Throughout the work of Ukrainian-Russian biogeochemist Vladimir Vernadsky, we find a powerful argument for why processes on Earth, and in the Universe, are organized according to a top-down principle of life, and, even higher, human cognition. This is a concept found throughout the writings and speeches of economist Lyndon LaRouche, who has often referenced the work of Vernadsky.
The work of Lyndon LaRouche has focused more explicitly on the fundamental distinction between animal and human life: although the physical appearance of man and ape might have a striking resemblance, the actions able to be enacted by those two species are entirely different, and they represent a specific kind of difference. The difference is not a matter of choice, or of taste: animals are fundamentally incapable of creating the kinds of changes to themselves as well as their environment that human beings are capable of, and there are quantitative effects which illustrate this, central to Mr. LaRouche’s science of physical economy. For example, animal population growth, which may appear at first to be more rapid when examining a relatively short interval of time (as in the well-known case of rabbit population growth), will ultimately level out, as the animal populations are unable to make any fundamental changes to their environment to increase its potential habitability.
Vernadsky’s life’s work ended up culminating in a similar investigation, of the unique distinction of man from animal, something Vernadsky approached from the standpoint of a biogeochemist. Having immersed himself in the study of how life transformed the surface of the Earth, he marveled at the power of human creativity to do the same, but on a quantitatively and qualitatively higher level. In his paper “Some Words on the Noosphere,” Vernadsky asked:
“How can thought change material processes? Here a new riddle has arisen before us. Thought is not a form of energy. How then can it change material processes? That question has not as yet been solved… as for the coming of the noosphere, we see around us at every step the empirical results of that “incomprehensible” process. That mineralogical rarity, native iron, is now being produced by the billions of tons. Native aluminum, which never before existed on our planet, is now produced in any quantity. The same is true with regard to the countless numbers of artificial chemical combinations (biogenic “cultural” minerals) newly created on our planet.”
Vernadsky also expressed his confidence in the noösphere, despite the World War which he found himself in the middle of, saying:
“At present we cannot afford to realize that, in the great historical tragedy through which we live, we have elementally chosen the right path leading into the noosphere. I say elementally, as the whole history of mankind is proceeding in this direction.”
Today we find ourselves in a similar situation, faced with the threat of a great new war. The only solution to the crisis faced by mankind lies in the further development of the noösphere as Vernadsky saw it. May the thoughts of Vernadsky find their rightful place in science, and politics, today.
TRANSLATIONS & WORKS
Selected Works by Vernadsky on the Noösphere
“These are sciences dealing with the ‘spiritual’ creativity of the human individual in his social environment, the sciences of the brain and of the sense organs, of the problems of psychology or logic. These condition the quest of the fundamental laws of Man’s scientific cognition, that is, those powers which have transformed the biosphere encompassed by Man into a natural body, new in its geological and biological processes, into a new state, the noösphere, consideration of which I will turn to below.”Scientific Thought As a Planetary Phenomenon, 1938
“There exists now on the terrestrial surface a great geological force. ...This force does not seem to be a new manifestation or special form of energy, nor yet a pure and simple expression of known energy. But it exerts a profound and powerful influence on the course of energetic phenomena on the Earth’s surface, and consequently has repercussions, smaller but undeniable, beyond the surface, on the existence of the planet itself. ...This force is human reason, the directed and controlled will of social man.”Human Autotrophy, 1925
“The noösphere is a new geological phenomenon on our planet. In it, for the first time, man becomes a large-scale geological force. He can, and must, rebuild the province of his life by his work and thought, rebuild it radically in comparison with the past. Wider and wider creative possibilities open before him. It may be that he generation of our grandchildren will approach their blossoming. ...Here a new riddle has arisen before us. Thought is not a form of energy. How then can it change material processes? That question has not as yet been solved.”The Noösphere, 1943
Works by LaRouche on Vernadsky
“As Vernadsky defines the guidelines for a biogeochemical investigation of the boundaries separating the biosphere categorically from the abiotic domain, I had, as I explain below, developed my own, somewhat parallel approach to this view, that in work in which I, working from my standpoint as an admirer of Leibniz, subsumed the principle distinctions separating the principle of human scientific creativity from both animal and abiotic modes of behavior.”Vernadsky and Dirichlet’s Principle, 2005
Lyndon LaRouche’s economic science, including the Eurasian Land-Bridge project, was the focus of a scientific conference held Nov. 27-28 at Moscow’s Vernadsky State Geological Museum. The conference, attended by 50 top scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences and Dr. Sergei Glazyev, head of the Economic Commission of the Russian Duma (Parliament), was sponsored by the Museum, and by the Schiller Institute, an organization founded by Helga Zepp LaRouche which promotes republican economics and Classical cultural policy. The subject of the conference was “The Realization of the Concept of the Noösphere in the 21st Century: Russia’s Mission in the World Today.”Russian Scientists Discuss Ideas of LaRouche and Vernadsky, 2001
“The most awesome notion to be found among known cultures, is that associated with the best use of the word “spirit.” In those cases that that word is spoken as a matter of the science of Kepler, Leibniz, Riemann, or by me, it signifies a unique quality of existence. It refers to a specific quality of existence which affects, and is affected by abiotic and living existences, but which is neither derived from, nor contained within either or both of those domains.”The Spirit of Russian Science, 2001
Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of the different phase spaces of abiotic processes, life, and cognition, serve to illustrate the errors of trying to build up the entire universe from abiotic processes, through the implicit rejection of the possible existence of uniquely biological or noetic principles. In his 1930 “The Study of Life and the New Physics,” Vernadsky directly addresses the hereditary errors in the Cosmos of Newton: that the concepts of space, time, energy, and matter are final, that they can be determined from purely abiotic experiments, and that there is a fundamental distinction between the studied universe and the minds that study it.
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