THE IDEA'S DEPARTMENT: SOME CONTEXT

I started this article as a type of mystery novel, providing clues and hints about the new concept, while not revealing the concept. As I wrote the book, I had a mental image of where I was going, driven by my fundamental idea. My feeling was that people needed to realise the idea intuitively while reading the book. On the introduction of the idea, it would then be an obvious and necessary truth.  However, when asking others to read the introduction, I found that they battled to follow the book, and especially to understand the context of the many quotations in relation to my original text.

Edward De Bono (1993) showed the method to ensure better understanding: "To perceive a new idea, we have to speculate, imagine, or hypothesise it first.  That is why the best scientists now realise that science is as much poetry as data analysis." Ernst Mayr (1991), an evolutionist and ornithologist expressed the same idea when discussing Darwin's scientific method: "He realised that one cannot make observations unless one has some hypothesis on the basis of which to make the appropriate observations."  Consequently, I have decided to introduce the concept as a postulate right at the beginning of the book and use the subsequent text to help people to understand the context, nature and implications of the concept. You need to read the book with the basic idea or postulate in mind to bring the subject matter into the necessary context and alignment to follow the discourse. By the end of this book you should be able to see the harmony that exists in natural systems. You will also understand why humans are now not a part of this holistic nature.

Initially I could not decide where in the literary field this book belongs. Eventually, I decided that it falls within the field of philosophy as described by Bertrand Russell (1946) in his book, "History of Western Philosophy."  He explains this context of philosophy as something intermediate between theology and science.  Like theology, it consists of subjective and indeterminate speculation, but through an appeal to human reason instead of traditional authority such as revelation. But then J.C. Smuts, the author of "Holism and Evolution", said his ideas on Holism were not philosophy (Smuts, 1926). To some extent I agree, as these ideas deal with real or observable biological systems. Also, my grasp of the English language is too weak for me to be a writer of philosophy.

Later I found the word neontology, the study of living things (organisms), as opposed to palaeontology, the study of fossils and all aspects of extinct life. However, the biological ontology I was studying was that of ecosystems (such as tropical forest or desert habitats). In philosophy, ontology deals with the metaphysics of the nature of being (and reality), so I did not like this term. 

PERSONAL NOTE:

You may compare me with a diamond speculator or prospector in the days of the European colonisation of Africa.  With a practical education, I went out, without great intentions into the wilderness.  Opportunity and luck were on my side, so that I survived and discovered this massive diamond (perpetuity and compatibility) in the early 1980's. My education enabled me to recognise it as a diamond, and I pocketed the idea.  I polished it and studied it, but kept it hidden, for the uninformed would not believe such a big stone could be a diamond, while those who could recognise it could easily steal this massive diamond from am unknown prospector and claim it as their own.  I was possessed with the madness of individual certainty, a solitary conviction as expressed by Galileo that "In science the authority embodied in the opinion of thousands is not worth a spark of reason in one man" (Appleyard, 1992).  To gauge its actual worth I studied what I could find on similar diamonds and over the years became convinced of its great value.  Yet the economic laws of supply and demand seemed to make my find worthless for its impact, implication and inherent value were of little value to the technological race upon which modern society had embarked. The capitalistic free market society had no inherent demand for my product.

Further, my limitations, especially in the fields of mathematics and statistics, restricted the depth of my theoretical development. I would have been more at home describing my discovery of perpetuity and compatibility to Amerindians of the great Amazon of Brazil, who, "unlike the settlers, are not exploiting the natural resources on a short-term, high-profit basis. They entered South America at least 20,000 years ago and have been in the Amazon Basin for about 10,000 years (Collins, 1990). They have a vested interest in conservation because the future of their society depends on the survival of the forests" (Beazley, 1990). Primitive societies, not caught up in modern technology, are more aware of their dependence upon the stability of nature. Yacuna Indians of western Amazonia know that each living part of the rainforest must exist if the integrity of the whole is to be sustained. They see nature and the whole of creation as participating in an intricate network of exchanges. Disturbing the wholeness leads to disease, disaster and death (Goldsmith et al, 1990). In the recognition of this ECOLOGICAL IMPERATIVE, we are kin.

The aim of this book is to reflect upon ideas that have a bearing on holism.  During the writing of this book, which has been slow and with many stops and starts, attempts and dead ends, I have observed certain distinctions, have tested these, and if functional, adopted them to clarify the issue.  One such aspect is the distinction between science and religion, of scientific reasoning from religious reasoning and of metaphysical experience (complexity) from mathematical prediction (determinism and reductionism). The development and description of a new idea entails a  rarefied atmosphere.  It is the instability of this environment that places it in the realm of fanaticism.  Uncertainty and delusive certainty can slow progress.  Others developing new ideas recognise this: "Frank bafflement was not uncommon, and at first it was difficult to see where the discussion might lead.  Gradually, points of contact began to crystallise, tentative insights accreting on initially tiny possibilities" (Lewin, 1993). Humanity has transcended many such barriers, two typical ones being that the earth is round and that we live in a heliocentric solar system.   No sane person will today argue these two points, yet educated people still dispute the theory of evolution and
holism is viewed with some scorn or indifference.

Many authors have contributed to the elaboration of this concept, yet the holistic  process I develop is augmented by and not dependent upon their inclusion. I may have been fortunate to be "away from universities or established institutions, where bureaucracies and academic barriers restrict creative thought" (Lewin, 1993). What is more important, universities  have specific research agendas, just as commercial operations produce specific products. There is also a hierarchy of credibility based upon qualifications, so that as a specialist who has progressed upon an unusual path, I have no papers to substantiate my efforts.  Dennett (1995), a philosopher and writer, for example, derides others free thought, so insulting his readers through the comment that "Most uncredentialed proponents of scientific "revolutions" are kooks who really are not worth paying attention to. There really are a lot of them besieging us, and life is too short to give each uninvited hypothesis its proper day in court." This is the Ivory Tower at its worst. Ideas are like genetic variations, occasionally a new, viable innovation does emerge from the most unlikely source, while ideas that dominate the status quo can become extinct. Alternatively, I was disadvantaged in not having academic participation and the availability of published data to streamline and speed up progress.

An old companion has been the "Leviathan" of Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), revered for its conceptual clarity.  Hobbes compares reasoning to arithmetic as a precise tool, "and as in Arithmetique, unpractised men must, and professors themselves may often erre, and cast up false; so also in any other subject of reasoning, the ablest, most attentive, and most practised men, may deceive themselves, and infer false conclusions."
  My second source of reference is "Holism and Evolution" by General J.C.  Smuts.  I only discovered this gem in 1993, yet it is going to form the backbone and framework for this book.  Smuts considered Holism in its true sense, yet he did not recognise the immense role of holism in ecology, but concluded in the study of the human personality.  For me, holism and ecology are inseparable. His vision of life was vast.  "If Evolution is right, if life and mind have arisen in and from matter, then the universe ceases to be a purely physical mechanism, and the system which results must provide a real place for the factors of life and mind.  . . .  The point I have been trying to make is that our ULTIMATE CONCEPTS need reconsideration, and that above all NEW VIEWPOINTS ARE NECESSARY from which to re-survey the vast masses of physical and biological knowledge which have already accumulated.  . . .  It is clear that the full significance of the great dominant idea of Evolution and its effect on the ordering of our ultimate world-view is not yet fully realised, and that we are in effect endeavouring simultaneously to go forward with two inconsistent sets of ideas, that is to say, with the idea of Evolution (not yet adequately realised) and the pre-Evolution physical ideas (not yet quite abandoned)."  This was written in 1925 and still applies today! His vision of reality has confirmed my perception.

The third basic reference is the most brilliant jewel, the revelation of God to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, preserved as the Holy Quraan.  No doubt, this will frustrate Christians and scientists alike, the former because they do not recognise Islam as part of their heritage and the latter who, generally either reject religion, or express the sentiment of Newton that "we are not to introduce divine revelation into Philosophy (science), nor philosophical opinions into religion" (Appleyard, 1992).  To the former I reply that Jesus (mpbuh) spoke Aramaic; yet the oldest biblical scriptures, which comprise the Bible, are in Greek, a language that Jesus never heard.  The Bible is not an uncorrupted source of divine revelation as it is preserved in Greek instead of Aramaic, whereas the Holy Quraan is preserved in the original language.  To the Scientist I reply that divine revelation provides absolute concepts that clear away the absurdity from the truth.  The simple idea of monotheism (belief in one God) goes hand in hand with Holism, enhancing the natural intelligence and allowing greater progress.  This will not be a theory constructed from religion, but an idea that recognises the validity of religion.

"Any monotheistic religion must, by its nature, be driven towards the unification of knowledge.  One God means a single underlying pattern" (Appleyard, 1992), or as the physicist, Freeman Dyson said, "God is in the details" (Sci. Am., 1993).  The angel Gabriel for example, told the Holy Prophet, Muhammad (mpbuh, saw) that his memory extended back five billion years.  This length of time, described in 70,000 year units, agrees closely with the 4.6 billion year estimate by scientists for the period since the creation of the earth.  Yet in the Authorised Version of the Bible of 1701, James Ussher (the Archbishop of Armagh) proposed that the beginning of creation was 4004 B.C., after calculations from biblical genealogies (Rachel, 1991), (Mayr, 1978)!  In this way Islamic revelation directs towards scientific truth, as opposed to human error and fallibility. It is not the sort of "comforting fairy tales" attributed to theology by some philosophers (Russell, 1946). In another fascinating encounter, the Holy Prophet (saw) asked Gabriel, "Has the sun moved?" To this, Gabriel replied, "No-Yes." "How so?" he asked. The other replied, "Between my saying No and Yes it has moved a distance equal to 500 years" (Al-Ghazzali, 1924). I also recognise the strength of the Islamic system in its provision of a stable and persistent form of social cohesion, which has not changed much from its inception until today, while Western social experiments have varied dramatically.

Acceptance of evolution still stands on the threshold of universal acceptance despite the fossil and embryological evidence in its favour.  The embryological evidence was first noted by Ernst Haeckel in 1876. (Reader, 1988).  This embryological evidence is displayed by the observation that the human foetus goes through a stage with gill-arches and that at four weeks there is little to distinguish the embryo of a man, tortoise or dog, while the differentiation between an ape and man occurs much later in embryological development.  An organism passes through all the stages of its species evolution as it grows from egg to mature individual (Reader, 1988).

This book follows the winds of thought. Like a sailor who has been to a specific destination before, I have my bearings and craft set upon a course along the familiar route and am establishing specific landmarks and recording new observations.  There are perhaps many other, easier and shorter routes to navigate, but  a craft with my two sails of perpetuity and compatibility suits this route, so it is necessary that you share in some (in)sights.  This is a search for the fabled holistic continent, with other rumours of sailing over the edge.  This form of dialogue has a name, introduced by R.M.  Pirsig as a Chautauqua from the travelling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America: an "old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer."  The purpose is not to present abstractions that only the initiated understand, but to present a reasonable argument in favour of a new perspective. The intention here is to cut a new channel of understanding that will FORCE US TO RE-EVALUATE OUR RELATION WITH NATURE.  By not defining "quality" as Pirsig attempted to do in his book, we remain with the essence of quality as is the fragrance of a flower.

Besides the above cornerstones to my work, J.C. Smuts , The Holy Quraan and Thomas Hobbes , the final cornerstones are Darwin 's "Origin of Species" and Immanuel Kant 's "Critique on Teleological Reasoning".  Many authors' ideas have contributed to this book and have often changed or refined or improved my original ideas and beliefs while reading their books.  I have quoted from them to illustrate that ideas which I have arrived at are expressed by others.  A full list of references is included at the end of the book.

 
For other notes on this book go to "Historical Context ".

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by Laurence Evans 1998 - 2008

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