Creating a Passion for Learning LO17474

Mnr AM de Lange (
Thu, 19 Mar 1998 10:49:51 GMT+2

Replying to LO17432 --

Dear Organlearners,

In this contribution I will tell about my own passion for learning
and its results. This allows me to show how "passion for learning" is
connected to "entropy production" (entropy combined with time).

It is a very long and complex contribution. If you do not have a
passion for learning, bale out now.

Winfried Dressler <> writes:

> Entropy doesn't do anything. Entropy production doesn't solve the problems
> either. The point is the bifurcation arising: Is there a free will to make
> a choice? Will new order emerge or not?

He then explains the importance of bifurcations by the following:

> Watch the consumption of natural resources, while the focus is on making
> money. The resources are used to create value for humans. And how is the
> value calculated? However it is, the original resources are valued exactly
> zero. They are just taken for free. The most important resources is stored
> energy (oil and gas). Energy can only be stored on high order level. Order
> cannot emerge without entropy production. We are living by consuming the
> entropy production of the past several million if not billion years within
> two or three centuries. This is also breathtaking, but in a completely
> different way. Is there a free choice in it? Who is taking the
> responsibility?

Winfried, your growing insight into entropy production fills me with
delight. The cosmologist Sir Arthur Eddington wrote in "The
Nature of the Physical World" (1948) the following:
* "In any attempt to bridge the domains of experience belonging
* to physical and spiritual sides of our nature, time occupies
* the key position."
We should bear in mind that Eddington made this claim in terms of his
incredible understanding of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity -
a theory in which time and space are joined into one whole. It is
told that somebody once mentioned to Eddington that only three people
fully understood Einstein's GTR. In genuine surprise he asked: "Who
is the third person?"

Note that Eddington (at a senior age) mentions only time (and not
also entropy) as the key in bridging the physical and spiritual sides
of human nature. But note alsothat it is the same Eddington who once
wrote that (the increase in) "entropy is the arrow of time"!

Meanwhile, at that stage, a young man called Ilya Prigogine began his
studies on the nature of irreversibility - why thermodynamical
processes happen in a certain direction and not the opposite
direction. For example, if we put a beaker of water on a hot plate,
it will NEVER change into ice, but ALWAYS into steam.

Eventually Prigogine managed to discover the equation which relates
entropy production to force-flux pairs - the equation essential to
all irreversible processes. In other words, what happens in this
equation is that the relationship between entropy and time is
accounted for in terms of force-flux pairs. (Mathematically, entropy
production is the first time derivative of entropy.) Prigogine has
uncovered the "arrow of time"!

Roughly 25 years later Prigogine made another major discovery, namely
that entropy production is not only responsible for the dissipation
(dispersion, spreading, increasing chaos) of energy, but also for the
construction (concentration, locking) of energy into higher ordered
organisations of the material world. Up to then we had only two types
of accounts for the evolution of living species, namely dogmatic
accounts based on religion and argumentative (Darwinian) accounts
based on probability events and selection of the fittest.

These two types of accounts (dogmatic and argumentative) created
intense emotional conflicts. But now we have a third type of account
based on empirical measurements with entropy production as a main
outcome. These measurements were initially done on machines. They
have been extended to biochemical systems with the same results.
Thus we can expect emotional conflicts to run even higher. As you
have warned:

> Please understand the emotions in this issue. The question is,
> whether there is a free choice emerging to be "the warden of nature"
> instead of being "the engineer of a machine" as At worte before.

Up to now I have merely discussed entropy prodution for the physical
(material) world. What about Eddington's claim that time is the key
to the bridging of the physical and spiritual sides of our human
nature? These two sides have been cleaved from each other since the
days of Plato more than two millenia ago. It deepened into an abyss
with the work of Descartes more than three centuries ago. (I wish I
had the time to show that it has become an immense entropic force
which is causing the unprecedented destruction of nature - humans
at war with nature.)

In 1982-83 while driving myself to promote creativity in learning, I
made an EMPIRICAL discovery that entropy production also happens in
the abstract world of mind. (It is recogniseable in terms of a unique
construction. More I will not say - you will have to wait for my
book.) Eventhough I was intellectually prepared to recognise this
discovery, recognising it at first shocked me out of my wits. (See
Pasteur's discussion on mental preparedness to recognise a
discovery.) Were it not for the fact that this discovery was based on
careful measurements, I would never have accepted it.

But I finally accepted it and so the paradigm shift began. I then
began trying to understand it. Among other things, it led to the
discovery of the seven essentialities of creativity. (I will tell
more about this later.) My paradigm shift became immense, something
which I never have bargained for. Entropy production enabled me to
bridge the culturally inherited abyss between the physical and
spiritual sides of my human nature.

What Eddington had foreseen, happened. Time was indeed a key to the
bridging of these two sides. But it was one level more complex -
entropy was the other key, entropy production being the combination
of entropy and time. I also consider this bridging effect of entropy
production to be of paramount importance. (My book has accordingly
beeen constructed in three parts: Creating the Bridge, Crossing the
Bridge and Learning Beyond the Bridge.)

Winfired, let us get back to your explanation of the importance of
bifurcations quoted above. Did you notice that you used time as the
basis of your explanation? Did you know about Eddignton's claim that
time is the key to the bridging of the physical and spiritual sides
of our human nature? Let us see what you did.

You used the time involved for nature to construct (evolve) the
fossile carbonic (coal, oil, gas) energy sources and the time for
humankind to destroy (deplete) these sources to further its own
constructive means. You compared the "construction time" with the
"destruction time" and found that the ratio is several thousand fold
to one. You were horrified at what it entails.

It is like a person X inheriting $1 000 000 - the savings of a life
time, 1000 months at $100 per month plus interest. The money is kept
in a bank. The bank pays some interest. X draws each month money
according to the pattern $1 000, $2 000, $4 000, $8 000, $16 000, $32
000, $64 000, $128 000, $256 000, $512 000. It is on average $100 000
per month, a thousand fold more than the $100 per month which made up
the inheritance. But after 10 months the inheritance is gone. Did X
think about changing his lifestyle?

Thus you wrote:

> Entropy production worked great up to now and now we are consuming
> it without even saying "Thank you".

Mathematicians distinguish between two basic mathematical
transformations: functions F and relations R. The difference between
them is as follows. For every function F each input x leads to a
unique output F(x). For every relation R each input x leads to two or
more distinguishable outputs, represented togther by R(x). A function
is thus deterministic while a relation is indeterministic. Guess
what? Mathematicians favour functions far more than relations.

Bifurcations are nothing else than diadic (twofold) relations in
mathematics. Several kinds of bifurcations (eg Turing and Hopf) have
been studied. But there is one kind of bifurcations which we need to
study with all our attention. It is the bifurcation into either a
constructive event or a destructive event. We may call them "creative

When enough entropy is produced fast enough in any system, it is
driven to the edge of chaos where "creative bifurcations" happen. The
system can either emerge constructively to a higher order in
structure or immerge destructively to a lower order of structure.
Thus in the mathematical sense "creative bifurcations" appear to be
indeterministic. Consequently almost all "spokesman" on the "new
science" and its meaning for human culture, insist on this
indeterminancy. Even Prigogine himself, after trying many years to
discover what determines which outcome his bifurcations will
definitely result into, gave up by concluding that the "end of
certitude" has been reached. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in
quantum mechanics gives the same verdict on the molecular scale of

I was deeply disturbed by this determinancy/indeterminacy issue of
bifurcations. Although irreversibility had the essence of finality in
it, the famous quantum physicist Max Born emphatically insisted that
"irreversibility is the effect of the introduction of ignorance into
the basic laws of physics". Eventhough Einstein was diametrically
apposed to many of Born's claims, for example the probablistic
interpretation of the quantum mechanical wave function, even he
agreed with this claim of Born. The great and somewhat radical
chemist G N Lewis (he mentored more persons to their Nobel prises
than anybody else) was of the same opinion. Please note that none of
these great thinkers succeeded in articulating this "ignorance"
explicitly. In other words, no one succeeded in explaing the details
of this ignorance.

Were it not for the lone voice of Eddington, I would probably also
gave it up. He wrote the following inspiring words:
* "The law that entropy always increases - the second law of
* thermodynamics - holds, I think, the supreme position among
* the laws of nature. If somebody points out to you that your pet
* theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's
* equations - then so much the worse for Mazwell's equations. If
* it is found to be contradicted by observation - well, these
* experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory
* is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can
* give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in
* deepest humilation."

Why was Eddington so sure of himself? Sir Karl Poper, a philosopher
of science, discovered that the essence of the scientific method is
to falsify empirically any statement which is the result of logical
argumentations. The Second Law have been subjected to more empirical
falsification than all the other laws of nature taken together. How?
Was all this immense falsification done by scientists? No.

Many humans have this passionate desire for the "eternal slave" -
something which can deliver work without costing anything. Patent
offices (since their inception) all over the world received more
applications for "eternal generators of work" than for any other type
of machine or substance. Up to now each of these many tens of
thousands of patents has failed. Why? Most applicants knew nothing
about the Second Law which is the reason why their "eternal slave"
(whatever machine or substance it is) failed to work as intended.
Even through their ignorance they proved the Second Law!

So I had three things which fired/intensified my deep disturbance by
this determinancy/indeterminacy issue of bifurcations. Firstly, I am
deadly against the enslavement through education of learners to the
mindsets of corrupt leaders. It was especially rampant in the former
South Africa due to the ideology of apartheid. There is no difference
in desiring an "eternal slave" for the physical world or for the
spiritual word, other than the difference between physical or
spiritual. The Second law has something clear to say on both.

Secondly, I have discovered something specific which all humans
(including me) have been ignorant of, namely entropy production in
the abstract world of mind. In other words, when Born wrote
""irreversibility is the effect of the introduction of ignorance into
the basic laws of physics", he was refering to "physical
irreversibility". Not in his wildest dreams, nor in that of Einstein,
Lewis or even Prigogine, did they ever contemplated "spiritual
irreversibility" as the ignorance to which they were refering. I also
would never have though about it, were it not forced upon me by
empirical results. "Spiritual irreversibility" influencing "physical
irreversibility" is like a snake biting its own tail. Hence St
Paul's word's that we are seeing through a mirror, but one day we
will see face to face, kept on reeling through my mind.

Thirdly, I had these encouraging words of Eddington, made sensible by
Popper's insight. I must also mention Husserl and his phenomenlogy.
What Poper did for the natural sciences, Husserl accomplished for the
humanities. I began to sense also the phenomenological value of the
Second Law.

I passionately jumped into this black hole of the
determinancy/indeterminacy issue of bifurcations. I was determined
to discover the truth for myself, whatever it takes. I knew that I
had to rely on my own creativity in general and self-learning in
particular. Thank God, I had three clues to follow. In my discovery
that entropy production also happens in the abstract world of mind,
three strange patterns presented themselves to my conscious mind -
three very strange attractors indeed.

Up to this day I still call them the "moncat" patterns. The "mon-"
refer to one pattern which, at that stage, I could connect only to
Lebniz's three centuries old theory of monads. The "-cat" refer to
another pattern which, at that stage, I could connect only to
Aristoteles' two millenia old theory of categories. The third pattern
involved processes and structures as complementaries of each other.

I began to hunt for connections with these three moncat patterns.

Among others, I found out how much I was enslaved by the mindsets
of others. Jan Smuts, the father of the philosophy of holism ("Holism
and Evolution", 1926) was an Afrikaner like me. He was also a great
war general in three wars, the Anglo-Boer war, WWI and WWII. He was
also a statesman, a botanist and a philosopher. But he was depicted
as the devil incarnate among the majority of Afrikaners, either for
political reasons (he was against apartheid) or for religious reasons
(his holism was considered as an antichristian philosphy).

During my 5 years on university, I was warned several times not to
read Smuts' book "Holism and Evolution" because it would corrupt me
completely. I avoided that book for the next 20 years of my life.
Would I have read it earlier, I would have connected the first
pattern not only to Lebniz's theory of monads, but also to Smuts'
philosophy of holism. I probably would have become a staunch
supporter of Smuts's philosophy, forgetting that at least three
patterns and not one were on the table.

The idea began to emerge within me through Smuts' guidance that the
whole universe is involved in every bifurcation, how minute it may
be. This emergent idea shocked me. I was already very sensitive to
complexity, but to think that the whole complexity of the universe is
at stake in every bifurcation strangles the mind. But I found
consolation in the fact that Mach's idea on gravity guided Einstein
in a similar manner. The gravitational force between two bodies do
not depend on the masses of the two bodies, but on the masses of all
the bodies in the universe.

I began to find connections between the three "moncat" patterns in
the wierdest of places and writings. But every such connection found
disturbed me even more. Why? My discovery that entropy production
also happens in the abstract world of mind, was a direct consequence
of my intense desire to promote creativity in learning. Each of these
connections to the "moncat" patterns seemed to have little to do
with creativity - this disturbed me so much.

Then a very strange idea emerged within me. Why not take two superior
examples of creativity, one from the material (physical) world and
one from the abstract (spiritual) world and see whether there are not
patterns common to both, common patterns which might tell me more
about the three moncat patterns. I selected the chemical system for
the material world and the mathematical system for the abstract
world. The hunting began!

After a couple of months I discovered seven corresponding patterns.
Three of them were the moncat patterns, but now in both mathematical
and chemical contexts. I was much relieved at finding the three
moncat patterns in such a crazy venture. But I was even more relieved
to observe the increasing contextuality (complexity) of the three
moncat patterns. A geat peace settled within in me which lasted for a
couple of months. Then I suddenly remembered: what about the
"determinancy/indeterminacy issue of bifurcations"?

Like a bolt of lightning the realisation emerged within me that each
of the seven corresponding patterns are essential (in a
phenomenological sense) to the organisations of both the chemical
system and the mathematical system. In other words, should I deny any
one of these patterns, the organisations of both the chemical system
and the mathematical system would collapse!

And as a back-stroke of the same bolt of lightning, the idea emerged
that these seven patterns are essential to constructive creativity in
general. I began to test phenomenologically their essentialness in
a manner set out by Husserl, using every possible creative
phenomenon I could think of. I began to call them essentialities
rather than essentials to distinguish them from all other
phenomenological essentials.

Then I began to observe their role in bifurcations in general
(deep creativity) and not merely human creativity. I began to
understand how impairing of any essentiality (including its denial
by the mind) caused bifurcations to result into detructive
immergences rather than constructive emergences. I began to
realise that my notion of indeterminancy was case upon case nothing
else than my ignorance to these seven essentialities of creativity.

My happiness became bliss when I began to discover that my
students' failures to learn emergently, were without any exception
explainable in terms of one or more of the essentialities failing,
either dynamically (semantics, content) or mechanically (syntaxis,
form). It became possible for me to act as their mentor in a way
which I never would have imagined 20 years earlier as a young

Winfried, maybe it is time that we go deeper into these seven
essentialities. But, even after the long account above, I have not
yet shown how "passion for learning" is connected to "entropy
production" (entropy and time).

I will no do it using fossile carbonic (coal, oil and gas) energy
sources as you have done for bifurcations. There are hundreds of
other examples to explain the importance bifurcations in terms of
time. For example, take the construction of a cathedral in medieval
times or a building with many many stories. To construct such a huge
building takes a long time.

Very few us have the knowledge to know that in every facet of the
construction entropy production plays an essential role. Even less of
us has the engineering expertise to calculate the incredible amount
of entropy involved. Hence, let us say a little as possible, except
to note that the long construction time invloves huge amounts of
entropy. The destruction of such a building also involves entropy
production. It can either be ablative (weathering) which takes a long
time or explosive which takes a very short time. Thus the ratio of
the constuction time to the destruction time can be in the order of
thousands to one, similar to what you have noted. But what has this
to do with a passion for learning?

[Winfried, two years ago I was standing in Berlin near the Brandeburg
Gate close to a monument of ruins - the shattered tower and remaining
wall of what had once been a majestic cathedral. The ruins were the
result of a few hours of bombing during WWII when humankind was
crazy. My wife Alicia and my friend Ernst Specks pulled me by the
arms to explore the rest of Berlin. But like a zombie I kept turning
back to that monument of ruins. I spent several hours there which
frustrated them very much. My thoughts rushed over and over again,
touching many of the things which I am writing about in this
contribution, checking for inconsistencies and incoherencies. Around
me all the people and all the businesses seemed to manifest
constructive creativity. The only silent witness to the bifurcations
of creativity was this monument of ruins. I became intensely aware
amidst all the culture around me of the ongoing war between
humankind and the rest of nature. I longed for the deserts where city
culture has no meaning. I felt infinitely sad, wishing that it was me
who was crazy. I will never forget that day. Now back to where I have

It concerns the "slow renewing (construction) of an energy source"
versus the "fast depletion (destruction) of the same energy source".
Whether the energy source concerns physical carbonic matter (even the
carboniferous brains in our head) or abstract mental subjects is
besides the point since entropy production entails both. I will use
as metaphor a carbonic source of energy close to our everyday
experiences and not a nuclear, photo-electric or hydro-electric
source of energy. Few of us have sufficient experiences of them.
My metaphor will involve living trees and firewood. (See my
Guidance in LO with metaphors LO14365 15 Jul 1997.)

Entropy production is responsible for the germination of seed into a
seedling and its growth into a mature tree. This entropy production
transforms electromagnetic energy from the sun into chemical energy
locked up in the molecular structures of the tree. This constructive
(chemical) organisation takes a couple of hundreds years. IT IS

The mature tree is then felled and used as firewood in a couple of
weeks. Again entropy is produced, but it now happens destructively.
It happens by burning the complex chemical compounds making up the
wood into mainly carbon dioxide and water, using oxygen. While doing
so, the chemical energy is transfromed into heat. The destruction
happens at a rate from 1000 to 10 000 times faster than the
construction rate.

Let us sooth our morals by assuming we need the firewood for a
constructive purpose such as keeping a hothouse warm in which plants
have to grow. If there are no mature trees locally available, then we
cannot derive firewood locally from them. Furthermore, we cannot grow
locally mature trees in a couple of weeks to supply in our need of
firewood. Thus we have to import firewood from places where trees had
been growing a couple of hundred years.

It is such a fast solution for our lofty purpose that we resent
constructing our own local source of firewood by growing trees
because it will take many years. In any cae, what do we know of
forestry? We rather pay the dealer in firewood with good money
honestly earned. We trust that nobody was greedy all along the chain,
beginning with the felling of the living trees. But one day we
discover that we cannot import firewood any more because its sources,
the living trees, have been depleted. What a fine example of Peter
Senge's leaning dissability for LOs called "the parable of the boiled
frog". Although everybody wanted a fare shair of firewood for lofty
purposes, nobody with influence noticed the grasual depletion of the
living trees on a global scale - the sources of firewood..

Our abstract minds also needs abstract firewood to keep it warm so
that constructive mental actions can take place. This mental warmth
has been known for eons as passion. Today it can also be described as
"chaos" of the mind. Burning this firewood drives the mind to the
edge of chaos where new concepts emerge through bifurcations.
The adjoints of these mental emergences are happiness, fondness and
pryness. These adjoints result by recognising the attractor of life -
the germination of a new seedling which has to grow into a mature
tree from which firewood can be derived to repeat yet another cycle
of life. This is how a passion for learning is created.

Unfortunately, creativity involves bifurcations and thus
constructions and destructions. Thus we have to observe what may
become of this passion - the abstract firewood.

The abstract firewood can be obtained locally or can be imported from
elsewehere. If it is obtained locally, we need mature abstract trees.
They are nothing else than the concepts which had germinated within
us by emergent learning and have grown to maturity within us by
digestive learning. But if we do not care for emergent and digestive
self-learning (the abstract forestry of the mind), then we will be
soon be depleted of abstract firewood. In other words, our passion
for learning will be depleted locally. Look at the people around you.
See in how many of them the local abstract firewood has been
depleted. What has become of lifelong personal mastery?

If the abstract firewood cannot be obtained locally, then we have to
import it from other minds (abstract places) elsewhere where abstract
trees are still growing. In other words, we seek our passion for
learning in the concepts which have germinated and grown in the minds
of others through their own self-learning. We often seek those very
sources of living trees which abounds with abstract firewood
(passion). In other words, we seek those concepts in teachers who
clearly exhibit themselves a passion for learning. This seeking is
known today under the ambiguous name of knowledge transfer.

Ambiguous? We must bear in mind that this knowledge transfer is only
possible from sources rich in growing trees and thus possible
firewood , i.e passionate, knowledgeable teachers. Such teachers will
never encourage the memorisation and regurgitation of information.
They will also resist any theory or practice which will force the
learners to memorise and regurgitate information. They abhor the
cloning of minds - the substitution of a forest by a plantation. We
will soon see why.

We must also bear in mind that these other sources rich in abstract
living trees and hence abstract firewood will become more and more
depleted if they are not replenished by society. Note how it happens.
Every section of society (industry, commerce, etc) wants these
sources with an internal forestry. But nobody with influence notes
how they become globally depleted. It happens because the maintaining
of sufficient numbers of passionate, knowledgeable teachers is not
first on the list of priorities, not even in the very schools
themselves. Have you seen the movie "Dead Poet's Society", showing
how a passionate, knowledgeable teacher gets destroyed?

I have written consistently "nobody with influence". What do I mean
by that? No individual learner, neither any group of learners
(learning organisation) in society have enough influence to stop this
depletion of abstract living trees and hence abstract firewood. Only
when society itself as the whole becomes a learning organisation,
will we be able to recognise this global depletion of the sources
of abstract living trees and hence firewood. Only when an
organisation becomes a learning organisation does the members
discover how close to death their passions have been quenched.

To memorise and regurgitate information is like making a paper copy
of the living trees. Abstract paper copies can also burn, but it in
isolated pieces they are a poor substitute for abstract firewood.
Have you ever been in the wild, trying to make a lasting fire out of
paper? But once you get hold of a log of "hardekool" (our name for a
very famous tree of our bushveld, meaning "hard coal"), you can spend
a whole night staring into its slowly burning coals, thinking about
the "web-of-living-reality".

In a paper industry the paper gets bundled in massive collections.
When a fire starts in that paper industry, it is completely
destructive in contrast to a forest fire. Whereas periodical fires in
a natural forest are needed to rejuvenate the forest, the once only
fire in a paper industry destroys everything, even steel and
concrete. Can we afford it?

Best wishes


At de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education University of Pretoria Pretoria, South Africa email:

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