Systems Thinking.. or Not? LO25058

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 07/10/00

Replying to LO25043 --

Dear Organlearners,

Rick Karash <> writes:

>I think I understand your point... or at least one of your
>points... and it's something I can agree with:
> 1. distinguish objects from the background
> 2. ..treat the objects as variables
> 3. ..and state a theory about these variables
>..this theory (or model) may be helpful.
>But, if we start to think that our theory is "real," confusing
>our theory with reality, this is a serious error. That is, if we
>are so sure of our theory that we cannot actively hold the
>possibility that it might be wrong or incomplete, then we are
>in grave danger. (END OF STATEMENT)

Greetings Rick,

There is something very important for me in Gavin's warning which you have
lifted out in # 2 -- making an object a variable. To do that the object
has to be fragmented from its context (continuous field) and applied to
different contexts so as to form a theory (your # 3).

By fragmenting the object and then placing it in a context in which it
does not fit, the object becomes deranged. A synonym for derange is
confuse. You have used "confused" fittingly above.

Here is a number of questions and my personal answer to each.
Is "confusion" part of complexity? Yes.
Is complexity without confusion still complexity? Yes.
Is it possible to study complexity without confusion arising. No.
Should we minimize confusion when studying complexity? Yes,
as much as possible.

It I understand Gavin correctly, he stresses that an object should not be
discriminated against by fragmenting it from its continuous field. To use
an example, an insect should not be dissected so as to uncover, for
example, each of its organs as a discriminated object. The insect is the
field for each of its organs. We know that such dissections are possible
and have led to important knowledge on, for example, disease control. The
converse process, namely to put all the organs together and make the
insect live again, is the process in which we fail utterly. For me it is
as if we are "infants" with respect to evolution, metaphorically

It makes me think of chemistry. Analysing a compound for its constituent
elements and how their atoms are arranged in the compound, seems to fit
the description of "discriminated objects". However, the converse process
of synthesising that compound from its constituent elements made chemists
learn a completely new facet of chemistry. Synthesis is not merely the
reverse of analysis. The pathways to be followed when synthesising the
compound are by large completely different pathways than merely the
reverse of the pathways when analysing the compound. Thus one of the
problems for any chemist testing his/her comprhensive mastery of
chemistry, is both the analysis AND synthesis of a compound, or for the
same matter, the synthesis AND analysis of a compound.

But there is a deeper problem associated with the superficial problem of
"analysis-synthesis comprehension" in terms of any compound. It is the
production of perhaps the main product, but definitely many of the
by-products which are alien to our ecology. In other words, compounds are
brought into existence for which nature has not yet found a way to deal
with by its evolution. Thus enters pollution -- the chemical equivalent of
"confusion". Again it shows for me that we are "infants" with respect to
evolution, metaphorically speaking.

So, whatever we do as chemists or biologists or engineers or whatever
discipline, it appears as if we do not really work in a way which
corresponds with the process of evolution which nature is following.
Evolution is a complexification process, but in our own complexification
of human culture, we seem also to pollute and confuse. Why? Because the
"evolution comprehension" is still an unsolved problem for us. My "art of
deep creativity" is a kind of Systems Thinking which attempts to solve
that problem, even though this attempt may be way of the mark.

Whenever I read Gavin's cautions against "discriminated" objects, my mind
keeps turning to this deeper problem of "evolution comprehension". It is
for me as if culture (the whole of humankind's creations) and nature have
diverged too far from each other to be healthy for each other. It is
tempting to ask who has discriminated against whom -- is it nature which
has dicriminated against humankind or is it humankind which has
descriminated against nature? It is even more tempting to ask what will
happen if this divergence becomes larger as it seems to become.

All which I want to say now, is that this divergence is making my spirit
very unhappy. The more we confuse humankind and the more we pollute
nature, the more unhealthy the world becomes for us and nature. Some argue
that this confusion and pollution are merely imaginations without
substance. Unfortunately, this argument does not help the slightest to
relieve me from being very unhappy.

I personally think the most powerful test we can put our Systems Thinking
to is whether it helps us to comprehend the evolution of nature and
culture in a harmonious manner.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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