Equilibrium, Living Sys LO5925

Thu, 29 Feb 1996 17:26:10 -0800

Replying to LO5890 --

>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.

While I empathize with Steve's concluding sentiment ( it seems hard not
to), I have concerns with the buildup arguments. The posting is peppered
with references to "purpose"," pre-set paths" such as:

>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*

>The principle of homeostasis is applied to
>a *predetermined path or trajectory* rather than a fixed point in

>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.

These references are anthropomorphic (at best) or even teleological - they
imply action specifically directed (by whom?) towards a specific goal
(determined by whom?). I shudder if an argument needs to be grounded by
some unspecified purpose being set by some unspecified agent.

Surely we can build the richness of nonlinear complex adaptive systems
without having to resort to teleology. For example, Dennet (Darwin's
Dangerous Idea) goes a long way to show how mindless darwinian processes
at very basic levels can lead to complex emergent processes such as
multicellular life and concioussness without having to resort to some
"purpose" or "predetermined path".

I think you are right that we need to shift the focus (from individual
molecules say) to global behaviors and emergent properties. If we however
endow the earth with intelligence (as per your definition of Gaia, or
geophysiology as Lovelock has renamed it) them we have the problem
defining at what point intelligence starts/stops: are continents
intelligent? or the oceans? or the atmosphere? I assert that there is no
need for this. The concepts of self organization Complexity and emergent
properties can lead us to self-regulating complex systems (such as Gaia)
without having to endow them with intelligence or having to rely on an
unseen hand charting a course.

Roberto Reichard



Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>