life is good.  While killing in order to eat and survive is essential, killing or needlessly causing pain is not.  And we generally view most killing of humans as heinous, as the human, so far as we know, is diversity's crowning achievement.  We are among the more complex life forms, and it is thought that only the human can grasp the experience diversity in all its splendor.   Thus, I add this to other arguments about the human ability to suffer, and his/her unique awareness of suffering.  So there you have it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

some more thoughts on the "and" and "or" in chemical reactions

That reality consists of movement may, in some senses, sound counterintuitive.  But science tells us that even the most static objects, such as rocks, consist of clusters of atoms, each with orbiting electrons.  To the extent that an electron is a wave, it does not appear to move. However, to the extent it is a particle, it rotates around the nucleus trillions of times per second.
In any event, we digress, for it is not the rotational status of electrons that excites interest.  Rather, it is their seeming instability.  For virtually all "chemical" reactions occur when atoms lose or acquire electrons.  By chemical reactions, we mean the formation of molecules, in which two or elements combine.  Thus, table salt is the dramatic result of the union of sodium and chloride.  Thus, in all chemical reactions, the "and" appears predominant.  And thus we see how the "and" underlies all physical things.
However, we cannot underestimate the role of the "or", or the harmony in which the "and" and the "or" live.  For many molecular combinations (called ionic bonding) seem to occur when one atom sheds an electron (in which we see the "or" separating the electron from the outer orbit of the atom - this is called ionization) and another acquires that electron (a case of the "and" being actualized).  Thus, we see an "or/and" cycle, or an "and/or" cycle.  The ionization itself (the or in action) may be induced by energy being directed at, or in a sense combining with electrons in the atom.
We cannot deny that each element has its own nature.  Based upon the number of electrons in their outer shells, some elements are more anxious to acquire than to shed electrons.   Those with only one or two electrons in their outer shell can easily shed electrons, or be "or'd".  Those with seven in their outer shells are anxious to acquire the final electron to make their shell complete (it can have eight.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Proof that the "and" and the "or" underlie all that is

This proof will be based upon several premises, but hopefully they are premises upon which most would agree.

First, we note a priori that there is more than one thing, whether it be a person, atom, planet, ocean, sun etc.

Second, we must observe that all events, whether historical, biological, planetary or molecular, involve movement.  When speaking about historical events we can say that people go places and do things, whether to other people or other beings.  As for planetary events, there seems to be little doubt that planets, solar systems, asteroids, galaxies and constellations of galaxies are constantly in motion.  As for biological events, advances in biology have demonstrated that at any one time, thousands of processes are taking place within a cell; enzymes are transporting, digesting and expelling various substances; cells are multiplying, dividing etc., as we have already discussed in past posts.  Similarly, on an atomic level, electrons, other subatomic particles and atoms themselves are constantly in motion, often very rapid motion. Atoms of different elements are constantly binding together to form molecules, or separating from one another when exposed to energy.

Thus, there are things, and they are moving.  Under what conditions would the "and" and "or" not underlie all movement? Under what conditions would movement not consist of a  "moving toward each other" and coming together of two entities (the and), or the separation or "moving away from each other" of entities?

 One such condition would be if everything was moving together, in one group, in one direction and at the same speed.  Empirical observation establishes that this is not the case.

Another condition under which the "and" and the "or" would not underlie all events would be if all movement consisted primarily of perfectly circular orbital movement.  Orbital movement exists, but it certainly doesn't predominate.  Even most orbital movement does not consist of perfectly circular orbital movement, in which the distance of one thing from another remains the same throughout time.   The earth's orbit around the sun, and most other orbits, are elliptical.   Thus, planets inch closer to the sun, and further away from it at different times.   Accordingly, the "and" and the "or" is present in differing degrees in most orbital movement.  Furthermore, orbital movement is relatively uncommon on a planetary level.  Planets may orbit around the sun, but they certainly don't orbit around each other.  They are in different positions in relation to each other, and different distances from each other, at different times.  Moreover, the orbital movement that does exist is relatively short lived in universal time.  Solar systems come into being upon the birth of a sun, and likely drift out of existence upon the sun's demise.

"Mr. Philosopher !!" you may remonstrate.  "Isn't the movement of electrons around the nucleus orbital?" Well, not really.  Quantum physics shows that electrons are not perfectly determinate substances whose movements can be precisely traced.  They are quasi-particles/waves, and the precise position and momentum of an electron at any given time can never be known (The Heisenberg uncertaintly principle).   They do not orbit the nucleus in the same way a planet orbits the sun.  Their precise positions can't be known.  Only the probability that they are in any place is knowable, and their orbit of probability need not be circular.  Finally, even if we concede that the orbit of electrons is circular, most history, at least on an atomic level, occurs when electrons leave their orbit.  They may jump to another orbit, when excited by energy, they may actually orbit another nucleus, as occurs in some types of bonding, or they may, in some cases, stop orbiting nuclei all together, as when electricity flows through a wire.

In any event,  empirical observation seems to confirm that most movement is not perfectly circular orbital movement.

In sum, we have:

1) The world is composed of things or objects.

2) All history, whether human, biological, planetary or atomic,  consists of the movement of these objects.

3)  These objects don't all move in unison, in the same direction and at the same speed.

4) Most of this movement is not perfectly circular orbital movement.

If propositions 3 and 4 are true, then it would appear that things move either further apart or closer together.  Thus, the "and" and the "or" underlie most events.

When the "and" is fully actualized, formerly separate things coalesce into sets.  Sets can be homogenous or heterogenous.  Many if not most sets are heterogenous, but are composed of homogenous subsets.  For instance, amino acids consist of clusters of atoms of a few different elements.  Overall, the set that makes one amino acid is heterogenous, but it has more than one atom or each of the different elements of which it is composed, thus the homogenous subsets.