Equilibrium, Living Sys LO5890

Wed, 28 Feb 1996 17:21:51 -0500

Replying to LO5869 -- Nothing is completely irrelevant
[Subject line changed by your host on David's good prod...]

Enrique writes:
>What I have to think about now is how to establish the basic principles
that will allow for a more stable environment that will allow for that
dynamic equilibrium to be operable.

This was in response to Michael McMaster who wrote:
>Enrique insists that equilibrium is being sought by living systems. I
maintain that this approach will result in approaches to learning that
will be as ineffective as economics has been in a model which is based on

There is a dichotomy in ways of seeing the world between these views as I
will illustate. Enrique on your quest I suggest you read: "The Way: An
Ecological World View" by Edward Goldsmith. He sought to answer the same

Some tidbits from the book: Quoting Paul Weiss; "A system is a complex
unit in space and in time, whose subunits cooperate to preserve its
integrity and its structure and its behavior and tend to restore them
after a non-destructive disturbance."

The first law of 'biological maintenance' - "the organic system tends to
preserve itself. In effect it maintains its homeostasis".

Unless one sees a system within its correct field - as part of a hierarchy
of larger systems in which it evolved and to which influence it is
subjected, one can not see that it is orderly or indeed purposive.

Natural systems are homeorhetic ( root words: same, flow) - The tendency
of a developing system to maintain itself on a pre-set path, along a
constellation of routes, and to correct any disturbances that might divert

The principle of homeostasis (not quite equilibrium in McMaster's
definition. More like Enriques point of dynamic equilibrium) is applied to
a predetermined path or trajectory rather than a fixed point in

Natural systems behave in contradiction to the paradigm of science. That
ecosystems are geared toward the maintenance of their homeostasis is
denied by mainstream ecologists today, as it is difficult if impossible to
reconcile with the paradigm of science. If ecosystems are not cybernetic
(and hence self-regulating); Howard Odum asks, "then by what means could
the perceived harmony of the biosphere have evolved." Besides energy flows
and material cycles, ecosystems are rich in information networks
comprising physical and chemical communication flows that connect all
parts and steer and regulate the system as a whole.

To predict the future of a natural system is only possible on the basis of
a model of the hierarchy of larger systems of which it is a part.

In natural systems, Gaia for instance (Earth as intellegent system), the
future controls the present such that shorter (ie time) processes serve
the purpose of the larger processes which encompass and outlive them.
Nothing is undertaken that can interfere with the the continuity, stabilty
and hence perpetuation of the whole. Stability rather than change is the
basic feature of the living world.

In economic development, or progress, the opposite is true. Exclusively
concerned with immediate political and economic benefits its promoters
show no interest in the consequences of such behavior for future
generations. They will neither vote, nor save, nor invest, nor consume,
nor produce.

Extinction, the most serious discontinuity, is unlikely to occur in a
climax ecosystem where everthing conspires to minimize such incidence and
its severity. A high incidence of Extinction indicates the ecosystem is
still at a pioneering stage or has been reduced to a neo-pioneering stage
by an external agent, such as modern man, whose commitment to economic
development can only lead to ecological degradation.

Goldsmith agrees with Enrique and suggests we are pushing our society to
the breaking point. He argues we must do everything to recreate the
family, and the community, and above all an economy based on them,
reducing an almost universal dependence on a destructive economic system.

I imagine this post will stimulate some debate and reflective thought.

Steven Cabana
Whole System Associates
PO Box 254
Lincoln, MA 01773
508 466-6884

"By survival, I mean the maintenance of a steady state through successive
generations. Or in negative terms, I mean the avoidance of the death of the
largest system about which we care. Extinction of the dinosaurs was trivial
in galactic terms but this is no comfort to them. We cannot care much about
the inevitable survival of systems larger than our own ecology." - Gregory
Bateson, Mind & Nature.



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