Summary of Limits within Science
In this section the limits of science and technology are examined by noting what Thomas Kuhn, David Bohm, Lewis Mumford, and W. H. Whyte had to say on these issues and then combining their views into a more comprehensive summary. Why make an effort to understand the limits of sciences, technology, and industrial processes? Because these limits are directly related to key defects within the societies in which most readers live. They expose key weaknesses within scientific and technical institutions and organizations, technical and industrial companies and corporations that dominate our economies, and academics in general.
These limits also expose the limits of a Western World View or a Mechanical World View. The Western World View and the concept of never-ending physical progress and expansion is deeply lodged in the rise of science. This world view has dominated Western society with a religious ferver since the the times of Francis Bacon 400 years ago. Technological superiority is at the heart of the rise of Western global power from the time of the conquistadors to the present.
These limits also expose the limits of cultures or civilizations based primarily on power, materialism, and pecuniary interests at the expense of other qualities. They expose the limits of a science and technology-based educational system used to educate new generations of future technicians.
In other words, the limits of science, technology, and large scale industry are the limits of the times in which we live. Those limits unseen and unrecognized are at the heart of every large-scale, man-made disaster, also largely unseen and unrecognized, we face as a species now and in the future.
It is my belief that if the reader takes the time to understand what Kuhn, Bohm, W. H. Whyte, and Lewis Mumford write about scientific and technical development and organization, it is not hard to see the limits of science and scientific institutions. The WTC collapses themselves and the resulting investigations and discussions provide an excellent single example of the limits of science and scientific institutions in action. They really seem to be a living example of the limits that Kuhn, Bohm, and Mumford recognized quite clearly over 40 years ago. After all one may have been told about science throughout ones life it is interesting to catch a glimpse of a scientific and technological breakdown in action and how various people respond to such a breakdown.
Each of these links can be seen as a window or filter through which one can look into the nature of scientific and technological institutions and limits of the Western or mechanical world views.
Corporate, managerial, business, and legal filters
Science in Large Bureaucracies: W.H. Whyte
Scientific establishment filter
Habits within the Scientific Establishment: Thomas Kuhn
Science and technology within an atmosphere of physical control and the priorities of power systems
Science, Technology within Power Systems: Lewis Mumford
Limits of a Mechanical, Atomistic, or Western world view
Limits of Fragmented Analysis and Theory: David Bohm
Limits of human thought and mind (Science and Technology are thoughts externalized. Thought has limits.)
Thought and Mind as a System: David Bohm
General summaries of each window:
Science in Large Bureaucracies: W.H. Whyte
In order to understand Whytes descriptions it is necessary to introduce two new terms: "organization man", and "social ethic". They are defined within the above link.
Whyte then asks:
Suppose for a moment that you were given this mental exercise: without knowing anything about how scientists work today, you were to imagine what would happen if the Social Ethic were applied to science as it has been in the rest of organization life. The chances are that you would imagine, among other things, that: (1) scientists would now concentrate on the practical application of previously discovered ideas rather than the discovery of new ones; (2) they would rarely work by themselves but rather as units of scientific cells; (3) organization loyalty, getting along with people, ect. would be considered just as important as thinking; (4) well-rounded team players would be more valuable than brilliant men, and a very brilliant man would probably be disruptive. Lastly and most importantly, these things would be so because people believe this is the way it should be.
Habits within the Scientific Establishment: Thomas Kuhn
Within academia Kuhn's book is widely considered to be the most influential book on the philosophy of science ever written. And as a perfect demonstration of Kuhn's claims about the physical sciences, very few physical scientists are aware of the main points Kuhn makes within the book. After all, the physical sciences, history, and philosophy are each taught in different 'departments' and why would physical scientists bother to read of history or philosophy of their own sciences?
A review of the main concepts of the book follow. A more detailed review is available at the link above.
Kuhn gives a highly perceptive description of "ordinary", or "normal" science. From the book:
Mop-ping-up operations are what engage most scientists throughout their careers. They constitute what I am here calling normal science. Closely examined, whether historically or in the contemporary laboratory, that enterprise seems an attempt to force nature into the preformed and relatively inflexible box that the paradigm supplies. No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all. Nor do scientists normally aim to invent new theories, and they are often intolerant of those invented by others.1 Instead, normal-scientific research is directed to the articulation of those phenomena and theories that the paradigm already supplies.
-Kuhn, pg 36
A) A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs (p. 4).
... 1) These beliefs form the foundation of the "educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice" (5).
... 2) The nature of the "rigorous and rigid" preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a "deep hold" on the student's mind.
B) Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" (5)�"scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
C) To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments" (5).
D) Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education"
"The operations and measurements that a scientist undertakes in the laboratory are not 'the given' of experience but rather 'the collected with difficulty.' They are not what the scientist 'sees' at least not before his research is well advanced and his attention focused. Rather, they are concrete indices to the content of more elementary perceptions, and as such they are selected for the close scrutiny of normal research only because they promise opportunity for the fruitful elaboration of an accepted paradigm. Far more clearly than the immediate experience from which they in part derive, operations and measurements are paradigm-determined. "
Both scientists and laymen take much of their image of creative scientific activity from an authoritative source that systematically disguises - partly for important functional reasons - the existence and significance of scientific revolutions. Only when the nature of that authority is recognized and analyzed can one hope to make historical example fully effective.
Textbooks thus begin by truncating the scientist's sense of his discipline's history and then proceed to supply a substitute for what they have eliminated.
Limits of Fragmented Analysis and Theory: David Bohm
Quotes are from the book Wholeness and the Implicit Order by David Bohm included in the above link
It seems clear, then, that we are faced with deep and radical fragmentation, as well as thoroughgoing confusion, if we try to think of what could be the reality that is treated by our physical laws. At present physicists tend to avoid this issue by adopting the attitude that our overall views concerning the nature of reality are of little or no importance. All that counts in physical theory is supposed to be the development of mathematical equations that permit us to predict and control the behavior of large statistical aggregates of particles. Such a goal is not regarded as merely for its pragmatic and technical utility: rather, it has become a presupposition of most work in modern physics that prediction and control of this kind is all that human knowledge is about.
This sort of presupposition is indeed in accord with the general spirit of our age, but it is my main proposal in this book that we cannot thus simply dispense with an overall world view. If we try to do so, we will find that we are left with whatever (generally inadequate) world views may happen to be at hand.
Thus art, science, technology, and human work in general, are divided up into specialities, each considered to be separate in essence from the others. Becoming dissatisfied with this state of affairs, men have set up further interdisciplinary subjects, which were intended to unite these specialities, but these new subjects have ultimately served mainly to add further separate fragments. Then, society as a whole has developed in such a way that it is broken up into separate nations and different religious, political, economic, racial groups, etc. Man's natural environment has
correspondingly been seen as an aggregate of separately existent parts, to be exploited by different groups of people.
Not merely the natural environment but even groups of human beings are seen as exploitable separately existing parts by other groups of human beings. In this age one would have to be blind not to notice that such drainage of natural and human resources, converted to short term financial gain, is unsustainable, cruel, and utterly stupid.
Similarly, each individual human being has been fragmented into a large number of separate and conflicting compartments, according to his different desires, aims, ambitions, loyalties, psychological characteristics, etc., to such an extent that it is generally accepted that some degree of neurosis is inevitable, while many individuals going beyond the 'normal' limits of fragmentation are classified as paranoid, schizoid, psychotic, etc. The notion that all these fragments are separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion. Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today. Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder, and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who have to live in it.
Nevertheless, this sort of ability of man to separate himself from his environment and to divide and apportion things ultimately led to a wide range of negative and destructive results, because man lost awareness of what he was doing and thus extended the process of division beyond the limits within which it works properly. In essence, the process of division is a way of thinking about things that is convenient and useful mainly in the domain of practical, technical and functional activities (e.g., to divide up an area of land into different fields where various crops are to be grown). However, when this mode of thought is applied more broadly to man's notion of himself and the whole world in which he lives (i.e. to his self-world view), then man ceases to regard the resulting divisions as merely useful or convenient and begins to see and experience himself and his world as actually constituted of separately existent fragments. Being guided by a fragmentary self-world view, man then acts in such a way as to try to break himself and the world up, so that all seems to correspond to his way of thinking.
Now, if we are not aware that our theories are ever-changing forms of insight, giving shape and form to experience in general, our vision will be limited. One could put it like this: experience with nature is very much like experience with human beings. If one approaches another man with a fixed 'theory' about him as an 'enemy' against whom one must defend oneself, he will respond similarly, and thus one's 'theory' will apparently be confirmed by experience. Similarly, nature will respond in accordance with the theory with which it is approached.
For example, some might say: 'Fragmentation of cities, religions, political systems, conflict in the form of wars, general violence, fratricide, etc., are the reality. Wholeness is only an ideal, toward which we should perhaps strive.' But this is not what is being said here. Rather, what should be said is that wholeness is what is real, and that fragmentation is the response of this whole to man's action, guided by illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought. In other words, it is just because reality is whole that man, with his fragmentary approach, will inevitably be answered with a correspondingly fragmentary response. So what is needed is for man to give attention to his habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end.
The physical sciences work much the same way:
Nevertheless, in most of the work that is being done in physics today the notions of formative and final cause are not regarded as having primary significance. Rather, law is still generally conceived as a self-determined system of efficient causes, operating in an ultimate set of material constituents of the universe (e.g. elementary particles subject to forces of interaction between them). These constituents are not regarded as formed in an overall process, and thus they are not considered to be anything like organs adapted to their place and function in the whole (i.e. to the ends which they would serve in this whole). Rather, they tend to be conceived as separately existent mechanical elements of a fixed nature.
The prevailing trend in modern physics is thus much against any sort of view giving primacy to formative activity in undivided wholeness of flowing movement. Indeed, those aspects of relativity theory and quantum theory which do suggest the need for such a view tend to be de-emphasized and in
fact hardly noticed by most physicists, because they are regarded largely as features of the mathematical calculus and not as indications of the real nature of things. When it comes to the informal language and mode of thought in physics, which infuses the imagination and provokes the sense of what is real and substantial, most physicists still speak and think, with an utter conviction of truth, in terms of the traditional atomistic notion that the universe is constituted of elementary particles which are 'basic building blocks' out of which everything is made. In other sciences, such as biology, the strength of this conviction is even greater, because among workers in these fields there is little awareness of the revolutionary character of development in modern physics.
This is what Lewis Mumford calls the 'Mechanical World View', which is an often unrecognized world view underlying western science, industry, technology, and territorial expansion today and for the last few hundred years.
Of course, the prevailing tendency in science to think and perceive in terms of a fragmentary self-world view is part of a larger movement that has been developing over the ages and that pervades almost the whole of our society today: but, in turn, such a way of thinking and looking in scientific research tends very strongly to re-enforce the general fragmentary approach because it gives men a picture of the whole world as constituted of nothing but an aggregate of separately existent 'atomic building blocks', and provides experimental evidence from which is drawn the conclusion that this view is necessary and inevitable. In this way, people are led to feel that fragmentation is nothing but an expression of 'the way everything really is' and that anything else is impossible. So there is very little disposition to look for evidence to the contrary.
As has been indicated, however, men who are guided by such a fragmentary self-world view cannot, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world into pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking.
Our fragmentary way of thinking, looking, and acting, evidently has implications in every aspect of human life. That is to say, by a rather interesting sort of irony, fragmentation seems to be the one thing in our way of life which is universal, which works through the whole without boundary or limit. This comes about because the roots of fragmentation are very deep and pervasive. As pointed out, we try to divide what is one and
indivisible, and this implies that in the next step we will try to identify what is different.
To be confused about what is different and what is not, is to be confused about everything. Thus, it is not an accident that our fragmentary form of thought is leading to such a widespread range of crises, social, political, economic, ecological, psychological, etc., in the individual and in society as a whole.
Science, Technology within Power Systems: Lewis Mumford
Quotes are from the book Pentagon of Power. A much larger collection of quotes from the book are available at the link above.
In order to review Mumford's ideas on technical and scientific limitations, it is necessary to introduce and define 3 terms: Power complexes, megamachines, and megatechnics.
Consider this factory machine
It is a construction of smaller machines regulated through a control system. The smaller machines do not work independently of each other or different components of the system will simply smash into and interfere with each other. Hence centralized, coordinated control is necessary for the the overall unit to function properly.
Now consider a crew of factory workers operating together with this equipment. The whole system now has human components located at key nodal points. During operation, the human components work with clockwork regularity within the system, much like machines themselves.
Now consider the factory as a whole. The factory, too, works with clockwork regularity, with both mechanical and human components. The overall goal is to maximize and smoothen the production process in order to maximize "profit". The human components come and go from the factory with machine-like regularity coordinated by a central clock.
Obviously this factory is modeled on the automated machine itself. Its human components are also modeled on the automated machine.
The concept of large scale machine-like operation using human components as servo-mechanisms of cheap, replaceable parts existed long before the 'industrial revolution.'
Evidence of such coordinated, large-scale operations are first visible in Egypt and Mesopotamia during what could be called the 'Pyramid Age.'
Mumford, p 258:
Both megamachines can be identified by their similar technological capacities: they are mass organizations capable of performing tasks that lie outside the range of small work-collectives and loose tribal or territorial groups.
Or consider the rise of both the factory system and the rise of science in Europe leading into the industrial revolution. They are modeled on the same concept of a machine with human and mechanical standardized replaceable parts. It was military regimentation that proved the archetype for such collective mechanization.
Standardization, prefabrication, and mass production were all first established in state-organized arsenals, most notably in Venice, centuries before the "industrial revolution." It was not Arkwright, but Venetian urban officials in command of the arsenal, who first established the factory system; and it was not Sir Samuel Bentham and the elder Brunel who first standardized ship production, with various tackle blocks and planks cut to uniform measure; for centuries before, the arsenal of Venice had so well mastered the process of pre-fabrication that it cold put together a whole vessel within a month. And though the priority of fabricating machines with standardized and therefore replaceable parts belongs to the inventors of printing with movable type, it was the production of muskets that this method first became widely adopted: first in LeBlanc's innovation in France in 1785, and then, in 1800, in Eli Whitney's factory at Whitneyville, under contract with the United States government. "The technique of interchangeable part manufacture," as Usher observes, "was thus established in general outline before the invention of the sewing machine or harvesting machinery. The new technique was a fundamental condition of the greatest achievements realized by inventors and manufacturers in those fields."
The mathematical calculations and physical experiments that increased the precision of artillery fire reflected the military preoccupations rather than those of the current industrial arts, with their cut-and-try methods; and this influence was so universal that the roles of the military, or civil, and the mechanical engineer were at first almost interchangeable. Let us not forget that the same demands for accurate artillery fire resulted in the invention of the modern computer.
It was in the army, finally, that the process of mechanization was first effectively applied on a mass scale to human beings, through the replacement of irregular feudal or citizen armies, intermittently assembled, by a standard army of hired or conscripted soldiers, under the severe discipline of daily drill, contrived to produce human beings whose spontaneous or instinctive reactions would be displaced by automatic responses to orders. "His is not to reason why," was the motto for the whole system: the doing and the dying followed.
Military regimentation proved the archetype for collective mechanization, for the megamachine it created was the earliest complex machine of specialized, interdependent parts, human and mechanical.
The point Lewis Mumford is making is quite clear.
Warfare, the activity that had first made such heavy demands on the mine, in turn contributed further to mechanization by reverting in industry to a military discipline and daily drill, in order to ensure uniform operations and uniform results. This reciprocal interplay between warfare, mining, and mechanization was ultimately responsible for some of the most vexatious problems that must now be faced.
From the beginning, I must emphasize, if we are to understand technology's increasing threats to mankind, the murky air of the battlefield and the arsenal blew over the entire field of industrial invention and affected civilian life. The war machine hastened the pace of standardization and mass production.
That which is now commonly referred to as the 'military-industrial complex' has deep ancient roots. The rise of mass production, of the factory system, of disciplined and regimented human organizations, of large-scale mechanization and automation, all have roots in military regimentation and the quest to increase physical power.
Likewise organized science and invention and the industrial and mega-processes they service serve this same power system.
European territorial expansion and conquest have never been separate from the expansion of the physical sciences, technics, and industry. In fact, both forms of expansion often incorporate the same mentality and vocabulary: that of 'conquest'.
Of the three new terms, 'power complex' is the concept with which the reader is most familiar, but some further explanation is needed:
The power system has often been mistakenly identified with feudalism, with absolute monarchy, with princely despotism, with capitalism, with fascism, with communism, even with the Welfare State. But this multiple identification points to a more important characteristic: the fact that the power complex increasingly underlies all these institutional structures: and as it knits more closely together, seizing more power and governing wider areas, it tends to suppress original cultural differences that once, under feebler political institutions, were visible.
From unrestricted power through expanding pecuniary profit to insatiable pleasure, the most striking thing about this power complex is its studious indifference to other human needs, norms, and goals: it operates best in what it, historically speaking, an ecological, cultural, and personal lunar desert, swept only by solar winds.
What is the difference between a "megamachine" as Mumford uses the term and a "state"?
Let me make clear, at this point, a difference between the State as a mere unit of political administration and the activated megamachine. This difference is brought out in the changing definition of the word 'power' in English. The 'New English Dictionary' traces the definition of power as "possession of control or command over others" back in 1297, it then in 1486 shifts to legal ability, capacity, or authority to act; but in 1727 power takes on a technological role as "any form of energy or force available for application of work." Finally, with the construction of the megamachine, all the modes of power became available for work - both constructive and destructive - on a colossal scale otherwise unattainable. The megamachine, accordingly, is not a mere administrative organization: it is a machine in the orthodox technical sense, as a "combination of resistant bodies" so organized as to perform standardized motions and repetitive work. But note: all these forms of power, one re-enforcing the other, became essential to the new Pentagon of Power.
Unlike machines that perform partial operations for specialized purposes, the megamachine by its very nature can be used only in collective, large-scale operations, which are themselves components of a larger power system.By increasing the range and number of such operations from the archaic jobs of canal building, highway building and urban demolition, to the entire industrial process and thence into an organization of education and consumption, the megamachine exercises more effective control over large populations than any merely political unit can profess.
War and threats are the ultimate forces the megamachine requires to fuse the quasi-independent forces of a power complex:
Nietzsche once described war as the "health of the State"; but more than this, it is the body and soul of the megamachine. The extent of the megamachine's activities can be judged by the fact that, once a large war comes to an end, it takes from three to five years before the organizations and industries the megamachine absorbs can recover, even with the aid of the central authority, the ability to carry on as quasi-independent units.
Lewis Mumford wrote this in 1970. This problem has been 'solved' within our own lifetimes by creating conditions in which the state of war doesn't end.
All the properties of individual machines - high energy inputs, mechanization, automation, quantity output - are increased by their inclusion in the megamachine: but so likewise are the disadvantages of such machines - their rigidity, their irresponsiveness to new situations, their detachment from human purposes other than those embodied in the design of the machine. The chief of these embodied purposes is the exercise of power.
Even before 'absolute' weapons were invented, automatism and absolutism were firmly coupled together in the constitution of every military organization. Hence war is the ideal condition for promoting the assemblage of the megamachine, and to keep the threat of war constantly in existence is the surest way of holding the otherwise autonomous or quasi-autonomous components together as a functioning working unit. Once a megamachine has been brought into existence, and criticism of its program, and departure from its principles, any detachment from its routines, any modifications of its structure through demands from below constitute a threat to the whole system.
The highest values and priorities of a power complex according to Mumford (the five 'P's', the 'pentagon of power'):
This is how the power complex understands 'progress'. He explains:
What I have hitherto designated with intentional looseness as the myth of the machine I now propose to define more closely as the Power Complex: a new constellation of forces, interests, and motives, which eventually resurrected the ancient megamachine, and give it a more perfect technological structure, capable of planetary and even interplanetary extension.
In English, by a happy alliterative accident, the main components of the new power complex all start with the same initial letter: beginning with Power itself, so that one may call it - all the more accurately because of contemporary Americal overtones - the Pentagon of Power. The basic ingredient was power itself, beginning with the Pyramid Age with such an assemblage of manpower as no earlier group had been capable of bringing into existence. Over the ages, this has been augmented by horsepower, waterpower, windpower, woodpower, coalpower, electricpower, oilpower and climactically, only yesterday, by nuclear power, itself the ultimate form of power from chemical reactions that had made the gasoline motor and the rocket possible.
Organized political power backed by coercive weapons is the source of both property and productivity: first of all in the cultivation of the land, using sunpower, and then at later stages in every other mode of production. Mechanical productivity, linked to widening markets, spells profit: and without the dynamic stimulus of profit - that is, money power - the system could not so rapidly expand. This perhaps explains why cruder forms of the megamachine, which favored the military caste rather than the merchant and industrial producer, and relied on tribute and pillage, remained static, and in the end unproductive and unprofitable to the point of repeated bankruptcy. Finally, no less an integral part of the power system is publicity (prestige, panache), through which the merely human directors of the power complex - the military, bureaucratic, industrial, and scientific elite - are inflated to more than human dimensions in order better to maintain authority.
These separate components of the power system derive from the far richer ecological complex - 'ecosystem' in scientific parlance - in which all organisms, including man, live and move and have their being. Within that ecosystem, which includes human culture, all of these components of the power complex originally had their place and performed their indispensible functions. What the power complex did was to wrench these separate components from their organic matrix and enclose them in an isolated subsystem centered not on the support and intensification of life but on the expansion of power and personal aggrandizement.
So closely are the components of the power system related that they perform virtually interchangeable functions: not only in the sense that every operation is reducible to pecuniary terms, but that money itself in turn can be translated equally into power or property or publicity or public (television) personalities. This interchangeability of the power components was already plain to Heraclitus at the critical moment that the new money economy was in formation. "All things may be reduced to fire," he observed, "and fire to all things, just as goods may be turned into gold and gold into goods."
Commitment to the power complex and relentless pursuit of pecuniary gains, in both direct and indirect forms, define the power system and prescribe its only acceptable goal. That goal, fitly enough, belongs to the same memorable series of alliterations - progress. In terms of the power system, progress means simply more power, more profit, more productivity, more paper property, more publicity - all convertible into quantitative units. Even publicity can be expressed in column-yards of newspaper clippings and man-hours of television appearance. Each new achievement of the power system, whether in scientific research, in education or medicine, in antibiotics, or in space exploration, will be expressed through the same media for institutional magnification and ego-inflation. The school, the church, the factory, the art museum - each currently plays the same power theme, marching to the same beat, saluting the same flags, joining the interminable columns already assembled on the side streets to become the new leaders of the parade that the kings, the despots, the conquistadors, and the financiers of the Renascence first marshalled together.
The rise of the physical sciences did not occur in some intellectual vacuum nor was it triggered by some disinterested pursuit of 'objective knowledge'.
At the beginning, I suggested, the two forms of exploration, terrestrial and technological, had a common source, and for long remained in constant interplay. For a few centuries, Western man, or at least a wakeful minority, believed it would be possible to make the best of both worlds. We are now sufficiently far away from the original New World pictures, which linger only as after-images, to see that they did in fact have much in common.
Both movements, to begin with, were characterized by an unconcealed hostility to the past - though to different parts of the past: they openly gloried in discontinuity, if not outright destruction.
Beneath both attitudes toward the past was the sense, which had appeared at earlier points in history, notably in the sixth century B.C., that formal civilization had somehow gone wrong; and that its most successful institutions had retarded and restricted, rather than furthered, the full development of man, though it had made possible great collective assemblages of manpower that transformed the environment and energized the mind -enterprises that no earlier tribal community or village had even dared to conceive.
The state, the official religion, the bureaucracy, the army, these resurgent institutions of civilization were capable indeed of effecting great constructive transformations of the environment, but the human price of their success was heavy: the class structure, the lifetime fixation of function, their monopoly of land and economic and educational opportunity, the inequalities of property and privilege, the chronic savagery and war, the fears and obsessions of paranoid ambitions of the ruling classes, culminating in mass destructions and exterminations.
The underlying notion of 'improvement by movement' curiously bound together both the roving frontiersmen of the New World and the mechanical pioneers, who in the last three hundred years devoted no small part of their energies to speeding every form of mechanical transportation. 'The more rapid the movement the greater the improvement' was accepted as axiomatic. Behind both efforts was the belief that 'farther' meant not only farther away in space but farther away from the past.
"Scientific thought," Bertrand Russell once observed, correctly interpreting 'The Scientific Outlook,' "is essentially power thought - the sort of thought that is to say whose purpose, conscious or unconscious, is to give power to its possessor."
Now, however high-flown modern scientific theory may be, and however much subjective delight it may give to its adepts, the scientific establishment from the beginning has been encouraged and promoted chiefly because of its hoped-for or promised applications to practical affairs: warfare, manufactures, transportation, communication. The belief that science developed solely out of a pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is at best only a half-truth, and at worst, mere self-flattery or self-deception on the part of scientists. As with holiness of saints, which has bestowed unwarranted authority on the grosser worldly claims of the Christian Church, the total effect of scientific ideology has been to provide both the means and the justification for achieving external control over all manifestations of natural existence, including man's own life. If science and technics have not been officially married, they have long lived together in a loose common-law relationship that is easier to ignore than to dissolve.
Francis Bacon, considered the father of modern science: "Knowledge is Power":
Behind Bacon's expectations, however, there was a little-noted factor which was to mark the inauguration of an age committed increasingly to the pursuit of science and the perfection of machines: an ambition for conquest that coincided with a growing sense of power which the machines already in existence, particularly cannon and firearms, had greatly stimulated.
Bacon's aphorism, "Knowledge is Power", must not be taken as a mere descriptive figure: it was a declaration of intention, and it meant emphatically that power was important. ... If conquest of nature on the purely physical level was a less bloody achievement the any form of military conquest - at least until this conquest began, in the nineteenth century, to have a disruptive effect upon the ecological balance of all organisms, including man - the same ambitions, the same drives, indeed the same neurotic compulsions to sacrifice all other occasions of life to the displays and demonstrations of power, gradually took possession of its opponents. This created special ties with the more vulgar forms of conquest, those of the trader, the inventor, the ruthless conquistador, and the driving industrialist seeking to replace natural abundance and natural satisfactions with those he could profitably sell.
This new industrial complex is based upon a group of postulates so self-evident to those who have produced the system that they are rarely criticized or challenged - indeed almost never examined - for they are completely identified with the new 'way of life'.
First: man has only one all-important mission in life: to conquer nature. By conquering nature the technocrat means, in abstract terms, commanding time and space; and in more concrete terms, speeding up every natural process, hastening growth, quickening the pace of transportation, and breaking down communication distances by either mechanical or electronic means. To conquer nature is in effect to remove all natural barriers and human norms and to substitute artificial, fabricated equivalents for human processes: to replace the immense variety of resources offered by nature by more uniform, constantly available products spewed forth by the machine.
From these general postulates a series of subsidiary ones are derived: there is only one efficient speed, faster; only one attractive destination, farther away; only one desirable size, bigger; only one rational quantitative goal, more. On these assumptions the object of human life, and therefore of the entire productive mechanism, is to remove limits, to hasten the pace of change, to smooth out seasonal rhythms and reduce regional contrasts - in fine, to promote mechanical novelty and destroy organic continuity.
Here we face the great paradox of automation, put once and for all in Goethe's fable of the Sorcerer's apprentice. Our civilization has cleverly found a magic formula for setting both industrial and academic brooms and pails of water to work by themselves, in ever-increasing quantities at an ever-increasing speed. But we have lost the Master Magician's spell for altering the tempo of this process, or halting it when it ceases to serve human functions and purposes, though this formula (foresight and feedback) is written plainly on every organic process.
As a result we are already, like the apprentice, beginning to drown in the flood. The moral should be plain: unless one has the power to stop an automatic process - and if necessary reverse it - one had better not start it. To spare ourselves humiliation over our failure to control automation, many of us now pretend that the process conforms exactly to our purposes and alone meets all our needs - or, to speak more accurately, we cast away those qualifying human traits that would impede the process. And as our knowledge of isolatable segments and fragments becomes infinitely refined and microscopic, our ability to interrelate the parts and to bring them to a focus in rational activities continues to disappear.
As Bohm mentioned previously, "men who are guided by such a fragmentary self-world view cannot, in the long run, do other than to try in their actions to break themselves and the world into pieces, corresponding to their general mode of thinking. ... Thus, it is not an accident that our fragmentary form of thought is leading to such a widespread range of crises, social, political, economic, ecological, psychological, etc., in the individual and in society as a whole."
The general direction is no accident, but an inevitable consequence of seeing the world and people as exploitable independent fragments. It is an inescapable consequence of an underlying unrecognized world view.
And this bring us at once to the most radical defect in every automated system: for its smooth operation this under-dimensioned system requires equally under-dimensioned men, whose values are those needed for the operation and the continued expansion of the system itself. The minds that are so conditioned are incapable of imagining any alternatives.
Here, at the core of automation, lies its principle weakness once the system becomes universal. Its exponents, even if they are able to recognize its deficiencies, see no way of overcoming them except by a further extension of automation and cybernation.
Unfortunately, their training had conditioned the scientists to the idea that the continued increase in scientific knowledge, and its speediest possible translation into practice, without regard to social consequences, was nothing less than a categorical imperative.
As with all modern technical performances, the mass infliction of death has been both expanded and speeded up. But so far, nuclear explosions and rocket explorations, both directly issuing from war plans, have been the most conspicuous manifestations of these lethal facilities, along with the communications systems upon which they depend. The fact that no human purpose, present or prospective, would be served by these modes of extermination, no matter how successful in 'overkill,' only demonstrates the deep under-layers of psychotic irrationality upon which the fantasies of absolute weapons, of absolute power, and of absolute control have been laid. Freud made a parallel between the magic rituals of many so-called primitive peoples and the behavior of neurotic personalities in our time. But there is no practice in these arrested cultures, neither head-hunting nor cannibalism nor voodoo murder, that is comparable in superstitious savagery and mental corruption with the current plans of highly trained scientists, technologists, and military men to inflict collective death on the scale that modern technological agents have made possible.
The penalty for producing nuclear bombs sufficient to destroy the human race was that it put these genocidal and suicidal weapons in the hands of demonstrably fallible human beings whose astounding scientific achievements blinded their contemporaries to the human limitations of the culture that had produced them.
Power of this magnitude had never been in human hands before - hardly even in fantasy. But even power on a comparatively minute scale has, all through history, notoriously produced distortions and aberrations in the human personality; and the observed results of such power in inflating pride had made Christian theology, with acute perception, treat pride as the gravest of sins. Among the rulers of the United States and Soviet Russia, inflamed by the possession of 'absolute' weapons, ideological aberrations soon hardened into 'fixed ideas.'. These 'ideas' fomented pathological suspicion and relentless hostility similar to that recorded on the walls of the tomb of Seti: a text dating from the fourteenth to the twelfth centuries B.C. but, according to Wilson, showing signs of a much older original. In this text Re, the Sun God, fancies that mankind is secretly plotting against him, and in return he plots the destruction of mankind.
Thus the area of this self-enclosed citadel has widened steadily, while the walls around it have grown thicker and more impenetrable. By the simple expedient of creating new emergencies, fomenting new fears, singling out new enemies or magnifying by free use of fantasy the evil intentions of 'the enemy,' the megamachines of the United States and Soviet Russia, instead of being dismantled as a regrettable temporary wartime necessity, were elevated into permanent institutions in what has now become a permanent war: the so-called Cold War. As it has turned out, this form of war, with its ever-expanding demands for scientific ingenuity and technological innovations, is by far the most effective device invented for keeping this over-productive technology in full operation.
This was written in 1970 though little has changed since then in essence. The fusion of quasi-independent units (industry, military, security, information technology) has been speeded up.
Among the first of the many casualties already produced by the megamachine was the honour of the scientific guild that had helped to bring it into existence. For their success as members of this growing totalitarian establishment threatened the loss of the scientists' most conspicuous virtue - the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, experimentally verifiable, shareable by their peers, accessible to public inspection, testing, and correction.
No one could serve the new megamachine and hold to the scientific ideal of uncensored, unimpeded thought; for total secrecy, necessitated by war, became incorporated as a permanent feature of the 'peacetime' (Cold War) regime. In return for this loss of independence and disinterestedness, the new priesthood has exercised an authority they had never dreamed of exercising before. And they have buttressed their new position by regarding as fixed and beyond challenge the crass assumptions on which the Cold War was based. Thus, one of its spokesmen, Herman Kahn, in a reputedly objective survey of the theoretic possibilities of thermo-nuclear strategy, refused to consider even the possibility of achieving peace. Here his 'objective' inquiry disclosed the typical trick of the new scientific establishment: to give answers only to carefully loaded questions that in themselves dictate the nature of the answer.
Though we are too close to it to make a completely objective judgment, it has become obvious that our own culture has fallen into a dangerously unbalanced state, and is now producing warped and unbalanced minds. One part of our civilization - that dedicated to technology - has usurped authority over all the other components, geographical, biological, anthropological: indeed, the most frenetic advocates of this process are proclaiming that the whole biological world is now being supplanted by technology, and that man will either become a willing creature of his technology or cease to exist.
Not merely does technology claim priority in human affairs: it places the need for constant technological change above any considerations of its own efficiency, its own continuity, or even, ironically enough, its own capacity to survive.
Thought and Mind as a System: David Bohm
Within this window Bohm addresses some of the limits of the process of thought itself. Science is nothing more than thought externalized. Thought has some inherent limitations. Mappings of thought processes and the limitations of thought are very poorly constructed within our cultures and scientific institutions.
The following quotes are from the book Thought as a System available in the link above.
And with technology advancing you have the possibility that nuclear bombs will perhaps soon be available to all sorts of dictators, even in relatively small nations. There are biological weapons and chemical weapons, and other kinds of weapons that haven't yet been invented but surely will. And then there is the economy to consider. Either we go into a depression, which will help save the ecology, or we go into a boom, which will momentarily make us happy but will eventually ruin the ecology. I mean, the faster we go into prosperity, the faster we create all of these other problems. It seems that whichever way you turn, it doesn't really work. Why not? Is there any way out? Can you imagine that a hundred or two hundred or five hundred years of this won't lead to some gigantic catastrophe, either to the ecology or in some other way?
People have been dealing with this piecemeal—looking at symptoms, saying that we've got to solve this problem or that problem or that problem. But there is something deeper, which people haven't been considering, that is constantly generating these problems. We can use the analogy of a stream, where people are pouring pollution upstream at the same time they are trying to remove it downstream. But as they remove it they may be adding more pollution of a different kind.
What is the source of all this trouble? ... I'm saying that the source is basically in thought. Many people would think that such a statement is crazy, because thought is the one thing we have with which to solve our problems. That's part of our tradition. Yet it looks as if the thing we use to solve our problems is the source of our problems.
I'm saying the reason we don't see the source of our problems is that the means by which we try to solve them are the source. That may seem strange to somebody who hears it for the first time, because our whole culture prides itself on thought as its highest achievement. I'm not suggesting that the achievements of thought are negligible; there are very great achievements in technology, in culture and in various other ways. But there is another side to it which is leading to our destruction, and we have to look at that.
You can see that nations are established by thought. The boundary of the nation is invented by thought. If you go to the edge of the nation, there's nothing to tell you that it is a boundary, unless somebody makes a wall or something. It's the same land; the people may often be not very different. But what is one side or the other seems all important. It's thought that 'makes it so'.
We can also consider professional groups. In science, for instance, every little speciality is fragmented from every other one. People hardly know what is happening in a somewhat different field. And it goes on. Knowledge is fragmented. Everything gets broken up.
Thus we have false division and false unification. Thought is pretending that there is a sharp division outside and that everything is unified inside, when it's really not so. This is a fictional way of thinking. But to go on with this fictional way of thinking seems to be very important, so
important that the actual fact that it is wrong, the fact that it's not that way at all, is ignored. It seems strange. Why should people do such a strange thing? It really could be thought of as irrational at the very least, or perhaps crazy.
The more general difficulty with thought is that thought is very active, it's participatory. And fragmentation is itself a symptom of the more general difficulty. Thought is always doing a great deal, but it tends to say that it hasn't done anything, that it is just telling you the way things are. But thought affects everything. It has created everything we see in this building. It has affected all the trees, it has affected
the mountains, the plains and the farms and the factories and science and technology.
Thought has produced tremendous effects outwardly. And, as we'll discuss further on, it produces tremendous effects inwardly in each person. Yet the general tacit assumption in thought is that it's just telling you the way things are and that is not doing anything—that 'you' are inside there, deciding what to do with the information. But I want to say that you don't decide what to do with the information. The information takes over. It runs you. Thought runs you. Thought, however, gives the false information that you are running it, that you are the one who controls thought, whereas actually thought is the one which controls each one of us. Until thought is understood— better yet, more than understood, perceived—it will actually control us; but it will create the impression that it is our servant, that it is just doing what we want it to do. That's the difficulty.
Thought is creating divisions out of itself and then saying that they are there naturally. The divisions between nations are regarded as being 'just there', but obviously they were invented by people. People have come to accept those divisions and that made them be there.
There were vast religious wars. And we may still have more coming, in spite of all the development of the enlightenment, knowledge and science and technology. In fact, science and technology now seem, at least equally well, to serve those who are perhaps at a more Mediaeval stage
as it serves those who regard themselves as more advanced. Anybody can use science and technology without fundamentally altering his own frame of mind which governs how they are used.
Another problem of fragmentation is that thought divides itself from feeling and from the body. Thought is said to be the mind; we have the notion that it is something abstract or spiritual or immaterial. Then there is the body, which is very physical. And we have emotions, which are perhaps somewhere in between. The idea is that they are all different. That is, we think of them as different. And we experience them as different because we think of them as different. But thought is not different from emotion.
The thought of something pleasant will make you feel good. The thought that you are doing great will make you feel good inside —all the good feelings will come out. Or the thought that you have done something wrong may make the adrenalin flow, may make you feel guilty. If somebody says you are guilty, which is a thought, then you can feel very miserable. Feelings are tremendously affected by thoughts. And obviously thoughts are tremendously affected by feelings, because if you are angry you don't think clearly.
Those centres are intimately and closely related. The very wish to think must come from an emotion or from an impulse to think. They are really almost two sides of the same process. But our language separates them and our thought separates them into fragments. I'm saying that emotion and intellect are closely connected, but we introduce into our thought a very sharp division—just like the one between nations—where there really isn't such a division. We're introducing a fictional way of thinking about this situation. If our thinking is fictional, it will mislead us.
All of this will tend to introduce quite a bit of confusion, or what I call 'incoherence', into thinking or into action because you will not get the results you expect. That's the major sign of incoherence: you want to do something but it doesn't come out the way you intend. That's usually a sign that you have some wrong information somewhere. The right approach would be to say; 'Yes, that's incoherent. Let me try to find out the wrong information and change it.' But the trouble is, there is a lot of incoherence in which people don't do that.
I say that it's useful to look at this as a system of reflexes. A reflex just operates, as we've seen in the case of the kneejerk. However, we don't usually think that thought is like the knee-jerk reflex. We think we are controlling thought and producing thought. That way of thinking is
part of our whole background. But I'm suggesting that it's not generally so—that a vast part of our thought just comes out from the reflex system. You only find out what the thought is after it comes out. Now, this really overturns a great deal of the way we look at the mind or the personality
or our entire cultural background.
But now the question is: are those reflexes coherent? According to the theory of evolution, incoherent systems don't last very long. This is called 'natural selection'. In thought, however, we seem to be able to keep up these incoherent systems of reflexes, at least quite a while. Sometimes the people who have them might not live very long, but in our society we have arranged conditions where we can go on with a lot of incoherence without actually leading to a selection process. The point is that reflexes can become incoherent and get stuck because of all these mechanisms.
I'm suggesting that we need to present some sort of map of thought which may be more coherent than the unspoken map implicit in our culture, because if we are being guided by incoherent ideas which are already part of our reflex system we will go wrong. And we can't just choose not to
go wrong, because those incoherent ideas are already part of the reflex system. Therefore, the first step is at least to look at some other ideas which may be more coherent.
I say this to show that thought is not just the culprit, that thought is not pure wickedness. We have this whole very subtle and very complex structure—which we probably know very little about—that does everything for us. Thought is part of a system which includes all our reflexes, our relations to other people, all that we do, all our society, and everything. But it has a flaw in it.
Q: What we're doing is making a better map.
As I've pointed out, one of the key difficulties has always been that thought does something and then says that what it is doing is not thought. Thought creates a problem and then tries to do something about it while continuing to make the problem, because it doesn't know what it is doing. It's all a bunch of reflexes working.
Thought is always trying to claim that it knows everything. It has that tendency in it, and we have to say why. This is a very dangerous tendency, which leads to self- deception. It doesn't leave open the unknown. It doesn't leave open that the thought is only a representation. And
you must leave room in your thought for something more and something different. Healthy thought requires that it intrinsically be built so that it always has room for that. I'm saying that whatever the representation is, it could be something more and something different. At most we could
say that as far as we know a certain representation may be accurate. That leaves room for something more and something different. Now, that would be healthy thought, proper thought. Orderly thought would have to have that form and structure.
But a great deal of our thought doesn't have that. For example, religious thought often doesn't have it. A lot of our political thought doesn't have it. Even a lot of our scientific thought, as I've just explained, doesn't have it. That's a crucial point: one of the ways thought goes wrong is that it claims
When scientific institutions are viewed though these windows a certain underlying fallibility emerges which goes mostly unrecognized within our cultures and within academia.
First and foremost, the 'disinterested objectivity' of scientists themselves is extremely over-rated. Large-scale technical institutions do not exist independently of the cultures which foster them. Rather, they are a product of those cultures, reflecting the values and priorities of cultures which place increased power as their highest priorities.
A closely related illusion is that of an 'independent scientist', independent of bureaucracy and independent of a system of power. That they are somehow fiercely independent in their pursuit of knowledge.
Another common belief is that scientists have no underlying world views that affect their beliefs. That they are the true 'skeptics'.
Some other common illusions are the beliefs:
- That they are aware of the history of their own science and that of other branches of science.
- That they set their own itinerary and choose their own research focus.
- That they carefully examine anomalies and incorporate them into existing theories.
- That the peer review process effectively screens out incorrect claims.
- That they are free of interference by organization management, or encouraged to openly provide critical feedback to management.
- That 'objective science' is independent of power priorities or power establishments.
- That technical development leads to more personal freedom for the average citizen.
- That technical and industrial development serves people rather than power systems.
- That anomalies to an existing paradigm are perceived and explained rather than ignored.
- That the image both scientists and laymen have of creative scientific activity is accurate rather than a flattering illusion.
- That much of human thought is done by a creative thinker rather than a type of reflex action conditioned by habit and group identity.
- That world views of scientists are fundamentally coherent and lacking contradiction.
- That scientists are relatively balanced individuals with a broad overview of the world and their place in it.
Created on 05/15/2014 09:17 AM by admin
Updated on 05/22/2014 05:50 AM by admin