The Complexity of Reductionism

Discussion in 'The big picture' started by 9anda1f, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    For those interested in such things:

    https://permaculturenews.org/2015/0...ctionism-a-case-study-of-genetic-engineering/

    Basically an essay examining how our (western world) reductionist school-of-thought is the antithesis of Permaculture systems thinking ... a start to a much needed dialogue questioning some of our most basic perspectives.
     
  2. Topher

    Topher Junior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2015
    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    3
    Occupation:
    Energy & Permaculture Consultant
    Location:
    Midcoast Maine
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    Cold Temperate
    Reductionism is a necessary first step. Once one understands all the parts, it is then possible to understand the whole. We should be sure not to lose sight of the fact that understanding the whole is the eventual goal.

    Thank You Kindly,
    Topher
     
  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    Hi Topher,
    While reductionism is a useful tool and perspective for examining the world we find around us, it is not the one-and-only singular path (imho). Through Permaculture I've learned to develop pattern awareness which is another useful tool and perspective, but not reductionist.
    My take-away from the article is that the singular fixation on reductionist techniques and thought patterns leads to the serious disconnect with our natural world evidenced all around us.
     
  4. DC Brown

    DC Brown Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2015
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    8
    Reductionist science is AWESOME - in context of a larger picture. Yes, a lot of scientists are myopic, yes, it's a problem. The science is excellent, it's the application, the context that needs to be addressed.

    I cannot qualify accumulating plants without hard science. All the observations in the world don't change the fact many gardening ideas I hear thrown around are purely myth - which reductionist data is showing me. All these wee data points I dutifully plug in to software are unraveling a clear picture of plant-nutrient status across ecosystems.

    Mythbusting is important, as is qualifying and quantifying current methods to make permaculture more acceptable to a world raised on the importance of facts.

    Having gathered as many facts as possible, and with extensive scientific training, my conclusion is to jump on board and become part of permaculture - because as far as the science is concerned, sustainability is the only way forward. The ecology, environmental science, microbiology, plant pathology... all of it makes permaculture make sense. Otherwise it's just more 'airy fairy activism', another movement with nothing to back the ideology.

    I absolutely disagree that reductionism is the antithesis of permaculture. This type of thinking is the antithesis of gaining credibility in permaculture.
     
  5. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2006
    Messages:
    3,046
    Likes Received:
    199
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    E Washington, USA
    Climate:
    Semi-Arid Shrub Steppe (BsK)
    You are correct DC, my characterization of reductionism as the antithesis to Permaculture went way too far. What was I trying to say?

    While reductionist approaches are extremely useful for understanding layers and specifics, categories and trends, I am believing they have become a panacea applied carelessly to solutions. For instance, a generalized approach to medical complaints seems to be create a list of symptoms then prescribe treatment for each symptom. Faced with travel security issues, examine each and every passenger with multiple technologies. In agriculture, control each and every unwanted lifeform in the field with targeted chemicals then apply more chemicals in the form of fertilizers.

    How did these types of "solutions" come to be? I've been thinking that exclusive use of reductionist thought patterns applied inappropriately across-the-board may be a greater part of the problem. Does this make more sense?
     
  6. DC Brown

    DC Brown Junior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2015
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    8
    It is not the science that is the problem. It is the hijacking of science by corporate interests. Science ultimately only seeks truth, corporates ultimately seek profit. They'll take ANYTHING out of context for that purpose.

    There is an awareness of the limitations of reductionism spreading through science. Collaboration is becoming the norm, not the exception. When I studied ASD we had neurobiologists, microbiologists, psychiatrists, geneticists, dieticians, etc, etc. A decent effort to understand! Do they want a pill to fix it - the group only want to understand, but the money backing the group - of course they do. Overarching all the funding is a drug company wanting profits, and governments who don't want to shell out for care. But the scientists - they just want to help.

    When Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, the scientific world (scientists themselves) acknowledged she was correct. But corporate industrialists kept it in 'debate' as long as they could. Funds for science are diverted to science-vs-science, in which profits may be realised indefinately so long as controversy remains.

    We study components in isolation as typically this is the only way we can get definitive proof of a phenomenon. This is where it can go very well, or very badly. As we know, things in isolation are not the same things when they are in a system. This provides opportunity for corporate interests however. They sell the phenomenon, and to hell with context. Faster growing plants - you betcha! Entirely different context to typically growing plants - of course. $$ dear friends. look at the $$.

    While governments and industry remain in bed together expect more of the same. Obfuscation and deliberate cherry picking of data out of context. They'll use anything to sell fertiliser, pseudo-science, regulations, fear.

    Reductionist science is merely a tool for getting to the truth of a thing, in one context. It is an incredibly useful tool, but like all tools, can be turned to other purposes. Those corrupting purposes are corporate interests. The call for holistic thinkers, multi-disciplinary collaborative teams and better science communicators has been made... Will common sense prevail over corporate stranglehold - no. They'll need forceful removal. Revolution or regulation, there is certainly a problem, a huge problem, to be addressed.

    Science is awesome but it too is trying to survive in a world held in the embrace of psychopaths. Surviving, that's what science is trying to do now, ever more witch-hunts looking for culprits where science, via corporate hijacking, is blamed. The tool, not the wielders.

    97% of scientists agree that man is altering the climate. What other group gets such agreement when there's $$ to be made disagreeing?

    "Slay the Masters" - Game of Thrones.
     
  7. permasculptor

    permasculptor Junior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Messages:
    727
    Likes Received:
    1
    Trophy Points:
    18
  8. Australian Beekeeper

    Australian Beekeeper Junior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2014
    Messages:
    145
    Likes Received:
    11
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Which is why impact ratings exist. Rubbish science can only ever hope to get published in rubbish journals. If someone references science with an extremely low impact rating then that is lousy but if someone is willing to believe what ever they are told without looking into the references and making a properly informed decision/opinion then that is lousier still.

    The scientific process is the best tool we have to make useful and practical additions to our knowledge and understanding of the physical world
     
  9. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    Messages:
    2,456
    Likes Received:
    10
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Occupation:
    Farm manager/ educator
    Location:
    Hunter Valley New South Wales
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    warm temperate - some frost - changing every year
    Wish I could agree Ausuie bee keeper though as Dc put it so well "It is not the science that is the problem. It is the hijacking of science by corporate interests. " Transnationals have bought whole governments and companies so they can influnce the publishing in more reputable journals while great research struggles to be published. The system is stuffed and we need to throw it out and rely to a greater degree on intuition and traditional wisdom. I am not anit science but anti corrupted science.
     
  10. Marcus Busby

    Marcus Busby Junior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2014
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    17
    Trophy Points:
    18
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Designer Builder, Student Bartlett School of Archi
    Location:
    United Kingdom
    Home Page:
    Climate:
    Temperate

Share This Page

-->