Scientific Thinking LO22027

AM de Lange (
Mon, 28 Jun 1999 18:31:06 +0200

Replying to LO21982 --

Dear Organlearners,

Richard Karash <> writes:

>Although this thread is captioned "Scientific Thinking," it interests
>me for what it says about thinking and knowing more generally,
>about how we know (or learn) anything.
>I think there is a stage missing in the process proposed so far...

Greetings Rick,

I have been studying the Scientific Method (SM) continually since my days
as a student three decades ago. During the first half of that time I tried
to incorporate every major thought about SM in a systematical diagram. The
result became very complex -- too complex for learners (pupils and
students) to understand. The result also never reached a stage of
completion -- frequently some new insight was missing in the diagram.

However, as my understanding in emergences grew, I became more sensitive
to the vast difference between "something missing" and "something not

Here is an example of a slight, yet very important difference. A proton (a
fundamental particle in the nucleus) is essential to every atom of every
element. The other fundamental particle in the nucleus is a neutron. The
neutron is missing in the nucleus of the protium isotope of hydrogen since
it contains only one proton. However, the nucleus of the deuterium isotpe
has one proton and one neutron while the nucleus of the tritium isotope
has one proton and two neutrons. The nuclei of all other elements
consists of prtons and neutrons. In other words, the neutron is not
essential to all nuclei of all elements, although it is almost essential.

Here is another example of a stronger and also more important difference.
Organisms can produce self many of the aminoacids which occur in them.
Thus these amoniacids can be missing from the diet of the organism without
serious consequences. The remaining aminoacids which the organism cannot
produce self are called essential aminoacids. These essential amino acids
often function as precursors for producing the non-essential aminoacids
missing from the diet. When essential aminoacids are missing from the
diet, the effects may often be lethal if not a serious malfunctioning.

Whether an aminoacid is essential or not (it can be missed in the diet),
the element nitrogen occurs in the hundreds of different aminoacids
(building blocks of protein) of all living species. This makes the element
nitrogen essential to life. Three other elements are also essential to
aminoacids: carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. Sometimes the element sulfur also
occurs in amino acids. In other words, sulfur can be missing from the
majority of aminoacids. The element phospor is not missing in amino acids
and thus not essential to them. But the element phsophor is essential to
DNA and probably to all other non-nucleic compounds (like in mithocondria)
contributing to heredity.

Understanding the difference between "missing" and "non-essential" helped
me much to clarify my own thoughts on the complexity involved with the
scientific method and scientific thinking.

As I now understand it, the three stages observation, speculation and
falsification are essentrial to the scientific METHOD. Should one or even
more of them be missing, the scientific method becomes a failure. If any
individual wants to employ the scientific METHOD successful, that
individual has to ensure self that all three stages happen. This is
particularly important when people investigates collectively a topic,
either as a team, or as part of the scinetific community. In these
situations one person may function as observer, another as speculator
(theoriser) and yet another as falsifier.

When a paradigm shift in science is in the making, it is usually the work
of an individual. Unfortunately, already at the first stage of observation
the traditional scientists consider critically important observations
rather as of no value at all. Thus they are not willing to take the
scientific method through its remaining two stages.

Pardigm shifts (grand, complex, revolutionary creativity far from
equilbrium) are rare. If the possibility of a paradigm shift is the only
reason why one person has to process all three stages of the scientific
method, then our discussion is merely of academical nature. But is
revolutionary creativity rare? No. Revolutionary creativity is manifested
in for example innovations and conflict resolutions (the "win/win" stuff).
The past thirty years more and more people have realised how important
innovation are to the world of business. The scientific method has been a
powerful aid in the majority of innovations. Although innovations are
usually the result of teamwork, somebody has to lead the team. Such a
leader has to be a master of the scientific method to optimise successful

Rick, after thirty years, I am now pretty sure that these three stages are
essential to the scientific METHOD. I have had the opportunity myself to
practise the scientific METHOD in many different subjects. I have observed
how other specialists practise it successfully in many different subjects.
I am the last one to claim that these are the three and only three stages
to the scientific METHOD. In other words, there may be a fourth stage
which fits somewhere along the sequence observation, speculation and
falsification. But I do claim that observation, speculation and
falsification are three essential stages. Furthermore, up to now I have
not been able to identify a fourth essential stage, although I keep a
lookout for it. I also have no tacit knowledge or any other grounds to
claim that there are only three stages, unlike the case for the seven
essentialities of creativity.

So, what can we learn about your most crucial statement in the next quote?

>I think there is a stage missing.
>So far we have:
>- Science: Observation -> Speculation -> Falsification
>- Non-science: Observation -> Convergence on winning theories
>What's missing in the "Science" process is the stage in which the
>strongest theories rise from among other theories which haven't
>been rejected. I want to combine the two into one process for
>understanding the world.
>And, we need to say something about how the convergence
>process works.
>I propose that the predominant features of stage 4 (Convergence)
>are: The theories that rise to the top are those which are simpler,
>appear more likely, and appear to work.
>So, my general process for understanding the world is:
>1. Observation (including experiments and new measurements)
>2. Speculation (divergent efforts to create good explanatory
> theories)
>3. Falsification (rigorous attempts to reject every result of stage 2;
> when done right it involves the design of experiments which are
> powerful rejectors of candidate theories, and it includes rigorous
> tests of the logic; all theories are suspect!)
>4. Convergence (in which the theories that rise to the top are those
> which are simpler, appear more likely, and appear to work.)

Rick, I agree with you that stage 4 is frequently MISSING in the
scientific METHOD. But is stage 4 ESSENTIAL to the scientific METHOD as it
has been practised the past 400 years leading to an immense diversity of
subjects? As far as I understand the scientific METHOD, NO.

Yet you have articulated your concern for stage 4 (Convergence)
satisfactoraly. So, if Convergence is not essential to the scientific
method, yet its absence can be felt strongly, of what XYZ is it then
missing? Furthermore, if it is missing from XYZ, is it perhaps essential
to XYZ? Lastly. what is the role of the scientific METHOD in XYZ?

I think that this XYZ may be called scientific THINKING. Thus we should
try to distinguish between the "scientific METHOD" and "scientific
THINKING". I wish to recall the essentiality sureness
("identity-categoricity"). The "scientific method" is an identity (one of
"becoming") in a greater context of which "scientific thinking" is the
categoricity. In other words, the "scientific method" is included in
"scientific thinking" and not vice versa.

I myself prefer to think of XYZ as the "deep scientific method". I
hesitate to bring in the qualifier "deep" since it appears as if I try to
circumvent arguments when using it. But even Fritoff Capra had to employ
this qualifier in his concept "deep ecology". My use of the qualifier
"deep" began with my empirical discovery that "entropy production" is
essential to creative learning. The next step in my own understanding was
to perceive that "entropy production" was the primordial cause of human

But since "entropy production" occurs every where in Creation, material or
abstract, where irreversible changes happen, I had to generalise the
concept of human creativity into something much more encompassing. I used
to speak of creativity in this sense, but often encountered how other
people misunderstood me. Eventually I began to call this generalised
concept of creativity by the name "deep creativity". It has been a
considerable help to prevent misunderstandings.

My theory of "deep creativity" uses concepts of which most are locked up
in particular disciplines. Unfortunately, because of academical apartheid,
many of these concepts are quite unfamiliar to most of us. Furthermore,
because of a lack of experience in "transdisciplinary thinking", these
concepts are difficult to master, but remains rather foggy. Some thinkers
on complexity go so far as to make this foggyness essential to complex
adaptive systems. It may be the case, but by claiming foggyness, they make
it even more difficult for me to get my message of transdisciplinary
thinking across.

However, familiarity and simplicity are two different things. The theory
of "deep creativity" is actually simple bearing in mind the immense
complexity which it covers. It requires the concepts of "entropy
production", "free energy", "relativity with respect to equilibrium",
"content/form" (of which "systems/organisation" is an instantiation),
"essentiality" (as a unique kind of "essential"), "human" and "Creator".
The rest is to put it all together -- to strive for the evolution of one
gigantic systems thinking, perhaps the elusive TOE (Theory Of Everything)?
You have all been witness to this evolution on this list (and some have
experienced some of it).

So what has "deep creativity" to do with Rick's urgent call for the fourth
stage Convergence? To understand it, we have once again bear in mind the
"creative course of time". A century ago (before the discovery of quantum
mechanics, relativity theory, irreversible thermodynamics) very few people
would have been sensitive to Rick's urgent call. We can count the people
sensitive to this call probably by our fingers. But now, near the end of
this century and millenium, the situation has changed drastically. Why?

The scientific method, as it has been practised the past 400 years, gave
rise to an immense DIVERSITY of subjects. It also led to the emergence of
a DIVERSITY of theories as contenders to describe, explain and predict
some definitive phenomena. In other words, the scientific method with its
three stages has been a major process in the EVOLUTION of human thought.

To understand (describe, explain and predict) this evolution, we can use
the theory of "deep creativity". The dyamics of "deep creativity" is
concerned with the meandering of any self-organising system between two
assymptotes, the one at equilibrium and the other one beyond the edge of
chaos. The Brusselator is the first model to describe what happens at the
edge of chaos while the Digestor is the first model to describe what
happens close to equilibrium. The three stages observation, speculation
and falsification of the scientific method carried our thoughts to the
edge of chaos. The scientific method, forming a loop, has been acting like
the Brusselator.

But Rick, what you have been articulating, is a sensitivity to how this
diversity in subjects and theories will be reacting to each other.
Obviously, the revolutionary creation at the edge of chaos will go on,
causing the emergence of new subjects and theories, but also the
immergence of others. However, many subjects of science are not operating
at the edge of chaos anymore. The era of divergence in scientific thinking
is closing down. This era is the first manifestation of entropy
production. What is in store for us, is the second manifestation of
entropy production. The era of convergence in scientific thinking us upon
us. The scientific method will also be acting like the Digestor.
Competition and intimidation in scientific grow by the year. The person
who is not wise to this digestion and inclined towards revolutionary
thinking, will find the coming era of scientific horrible. Many a student
in science becomes disillusioned by this convergence (digestion).

To summarise, what you have done in my viewpoint, is to contribute to the
emergence of the "scientific method" into the "deep scientific method". As
I have written, we may also contrast the "deep scientific METHOD" as
"scientific THINKING" against the traditional "scientific METHOD" with its
three stages. In other words, you have added to the three stages
(observation, speculation and falsification) which act together in a
revolutionary (emergent) manner a fourth stage (convergence) which acts in
a evolutionary (digestive) manner.

>I hope this is helpful. Comments please. And, I would appreciate
>knowing how to ground my thinking on this more rigorously.

Rick, I personally want to thank you for your contribution. Each of us
often looks at the trees, not seeing the forest. Then, especially when we
are in a close group, we need one person to point the finger for all the
others to see the forest and not the trees. I have been trying for a long
time to take the meandering of the scientific method between emergence
(stage 2 -- speculation) and digestion (stage 3 -- falsification) into
something deeper, from "its inside to its outside". My intuition (tacit
knowledge) told me that emergence+digestion was in each of the three
stages of the scientific method. But the dreadful LEM (Law of Ecluded
Middle) made it difficult for me to reconcile stage 2 (mainly emergent)
and stage 3 (mainly digestive). I was thinking along the line of a second
dimension ortogonal to the tradition scientific method to avoid getting
into trouble with LEM.

I never saw the deepening as the emergence of a fourth stage. In other
words, although I had been articulating that the first three stages as a
whole had the overall appearance of a Brusselator leading to diversity, I
was incapable of perceiving the fourth emergent stage as moving from the
Brusselator (at the edge of chaos) to the Digestor (close to equilibrium).
I was staring at the trees, but could not see the forest -- the dog biting
its own tail. I want to thank you for pointing your finger in your usual
modest manner. It was enough for me to experience personally in one flash
an emergent learning which astounded me and excited me beyond description.
I will never forget it.

Rick, what you have done is like pointing out that the element sulphur may
occur in some aminoacids. It may be missing in others whereas nitogen,
carbon, oxygen and hydrogen can never be missing. (I wish there were only
three essential elements so that it could correspond even better with the
three stages of the scientific method.) But these sulphur containing
aminoacids (like methionine and cysteine) are essential to many forms of
life, including mammals and thus humankind. This makes sulphur an
essential element, like Convergence is essential to Scientific Thinking,
but not the traditional Scientific Method.

A sad thought enters my mind. When an organism dies, it begins to decay.
The unpleasant smell of many a decaying tissue (like rottening eggs) is
due to especially the liberation of sulphur containing compounds (like
hydrogen suphide). In other words, as the Scientific Method develops into
the "deep scientific method" with its fourth stage (convergent, i.e
digestive), the smell of immergences will become worse. We will have to
face it.

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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