LOs and Metanoia - Two Conceptions of LO's LO27175

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Date: 08/27/01

Replying to LO27164 --

Dear Organlearners,

Artur Silva <artsilva@mail.eunet.pt> writes:

>7 That will not be my approach however. I think the
>"living being" metaphor is much more powerful than
>to see a company like a machine. But it is powerful
>because it is a metaphor, not to be taken as "reality".
>When we think of a company like a "living being", we
>can't loose the perspective that the "cells" and "organs"
>are in our case "human beings" working in "intentional
>human organizations". To reduce the study of organizations
>to mechanics is a major sign of reductionism; but to
>reduce the study of companies or societies to the study
>of biology can also be a form of reductionism... Can't we
>find some insight from the studies of society (sociology,
>mainly) and from the studies of "intentional human action"
>(Action Science, for instance)? We shall see...

Greetings dear Artur,

Thank you very much for your delightful comprehension of these two
LO-conceptions. I cannot wait for your next contribution. Your stessing of
the "living dimension" of Learning Organisations is very much appreciated.

I have learned from my own researches into soils (1968-71) a very
important lesson. I shall never look again at a soil from only the
physico-chemical viewpoint. I shall also look at it from all other
viewpoints like the geological, climatological, biological, ecological,
farming, industrial, economical and even political viewpoints. I have
observed how actions from each of these viewpoints had a dramatic
influence on the "fertility" of soils (the ability of soils to sustain
plant, animal and cultural life).

It is through soils that my own peculiar thinking began to develop,
something which took me almost twenty years to articulate as
transdiciplinary thinking. It is metaphorically as if I have to sit on one
after the other many chairs of knowledge to contemplate a phenomenon
creatively -- the phsyico-chemical chair, the geological chair, etc. It is
this way in which I contemplate human organisations also.

I am not so much afraid of reductionism when looking at human
organisations from the biological viewpoint as of looking at them from a
reductionistic viewpoint in biology! In other words, the reductionism
begins much earlier in any viewpoint itself! For this reason I have
compiled a list of properties of all life which have compelled me through
my own biological excursions. Perhaps a professional microbiologist,
botanist or zoologist among us can systemize them better by adding and
taking away what I offer.

I also give the list for fellow learners to seek for correspondences
between living organisms and human organisations. Through the years I have
described a number of such correspondences on our LO-dialogue which make
sense to me. For example, between leadership and enzymes are astounding

(1) All living organisms consists of one or many cells, each cell having a
cell wall. These cells range from a primitive prokaryotic "cell" like in a
virus to a advanced eukaryotic cell in a mammal or a flowering plant. The
cell walls of plants are rigid and consists mainly of cellulose. The cell
walls of animals are softer and consist of a protein membrane. Although
plants develop less kinds of differentiated (somatic) cells, their cell
walls are far more diverse than animals. There is no organism known which
live without the organisation by cells.
(2) All living organisms, from a primitive virus to a complex mammal like
the elephant or whale, have hereditary molecules (DNA and RNA) which they
copy from generation to generation. Most of the DNA is in the nucleus of
the cell whereas most of the RNA is in the other members (organelles) of
the cell like the mitochondria and ribosomes. Serious plant and animal
breeders have to take both into consideration. Ordinary multivariate
regression analysis of statistics is incapable of linking a phenotype
(external form) to specific genetical locii. A much more complex procedure
such as Sewall Wright's Path Analysis ("staggered statistics") is needed
to link macroscopic and microscopic phenomena with each other.

(3) All living organisms require catalysts (called enzymes in biology) to
let spontaneous chemical reactions happen indeed. A reaction is
spontaneous when its free energy decreases. But often a free energy "wall"
between the reactants has to be overcome before they can join into the
"intermediate complex". The catalyst lower this walll without becoming
consumed self. Except for virrii and some prokaryotic bacteria, these
organisms makes the enzymes self. The enzymes are often self more complex
than the compounds in the reactions which they catalyse.

(4) Drastic changes in the conditions of the environment induces mutations
in the delicate hereditary molecules of all organisms. The far majority of
such mutations is lethal, leading to the death of the organism. But the
rest give rise to new strains, then species, genera, etc. This tree of
life is known as evolution. The simpler organisms seems to mutate much
more effectively, giving rise to serious medical problems known as
"medicine resistant diseases". But their effectiveness is actually in the
vast numbers and short time spans in which they reproduce. Complex
organisms have these mutations built into their hereditary molecules.
Although often seen as unnecessary genetic baggage, this baggage come into
play when conditions in the environment changes drastically. This is known
as the resilience of complexity in the genetical makeup.

(5) There is an implicit or holographic complexity of patterns in the cell
itself which reflects to a large extend in the implicit complex patterns
of the cosmos itself. This implicit complexity of patterns in the cell has
become known only the past twenty years. We may call this complexity of
patterns in the cell the microcosmos. (D Bohm proposed earlier that even
in quantum mechanics on a much lower level of complexity such an implicit
order exists which we may call the quantumcosmos.) The quantumcosmos,
microcosmos and macrocosmos have remarkable similarities.
(6) The organic realm consisting of all organisms do not live fragmented
or in isolation with the inorganic realm. There is a most complex
interaction between these two realms which can be observed in, for
example, the carbon C, oxygen O, hydrogen H, nitrogen N and phosphor P
cycles. Parts of each cycle are inorganic while the remainder is organic.
Organisms take in life and gives not only all in death, but also in life
some of these inorganic elements back to the inorganic realm. These cycles
are usually most delicate so that tiny perturbations in their inorganic
parts can cause dramatic changes in the organic realm even up to the
extiction of species. Far more species have become extinct than those
which exist today. And of those who became extinct, the majority were as a
result of perturbations in these cycles rather than cataclysmic changes
such as gigantic meteorite hitting the earth.

(7) The specimens of a species do not live independantly from each other.
In plants these individuals communicate with each other through chemical
compounds known as pheromones. They "awaken" each other to dangers and to
reproduction. In animals which can make movements because of their softer
cell walls, communication is not only in terms of chemical signals, but
also by optical and even mechanical means. We usually say that the higher
animals communicate their instincts. Among humans we say they communicate
their consciousness. However, the "awareness" of the individual to the
community of the same is clearly observable among plants, animals and
humans, eventhough in varying degree.

(8) Distinctive from communities of the same species aware of and
depending on each other, is the specimens of different species living
together. This is called symbiosis. Both beneficial and deleterious
consequences for at least one of the parties are involved. In parasitism
one party gains at considerable risk of the other party. In comensalism
one party gains with apparently no detrimental loss by the other party. In
mutualism both parties gain from each other while being able to sustain
the losses self. All ecosystems depend very much on the properties (6) and
(7) as well as mutualistic symbiosis. This gives rise to the "pyramidal
organisation of biomass" in which the LRC (Law of Requiste Complesity) and
LSC (Law of Singularity of Complexity) are clearly reflected. The
"pyramid" consists of several trophic levels. The entropy and thus the
free energy available to each level differs considerably. The sad outcome
of the activities of modern humankind is that it overturm this "pyramidal
organisation of biomass" without thinking twice about the consequences.

(9) When a catastrophic event (fast or slow) destroys much of an
ecosystem, that ecosystem is populated in waves from organisms coming from
other ecosystems. First to arrive are the simpler organisms, often not
visible to the maked eye. Then comes the pioneer plants and animals. They
usually have less complex and shorter life cycles. Although more aggresive
towards the simple organisms than the more complex late comers, their
function is largely to increase the complexity of the habitat requisite to
the complex late comers.

(10) Last, but not the least, is the reproduction in living organisms. A
virus does it as a parasite, having no means to repoduce itself. The
simpler prokaryotes (like bacteria) and some simple eukaryotes do it by
asexual cell division called mitoses. The complexer eukaryotes do it
sexually with a much more complex variation (on mitoses) called meiosis.
Furthermore they grow in their various organs by making more somatic cells
(differentiated cells of the same kind) by mitoses (just like the
prokaryotes). Obtaining the original undifferentiated totipotent cells
(called stem cells for animals and callus cells for plants) from
differentiated somatic cells is a most difficult task. It is as if nature
does not want to reverse the speciation of cells between different
organisms and the differentiation of cells in the organs within an
organism. This is known as Dollo's Law -- nature do not backtrack
spontaneously along her paths nor repeat the routes for different

These are ten common patterns among all living organisms most striking to
me. I cannot remember any other now. It is also time to stop with a
contribution which may become too long. I have made a number of
observations. Observations are the first phase of the scientific method.
(The delightful contemplations or Reflections of Artur belongs to the
zeroth phase) I would love to read from you fellow learners how you
imagine these patterns to figure in human organisations too. Speculations
are OK because we need them in the second phase of the scientific method.
Only after sufficient Speculations can we begin with the third phase,
namely Falsification. Therafter follows the fourth phase which is also the
zeroth phase of the next cycle.

Have you fellow learners ever thought of the correspondences between the
scientific method of human intelligence and the eco-bio-chemical cycles so
common to living nature. What about the techno-industrial, economical,
political and religious cycles which so often affect our human
organisations immensely? What about a common pattern to all these cycles,
material and mental. How much does that common pattern involves LEP (Law
of Entropy Production)?

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <amdelange@gold.up.ac.za> 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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