Nature's Holism (condensed - 8)
Nature's Holism (condensed - 8) <<<][Next - 9

Return to: Gems Index & Introduction . Back to 5. CREATIONISM: page.

"As a theory of a living Earth, this book is neither holistic nor reductionist" (Lovelock, 1988). "The boundary of the planet then circumscribes a living organism, Gaia, a system made up of all the living things and their environment." Widgets



Gaia as an idea has rapidly changed over the few years since its inception. Lovelock's new revised edition of 1988, "The Ages of Gaia - a biography of our living earth" is an earnest attempt to bring Gaian principles into accord with scientific discipline. He says that the first Gaia book was hypothetical and because of criticism, had to modify it. Even the new, improved version of Gaia and the predictions made are still very different from holism. A comparison of Gaian principles with those of holism serves to clarify what each theory represents. This distinction became necessary as Lovelock has refined his terminology to make his Gaia more reasonable and rational than it was initially.

Gaian theory requires a planetary perspective, as does holism. Gaian adherents and environmental movements differ on what is more important - humanity or the health of the planet. Lovelock strongly emphasised a concern for the planet in precedence of us, to the extent that he quarrelled with Mother Teresa on this point (Joseph, 1990). Lovelock's premise is that if we take care of the Earth, humanity's problems will start to take care of themselves. Mother Teresa insisted that taking care of people will solve the Earth's problems. Holism is impartial on this issue. Humanity needs to become central to ecosystem processes, but humanity and the planet are equally important. There is a term close to this, called "contextualism" that "implies that all human activities must be understood in the larger context of self-organising systems" (Costanza, et al, 1992). Becoming central to ecosystem processes is a new behavioural purpose that we need to adopt. It is something that has not occurred in the evolution of life. We are the new keystone species that must form the central influence upon even pristine ecosystems. For the first time intelligence becomes a parameter in the evolution of life. For the billions of years before the arrival of humanity, the physical forces of nature, blind natural forces without intelligence, directed evolution. Now we can intelligently direct evolution for the benefit of humanity. We can eradicate diseases such as malaria and mould ecosystems to support and feed us. To start, we need to redefine our relationship with nature.

I agree with Lovelock that major changes in natural ecosystems threaten the health of the Earth. However Lovelock condemns agriculture, forestry, and to a lesser extent fishing as the most serious sources of this kind of damage. Holism insists on fresh definition of our role and relationship with nature. Commercial enterprises need to become more ecological in their character. This is already being expressed in the principles of organic farming that favour diversity over monoculture crops and many other ecological applications.

Gaian adherents are a diverse group. Books on endangered species, stress management, massage, and natural living have all been published under this heading (Joseph, 1990) . This means there are many interpretations of Gaia. The Gaian lifestyle includes science, environmentalism and spirituality (Joseph, 1990).

Gaia is not "cosmic" (concerning the universe) in the sense of theories of the origin of the universe such as the Big Bang Theory (Joseph, 1990). Gaia is about the Earth as a living creature.  Holism is fully "cosmic" in that it is based upon the evolutionary process that extends back to the first moment of creation. Atomic evolution is part of the evolution of the whole universe. In holism the characteristics of atoms enable unique molecular structures that have allowed for the origin of life. This interpretation opens the door to religion and the possibility of a Divine Creator. Holism is scientific and materialistic, a study of the design of creation that in no way questions the presence or absence of a Creator. Religion and a belief in God are spiritual and cultural. Holism is materialistic and scientific.

In the Gaian world, the Earth is a system actively maintained and regulated by life, a process driven by the free energy available from sunlight. Without life, our planet would be in a state of chemical equilibrium, dominated by carbon dioxide as is lifeless Mars. This is also the holistic perspective. Lovelock extends this stance to claim that the earth is alive, a superorganism on which the living things, the air, the oceans, and the rocks all combine in one as Gaia. Holism adopts the principles of chaos and complexity - new fields of study in the science of physics - to explain the impact of life upon the environment, so in holism, the earth is not alive as an organism. Using the principles of these new sciences of chaos and complexity, researchers use computers to model self-organisation and self-regulation. They show emergent properties of complex systems. Lovelock claims that the earth is alive in the sense that it is a self-organising and self-regulating system. Later I will show how feedback in a mathematical model can bring order out of apparent chaos. Lovelock rejects chaos theory as a delusion and demons of hyperspace, so not exploring its possibilities. Widgets

Where Lovelock classes the Gaian model as geophysiology and models it upon physiology, holism is based upon interactions of animals with their environment and the interdependence that evolves between life forms. I describe these interactions through the idea of perpetuity and compatibility. Each approach - Gaia and holism - leads to radically different outcomes, but they meet at the point of the interaction of animals and their environment. Lovelock states: "The evolution of the species and the evolution of their environment are tightly coupled together as a single and inseparable process." Statements like this are dangerous for their interpretation extends from the local to the global sphere! From a holistic perspective, I would rephrase this as: "The evolution of organisms is closely coupled to the living and nonliving environment through negative feedback resulting from natural constraints." Lovelock extends his standpoint through the Gaian perception that "life and its environment are so closely coupled that evolution concerns Gaia, not the organisms or the environment taken separately."

One point raised by Lovelock is that traditional mathematical models of ecologists have failed to explain the long-term stability of complex ecosystems such as tropical forests: "No models drawn from theoretical ecology can account in mathematical terms for the manifest stability of these vast natural systems." Holism provides two models that together illustrate stability in complexity. One model deals with animal-environment interactions and the other with animal-animal interactions . These models offer ecologists a solution to their dilemma - increased diversity does not lead to greater fragility. Perpetuity and compatibility, I will show, represent a process that leads to stability. As Lovelock notes, "the species can never grow uncontrollably; if they do, the environment becomes unfavourable and growth is curtailed." Widgets

Some holistic principles or approaches agree with the Gaian perspective:

[1] They have recognised that the whole - the colligated properties of a life form or other system - has properties that may not be found in the parts. Animals display homeostasis such as constant temperature regulation. You cannot find this property in a single cell. The maintenance of a constant temperature is a property of the whole organism. At the level of the cell other forms of homeostasis such as the sodium or potassium balance may be found.

[2] In ecosystems, Lovelock emphasises the importance of negative feedback processes that operate automatically and unconsciously: ". . .the inclusion of feedback from the environment appears to stabilise the system of differential equations used to model the growth and competition of the species." Models of perpetuity and compatibility also show the importance of negative feedback within ecosystems. Instead of the term competition, I use the word interaction in my descriptions. We both recognise the importance of the interaction of the organism and its environment and the feedback involved.

[3] Living systems have boundaries. Constraints to the possible are an important feature of holistic systems.

[4] "Organisms . . . affect their physical and chemical environment." Holism recognises the dynamic aspect of living processes, so in principle, agrees with the statement: "We live in a world that has been built by our ancestors, ancient and modern, and . . . is constantly maintained by all things alive today. Organisms are adapting in a world whose material state is determined by the activities of their neighbours; this means that changing the environment is part of the game." However, while in holism I look locally for the source of its mechanism, Lovelock looks globally. Holism cannot support the contention that there is the active modification of the global environment until there is rigorous evidence for this. Even then, this does not form a living Gaia, but an emergent property of a complex system. I cannot dispute that there has been some modification of the atmosphere by life. Most of the reactive gases, such as oxygen and methane are biological products, but it is the active regulation or control of the process that is in question.

[5] Both holistic models and Gaian models (The Daisyworld Model) show the importance of negative feedback and constraints or bounds in ecosystems. "Stability and well-defined bounds seem to go together." Lovelock says that there is a close coupling of life and its environment, I would say there is a close coupling of life TO its environment. Lovelock's Daisyworld model shows how in a world of increasing temperature, the proportion of different coloured flowers will shift dynamically and so maintain the temperature of the environment within biological limits. This property is not found if the flowers are absent. In cool environments, the proportion of dark flowers increase and absorb heat. When it gets too hot, white flowers predominate to reflect heat, so stabilising the temperature. This process does not involve foresight or planning and so is not teleological, purposeful or goal seeking. Holism ascribes to these principles, but Lovelock having noted a lack of teleology then concludes that Gaia is the largest manifestation of life - a superorganism.

[6] "Living organisms . . . grow vigorously, exploiting any environmental opportunities that open." In holism this is part of the principle of perpetuity. Darwin also clearly described this, having had the idea triggered by the work of Malthus, "Essay on the Principle of Population" (1798). Malthus emphasised that population tends to increase more rapidly than food supplies.

[7] "Organisms . . . are subject to the rules of Darwinian natural selection."

[8] Exploited or stressed systems decrease in diversity.

Holism and Gaia are different ideas, yet there is much common ground. Nevertheless, the differences are as great as the belief that the world is round and that it is flat. The earth is no more an intelligent organism than the New York Stock Exchange although as dynamic wholes both exhibit characteristics not found in the parts.


"Does anyone suppose that there are laws of nutrition? Laws of locomotion? There are all sorts of highly imperturbable boundary conditions on nutrition and locomotion, owing to fundamental laws of physics, and there are plenty of regularities, rules of thumb, takeoffs, and the like that are encountered by any nutritional or locomotive mechanisms. But these are not laws" (Dennett, 1995).

What are we searching for when we say we are looking for a new law of nature? What do we mean, how specific or general is this statement? Do the inseparable and interacting ideas of perpetuity and compatibility comprise LAWS or something else? I need to clarify this point and need to place the new idea of perpetuity and compatibility in context before proceeding.

A first distinction is that there are biological "laws" of nature, concerning life and physical "laws" of nature concerning the material world. To a biologist, "nature" is synonymous with life; to a physicist, "nature" is the material of space and time. The definition of a law is the same: a theoretical principle or correct statement deduced from particular facts expressed by the statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions are met" (Illingworth, 1990). "Laws are universal statements concerning classes of empirical entities and processes" (Mayr, 1984).

For Hobbes (1588-1679) the context of the "immutable and eternal" laws of nature was moral philosophy: "A law of nature, (Lex Naturalis,) is a precept, or generall rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do, that, which is destructive to life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit, that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved." This definition is within the context of moral philosophy. I could call it the Law of Perpetuity.

Kant (1724-1804) strictly separates the moral from natural. Kant says that there are two kinds of ideas, those of nature and those of freedom. From a study of nature, we may develop practical rules or precepts. These may apply to art and skill and even to prudence as a skill. As fields to which the rules of skill apply, he mentions, science, land-surveying, the mechanical or chemical art of experiment or observation, agriculture, social intercourse and other empirically derived sciences of nature - all summed up as technology.

The idea of freedom is used on the other hand, for the determination of the will, establishing fundamental principles that form formal laws, built upon reason instead of understanding. He thus divides philosophy into two parts, a theoretical philosophy of nature and a practical philosophy of morals. As such he has an essential distinction of technically-practical principles belonging to theoretical philosophy (natural science) and morally-practical principles of practical philosophy (ethical science). This book does not deal with the formal laws of moral reason, but the empirical rules of nature.

For the evolutionist and within the context of natural selection, Endler, in his book, "Natural Selection in the Wild" states, "The process of natural selection has been called a law because if the initial conditions are fulfilled, the conclusions necessarily follow. The principle behind the law is a syllogism, where two statements, a major and a minor premise lead to a third conclusion drawn necessarily from them. Natural selection probably should not be called a biological law. It proceeds not for biological reasons, but from the laws of probability." Yet having said this, he admits to its biological content in that the process of natural selection requires heritable variation and fitness differences amongst individuals. Added to this is that natural selection is the consequence of a biological process, so is fundamentally biological. Widgets

Smuts (1926) expresses a related idea in yet another way in a different context: "The sensible phenomena are quite different from the inferred structure, but they are quite definite, and have been most minutely measured or calculated. The electron and the nucleus have not been OBSERVED, but certain light effects, which they accurately express, have been observed, and from these effects their mass and other properties have been calculated" (4.8*10-10 units of negative charge and 9.1*10-28 grams of mass) (Wilson, 1992). "Thus the apparently unrelated and unintelligible data of sense in a particular case are converted by the mind into the structure of the atom; and the atoms with all their inner units and arrangements become the CONCEPTUAL or scientific entities which correspond to, reproduce, and represent the data of sense." In other words, the conceptual or scientific order arises from the sensible order, and since the two are in complete accord, we accept them both as the explanation of Nature. Here, he is describing a conceptual entity that we have not observed but the existence of which is established and universally accepted in symbolic form. Theory becomes fact and paradigms become established. The electron exists in the minds of scientists as a symbol of something really found in nature.

Rosen (1988) expressed a similar sentiment: "The idea that there is a distinction between fundamental truth and our representation or understanding of it, is like the distinction made by many psychologists, epistemologists and neurobiologists between the real world and the way we perceive it. According to this view, perceptions are not necessarily the truth in a fundamental sense because, leaving aside sensory malfunction, we unavoidably make observations in the light of presuppositions and pre-formulated questions, no matter how vague or subconscious these might be. In this way, we (and many other animals) build up a probabilistic model of the world."

Even on the macroscopic scale of species a conceptual definition may face difficulties. The biological species idea, or the definition of what constitutes a true species, itself, "has chronic deep problems" (Wilson, 1992). Whereas in physics, all the members of a given class, such as electron, are identical, and the class is forever absolute, and unalterable, each individual of a species is unique genetically. Whether two groups of related animals should be lumped as one species or classified as separate species is not always straight forward or objectively possible. Evolution implies that there will be transition phases and we find this in nature.

Mayr (1984) says that "one will hardly ever encounter the word 'law' in any modern textbook of biology," yet Darwin referred frequently to laws controlling certain biological processes. The definition of laws has become unfashionable. Biological laws can often be reduced to simple facts (Mayr, 1984); that matter is made up of atoms is not a law but a fact. Accepting the current reluctance to define laws, we may also accept other allowances made by Mayr concerning the modern scientific method:

[1] Complex systems, such as biological science and cosmology do not necessarily allow absolute PREDICTIONS from universal laws or other methods.

[2] Scientific method requires and allows observations AND experiments as methods of establishing facts. In evolutionary biology, observation is the main source of facts for use in inferences.

[3] Time and thus the history of complex biological systems influences the characteristics and FUTURE DEVELOPMENT of such DYNAMIC SYSTEMS.

[4] INTERACTIVE SYSTEMS, or in other words, HOLISTIC SYSTEMS, are receiving greater attention. This is a polarity to reductionist thought of theoretical physics.

[5] The development of ideas plays a dominant role in modern biology.

Even in physics, scientists express supposed laws in other, yet meaningful ways. The coulomb, for example, is the unit of electric charge; more specifically, the charge transported in one second by an electric current of one ampere. Around a point charge is an electric field, the Coulomb field. The interaction of two charged particles via their electric fields, results in forces of attraction or repulsion, the COULOMB FORCE. This is measured by a coulomb meter and the interactions between electrostatic point charges (Q1 & Q2), are formulated as Coulomb's Law. Coulomb's Law is an observation of a constant and demonstrable PRECISE RELATION, as a mutual force exerted by one electrostatic point charge upon another. It is a proportionality, in that the force is proportional to the product of the charges divided by the square of their separation. Such laws may allow the formulation of theorems, such as Coulomb's Theorem. THEOREMS are universal or general propositions or statements, not self-evident, but demonstrable by argument. Christopher Zeeman calls a theorem "an intellectual resting point." John Barrow (1994) emphasise that theorems are not theories. Theorems lay out particular assumptions about nature. If those assumptions are found not to hold, then the theorem no longer applies. A similar idea regularly used by Kant is the Maxim - a general truth or rule of conduct expressed in a sentence. In contrast, a theorem is a general proposition not self-evident but proved by a chain of reasoning; a truth established by means of acceptable truths. Instead of the term Law, a relation may be called a PRINCIPLE such as the principles of conservation of mass or energy which state that the total mass or energy in any system is constant. These are two independent "laws" in classical physics. Einstein called the conservation of energy an AXIOM in his theory of relativity, via the formula E = mc 2. Such axioms are supposed to be self-evident propositions (as opposed to theorems), not requiring demonstration. They deduce principles from EQUATIONS so that the principle depends upon the equation's validity.

Precise laws and even fundamental laws are not necessarily totally accurate, but may show deviations. This is the case in Kepler's Laws of planetary motion, which are followed very accurately, but show small deviations. Other mathematical theories explain these observed deviations. Other laws are only approximations yet are still called laws, such as Moseley's law that deals with the physics of X-rays. We may also call principles rules, such as the Le Chatelier's RULE or principle, which explains that when we apply a constraint to a dynamic system in equilibrium, a change takes place within the system, opposing the constraint and tending to restore equilibrium. Such dynamic systems are only in stable equilibrium if the potential energy of the whole system considered is a minimum - the least-energy principle. Furthermore, in physics, rules become Laws as where they also call Maxwell's rule Maxwell's Law! Equations may also produce CONSTANTS such as the molar gas constant, which occurs in the equation of the state for a unit (one mole) of an ideal gas, namely pV=RT, a precise relation, yet not a Law. There are also EFFECTS such as the Zeeman effect, which are observations of certain occurrences, but not allocated law or rule status. Finally there are theories that remain separate from laws and result from original ideas to which scientists devote a considerable amount of theoretical effort to formulate a theory with some feasibility.

The theory has to conform to direct experimental evidence, so that what the theory postulates agree with scientific data. Casti (1989) arranges the status of theories, by saying that first we need observations or facts. Following this we formulate some hypothesis to describe the facts. Next scientists carry out experiments to confirm the hypothesis. Successful hypotheses become empirical relationships or laws. These laws are then "embedded in larger explanatory theories."

Ambiguity and controversy arise where there is a paucity of actual data as explained by Pilbeam (1988): "Interpretations, schemes and stories vary from one authority to the other, and evolve and re-emerge through time. Why? Because inferences, or conclusions, or speculations, are derived in a complicated way, depending on one's theoretical stance, implicit and explicit assumptions, and on the way in which particular items are selected to be 'facts'. The inferential process itself is affected by assumptions, theoretical frameworks, the particular facts collected and so forth. The facts chosen, and the inferences drawn, are heavily dependent upon theoretical background assumptions, many of which are not acknowledged or not even recognised." Also, impinging upon the development of ideas and the advancement of knowledge is the verification of the claim. This occurs through repeating experiments to confirm the results and the refereeing process established for all scientific articles (Casti, 1989). A refereeing process must naturally lead to a form of peer review and enforced conformity to the status quo.

We will deal with perpetuity and compatibility as a CONCEPTUAL THEORY of a process found in natural ecosystems. Whether it is a law will be left for the future to decide. I hope that this book shows that holism is a more accurate, stable and real description of the natural world than a competition-based theory and that its recognition will be an intellectual advance. As Kant noted with teleology, the mechanistic view is not replaced but complemented by the holistic conception. The emergence of holistic principles is to be found both in modern business management and progressive agriculture. Holism will be subject to debate and revision just as has occurred with the electron or the species definition, but the general idea is sound. 

8.  THEORIES: Widgets Widgets

Cosmology is the branch of astronomy concerned with the evolution, general structure, and nature of the universe (Illingworth, 1990). From this field we have the " big-bang " THEORY of the origin of the universe, which illustrates well the development or formation of a theory. The weight of many detailed measurements has led to the convergence of theories on the big bang MODEL of creation. A religious text supports such an event: "At the end of the millennium all material manifestations enter into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency, I create them again" (Prabhupada, 1983). Our universe is about 16.5 billion years old (Meier & Sunyaev, 1979). The quality of observations places strict constraints on all cosmological models. More specifically, three observational "pillars" drive most cosmologists toward the big bang: Widgets

[1] The expansion of the Universe.

As predicted by the big bang theory, the visible universe is expanding in all directions, with everything moving away from everything else, so that the further away the galaxy, the faster it recedes. The proportionality  constant between the distance and velocity of recession is known as Hubble's constant. 

[2] The existence and character of the microwave background radiation.

This theory states that about one million years after the Big Bang, temperatures had cooled sufficiently to allow hydrogen- and helium-neutral atoms to form from the plasma (charged particles). This process released radiation previously in thermal equilibrium with matter. After that time, radiation and matter have been separate. Astronomers find a cosmic ray (low energy microwave radiation ) background representing photons released from the big bang when radiation and matter became uncoupled.

[3] the primordial abundance of the light elements (especially helium etc.).

The theory states that the temperatures at the onset of the big bang were so high that matter existed in unknown and unstable forms. Cooling in the following second allowed free hydrogen nuclei (atomic mass 1) to form. These underwent fusion reactions giving heavier forms of hydrogen (atomic mass 2, 3) and helium (atomic mass 3 and 4). An absence of stable nuclei of atomic mass 5 and rapidly dropping temperatures limited the fusion reactions at this time. Theorists therfore predicted a early universe with only a mixture of about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium (by weight) and no heavier elements. Observational evidence supports this - this ratio is exactly what is observed in stars. 

A cosmological theory must explain these three pillars in quantitative detail, using theoretical models that agree as far as possible with known laboratory physics (Schramm, 1993), (New Sci. 1978), (Peebles, 1994). In other words, the theory explains observed data and is bound by the constraints created by the data. If the model exceeds the constraints, it fails.

The Big Bang Theory claims that all matter and radiation in the universe originated in a cataclysmic explosion that occurred between 10 and 20 billion years ago. They often propose a date of 15 billion years (Kirshner, 1994). Yet, the theory does not necessarily explain the whole history of the universe (Schramm, 1993). There may have been several cycles of matter formation, some as long as 200 billion years! This repeating process may involve short cycles of 20 to 40 billion years and have occurred for 1000 billion years! (Narlikar, 1993) (New Sci. 1978).

Our universe expands because of the "big bang", an explosion from a superdense state. As the distance from the observer increases, the rate of expansion increases as everything is moving away from this moment at the same speed. The recession of an object in relation to the observer increases the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation detected, so that visible light looks redder. Younger, nearer galaxies have a greater "red shift". Our closest galaxies of 20 million light years away have a red shift of 0.1 percent. In theory red shifts of 100 are possible, representing "protogalaxies", but the farthest detectable objects within galaxies too faint for us to see, have a red shift of 2.5 (Meier & Sunyaev, 1979).

The principles found in the establishment of the Big Bang Model apply to all models or CONCEPTUAL THEORIES. Empirical science provides the "weight" of many detailed measurements, data that defines the CONSTRAINTS with which the model must comply to be acceptable. Scientific facts together lead to a convergence upon a specific model. Each fact is like the piece of a jigsaw puzzle, which when put together correctly, makes the whole picture clearer and clearer so that the completion takes place more easily and quickly.

Kant (1724-1804) expresses this clearly. Where there is some type of causality acting according to the laws of nature, it "presupposes a previous condition, which it follows with absolute certainty, in conformity with a rule" (Hutchins et al., 1952). However, "an empirical judgement never exhibits strict and absolute, but only assumed and comparative universality (by induction)." Therefore, our experience suggests that there is no exception to this or that rule. He introduces here too, a priori knowledge - a judgement, which carries with it strict and absolute universality, admitting no exception and not derived from experience. Such a priori cognition is independent of experience and the senses in its formulation. As an example, Kant says that the proposition that "Every change must have a cause" is an a priori notion. Even this is impure, with an empirical element in the experience that we have of the conception of change. He says that "mathematical science affords us a brilliant example, how far, independently of all experience, we may carry our a priori knowledge." The scope of this subject is vast, leading to metaphysical speculations about God, freedom (of will), and immortality. As the intent of this book is to provide a conceptual basis for holism and that this chapter is considering only the subject of laws, an in depth study of Kant's ideas is left to the reader. I will only use ideas useful to the development of the idea of holism and the definition of the perpetuity - compatibility idea.

A THEORY that is not disproved must eventually become a fact. The atomic structure of matter is hardly a theory anymore. All birds have feathers; a fact until a bird with hair is found. Holism is a branch of ecology and a theory. I have not proved Holism as a fact yet. As a new field of study, its analysis needs to follow the principles established for other sciences. Rosen (1988) said, "To understand (biogeographical) patterns one must first ask questions about the NATURE OF PATTERNS themselves." We need to take a lesson from this hard earned experience and apply it to holism. We need to investigate the nature of the patterns created by the ideas of perpetuity and compatibility, the foundations of holism. This leads to the necessity to consider the aims, approaches and methods of a scientific holism. A convincing and scientific analysis of holistic processes and patterns is to be found in chaos theory, which I detail in a later chapter. In a new or controversial science such as Holism with no recognised model, the potential for controversy and disagreement is very likely unless we carefully establish basic concepts. Toward the end of this book I will model and deal in detail with the concept of perpetuity and compatibility to show the patterns that develop. I hope to firmly establish the theory of perpetuity and compatibility and a basic model, the modified energetic Lotka-Volterra model (MELV model), as the foundation and basis for holism. This should catalyse the rapid development of holistic principles.

Here, we are concerned with the holistic concepts of life and are searching for mechanisms that operate in ALL life processes. I hope that the data presented in the light of a new interpretation, will result in an alignment with and a convergence upon a holistic conception of nature. This investigation involves the interaction of creatures in their natural environment. The natural assumption is that humanity is obviously part of nature, not apart from her. The horror of seeing the starving in a place such as Somalia brutally illustrates that ultimately, we are subject to nature. Closer to our first world homes, natural disasters, bring an awareness of our frailty.

Patterns within ecosystems need to be found or observed and interpreted within a holistic context rather than in the traditional reductionist context. This is an important statement as it requires a different type of training to think holistically. Traditional (western) scientific thought is accustomed to analysis through reductionism. The reductionist approach is established as the scientific method. We understand complex systems and phenomena by reducing them to their most basic parts and finding the mechanism of their interaction. Reductionism has extended so far that we typify scientific fields of the twentieth century by specialisation. Whole disciplines restrict themselves to a focus on specific areas such as the human capacities of language, tool use or cognition. A scientist studying primate behaviour may specialise in a single field such as a specific behaviour - dominance, foraging, vocalisation, or deception without examining the entire behavioural repertoire of a species (Gibson, 1993). As a result, there is a lack of synthesis. We need to continually search for ways to think and analyse holistically.

Systems such as the universe, are considered akin to machines and analysed according to this classical mechanical-reductionist approach. Scientists also call this the Cartesian idea or view - a mechanistic science, which separates mind and matter, mathematical in its essential nature and with a firm belief in the certainty of scientific truth and knowledge (Capra, 1982). Its method of reasoning (the contribution of Descartes) is analytic, deterministic and reductionist - that complex systems can be understood by reducing them to their constituent parts. To scientists the method allows an objective description of nature - the ideal of all science. Through its use, we impose a mechanical picture of reality upon nature as the truth, the dominant paradigm. Subsequently, the West found sanction for the exploitation and manipulation of nature. We manipulate and use nature as if it is nothing more than a machine. We remove whole ecosystems and replace them with monocultures such as sugar cane in the name of progress. The earth becomes a factory and the crop a commercial product. Our current ecological and environmental crisis is therefore a scientific-cultural phenomenon - yet few can see that we have erred!

As recently as 1900 the mechanistic and reductionist approach of scientists dominated our dealings with nature. In 1898, conservationists proclaimed an area of land in South Africa, that was to later become the Kruger National Park. Initially, the function of the game reserve, then called the Sabi Game Reserve, was to preserve certain animal species such, as antelope, that were useful from a sporting point of view. They declared any predator "vermin" and they attempted to exterminate ecologically vital species such as lion, cheetah, leopard, wild dog, and hyena. Also included as vermin were raptors (eagles) and reptiles (Carruthers, J. in Stevenson-Hamilton, 1993). By 1910 the value of reserves to serve sporting or utilitarian needs began to shift to an understanding of the "balance of nature" and the ecological age began.

Kant recognised or identified this need for a holistic view, but society took no heed of his warning at the advent of our modern western civilisation: "When we have to study a particular faculty of the human mind in its sources, its content, and its limits; then from the nature of human knowledge we must begin with its parts, with an accurate and complete exposition of them; complete, namely so far as possible in the present state of our knowledge of its elements." This approach is today loosely termed reductionism, though some philosophers such as Dennett reject the term completely.

"But there is another thing to be attended to which is of a more philosophical and ARCHITECTONIC (directive, controlling) CHARACTER, namely, to grasp correctly the IDEA OF THE WHOLE, and from thence to get a view of all those parts as MUTUALLY RELATED by the aid of pure reason, and by means of their derivation from the CONCEPT OF THE WHOLE. This is only possible through the most intimate acquaintance with the system; and those who find the first inquiry (reductionism) too troublesome, and do not think it worth their while to attain such an acquaintance, cannot reach the second stage, namely, the general view, which is A SYNTHETICAL RETURN TO THAT WHICH HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN GIVEN ANALYTICALLY. It is no wonder then if they find inconsistencies everywhere, although the gaps which these indicate are not in the system itself, but in their own incoherent train of thought." Today, the word used for the "idea of the whole" is "holistic". With the coming of computerisation, we have seen a massive increase in empirical data since the 1950's. What we now need is a holistic synthesis, with humanity realigning with nature, of which we are a part.

In this context, Sir Albert Howard (1948) described the rapid loss of soil from agricultural lands as a manifestation of a 'disease' in the wider sense of imbalance or disruption of a whole system rather than an individual organism (Lampkin, 1990). In science, studies of patterns are primarily descriptive (Myers & Giller, 1988) and from these, we can make models and comparisons to find and understand associations in natural systems. Distinguishing determinate patterns from random ones is important. The patterns may be a statistical regularity of the system and not reflect some DETERMINISTIC PROCESS. Recognition of such patterns depends on a strict framework of fundamental principles (Myers & Giller, 1988). These ideas originate from a holistic context as patterns form in dynamic, holistic systems. The holistic approach insists that the whole interactive repertoire be considered. As found in the science of complexity, patterns emerge from complex systems. These patterns reflect the holistic nature of the system.

Human behaviour for example, must have evolved as one complex or cognitive whole (Gibson, 1993). We need to deal with social problems from a holistic viewpoint. Such a holistic approach recognises that in early humanity, tool use, hunting, fire, diet, bipedalism, complex social life, speech, the human way and the brain EVOLVED TOGETHER to produce the genus Homo (Washburn, 1960). What is to some extent being recognised is that cultural processes are biological, and diachronic (historical) processes are evolutionary (Ingold, 1993) - BEHAVIOUR IS GENERATED BY THE AGENCY OF THE WHOLE ORGANISM IN ITS ENVIRONMENT. Songs, technical achievement, and imagination become aspects of the interaction of humans with the world (Ingold, 1993). Humanity is inseparably part of the natural world and subject to the consequences of her laws and random events. If we fail to perceive the holistic component of nature it is because our evolution has not opened this ability to us, just as we do not have the "sound-vision" of a bat, yet we hear in a different way. Some philosophers recognise this limitation and observe that "our minds, like those of all other species, must suffer "cognitive closure" with regard to some topics of enquiry" (Dennett, 1995).

An example of an established PATTERN in nature, resulting from a physical process or mechanism is "the -3/2 power law" of plant ecologists that illustrates the type of process I seek to identify. In plant populations competition is mainly for light as the source of energy for further growth. Scientists note that as plant populations grow, density declines and plant weight increases in unison - an observation called self-thinning (Begon, 1986). A MECHANISM explains this repeated occurrence. As a plant grows, canopy area is increasing in search of light. The plant's growth is volumetric (dimensions to the power of three), in this way contributing to its mean weight. Access to light requires area (dimensions to the power of 2). So as the tree grows, it occupies space and individual plant density declines with the decline in access to light, but to attain this aerial dominance, they require volume. This gives the observed -3/2 relationship between mean weight and density regularly observed - an increasing mass of plants stacked beneath a canopy, but comprising fewer individual plants. Interacting plant species produce this regularity. This is a simple pattern that emerges from the characteristics of the system. Another term for such processes, is an algorithm. Algorithms, when run or executed, yield specific, guaranteed results or patterns. This is a mindless mechanical procedure such as carrying out a series of calculations on a calculator (Dennett, 1995). A baker following a certain recipe is carrying out an algorithmic process the outcome of which is the cake. Evolution through natural selection, with holism as the consequence, is an algorithmic process.

The explanations of patterns in nature, as in the -3/2 power law, are detailed by reference to "inferred processes", that is, the use of logic and reason to establish "realistic scenarios" of how they link patterns and processes; so called hypothetico- inductive reasoning (the empirical method or "bottom-up" approach represented by Bacon in seventeenth century science). Here one starts with raw data provided by laboratory experiments and organises these systematically to deduce certain regularities. Any regularities established are refined into specific postulates, which in turn lead to laws of greater generality. Such an approach remains close to experimental facts. Pilbeam (1988) (PX, Reader) uses this approach when he explains the refinements that took place in the study of human evolution: "If you read technical papers on human evolution today you will often find them full of quantitative techniques and the jargon of hypothesis testing: formalism, objectivity, quantification and rigour have finally come to the field. More and more of our students spend time learning methodology, reading about it and writing about it: learning to behave like 'real' scientists. Our science, we learn, is empirical and involves the collection of facts; when enough are collected, we should be able to derive, by a process of induction, theories to explain the facts. From the theories we then invent hypotheses, which are tested experimentally or observationally by collecting more facts, enabling us to reject or modify those hypotheses."

Alternatively, the deductive approach (the rational approach or 'top-down' approach represented by Descartes in seventeenth century science) (Capra, 1982) can be used; that is through the acceptance of an underlying theoretical process as the causal explanation of the pattern (so called hypothetico-deductive approach) (Myers & Giller, 1988). With this approach one starts with a principle or hypothetical model, develops a description of the world as it should be according to this principle and finally tests specific predictions to determine the validity of this principle (Davies & Brown, 1988). By passing each test, the model becomes more convincing (Gingerich, 1982). Again, Pilbeam expresses this succinctly: "Along with the growth of multidisciplinary projects has come, slowly, a different way of approaching research, by defining problems and asking questions, and then by searching for the data to answer those questions" (px, Reader).

We need a combination of the two methods. "Newton in his Principe, introduced the proper mixture of both methods, emphasising that neither experiments without systematic interpretation nor deduction from first principles without experimental evidence will lead to a reliable theory" (Capra, 1982). He used the systematic experimentation of Bacon with the mathematical analysis of Descartes and established the methodology of modern science. These two strategies are now common to the scientific approach. This book is primarily in the "top-down", deductive style. I have proposed an overarching principle to be found in ecosystems, namely the inseparable principles of perpetuity and compatibility and find evidence to support this idea.  


I have already emphasised some failings of modelling. Here I mention a few paradigms or traditional approaches and views that hinder our progress and then present a new approach that could be of benefit to our social paradigm or world view. Widgets

[1] Myers and Giller (1988)  state, "Modelling and hypothetico-deductive approaches are likewise not without their problems, especially when the assumptions take on the role of fact for higher level models without adequate testing and when patterns derived from the models become transformed into processes." This is an important consideration when modelling and a potential pitfall. Patterns observed and principles derived are based upon available data as Kant mentioned and so may be wrong. PATTERNS DERIVED FROM A MODEL NEED TO BE CONSTANTLY RELATED TO REALITY TO PROVE THEIR EXISTENCE. SUCH PATTERNS MAY ONLY BE ARTEFACTS OF THE MODEL AND NOT FOUND IN NATURE. Our tools of analysis may blind us. This relating of a model's patterns to real events is a difficult endeavour.

[2] Philosophers recognise that there are no secure paradigms of laws of nature, but that the scientific theories are reasonable approximations to some real laws of nature (Armstrong, 1985). Feynman (1965), confirms this sentiment in his discussion of the law of gravity: "First, it is mathematical in its expression; the others (laws) are that way too. Second, it is not exact; Einstein had to modify it, and we know it is not quite right yet, because we still have to put the quantum theory in. That is the same with all our other laws - they are not exact". This is the essence of paradigms and paradigm shifts.

[3] Current beliefs in science, which become a part of everyday speech and society, are only good approximations of the truth. Ideas proposed by ecologists studying ecosystem health recognise this: "the idea of paradigms, which accepts that every style of description rests inevitably on posited, constitutive assumptions, is an unavoidable consequence in both philosophy and physical theory." (Haskell et al, 1992). This problem also applies to the paradigms of society. When somebody improves a basic belief or practise, society has to undergo a paradigm shift in its value system or beliefs to adapt to the new idea. Where such ideas do not directly affect life, such a paradigm shift is easy. However when it affects a fundamental aspect of belief, the changes required are radical. Peet (1992) words this differently: "Most myths present themselves as authoritative and able to account for facts, no matter how completely at variance they may be with the real world. A myth gains authority not by proving itself but by presenting itself." He continues to explain that the greater the political authority promoting the myth and the more often it is presented, the less likely people are to challenge it. As Russell (1946) explained, "ever since men became capable of free speculation, their actions, in innumerable important respects, have depended upon their theories as to the world and human life, as to what is good and what is evil. To understand an age or a nation, we must understand its philosophy, and to understand its philosophy we must ourselves be in some degree philosophers."

A practical example can be drawn from the war that raged in Bosnia in 1993-95 between Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims. The Serbs carried out "ethnic cleansing", killing, raping and removing the Muslim and Croat populace from their territory. War was raging among comments such as, "This is our last stand. To take away the corridor (linking two Serbian populations) is to kill us as a people. We would rather die fighting here." "This is a struggle for survival. Here is where the destiny of my people will be decided" (Doboj, 1993). In this brutal war, the idea of "survival of the fittest" found full expression. Better armed Serbs succeeded through violence and brute force. War, murder and destruction was the means to survival and the attainment of aims. A particular Serbian paradigm governed this violence: that survival "as a people" required war and implied incompatibility with their neighbours. "We have the right to decide who lives with us. This is a very personal war, it will decide whom I shall live with, and we can never live with the Muslims again. I do not mind spending the rest of my life in the trenches if it will finally settle the question of who owns the land. Then my children can live in peace," said a Serb. Their leaders such as Colonel Lika expressed similar sentiments, "The time of living together is over. We may be able to live side by side but not together. Never again together."

A Bosnian Muslim refugee, explained, "Under these conditions it is impossible to live as a human being." Later she explained the need to "give a better future for my children." Simply, in many parts of the world, they are denying basic human rights. During this process the United Nations stated their clear objective, "we are working toward peace." Even when leaders in neighbouring Serbia called for peace, the Bosnian Serbs did not accept this. Had the BELIEF and paradigm within the Serbian society been different, namely, in accord with the holistic and Hobbsian principle, that cultural survival required peace with their neighbours, a greatly different history would have evolved.

They finally achieved peace in the former Yugoslavia in November 1995 through the mediation of the USA. The chief American negotiator, Richard Holbrooke, had to control the process through "various gradations of anger" as this was the general tone level of the parties concerned. Peace had to prevail. Where its philosophic recognition could not be achieved and so regulate the behaviour of people, it had to be enforced. The Muslim negotiator, Izetbegovic, signed the peace documents, observing, "in the world as it is, a better peace could not be achieved." Peace was a necessity of nature for the perpetuity of their society. In commenting on the peace process, Time International magazine reporter, Bruce Nelan, notes, " . . . the biggest task was to convince the Presidents they had common interests. The U.S. negotiators and their colleagues from Britain, France, Germany and Russia tended to use very forceful persuasion."

Eventual peace substantiates the law of peace that Hobbes defines and the principle of perpetuity and compatibility. All the horrendous acts undertaken by individuals had to lead to peace. It is in this manner that the laws that Hobbes defines bind "inforo interno". Although we may deny such natural laws, their operation eventually forces upon us the way of nature. Campbell in his book "Seven Theories of Human Society", incorrectly notes, "Hobbes imagined universal propensities of human nature are in fact transient and local."

As I will show later, the tendency to peace is a reasoned law of nature according to Thomas Hobbes. Had science accepted Thomas Hobbes' Law and established this necessity of "peace" as a law of nature and fundamental belief instead of the colloquial "survival of the fittest", history could have followed a different course! It is simply a matter that had society followed different philosophies, leaders and arbitrators, the world could be very different. Instead of military power, as epitomised by the United States of America, we could have had the ecological resources to improve life. An ecologist, Thomas Berry, president of the American Teilhard Association observed, "For the ecologist, the great model of all existence is the natural ecosystem, which is self-ruled as a community wherein each component has its unique and comprehensive influence." (Joseph, 1990) He believes that nature provides humanity with the best model for peace and harmony. Johan Galtung, professor of peace studies at the University of Hawaii and founder of the International Peace Institute, has reached a similar conclusion, "There is something ecological to peace." He recognises ecosystem's diversity and interdependence. Thomas Hobbes' compelling reasoning confirms the intuitive expression that peace originates from our nature. I will prove this through the theory of compatibility.

[4] Joseph (1990) remarks that "contemporary environmentalism is not based on a coherent set of scientific precepts." This book goes some way to providing a coherent set of scientific precepts for environmental management. To do this we will need to look closely at the idea of "survival of the fittest" and ask what "fitness" means. The "survival of the fittest" idea is a reasonable approximation or theory of a law of nature that people accept as fact, yet it is a distorted paradigm. However, humanity, having established this law in history as fact, has gone on to apply it practically and unreflectively, instead of attaining an articulate, and reasoned grasp of what "survival of the fittest" means, implies and requires. As Armstrong (1985) said, "We do not go from black night to daylight, but from twilight to daylight." We need to refine our understanding of biological fitness and what this requires of humanity living with nature on a finite earth. We need to recognise and understand the perpetuity-compatibility concept. I will fully explore this topic of fitness in a later chapter (The Concept). Widgets Widgets


[5] Another source of error in our world view is cultural tradition based on superstition. Armstrong (1985) states the laws of nature are real, not subjective creations. LAWS "EXIST INDEPENDENTLY OF THE MINDS WHICH ATTEMPT TO GRASP THEM" (Armstrong, 1985). This assumption is a form of "realism", stating that regularities in observed phenomena are caused by some physical reality whose existence is independent of human observers (d'Espagnat, 1979). Armstrong applies two other "assumptions" to his investigation of what a law of nature is. These are that the introduction of universals is necessary and that "ACTUALISM" is assumed in which case, "WE SHOULD NOT POSTULATE ANY PARTICULARS EXCEPT ACTUAL PARTICULARS, NOR ANY PROPERTIES AND RELATIONS (UNIVERSALS) SAVE ACTUAL, OR CATEGORICAL, PROPERTIES AND RELATIONS." Of the latter condition, Peet (1992) stated, "another example of the misuse of science is that of not carefully distinguishing between correlation and causation." It is common for apparently unrelated events to occur simultaneously. For example, certain planetary arrangements and human activities may occur simultaneously. People may come to the conclusion that one causes the other. (The Holy Prophet of Islam clearly warned his followers against delusions such as Astrology. As a matter of record two other "assumptions" are that inductive inference is a valid mode of reasoning and that no material influence can propagate faster than the speed of light d'Espagnat, 1979).

Adherence to these principles leads to scientific fact instead of cultural superstition. The author Fritjof Capra has developed some great ideas in his books, but has the failing of attributing properties without evidence or foundation. The result of this is that powerful ideas lose credibility among the outrageous assumptions. As an example of claims lacking evidence that Capra makes, when speaking about evolution, he says, "The ability of species to adapt to environmental changes through genetic mutations has been studied extensively and very successfully in our century, together with the mechanisms of reproduction and heredity." This is correct and precise, but he then goes on to say, "However, these aspects represent only one side of the phenomenon of evolution. The other side is the creative development of new structures and functions without any environmental pressure, which is a manifestation of the potential for self-transcendence that is inherent in all living organisms". Spiritual, transcendental mysticism of this sort has no place in materialistic evolutionary science. What he is postulating is not an "actual particular." It seems that if he cannot find evidence for the reality of his ideas, he merely supposes what this reality is, so he says, "Our attitudes will be very different when we realize that the environment is not only alive but also mindful, like ourselves." Here he adopts the Gaian premise of a living conscious earth. To date there is no evidence for this and I doubt there will ever be - it is not an "actual particular."

This postulating or supposition of such wild ideas is typical of theoretical physicists, but usually has some mathematics to support the suggestion. For example, a theory of the elementary particles - the most basic constituents of matter that are not made of simpler particles - the string theory of physics, had its origins in the late 1960's with Gabrielle Veneziano (Davies & Brown, 1988). Later Scherk and Schwarz suggested that the string theory could be a theory of gravity - "it took a decade for this audacious idea to gain wider credibility" (Davies & Brown, 1988). Originally an utterly crackpot theory, today it commands the attention of some of the world's finest theoretical physicists."

[6] Burian (1984), believes that in the philosophy of biology, although one finds many elegant studies of particular topics, the sad fact is that there is no large-scale synthesis in sight. There is no idea from nature, nor any theoretical framework, strong enough for us to employ as a base for building up the ideas of theoretical science.) While a science such a physics has a unity in its theories the biological paradigm is not yet fully formulated. We still seek common ground for the development of a united theory.

[7] Nature is a complex system full of chaotic phenomena and complex dynamics such as ecosystems, economic entities, developing embryos and the brain, that defy mathematical analysis or simulation (Lewin, 1993). Until the late 1970's, Mathematics, the modern tool of scientific investigation, generally dealt with linear, predictable and simple phenomena. These were considered as prevalent in Nature because we are biased towards picking them out for study. Barrow (1988) in his book theories of everything noted that, "Simple linear phenomena can be analysed in pieces. The whole is nothing more than a sum of its parts according to this approach. Thus, we can understand something about a system without understanding everything about it. Non-linear chaotic systems are different. They require a knowledge of the whole in order to understand the parts because the whole amounts to more than the mere sum of its parts." (Barrow, 1988). In a similar vein Edward De Bono comments that "Analysis breaks down when we are dealing with complex systems with many interactive loops. In such systems, you cannot just isolate the parts and put them back together, because in isolating the parts you change the system. The system has to be considered as a WHOLE. So we try to use CONCEPTUAL MODELS, which are a sort of hypothesis of what may be happening. The difficulty is that in systems with positive feedback loops, a slight change in the parameters at some point may make the system behave in a totally different way. We have to conclude that human thinking simply cannot cope with complex systems of this sort. While computer-modelling of complex systems does help, we nevertheless have to put in the points, connections, relationships, and parameters."  (De Bono, 1993)

Barrow (1988) shows the direction that leads to holistic thought. "We have seen that a naive reductionism that would seek to reduce everything to its smallest constituent pieces is misplaced. If we are to arrive at a full understanding of complex systems, especially those that result from the haphazard workings of natural selection, then we shall need more than current candidates for the title "Theory of Everything" have to offer." The question in relation to holistic life is, "Are there general principles that govern the development of complexity, which can be applied to a variety of situations without becoming embroiled in their peculiarities?" (Barrow, 1988). It is only recently that, with the recognition that the world is more complex than previously thought, an interest in the mathematics of non-linear and self-organising systems has arisen (De Bono, 1993). Biologists have recognised such systems for a long time and such processes appear to operate according to principles they have yet to fully establish. A new science of the complexity and self organisation of dynamic systems is developing. This started as a study of chaos and many principles and ideas developed in the 1970s and 80s can be used to describe holistic nature. I outline these ideas in their own chapter below.


The "Prisoner's Dilemma " is an interactive process played out on a computer that results in the most successful solution among the interactors. Robert Axelrod described this in his book, "The Evolution of Cooperation." They invited participants to submit computer programs to play Prisoner's Dilemma. The strategy, choice or move of each participant was based on the previous choices of the opponent. Interacting parties may show:

[1] Cooperation, for which they allocate  three points;

[2] Mutual defection, for which they allocate  one point;

[3] Successful defection, for which they allocate  five points;

[4] Unsuccessful cooperation for which zero points are allocated;

The points (reward) gained depends on what an opponent does in response to its competitor's move. When both defect, each gets one point. When each cooperates, both get three points. If one cooperates and the other defects, the cooperator gets nothing and the defector gets five points.

DEFECT 1,1 0,5

 In the above table the first number represents Player A and the row actions; the second number is Player B's reward because of the column actions. In a biological sense, defection is the opposite of cooperation. All that they know is the player's previous move. To mimic biological processes, we repeat (iterate) the interactions so that the interactors could learn the opponent's behaviour. They choose an optimal strategy in response to this behaviour. The alternative to these is "no interaction," but as interaction is often obligate, its consequences are not part of the Prisoner's Dilemma. They played various interactive strategies against each other and the winner with the highest total score in all instances was a simple program called TIT FOR TAT. Its strategy was to cooperate on the first move and after that to do exactly what its opponent had done on the previous move. In one tournament, they eliminated programs if they did not win regularly and so score well and so became "extinct". Some unusual and profound CONCLUSIONS resulted:


[1] There can be no best strategy independent of the strategy of the other player (a random strategy does not succeed).

[2] Expert strategists from political science, sociology, economics, psychology, and mathematics were too competitive and too pessimistic about the responsiveness of the other side.

[3] The many different opponents could not easily exploit TIT FOR TAT.

[4] TIT FOR TAT would elicit cooperation through being initially cooperative and by rewarding cooperation with cooperation and defection with defection.

[5] TIT FOR TAT showed that the promotion of mutual interest was superior to exploiting others' weaknesses.

[6] Cooperation can emerge spontaneously in a world of egoists motivated solely by self-interest.

[7] Cooperation is not a zero-sum game, but that on the contrary, both parties can gain more by cooperation than either can gain by unilateral defection.

[8] Cooperation can evolve (i.e., succeed) by natural selection if cooperators cooperate with other cooperators but defect against defectors.

[9] Cooperation can emerge from small clusters of discriminating individuals, since these individuals have some of their interactions with each other (Badcock, 1991).

The importance of these tournaments in the light of these conclusions is that the interactive process, where elimination (death or extinction) was possible, did not lead to survival of the fittest as is generally understood of evolution today, but led to the fittest being those that COOPERATED. Cooperation implies INTERDEPENDENCE. Biotic interactions during the evolutionary process should thus lead to interdependence! Axelrod noted that an organism does not need a brain, let alone rationality, to employ a strategy. He used the responsiveness of bacteria to their environment as an example. Reciprocity can evolve in a non-cooperative world, but there are two requirements for the evolution of cooperation. An individual must not get away with defecting without the other individuals being able to retaliate effectively and there must be a good probability of the two individuals meeting again. Most species have limited mental capacities and it is found that, in nature, reciprocal cooperation can be stable if they reduce the need for discrimination. In other words, evolution selects for instincts expressed in specific environmental contexts. In the field of behavioural ecology they call this the ritualisation of behaviour.

Axelrod proposed that TERRITORIALITY serves the purpose of reducing the need for discrimination among interacting animals. They are responding instinctively to a predictable genetic entity. A species' formation of territories, instead of being a purely competitive mechanism then becomes behaviour through which beneficial cooperative behaviour can be expressed! A final condition is that the evolution of cooperation requires that successful strategies perpetuate and that there is a source of variation in the strategies employed. Darwinian natural selection requires the same conditions, with variations provided by genetic mutations.

We find interdependence repeatedly in nature, especially in complex systems such as tropical rainforests. Can we not formulate this as a law of nature? Evolutionary processes involving biotic interactions result in interdependence among the associated organisms. Is man not then obliged to act in his own interest and cooperate with nature to enhance his survival? I develop independent evidence for the evolution of interdependence in this book and call it the theory of perpetuity and compatibility.

Axelrod summarises the Prisoner's Dilemma explaining that the clouds will not consider our behaviour when we decide whether to use an umbrella or not. However, non-zero-sum games, such as the Prisoner's Dilemma, do have this form of interaction. Unlike the clouds, the other player can respond to your own choices. Unlike the chess opponent (zero sum game with only one winner), they should not regard the other player in a Prisoner's Dilemma as someone who is out to defeat you. "The other player will be watching your behaviour for signs of whether you will reciprocate or not, and therefore your own behaviour is likely to be echoed back to you." Cooperation can be stable if the future is sufficiently important compared with the present. Ecosystem stability provides this "shadow of the future" allowing the long association of organisms. In natural interactions, behaviour is responded to. Ecosystem destruction will typically lead to the success of defectors or opportunists, leading to a greater incidence of disease, parasitism and the replacement of one species by another.

Evolution by natural selection, where coevolution occurs between associated interactors, is a non-zero-sum game leading to compatibility.
Return to: Gems Index & Introduction . Continue with condensed version

Nature' Holism is a self funded research project. Please help with this progress by advertising, sponsoring or donating now. See more details on sponsorship or advertising. PayPal allows free, easy, secure and safe transactions. They will not charge you any fee.

Donate any amount to keep this site and research progressing.

by Laurence Evans 1998 - 2008


Search For:
Match:  Any word  All words  Exact phrase
Sound-alike matching 
Show:  results  summaries
Sort by: 
Nature's Holism

Search the Nature's Holism site, throw in a word and see what you get!

Please support this work.

Order Nature's Holism Today!


Nature's Holism
Nature's Holism