Traditionally, sciences aim at dissecting our perceived world into ever finer, ever more purified aspects that can be understood within a corresponding ever more smooth and uniform framework. Physics testifies to the power of this so-called reductionist approach. With its handful of elegant and essentially simple equations, it is able to describe the microscopic underpinnings of all phenomena observed so far.
Given our limited cognitive capacity – our capacity to perceive, recognize, and understand –, reductionism is in fact mandatory, as a first step. And it turned out as immensely successful operationally. The tremendous advance of our technological culture testifies to this. An advance that we witnessed over the past few decades and that we can learn from history for the past few centuries.
However, despite the great strides in some fields, we appear to be stuck in others, certainly overwhelmed by their complexities and very very far away from simple equations and uniform frameworks. At the largest scale, and highest visibility, these include climate change, its reality and future course, globalization and its associated transformations, from economic to cultural, or the arms race against infectious diseases, from HIV to SARS and the current COVID-19.
Indeed, humankind appears to be at a turning point where we recognize that
- we understand the microscopic fundamentals of all operationally relevant aspects of our world sufficiently well,
- the bigger, macroscopic picture does not emerge easily out of the microscopic one and its deduction poses fundamentally new and exceedingly difficult challenges, and
- our very survival as a culture, even as a species, hinges on the width and depth of our bigger picture.
The following perspectives aim at a deeper appreciation of the hierarchically complex, inherently connected, and incredibly dense reality of our world. A reality that was created by an autonomous unfolding emerged from the coevolution of life and its non-living environment. That unfolding continues and reaches out towards a possible new layer through humankind’s cultural evolution.
infection – protection [April 18, 2020] It may just be the flu, or a severe disease as COVID-19. Beyond their immediate impact, they also open a deep view on evolution, including that of our own culture, and they push it forward.
the reductionist’s challenge [April 5, 2020] The quest for the building blocks of our world and for their function, what is it good for?