Retired engineer Willis (Cooperating for Survival in the Positive-Sum Universe, 1997) proposes a new cosmological model and explores its moral, political, and economic implications.
According to the author, the world is spiraling into precipitous decline, threatened by economic collapse and war. Public debate, he says, tends to splinter along a familiar fault line, with those who prioritize the individual on one side, and those who elevate the collective on the other. Here, Willis proposes nothing less than a new scientific account of the universe, which he says can finally dissolve ideological conflict. The generally accepted cosmology, which considers quantum reality to be the most fundamental, is random and probabilistic, encourages relativistic epistemologies, and considers the Darwinian theory of evolution to be essentially complete. However, Willis proposes a model with a physical, if unobserved, reality at the sub-quantum level, which is causal and deterministic, and which implies ongoing evolution toward higher levels of consciousness and cooperation. The author calls this the “Theory of Contropy,” asserting that lower life forms produce new, more complex life forms, and more opportunities for cooperative interaction. Willis then explains the theory’s practical implications: Humanity isn’t fated to a “thermal death,” he says, because mutually beneficial cooperation can save us all from disaster. However, the individual is the most elemental part of Willis’ cosmology, which he says justifies a rational preference for economic and political systems that aggrandize individual liberty, such as free-market capitalism and democracy. Overall, the author’s proposal is unusually creative, and throughout this book, his command of the relevant scientific material is remarkable. He also ably catalogs the genuine limitations of the dominant cosmological models. However, his prose is also prohibitively dense, and as a result, his scientific views are unlikely to influence a wide audience. Also, the theoretical ligature between his physics and politics is not nearly as strong as he claims; it’s implausible, for instance, that one can justify a value-added tax on cosmological grounds.
A provocative scientific thesis, but one that’s unfortunately coupled with a less-compelling litany of political commitments.