Lectures, learning, leadership, LOs LO20062

AM de Lange (amdelange@gold.up.ac.za)
Wed, 2 Dec 1998 15:46:14 +0200

Replying to LO20031 --

Dear Organlearners,

Don Dwiggens < d.l.dwiggins@computer.org > writes:

>Personally, I'm a non-Christian who finds nothing offensive
>in At's messages. He speaks authentically as a committed
>Christian; given the scope of his vision, it would be impossible
>for him to keep his faith out of it. For myself, I find much in
>what he says that resonates with me, that creates a learning
>experience within me (and where it doesn't resonate, or where
>I'm not sure I understand, I'm willing to dig deeper, to
>understand the tension -- another, more expensive learning

Greetings Dwig,

Maybe I should have stayed silent on this issue as I intended to.

Yesterday I have attended a mini conference on Technology and Social
Systems. It was arranged for Christian scientists, systems thinkers,
technologists and philosphers at another university. We (14 of us) each
had 15 minutes to introduce our viewpoint and answer questions before we
went into discussion. I was number 7 on the list. Obviously, I said that
there is little sense in discussing technology, culture, knowledge, faith
and ethics as outcomes if we do not also take into account the processes
leading to these outcomes such as creating, learning and believing. (See
my reply to you on the topic diversity.) When I got to the point that we
should also discuss the possibility that there is an ordering between the
three basic processes creating, learning and believing, I knew that I had
lost them completely. One philosopher frowned, saying that it seems as if
I am following the philosophies of Bergson or Whitehead.

During the discussion it became clear that all the participants have
studied the Kuhnian theory of paradigm shifts far more than one would have
expected. In fact, some even went so far as to say that we (the Christians
making up the mini conference) are in need of a paradigm shift. When I
said as a matter of specualtion (to step up the entropy production) that
we should investigate Jesus Christ self as the paradigm and not
commentaries (of Christian theologians or philosophers) as the paradigm,
it was almost like letting a cat loose in a chicken den. I was told
quickly and in no uncertain terms that this cannot ever be done in any
scientific undertaking. Jesus Christ is essential only for redemption. It
made no impression on them when I replied that just as the commentaries of
the past even our own commentaries in future ought to play no paradigmatic
role. They are merely contributions to the ongoing dialogue on something
far more important.

Dwig, as you can see, even among Christians there are great differences.
What interested me as a systems thinker, is why commentaries had to play
such a decisive role in their paradigm. Except for me, the rest believe
that knowledge is something "outside me" and that a person merely has to
import that knowledge to become knowledgeable. Thus the role of
commentaries are essential to obtain knowledge. The other possibility,
namely that knowledge "inside me" is primarily a result of the emergences
of self-organisation which then feed on information "outside me" in order
to grow, is incomprehensible to them.

But this shows what a paradigm shift is about. In the old paradigm certain
things A, B and C are comprehensible while other things X, Y and Z are
incomprehensible, the so called anomalies. In the new paradigm both A, B,
C and X, Y, Z are comprehensible. The comprehension of A, B, C may be
somewhat different, but in a manner which Niels Bohr articulated with his
Correspondence Principle. Basically it means that the shift causes one to
understand limitations in the validty A, B, C whereas in the old paradigm
such limitations were not even perceived.

>Also, rather than trying to convert us, At has said repeatedly
>that anything any of us learns from his lectures will relate to
>us, the learners, not him. His vision can't become ours, just
>as the learning that we trigger in him belongs to him, not us.

Dwig, thank you very much for articulating it so clearly. To articulate it
more technically, it means that irreversible self-organisation has played
a major role in my growth as a Christian. To judge me as a Christian
without taking this role played by irreversible self-organisation into
account, leads to many misunderstandings. I am not prescribing to people
or trying to convert them to either irreversible self-organisation or
christianity. I am merely pointing it out as a possibility which they may
take into account. This is how I understand both irreversible
self-organisation to work and christianship to work.

Sadly, it seems to be impossible to exhaust all misunderstandings. Some
people do now realise that by trying to understand me as a Christian, they
have to take irreversible self-organisation into account. But then they
immediately begin to do something else, denouncing irreversible
self-organisation as an outcome of the New Age philosophy. Even worse,
when I am asked occasionaly to explain irreversible self-organisation, as
soon as I get to the point that it is the result of an increase of the
quantity called entropy, either the ignorance to this quantity or the
incomplete perception of it as a "measure of chaos" makes such an
explanation doomed.

In my language we have a saying -- if you want to kill a dog, you will
always find a stick to do it. Another way to say it is that we are slowly
engulfed by a culture of hurt. This culture will eventually destroy our
capacity to self-organise irreversibly.

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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