Lectures, learning, leadership, LOs LO20166

Fri, 11 Dec 1998 13:17:00 EST

Replying to LO20118 --

> Steve Eskow <seskow@durand.com> writes:
> >This is a misunderstanding of the nonChristian, nontheological
> >approach to the creation and transmission of knowledge.

Greetings, At.

I will try to make myself clearer about what I think is the nature of your
misunderstanding, learning from you how to conduct such a dialog.

> The purpose of my writing was to illustrate to Don Dwiggens that
> irreversible self-organisation as a paradigm is alien to even the
> Christians attending the mini conference.

And this "paradigm," At, is also alien to me, and to many other reasonably
knowledgeable and sensitive students. You may want to consider the
possibility that the concept of "self-organisation," widely embraced these
days, is itself not a "truth" or a "paradigm," but a mental model that has
some limited use--if it is recognized as a linguistic tool to describe the
push of organizations to "get their act together" as we say in the US:
find some sort of helpful equilibrium.

And the notion that such "self organisation" is "irreversible" does not
square with the empirical observations humankind has gathered and recorded
over the centuries.

> I myself do not want to use the word "Christian" in undertakings such
> "Christian Systems Thinking" and "Christian Philosophy" if Christ is not
> central to these undertakings. We have learned a durable lesson here in
> South Africa with the call for "Christian Nationalism" to justify
> apartheid. We caused immense harm to all people with apartheid. I was
> for the first 6 years of my own independant thinking a supporter of
> apartheid because it was the system which I grew up in. But when I
> began to question apartheid in the middle seventies, I found that except
> for a few referances to the Old Testament, very little of apartheid was
> based on the values which Jesus Christ taught.

At, every Bible reader and every priest is as free to decide what the
words of Jesus Christ mean as you are, or I am, and we can't insist that
our reading has found the "true values." Better`; we can declare that our
reading is the "true value," but others insist that their reading is
true--and one explanation for denominationalism, for the hundreds of
variants of the Christian church is that each denomination is a different
reading of the language of Christ embodied in an approrpiate church form.

>In my systems thinking, because wholeness is essential to it, the
>"Scientific Accounts" (SA) and the"Christian Accounts" (CA) of reality
>form a complementary dual. I know that you prefer to call my systems
>thinking a mental model. Whether systems thinking or mental model, it is
>because of wholeness that I have to give an account of both SA and CA. To
>talk about the one while keeping quiet on the other one, for example SA
>among Christians and CA among scientists, is something which I can do,
>but is not a true reflection of my spirituality. Furthermore, since I
>stopped fragmenting creativity and believing since the middle eighties,
>my own creativity benefitted much from it.

And my wholeness, At, and my commitments require that I declare the
evidence of the centuries: the theology and the God that you preach have
conspired over the generations to create the Crusades and the Inquisition
and in our US to the burning of many women as witches, and the humiliation
and injury of blacks and Indians. Perhaps the single line of Jesus that
has done the most damage is his declaration that he came to bring not
peace, but a sword.

In any event, it is one matter for you to declare that all of these
monstrosities are based on misreadings, on failure to comprehend the "true
values" that you see so clearly.

You might want to ask yourself why this doctrine of love and mercy has
been willing so often to lend itself to holocaust.

> >Nontheological scientists do not believe that knowledge is
> >"out there" waiting to be "imported": indeed, all of Kuhn's
> >work is an attempt to make clear that science is the ongoing
> >construction and reconstruction of "reality". Our linguistic and
> >material tools--telescopes, microscopes, all of the physical
> >and conceptual tools by which we attempt to grasp the stuff
> >out there--reshape continually the world they seek to describe.

>What you have written is fine for me, except that it does not identify
>the agents who change (construct and reconstruct) reality continually.
>For a couple of millenia up to the sixties of this century, it was
>believed that it was the priviledge of a small minority of thinkers while
>the great majority of thinkers had to follow in their footsteps

For millenia your church claimed the exclusive right to define the nature
of reality. One reading of the evolution of freedom and creativity
involves the struggle to free the search for fact and meaning from the
control of the Church, so that investigators would not be burned at the
stake, or frightened, as was Galileo.

>The situation is changing. Research on creativity since WWII show that
>creativity is not something which only a few geniusses possess. Sadly,
>the lack of creativity in people is much more acquired than innate. It is
>the pressures of society which impair the creativity of its members.

On the whole, Western societies have provided citizens with the tools of
thought and the free and unfettered opportunity to use them. That is one
reason why there has been the astounding period of creativity that have
freed so many of us from slavery to the soil and the seasons, and from the
backbreaking and endless toil of "rural idiocy."

All of us here, and you, too, At, have a great deal of freedom allowed us
by our society to exercise our creativity: even to invent and construct
our own "mental models"!

>The role of irreversible self-organisation in creativity and in learning
>has received very little attention. However, one of the most interesting
>and rewarding studies to do, is to trace the role of irreversible
>self-organisation in the history of science and its findings. Whenever a
>Kuhnian paradigm shift occured, it was because a small band of roamers
>allowed themselves the priviledge of "saltotorial (revolutionary)
>irreversible self-orgnisation".

People who are interested in motorcyles, or learning organizations, or
memes, or cyborgs, or alternative life styles, have always sought each
other out, and created salons, or cafe communities, or "invisible
colleges." The latest jargon for this well-known and understandable desire
for birds of a feather to flock together is "communities of practice."

I see no value, At, in labeling this tendency with a scientific-sounding
name--"self organization"--and less in suggesting that it is

>Here is an example concerning the paradigm shift from Newtonian mechanics
>to quantum mechanics.

(I have snipped At's first paragraphs describing the work of Planck and

> This saltotorial irreversible
> self-organisation of Einstein was soon followed by the saltotorial
> irreversible self-organisation of Bohr. He took Planck's finding and
> showed that it was a plausible explanation for the pattern of light
> emmision by an electron in a hydrogen atom.
> Thus the stage was pratically set for the saltotorial irreversible
> self-organisation of Heisenberg (matrix mechanics) and Schroedinger
> meachnics). Later, especially through the saltotorial irreversible
> self-organisation of Dirac, it was realised that matrix mechanics and
> mechanics were two sides of the same coin which is now called quantum
> mechanics. >>

What is gained by describing the patient and honest search of
investigators and geniuses for insight and direction and new ways of
grasping the world with such language and concepts as "saltotorial

Much of what investigators do is indeed "reversible": they decide they
have following blind alleys, and reverse field all the time.

They are of course, like detectives, searching for the design, the
pattern, the structure--like novelists search for the plot. But why call
the creative process "saltotorial self-organization"?

> I have used the phrase "saltotorial irreversible self-organisation"
>above many times, so much so that it can become irritating. I could also
>have used "innovation" because innovation is the saltotorial
>(revolutionary) phase of irreversible self-organisation. Should I have
>used "innovation", I would have merely repeated what many have said
>before. But by using "saltotorial irreversible self-organisation", I
>signify that I myself are on a course of "innovation" by viewing it in a
>much wider context of "entropy production" (irreversibility) causing
>"changes in organisation", material and abstract.

At, I think your mental model that insists on mixing phenomena from the
meaning realm, which is socially constructed, with terminology borrowed
from science, like "entropy", and then to suggest that you have found keys
to the development and evolution of our species, is not helpful.

>Human rights play an increasingly important role all over the world. For
>example, a human has the right to access information which involves that
>human. I believe that every human has the right to "saltotorial
>irreversible self-organisation" or "innovation". Unfortunately, you will
>not find that right described in any document on human rights. But in
>every human right some people had to pave the way as leaders. Likewise I
>will do my best to show why "saltotorial irreversible self-organisation"
>is a human right and how it works.

At, our Declaration of Independence declares that every human being has
the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I flinch at the
notion that somehow the right to "saltotorial irreversible
self-organisation" is somehow an improvement on this morality.

> >And there is no evidence that Jesus or Jehovah or Buddha
> >help in this work, except as they fortify the scientists for
> >the work of grasping and reshaping the world.

>I do not think that Jehova fit with the other two. The God Jehova is a
>Spiritual Being while Jesus and Buddha were humans. Except for the
>additional complication that Christians believe on the basis of His
>resurrection that Jesus is the Christ, Son of God and thus part of God,
>these two people had an immense influence on the shaping of the minds of
>their followers. Through these followers they had a vast influence on the
>minds of large sections of humanity. For example, both Jesus and Buddha
>emphasised truth as essential to life. Eventually scientists developed
>the scientific method to discover truth independent from the teachings of
>these two persons.

> >Indeed, there is ample evidence that the reverse is the case:
> >the science of an era reshapes our picture of God. In an
> >agricultural age God is a shepherd; in a mechanical age he
> >becomes the Great Watchmaker who starts the mechanism
> >running and keeps it running; and as each new "paradigm"
> >emerges God changes. The process is poignant, and at times
> >vulgar: Bruce Barton and others have written about Jesus as
> >the "world's greatest salesman," reflecting a capitalist's eye
> >view of divinity.

>Yes, the majority of humankind did use their prevailing paradigms to make
>a picture of God which would fit into their paradigm. No, not all of
>humankind did so because we must not confuse meatphors with paradigms.

No, At: a paradigm is always a metaphor: humankind has no other way to
shape and communicate its views of reality. Is light like "waves," , like
"particles," like both?

Both are metaphors.

>The Bible, for example, has many warnings against this practice.

This is why there could not be scientific progress until the hold of the
Church on humankind was released.

At, like you I believe that true dialog does not deal merely with surface
phenomena, but encourages us to grapple with fundamental beliefs--with our
own tendency to create mental models, and to try to get others to endorse,
adopt, and live within our mental models.

You are what our Eric Hoffer called a "true believer": you believe that
what you have discovered about the world is not your construction with
language, not a mental model, but "truth," "paradigm."

I do not share your belief that you have discovered in the principles you
enunciate here "essentialities" or "truth", and I think it part of a
learning organization to allow us to encounter each other without fear or

My best to you, At




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