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In responce to Eldon's Suggestion

Oct 18, 1995 12:06 PM
by Don DeGracia

On 10/13/95, Eldon Tucker wrote me saying:

<Why don't you keep us updated with highlights from scientific thought? You
could post a few paragraphs on discoveries or reserach of note, as you come
across them.>

This is a very constructive suggestion, so I thougt I'd take Eldon up on this
and share with members of BUDS some material I'm reading right now. John Algeo
had claimed that science is reductionistic and I countered that this is an
out-of-date contention and that things are changing in science.

Yesterday at work I went and visited one of my favorite profs in his laboratory.
His name is Dr. Felix Hong (he is both an M.D. and a PhD) and he has an
international reputation in a new field of science called "molecular computing".
Dr. Hong gave me a copy of a paper he is currently writing which discusses ideas
of consciousness and free-will. Below is a short quote from this paper. What
is relevant about this quote is the negative attitude Dr. Hong displays on the
reductionistic appraoch to science. I submit this quote as evidence that
science has out grown reductionism as he sole approach to studying nature.
Science has not abandoned reductionistic thinking, but it is now supplementing
it with holistic thinking - leading to a much more balanced mind-set.

The quote is:

"The past three hundred years of science history is notable for the triumphant
accomplishment of linear mathematics and its application to physics, chemistry
and even biology. Nonlinear differential equations used to be considered
intractable and were avoided whenever possible. That this avoidance is possible
at all is a consequence of careful choice of problems - the privilege of a
reductionist. Thus, it is possible to obtain an exact solution of the
Schrodinger equation for the hydrogen atom but not for atoms more complex than
that. It is possible to obtain an exact solution in celestial mechanics of
two-body problems but not for many-body problems. For more complex problems
scientists and engineers, amidst their desperate effort to preserve linearity,
routinely linearize their problems and then add coefficients of correction.
Unfortunately, linearization tends to eliminate intersting and often relevant
features, and insertion of coefficients of correction tends to conceal the
salient features. The conventional approach offers little hope for
understanding complex proceses such as life, in which detailed understanding of
the parts offers severely limited insights. The advent of high speed digital
copmuters radically transformed options available to the analysis of complex

You all can see that here, Dr. Hong is quite critical of the reductionistic
approach, yet is also balanced enough to recognize that reductionism has its
purpose in a larger scheme.

Thus, I offer this as the first in hopefully many installments about the current
state of science in the hopes of better informing the Theosophical Society and
in the hopes of enhancing our collective commitment to the third objective of
the TS.

Best to all of you!


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