What’s wrong with Science? – glad you asked

–In a longer post to TheGreatChange Lorna had asked:

What is this list about? Attacking science or solving environmental problems? And if you do the former, how can you address the latter?

–I responded:

Lorna, There are serious problems with the design of the scientific method. The problem is not with what it has found, but what the design of the method prevents you from looking for.

One good examples are the learning processes of distributed systems, cultures, economies, weather.  That’s what we’re in trouble with.  Growth for organisms or economies, would appear to be the principle learning process of complex system organization and development.

Growth for organisms or economies etc., is a principal organizational process for complex systems

Growth as a process of self-organization is not yet included in the subjects of modern science, though. That’s apparently because growth is self-animating and uniquely individual, not externally controlled by either universal or local laws.  It develops opportunistically within the laws.

For not studying it, the scientific community participates in promoting the economy’s taking control of nature’s systems all over the planet.  It’s importantly because science represents everything with control theory.  So, we seem to have not the first idea how uncontrolled growth systems manage to work at all.


–Lorna challenged back:

I don’t understand what you mean by: “learning processes of distributed systems”. You need to explain and defend your statement about what Growth is (”principle learning process….”). You need to defend your claim that there are no external controls on growth (how about starvation? lack of energy or resources or space?). What is the “control theory” you refer to, where is it operative, who is in charge, control over what? Etc. etc.

What is “the design of the scientific method”? It isn’t a blueprint or a document but a process. What does it prevent us from looking for? Things that we don’t know are there? Science allows us to look for anything but there needs to be a reason to look in the first place.


Which gave me the chance to say:

Good you asked. Most people leave me hanging as to what they need amplified. Briefly then,

a) “learning processes of distributed systems” – Learning can be thought of as the accumulation of information, and in a physical system the information of the system is embodied in the physical form, like a tornado, or the ion channel that allows a spark discharge, or the body of an organism.

The accumulation of the information content embodied in the individual system develops with the growth of the system. There are learning/development phases that help you understand what kinds of learning is being done in each phase, and help you know what to look for.

The information in a system is in the system itself, and you don’t download it, or represent it with a formula or anything. You take a diagnostic approach and watch as the system develops to observe thresholds of stabilization and destabilization and things.

b) Growth is “principle learning process” – The thing that fools most people seems to be thinking that a growth curve is only a shape of a sequence of measures. They seem to see the connection between the curve of the measures and the equations that can be made to represent them.

They seem quite unaware of the complex system that invariably underlies the changes that produce the data. What is happening inside the system, and to the changing networks of cyclic incremental change that tend to act as a whole.  It is the creation of those changes in organization that are exhibited in measures reflected in the growth curves.

c) Defend your claim that there are no external controls on growth (how about starvation?)

I don’t actually make that specific claim.  I know there are lots of very real boundary limits for lots of things, and that outside interference will interfere with anything. I’m talking about the paths of development that can occur within, and independent of, the boundaries.

Individual paths of development basically come from the active learning processes of systems, what they do internally that amounts to a kind of environmental exploration. Within your living room you have a certain amount of free movement independent of the boundaries, and learning to dance with a partner or writing a book are two of the paths of learning and personal growth one can engage in there.

The elaborate flocking of birds, and the evolution of technologies, both display uncontrolled developmental systems taking uniquely individualistic paths.  They might turn out all kinds of different ways, within the bounds of their local environments.  We happened to get Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and their style of inventions.

Both Steve and Bill turned out to be quite skillful in riding the bucking bronco of the technology market.  With the whole economy’s energy supporting them, they also together “sucked all the air out of the room”.

Their models became the reference standards for the world, and made other experiments unprofitable.  Where it goes is still an open question, but we see that each major branching of technology moves the starting point for future innovation.  That’s just like biological evolution does too.

These are exploratory processes following opportunistic pathways, not controlled and predetermined by outside forces. You can tell because outside the system envelope defined by its loops, anything where being “in the loop” matters, the environment has utterly no comparable variety of design or structure.

d) “control theory” is what you derive from controlled experiments to determine what variables control others. Most people don’t refer to it that way, no, but just call it “science”, unaware of how limited the questions being asked are.  Since I’m talking about a theory for uncontrolled (locally developing) systems, I attempt to point to the difference between the two scientific ways to ask questions of the information, sometimes the very same information.

e) “the design of the scientific method”? – look it up, or ask a more detailed question, a method of developing rules for prediction.   Less discussed is the more fundamental method of science that tends to be just intuitive, to search until you can find questions you can answer with high confidence.  That focuses on an exploratory study of nature, but I do it as a physicist.

f) What does it prevent us from looking for? – As a method for developing rules of prediction it only provides for ways to look for rules of prediction. In part that’s because it’s assumed that predictions are statistical rules needing a large class of individual behaviors, and are undefinable for single individual behaviors.  That’s what I study, and define rules of prediction based on the questions I can find that have very firm answers.

Studying individual behaviors not only exposes purely emergent forms.  It also helps you identify when an individual system has stopped following the predictive rules you have for it. The usual evidence I look for is of organizational beginnings or endings.  Some of the questions I found that can be firmly answered are about how systems for using energy begin and end.

They do it with bursts of organizational change.  I often pick those out from changes in derivative continuity in the experience curve (energy use proxy) of some whole system measure.  It’s a diagnostic technique to help signal me that new organization in relationships is developing in that non-linear way, and where to look to find what’s doing it.   It’s a method that works.

Why not browse my site and find one or two interesting things to also ask good questions about.

Phil Henshaw ¸¸¸¸.•´ ¯ `•.¸¸¸¸
NY NY www.synapse9.com


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