Out of world chaos, a new order?



The contribution of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977, the Russian-Belgian Ilya Prigogine, who rejects the idea that everything ends in cosmic dust

As few times in the general history of humanity, which can be dated, we see a situation of chaos in all directions and in all spheres of human life, nature and planet Earth as a whole. There are apocalyptic foreshadowings that come under the name of the Anthropocene (the human being is the great meteor threatening life), the Necrocene (massive death of species of life) and lately the Pyrocene (the great fires in various regions of the Earth), all from the irresponsible human action and as a consequence of the new irrepressible climate regime, and not least, the risk of a nuclear hecatomb to the point of exterminating all human life.

Despite the enormous advances in life and earth sciences, especially in the virtual world and Artificial Intelligence (AI), optimism does not reign, but pessimism and serious concern about the eventual end of our species. Many young people realize that, by prolonging and worsening the current course of history, they will not have an attractive future. They courageously engage in an already global movement to safeguard the life and future of our Common Home, as young Greta Thunberg does prototypically.

The warning of Pope Francis in his encyclical Fratelli tutti (2020): “We are all in the same boat; either we all save ourselves or no one is saved” (n. 32).

It is in this context that it is worth reflecting on the contribution offered by one of the greatest current scientists, now deceased, the Russian-Belgian Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1977, with his vast work but mainly in The end of certainties (Unesp, 1996). He and his team created a new science, the physics of non-equilibrium processes, that is, in a chaotic situation.

In his work, he challenges classical physics with its deterministic laws and shows that the arrow of time does not go back (irreversibility) and points to probabilities and never to certainties. The very evolution of the universe is characterized by fluctuations, deviations, bifurcations, chaotic situations, as the first singularity of the big Bang, generator of new orders. She emphasizes that chaos is never just chaotic. It harbors a hidden order that, given certain conditions, erupts and starts a different kind of story. Chaos, therefore, can be generative, as life emerged from chaos, says Ilya Prigogine.

In this scientist who was also a great humanist, we find some reflections that are not solutions, but inspirations to unlock our dark and catastrophic horizon. It can generate some hope in the midst of the generalized pessimism of our world, now planetary, despite the struggle for hegemony of the historical process, unipolar (USA) or multipolar (Russia, China and the BRICS).

Ilya Prigogine leaves saying that the future is not determined. “The creation of the universe is above all a creation of possibilities, some of which are realized, others are not”. What can happen is always in power, in suspension and in a state of fluctuation. This happened in the history of the great decimations that occurred millions of years ago on planet Earth. There were times, especially, when Pangea (the single continent) broke apart into parts, originating the various continents. About 75% of the biotic load disappeared. The Earth needed a few million years to rebuild its biodiversity.

That is to say, out of that chaos a new order emerged. The same goes for the 15 great decimations that never managed to exterminate life on Earth. Rather, there was a qualitative leap and a higher order. So it happened with the last great mass extinction that happened 67 million years ago that took all the dinosaurs, but spared our ancestor that evolved until it reached the current stage of sapiens sapiens or, realistically, sapiens e demens.

Ilya Prigogine developed what he called “dissipative structures”. They dispel chaos and even waste by transforming them into new orders. Thus, in pedestrian language, from the sun's garbage - the rays that disperse and reach us - almost all life on planet Earth arises, especially allowing the photosynthesis of plants that deliver the oxygen without which no one lives. These dissipative structures transform entropy into syntropy. What is left out and chaotic is reworked into a new order. In this way, we would not be facing thermal death, a total collapse of all matter and energy, but increasingly complex and higher orders up to a supreme order, whose ultimate meaning is indecipherable to us. Ilya Prigogine rejects the idea that everything ends in cosmic dust.

As a result, Ilya Prigogine is optimistic about the current chaos inherent in the evolutionary process. At this stage, it is up to human beings to take responsibility, upon knowing the dynamism of open history, to make decisions that give precedence to generative chaos and enforce the dissipative structures that put a brake on the lethal action of destructive chaos.

“It is up to man as he is today, with his problems, pains and joys, to ensure that he survives the future. The task is to find the narrow path between globalization and the preservation of cultural pluralism, between violence and politics, and between the culture of war and that of reason”. The human being appears as a free and creative being and will be able to transform himself and transform chaos into cosmos (new order).

Such seems to be the current challenge in the face of the chaos that plagues us. Either we become aware that we are responsible for wanting to continue on this planet or allowing, through our irresponsibility, a amageddon ecological-social. It would be the tragic end of our species.

With Ilya Prigogine, we feed the human (and also theological) hope that the current chaos represents a kind of birth, with the pains that accompany it, of a new way of organizing the collective existence of the human species within the single Common Home, including all the nature without which no one would survive. If great is the risk, said a German poet, great is also the chance of salvation. Or in the words of Deeds: “Where sin abounded (chaos), grace abounded all the more” (New Order: Rom 5,20:XNUMX). So we hope and so will God.

*Leonardo Boff He is a theologian, philosopher and writer. Author, among other books, of Inhabiting the Earth: what is the path to universal fraternity (Voices).

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