New year's Resolutions tips and ideas

New year's Resolutions tips and ideas

Holistic science: the importance of holism in science

Written By: admin - Jan• 12•10
Holistic science: can science and holism walk together? Yes, and that is an advisable way to take. The reason is simply explained: science gives us several advantages, as holism does. It should be a natural choice to take both, for the same reason why we do not ask ourselves if it is better to walk with one leg or the other, we naturally know we need both.
Science brings us many advantages: for one, without scientific progress you would not be reading this blog now, because there would be none. At the same time, science doesn’t create a path to happiness: holism allows us to analyze and substain our path to happiness. So, science can help us in live longer; holism, in living better.
As expressed on sources like Wikipedia, holism in science is an approach to research that emphasizes the study of complex systems. This practice is in contrast to a purely analytic tradition (also called reductionism) which purports to understand systems by dividing them into their smallest possible or discernible elements and understanding their elemental properties alone. While the post-Aristotelic approach allowed science to differentiate itself from philosopical debate and become fact-based, some lost touch with the truth that human nature is the measure of everything, and this should be kept in mind.

Holism in science is an approach to research that emphasizes the study of complex systems. Two central aspects are:

– the way of doing science, sometimes called “whole to parts,” which focuses on observation of the specimen within its ecosystem first before breaking down to study any part of the specimen
– the idea that the scientist is not a passive observer of an external universe; that there is no ‘objective truth,’ but that the individual is in a reciprocal, participatory relationship with nature, and that the observer’s contribution to the process is valuable.

The holistic premise is that there is a possible qualitative difference between an entire system and its parts: that a system is more than simple sum of its part, and modularisation may fail. As applied to science, holists may generally assert that this difference can warrant the kind of rigorous scrutiny typical of scientific inquiry. The distinction of approach then lies not so much in the subjects chosen for study, but in the methods and assumptions used to study them. For example, in the field of quantum physics, David Bohm pointed out that there is no scientific evidence to support the dominant view that the universe consists of a huge, finite number of minute particles, and offered in its stead a view of undivided wholeness.

Academic institutions which offer holistic science programs include Schumacher College in the UK, which offers an MSc degree program in Holistic Science. Several universities have set up centers dedicated to one or more scientific fields where holistic approaches are common. These include the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Complex Systems, Princeton University’s Global Consciousness Project, Rice University’s Cognitive Sciences Program, the London Metropolitan University’s Centre for Postsecular Studies, and the Hang Seng Centre for Cognitive Studies in Sheffield.

There are also several non-university academic institutions and societies that are dedicated to holistic science or open to holistic ideas. For example, Santa Fe Institute, the Scientific and Medical Network (in Europe), the Pari Center for New Learning (in Italy), and the System Dynamics Society in Albany, New York. There is also the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, California. Brazil has its Willis Harman House in São Paulo.

Applications of holism in science

Cognitive science: the study of mind and intelligence has some examples for holistic approaches. These include Unified Theory of Cognition[improper synthesis?] (Allen Newell, e.g. Soar, ACT-R as models) and many others, many of which rely on the concept of emergence, i.e. the interplay of many entities make up a functioning whole. Another example is psychological nativism, the study of the innate structure of the mind. Cognitive science need not concern only human cognition. Biologist Marc Bekoff has done holistic, interdisciplinary scientific research in animal cognition and has published a book about it.

Quantum physics: in the standard Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics there is a holism of the measurement situation, in which there is a holism of apparatus and object. There is an “uncontrollable disturbance” of the measured object by the act of measurement according to Niels Bohr. It is impossible to separate the effect of the measuring apparatus from the object measured. The observer-measurement relation is an active area of research today, for example in Quantum decoherence, Quantum Zeno effect and Measurement problem.

Engineering: the holistic approach can be considered “natural” because one of main engineering tasks is to design innovative systems. Therefore, conceptual design begins from a general idea which is successively specialized top-down.

Biology: holistic science sometimes asks different questions than a strictly analytic science—as is exemplified by Goethe in the following passage: “We conceive of the individual animal as a small world, existing for its own sake, by its own means. Every creature is its own reason to be. All its parts have a direct effect on one another, a relationship to one another, thereby constantly renewing the circle of life; thus we are justified in considering every animal physiologically perfect. Viewed from within, no part of the animal is a useless or arbitrary product of the formative impulse (as so often thought). Externally, some parts may seem useless because the inner coherence of the animal nature has given them this form without regard to outer circumstance. Thus…[not] the question, What are they for? but rather, Where do they come from?” (Goethe, Scientific Studies, Suhrkamp ed., vol 12, p. 121; trans. Douglas Miller).

Also, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 1810 book Zur Farbenlehre (Theory of Colors) not only parted radically with the dominant Newtonian optical theories of his time, but also with the entire Enlightenment methodology of reductive science. Although the theory was not received well by scientists, Goethe — considered one of the most important intellectual figures in modern Europe — thought of his color theory as his greatest accomplishment. Holistic theorists and scientists such as Rupert Sheldrake still refer to the Goethe’s color-theory as an inspiring example of holistic science. The introduction to the book lays out Goethe’s unique philosophy of science.

Ecology: studying the ecology at levels ranging from populations, communities, and ecosystems up to the biosphere as a whole.

Climate change studies: in the wider context of Earth science (and Earth system science in particular) can be considered holistic science, as the climate (and the Earth itself) constitutes a complex system to which the scientific method cannot be applied using current technology. The first scientist to seriously propose this was James Lovelock.

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