Death by Dissonance

June 13, 1998

Some weed-killers do their dirty work by making the weeds grow faster than ever, ... so fast, in fact that the weeds grow very, very tall, very, very quickly and abruptly die. What happens is that their internal life cycles fall out of resonance with the environmental cycles upon which they depend for long term sustainability. Under the influence of the weed-killer, their internal 'production' rates go off the top of the charts, ... as do the levels of dissonance between internal and environmental systems; ... a 'death by dissonance'.

All systems in nature undergo a harmony-promoting 'ontogenetical development' as well as 'structural growth'. The ontogeny of a system is the non-material geometry or 'imaginary' envelope to its evolving space-time dynamics. It may be seen as a kind of historical dialectic in which the system is both pulled into the future by its attractors in a purposive or goal-oriented manner and inhibited by the accommodating capacity of its immediate environment. Thus ontogenesis is a process which sustains a natural harmony between the whole-and-part of a system, and since the containing nature is in itself a unity, between the system and its environment. As Friedrich Cramer explains in 'Chaos and Order', the harmonic beauty we perceive in nature relates directly to ontogenetic geometries, such as the Fibonacci spiral structures in sunflowers and sea-snails.

Thus, the whole-in-part harmony in nature derives from the primacy of ontogeny as an environmentally co-resonant envelope or 'imaginary container' for structural growth.

The self-destruction of the plants sprayed with weed-killer derives from anaesthetizing their ontogenetic harmonizing capability and putting structural growth systems into a state of 'full speed ahead', ... a scenario which has been termed 'runaway feedback'.

It is perhaps no accident that this same killer geometry came to mind as I watched the film Cabeza de Vaca a few hours ago, as de Vaca meets up with his conquistador compatriots after living for eight years with the aboriginals. He ponders whether or not he really wants to be repatriated by those who would slaughter and enslave his new aboriginal compadres. There was certainly no sense of ontogenetic harmony or co-resonance in this sixteenth century onset of the growth of european influence in North America. But that was history, right? ... and today in the wake of a massive and escalating separation of 'haves' and 'have nots' brought on by harmony-insensitive growth machinery, how shall we feed the starving millions of aboriginal peoples in the world? ... would you go along with the suggestion that the white knight will be no other than western technology-turbocharged growth machinery?; i.e. a double dose of weed-killer ? ... I didn't think so.

What was/is the problem and where do we go from here?

Euclidian perception and inquiry is exclusively a material-structural approach which considers only 'things', 'void' and the cause-and-effect growth of future system states out of past system states. The euclidian paradigm 'sees' no whole-in-part harmonies because it looks for none. As a result, in the designs and implementations spawned by euclidian thinking, structural growth is unconstrained by issues of ontogenetic harmonies and these implementations actively breed dissonance.

Sustainable growth is growth which occurs within an ontogenetic envelope representing co-resonance of part and whole. Such a harmony-preserving envelope emerges in 'attractor-pulled' or 'purpose-pulled' systems rather than causally-pushed systems. Meanwhile, euclidian weed-killer mode is blind to harmonies because it looks for none. As Friedrich Cramer says, Kepler's three laws --- 'the planets move in ellipses with the sun at one foci, a line between the planet and the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times, and the square of the periods of the planets are proportional to the cube of their mean distances from the sun' --- are all about harmony rather than material structure (Newton soon changed that). And one only needs to browse through Kepler's work, 'Harmonium Mundi', to see that he (a neoplatonist) saw the beauty and mystery in nature as residing in its harmonies, a view which is implicitly non-euclidian (i.e. the view that something beyond material and force is inducing spatial coherency infers a participative or 'non-euclidian' space)

While many texts will say that Newton 'extended' Kepler's findings, the reverse is more true. Newton's 'mathematical principles of natural philosophy' are generalizations based on the concept of the 'fluxion' or 'time derivative', a notion of the limit wherein all motion ceases (i.e. wherein the time interval 'dt' goes to zero). Obviously, if one freezes time (in violation of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle), all harmonies cease, and if our 'theory' then considers only two bodies at a time (e.g. a sun-planet orbit), as Newton's laws did, we can never get back to the multivalent harmonies we destroyed with the time derivative. The reason that Newton did not solve the problem of planetary motion for three or more bodies was because it is impossible to do so, as Poincare proved in his Oscar winning performance of 1889.

The Newtonian method of fluxions and the Euclidian space assumption share the implicit assumption that it is legitimate to build theory bottom-up from frozen time snapshots. This view gives the appearance that in dealing with natural phenomena, we are dealing solely with isolated material 'things', which is not surprising since Newton started off from a 'corpuscular' or 'atomic' theory; i.e. in his own words, "God in the Beginning form'd Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable Particles." For Newton, "corpuscles plus forces constituted the physical world" and he specified 'Euclid's Elements' at the top of the list of recommended reading preparatory to studying the 'Principia'.

The point of the Newton-Kepler discussion is to make clear that the harmonies in nature, such as the multivalent harmonies in our solar system, cannot be 'handled' by the euclidian-space notion of independent 'things' and void and the bivalent constraints this imposes on perception and inquiry. Furthermore, the euclidian view is totally lacking in any attribute which could explain multivalent coherency of purpose, such as multivalent vortical flow as commonly perceived in nature, in the solar system and in turbulent fluid flow in the atmosphere and elsewhere. Such 'nonlinear' problems have been set aside or 'put in the parking lot' for the simple reason that they could not be resolved by the euclidian approach.

Again, perception and inquiry which is based upon the euclidian space assumption 'sees' only material structures and causal 'growth' and is blind to multivalent harmony and evolutionary flow and therefore blind to imaginary ontogenetic envelopes, though our sensory experience allows us to 'tune in' to multivalent harmonies and space-time envelopes without difficulty.

So, by cultivating a blindness to the harmonies in nature and focusing on unconstrained structural growth, the western culture has built the meanest weed-killer in existence (and the weed is us). In addition, the bulk of current research, in responding to a deepening dissonance in society, is digging the hole even deeper by searching for 'the ultimate weed-killer', aka the causal 'theory of everything'.

The very notion that of the existence of a 'theory of everything' seems to pre-suppose that the material structural view is 'all she wrote'. However, as Stephen Weinberg notes, "A final theory will be final in only one sense --- it will bring to an end a certain sort of science, the ancient search for those principles that cannot be explained in terms of deeper principles."

It's unfortunate that science has not been quicker in bringing on the discovery which can 'complete' this 'set of causal rule structures' as we could then move on to the long neglected topic of harmony in nature before being overtaken by a death by dissonance.

If we look upon material structures and imaginary harmonies as 'pattern's' in nature, it is clear that science has focused its efforts almost exclusively on fixed material structural patterns rather than evolving multivalent harmonic or ontogenetic patterns. However, if we are to get out of 'weed-killer mode', this situation has got to change.

Previously, the whole 'game' in scientific law development has been confined to material structures and has been based on what we can materially observe and measure, ... i.e. the science game has been based on studying the manifest out of the context of the latent (harmonies and ontogenies), and as already mentioned, our scientific laws do not and cannot predict the emergence or sustainability of multivalent harmonies such as we observe in our own solar system. They cannot predict them for two reasons (a) we do not consider non-material input such as multivalent harmony, and (b) ensembles of 'things' involved in complex spatial coherency or co-resonance typically pass through a zone of chaos (sensitive dependence on initial conditions) prior to achieving or falling out of a state of multivalent harmony and mathematical physics cannot solve directly for problems involving deterministic chaos.

If we are justified in assuming we arrive at the point of being able to predict all structural patterns with our 'theory of everything', we might ask ourselves if we are similarly justified in seeking a once-and-for-all-time handle on the spatial-harmony and ontogenetic-envelope breed of pattern. A contrary point which quickly comes to mind is that ontogenetic envelopes continue to evolve in the direction of increasing complexity, suggesting that we have a challenge here which will never be finalized but will be with us as long as we are here.

For example, if we go back two million years, to before man's emergence, the notion of 'malaria' was non-existent because there was no human bloodstream around to participate. While our focus on structure has us esteem man above all creatures, the simple one-celled protozoan 'plasmodium' also leads an interesting life, not because of his complex structure but because he lives in two different worlds in one lifetime; i.e. his complexity derives from his ontogenetic envelope as opposed to his structure. Imagine if man could live the first part of his life as a marine animal, e.g. a dolphin-like creature, and the latter part as a terrestrial, ... what a rich life and interesting life (i.e. complex life) this would be!

So it would seem that to understand complexity, we need to be able to understand ontogenic patterns as well as material-structural patterns. Traditional science; i.e. the euclidian space assumption has only allowed us to explore material structure, its formation and growth. The sciences of complexity are just now beginning to explore complexity from a purposive or goal-oriented perspective which encompasses evolutionary space-time dynamics or 'ontogeny'. As we know, ontogeny is an envelope to structures of different types or scales, hence the phrase 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny', and in the case of the malarial plasmodium, its ontogeny spans two entirely different 'spaces', which Cohen and Stewart ('The Collapse of Complexity') refer to as 'bloodspace' and 'bloodsuckerspace'. And as they point out, ontogenies which span different environmental spaces effectively 'enlarge the space of the possible'.

Whether or not man discovers the 'theory of everything' in all its material-structuralist glory, it seems clear that this cannot possibly inform us on future ontogenetic patterns wherein a single ontogeny straddles multiple structural realms. As Cohen and Stewart point out, reductionist (euclidian) science can only deal with issues within one material-structural realm. One can see this in terms of the basic characteristics of the notion of 'causality' which presumes a set of initial conditions (a beginning) and a forward causal progression of those conditions into the future. In this method, there can be no acausal discontinuities between the starting assumptions (the cause) and the phenomena under study (the effect). In the case of malarial plasmodium, as we study it in the human, we can work our way back from effect to cause, but then, like bloodhounds tracking escaped convicts, we are led to the water's edge where the scent has been lost or laundered out. The notion of causality can take us no farther because there are no more causal 'footprints'.

At this point, we must start thinking in terms of ontogeny, and on this basis we may well go to the girlfriend's place and catch the convicts by waiting for them there. And similarly, by seeking to understand the ontogeny of the plasmodium, we can (and did) unearth a complex pattern totally beyond the resolving power of euclidian science.

How did we do this? Einstein, in his essay 'Geometry and Experience' speaks to the issues of the limitations of euclidian space and the need for, and indeed our capability of, non-euclidian based perception and inquiry, i.e.; "My only aim today has been to show that the human faculty of visualisation is by no means bound to capitulate to non-Euclidean geometry."

So by what process do we make the non-euclidian leap across the chasm where euclidian inquiry gives out, to seize upon the ontological geometry of the malarial plasmodium? In einstein's words, "First of all, an observation of epistemological nature. A geometrical-physical theory as such is incapable of being directly pictured, being merely a system of concepts. But these concepts serve the purpose of bringing a multiplicity of real or imaginary sensory experiences into connection in the mind. To 'visualise' a theory, or bring it home to one's mind, therefore means to give a representation to that abundance of experiences for which the theory supplies the schematic arrangement."

As our world continues to evolve, we have seen some new and complex ontogenetic patterns develop; e.g. AIDS, drug-resistant bacteria, acid rain, asbestos-induced cancer, ozone depletion of the atmosphere and so on, as the ontogeny of one system intersects the space of multiple other systems. Questions such as; 'why is there continued divergence between social and corporate purpose (or social and environmental purpose) even though our intent and expended effort is to keep them in harmony?' can only be answered by looking at ontogeny as well as structure. While material-structural generalizations, as in a 'theory of everything' may 'lie in the soil' of the present, understanding the continuously evolving ontogenetic patterns in nature is a never-ending story. It is important that we retain a memory of where we've been even as we try to understand where we're going. There's no amount of euclidian causal science that can be applied to our malaria-stricken bodies which will tell us we were bitten by an anopheles mosquito, that has to come from an experiential remembering.

Similarly, it's time to look back over the centuries and reflect on 'what bit us' to put us on our current weed-killer trajectory, if we are to avoid a painful 'death by dissonance.'

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