by     Reginald O. Kapp


That some observations in physics can be explained as inferences from the Principle of Minimum Assumption does not prove that all can. The principle has been justified in this book by a few examples only and it is at least arguable that others would not have justified it. The principle may not be valid for the whole of physics; its unifying power may be incomplete; there may be laws of physics that are not implicit in it; these would be of the statute book kind. Some of the cosmic constants and some of the constituent parts of the material universe, again, may have to be attributed to a Cosmic Specification and not to mere randomness. Statute Book and Specification would then appear to be the works of a Creator in the respective capacities of Legislator and Architect of the material universe.

Many do take this view and regard any other as robbing our very existence of all meaning and purpose. At least some of the laws of physics, they feel impelled to believe, must have been devised with the purpose of creating order out of chaos. Some principle of design must have inspired the structure of the firmament. A building, they argue, has no beauty, not even coherence, if it has not been constructed to the specific requirements of its architect; unless one assumes that a Cosmic Specification has been imposed on the physical universe, one cannot explain the regularities that physicists tell us about; in a physical world that resulted from mere randomness nothing would be predictable.

Arguments can be urged both for and against this view, but nothing that has been said in this book can prove those wrong who hold it. It is, nevertheless, worthwhile to point out that those irreducibles with which the physicist of today is left are not of the kind that seems to support a teleological view of the physical world or to justify an idealization of matter. To the physicist they are immensely basic and important; from the point of view of religion, ethics and aesthetics they must look rather trivial. It would not be easy to argue that our existence would have either more or less purpose and meaning if the velocity of light had a different value. The question whether the charge on the electron, the quantum of action and the mass of the neutron are independent constants or implicit in each other can have no ethical significance, interesting though it is to science. The first law of thermodynamics has a very great value in the methodology of physics, but it does not belong to the same universe of discourse as those things that may be the fount of inspiration for an architect. What is today left in the Cosmic Statute Book and the Cosmic Specification has been listed in Appendix A. It is too meagre to provide a means of ensuring purpose, order, beauty, coherence, or even, I think, predictability. Those who hope to justify an idealistic view of the material universe have already lost so much that there is not much more for them to lose. They should be able to contemplate without any regret the prospect that the list of irreducibles may become ever shorter as science progresses.

Does this conclusion lead to a materialistic philosophy?

The question is not relevant here, but I have found it to be too insistent to be disregarded. It is not in human nature to reach conclusions about cosmological problems without considering their wider implications. So let me say that the method employed in this book, when applied consistently to the whole of reality, does not lead towards but away from materialism. As I have already written three books on this theme 1, 2, 3 very few words of explanation will suffice here.

A decision is called for between the materialist assertion that all events are the consequence of the unaided action of matter on matter and the opposed claim that some events are the consequence of the action, direct or indirect, of non-material influences on matter. It is this latter claim that I have defended in my previous books. In the present book I have gone no further than to discuss some of those events that do have to be attributed to the unaided action of matter on matter. They all belong to the physicist's universe of discourse and I should be prepared to place all other events that belong to the same universe of discourse in this category. This leaves the question open whether the physicists' universe of discourse is concerned with the whole of reality. It is my contention that it is not.

My reason for opposing materialism is simply that I have been led to the conclusion that the structure and behaviour of plants and animals, as also the works of man, have to be attributed to non-material influences. In other words I claim that reality has two aspects and I have discussed only one of these in the present book.

To judge between the two opposed schools one has to find the answer to a pivotal question concerning the nature of matter. Can the laws that govern the action of one material system on another - can, in other words, the laws of physics account for all the observations that we observe in the organic world and the works that result from man's activity?

There are other ways of asking the same question. Is the kind of order that we observe in the organic world imposed on matter by other matter or is it imposed on matter by non-material influences? Is this kind of order the consequence of what matter does or of what is done to it?

Here I have only discussed structures in the rough untouched world of lifeless things. I have attributed these to the unaided action of matter on matter. But in doing so I have also shown that they can be accounted for without attributing to matter anything in the nature of a capacity for creating order, for selection, guidance, control, co-ordination. Therewith I have implied that it is erroneous to idealize matter as is done in the various materialist schools.

The true inference from what has been said here is that the kind oi order observable wherever things are touched by life must be attributed to the action of non-material influences.

1. Science versus Materialism, Methuen, 1940.
2. Mind, Life and Body, Constable, 1945.
3. Facts and Faith, Oxford University Press, 1955.

© Reginald 0. Kapp 1960

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