A Wholistic Approach to Teaching Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts

In standard academic classes, biology, chemistry, and physics are taught as separate subjects. Also, these subjects are not taught to young children, and if they are, they are taught only in the most generic of ways. In contrast, a wholistic approach can integrate the study of each subject by looking at key natural machines. Each natural machine can be taught to all age groups.

The key natural machines are:

Star ----------------------- as group: cluster, galaxy
planet --------------------- as group: planetary system
plant, tree ----------------- as group: ecosystem
body ---------------------- as group: herd, hive, flock, colony, pack, pod ...
........ human body --------- as group: community, culture, civilization

Most every one, but not all, of these natural machines requires a knowledge of how to synthesize concepts in physics, chemistry, and biology. The study of 'mind' and social arrangements require perspectives that are not limited to the physical sciences.

Conventional categories, corresponding key natural systems:

Astronomy = star, planet
Geology, meteorology, oceanography = planet
Biology = plant, tree, body, cell
Chemistry = molecule
Physics = atom, all of the above
Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology = mind, social interaction

An overview of all fields of the natural physical sciences using a wholistic approach:

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The diagram is constructed to stress the interconnected nature of Bio, Geo, and Astro. Each of these key areas within physical science is interconnected on the most fundamental of levels. An emphasis is placed on acquiring a knowledge of structures, mechanisms (transformations, interactions), formations (evolution), natural geometries, decomposition and dissolution of natural systems.

The areas of molecular, cell, and organ in Bio and the area of mineral, rock in Geo are further expanded into these key subcategories:

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And within this approach the physical sciences are understood to be simply one aspect of a larger multi-dimensional world of human perception and experience:

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An eightfold view of human manifestations

Political, military

Each of these 8 manifestations is interconnected to all the others. Each has a history. Each has a distant origin.

Looking into the ancient past of more primitive human communities, every one of these manifestations were active and growing. Some of these manifestations did not begin with homo sapiens, but earlier. Some animals have social orders, economies, and a hierarchical structure. There are species that use technical methods to build and even use tools.

All known civilizations in the past have formed hierarchical social structures. Within extremely large, complex mega-civilizations in which we now live, each of the eightfold manifestations has expanded and has undergone major transformations relative to their more primitive beginnings. But all change and development is not necessarily for the better. Not all growth moves in a positive, beneficial direction. After all, cancer is a type of growth, too.

Seeing through the experiences and perceptions of others

When looking at the interrelations between different subjects in a wholistic way, it is useful to see how other people have tried to see these same connections. The following list of people were chosen for their unique views and observations which cover a wide variety of interconnected subjects. Each of these individuals have made efforts to discern patterns and flows within physical, mental, or social processes.

Lewis Mumford

Sheldon Wolin

Michael Hudson

Frederick Douglass

Irving Norman

Thorstein Veblin

Mohandas Gandhi

David Bohm

Albert Einstein

Noam Chomsky


Margaret Mead

Chris Hedges

Richard Feynman

Jane Goodall

James Baldwin

Guatama Buddha, various zen masters

Max Weber

Paul Radin

Franz Boas


Henry David Thoreau

Leo Tolstoy

Wei Wu Wei

C Wright Mills

Benoit Mandelbrot

George Gurdjieff

Howard Zinn

Aldous Huxley

Dorthea Lange

Thomas Paine

Hannah Arendt

Karl Marx

Omar Khayam

George Orwell

Lao Tzu

Malcolm X

Ernst Friedrich Schumacher

Eugene Debs

Leon Trotsky

William James

Social Case Studies: Small and large scale social conditions, states, processes, and transformations

When studying social hierarchies and social dynamics in this way, the whole world through all recorded history and prehistory provides real, practical examples from which to learn.

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The map above that we usually use shows the relative sizes of countries and continents in an exaggerated, unrealistic way. The Peters projection map shown below allows the viewer to see the actual relative sizes of different countries and continents:

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The following social case studies show complex dynamics found within social hierarchies in a very vivid way. Each example has been chosen so that the viewer can see the effects of large scale social transformations. Each case demonstrates the complex interconnections between political, military, artistic, technical, economic, religious, medical, and scientific elements within social hierarchies. Each case study happened recently (since 1930). Each social transformation has had long term effects.

Congo 1960s

Chile 1970s

Guatemala 1950s, 1980s

Iran 1950s

Vietnam 1960s, 1970s

Indonesia 1960s

Argentina 1970s

India 1940s

Germany 1930s, 1940s

Israel/Palestine 1940s

Rwanda 1990s

Cambodia 1970s

South Africa 1990s

Korea 1940s, 1950s

Ghana 1960s

Russia 1910s

East Timor 1970s, 1990s

Spain 1930s

Iraq 1990s, 2000s

These are just a few of the social, political, and economic case studies of interest since 1910. A comprehensive list is basically limitless.

Social case studies of European expansion since 1492:

Spanish expansion into the Americas

British expansion into Americas

French expansion into Americas

Netherland expansion into Indonesia

British expansion into Austrailia

French expansion into Indochina

Portugese expansion into South America

French expansion into Africa

British expansion into Africa

British expansion into India

Belgian expansion into Congo

The common phrases used to describe these cultural exchanges are "colonize" and "expand", but a more accurate term may be "conquer" or "occupy" or "dominate". These interactions are case studies of populations from one part of the globe encountering populations from other parts of the globe.

Why use a wholistic approach to teach and study the physical sciences, social sciences, and arts?

This approach allows for the study of systems as a whole. It is a much more beautiful and stimulating way to teach physical and social sciences when compared to more formal ways in which physical sciences are introduced to children, teens, and adults based on the academic, dry, artificial divisions between physics, chemistry, and biology.

There are many advantages to a wholistic approach:

For example, how is astronomy connected to biology? Simply put: no sun, no biology. Elements are fused and created during the burning and death processes of stars. Without star processes there is no carbon at all. Also, star emissions drive photosynthesis and warming on earth. The sun and the earth's core and mantle are the ultimate warming and energy sources for all organic life.

In this sense astonomy can never be correctly understood as something that is somehow independent of biology. Biology cannot exist outside of the context of astronomy.

Another example is mathematics. Mathematics can be taught within the context of these key natural physical systems and natural geometries and shapes, not as a highly abstract, dry subject isolated and separate from the physical sciences and the physical world.

With this emphasis one can easily move into the study of all types of machines, mechanisms, structures, and patterns, physical and mental, natural and man made.

Science and technology within social hierarchies

The physical sciences as they exist within the social order of modern civilizations serve interests within the existing social hierarchy. They are in no way divorced or independent from the social systems out of which they emerged and now play a critical role. Neither science nor medicine nor technology serve the rich and the poor equally. Social hierarchy plays a central role in how the benefits of technology, medical knowledge, resources, land usage, and access to education are distributed among human beings. The process of making of decisions as a group, called politics, is not equally accessible to all members of society. It, too, is controlled through social hierarchies.

Any wholistic approach to seeing the interconnections between sciences, technologies, political and military institutions, economic activity, and the larger social order cannot ignore basic facts like the existence of social and corporate hierarchies. If it does, how can such viewpoints be remotely realistic?

At the time of this writing global wealth inequality continues to worsen with the top 1 percent owning more of the world’s assets than the bottom 99 percent combined. Of the estimated $250 trillion in global assets, the top 1 percent own almost exactly 50 percent, while the bottom 50 percent of humanity own collectively less than 1 percent. The richest 10 percent own 87.7 percent of the world’s wealth, leaving 12.3 percent for the bottom 90 percent of the population.

It is therefore unrealistic to expect to develop an accurate reflective overview of the physical sciences, technology, political and military processes, economic processes or the application of medical knowledge and their interconnected nature and relationships while ignoring the reality of social hierarchy. A wholistic approach to the study of the sciences and social and psychological processes within human culture cannot ignore the glaring reality of hierarchical divisions.

Yet if one reviews the conventional approaches to the study of science and technology (linked here, for example), an accurate, realistic assessment of the role of the sciences within human culture is noticeably absent. The relationship of science and technology to military power, for example, is basically ignored. The effects of extreme disparity of financial assets and social privilege on medical access, or political decisions affecting the larger community are treated as virtually nonexistent. Or consider one of the most important socio-economic issues of our time: The effect of industrialization and mass consumer culture on the earth's oceans and atmosphere. The subject is hardly mentioned within conventional approaches to studying economics, sociology, or the physical sciences. Physics and chemistry are studied in conventional ways, but their roles and effects on human society and planetary ecosystems are not part of the study.

Approaches that are not wholistic are therefore fragmented and leave the interrelationships between different academic subjects and the larger society unexamined.

The result of such fragmentation will be a lack of awareness or reflective overview among highly specialized and stratified social classes. The social hierarchy will not be able to see itself for what it is. Wholistic education is all about the ability to see clearly and honestly, and this ability will remain neglected since it is not emphasized or even encouraged within conventional systems of education.

A wholistic approach to the study of the physical sciences, social sciences, and humanities emphasizes seeing things and processes and the inter-relationships of any field of study to the whole. Seeing, reflection, and overview are stressed above all else. Awareness of self, other, and nature are treated as central themes within all subjects.

Hierarchy does not like to be openly examined

The corporate form is largely considered to be the new model of successful human organization. But how is 'success' defined? The corporate model encourages a very limited field of consciousness, a very limited concept of 'success', limited liability, and an extremely limited sense of the meaning of 'profit' and 'loss'.

The planet and the balance between oceans and atmosphere are more than just 'things' from which to extract resources and dump pollutants and waste products. In this sense the industrial revolution and the accompanying ideology based on material gain has failed. It clearly functioned and continues to function within a very limited field of consciousness. Unfortunately the failure will most probably not be recognized until the negative effects grow to absurd and irreversable proportions. The majority of those occupying upper positions within the social hierarchy seem blind to the ultimate trajectory of a world based on material gain and the accumulation of ownership at the expense of all else.

The corporate model is also a fundamental driver of social stratification and hierarchy. As the planet is treated, and as animals and wildlife are treated, so the large majority at the lower end of the social and economic hierarchy are treated also. For they, too, will be seen as mere objects, just 'things' from which to extract resources and treat in a disposable fashion. A limited world view based on the commodification of all things is a stunting of the ability to see and feel in a wholistic way.

The pro-corporate, pro-business model on which modern education is based has the same myopic shortcomings that are seen in large corporations: lack of a concept of long term sustainability and little philosophical insight of anything but a short term financial profit motive and a "bottom line". Education based on a corporate or industrial model lacks a deep philosophical basis. It, too, is currently organized on a basis that feeds hierarchy and not to view it for what it is.

And this is true throughout the entire educational system, elementary school through university.

Technology does not exist in a social vacuum. Scientific research does not take place in a social and economic vacuum, pursuing knowledge for its own sake in a state of disinterested purity. Ever increasing concentrations of economic, military, and political power influence all major social institutions, including education. It is that which falls between the cracks of a highly fragmented educational system which determines the humaneness of our social systems and our very survival as a species. An education focused on awareness, reflective overview, and transcendence must look at the effects of social hierarchy openly and honestly. And an educational system that cannot look critically at the corporate model cannot teach people to see in a wholistic way.

The limits of conventional education: Fragmentation

When wholistic studies are compared to education as it is seen in a conventional sense, some basic structural problems in the current educational systems which are publicly available become apparent. The foremost of which can be referred to as 'fragmentation'. This includes fragmentation of awareness, of understanding, of society, and of the natural world. This results in...

Key areas stressed in wholistic studies which are absent in conventional public education: