Self-Organization or Creation?

    For many decades, there has been wide belief that society organizes itself.  That given facts about human nature, society will just fall into a certain pattern.  And by many these were considered the best kinds of explanations, that to really understand large-scale human behavior, one should look towards these principles of self-organization, which are laws like any law of physics.  

    However, from the perspective of the past two years, seeing that things can change so suddenly and so completely, and looking back and seeing the deterioration that made the birdemic and related events possible, it is clear that these ideas are far from universally applicable.  Not that bottom up organization does not exist, but that it is dependent upon the people who so organize themselves.  If the people change, if the units which make up the larger group change, then the organization of that group also changes.

    It turns out that the traditional means of explaining human behavior by purpose and and understanding is more fundamental than systems-type explanations.  

    But even given all this, what if there is more to the analogy with physics?  One of the most important metaphysical principles is that nothing can give what it does not have.  If society doesn't "just happen", then we might ask whether likewise, the universe doesn't "just happen"?  That while there is self-organization, other things are going on beyond our knowledge.  And in that case, it would be better to think of it as being created than being self-organized.  

2 comments:

  1. This is an important matter among mainstream intellectuals of a certain kind - particularly in the mathematical subjects. Chaos and complexity ideas from the 1990s were explicit that there was a self-organizing aspect to reality "order for free".

    But this is a half-baked idea - because it tries to define order without purpose/ functionality - whereas there can be no coherent *objective* understanding of order without some idea of what it's for.

    What was actually happening, was that human judgment was being incorporated into 'systems' thinking, but without acknowledgement. It was humans who decided that crystals were ordered, but gases and liquids were not - and any 'objective' system for measuring order has had its qualitative values programmed in by a human.

    The qualitative distinction between order and chaos does not exist without consciousness/ minds.

    My interpretation is that 'science' is absolutely determined to exclude teleology/ purpose - because that inevitably means deity (by one name or another). So, such partial/ half-baked concepts as self-organizing are deployed in order to enable superficial reasoning to suppose that the problem has been dealt with.

    This is made easier by the apparent fact that people trained in quantitative disciplines seem to become unable to discern when they have-made qualitative assumptions; and will flat out deny that *everything* they do is embedded in qualitative assumptions, which come from humans.

    I tried and failed to communicate this with my scientific colleagues (in medicine, psychiatry, biology, epidemiology, psychology) over more than 2 decades. They either understood immediately (without needing to be told) or they simply could-not/ would not understand; no matter how simply I tried to put it.

    They were indeed, impatient and made annoyed by any such discussion; which they regarded as irrelevant metaphysical speculation. It is often assumed that one is trying to be subversive of science and engaging in 'post-modern' deconstruction or something; rather than trying to understand how actual science actually works... The problem then becomes ineradicable.

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    Replies
    1. "Order for free" is a good way to put it.

      I have also noticed this kind of thinking in economic or political terms, such as that if people rationally pursue their self-interests, then society will just organize in a way that benefits everyone. But even if this works the way they say it doesn, what kind of people and what those people regard as their self-interest are vital assumptions that make a big difference in the outcome.

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    In a response to this post by Francis Berger, the commenter Tom uses an analogy which I found quite thought-provoking.  He writes:     ...