Evolution discloses a pattern in nature which can be described as fourfold: attraction, unity, complexity and emergence. Beginning with the Big Bang, there is an inherent force of attraction in nature. The nature of attraction in the physical world obeys various laws of physics, from electromagnetic and gravitational laws to even the theory of relativity. Gravity, electrostatics and magnetic forces have been familiar since ancient times. The scientific revolution, then modern physics, added much refinement to these ancient understandings, including the discovery of additional forces of attraction.
The electric (electromagnetic) force is a billion-billion-billion-billion (10^36) times stronger than gravity. This is surprising, since we don’t feel electric forces in our daily experience; we feel gravity. The explanation of this paradox is that the electric force has two kinds of charges. Gravity doesn’t come in two kinds that cancel each other–it builds up cumulatively. So we feel the Earth pull on us, but we don’t feel smaller objects, like the pen on the table, pulling on us. But if your mass was made up of entirely positive charges, and a friend’s mass a few feet away was made up of entirely negative charges, the attraction would be with a force great enough to lift a third person that was dense enough to have the mass of the Earth.
Attracting Parallel Wires
• Magnetism is familiar to us from playing with permanent magnets. But magnetism can also exhibit force better described as oblique than attractive. A proton passing perpendicular to a magnetic field’s direction will be deflected in a direction perpendicular to both the proton’s direction of motion and the magnetic field’s direction.
What does this have to do with attraction? Imagine two parallel wires, both carrying equal current in the same direction. They each create a circular magnetic field around each other. As the electrons of the opposite wire travel down their wire, they are traveling perpendicular to the direction of the magnetic field set up by the first wire. They are therefore deflected by the magnetic field in a third direction, perpendicular to both the electron motion and the magnetic field. In other words, the electrons are deflected toward the other wire. So parallel wires carrying current in the same direction attract each other. (If the currents were in the opposite direction, the wires would repel.)
Theory of Relativity
• Einstein predicted that gravitational attraction would extend to massless particles. Two lines of reasoning arrive at this conclusion. One is that, observationally, photons were found to exert inertia on incident objects, i.e., they could push on things. Since inertial mass and gravitational mass are believed to be equivalent to a high degree, if not exactly, this indicates that photons should have gravitational mass and be deflected in a gravitational field.
Principle of Equivalence
• The other line of reasoning is based on the principle of equivalence, which states that an observer in a closed laboratory cannot distinguish between the effects produced by a gravitational field and those produced by an acceleration of the laboratory. A light beam accelerated transverse to its path should deflect. By the principle of equivalence, a gravitational field should therefore deflect it as well.
Parallel Wires Reconsidered
• The theory of relativity can actually be used to explain away the magnetism in the parallel wire demonstration. By the special theory of relativity, objects experience length contraction in the direction of their motion–the closer to the speed of light, the greater the contraction. Electrons don’t go very fast in wires. But there are so many of them, that the cumulative effect makes the electrons in one wire, from the point of view of a stationary proton in the other wire, seem to bunch up lengthwise. Meanwhile, the proton density, being motionless, appears the same. So the net perception to a proton is of the opposite wire taking on a negative charge. This perception causes the proton to be attracted to the opposite wire.
Note that the argument doesn’t work in terms of electrons seeing other electrons moving, since from the electrons’ viewpoint, the electrons in the other wire are standing still. No length contraction is perceived between electrons of opposite wires. Remember, the currents were in the same direction, and of same magnitude, so the stationary-perception simplification would hold.
We now know that physical world is not prime matter defined by form but mass-energy in vast cosmic fields of space-time. Einstein’s special theory of relativity removed the essential distinction between a material body and its surrounding space by showing that the mass of a group of particles depends not only on the sum of its components but also on the energy of the binding between them. Mass is concentrated energy and mass like energy can be neither created nor destroyed. “Matter” is really a great concentration of energy in very small regions.
- What is striking about the physical world of mass-energy is the inherent force of attraction within all dimensions of cosmic life.
- Attraction is a fundamental force that yields more than the sum of entities themselves.
There is an attractive force in nature toward more complexified entities, reflecting something more deep and profound at the heart of nature that does not lend itself to measurement. Teilhard identified a cosmological force at the heart of evolution and called this force “love” or “love-energy” and presaged what scientists are discovering today, the ubiquity of energy in the universe. It may seem odd to talk of love as a cosmological force but Teilhard saw that love-energy is personal and centered – it distinguishes and differentiates. Love energy unites one element to another uniquely.
Teilhard identified love as the energy of the evolutionary process. This may strike us prima facie as unscientific sentimentality but what he noted was a profound force of attraction that is not an exceptional human phenomenon but a cosmological force that culminates in the human person. By love, he meant that mass-energy tends toward more mass-energy or more being. There is an attractive force in nature toward more complexified entities. Complexification refers to the degree and diversity of relationships that confers distinction and differentiates beings. As beings unite, new beings emerge. Love is the energy of union that is personal and centered; hence, love distinguishes and differentiates.
Modern science tells us that energy is the principle of physical reality; it is the driving force of systems and the basis of existence. From Aristotle’s world of matter and form to Einstein’s world of relativity, we now know that physical world is not prime matter defined by form but mass-energy in vast cosmic fields of space-time. Einstein’s special theory of relativity removed the essential distinction between a material body and its surrounding space by showing that the mass of a group of particles depends not only on the sum of its components but also on the energy of the binding between them. Mass is concentrated energy and mass like energy can be neither created nor destroyed. What we call “matter” is really a great concentration of energy in very small regions. We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions of space in which the field is extremely intense. The idea of love-energy as a philosophical category seems antithetical to philosophy’s emphasis on rationalism and yet it is most congruent to our current understanding of physical reality. Through his focus on love-energy, Teilhard offers us a way out of the philosophical impasse we have reached, since traveling the road of rationalism and logical positivism.
Teilhard’s notion of love as essential being means that relationship is primary. Beings do not act towards a self-sufficient end in which relationship may or may not be important to that end; rather union is the end toward which being directs itself. Love is the affinity of being with being and this affinity is a general principle of all cosmic life. If there was no internal propensity to unite, even at a rudimentary level–indeed in the molecule itself—it would be physically impossible for love to appear higher up, in a hominized form.
Being therefore is not the primary category of existence for Teilhard. Rather, union is the primary category. Being is the outflow of union; to be is to be united. Being is relatedness. In the Aristotelian-Thomistic view, being exists prior to participation. God is Being in pure act and created being participates in God’s being; hence, God’s divine Being is ontologically distinct from created being. In the evolutionary/quantum world, however, union is necessary for being to come into existence. The term “being” has no real meaning unless it is considered first as union and then as being-in-union or what we might call “interbeing.” Union is always towards more being. The primacy of union over being is more consistent with quantum physics where there is no real distinction between observer and observed or subject and object. Reality is woven through layers of bondedness; the “path” comes into existence only through the act of observation. This insight has led many writers to declare that cosmic life is intrinsically relational.
Relativity changes our story of God and creation significantly. Rather than a philosophy of Being, which can distinguish the Absolute from the finite, we are in a philosophy of space-time where “nothing exists alone, but everything becomes.” There is no separate Absolute as we find in the Aristotelian framework where, from the moment we say God is Being, it is clear that in a certain sense God alone is.
The key is in Teilhard’s understanding of union. Being is not mere existence but existence toward the more—reflected in the process of evolution. He writes: “What comes first in the world for our thought is not “being” but “the union which produces this being.” He continues: “The problem of the co-existence and the complementarity of the created and the uncreated is undoubtedly solved in part: in so far, that as the two terms that are brought together, each in its own way, have an equal need both to exist in themselves and to be combined with each other, so that the absolute maximum of possible union may be effected in natura rerum.”
Teilhard recognized the import of the new science for our understanding of reality, including God. He writes: “We are inevitably making our way to a completely new concept of being: in this the hitherto contradictory attributes of the ‘ens ab alio and the ens a se of the world and God would be combined in a general synthetic function: ‘God completely other in nature than the world and yet unable to dispense with it.’” In Christianity and Evolution he said that in an evolutive world “God is not conceivable (either structurally or dynamically) except in so far as he coincides with (as a sort of “formal” cause) but without being lost in the centre of convergence or cosmogenesis.” Teilhard finds the scholastic distinction between Ens a se and Ens ab alio unhelpful if not irrelevant to the new cosmic story. Teilhard grappled with the God-world relationship; at times he spoke in terms of primary and secondary causality and other times in terms of mutual relatedness or coincidence of opposites. He opts to return to a primordial mysticism at the heart of Christian revelation where there exists the affirmation and the expression of a strictly bilateral and complementary relationship between God and world. He rejects the God-world relationship as a contingent relationship and posits instead a complementary one. He writes: “In truth it is not the sense of contingence of the created but the sense of the mutual completion of the world and God which gives life to Christianity.” If we understand being as love, a primordial energy of attraction, then primary and secondary causality makes no sense. To say that God is love and that all creatures participate in God’s love would render God essentially loveless; there could be no true union with God—only participation.
But Love lives on mutual relatedness.