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Posted by Jeevan Sivasubramaniam, Managing Director, Editorial, Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
In their latest book, authors Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei discuss how our laws are at odds with natural law. This work outlines the basic concepts and structures of a legal order consistent with the ecological principles that sustain life on this planet.
Many argue that the laws of nature seem simplistic while human law is far more complex, but the fact is that the laws of nature are not so convenient or pat. In fact, the laws of nature are rather complex and baffling--even to scientists. Here are five aspects of the laws of nature that confound people to this day:
1. The laws of nature conform to mathematics. Is that a strange thing in and of itself? More than you realize, actually. Mathematics is ordered and follows certain rules, but there is no reason why nature or the universe should follow such rules. How can something that was created so haphazardly and randomly be so precise and consistent? All life can be expressed in mathematical equations. Nobel Prize winning scientist Richard Feynman said, "Why nature is mathematical is a mystery...the fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle."
2. Survival is always a collective effort. Wherever there is life, there is always a complex ecosystem that consists of separate classes of organisms that are crucial to one another's existence. Nothing can and does live in an isolated or simple system. There is actually no such thing as a simple system. All eco-systems--even the seemingly simple ones (a plant in the desert, for example)--are deep and complex and provide the capability for multiple forms of life to coexist and support one another. Given that it is easier to have a simple system, how even a single cell organism is an integral part of a larger system is an amazing act of complex orchestration.
3. Nature and the universe are orderly and predictable. Nature and the universe behave according to certain patterns and predictable cycles, but why? Why isn't nature and our universe unpredictable and swiftly changing from moment to moment or full of things that suddenly pop in and out of existence? How can something created by chaos and randomness be orderly? Renown physicist Paul C. Davies said, "To be a scientist, you have to have faith that the universe is governed by dependable, immutable, absolute laws...they just are."
4. There is no greater equalizer than death and ironically, no greater instrument of progress either. Philosophers have actually argued the fact that nature has created an equalizer that is beyond anything we could have created: death. All living creatures die (with the exception of some very primitive forms of jellyfish). Whereas there are variations in strength, intellect, prowess, and even station in life, all of those do not necessary shield anyone or anything from death. Furthermore, someone who has a great deal of wealth or strength can still die young while someone who has little and lives poorly can live to an old age. Death is the one factor that nature created that cannot be undone, remains unpredictable, and is completely unavoidable. Apart from just being an equalizer, this ensures that there is always something new to replace the old, and that we will continue to grow and change and adapt. It's the perfect cycle that contradicts itself beautifully: all living things must die in order for life to go on.
5. The laws of nature are literally universal. The same laws of nature we find on earth also govern a star billions of light years away. One of the most important numbers in physics, the proton-electron mass ratio, is the same in a galaxy six billion light years away as it is here on Earth. The laws of nature, it appears, do not vary in different places in the universe. The speed of light as it comes from a flashlight in a child's hand while he or she reads under the covers in bed at night is the same speed as the light rushing towards us from a star billions of light years away.
Wow! There is a lot to chew on in your post here. Jeevan, you've given us a graduate course in science in two pages. And this new book by Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei is one of the most important books on which I've ever worked as editor. The Ecology of Law has huge implications for the changes that are needed in our legal structures and economic systems to create a world that works for all. Steve Piersanti