WHY A NEW SCIENCE?
"The sciences pursued without any restraint &
in a spirit of blindest laissez-faire, are shattering & dissolving all firmly held belief...
The world has never been more worldly, never poorer in love & goodness."
Friedrich Nietche (Untimely Meditations)
Classic science, or to give it its more formal title, the Western Scientific Experimental Method (WSEM), proceeds as if people don't exist. This, now glaring dis-association first appeared in the theories of Galileo (d. 1642) who believed the universe was written in the language of mathematics and its characters were triangles, circles and other geometric figures.
Soon after, Rene Descartes (d.1650) published his famous 'Meditations' and material reality came to be viewed as a strictly mechanical realm whose laws of operation could only be expressed in mathematical analysis. A clear distinction had been made between the mechanical and human worlds.
Upon this philosophy and empowered by Francis Bacon's method of induction , published as 'Novum Organum' as the Pilgrims reached Plymouth in 1620, WSEM blossomed out of the Scientific Revolution. It was asserted as the only way of knowing about nature and to this day, and to our peril, remains the dominant paradigm.
WSEM does not allow for "sight, smell, sound, taste and touch; and along with them have gone aesthetic and ethical sensibility, values, all feeling, motives, intentions, soul, consciousness and spirit. Experience as such is cast our of the realm of scientific discourse." (i)
Therefore, while WSEM has been magnificently successful in the mechanical realm, today we may view it as a gigantic, robotic, nuclear powered eagle which is plummeting back to earth on its one great wing - the wing of Technology. Without another wing, that of humanities and holism, WSEM must impact fatally upon our earth.
But Don't The Social Sciences Study Human Behaviour?
Psychology, sociology, economics and all the so called social sciences were founded in the 19th century within the paradigm, or framework of the Western Scientific Experimental Method. Their experimental methodologies and claims of objectivity are drawn directly from those of chemistry and physics.
Heinz Foerster (ii) wryly observed that objectivity is a subject' s delusion that observing can be done without him/her. Invoking objectivity is abrogating responsibility hence its popularity."
The work has clear foundations in epistemology, ontology and methodology.
(b) Its ontological basis stems from the actuality that all life is in a constant state of becoming and that nothing is fixed.
(c) Its methodology is described by Action Research thus recognising that:-
- researchers are themselves active participants in the situation researched and that the researcher - situation relationship deserves to be studied. Also that
- the framework and variables of studies themselves change in the course of the study: and
- that an important way of attesting the validity and significance of social knowledge is to feed-back into the situation researched studying how this feed-back influences further action (iv).
Human Ecology accepts the first 3 assumptions of classic science (v) as self-evident.
These are that:-
1. A true universe exists.
2. This universe is primarily an ordered system.
3. All knowledge is tentative and may change in the light of future knowledge.
At this point Human Ecology. specifically and all new paradigm science generally, diverge from classic science. This is because classic science is no longer viewed as the only and best way of knowing about nature. Quantity (maths) is not the only way to establish truth; and it is not possible to understand the whole from a study of the parts. The new assumptions are:
4. All nature is relational and all relationships are reciprocal.
5. Mind and nature are inseparable and we require only one explanatory principle.
6. Living systems are structurally determined.
7. Nature exhibits unity in its diversity.
8. A rigorous criteria must be met before a statement can claim to be truly scientific. These criteria have been described by Maturana et al.
Some readers may find the above exaggerated. Upon investigation it is free of this criticism however it is true that a minority position when against a dominant position does need a degree of volume in order to be heard.
We are not against Western Science or the Scientific Method; it is a brilliant outcome of the Age of Reason. However, as one philosopher has put it, "Science has become as oppressive as the Church was in medieval times." (Paul Feyerbend) In other words the dominance of one way of thinking and researching does indeed oppress valid work and findings from other disciplines. It has become all too easy for established scientists to say "Nonsense" to propositions. We saw this in the discovery of the cause of stomach ulcers when the establishment would not budge from its position that ''nothing lives in the stomach". Clearly it was wrong.
Now the world needs a science of inter-connectivity and of one-ness; a holistic science employing a systems understanding. It is simply not appropriate to utilise the means and methods of classic (so-called hard) science in the study of human relationships and behaviours. This is a fundamental understanding.
I) The Politics Of experience. R.D.Laing, 1982 Penguin
Ii) Declaration for The American Society For Cybernetics
Iii) The Tree Of Knowledge -the biological roots to human understanding. Maturana & Virella, 1992 Shambala
Iv) Human Inquiry. Ed Reason & Rowan, 1981 Wiley & Son.
V) Research Methods. Graziano & Rawlings, 1989 Harper & Rowe.