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vol 8: A theory of Peace
page 2: Law

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a personal journey to natural theology

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Lecture 2: Law


1 At the end of the last lecture I summed up my peace program in a couple of paragraphs. I said:

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the whole remarkable structure that exists. If we are to understand peace well enough to bring it within our grasp, we must understand the creative process that brings the world to be.

The source of creation we call god. In this theory of peace I assume that god is not outside the universe, as many have believed, but that that the whole universe itself is god. Since it is god, there for all of us to see, we must eventually find out how it works, and so agree on how the universe structures itself. If we can agree on this, we can agree on how to structure ourselves into a peaceful society.

2 Before I go on with the main theme of this lecture, I wish to tell you something about lectures themselves. A lecture is a reading from a prepared text. It is a formal presentation of ides that are too complex to follow through ordinary speech.

3 Do not expect to comprehend a whole lecture immediately. The usual procedure for most students is to take copious notes during a lecture and then go home and try to understand what they have heard.

4 These lectures are no exception. They re-present and reinterpret thousands of years of human intellectual history. I dont think you can hope to completely understand what I have to say the first time you hear it unless you have spent your life studying the same things as I have.

5 To save you the trouble of taking notes, I have made preprints of these lectures.

6 There are a couple of other things before we get down to this weeks business.


7 The universe is a seamless whole, and I am working to present a picture of it which will show, among other things, that it can account for its own existence.

8 The construction of a theory is like the construction of an arch. Until the last stone is in place, it cannot stand up by itself. This means that for the time being you will have to watch patiently while I erect the pieces of my theory one by one. In the end, I hope, the theory will stand up by itself, and its strength will be obvious to you.


9 Finally, a warning.

10 What I have to say cuts across much accepted belief. In particular the assumption that the visible universe itself is god is directly opposed to the Roman Catholic view that the universe is the creation of an invisible god outside the universe.

11 This new assumption, is it can be shown to be true, demands a reinterpretation of the whole of Roman Catholic theology and all the Christian theology that is contained in catholic theology or derived from it.

12 This reinterpretation will change none of the facts. It will simply put them in a different light. A famous episode in the mythology of science illustrates what I mean. There was once intense debate about whether the earth stands still and the sun rotates around it, or the sun stands still and the earth revolves. Either way, the movement of the sun across the sky seems the same to a person standing on the earth. The sun rises in the east, crosses the sky, and sets in the west.

13 As the volume and accuracy of observations of the motions of the sun and the planets increased, it became clear that it was much simpler to put the sun at rest and let the earth and the other planets revolve around it.

14 Not only did the whole picture become clearer with the sun at rest, but the new point of view led to new and deeper insights into the structure of the heavens.

15 We owe the heliocentric theory of the solar system to Nicolaus Copernicus. Copernicus wanted to simplify the mathematical calculation of the sun and the planets. He was a professional astronomer involved in the problem of fixing the calender, which had fallen badly out of synchronisation with the seasons.

16 Copernicus was very reluctant to publish his results, even though nobody who understood the astronomical problem could resist the logical sense of his calculations. This was because he was very sensitive to the other implications of his work.

17 First, his theory demanded that the universe be immensely bigger than people then thought. The stars do not appear to move. This was easily explained when the earth was at rest at the centre of the universe. But if the earth moves in an orbit round the sun the stars would appear to move as well. Copernicus explained that the stars were so far away that the apparent motion caused by the earth's orbit was too small to see.

18 Second, in Copernicus; theory, the earth was no longer at the centre of the universe. This has two results.

19 Following Aristotle, people believed that things fell to the ground because it was natural for heavy things to be at the centre of the universe. With the earth no longer at the centre of the universe, a new theory was needed to explain falling. This need eventually led to Newton's idea of universal gravitation.

20 The dethronement of earth and its inhabitants from the centre of the universe caused a profound change in people's view of the planet and their place in the universe. This change has continued. These days, we, or at least our children, are quite prepared to accept that we are one of millions of intelligent races on millions of planets scattered throughout the universe. Some of these aliens may be hostile, but others, like ET, are cute. Whatever they are, we seem to assume that they are more intelligent than us.

21 All of these changes arose from a mathematical problem in theology. They followed logically from a few simple assumptions., and have stood the test of time. They were forces, not by the authority of Copernicus, whose only power was his ability to think, but by the facts.

22 The laws of nature are here for all to see. Who actually discovers them seems to depend partly on chance and partly on who is looking for them. They are not subject to human whim.

23 King Canute demonstrated this fact very elegantly. His sycophantic courtiers apparently told him that he was so wise that even the tides would obey him. He had his throne put at the waters edge at low tide and commanded the waters to stay where they were. They did not. No king or pope or dictator can tell the world how to behave.

24 I am not an authority. I am not even an expert. My words must stand or fall on their own internal logic and their demonstrable relationship to the world of experience. Their strength has got nothing to do with me. Anyone could say these things.

25 These lectures are a report of work in progress. What I say could easily be wrong. There could be a fatal flaw somewhere in the argument which underlies the whole picture. You should be very critical, therefore, in listening to what I say.

26 This warning is especially important because we are dealing with very deep and powerful issues. War and peace are a matter of life and death.


27 With all that out of the way, let's get back to work. We begin with the assumption that the visible universe is god.

28 To prove or disprove the statement that the universe is god, we need some ground for judgment. This ground is the further assumption that what exists is consistent. On the assumption that the universe is god leads to inconsistency, we consider it disproved, and must throw it out. This could lead us to assert that the universe is not god.

29 We can subject this new statement to the same test. Assume that the universe is not god, and see where that leads. If it leads to inconsistency, we must throw that out too.

30 There is a third possibility, of course. It may turn out that we cannot decide which of the two statements, the universe is god, and the universe is not god, is consistent. We are then faced with uncertainty. Last week I mentioned the mathematical results obtained by Kurt Goedel that suggest that there must be uncertainty in a consistent universe.

31 Peace is constructed and guaranteed by law. This seems a plausible enough statement, and we will add it to our list of assumptions. It follows easily from this that world peace will be constructed and guaranteed by world law. The problem of establishing world peace thus becomes the problem of establishing world law.

Laws of nature

32 How are laws made? Let us start with laws of nature. Who made the law of gravity? The traditional; theory is that when god created the universe he decided what the laws of nature would be and put them in place. Obviously a law of gravity is necessary to hold people on the earth, so god included a law of gravity in the structure of the universe.

33 A feature of this theory is that god's creation of the universe was a free decision on his part, and that this universe is just one of the myriad universes that god could have created.

34 In particular he could have made a universe where there was no pain and suffering. Members of the Christian tradition believe that he will eventually do just that. After the last judgment, they hold, the universe will be returned to the perfect state it enjoyed before Adam and Eve ate the fatal apple.

35 My theory is different. I propose that there is only one basic law of nature, and that is that the universe is consistent. I claim, in other words, that when we have fully understood the nature of gravity we will see that it must be the way that it is. It cannot be otherwise, because if it was the universe would be inconsistent, and we assume that inconsistent things cannot exist.

36 One of my tasks, in explaining and defending my theory, will be to show that the known laws of nature follow directly from the law of consistency. This is a big task. I have a lot of ideas, but it is not yet completed. In later lectures, after I have finished outlining the basic theory, I will outline how I hope to do this.

37 If this universe is governed by the one law of consistency, it is not one of many possible universes, it is the only possible universe, and it is as perfect as one can get. It is not the arbitrary creation of a perfect god, it is god itself, creating itself, and we are parts of god.

Human Laws

38 How do we humans make laws? I will follow the Australian system. I think it is one of the best in the world, despite its faults.

39 First the need for a law is identified. Then a political party or a parliamentary committee of some other agency drafts the law and it goes to parliament for discussion and amendment.

40 The parliamentary debate may or may not be meaningful. This depends on whether it is a good law that can stand a bit of scrutiny or a bit of partisan power tripping which will be rammed through on party lines despite all its faults.

41 After the debating comes the voting, but if a bill is passed, it is still not law. It requires the Queen's assent, delivered through her agent, the Governor General.

42 These days the Queen is considered to have no power, so that her assent to a law duly passed through the parliament should be automatic. Recent history has shown that this is not strictly true. She, or the Governor General, can still veto a law by sacking the government that wishes to pass it.

43 The royalist coup against the Whitlam Labor government played a significant part on my life. It was then that I decided to drop out of gainful employment and look for a better way to run the world.

44 In the old days, of course, all power was considered to reside in the king or queen. Where does the queen get her power? From god. I presume that the god of Australia is the same as the Anglican god who rules over England. The Anglican god is in turn a clone of the Catholic god.

45 We can now see how the laws of nature and human law fit together in the traditional system. God created a universe which is internally consistent but just one of many possible universes. Through the queen, who is advised by priests and lawyers, god also controls the creation of human laws, which in turn control human society.

46 This system works well. The peace which we all enjoy in Australia is witness to this. But it is not good enough to ensure world peace, because the queen of Australia is not the queen of the United States or the Soviet Union, and the god of Australia is not the god of the United States or the Soviet Union.

47 This is because these gods and these laws are arbitrary. I assume that the United States and the Soviet Union are at was because their laws conflict. In a consistent universe, human laws can only conflict if they are in some way out of touch with the universe itself.

48 My diagnosis, therefore, is that the global conflict that threatens us with nuclear war arises out of arbitrary human laws which reflect some sort of misunderstanding of the laws of nature. My purpose, in constructing as theory of peace, is to identify and eliminate that misunderstanding and so eliminate the possibility of nuclear war.

World law

49 Traditional theology creates a gulf between human beings and the rest of nature. In the past we have considered ourselves to have a special relationship to god which puts us above and outside everything else.

50 It seems to me that it is this idea that has enabled us to destroy so much of the planet with so little compunction. In the traditional view, this planet is just a testing ground to see if we are good enough to be taken into heaven. It will be renewed on the last day anyway.

51 I have said enough already to convince you that I do not support this view at all. Instead we find ourselves part of god along with the birds and the fishes and the trees, Our scientific understanding of global biology and ecology already tells us how closely we are related to and dependent upon the rest of the world to survive.

52 Over thousands of years, human philosophers have thought up all sorts of distinctions to justify the special status of mankind. We are spiritual creatures, animals are not. We are alive, stones are not. We are intelligent, other creatures are not. We are immortal, other creatures are not. We are creative, other creatures are not, and so on. By the time I have completed these lectures, all these distinctions will be gone. We will turn out to be one with everything else in a divine creative universe.

53 All of this follows because I allow only one law for everything that is, and that is that what exists is consistent. This law does not hold at any particular place or time, it holds everywhere, at all times, for everything, for human societies, as much as for termites and grains of sand.


54 Global peace requires global law. Ultimately there is only one law from which all other laws and structures derive, that of consistency. Conflict points to inconsistency.

55 The conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union indicates that the laws of at least one and possibly both of them (and us as well) are inconsistent with the rest of the universe. To prevent nuclear war we must identify and correct this inconsistency.

56 To identify and correct this inconsistency, we need a theory of consistency, that is mathematics. In the first lecture I stated that my basic physical hypothesis is that the universe is mathematics incarnate. My task in the next few lectures is to explain and illustrate this hypothesis, and then use it to find a way to overcome war.


Originally broadcast on 2BOB Radio, Taree, NSW on 25 June 1987


Aristotle, Physics books V-VIII, Harvard University Press,William Heinemann 1980   Amazon  back
Aristotle, Physics books I-IV, Harvard University Press, William Heinemann 1980   Amazon  back
Einstein, Albert, The Evolution of Physics: The growth of ideas from the Early Concepts to Relativity and Quanta, Simon and Schuster 1967 Preface: 'Our intention [is] to sketch in broad outline the attempts of the human mind to find a connection between the world of ideas and the world of phenomena. We have tried to show the active forces which compel science to invent ideas corresponding to the reality of our world.' Albert Einstein, Leopold Infeld  Amazon  back
Kuhn, Thomas S, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, U of Chicago Press 1996 Introduction: 'a new theory, however special its range of application, is seldom just an increment to what is already known. Its assimilation requires the reconstruction of prior theory and the re-evaluation of prior fact, an intrinsically revolutionary process that is seldom completed by a single man, and never overnight.' [p 7]   Amazon  back
Tomonaga, Sin-itiro, The Story of Spin, University of Chicago Press 1997 Jacket: 'The Story of Spin, as told by Sin-itiro Tomonaga and lovingly translated by Takeshi Oka, is a brilliant and witty account of the development of modern quantum theory, which takes electron spin as a pivotal concept. Reading these twelve lectures on the fundamental aspects of physics is a joyful experience that is rare indeed.' Laurie Brown, Northwestern University.  Amazon  back
Walker, Geoffrey de Q, The Rule of Law: Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, Melbourne University Press 1988 Jacket: 'The author argues that the survival of any useful rule of law model is currently threatened by distortions in the adjudication process, by perversion of law enforcement (by fabrication of evidence and other means), by the excessive production of new legislation with its degrading effect on long-term legal certainty and on long-standing safeguards, and by legal theories that are hostile to the very concept of rule of law. In practice these trends have produced a great number of legal failures from which we must learn.'  Amazon  back


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