Subscribe to EIR Online
This presentation appears in the July 27, 2001 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

V.I. Vernadsky and the
Transformation of the Biosphere

[PDF version of this article]

In this issue, we continue our report on Lyndon H. LaRouche's June 28-29 diplomatic initiatives in Moscow. He participated in a webcast press conference on "The Economy of Russia Under Conditions of Destabilization of the World Financial System" on June 28 (EIR, July 6), and then addressed hearings of the Russian State Duma's Economics Committee on "Ensuring the Development of the Russian Economy Under Conditions of a Destabilized World Financial System," on June 29 (EIR, July 20). He also delivered the lecture printed below, to the Lebedev Institute of Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences (FIAN), on June 28. See also the dialogue following LaRouche's presentation.

Two regular social sciences seminars exist under the auspices of the FIAN. Prof. L.A. Shelepin chairs the FIAN methodological seminar, which has existed for over 50 years, and continuously (after a five-year hiatus) since 1993. The second standing seminar, devoted to economic modelling, was initiated in 1995 by Profs. G.G. Pirogov and D.S. Chernavsky. The late Prof. Taras Muranivsky, Moscow president of the Schiller Institute for Science and Culture, addressed the FIAN seminars on several occasions, with in-depth reports on the principles of physical economy and the forecasts and proposals of Lyndon LaRouche. After the death of Professor Muranivsky on July 17, 2000, the FIAN seminars devoted two special sessions to his memory, the second of which was held jointly with the international Schiller Institute, in December 2000, with the title "Russia's Historical Mission in Light of the World Economic Crisis."

Professors Shelepin and Chernavsky presided at a joint session of the FIAN seminars on June 28, 2001, where LaRouche was the guest speaker. His lecture, and the discussion that followed, are presented in the following pages.

Professor L. Shelepin: Our seminar, this evening, is meeting with the well-known major economist and political figure Lyndon LaRouche. The name of Lyndon LaRouche is very well known to you all. In our country and all over the world, we have a great confusion of various ideas, and people clashing with each other, and LaRouche is playing a great integrating role.

Lyndon LaRouche puts out a journal, EIR, Executive Intelligence Review, which is distinguished by the quality of its information and analysis, and other qualities. Lyndon LaRouche is connected with the Schiller Institute, which conducts a great deal of work in the United States, in Western Europe, and in the whole world. At the end of last December, we held a joint conference of our seminar with the Schiller Institute, which had a great public resonance.

I would like to say the following in addition: Lyndon LaRouche applies the method of the exact sciences, economics. The concept he puts forward, is based on bringing the exact sciences into the social sciences. That is the very same task, as our seminar has. Our seminar deals with economic modelling, and precisely with bringing the exact sciences into economics, sociology, and other social sciences. Those who have attended the seminars know that. Therefore, there are many points of tangency between Lyndon LaRouche and the activity of our seminar. Therefore, LaRouche's coming here is, without any exaggeration, a real event for us. I would like now to turn the floor over to Lyndon LaRouche.

Speech by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

There are many items of business I would have to transact in Moscow now and with you, but today I shall pick one. I will say what I wish I could say in the presence of our dear departed friend, Taras Muranivsky, Professor Muranivsky, who was a dear friend. This is the first time I've been in Moscow when he was not here to greet me. He would appreciate what I'm going to do.

I'm going to talk partly about Vernadsky, and his importance for today, for economics as well as for other matters. Vernadsky was unique, actually, in economic science, though he was not an economist, because his emphasis upon what he called the noösphere was one of the most fundamental conceptions in all sound economic science. It becomes important in two ways. One, strategically; the other way, because of its relevance to the specific issues before us today, particularly issues faced by Russia.

Now, there are certain things that Vernadsky did not do in respect to economics; that is, specifically, he did not get at the relationship, the social relationship, between the individual discovery of principle and how that works in a society. He recognized that, just as life transforms non-life, so the human mind is unique among all living processes, in the way it transforms the biosphere. There are several aspects he didn't attack, which have to be attacked in order to apply the importance of his work to economics. Even though he referred to the work of Riemann in his papers, he did not actually seem to understand the significance of Riemann's work as such. And the work of Riemann is essential, for understanding the fuller implications of the discoveries which Vernadsky actually made.

Let me just, as carefully as I can, explain what the issue is involving Riemann and Vernadsky. And those of you who are physicists, or biologists, will appreciate this, because they have the same quarrel with many mathematicians. The formal mathematician tries to explain everything at the blackboard, including physics. The physicist, the discoverer, deals with the matters that the mathematician would never discover. And this is the way to look at Vernadsky, from my standpoint.

What we call modern physical science, is based on taking what people believe is the organization of the universe, and proving it's wrong. The classic example of that, in modern science, is the discovery of gravitation by Kepler in his 1605 New Astronomy.

That is, you take an existing mathematical physics, for example. Remember that Kepler dealt with a very primitive kind of mathematics of Copernicus and Brahe. Before Kepler, the attempt was made, ever since the Romans, to explain the planetary orbits in terms of a statistical projection from a series of observations. And Kepler's more precise calculations, on the measurements made by Brahe, showed that Brahe was wrong, and that Copernicus and Brahe were both wrong, about the nature of planetary orbits and planetary systems. By using existing statistical methods, you could not predetermine, by calculation, what the position, or velocity, of a planet would be.

This discovery by Kepler established in a new way, the concept of a universal physical principle: that physical behavior is not determined statistically. It is determined, in the case of these kinds of aberrations, or these kinds of contradictions, by the discovery of a physical principle, which has the effect of being an intention of the system.

Now the same thing was done, in a simpler direct way, by the great Fermat, the great French philosopher. That is, working from a Cartesian, or Euclidean, system, and trying to compare the experimental results of reflection, and refraction, he found a difference. So, therefore, what Fermat posed, was that the pathway of light was not the pathway of the shortest distance in Euclidean space-time, but the pathway of the quickest time. Then later, through the collaboration on these questions, by Christiaan Huyghens, and Leibniz, especially together, the question of relativistic time and relativistic physical space-time began to be opened up to European science.

Actually, the Leibniz calculus, and also Leibniz's Monadology, are key to understanding what came out of these kinds of discoveries by Leonardo da Vinci, then by Kepler, and then by Fermat. The problem came as this: You had a problem with Leonhard Euler, who was a formalist, and you had a problem with a protégé of LaPlace, Augustin Cauchy. The Newton calculus was discredited, so Cauchy tried to save Newton by revising the differential in the Leibniz calculus. The result is, that legions of people after Cauchy, because of the influence of that school, and particularly the British school, have been fraudulently teaching, and practicing the calculus for almost two centuries. Because the differential value, in the Leibniz differential calculus, is not a linear interval. There is no linear connection.

This leads directly into the question of what Vernadsky actually did. And it's the same method; Vernadsky's method, as he describes it, is the same method that was used by these predecessors, including Leonardo da Vinci, including Kepler, including Fermat, including Huyghens, including Leibniz, all the great discoverers, including, before him, Gauss and Riemann. And it's a great school that he studied in. It was a school of crystallography, which actually was started in European science by Kepler, with his work on periodicity in crystal formations. It's the school of Mendeleyev, who was part of the same tradition in scientific work, and whose defining of the periodic table is a benefit of the same method.

So, the important thing is, that in coming in contact with the school of Pasteur, and Curie, Vernadsky made a leap, along the lines they were working, to use certain anomalies, statistical anomalies, to show that living processes obeyed a principle, which does not exist among non-living processes. Now, on that basis, he defined the biosphere from a geological standpoint very precisely. Then, at a later point, he recognized that human behavior affected the biosphere, in the way that life affected the non-living processes. And his limitation was, not breaking fully with the so-called formal geometry, and formal mathematics.

The key thing that Kepler started, is the demonstration that the universe does not conform to a sense of infinite linear extension, in three directions of space, and one direction of time, one sense of time. But a follower of Leibniz, of the Eighteenth Century, a great mathematician and physicist, Abraham Kästner, of Germany, who was the teacher of Gauss, established what was called anti-Euclidean geometry. Not non-Euclidean, but anti-Euclidean. And this was the basis for Gauss's training. He did this in mathematics, in formal mathematics; he did it in geometry. It is to show that there are anomalies, like the anomaly that Kepler pointed out in terms of the orbital system, the Solar System; anomalies like that which are identified in the case of the work of Fermat on light. It came to Riemann to say, finally, that there are no formal, a priori principles of space, matter, and time. But there are only universal physical principles, which we do not detect a priori, or with our senses, but priniciples which we prove in the laboratory by principles of universal experimentation.

And that, of course, is the significance of Riemann's habilitation paper of 1854. Riemannian geometry is not a non-Euclidean geometry; it's an anti-Euclidean geometry. Non-Euclidean geometries are created in the way Lobachevsky did, by challenging postulates within Euclidean geometry. The work of Bolyai and Lobachevsky are comparable in that sense, that they both challenge axiomatic assumptions, but their postulates are of Euclidean geometry. They do not overthrow the geometry.

That is also the significance of the discoveries of Vernadsky: by using experimental evidence, natural phenomena, to demonstrate that the existing physical explanations do not account for the phenomena, and thus to demonstrate that a universal principle is operating, rather than the kind of system we assumed was operating.

Now, the problem was, in the work of Vernadsky, that he never was able to unify, or never came to unify, the implications of Riemann's work, with his own work.

The Hoax of 'Information Theory'

The way I discovered Vernadsky, is back in the 1940s, when I was doing work in refuting what's now called systems analysis, what's called "information theory." Now, from there, I'll go to the point of what is the significance of this for economy, in Russia, in particular, today.

Wiener and von Neumann were both protégés, religious protégés, of Bertrand Russell, who had introduced the attempt to reduce to simple arithmetic, linear methods everything in the universe. He tried to explain everything in terms of what he called "information theory," like Wiener did, which was the same thing that Russell had argued, and was the same thing which von Neumann argued. That is, he tried to explain it statistically, by the statistics of people like Mach, the statistics of people like Boltzmann, and so forth. And this is like liberal economics, which says that if you get enough people doing evil, and rubbing their bellies together, you'll get a good economy. You don't need any science, you don't need any principle, just rub enough free traders' bellies together, and they'll come out with a good result.

And this was obviously absurd to me, just from the standpoint of technology, and from my experience in production. And you all know it, who do physical science, who've done experimental work—you all know this. You try to prove a principle. You have an anomaly which arises experimentally. You try to make a hypothesis of what principle explains this anomaly. Then you must construct—if you think you're right, you must now design and construct an apparatus, which tests for that: Is that principle true? Number one. And second, is it universal? You create something which has never been seen before, a new principle.

Now, you look at the apparatus which succeeded in proving the principle. You look at the apparatus, and you say, "Ah! We now have new technologies." Now, if you have a good arrangement in education, you have a university with your academies, and so forth, who are doing discoveries which lead to experiments, which result in discoveries of principles, and new technologies. If the testing laboratories, through engineering, design engineering, are connected to production, now you make new kinds of products, and new kinds of productive processes, using these technologies. If you do it properly, you change man's relationship to the universe. Man's power in the universe is increased, per capita, and per square kilometer. It is not necessary to rub together the bellies of idiots together to get progress. If you do that, it's called liberal rubbing, liberal economics.

But what is demonstrated, is the human mind, with a human cognitive capability, which Vernadsky called "noetic" capability. It's the same term that's used in the Greek, it comes from the Greek, and it's used interchangeably with the origin of poetry, and "noetic" is the same concept.

So, what has happened is, the human mind has created something you can't see, you can't smell, you can't taste, but it enables you to increase man's power in the universe. How can you increase the actual productivity of mankind? How can you increase man's power in the universe? How can you make human life better? How can you bring nations together peacefully around common objectives? By organizing society around the discovery and use of valid universal principles.

So, the significance of Vernadsky lies there, in his understanding that life was a principle, distinct from molecular biology.

So, what I'd done earlier, was to recognize that Riemann had made a fundamental discovery which applied to economics: It's how is society organized, to increase the productive powers of labor. A principle which Bertrand Russell, von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, and others denied existed, like Kant before them—Kant's famous attack on Leibniz in his Critiques: He said that the noetic, the cognitive process, does not exist.

The Classical Principle in Education

Let me, before completing this, just take one aside, and say one thing about education.

A human being, newborn, as Vernadsky defined it, every newborn human being has the potential capability of making fundamental discoveries, including moral ones, which can be of benefit to all humanity. Every individual human being, when born. But if we're successful, it takes almost 25 years to bring the newborn baby to maturity. Not simply biological maturity, but cognitive maturity. By cognitive maturity, you mean the best scientific minds, discoverers, you mean the greatest creative artists, and performers. These are the gems of society.

So, the first thing in society, if we understand what Vernadsky has said, is to have an educational and maturational and family situation, which takes these newborn babies, and develops them to their cognitive potential. What must be learned, is not to learn formulas from a textbook. We would hope that the child, in each phase of education, would relive the experience of great discoveries of principle made by people before them. They should not be educated the way you train an animal—a dog, a cat, a horse. Rather we want the child to relive history, the history of the great discoveries. We want the child to be there.

I often use the case of Archimedes, who was killed by the Romans in 212 B.C. There are famous discoveries by Archimedes. Why shouldn't the child go back 2,200 years in history, and relive a moment in the mind of Archimedes, a moment of discovery, and shriek "Eureka!"—"I saw it!"

When you have this kind of education, in which the child—it's called a Classical humanist education—has that kind of education, they have a sense of their humanity, meaning their relationship, their immediate personal relationship, to discoverers, who may have died hundreds or thousands of years before they were born. And then you say, well, what is the characteristic of all great leaders of society, in science, in politics, in art—the great performers in art, for example? What is their characteristic, that distinguishes them from the greedy little people?

Just as they think of their relationship to the great men, who made them possible, they look forward to the future generations, for accountability for what they do. It's the denial of that quality of education, and social standard, which deprives society of leaders of all the qualities that we need, to ensure that society does not get into the kind of mess the world is in today.

Vernadsky spoke about the role of the individual, and the individual's contribution to society, the cognitive contribution, the noetic contribution. That we must think instead, of an anti-Euclidean, Riemannian form of geometry of principle, only proven principles—proven in the way that Vernadsky himself demonstrated the universality of a principle of life in geology. Or the way he demonstrated the same thing for society in terms of the impact of individual discoverers in transforming man's relationship to the universe.

So, therefore, we require an orientation to the fact that there are also principles involved in social relations of cognition, principles which are typified by two things: that, first of all, the mind is not based on an individual discovery, one at a time. The mind of a discoverer, as any of you know, from your own experience.... In an educational and related process, there are many minds living inside your mind. Think of the challenge of a great actor of Classical drama, who must go on stage, and convince the audience, that he or she is the character they're playing in the drama. And the director of the play, who must have an interaction among the actors, which presents to the audience, the actual conflict in the drama.

We relive the past, in our own minds. We relive it when we re-enact a discovery, a physical discovery. We re-enact it in great art, when we re-enact the intent of the composer of great art. Their mind lives again inside us, a moment from their mind. That population in our mind, of all the people we've known from thousands of years before, in this way—as my dear friend Taras would have said, "in the best way"—we know this when we do something, we think of their minds looking at what we're thinking. These are our conscience. We may differ with them. We may disagree with them, but we will never do anything dishonorable in their eyes.

So, we need an educational system, but first of all, we need an educational policy, as a policy of society, first. We have to do for the noösphere, what Vernadsky did for the biosphere. Vernadsky took the geological history of the planet to demonstrate the biosphere. History, as I've just described it summarily, is the same thing, the application of the same method, to the noösphere.

A Vernadskyian Mission

Now, to the practical application.

As I've emphasized a great number of times, in Central and North Asia, we have the greatest frontier for conquest of all humanity to date. This is an area poorly developed, or an area which is unusable presently, within which lie rich potential resources, that are not rich unless we develop them. I once called this the conquest of inner space, comparable to the development of outer space, and we must conquer inner space, as we must conquer outer space. Because we have in Eurasia, in this time of great world crisis, the greatest concentration of world population, and also the greatest cleavage in culture throughout all humanity.

What you have is a situation in which, on the one side, you have European culture, which includes Russia's culture, the culture of Western Europe, the culture of the Americas, which is predominantly European culture, modern European culture. Then you have on the other side, the culture of China, Japan, Southeast Asia, South Asia, with a traditional Islamic culture; it's not difficult to work, as we see in the history of the Abassids, for example, in the Great Caliphate of Baghdad. There's a similarity of culture, which we know how to work with.

And you have different cultures in India. You have cultures which are similar to those of Europe, and cultures which have a different conception of man than you have in European culture. And, also in China, you have different cultures. You have the tradition of Confucius, and Mencius, which is very easily understood by us, and very sympathetic to us. While Japan is modern, in the sense of modern European culture, it has a different cultural root. So, Southeast Asia.

Central and North Asia, particularly Central Asia, is the meeting place, the great cultural meeting place, between Asian culture, as such, and European culture. And Russia has the peculiarity of being the world's Eurasian nation.

Now, we're in a world economic crisis: not only a financial crisis, not only a monetary crisis, but an actual physical breakdown of the planet's ability to sustain its existing level of population. If you attempted to extend the presently world-hegemonic, liberal economic system of free trade and globalization, for another ten years, you would set into motion a collapse of the world population level, rapidly, to levels below 1 billion persons. The greatest genocide this planet has ever known.

Now, the development of this Eurasian development, requires the greatest infrastructure-building project ever conceived, especially affecting Central and North Asia, going into the tundra areas. It's a project that will change the character of the planet, for the better. It's a project that will work only among sovereign nation-states, not some globalized empire. But to do this means we have to have a sane scientific conception of physical economy, as the basis for collaboration among nations. We're going to change the environment of the planet as never before, because what will be done in Central Asia, will transform the entire planet's practices. It must be done, because you can not save China, with its present population, without an injection of technology beyond what China is capable of producing internally at present. India and Southeast Asia depend upon the same thing.

Therefore, think! We're proposing to change the biosphere on the largest scale ever conceived. We must introduce a change in the conception of the way economy is organized, starting with education. And the relationship between the university, and the educational system, the scientific laboratories, the production of technology, manufacturing and design of products, must be a continuous, well-organized process.

But I know we can do it. I've given many decades of thought to this: We can do it. Even some of us who are older can do it. But to do it, we have to take the full implications, not only of Vernadsky's work, but the implications of what he left unfinished. Revive it, and put it to work. As in the way Professor Shnoll has been doing with his group, to preserve this kind of nonlinear exploration. We need it. We need to do the job. But, above all, we must adopt the idea as a mission. We must make the idea a mission, an infectious idea, which not only infects people, but inspires them to do things they think they can't do, but they could.

Thank you.

Back to top