MIND, LIFE AND BODY

by     Reginald O. Kapp

PART III - THE PROBLEM IN TERMS OF DIATHETICS

Chapter XX - TOWARDS A SOLUTION



1. THE NEXT IMMEDIATE QUESTION

IT has been my aim to formulate a problem, not to spin theories. Having presented the great Problem of Control in all its disconcerting elusiveness I have fulfilled my aim. Consistency of purpose demands that I leave the matter there. And yet. If I close now, without offering even the faint prospect of a tenable theory, I may, I fear, allow an all-too obtrusive conviction to persist, the conviction that, in spite of all that has been said in previous chapters, the path along which I am pointing leads nowhere, that the problem is insoluble.

It is my hope that the difficulties inherent in the problem may act as a stimulus to further effort. But there is a danger that they may, instead, be taken merely as a confirmation of the prevalent view among scientists that preoccupation with any problems of this nature must forever end in frustration. What is offered as a challenge may come to be accepted as a warning. I would rather be inconsistent than discouraging and so I shall, in conclusion, venture to suggest, though it be with some diffidence, a possible approach to a solution.

I do, however, want strictly to limit the scope of anything further that I may be able to say. I do not propose to offer a solution. That, I feel sure, will only come as the result of co-operation between experts in several scientific fields. I shall be content to define here what, in my opinion, is the next immediate question and to suggest the direction from which an answer may most hopefully be sought.

The conclusion that has been slowly arrived at in the course of the preceding chapters is that an influence without location, a diathete, acting on living substance, and only on living substance, causes random forces to produce an ordered result. The mechanism by means of which this is achieved has been given the alternative names "controlled element of a primary relay" and "eudiathetous mechanism". Like every conclusion reached in science, this one can only be accepted if the answer "yes" is found to both the following questions: Is there any evidence for the conclusion? Is the conclusion physically possible?

The first of these questions has already been answered. The evidence for the conclusion has proved plentiful and cogent. It would be hard indeed to shake it. So the second question becomes the next immediate one. Is a eudiathetous mechanism physically possible?

If it is found that the answer is again "yes", eudiathetous mechanisms will become a proper subject for scientific study and a vast new field for research will have been opened up.

If, on the other hand, it can be proved that eudiathetous mechanisms are physically impossible there will be no choice but to conclude that there is a flaw in the evidence that has been presented here. A search will have to be made for that flaw. An alternative explanation will have to be found for those events to which I have drawn attention and which have been attributed by me to the action of diathetes on matter. It will have to be proved that they can, instead, be attributed to the unaided action of matter on matter. That is a task for those who know something about the properties of matter, for physicists. It does not lie within the competence of anyone else. To prove that things with location can accomplish everything that has been observed and experienced, including planning for the future, the delusion that there is planning for the future, the performance of acts that provide evidence of causation with control, to prove that such observed occurrences can be produced by the unaided action of things with location will call for more careful, responsible, disciplined thought than has ever yet been given to this subject in the no-man's-land in which alone it has hitherto been studied. So the proof that eudiathetous mechanisms are physically impossible will not relieve scientists of the obligation to pursue the matter further. Like the answer "yes", the answer "no" would open up new and fruitful fields of study.

2. IS THE PHYSICAL WORLD COMPLETELY OR INCOMPLETELY DETERMINATE?

To say that a mechanism is eudiathetous is to say that a diathete, that an influence without location, partly determines its performance. And to say so is to say that things with location do not determine its performance completely. As, moreover, a diathete cannot exert a force, it is also to say that the forces that act on the mechanism do not determine its performance completely; it is to say that the physical world, the world that consists entirely of things with location and in which the only influences are physical forces, that this world is incompletely determinate. So the most relevant question at this moment is to ask whether the physical world is completely or incompletely determinate.

Many do believe firmly that the physical world is completely determinate. Should they be right a eudiathetous mechanism could not function; random forces could not, by any conceivable means, be caused to produce an ordered result. But then the ordered result, which is after all observed, would have to be either explained or explained away. That task would not prove easy.

There are others who believe that the physical world is incompletely determinate. Should these be right there would be no fundamental reason why a eudiathetous mechanism should not be physically possible. The laws of physics would not preclude the theory that random forces could be caused to produce an ordered result, and the next task would be to seek to understand how a eudiathetous mechanism may be constructed and how it may work.

What does physics tell us about the determinateness of the physical world?

The answer is, rather surprisingly, very little. The notion that the physical world is completely determinate is the creation of common sense; it is not to be found either explicitly or implicitly, in any of the laws of physics. But the notion that the physical world is incompletely determinate also lacks support from any known law of physics. Had a physicist been asked during any time in an earlier century which notion was the correct one his answer could only have been that he simply did not know. Perhaps he would have added that he was inclined to accept the judgement of common sense. But he could also have told us that he had never taken any steps to test that judgement. For no one has yet conducted an experiment in a physics laboratory by means of which he might find out whether the physical world is completely or incompletely determinate. And, further, within the limited field of physics there has never been any evidence one way or the other.

A physicist of today can confirm all this. But he can also make two interesting additions to the answer. The first is that it would be useless to try to settle the question by means of an experiment conducted in a physics laboratory, the reason being, not in the imperfection of our measuring instruments, but in the discontinuous nature of matter and energy: and the second addition is that, if there is any indeterminateness in the physical world, it is very slight, no greater indeed than the minute uncertainty inherent in all physical observations. Both these additions are derived from the quantum theory and they are embodied in a principle known as the Principle of Uncertainty.

Those who believe in the effectiveness of non-material influences might, therefore, have hoped up to the early years of this century that one could, with the help of an experiment in physics, prove with certainty that the physical w6rld is incompletely determinate; and they might have hoped further that, when discovered, the degree of indeterminateness would be found sufficient for an easy explanation of interaction between non-material influences and matter. But, contrary to a rather prevalent view about the Principle of Uncertainty, it has frustrated both these hopes. It is now known that evidence for an incompletely determinate physical world can never be found in a physics laboratory. To find it one must look elsewhere. And it is also known that any possible indeterminateness can only be of the same order of magnitude as the quantum of action. If, in other words, the forces applied to a moving particle do not determine its position and velocity absolutely, they do so very nearly.

So we are left now in the position that physics can neither confirm nor invalidate any such evidence for a principle of incomplete determinateness as may be found outside the physicist's field of study. The evidence provided in previous chapters, which has come from study of human affairs and of biology, is therefore, if unsupported, also unshaken. And so the road is now clear for the next step, which is to seek to understand how a eudiathetous mechanism may be constructed and how it may work.

3. THE QUANTITATIVE DIFFICULTY

This is the immediate question: By what sort of a mechanism can random forces be caused to produce an ordered result? The main difficulty in this question is quantitative. Let me explain why.

If the forces might be indefinitely small, so small that their application required the transfer of amounts of energy measurable in single quanta, if the scale of operations could be reduced to the limits set by the discontinuity of matter and energy, then the indeterminateness would be relatively great. For there is nothing to preclude the assumption that the centre of gravity of a moving particle may, at a given moment of time, lie anywhere within a "sphere of uncertainty". And it follows from the Principle of Uncertainty that the radius of this sphere is large compared with the dimensions of the particle if the momentum of the particle is very minute.

A slowly moving electron would have a momentum small enough for the uncertainty of its position at a given moment of time to be significant. But the kinetic energy that such a slowly moving electron could transmit would be minute. And I have already shown in Chapter XVII that the energy transmitted in a primary diathesis must be the kinetic energy of a moving particle and that it must be rather substantial. So I do not think it possible to build a tenable theory about eudiathetous mechanisms on the assumption that their moving parts are electrons. If the mechanism is to be robust enough to withstand such forces as might cause false operation its moving parts must, I suggest, be at least as massive as atoms. And the radius of any "sphere of uncertainty" for these cannot be great.

Here we have a dilemma. If the moving parts of a eudiathetous mechanism are light enough for their performance to be significantly undetermined by the random physical forces that are applied to them the mechanism cannot be robust enough, to withstand the comparative violence of its surroundings. The dilemma may not seem so very serious when expressed in the rather abstract terms that are current in philosophy, so let me put it into concrete, into mechanical terms.

Every mechanism has one or more moving parts and we have already found that in a eudiathetous mechanism a moving part must be a particle in continuous motion. Let it be called the operating particle of the mechanism. For the mechanism to operate in a specific way this operating particle must reach a specific position; let it be called the operating position. For the particle to do this it must also acquire a minimum quantity of kinetic energy; let this be called the operating energy.

Now every atom in living tissues is in constant movement and contains therefore a substantial quantity of random kinetic energy. If the minimum operating energy required to work a eudiathetous mechanism were no greater than that possessed by neighbouring atoms the operating particle, one is forced to suppose, would be impelled into the operating position at random moments of time. And then the contractions of muscle fibres would also be random. If, on the other hand, the minimum operating energy is greater than that of the neighbouring atoms, the momentum of the operating particle must be substantial. And then the "sphere of uncertainty" is very minute. It would not suffice to allow a diathete to make any significant difference to the position of the particle at a given moment of time.

4 - LARGE ORGANIC MOLECULES

In seeking a theory about the way a eudiathetous mechanism may work one has the choice between two possibilities. One is that the operating particle has the minimum operating energy at all times and is caused by the diathete to reach the operating position at the selected moment. If this is the correct view the operating position must be very specific indeed. For the radius of the "sphere of uncertainty" can, as was just explained, be only very small. So a theory based on such a supposition seems to be ruled out by the quantitative considerations mentioned in the last section.

The second alternative is that the minimum operating energy is only acquired at the selected moment of time. On this supposition the operating position would not need to be so very specific. So it seems more worth while to look for a theory based on the supposition that the diathete does not control the position of the operating particle but the moment of time when that particle is allowed to acquire the minimum operating energy. Once this is acquired the particle reaches a new position that does not need to be very precisely determined.

If this supposition is correct the change in a eudiathetous mechanism that characterises its operation is a chemical change. For a chemical change occurs when an atom, or a group of atoms, breaks its valency bond with the molecule to which it is attached, and moves into a new position elsewhere. This can only happen when the atom has acquired sufficient kinetic energy, called the minimum activating energy.

So we are led to look for a mechanism that can only exist in living substance, that has a very specific chemical action and that has also the following further characteristics. Firstly, it operates whenever some specific atom or group of atoms, acquires sufficient kinetic energy to break a valency bond. Secondly, the quantity of kinetic energy needed for this to happen is significantly larger than the kinetic energy of any neighbouring atoms. Thirdly, the moment of time when the minimum kinetic energy is acquired can be controlled by an influence without location.

The first feature suggests that the eudiathetous mechanism is an organic molecule with a very specific and intermittent chemical action, an organic enzyme perhaps. The second suggests that the minimum kinetic energy is transferred to the operating particle by more than one other particle. For no single one would carry sufficient energy. And the third feature suggests that there is a substantial uncertainty in the moment of time when the operating particle acquires the minimum operating energy. Indeed, the uncertainty must be so great that the particle would never acquire it without the influence of the diathete. This would mean that the forces from the action of which the kinetic energy of the operating particle is derived fail significantly to determine the moment in time when the particle acquires a specific quantity of kinetic energy.

If nothing known to physicists is inconsistent with the assumption that such molecules exist in living substance the second of the two questions mentioned at the beginning of this chapter can be answered with "yes". A eudiathetous mechanism is physically possible.

What is already known about large organic molecules suggests that this is an idea worth following up. Each of their constituent atoms is, like the constituent atoms of all molecules, in continuous motion; it oscillates about the central position as though attached to an elastic thread. This imaginary thread is what is called the valency bond; it is broken when the oscillation becomes too violent.

The temperature of a solid or liquid substance is almost entirely proportional to the momentum of the constituent atoms as they move to and fro about their central positions and this is why a given chemical change cannot occur until the substances that participate in the change acquire a minimum activating temperature. Until this has been reached no atoms have sufficient kinetic energy to break their valency bonds.

In their oscillatory movements the atoms in a molecule act on each other and keep on exchanging energy. The result in molecules of hydrogen or oxygen, which contain only two atoms, is that each of these two atoms always acquires exactly half the total kinetic energy of the molecules.

But in large molecules the energy is not equally divided among all the many atoms. In their random oscillations the atoms tend to share the energy somewhat unequally. At any given moment some have acquired more than the average, some less. Hence one might say that different parts of a large organic molecule are at different temperatures, some hotter, some cooler, than the average temperature of the whole molecule. In the hotter parts the atoms break their bonds more readily than in the cooler ones. This explains, what chemists have observed for some time, that a substance composed of large molecules enters into chemical change at a measured temperature below the minimum value as calculated. The temperature that one measures is the average of all the constituent atoms and the kinetic energy of those atoms that enter into the change occasionally exceeds the value that corresponds to that average.

This means that the ability of a large molecule to act chemically is intermittent whenever its average temperature is below a specific critical value. Action only occurs at those moments of time when there is a sufficient accumulation of kinetic energy at the operating place. It should be added that the interchange of energy between the constituent atoms is very rapid, so that accumulations and deficits of kinetic energy are always occurring all through the molecule in very quick succession.

When any specific atom in the molecule acquires an excess of energy and when a deficit, depends on the random movements of all the atoms within the molecule. A collection of billiard balls, all in rapid motion and all colliding frequently, provides an analogy. A small difference in the speed, direction and time with which any one of the balls is hit will make a large difference to its subsequent behaviour. Similarly small differences in the conditions under which neighbouring atoms in a large molecule act on each other must: make a large difference to the momentary energy distribution throughout the molecule.

Let me now put this further question. Would a complete knowledge ofthe forces that act between the constituent atoms of a large organic molecule suffice to enable one to predict closely the energy distribution in the molecule at any given moment of time? That the calculation would, in practice, be too difficult for human mathematicians is, of course, obvious; but I am asking whether the knowledge would suffice in theory. We know from the Principle of Uncertainty that one could not make the prediction with absolute precision; the discontinuous nature of matter and energy makes some margin of uncertainty inevitable. But how great is this margin? Is it significant? If the answer is "yes", certain large organic molecules are at least conceivably eudiathetous mechanisms. For it is consistent with everything known in physics to assume that events that cannot be predicted, even in theory, as a result of physical observations are also not determined by the physical forces that act. And it is not inconsistent with anything in physics to assume that such events are determined by influences other than physical forces, by diathetes.

5. PRIMARY CO-ORDINATION

The observation that the ordered performances of muscles depends on the co-ordinated timing of the primary relays through which the individual muscle fibres are controlled led us to the conclusion that the most probable form taken by a primary diathesis is co-ordinated timing. The suggestion here that the diathete controls the moments of time when a specific atom in a large organic molecule acquires the minimum activating energy is in conformity with this conclusion. But it places the primary co-ordinated timing one stage further back along the path for diathesis. For it implies that the impacts between the constituent atoms in one of the molecules that serve as eudiathetous mechanisms are also co-ordinated.

Indeed, on the theory, put forward here very tentatively, the basic diathesis occurs in selection of the moments in time when constituent atoms in a eudiathetous mechanism interchange kinetic energy. These moments, I am suggesting, are so co-ordinated that the quantities of energy that each transmits to the operating particle are additive at the moment when operation is required and subtractive at all other moments. It is, in other words, entirely by the exercise of co-ordinated timing that the diathete called life is able to secure, as required, either activation or inhibition of a vital process.

The most primitive living units appear on this theory to be among the organic molecules that are to be found in living tissues. lt is in their tiny bodies that the most basic of all vital processes is enacted. The prototype of all diathetous activities seems to be selection of the moments in time when specific events are allowed or caused to happen.

6. EUDIATHETOUS MECHANISMS AS BIOLOGICAL UNITS

If one is to define a basic principle in biology it is, I think, that every biological unit seeks by its behaviour to ensure for itself the most suitable environment. This is what the whole individual does, what each organ in the individual does, what each cell does. Each is not equally successful. There is competition between individuals, for instance, and some are destroyed. There is also competition between cells and some are destroyed. But the effort to survive is, nevertheless, always manifest in the behaviour of a vital unit.

A eudiathetous mechanism should, I think, be regarded as such a unit. It is the prototype of all other and larger, more complex ones. Its primary function is to keep itself alive; and in serving this function it acts on its environment to its own best advantage. But having, in the course of evolution, built up more complex biological units out of collections of primitive eudiathetous mechanisms, the diathete called life has found means of co-ordinating the efforts at survival of individual mechanisms. In doing so it has introduced competition between molecules. The struggle for existence that occurs between races, between species, between cells, occurs already fully developed within each unicellular organism.

7. RIGHT AND WRONG CONCLUSIONS

Such are among the conclusions that flow from the suggestions made here. I do not know whether they are right or wrong. I only mention them so as to direct thought along the paths that I would have it pursue. For I am only too well aware that any discussion of non-material influences tends to divert thought to other paths along which little of value, I fear, is likely to be found.

Particularly those who are more concerned to defend their religion than to advance science may hope to find ammunition in the ample evidence given here for the existence of non-material influences. Justification of a dualistic view of reality will be taken as though it were proof of the existence of God. The evidence for the view that mind and life are distinct from the body will be taken as proof that man has an immortal soul. And, on the other side of the fence, those on the borderland of science who would like to dodge the obligation of facing the facts discussed here, will make every effort to represent what is meant as a challenge to science as though it were a contribution to religion. Such conclusions can, of course, only be reached by picking out from what I have said those statements that are welcome and ignoring the others. But it is precisely in doing this that the baser side of human nature is liable to manifest itself. The no-man's-land to which I have referred in the Preface provides abundant illustrations.

So may I point out as a safeguard against misapprehensions that a diathete as it appears from these pages is very different from the sort of spiritual influence that the theologians would like to prove. Co-ordinated timing is not the basic activity that any preacher would ascribe to the deity and the mind, as I have presented it here, of which consciousness is but a superficial and occasional manifestation, has no recognisable resemblance to the immortal soul postulated in theology.

When I point this out I do not want to suggest at the same time that the theologian is wrong in his beliefs. I only want to make it clear beyond all possible doubt that the facts that I have been discussing have no relevance to the work of theologians, philosophers or moralists.

I am hoping, however, that these facts are not thereby rendered valueless. Though this may well be true of the theory tentatively put forward in this final chapter, the evidence for the reality of diathetes that has appeared in the rest of the book remains. And I shall be well content if one conclusion only is reached from this evidence. It is that a prirna facie case has been made out for the new field of study for which I have suggested the name of Diathetics.

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