- Jeffrey Onans
We are seeing a change in scientific thinking from the reductionist to a holistic paradigm
Developments in epigenetics and neuro-plasticity are challenging a purely mechanistic paradigm for the scientific understanding of nature. The influence of "environment", understood in both physical and social/emotional terms, on the somatic expression (e.g. in how genotype relates to phenotype or how intellectual processing effects neurology) appears to admit the possibility of non-physical influences as determinators of physical outcomes. This in turn begs the question of the nature of information and its interaction with physical systems. Gregory Bateson in his book "Mind and Nature" suggests that this can be understood from a systems perspective however it requires an understanding embedded in the notion of networks and complex interacting positive and negative feedback loops. In short - in a holistic way. Beau Lotto gives a lovely and clear description of science that starts with a question and is necessarily concerned with what we don't know. His intensely practical example, indeed research, could be seen as research into the necessary place of imagination in science. I argue that imagination is the capacity we have to cognitively engage with what we don't know. This calls up Meno's Paradox which must be resolved in any in depth analysis and understanding of science as a practice. Michael Polanyi makes a comprehensive case for the cognitive basis of a meaningful response to this question - a response that effectively describes imagination as a cognitive process. However it, in turn, requires a holistic epistemology as in his words, we "know more than we can say" and accessing the totality of our embedded knowledge resource requires cultivating the capacity to see the whole as a whole not as a series of interrelated parts.