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Tuesday, August 4 • 17:00 - 17:30
Redefining Scientific Objectivity

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Since the time of Rene Descartes, the definition within science of what “Objectivity” means has been based on the perspective of a machine. In other words; mindless and lifeless. Since the entailment for any machine to come into being exists outside the machine itself,  it is no surprise that a science based on this kind of thinking has trouble with concepts like “health”. And yet, every living organism that exists has come into being with its own, internal value for what “health” means. That value is always based entirely on another internally derived value that each living organism also has: the definition for “self”. Whatever “self” is defined as being, that’s what “health” will be predicated on.  Therefore, “Health-Of-Self” is what metabolism and repair are constantly involved in maintaining. Metabolism and Repair are the two functional capacities, according to Robert Rosen, that are both necessary and sufficient for life.

Mainstream science has built itself around the paradigm of Physics, extending those concepts and premises into other disciplines with the understandable presumption that if everything in the material world is made up of the same building blocks, then all are related in various ways and the rules will cross the artificial boundaries created by human perception. Unfortunately, what seemed to be representative of “the rules” by which the material world works (when applying them to orbital phenomena and other aspects of non-living systems) turn out to be woefully inadequate-- to the point of being inappropriate-- when we try to extend them to most of the observable phenomena in biology. The notions of function and dysfunction, for example: In medical and veterinary science, we have to contend with the fact that “health” is the object of a practice that cannot even define the term, scientifically. That’s schizophrenic to say the least.  Given the circumstances,  medical science has chosen to mainly focus on defining disease and dysfunction, looking for ways to rectify both without having to address the messy reality that there is no way to understand what “health” is from the perspective of total scientific objectivity, as it currently stands.

Similarly; in the branches of science devoted to studying ecosystems and the biosphere, we find there are further impediments to true understanding caused by this machine-like mindset. Every single living organism has the same self-based perspective with all of its behavior going towards maintaining and enhancing health-of-self. That is an inherently non-objective point of view. How are we to understand what we observe of  living behavior, as well as all the interactions between individual organisms or groups of organisms, without taking such facts into account? And how shall we define “health” for ecosystems? Can an ecosystem actually be “unhealthy”? How and when? According to whose perspective? When we talk about predator/prey relationships being beneficial for ecosystems and even for populations of the prey species, how shall we describe the impact on the health of the individual who is eaten? What if the “predator” is a pathogen like the Ebola virus and the prey is humanity?

The trouble in this situation is that we end up violating critical principles of what science is for by trying to adhere to a standard of objectivity that needs to be amended. It  was generated while observing non-living, purely reactive systems. Applying a methodology designed for studying and describing orbital mechanics to living, Anticipatory Systems turns out to be counter-productive and yet what are the alternatives?
This paper will explore the process of considering what an alternative working definition for “scientific objectivity” should be: one that is not a source of unnecessary impediments to advancing the science of life and living, but still maintains the positive attributes of independence and verifiable knowledge that were intended with the development of the methodology of science as a system of inquiry in the first place. 


John Kineman

SIG Chair: Relational Science, International Society for the System Sciences
Senior Research Scientist, CIRES, University of Colorado Stellenbosch Research Fellow (2016), Stellenbosch South AfricaAdjunct Professor, Vignan University, Vadlamudi, IndiaPresident (2015-2016), International Society for the Systems Sciences ISSS SIG Chair: Relational ScienceDr... Read More →

ISSS Board & SIG Chairs
avatar for Judith Rosen

Judith Rosen

CEO, Rosen Enterprises
SIG Co-Chair: Relational ScienceJudith Rosen is a writer, researcher, and artist who, through interaction with her father, the mathematial biologist Robert Rosen, has a comprehensive understanding of his scientific work. She traveled on numerous scientific trips with Robert Rosen... Read More →

Tuesday August 4, 2015 17:00 - 17:30 CEST
Stockholm 1 Scandic Berlin Potsdamer Platz, Gabriele-Tergit-Promenade 19, 10963 Berlin, Germany

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