How Does Integral Science fit with Integral Society?
Apparently societies and scientific revolutions both build themselves up around root metaphors of “how the world works.” Both science and society are being swept up in today’s web revolution with each side feuling the other. Where modern society has long envisioned a clock-like world whose inner workings could be taken apart piecemeal, today's expansion has convinced a lot of people that the world is both more complex and more profoundly connected than mechanists imagined. Web imagery—from the delicate web of life to the hyper-connected global economy and the lightning-fast World-Wide Information Web— has been seeping into every corner of our consciousness for over thirty years now. Once the quiet glow of computer screens began to illuminate the inner workings of webs in every field, researchers across spectrum of science began to realize that their field must change too.
Thus, we are undergoing a Second Scientific Revolution, not in one field or two, but in virtually every discipline at once — from math and physics to anthropology, biology and economics. Facets include Gaia, Complexity, Chaos, Quantum mechanics, Self-organization theory, Systems Science, Ecological Economics, Collapse of Complex Civilizations, the Evolution of Consciousness, the web view of genes, and many others. Integral Science refers to the union of these “web” insights emerging throughout science.
So, unlike a “paradigm shift,” Integral Science is not a new discovery in a single field, but an integration of a wide array of recent and long-standing findings from across disciplines. It provides a hard-science foundation for the “web” worldview already emerging in society at large, but, ironically, it often does so by reconfirming ancient social, spiritual and cultural ideas that modern mechanists derided. Thus, unlike our usual vision of a scientific “revolution,” discovering the web world scientifically, often involves a rediscovery of venerated insights from great sages and prophets from across the world and across time.
Therefore, Integral Science is actually an integration of rational and intuitive, pragmatic and academic, ancient and cutting-edge ideas that create a new framework of understanding. This framework changes our commonsense view of humanity, civilization and the cosmos in ways that are startling yet retrospectively obvious. Since the way a society sees the world determines how its people live, this new lens has the potential to dramatically reshape civilization and our lives.
What could cause science as a whole to change? This scientific revolution, like the last one, is being propelled into being by new technologies that vastly increase human ability to see, to communicate, and to compute. The last time around, the telescope, the printing press, and calculus made the difference. Today, the computer is almost single-handedly generating a gigantic leap in all three domains.
Expanded abilities open new vistas that, in turn, set in motion deep shifts in understanding and assumption. The net result is a massive revision of scientific style including new conceptualizations, theories and methods. The Integral stage of science will replace the Modern one as this vast rethinking sweeps through every field.
What changes in science?
Integral Science, like all good science, is empirical, mathematical, rigorous, logical, and useful. However, retrospectively, Integral science finds two things ? energy and interdependence ? to be central to understanding the world that Modern science did not. Thus, where modern thinkers put matter and separation (non-dependence) at the heart of their worldview, integral thinkers put energy and connectivity (web dynamics) at the core of theirs. Furthermore, where modernists tended to see disorder and often randomness in tangled webs, Integral researchers now see intricate dynamic order in the very same place. Table 1 sums up this difference.
The combination of energy, web dynamics and the ability to see and understand the creation of patterns and organization creates a new, physical theory of evolution as a universal, self-organizing, energy-driven process of growth and development given shape by “web dynamics” (the push-pull of attractive and repulsive forces). Here the order in chaos and the structure within complexity become a set of universal patterns and principles that govern the evolution of all things in the cosmos, including human beings and their civilizations. Brain researcher Roger Sperry sums up the change vision:
In the eyes of science, man’s creator becomes the vast interwoven fabric of all evolving nature…a cosmic scheme that renders most others simplistic by comparison.
When you put all the pieces of its story together, Integral Science becomes the story of how our view of humanity, civilization and the cosmos at large changes as shards of past and present reform coalesce into a single crystal clear lens. It, therefore, provides:
- A completely empirical, post-mechanistic stage of science with mathematical tools that allow the quantitatively precise study of complex systems anchored within a powerful, clarifying conceptual system;
- A new framework of understanding ? a single, crystal-clear lens that allows us to heal schisms, dissolve paradoxes, and generally make logical sense of much that does not fit in today’s simplistic modern view (from mind-body integration to why modern economic theory can’t predict economic collapse);
A radically new (yet retrospectively obvious) scientific story of humanity, civilization and the cosmos. In the Integral view, for example, it is logical that:
- Energy is the basis of all things, including matter;
- The cosmos is highly ordered and everything is part of the Design;
- Evolution is a universal process of growth and development, driven by energy flow and given shape by interdependent dynamics, whose creations run from the origins of matter to the latest cycles of civilization, always following standard energy/web patterns and principles;
- All living organisms are integrated mind-body systems because energy is behind both information and self-organization;
- Collaboration (symbiosis) is the central path of increasing complexity in life;
- Complex organisms are built of communicating, collaborative groups that are factually-nested, that is, groups built of smaller groups built of smaller groups still;
- Humanity is a collaborative, learning species whose survival strategy is to change group behavior by changing its mental maps. Culture, worldviews, scientific theories, etc. are our most important products.
- Civilization is a collaborative learning ecosystem whose growth follows dynamic principles.
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