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Outside of this domain, observations do not match predictions provided by classical mechanics. Albert Einstein contributed the framework of special relativity , which replaced notions of absolute time and space with spacetime and allowed an accurate description of systems whose components have speeds approaching the speed of light. Later, quantum field theory unified quantum mechanics and special relativity. General relativity allowed for a dynamical, curved spacetime , with which highly massive systems and the large-scale structure of the universe can be well-described.
General relativity has not yet been unified with the other fundamental descriptions; several candidate theories of quantum gravity are being developed. Mathematics provides a compact and exact language used to describe the order in nature. This was noted and advocated by Pythagoras ,  Plato ,  Galileo ,  and Newton. Physics uses mathematics  to organise and formulate experimental results. From those results, precise or estimated solutions are obtained, quantitative results from which new predictions can be made and experimentally confirmed or negated.
The results from physics experiments are numerical data, with their units of measure and estimates of the errors in the measurements. Technologies based on mathematics, like computation have made computational physics an active area of research. Ontology is a prerequisite for physics, but not for mathematics. It means physics is ultimately concerned with descriptions of the real world, while mathematics is concerned with abstract patterns, even beyond the real world. Thus physics statements are synthetic, while mathematical statements are analytic.
Mathematics contains hypotheses, while physics contains theories. Mathematics statements have to be only logically true, while predictions of physics statements must match observed and experimental data. The distinction is clear-cut, but not always obvious.
For example, mathematical physics is the application of mathematics in physics. Its methods are mathematical, but its subject is physical. Every mathematical statement used for solving has a hard-to-find physical meaning. The final mathematical solution has an easier-to-find meaning, because it is what the solver is looking for.
Pure physics is a branch of fundamental science also called basic science. Physics is also called "the fundamental science" because all branches of natural science like chemistry, astronomy, geology, and biology are constrained by laws of physics. For example, chemistry studies properties, structures, and reactions of matter chemistry's focus on the molecular and atomic scale distinguishes it from physics.
Structures are formed because particles exert electrical forces on each other, properties include physical characteristics of given substances, and reactions are bound by laws of physics, like conservation of energy, mass, and charge. Physics is applied in industries like engineering and medicine.
Applied physics is a general term for physics research which is intended for a particular use. An applied physics curriculum usually contains a few classes in an applied discipline, like geology or electrical engineering. It usually differs from engineering in that an applied physicist may not be designing something in particular, but rather is using physics or conducting physics research with the aim of developing new technologies or solving a problem. The approach is similar to that of applied mathematics.
Applied physicists use physics in scientific research. For instance, people working on accelerator physics might seek to build better particle detectors for research in theoretical physics. Physics is used heavily in engineering. For example, statics , a subfield of mechanics , is used in the building of bridges and other static structures. The understanding and use of acoustics results in sound control and better concert halls; similarly, the use of optics creates better optical devices. An understanding of physics makes for more realistic flight simulators , video games , and movies, and is often critical in forensic investigations.
With the standard consensus that the laws of physics are universal and do not change with time, physics can be used to study things that would ordinarily be mired in uncertainty. For example, in the study of the origin of the earth , one can reasonably model earth's mass, temperature, and rate of rotation, as a function of time allowing one to extrapolate forward or backward in time and so predict future or prior events.
It also allows for simulations in engineering that drastically speed up the development of a new technology. But there is also considerable interdisciplinarity , so many other important fields are influenced by physics e. Physicists use the scientific method to test the validity of a physical theory.
By using a methodical approach to compare the implications of a theory with the conclusions drawn from its related experiments and observations, physicists are better able to test the validity of a theory in a logical, unbiased, and repeatable way. To that end, experiments are performed and observations are made in order to determine the validity or invalidity of the theory.
A scientific law is a concise verbal or mathematical statement of a relation that expresses a fundamental principle of some theory, such as Newton's law of universal gravitation. Theorists seek to develop mathematical models that both agree with existing experiments and successfully predict future experimental results, while experimentalists devise and perform experiments to test theoretical predictions and explore new phenomena. Although theory and experiment are developed separately, they strongly affect and depend upon each other. Progress in physics frequently comes about when experimental results defy explanation by existing theories, prompting intense focus on applicable modelling, and when new theories generate experimentally testable predictions , which inspire developing new experiments and often related equipment, possibly roping in some applied physicists to help build it.
Physicists who work at the interplay of theory and experiment are called phenomenologists , who study complex phenomena observed in experiment and work to relate them to a fundamental theory. Theoretical physics has historically taken inspiration from philosophy; electromagnetism was unified this way. Theorists invoke these ideas in hopes of solving particular problems with existing theories. They then explore the consequences of these ideas and work toward making testable predictions. Experimental physics expands, and is expanded by, engineering and technology.
Experimental physicists involved in basic research design and perform experiments with equipment such as particle accelerators and lasers , whereas those involved in applied research often work in industry developing technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging MRI and transistors. Feynman has noted that experimentalists may seek areas that have not been explored well by theorists. Physics covers a wide range of phenomena , from elementary particles such as quarks, neutrinos, and electrons to the largest superclusters of galaxies.
Included in these phenomena are the most basic objects composing all other things. Therefore, physics is sometimes called the " fundamental science ". Thus, physics aims to both connect the things observable to humans to root causes , and then connect these causes together. For example, the ancient Chinese observed that certain rocks lodestone and magnetite were attracted to one another by an invisible force. This effect was later called magnetism , which was first rigorously studied in the 17th century.
But even before the Chinese discovered magnetism, the ancient Greeks knew of other objects such as amber , that when rubbed with fur would cause a similar invisible attraction between the two. Thus, physics had come to understand two observations of nature in terms of some root cause electricity and magnetism.
However, further work in the 19th century revealed that these two forces were just two different aspects of one force— electromagnetism. This process of "unifying" forces continues today, and electromagnetism and the weak nuclear force are now considered to be two aspects of the electroweak interaction.
Physics hopes to find an ultimate reason theory of everything for why nature is as it is see section Current research below for more information. Contemporary research in physics can be broadly divided into nuclear and particle physics ; condensed matter physics ; atomic, molecular, and optical physics ; astrophysics ; and applied physics. Some physics departments also support physics education research and physics outreach. Since the 20th century, the individual fields of physics have become increasingly specialised, and today most physicists work in a single field for their entire careers.
The major fields of physics, along with their subfields and the theories and concepts they employ, are shown in the following table. Particle physics is the study of the elementary constituents of matter and energy and the interactions between them. The field is also called "high-energy physics" because many elementary particles do not occur naturally but are created only during high-energy collisions of other particles. Currently, the interactions of elementary particles and fields are described by the Standard Model.
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the constituents and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those in nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging , ion implantation in materials engineering , and radiocarbon dating in geology and archaeology.
Atomic , molecular , and optical physics AMO is the study of matter —matter and light —matter interactions on the scale of single atoms and molecules. The three areas are grouped together because of their interrelationships, the similarity of methods used, and the commonality of their relevant energy scales. All three areas include both classical , semi-classical and quantum treatments; they can treat their subject from a microscopic view in contrast to a macroscopic view.
Atomic physics studies the electron shells of atoms. Current research focuses on activities in quantum control, cooling and trapping of atoms and ions,    low-temperature collision dynamics and the effects of electron correlation on structure and dynamics. Atomic physics is influenced by the nucleus see hyperfine splitting , but intra-nuclear phenomena such as fission and fusion are considered part of nuclear physics.
Molecular physics focuses on multi-atomic structures and their internal and external interactions with matter and light. Optical physics is distinct from optics in that it tends to focus not on the control of classical light fields by macroscopic objects but on the fundamental properties of optical fields and their interactions with matter in the microscopic realm. Condensed matter physics is the field of physics that deals with the macroscopic physical properties of matter.
The most familiar examples of condensed phases are solids and liquids , which arise from the bonding by way of the electromagnetic force between atoms. Condensed matter physics is the largest field of contemporary physics. Historically, condensed matter physics grew out of solid-state physics , which is now considered one of its main subfields. Astrophysics and astronomy are the application of the theories and methods of physics to the study of stellar structure , stellar evolution , the origin of the Solar System, and related problems of cosmology.
Because astrophysics is a broad subject, astrophysicists typically apply many disciplines of physics, including mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, relativity, nuclear and particle physics, and atomic and molecular physics. The discovery by Karl Jansky in that radio signals were emitted by celestial bodies initiated the science of radio astronomy.
Most recently, the frontiers of astronomy have been expanded by space exploration. Perturbations and interference from the earth's atmosphere make space-based observations necessary for infrared , ultraviolet , gamma-ray , and X-ray astronomy. Physical cosmology is the study of the formation and evolution of the universe on its largest scales. Albert Einstein's theory of relativity plays a central role in all modern cosmological theories.
In the early 20th century, Hubble 's discovery that the universe is expanding, as shown by the Hubble diagram , prompted rival explanations known as the steady state universe and the Big Bang. The Big Bang was confirmed by the success of Big Bang nucleosynthesis and the discovery of the cosmic microwave background in The Big Bang model rests on two theoretical pillars: Albert Einstein's general relativity and the cosmological principle. Numerous possibilities and discoveries are anticipated to emerge from new data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope over the upcoming decade and vastly revise or clarify existing models of the universe.
IBEX is already yielding new astrophysical discoveries: "No one knows what is creating the ENA energetic neutral atoms ribbon" along the termination shock of the solar wind , "but everyone agrees that it means the textbook picture of the heliosphere —in which the Solar System's enveloping pocket filled with the solar wind's charged particles is plowing through the onrushing 'galactic wind' of the interstellar medium in the shape of a comet—is wrong.
In condensed matter physics, an important unsolved theoretical problem is that of high-temperature superconductivity. In particle physics, the first pieces of experimental evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model have begun to appear. Foremost among these are indications that neutrinos have non-zero mass. These experimental results appear to have solved the long-standing solar neutrino problem , and the physics of massive neutrinos remains an area of active theoretical and experimental research.
The Large Hadron Collider has already found the Higgs boson , but future research aims to prove or disprove the supersymmetry , which extends the Standard Model of particle physics. Research on the nature of the major mysteries of dark matter and dark energy is also currently ongoing. Theoretical attempts to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity into a single theory of quantum gravity , a program ongoing for over half a century, have not yet been decisively resolved. The current leading candidates are M-theory , superstring theory and loop quantum gravity.
Many astronomical and cosmological phenomena have yet to be satisfactorily explained, including the origin of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays , the baryon asymmetry , the accelerating expansion of the universe and the anomalous rotation rates of galaxies. Although much progress has been made in high-energy, quantum , and astronomical physics, many everyday phenomena involving complexity ,  chaos ,  or turbulence  are still poorly understood.
Complex problems that seem like they could be solved by a clever application of dynamics and mechanics remain unsolved; examples include the formation of sandpiles, nodes in trickling water, the shape of water droplets, mechanisms of surface tension catastrophes , and self-sorting in shaken heterogeneous collections. These complex phenomena have received growing attention since the s for several reasons, including the availability of modern mathematical methods and computers, which enabled complex systems to be modeled in new ways.
Complex physics has become part of increasingly interdisciplinary research, as exemplified by the study of turbulence in aerodynamics and the observation of pattern formation in biological systems. I am an old man now, and when I die and go to heaven there are two matters on which I hope for enlightenment.
One is quantum electrodynamics, and the other is the turbulent motion of fluids. And about the former I am rather optimistic. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Study of the fundamental properties of matter and energy. This article is about the field of science. For other uses, see Physics disambiguation. Not to be confused with Physical science. Main article: History of physics. Main article: History of astronomy. Main article: Natural philosophy.
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Main article: European science in the Middle Ages. Main article: Physics in the medieval Islamic world. Main article: Classical physics. Main article: Modern physics. See also: History of special relativity and History of quantum mechanics. Main article: Philosophy of physics. Further information: Branches of physics and Outline of physics. Main article: Applied physics. Main articles: Theoretical physics and Experimental physics. Main articles: Particle physics and Nuclear physics.
Main article: Atomic, molecular, and optical physics.
Main article: Condensed matter physics. Main articles: Astrophysics and Physical cosmology. Further information: List of unsolved problems in physics. Physics portal. Glossary of physics Index of physics articles Lists of physics equations List of important publications in physics List of physicists Relationship between mathematics and physics Timeline of developments in theoretical physics Timeline of fundamental physics discoveries Earth science Neurophysics Psychophysics Science tourism.
However, the term "universe" may also be used in slightly different contextual senses, denoting concepts such as the cosmos or the philosophical world. For example, the atom of nineteenth-century physics was denigrated by some, including Ernst Mach 's critique of Ludwig Boltzmann 's formulation of statistical mechanics. By the end of World War II, the atom was no longer deemed hypothetical. The same might be said for arXiv. Online Etymology Dictionary. Even in their unfinished state, they provide a most important source for the study of Marxist philosophy, and provide brilliant insights into the central problems of science.
One of the problems we faced in writing the present work is the fact that most people have only a second-hand knowledge of the basic writings of Marxism. This is regrettable, since the only way to understand Marxism is by reading the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. This method does not make the book easier to read, but was, in our opinion, necessary. In the same way, we felt obliged to reproduce some lengthy quotes of authors with whom we disagree, on the principle that it is always better to allow one's opponents to speak for themselves.
We are living in a period of profound historical change. After a period of 40 years of unprecedented economic growth, the market economy is reaching its limits. At the dawn of capitalism, despite its barbarous crimes, it revolutionised the productive forces, thus laying the basis for a new system of society. The First World War and the Russian Revolution signalled a decisive change in the historical role of capitalism.
From a means of developing the productive forces, it became transformed into a gigantic fetter upon economic and social development. The period of upswing in the West in the period of seemed to promise a new dawn. Even so, the benefits were limited to a handful of developed capitalist countries. For two-thirds of humanity living in the Third World, the picture was one of mass unemployment, poverty, wars and exploitation on an unprecedented scale.
This period of capitalism ended with the so-called oil crisis of Since then, they have not managed to get back to the kind of growth and levels of employment they had achieved in the post-war period. A social system in a state of irreversible decline expresses itself in cultural decay. This is reflected in a hundred different ways. A general mood of anxiety and pessimism as regards the future spreads, especially among the intelligentsia. Those who yesterday talked confidently about the inevitability of human progress and evolution, now see only darkness and uncertainty.
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The 20th century is staggering to a close, having witnessed two terrible world wars, economic collapse and the nightmare of fascism in the period between the wars. These were already a stern warning that the progressive phase of capitalism was past. The crisis of capitalism pervades all levels of life. It is not merely an economic phenomenon. It is reflected in speculation and corruption, drug abuse, violence, all-pervasive egotism and indifference to the suffering of others, the breakdown of the bourgeois family, the crisis of bourgeois morality, culture and philosophy. How could it be otherwise?
One of the symptoms of a social system in crisis is that the ruling class increasingly feels itself to be a fetter on the development of society. Marx pointed out that the ruling ideas of any society are the ideas of the ruling class. In its heyday, the bourgeoisie not only played a progressive role in pushing back the frontiers of civilisation, but was well aware of the fact. Now the strategists of capital are seized with pessimism. They are the representatives of an historically doomed system, but cannot reconcile themselves to the fact. This central contradiction is the decisive factor which sets its imprint upon the mode of thinking of the bourgeoisie today.
Lenin once said that a man on the edge of a cliff does not reason. Contrary to the prejudice of philosophical idealism, human consciousness in general is extraordinarily conservative, and always tends to lag far behind the development of society, technology and the productive forces. Only in exceptional periods of history, when the social and moral order begins to crack under the strain of intolerable pressures do the mass of people start to question the world into which they have been born, and to doubt the beliefs and prejudices of a lifetime.
Such a period was the epoch of the birth of capitalism, heralded by the great cultural re-awakening and spiritual regeneration of Europe after its lengthy winter sleep under feudalism. In the period of its historical ascent, the bourgeoisie played a most progressive role, not only in developing the productive forces, and thereby mightily expanding humanity's power over nature, but also in extending the frontiers of science, knowledge and culture.
However, such revolutionary periods do not come into being easily or automatically. The price of progress is struggle—the struggle of the new against the old, the living against the dead, the future against the past. The rise of the bourgeoisie in Italy, Holland, England and later in France was accompanied by an extraordinary flourishing of culture, art and science. One would have to look back to ancient Athens to find a precedent for this. Particularly in those countries where the bourgeois revolution triumphed in the 17th and 18th centuries, the development of the forces of production and technology was accompanied by a parallel development of science and thought, which drastically undermined the ideological domination of the Church.
In France, the classical country of the bourgeois revolution in its political expression, the bourgeoisie in carried out its revolution under the banner of Reason. Long before it toppled the formidable walls of the Bastille, it was necessary to overthrow the invisible but no less formidable walls of religious superstition in the minds of men and women. In its revolutionary youth the French bourgeoisie was rationalist and atheist. Only after installing themselves in power did the men of property, finding themselves confronted by a new revolutionary class, jettison the ideological baggage of their youth.
Not long ago France celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of its great revolution. It was curious to note how even the memory of a revolution two centuries ago fills the establishment with unease.
The attitude of the French ruling class to their own revolution vividly recalled that of an old libertine who tries to gain a ticket to respectability—and perhaps admittance to heaven—by renouncing the sins of his youth, which he is no longer in a position to repeat. Like all established privileged classes, the capitalist class seeks to justify its existence, not only to society at large, but to itself. In its search for ideological points of support, which would tend to justify the status quo and sanctify existing social relations, they rapidly rediscovered the enchantments of Mother Church, particularly after the mortal terror they experienced at the time of the Paris Commune.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels explained that the fundamental driving force of all human progress is the development of the productive forces—industry, agriculture, science and technique. This is a truly great theoretical generalisation without which it is impossible to understand the movement of human history in general. Dialectical and historical materialism takes full account of phenomena such as religion, art, science, morality, law, politics, tradition, national characteristics and all the other manifold manifestations of human consciousness.
But not only that. It shows their real content and how they relate to the actual development of society, which in the last analysis clearly depends upon its capacity to reproduce and expand the material conditions for its existence. On this subject, Engels wrote the following:. More than this neither Marx nor I have ever asserted. Hence, if someone twists this into saying that the economic element is the only determining one, he transforms that position into a meaningless, abstract, senseless phrase.
The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure—political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit: constitutions established by victorious classes after a successful battle, etc. The affirmation of historical materialism that, in general, human consciousness tends to lag behind the development of the productive forces seems paradoxical to some.
Yet it is graphically expressed in all kinds of ways in the United States where the achievements of science have reached their highest level. The constant advance of technology is the prior condition for bringing about the real emancipation of men and women, through the establishment of a rational socio-economic system, in which human beings exercise conscious control over their lives and environment. Here, however, the contrast between the rapid development of science and technology and the extraordinary lag in human thinking presents itself in its most glaring form.
In the USA nine persons out of ten believe in the existence of a supreme being, and seven out of ten in a life after death. When the first American astronaut who succeeded in circumnavigating the world in a spacecraft was asked to broadcast a message to the inhabitants of the earth, he made a significant choice. The trial actually upheld the state's anti-evolution laws, which were not abolished until , when the US Supreme Court ruled that the teaching of creation theories was a violation of the constitutional ban on the teaching of religion in state schools.
In this, they have the support, not only of a wide layer of public opinion, but of not a few scientists, who are prepared to place their services at the disposal of religion in its most crude and obscurantist form.
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In American scientists, making use of Kepler's laws of planetary motion, launched a spacecraft that made a spectacular rendezvous with Saturn. In the same year an American judge had to declare unconstitutional a law passed in the state of Arkansas, which imposed on schools the obligation to treat so-called creation-science on equal terms with the theory of evolution.
Among other things, the creationists demanded the recognition of Noah's flood as a primary geological agent. In the course of the trial, witnesses for the defence expressed fervent belief in Satan and the possibility that life was brought to earth in meteorites, the variety of species being explained by a kind of meteoric shuttle-service! At the trial, Mr. The religious fundamentalist lobby in the USA has mass support, access to unlimited funds, and the backing of congressmen. Evangelical crooks make fortunes out of radio stations with a following of millions.
The fact that in the last decade of the 20th century there are a large number of educated men and women—including scientists—in the most technologically advanced country the world has ever known who are prepared to fight for the idea that the book of Genesis is literally true, that the universe was created in six days about 6, years ago, is, in itself, a most remarkable example of the workings of the dialectic. The period when the capitalist class stood for a rational world outlook has become a dim memory. In the epoch of the senile decay of capitalism, the earlier processes have been thrown into reverse.
The churches are empty and increasingly in crisis. The frightful epidemic of religious fundamentalism—Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu—is a graphic manifestation of the impasse of society. As the new century beckons, we observe the most horrific throwbacks to the Dark Ages. This phenomenon is not confined to Iran, India and Algeria. In other Western countries, we see the uncontrolled spread of religious sects, superstition, astrology and all kinds of irrational tendencies. In France, there are about 36, Catholic priests, and over 40, professional astrologers who declared their earnings to the taxman.
Until recently, Japan appeared to be an exception to the rule. Rees-Mogg and Davidson spoke too soon. A couple of years after these lines were written, the horrific gas attack on the Tokyo underground drew the world's attention to the existence of sizable groups of religious fanatics even in Japan, where the economic crisis has put an end to the long period of full employment and social stability.
All these phenomena bear a striking resemblance to what occurred in the period of the decline of the Roman Empire. Let no one object that such things are confined to the fringes of society. Ronald and Nancy Reagan regularly consulted astrologers about all their actions, big and small. Here are a couple of extracts from Donald Regan's book, For the Record:.
Nancy Reagan seemed to have absolute faith in the clairvoyant powers of this woman, who had predicted that 'something' bad was going to happen to the president shortly before he was wounded in an assassination attempt in Reagan passed along her prognostications to me after conferring with her on the telephone—she had become such a factor in my work, and in the highest affairs of the state at one point I kept a colour-coded calendar on my desk numerals highlighted in green ink for 'good' days, red for 'bad' days, yellow for 'iffy' days as an aid to remember when it was propitious to move the president of the United States from one place to another, or schedule him to speak in public, or commence negotiations with a foreign power.
Reagan's into the presidential schedule… It is a measure of his discretion and loyalty that few in the White House knew that Mrs. Reagan was even part of the problem [waiting for schedules]—much less that an astrologer in San Francisco was approving the details of the presidential schedule. Deaver told me that Mrs. Reagan's dependence on the occult went back at least as far as her husband's governorship, when she had relied on the advice of the famous Jeane Dixon.
Subsequently, she had lost confidence in Dixon's powers. But the First Lady seemed to have absolute faith in the clairvoyant talents of the woman in San Francisco. Apparently, Deaver had ceased to think there was anything remarkable about this long-established floating seance… To him it was simply one of the little problems in the life of a servant of the great. Astrology was used in the planning of the summit between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, according to the family soothsayer, but things didn't go smoothly between the two first ladies because Raisa Gorbachev's birth date was unknown!
It has recently emerged that Yeltsin himself consults astrologers. In this respect also, the nascent capitalist class in Russia has shown itself to be an apt pupil of its Western role models. The prevailing sense of disorientation and pessimism finds its reflection in all sorts of ways, not only directly in politics. This all-pervasive irrationality is not an accident. It is the psychological reflection of a world where the destiny of humanity is controlled by terrifying and seemingly invisible forces. These periodic spasms causing a herd-like panic are a graphic illustration of capitalist anarchy.
And this is what determines the lives of millions of people. We live in the midst of a society in decline. The evidence of decay is present on all sides. Conservative reactionaries bemoan the breakdown of the family and the epidemic of drugs, crime, mindless violence, and the rest. What they cannot or will not see is that these phenomena are the symptoms of the blind alley of the social system which they represent. We are supposed to live in a democracy. Yet a handful of big banks, monopolies, and stock exchange speculators generally the same people decide the fate of millions.
This tiny minority possesses powerful means of manipulating public opinion. They have a monopoly of the means of communication, the press, radio and television. Then there is the spiritual police—the church, which for generations has taught people to look for salvation in another world. Until quite recently, it appeared that the world of science stood aloof from the general decay of capitalism.
The marvels of modern technology conferred colossal prestige upon scientists, who appeared to be endowed with almost magical qualities. The respect enjoyed by the scientific community increased in the same proportion as their theories became increasingly incomprehensible to the majority of even educated people.
However, scientists are ordinary mortals who live in the same world as the rest of us. As such, they can be influenced by prevailing ideas, philosophies, politics and prejudices, not to speak of sometimes very substantial material interests. For a long time it was tacitly assumed that scientists—especially theoretical physicists—were a special sort of people, standing above the common run of humanity, and privy to the mysteries of the universe denied to ordinary mortals.
This 20th century myth is well conveyed by the old science-fiction movies, where the earth was always threatened with annihilation by aliens from outer space in reality, the threat to the future of humankind comes from a source much nearer to home, but that is another story. At the last moment, a man in a white coat always turns up, writes a complicated equation on the blackboard, and the problem is fixed in no time at all. The truth is rather different. Scientists and other intellectuals are not immune to the general tendencies at work in society.
The fact that most of them profess indifference to politics and philosophy only means that they fall prey more easily to the current prejudices that surround them. All too often their ideas can be used to support the most reactionary political positions. This is particularly clear in the field of genetics where a veritable counter-revolution has taken place, particularly in the United States.
Similar arguments are used for poor people, single mothers, women, homosexuals, and so on. The present book is about philosophy—more precisely, the philosophy of Marxism, dialectical materialism. It is not the business of philosophy to tell scientists what to think and write, at least when they write about science.
But scientists have a habit of expressing opinions about all kinds of things—philosophy, religion, politics. This they are perfectly entitled to do. But when they use what may well be perfectly sound scientific credentials in order to defend extremely unsound and reactionary philosophical views, it is time to put things in their context. These pronouncements do not remain among a handful of professors.
They are seized upon by right wing politicians, racists and religious fanatics, who attempt to cover their backsides with pseudo-scientific arguments. Scientists frequently complain that they are misunderstood. They do not mean to provide ammunition for mystical charlatans and political crooks. That may be so. They know just where they stand. Rees-Mogg and Davidson argue that. For the first time in centuries, the revelations of science will seem to enhance rather than undermine the spiritual dimension in life. For these authors religion is a useful weapon to keep the underprivileged in their place, alongside the police and prison service.
They are commendably blunt about it:. In place of technology, they employ magic. In place of independent investigation, they opt for orthodoxy. Instead of history, they prefer myths. In place of biography, they venerate heroes. And they generally substitute kin-based behavioural allegiances for the impersonal honesty required by the market. At least Rees-Mogg and Davidson do not try to conceal their real intentions or their class standpoint.
Here we have the utmost frankness from the defenders of the establishment. The creation of an under-class of poor, unemployed, mainly black people, living in slums, presents a potentially explosive threat to the existing social order. The poor, fortunately for us, are ignorant. The message, of course, is not new. The same song has been sung by the rich and powerful for centuries. But what is significant is the reference to science, which, as Rees-Mogg and Davidson indicate, is now regarded for the first time as an important ally of religion.
Despite Davies' ifs and buts, it is clear that he represents a definite trend, which is attempting to inject mysticism and religion into science. This is not an isolated phenomenon. It is becoming all too common, especially in the field of theoretical physics and cosmology, both heavily dependent upon abstract mathematical models, which are increasingly seen as a substitute for empirical investigation of the real world. For every conscious peddler of mysticism in this field, there are a hundred conscientious scientists, who would be horrified to be identified with such obscurantism.
The only real defence against idealist mysticism, however, is a consciously materialist philosophy—the philosophy of dialectical materialism. It is the intention of this book to explain the basic ideas of dialectical materialism, first worked out by Marx and Engels, and show their relevance to the modern world, and to science in particular. We do not pretend to be neutral. Just as Rees-Mogg and Davidson defend the interests of the class they represent, and make no bones about it, so we openly declare ourselves as the opponents of the so-called market economy and all that it stands for.
We are active participants in the fight to change society. But before we can change the world, one has to understand it. It is necessary to conduct an implacable struggle against all attempts to confuse the minds of men and women with mystical beliefs, which have their origin in the murky prehistory of human thought. Science grew and developed to the degree that it turned its back on the accumulated prejudices of the past. We must stand firm against this attempt to put the clock back four hundred years.
A growing number of scientists are becoming dissatisfied with the present situation, not only in science and education, but in society at large. They see the contradiction between the colossal potential of technology and a world where millions of people live on the borderline of starvation. They see the systematic misuse of science in the interest of profit for the big monopolies. And they must be profoundly disturbed by the continuous attempts to dragoon the scientists into the service of religious obscurantism and reactionary social policies. Many of them were repelled by the bureaucratic and totalitarian nature of Stalinism.
But the collapse of the Soviet Union has shown that the capitalist alternative is even worse. By their own experience, many scientists will come to the conclusion that the only way out of the social, economic, and cultural impasse is by means of some kind of rational planned society, in which science and technology is put at the disposal of humanity, not private profit.
Such a society must be democratic, in the real sense of the word, involving the conscious control and participation of the entire population. Socialism is democratic by its very nature. It is not enough to contemplate the problems of the world. It is necessary to change it. First, however, it is necessary to understand the reason why things are as they are. Only the body of ideas worked out by Marx and Engels, and subsequently developed by Lenin and Trotsky can provide us with the adequate means of achieving this understanding.
We believe that the most conscious members of the scientific community, through their own work and experience, will come to realise the need for a consistently materialist world outlook. That is offered by dialectical materialism. The recent advances of the theories of chaos and complexity show that an increasing number of scientists are moving in the direction of dialectical thinking. This is an enormously significant development. There is no doubt that new discoveries will deepen and strengthen this trend.
We are firmly convinced that dialectical materialism is the philosophy of the future. For reasons of convenience, where the same work is cited several times in immediate sequence we have placed the reference number at the end of the last quote. The Economist, 9th January Rees-Mogg and J. Davidson, op. The Guardian, 9th March, To such a question, two replies are possible. If what is meant is: do we need to know about such things in order to go about our daily life, then the answer is evidently no.
But if we wish to gain a rational understanding of the world in which we live, and the fundamental processes at work in nature, society and our own way of thinking, then matters appear in quite a different light. A philosophy is a way of looking at the world. We all believe we know how to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad. These are, however, very complicated issues, which have occupied the attention of the greatest minds in history. But what is this mysterious human nature that is seen as the source of all our ills and is alleged to be eternally unchangeable?
This is a profoundly philosophical question, to which not many would venture a reply, unless they were of a religious cast of mind, in which case they would say that God, in His wisdom, made us like that. Why anyone should worship a Being that played such tricks on His creations is another matter. Those who stubbornly maintain that they have no philosophy are mistaken.
Nature abhors a vacuum. People who lack a coherently worked-out philosophical standpoint will inevitably reflect the ideas and prejudices of the society and the milieu in which they live. That means, in the given context, that their heads will be full of the ideas they imbibe from the newspapers, television, pulpit and schoolroom, which faithfully reflect the interests and morality of existing society. Most people usually succeed in muddling through life, until some great upheaval compels them to reconsider the kind of ideas and values they grew up with.
The crisis of society forces them to question many things they took for granted. At such times, ideas that seemed remote suddenly become strikingly relevant. Anyone who wishes to understand life, not as a meaningless series of accidents or an unthinking routine, must occupy themselves with philosophy, that is, with thought at a higher level than the immediate problems of everyday existence.
Only by this means do we raise ourselves to a height where we begin to fulfil our potential as conscious human beings, willing and able to take control of our own destinies. It is generally understood that anything worthwhile in life requires some effort. The study of philosophy, by its very nature, involves certain difficulties, because it deals with matters far removed from the world of ordinary experience.
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Even the terminology used presents difficulties because words are used in a way that does not necessarily correspond to the common usage. But the same is true for any specialised subject, from psychoanalysis to engineering. The second obstacle is more serious. In the 19th century, when Marx and Engels first published their writings on dialectical materialism, they could assume that many of their readers had at least a working knowledge of classical philosophy, including Hegel.
Nowadays it is not possible to make such an assumption. Philosophy no longer occupies the place it had before, since the role of speculation about the nature of the universe and life has long since been occupied by the sciences. The possession of powerful radio telescopes and spacecraft renders guesses about the nature and extent of our solar system unnecessary. Even the mysteries of the human soul are being gradually laid bare by the progress of neurobiology and psychology.
The situation is far less satisfactory in the realm of the social sciences, mainly because the desire for accurate knowledge often decreases to the degree that science impinges on the powerful material interests that govern the lives of people. The great advances made by Marx and Engels in the sphere of social and historical analysis and economics fall outside the scope of the present work. Suffice it to point out that, despite the sustained and frequently malicious attacks to which they were subjected from the beginning, the theories of Marxism in the social sphere have been the decisive factor in the development of modern social sciences.
As for their vitality, this is testified to by the fact that the attacks not only continue, but tend to increase in intensity as time goes by. In past ages, the development of science, which has always been closely linked to that of the productive forces, had not reached a sufficiently high level to permit men and women to understand the world in which they lived. In the absence of scientific knowledge, or the material means of obtaining it, they were compelled to rely upon the one instrument they possessed that could help them to make sense of the world, and thus gain power over it—the human mind.
The struggle to understand the world was closely identified with humankind's struggle to tear itself away from a merely animal level of existence, to gain mastery over the blind forces of nature, and to become free in the real, not legalistic, sense of the word. This struggle is a red thread running through the whole of human history.
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He wouldn't know how to create a maggot, and he creates Gods by the dozen. But that is just another way of saying that only humans possess consciousness in the full sense of the word. In recent years, there has been a reaction against the idea of Man as a special and unique Creation. This is undoubtedly correct, in the sense that humans developed from animals, and, in many important respects, remain animals. Not only do we share many of the bodily functions with other animals, but the genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees is less than two per cent. That is a crushing answer to the nonsense of the Creationists.
Recent research with bonobo chimpanzees has proven beyond doubt that the primates closest to humans are capable of a level of mental activity similar in some respects to that of a human child. That is striking proof of the kinship between humans and the highest primates, but here the analogy begins to break down. Despite all the efforts of experimenters, captive bonobos have not been able to speak or fashion a stone tool remotely similar to the simplest implements created by early hominids. The two per cent genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees marks the qualitative leap from the animal to the human.
This was accomplished, not by a Creator, but by the development of the brain through manual labour. The skill to make even the simplest stone tools involves a very high level of mental ability and abstract thought. The ability to select the right sort of stone and reject others; the choice of the correct angle to strike a blow, and the use of precisely the right amount of force—these are highly complicated intellectual actions.
They imply a degree of planning and foresight not found in even the most advanced primates. However, the use and manufacture of stone tools was not the result of conscious planning, but was something forced upon man's remote ancestors by necessity. It was not consciousness that created humanity, but the necessary conditions of human existence which led to an enlarged brain, speech and culture, including religion.
The need to understand the world was closely linked to the need to survive. Those early hominids that discovered the use of stone scrapers in butchering dead animals with thick hides obtained a considerable advantage over those who were denied access to this rich supply of fats and proteins. Those who perfected their stone implements and worked out where to find the best materials stood a better chance of survival than those who did not. With the development of technique came the expansion of the mind, and the need to explain the phenomena of nature that governed their lives.
Over millions of years, through trial and error, our ancestors began to establish certain relations between things. They began to make abstractions , that is, to generalise from experience and practice. For centuries, the central question of philosophy has been the relation of thinking to being. Most people live their lives quite happily without even considering this problem. They think and act, talk and work, with not the slightest difficulty. Moreover, it would not occur to them to regard as incompatible the two most basic human activities, which are in practice inseparably linked.
Even the most elementary action, if we exclude simple biologically determined reactions, demands some thought. To a degree, this is true not only of humans but also of animals, such as a cat lying in wait for a mouse. In man, however, the kind of thought and planning has a qualitatively higher character than any of the mental activities of even the most advanced of the apes. This fact is inseparably linked to the capacity for abstract thought, which enables humans to go far beyond the immediate situation given to us by our senses.
We can envisage situations, not just in the past animals also have memory, as a dog which cowers at the sight of a stick but also the future. We can anticipate complex situations, plan and thereby determine the outcome, and to some extent determine our own destinies. Although we do not normally think about it, this represents a colossal conquest, which sets humankind apart from the rest of nature. We also take for granted that all this does not drop from the skies, but is the product of millions of years of development.
The Greek philosopher Anaxagoras B. In his important article, The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man , Engels showed the exact way in which this transition was achieved. He proved that the upright stance, freeing of the hands for labour, the form of the hands, with the opposition of the thumb to the fingers, which allowed for clutching, were the physiological preconditions for tool making, which, in turn, was the main stimulus to the development of the brain.
Speech itself, which is inseparable from thought, arose out of the demands of social production, the need to realise complicated functions by means of co-operation. These theories of Engels have been strikingly confirmed by the most recent discoveries of palaeontology, which show that hominid apes appeared in Africa far earlier than previously thought, and that they had brains no bigger than those of a modern chimpanzee.
That is to say, the development of the brain came after the production of tools, and as a result of it. The ability to engage in abstract thought is inseparable from language. The celebrated prehistorian Gordon Childe observes:. A visual image, a mental picture of, say, a banana, is always liable to be a picture of a particular banana in a particular setting. A word on the contrary is, as explained, more general and abstract, having eliminated just those accidental features that give individuality to any real banana. Mental images of words pictures of the sound or of the muscular movements entailed in uttering it form very convenient counters for thinking with.
Thinking with their aid necessarily possesses just that quality of abstractness and generality that animal thinking seems to lack. Men can think, as well as talk, about the class of objects called 'bananas'; the chimpanzee never gets further than 'that banana in that tube'. In this way the social instrument termed language has contributed to what is grandiloquently described as 'man's emancipation from bondage to the concrete'.
Early humans, after a long period of time, formed the general idea of, say, a plant or an animal. This arose out of the concrete observation of many particular plants and animals. We grasp the essence of a plant, its innermost being. Compared with this, the peculiar features of individual plants seem secondary and unstable. What is permanent and universal is contained in the general conception. We can never actually see a plant as such, as opposed to particular flowers and bushes.