Friday, March 27, 2009

Planktons outfox Scientists (or "Why Labs are Rubbish")

I'm a bit worried that we're increasingly using the wrong tools - no, wait, the wrong paradigm for dealing with most of the "crises" we're facing. Is the divide between "systemic" thinking and "logical" (or "organic" vs "mechnical"?) getting larger? Or are we just increasing our dependence on simplistic thinking?

Now, for instance, scientists are re-discovering there's a food chain going on the Ocean - if you increase plankton population, how can you forget that more stuff will eat the plankton? This is the kind of shortsighted thinking that comes with - dare I say - the arrogance of a simplified, specialised view of the world.

The notion that everything is loosely connected and can be studied in lab, away from the system, should die. Quickly and painfully. It is no longer of any use to only analyse the nodes of the system, ripped from their context, because context is everything - we are context, not objects.

Trying to decipher the mysteries of bees, or the dark labyrinths of cancer, will require a far more organic approach, more akin to cooking than to calculating. Isolationism can never work, because it ignores symbiosis and interaction. Breaking things down into components is like putting a river into buckets to find out how the current flows.

Maybe it's time to dig out my old Philosophy-of-Science notes. I'm sure there are better approaches...

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