This nOde last updated February 26th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
(7 Cauac (Rain) / 7 K'ayab (Turtle) 69/260 - 18.104.22.168.19)
"I have compared the great syntheses achieved by science over the last hundred and fifty years to a river delta. But each confluence - such as the merging of electricity and magnetism, or of particles and waves - was also followed by a fanning out of more and more specialised branches, subdividing into a network of irrigation channels. To change the metaphor: increasing specialisation is like the branching out of arteries into capillaries; the sequence of mergers is like the reverse confluence of veins. "The cycle which results makes the evolution of ideas appear as a succession of repeated differentiations, specialisations and re-integrations on a higher level - a progression from primordial unity through variety to more complex patterns of unity-in-variety."
This dual aspect in the evolution of science reflects a basic polarity in nature itself: differentiation and integration. In the growing embryo, successive generations of cells branch out into diversified tissues, which eventually become integrated into organs. Every organ has a dual character of being a subordinate part and at the same time an autonomous whole - which will continue to function even if transplanted into another host. The individual itself is an organic whole, but at the same time a part of his family or tribe. Each social group has again the characteristics of a coherent whole but also of a dependent part within the community or nation. Parts and wholes in an absolute sense do not exist anywhere. The living organism and the body social are not assemblies of elementary bits; they are multi- levelled, hierarchically organised systems of sub-wholes containing sub-wholes of a lower order, like Chinese boxes. These sub-wholes - or "holons", as I have proposed to call them - are Janus-faced entities which display both the independent properties of wholes and the dependent properties of parts. Each holon must preserve and assert its autonomy, other wise the organism would lose its articulation and dissolve into an amorphous mass - but at the same time the holon must remain subordinate to the demands of the (existing or evolving) whole. "Autonomy" in this context means that organelles, cells, muscles, nerves, organs, all have their intrinsic rhythm and pattern of functioning, aided by self-regulatory devices; and that they tend to persist in and assert their characteristic patterns of activity. This 'self-assertive tendency' is a fundamental and universal characteristic of holons, manifested on every level, from cells to individuals to social groups."
- Arthur Koestler - _The Roots of Coincidence_ (1972)
"The gospel of classical physics was the so-called
Second Law of Thermodynamics - according to which the universe is running
down like a clock because all its energy is being steadily dissipated into
the random motion of molecules in a gas - so that the end would be as the
beginning was according to 'Genesis': "without form and void". Only in
recent years did biologists realize that this applies only in the theoretical
case of a "closed system", completely isolated from its environment; whereas
all living organisms are "open systems" which feed on energies and materials
found in their environment. Instead of 'running down' like a clockwork
which dissipates energy through friction, a living organism is all the
time 'building up' more complex chemicals from chemicals it feeds on, more
complex forms of energy from the energy it absorbs, and more complex patterns
- perceptions, memories,
ideas - from the input of its receptors. It is active instead of being
just reactive; it adapts the environment to its needs, instead of passiviely
adapting to it; it learns from experience and constructs systems
of knowledge out of chaos of sensations impinging on it; it sucks information from the environment as it feeds on its substance and synthesises its energies."
- Arthur Koestler, _The Roots of Coincidence_
At each level the system under consideration may constitute an individual organism. A cell may be part of a tissue by may also be a microorganism which is part of an ecosystem, and very often it is impossible to draw a clear-cut distinction between these descriptions. Every sub-system is a relatively autonomous organism while also being a component of a larger organism; it is a "holon," in Arthur Koestler's term, manifesting both the independent properties of wholes and the dependent properties of parts. Thus the pervasiveness or order in the universe takes on a new meaning; order at one systems level is the consequence of self-organization at a larger level.
- Fritjof Capra - _The Turning Point_