History & Thought LO12935

Rol Fessenden (76234.3636@CompuServe.COM)
18 Mar 97 23:17:54 EST

Replying to LO12915 --

Sb: History and Thought LO12915

Ray, thank you, thank you, thank you for an articulate and forceful
response on this subject. I sense that you think you are disagreeing with
some that I said, but I don't think so.

There is an important distinction between those fields of study where the
rule of _repeatability_ works -- primarily or exclusively the sciences --
and those where it is inapplicable. The latter include history,
sociology, anthropology, archeology, psychology, religion, nationalism,
behavior, and so forth. The story of Cleopatra illustrates some form of
bigotry, but certainly not the sciences. Scientific methods are of
limited or zero use in far more places than they are of value. On the
other hand, they are actually quite useful in far more places than we give
them credit for.

I realize -- I think -- that you are having fun with this. But your story
of the wheel is a great anecdote of failing to learn. Most failures can
be turned to success if we can learn from them. The history of
well-intentioned but authoritarian birth-control methods in some countries
is an example. In ignorance, we applied simple, mechanical technologies
without attempting to understand either the cultures or the womens' needs.
It was a 'scientific' process applied where it did not belong. The whole
idea of _mechanical_ and _technology_ applied to birthing is a bit strange
to me today, but it worked -- made sense -- for some people in the

Now, one can criticise them, and many do so. On the other hand, some of
these organizations are learning that listening, really caring, and
education are essential steps to a relationship, and that birth control
may be a by-product of far more powerful outcomes. That learning would
not have been likely (not possible in my opinion) without the failed
efforts of the past. This is, in fact, exactly what we mean by allowing
people to fail without being critical of them when we talk about our own
organizations. Why would we apply another standard to people in other

Now, you said,

"4. Is the Hubbell space telescope a waste because it only photographs a
keyhole? Only if you aim your space ship in another direction and assume
that the entire universe is the same as the Hubbell shows. Does this not
cut to the vulnerability of the heart of the proper use of steady state
structure and process? i.e. Long term versus short term, digital versus
analogue, Western Classical Music vs. World Fusion, etc. etc. ?"

I think you are saying that people make incorrect assumptions based on
what they learn using science. Yes. People do that in all fields with
and without the use of science. This is a human failing, and it is a
necessary step to growth through learning. First, you make the mistake,
then you get whopped on the side of the head by a comet, then, if you
survive, you have a richer view of the world. Works every time. And pain
is allmost always involved in learning. For example, we no longer believe
in the steady state structure and process. We changed our view based on
the failure of that model to predict certain phenomena that we can see in
the playing of a piano among other things.

"That thought is spectacularly multiple as product and wondrously singular
as process has thus not only come to be a more and more powerful animating
paradox within the social sciences, driving theory in all sorts of
directions, some of them reasonable, but the nature of that paradox has
more and more come to be regarded as having to do with puzzles of
translation, with how meaning in one system of expression is expressed in
another--cultural hermeneutics, not conceptive mechanics. In such a form
it may not be any more tractable than it was before; but it does at least
bring the war back home, because the problem of how a Copernican
understands a Ptolemaian, a fifth republic Frenchman an "ancien regime"
one, or a poet a painter is seen to be on all fours with the problem of
how a Christian understands a Muslim, a European an Asian, an
anthropologist an aborigine, or vice versa. (My Caps REH) WE ARE ALL
What looked once to be a matter of finding out whether savages could
distinguish fact from fancy now looks to be a matter of finding out how
others, across the sea or down the corridor, organize their significative

Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. I totally agree, but this is not
about science, nor about what I was talking about. I think that science
had such successes in the early 20th century that the Social Sciences
thought they could gain a lot by using the same methods. Probably an easy
mistake to make if we were to walk in their shoes. It didn't work at all
well, and now we/they have learned the error of their ways. Well, most of
them anyway.

I hope we have learned that in all these areas what is needed is more
perspectives, more cultural views, and less effort to appear objective.
None of these areas pass the essential test of _Repeatability_ so they are
not sciences. As you point out so effectively, we need richness here if
we hope to understand or even appreciate.


Rol Fessenden 76234.3636@compuserve.com

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