Science and 'The Conquest of Ignorance'

Montréal, October 8, 1999

The buzzer of aberrant thought triggers in my mind, ... every time I read publishers' forwards on science books such as the following;

"Here is the story of man's conquest of his own ignorance. To read it is to participate in one of the greatest adventures of all time --- the adventure of expanding the horizon of knowledge, the adventure of man's magnificent struggle to understand the laws governing the universe in which he lives." The Publishers (of 'The Evolution of Physics' by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld).

This one brings to mind Russell Ackoff's comment about "down-and-up-again-thinking" discussed in 'Purposeful People, Causality and Systems Sciences'.

On the scale of culture and history, we start with the wholeness of nature and the beauty and wisdom manifest in it, ... and in the peoples of nature, ... and then we take it all apart, ... pulling the limbs off it and guts out of it, ... and after all the subtle harmonies have been extinguished, when the pieces are all laid out there and the convulsions and twitching have ceased, ... slowly, ... very slowly, ... we work our way back up towards an understanding of the initial whole we started from, ... an understanding in the new terms of our own making, to be sure. And each time we improve upon OUR OWN TERMS in this reconstruction, ... we see ourselves as bravely stepping forward into territory where no-one has stepped before, ... onto ground where even angels fear to tread, ... particularly if they lack protective gear for radioactive, chemical and biotechnical contamination, ... not to mention detection equipment for mines underfoot and shields for radiation leakage through pollution-eroded holes in the atmospheric cover.

When you pull apart the subtle harmony of natural systems, ... it takes you a little while to put it all back together again, ... like several millenia. It might have been different if we had started off with 'up and down again thinking' approach, as Ackoff calls it, ... or even better, ... with thinking wherein up 'is accompanied by down', ... in the same dualistic manner that 'a changing electric field is accompanied by a magnetic field', ... a simultaneous kind of up/down, ... as in the game of pool where the changing trajectory of the ball is (simultaneously) accompanied by the reciprocal geometrical 'shape' of its containing ensemble.

And who says that 'laws govern the universe', anyhow? We haven't found any mini-supercomputers inside of hummingbirds or bumble bees when we take them apart, ... nature seems to be able to 'just do it' and do it very well without laws. The notion of laws 'governing things' seems to be one of those ego-inflated fantasies of anthropocentrists, .... since if there are laws governing the universe, ... this presents us with the opportunity of taking the legislature and putting the universe on whatever course gives us pleasure. But as Henri Poincare persisted in reminding people, ... "... let us clearly understand that while these laws are imposed on OUR science, which otherwise could not exist, they are not imposed on Nature."

Laws are simplifications of a more complex world of limitless diversity and wholeness, ... a convenience for us so that each time we encounter a complex situation we do not have to figure it out over again from scratch, .. but can apply our 'law-based' knowledge to it and understand it in an approximate sense. The problem is, as our mind continues to 'default' to the crutch of 'law-based approximation', we tend to forget how to use our 'imagination' and 'intuition' to grapple with unadulterated natural phenomena, ... so that we might develop even deeper understanding, ... and we 'bottom out' at a granularity determined by the crudeness of our 'law' approximations.

Some, like Einstein and Infeld in 'The Evolution of Physics' say that nature is 'counter-intuitive'. My thought is that they should have read Kepler more closely, ... a pivotal pioneer who they make no mention at all of in their evolutionary history of physics. Kepler would have straightened them out on their misuse of the term 'intuitive' with his co-intellectual model wherein 'intuitive intellection' and 'ratiocinative intellection' enfold in each other like reciprocal space in pool and its embedded balls. Kepler recognized that 'looking up and out' intuitively, at the simultaneous planetary harmonies, as if from the sun, was a mode of intellection which 'contained' the 'looking down and in' rationally, at the sequential oscillations of the planets, ... commenting;

".. it will not have been surprising if anyone... who has been made drowsy by the very sweet harmony of the dance of the planets begins to dream ...: throughout the remaining [besides the sun] globes, which follow after from place to place, there have been disseminated discursive or ratiocinative faculties, whereof that one ought assuredly to be judged the most excellent and absolute which is in the middle position among those globes, viz., in man's earth, while there dwells in the sun simple intellect, [pure neuron, or nous], the source, whatsoever it may be, of every harmony."

What Kepler was saying was that that looking 'up and out', ... being the eyes of the harmony inducing 'field', complemented and contained its own special subcase of looking at the 'oscillatory' or 'sequential' harmonies of mercury and venus as one looked 'down and in' to the system. The same point made by Gabor's 'Theory of Communication' where the quantum physics compliant complex signal gives the [rotation-inducing] field view or 'simultaneous harmony view', ... while the linear, real-only signal gives the oscillating particle view or 'sequential harmony view'. In both cases, the difference being the presence or absence of the imaginary component.

That this subtle difference is perceptual geometry is critically important to systems understanding, comes clear through examples like the game of pool where perception and management keyed to the 'field' view of 'simultaneous harmonies' (reciprocal disposition effects or 'shape') allows one to pre-cultivate the causal dynamic opportunities one would like, ... rather than managing solely from the particulate view of 'sequential harmonies' or causal dynamics.

Since Kepler's message was ignored, .. it was not until quantum physics came along, ... on this 'down and back up again' scientific evolution did we recognize the need (Heisenberg) to include our tools of inquiry in our inquiry. Our reasoning processes cannot be treated separately, and certain aspects (the intuitive) besmirched in the manner of Einstein and Infeld, who say; "To understand [motional] phenomena, it is wise to begin with the simplest possible case, and proceed gradually to the more complicated ones.". One must ask, on what basis do they call this 'wise' when we are currently at an impasse in working our way back up, in this 'down and up again thinking'? The intuitive wisdom of the native american elder, who warned us two hundred years ago that man was but a strand in the web of life (that nature was relativistic and self-referential), and that we would end up 'suffocating in our own excrement' if we failed to account for this, ... is still there tiredly waiting for us to complete our 'down and back up again' voyage and get to the understanding of whole-and-part harmony which the aboriginal never abandoned.

Einstein and Infeld go on to say; "Our intuitive idea is that motion is connected with the act of pushing, lifting or pulling." What you mean 'we'? Such an 'intuition' seems more like a deductive corollary after having selected 'matter' and 'force' as the prime substance of our reality. How about the Heraclitean view of reality as 'flow'. If we start from 'energy' or 'field', ... the reciprocal of particulate motion, as being primary, .... we are going to get very different answers, which are much more in harmony with our complex observations, as will be seen shortly from further citations from the duo. The complaint here is that what is being referred to as 'intuition' is already encumbered with axiomatic pre-suppositions, ... the presuppositions of Parmenides, Democritus and Aristotle on the fundamental underpinning of our reality, ... the presupposition that the world is a world of 'things'.

Continuing, ... Einstein and Infeld say; "Intuition thus tells us that speed is essentially connected with action. . . . The method of reasoning dictated by intuition was wrong and led to false ideas of motion which were held for centuries. Aristotle's great authority throughout Europe was perhaps the chief reason for the long belief in this intuitive idea. We read in the 'Mechanics', for two thousand years attributed to him;

'The moving body comes to a standstill when the force which pushes it along can no longer so act as to push it.'

Now it does indeed boggle the mind to think that nobody checked that reasoning out experimentally over the intervening two millenia, until the time of Galileo, ... but to label Aristotle's view of inertia 'intuitive' does a great injustice to our 'simple intellect' as Kepler has described it, ... our 'intuitive intellection' which is the process whereby we bring a diversity of experiences, ... real and imaginary, ... into connection in our minds and make sense out of them. What Einstein and Infeld are referring to as 'counter-intuitive' is really 'counter-deductive' because this flawed view of motion has been built upon the axioms that 'things exist or they do not', ... the notion of a binary Euclidian reality of 'things' and empty space. If space is 'empty', ... it cannot then be 'a participant in physical phenomena', ... and Einstein, in his theory of relativity, has gone to great pains to remind everyone that 'space is not empty', ... and that 'space is a participant in physical phenomena.'

So what they are claiming was 'counter-intuitive' was instead 'counter-deductive', ... and that seems to be an important point to take note of today, ... with our literal believe in Euclidian reality and linear time. That our intuition does not deserve to be so besmirched since it was, in fact, 'set up' by our rational abstraction, can be seen from a brief historical review.

Let's play back, in slow motion, one of the other bits of counter-deductive history which stood for two thousand years, side by side with that apparently flawed notion of inertia, ... again the legacy of Aristotle, ... that heavy objects fall to earth faster than lighter ones.

Today, we 'know' from our education that (a) matter has the ability to attract other matter and this is called gravity, ... and (b) that all bodies, regardless of their mass, fall towards the earth (the attracting matter) at the same rate.

The question we might ask OURSELVES in this historical review is; 'what is knowing'? ... how do I come to know what I know? Do we simply accept what the high priests of science tell us, ... or do we 're-reason' and validate their claims with our own senses? Because if we accept it from the high priests, ... isn't this a bit like accepting the politico-economic policies of the government which just happens to be in power?, ... since there are always contrary 'minority' views?

In the period 600 - 300 B.C., .... (Aristotle lived from 384 - 322 B.C.), there was a lot of very basic speculating on physics and science and while Aristotle is credited with a huge contribution, ... there are, understandably, a few 'duds' mixed in with the treasure chest of ideas he passed on. One observer comments;

"Aristotle was regarded for nearly 1,800 years as the last word in physical and biological science. Yet he taught that flying objects - arrows and thrown stones-were moved by the atmosphere. He claimed that the heart, not the brain, was the seat of sensation and intelligence. He also believed that heavy objects fell faster than lighter ones. In addition to these errors, he proposed that living creatures could be spontaneously generated without ancestors- such as maggots from decaying meat or insects from mud. Edmund Whittaker (1873-1956), a distinguished mathematician, said that Aristotle's "natural philosophy was worthless and misleading from beginning to end.""

Passing over the fact that over the past few years, ... the 'ether' of relativity has re-entered the scene relative to cloud the perspective on how things such as arrows and thrown stones 'move', ... and passing over the fact that the biochemist's notion of the body as a 'psychosomatic network', using peptides in the circulatory system as remote sensory transceivers, clouds the notion of whether heart or brain is the center of sensation, ... let's focus on Aristotle's gaff with respect to bodies falling faster if they're heavier.

What did you think when you were taught, ... that bodies all fall at the same rate regardless of mass (heaviness) in a gravitational field. Did this seem 'right' to you? Hold on to that thought for a moment.

Consider this 'mechanical question' of Aristotle's;

"If everything in motion but not moved by itself is caused to be moved by another, how is it that some of them, like things thrown, are continuously in motion when the mover is not touching them?" (Aristotle, 'Physics').

Is there a familiar ring to this question?, ... does it not sound a bit like Russell's paradox (Goedel's Theorem), ... "what moves the thing that moves those things that cannot move themselves". Zeno too, had a basic problem with the motion notion and had some very forceful arguments as to why motion could not exist, ... which have been previously discussed in these essays. The point is that the problem of motion can be viewed, reciprocally, as a problem of assuming 'things' and 'void', ... the Euclidian space and linear time assumptions which we still cling to even though relativity has all but demolished them. In fact, in line with Einstein's description of how theories overtake themselves, ...Euclidian space and linear time assumptions are not truly 'demolished' but have been instead 'swallowed up' by more comprehensive theory and are now reduced to special case members of a more comprehensive view of reality.

In the modern era, we don't seem to bother so much with the philosophical struggles like people did back in the first millenium B.C. Is it because 'we know better'? ... or is it because we simply 'accept' what we're told more readily?

The philosophical problem with motion is to do with the relationship of 'things' to the space they occupy (Zeno) as well as with the 'cause' of motion, or 'motive force' having to come from the 'things in themselves'.

Are we bothered by these 'problems' any longer?, ... do we ever get a little suspicious of all we are told by science when the world rages with dysfunction, seemingly brewing out of the inventions of science, ... dysfunction which science seems pathetically incapable of understanding and dealing with, ... and which they claim might be better understood if they can see yet a bit more finely into the detail of nature, ... by chasing quarks with billion dollar super-conducting, super-colliding microscopes?

Did the problems of Zeno and Aristotle with motion disappear naturally, ... have they been since resolved and explained; i.e. do we no longer have a problem here because 'we know better' now, ... or because we simply accept? We can track this problem on to the seventeenth century, ... to Isaac Newton, who was also bothered by it, ... more than a little, as his letter of disclaimor to Bentley underscores;

"It is inconceivable, that inanimate brute matter should, without the mediation of something else, which is not material, operate upon, and affect other matter without mutual contact; as it must do, if gravitation, in the sense of Epicurus, be essential and inherent in it. And this is one reason, why I desired you would not ascribe innate gravity to me. That gravity should be innate, inherent, and essential to matter, so that one body may act upon another, at a distance through a vacuum, without the mediation of anything else, by and through which their action and force may be conveyed from one to another, is to me so great an absurdity, that I believe no man who has in philosophical matters a competent faculty of thinking, can ever fall into it."

Is there not a note of anxiety here, not unlike what might be felt by someone who has been building an apartment complex and notices that it straddles the trace of the San Andreas fault?

These basic questions of matter and motion and field make all the difference to how we perceive, inquire and manage with our communities and organizations. There is a basic question which is raising its head here, ... are causal dynamics sufficient for perception, inquiry and regulation, ... or is there something more comprehensive, ... something we're leaving out which is giving us a lot of havoc, ... something like the notion of 'field' being in a primacy over 'things', ... something like 'reciprocal disposition effects' or 'shape' of the opportunity landscape being in a primacy over causal dynamics? What did Einstein mean when he said that we needed to see things in terms of 'field' rather than 'matter'? .... What did he mean when he said; "The validity of the [relativity] theory is no longer restricted to inertial co-ordinate systems. ... It forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world. "

It seems clear that this notion of 'things' having properties which cause motion is not basic enough, ... as Newton feared. We struggled with this one in electromagnetism and, thanks to Faraday, came up instead with the idea of the 'field' being more fundamental than the notion of charged 'particles'. And things are working out great in electromagnetics due to the notion of 'field', .... Maxwell's laws having given us not only a means of describing things much more consistently in terms of 'field', ... but also enfolding within it, conservation of energy and the speed of light being the reference for all electromagnetic phenomena.

If things worked out so well in electromagnetics by putting field in the primacy over particles, ... does this not urge the revisiting of this off-hand allegation by Einstein and Infeld, that; "The method of reasoning dictated by intuition was wrong and led to false ideas of motion which were held for centuries." The 'ideas of motion' were clearly troubled ideas, ... troubled by the presupposition that our reality was 'of things and void'. Was it 'intuitive' to propose 'matter' and 'void', ... Euclidian space, ... in the first place? Had anyone ever 'seen' a 'void', ... had anyone ever 'seen' an infinite extent? It would appear that the abstraction, by 'rational' rather than 'intuitive' inference, of euclidian space, ... a huge abstraction putting matter in the primacy over 'field' which goes rocketing away from our common sense, has been an insurmountable encumbrance to our understanding of motion. .The assumption of euclidian space and linear time seems to be the more appropriate place to use the word 'counter-intuitive', and thus restore 'intuition' to its natural, primal role.

Why is 'field' more intuitive than 'matter and void'? If we start from our common experience of seeing heavy bodies fall at the same rate as lighter ones, .... where have we seen this curious type of thing before, ... in our 'real life' experience? Well, ... when things are being carried along in a flow, ... as in a river, it seems that the twigs are carried at the same pace as the large logs. Maybe Heraclitus, whose common reference was to river flow, ... grounded his philosophy in this notion of the primacy of 'field' (flow-field) over the constituents of the flow. Heraclitus spoke of the Logos, the ordering force, or order-inducing property of the 'flow-field', as being a property of the containing universe, as did Kepler("the Universe adorns the planets with harmony") ... rather than seeing the ordering force being the innate property of 'things'. In fact, 'things' were secondary to Heraclitus, ... they were the dynamic equilibrium forms emanating from hidden transformative flows, ... in the manner that a 'flame' emanates from fire, ... and, ... in the manner that Maxwell's equations describe electromagnetism.

Heraclitus' 'intuitive' vision of 'how the world works', then, .... did not start from the abstract, non-intuitive leap to the notion of a world of 'things' careening purposelessly about in an inert and infinite rectangular void, ... the current western underpinning of reality. The Heraclitean model of 'simultaneous unity and plurality' as in the flow and flame examples, leads to very different perception, inquiry and response to the world. It is the way of the Celts and aboriginals and Buddhists, ... the way of mutual inclusion, of the relational-over-rational, .. of the imaginary over the real, ... of the container over the content.

A rather simple scenario emerges from all of this. In 500 B.C. Parmenides and his containing community co-resonantly embraced the neat and tidy notion that the base of our reality was 'things' and 'void', ... a fundamental starting point for notions of space (and time) refined by Plato and Aristotle and later 'written up by Euclid' in his five postulates. This was a notion which automatically split apart space and time, ... and gave time an abstract 'linear' connotation instead of its intuitive space-time 'flow' connotation, ... the former giving value exclusively to what exists in the present 'time', ... and the latter giving inclusive value to the continuum, ... to the past and future as well as the present.

So, starting from a common kickoff point, as philosophy -historians such as Frankfort et al have noted, where man saw himself, the individual, simultaneously and inclusively embedded in community, and community simultaneously and inclusively embedded in nature, ... two roads of thought were embarked upon. One was the continuance of this 'container-over-content' or 'flow-field' model embraced by Celts, Aboriginals, Buddhists etc., ... and the other was the 'down-and-up-again' path to wholeness kicked off by the fragmenting and harmony-purging assumption of the primacy of 'things and void'.

We seem right now to be in the fairly mature phases of coming back up, through a continual synthesis and refinement of 'mechanical' theory, ... to the point we started out at in 500 B.C., ... to the 'flow' and simultaneous whole-and-part harmony view of reality. Along the way, ... the mechanical view has given rise to 'technology' which, as Henri Laborit well describes in 'The biological basis of social behavior', has enabled the larger communities (sharing networks) in the northern hemisphere to take control of the worlds resources and economy, ... to take control by having been able to develop better technologies and better weaponry, ... things which accrue to the larger communities as a matter of probability. As Laborit points out, ... we would not expect Liechtenstein or Andorra to have a monopoly on technology patents.

But there is a problem in making the last step in the 'down- and- up- again-' cycle however, and that is the problem expressed by Goedel's Theorem; i.e. "the science which puts those pieces back into the synthesis which cannot put themselves back in, ... can neither put itself back in [by the same bottom-up approach] nor avoid doing so."

In other words, ... 'down-and-back-up-again' (reductionist) science is 'hitting the wall', ... the limits of the rational, causal approach. Science cannot make the final step without using IMAGINATION. Imagination is what permits us to view ourselves in our own field of inquiry, as is well demonstrated mathematically in Gabor's quantum physics compliant 'Theory of Communications'. Imagination is needed to understand the simultaneous harmony of the system of sun and planets, ... the primacy of the Universe over its constituent matter, ... adorning it with harmony, as Kepler asserted. Imagination is needed to discard fixed reference frames and to perceive, inquire and manage on the basis of 'interference patterns' first and matter second, as in the theory of relativity and as in the relativistic, curved space game of pool.

Given this major stumbling block of science having to 'resort to imagination', ... and our prevailing reductionist power structure 'digging the hole deeper in order to get out of it', how to proceed? Clearly, as Laborit has said, using the metaphor of sailing, ... we must pull our rudder out of the water and leave it on the deck, ... pull down the mainsail with which, in combination with the rudder we used to fight the container-based flow-fields of wind and current, ... raise the jib of purpose and manage our course in harmony with the containing flow-field.

How does this effect our everyday perception, inquiry and response, ... how does it effect 'community as complex system'?

In order to get a better view, its worth taking a little closer look at how one theory subsumes another, ... and in particular how the 'field' theory is trying to subsume the 'material' theory.

As Einstein says [1], ... we are just coming up to the point where we can do away with the notion of material on our primary level of understanding nature and go to the notion of 'field', ... from whence material is a deducible thing. In 'field' theory, ... the notions of 'atoms' or 'electrons' or 'genes', which we have viewed as 'atomic' material building blocks to build our theories upon, ... become secondary entities. Our understanding of reality becomes firstly based on 'field' and the role of 'material' is demoted to a secondary and incomplete way of seeing things. As Einstein says in discussing the evolution of theory;

"To use a comparison, we could say that creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and putting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles on our adventurous way up."

This 'nested' sphere-englobing-sphere view of evolution of theory has been embraced not only in physics, but also in the field of thought and language by Vygotsky, ... in biology by Laborit, ... and in astronomy. The structure of the whole ensemble seems to form out of the informational relationships within and amongst these structures, ... relationships which seem to feature 'container-content-coevolution', ... which scales up fractally from the micro to the macro, as Laborit has described. Life and ecologies appear to be such nests as can simultaneously manage the whole-and-part harmonies of these multiple nesting levels, ... a chore which demands 'imagination'. In this view, life equates to 'consciousness' or 'intuition', ... as Maturana and Varela seem to be envisaging it.

Going back to the 'publishers statement' this essay pivoted from, ... something seems to be very wrong and incomplete. Nature itself, operating out of its 'simple intellect', ... and likewise those peoples who deem themselves constituents of nature, ... can hardly be described as 'ignorant' where they manage to make everything work together in whole-and-part harmony without having to 'know' how to do it in terms of rational 'laws'. That is, ... the wise of the ancient cultures, ... Egyptians, Celts, Hindu, Buddhist, aboriginals, ... who tuned to the simultaneous harmony and wholeness in nature, ... can hardly be called 'ignorant'. It would equate to calling our own 'mother' (nature) ignorant, ... the one who keeps it all hanging together, .. so beautifully.

At the same time, the development of rational laws 'is not the problem', ... the fly in the ointment is as Kepler, Poincare and Wittgenstein, among others, have said, ... what's dysfunctional is the putting of rational intellection into a primacy over intuitive intellection.

In sum, ... it's we of the west who opted to parachute down to to the 'down-and-up-again' path and decided to SUBORDINATE imagination, that can be termed 'ignorant'. If not for that unnatural polarity flip of pre-empting mutual inclusion with mutual exclusion, ... our adventure to descend into the fragmented details of reality and take the bus back to wisdom and wholeness by a new and unexplored route where we could once again see the things we knew intuitively, prior to our fall, ... in an entirely new way, ... can be seen in a fully harmonious and understanding-enriching light.

We have been 2,500 years on the road, ... and we have been lost many times and we seem still to be lost. Part of the problem seems to be that we are so proud of our 'progress', our improvement upon our own dumbed down way of looking at things, that we are not seeing that the road starts and ends in the same place, ... the place where it all 'hangs together', ... where container and contents are in simultaneous harmony.

Somewhere along the road, we became enamoured, ... 'hypnotized' perhaps, ... with the crystalline purity and elegance of abstraction, ... of 'absolutes' and 'finality', ... closure and certainty, ... and we've built a lot of permanent settlements there, ... but there's no way through that sparkling clean village back to wholeness because wholeness is about the dynamic harmony of the containing environment and the constituents, ... while crystalline purity is about static detachment and independence.

Now, we western people seem bent on resisting the notion that the highest level of our reality is 'imaginary', ... but then we don't like to think of 'death' either. There is, as has been made clear by psychologists and anthropologists, a 'denial of death' in our culture, ... a denial that everything comes to an end including the individual and the species, .... everything except the space-time 'theater' in which this life-and-death recycling process is being hosted, ... everything except, ... the FIELD of play which we are, always have been, and always will be, ... a part of.

Materially, we are the spark which comes 'alive' in the dark, burns brightly and briefly, ... then extinguishes. But in our complex totality, we have no beginning and no end, ... we emerge out of the confluence of zillions of interfering things, ... and we contribute to zillions more interferences. We are 'of the imaginary', .... we are of 'the evolutionary flow', ... we are of the 'interference patterns' amongst things which cannot be known explicitly nor explicitly articulated, ... only imagined, ... and our material life and corporeal being is a lesser thing. This is not mysticism, ... this is pure physics and common sense, ... and is supported 'splendidly' by our experience.

Of course, if we are 'hard materialists', ... we can say that all that's worth talking about is the material aspect, ... what exists here and now. But I doubt that our grandchildren will feel that way, ... particularly if they never have the chance to touch the material aspect of ourselves but hear stories of us. Do we place no value on their interest in us and how that helps or hinders them?

Anyhow, ... while our culture is still 'stuck' on materialism, believing that reality can be explained in terms of material-causal dynamics, ... and all the while we are tuning in to and manipulating the interference fields in order to get where we need to go, ... science has been telling us to back off the material stuff and get with the 'field' view.

This 'field' view is a view which includes what is 'not done', ... what is 'non-causal', ... since the field can induce coherency in our reality by 'pulling' and shaping just as the magnetic field does to iron filings, ... and the collisions of material constituents, ... the mechanical dynamics, ... are the secondary fallout to this pulling and coherent shaping.

In social systems, ... the overriding influence in our individual evolution is 'opportunity'. Opportunity is coherently 'shaped' by what 'we do not do' in an organized fashion. If we all silently agree that no-one with long hair or of a certain color can be employed with us, ... we have 'shaped' the opportunity space not by 'what we have done', but by 'what we have not done', and there is no shortage of ways we can deny that we are doing this if we want to. But the fact is that our society has become very 'politically correct', and this 'shaping' of the opportunity landscape is sucking up fewer people into greater levels of affluence and leaving more and more people on the slag heap. We may call it 'survival of the fittest', ... but such a Heraclean 'win/lose' process has no counterpart in nature, .... we would more aptly call it 'the rationalist tyranny of the majority', ... or 'the masochism of the majority', ... since we are 'doing it' to ourselves.

The currently held mainstream assumption that our reality is 'material-causal', ... based on the properties and behaviors of 'things' and their mechanical dynamics, ... stands in the way of the needed 'subsuming' of causality by the notion of 'field'. This belief in causality persists, largely because our approach to generating new knowledge is fragmented into disciplines, ... and as Laborit has noted, ... we as a society have become conditioned to demanding that new knowledge be expressed simply and forcefully, ... a need which is accommodated by disciplinary experts, ... but not by 'wholists' or transdisciplinary bootstrappers, ... the people of 'field' rather than 'material-causal dynamics.'

One of the major onslaughts against the stranglehold of disciplines and 'experts' was launched by the international systems sciences movement, .. i.e;

The International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS) is one of the oldest and most broadly based transdisciplinary organizations in the world. Originally named the "Society for General Systems Research," it was formally established at the1956 AAAS meeting under the leadership of biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy, economist Kenneth Boulding, mathematician-biologist Anatol Rapoport, neurophysiologist Ralph Gerard, psychologist James Grier Miller and anthropologist Margaret Mead.

The founders of ISSS felt strongly that the systemic (wholistic) aspect of reality was being overlooked or downgraded by the conventional disciplines, which emphasize specialization and reductionist approaches to science. The founders stressed the need for more general principles and theories, and sought to create a professional organization that would transcend the tendency toward fragmentation in the scientific enterprise."

Unfortunately, the systems sciences movement has not really 'caught on' perhaps because it almost looks like a discipline in its own right, and an elitist one, ... rather than an environment for transdisciplinary co-creativity in all spheres of society. Von Bertalanffy expressed the goals as follows;

"Compared to the analytical procedure of classical science with resolution into component elements and one-way or linear causality as basic category, the investigation of organized wholes of many variables requires new catagories of interaction, transaction, organization, teleology..."

"These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory. It's subject matter is formulation of principles that are valid for "systems" in general, whatever the nature of the component elements and the relations or "forces" between them...

"General system theory, therefore, is a general science of wholeness"... The meaning of the somewhat mystical expression, "The whole is more that the sum of its parts" is simply that constituitive characteristics are not explanable from the characteristics of the isolated parts. "

Insight on the non take-up of 'general system theory' perhaps resides in von Bertalanffy's statement; "These considerations lead to the postulate of a new scientific discipline which we call general system theory." That is, ... if the notion of 'discipline' is itself fragmentative (if the medium is the message), then there is a problem here. And as discussed in yesterday's essay, 'Purposeful People, Causality and Systems Science', ... the systems scientists appear to have simply flipped from ''bottom-up' to a 'top-down' flavor of causality which remains based on the primacy of things and their properties and behaviors as opposed to the primacy of 'field' over matter.

Given the stalling of the 'systems sciences' movement and the entrenchment and resistance of reductionist science, ... it is difficult to see where, if anywhere, the catalysis for the quantum leap to 'field' over 'matter' will come from. The inheritors of the power structure are induced to come through the euclidian indoctrination. Meanwhile, the 'field' view of things, suggested by the general theory of relativity, involves a major break from materialist or 'mechanical' view in that, as Einstein says; " It forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world. " The fact that our coordinate systems, on the surface of this spinning and revolving earth are accelerated (rotationally) relative to each other means that the rhythms of time and the shape of material bodies are seen differently within each of these reference frames. This difference was one which was implicitly discussed in the

paper "Goedel's Theorem and the Theory of Relativity" [2] using the metaphor of a 'global freeway' in which drivers in different reference frames around the globe came into, or did not, a simultaneous harmony of whole-and-part.

One possibility for the breakthrough into 'field over matter', ... is the investment world. Should the overall superiority of the re-referencing of investment and business to interference patterns become an identifiable shift which can be differentially invested in by the public, ... the needed 'inversion' or 'self-swallowing' of perception, inquiry and management approach could be catalyzed.

* * *

[1] From 'The Evolution of Physics', Part III of IV 'Field, Relativity', Einstein and Infeld;

"A new concept appears in physics, the most important invention since Newton's time: the field. It needed great scientific imagination to realize that it is into the charges nor the particles but the field in the space between the charges and the particles which is essential for the description of physical phenomena. The field concept proves most successful and leads to the formulation of Maxwell's equations describing the structure of the electromagnetic field and governing the electric as well as the optical phenomena.

The theory of relativity arises from the field problems. The contradictions and inconsistencies of the old theories force us to ascribe new properties to the time-space continuum, to the scene of all events in our physical world.

The relativity theory develops in two steps. The first step leads to what is known as the special theory of relativity, applied only to inertial co-ordinate systems, that is, to systems in which the law of inertia, as formulated by Newton, is valid. The special theory of relativity is based on two fundamental assumptions: physical laws are the same in all co-ordinate systems moving uniformly, relative to each other; the velocity of light always has the same value. From these assumptions, fully confirmed by experiment, the properties of moving rods and clocks, their changes in length and rhythm depending on velocity, are deduced. The theory of relativity changes the laws of mechanics. The old laws are invalid if the velocity of the moving particle approaches that of light. The new laws for a moving body as reformulated by the relativity theory are splendidly confirmed by experiment. A further consequence of the (special) theory of relativity is the connection between mass and energy. Mass is energy and energy has mass. The two conservation laws of mass and energy are combined by the relativity theory into one, the conservation law of mass-energy.

The general theory of relativity gives a still deeper analysis of the time-space continuum. The validity of the theory is no longer restricted to inertial co-ordinate systems. The theory attacks the problem of gravitation and formulates new structure laws for the gravitational field. It forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world. It regards the fact that gravitational and inertial mass are equal, as essential and not merely accidental, as in classical mechanics. They stand the test of experiment well wherever comparison is possible. But the strength of the theory lies in its inner consistency and the simplicity of its fundamental assumptions.

The theory of relativity stresses the importance of the field concept in physics. But we have not yet succeeded in formulating a pure field physics. For the present we must still assume the existence of both: field and matter." (1938)

[2] 'Goedel's Theorem and the Theory of Relativity' can be found as an appendix to Listening to Nature, ... our containing Whole and the abstract (in French and English) can be found as an appendix to Purposeful People, Causality and Systems Sciences

Return to '98/'99 Update Page and Index of Essays