Home | Third Culture | Digerati | Reality Club

JB: Is this a reason for a backlash against science?

GOODWIN: I think so people have tuned into a real malaise in our culture. These movements aren't there for nothing; they're telling us something quite important. For me, one of the things they're pointing to is that science is contributing to this illness, in that people are not allowed to acknowledge their own subjectivity, and their own intuition. Consider medical practice. Somebody gets ill, they go to a doctor, the doctor analyzes it in terms of some causal agent such as a virus or other pathogen. Or a blood sample is taken and analyzed everything is done objectively. Of course this is useful information, but in general we don't pay attention to the subject, don't do what a really good practitioner does including a good western general practitioner: listen to the person, and give a holistic diagnosis that comes from both knowledge of 'facts' and intuitive insight. Now what does this mean, intuitive insight? Well, it's a way of somehow organizing into a meaningful whole the knowledge you get from looking carefully at the history of the person together with an analysis of pathogens and body parts. That's the essence of subjectivity: taking in relevant aspects of your environment and turning it into something that has meaning for you in relation to your experience and intuition.

There's a bit of this in my Leopard book, in the last chapter called "A Science of Qualities". I believe that there is a whole scientific methodology that needs to be developed on the basis of what is called the intuitive way of knowing. It's not something that's vaguely subjective and artistic, it's a definite way of knowing the world. In fact, it's absolutely essential to creative science. All the great scientists, Einstein, Feynman, you name them, would say intuition is the way they arrived at their basic insights, their new ways of putting parts together into coherent wholes. The famous guys are allowed to say this. The rest of us have to pretend that we're really basing everything on hard fact, proceeding to generalize by induction as Francis Bacon told us to, not seeing a new whole intuitively. What really interests me is the possibility of systematically cultivating this way of knowing. Now this is part of traditional cultures. In our own culture, one of the first to develop it was Goethe, towards the end of the 18th century. Goethe had his own way of doing science, and people didn't understand it; it seemed to be completely opposed to the dominant scientific method which came from Galileo and Newton. Goethe had a long conflict with Newton's way of understanding color because he was proceeding systematically with his experiments in quite a different way. Only in the past 20 years or so has the reason for this conflict become clear, as discussed in books that examine carefully the difference between Goethe's way of science and that of Galileo and Newton: he was developing a different way of understanding the world of phenomena, a way of studying wholes and their relation to parts that can be called a holistic science. It seems that Goethe's time for recognition as a scientist has come. His novels, his plays, his poetry are well known, and for these he is recognized as a genius of the first rank. But Goethe said that what he really valued was his scientific work his theory of color, and his theory of form plant and animal form, i.e. morphology. He actually introduced the term morphology into biology.

Goethe as an artist knew that intuition was terribly important for organizing the data that we accumulate through sensory perception. We need a balance between the analytical way of knowing and the intuitive way of knowing, both of which can be cultivated systematically. In our educational system today, we focus on the analytical, and we just leave the intuitive alone. In fact we tend to deny or ignore it. Just as we've been kicking shit out of Nature for 400 years, we've been doing the same to that part of our nature that we call subjectivity or intuition. In order to get a purely objective, reliable view of the world, science has denied subjectivity, and yet you can't do science without intuition, as discussed earlier. Goethe developed ways of cultivating intuitive, holistic knowledge. I've tried this with students, and it works remarkably well. It requires going on a somewhat different journey than that pursued in present science and deliberately include all the qualities that Galileo left out of science, including the feelings.

As you can imagine, there's a lot of darkness associated with this territory. In our present educational system, we split every student in two. When learning science, they use the senses and learn to think analytically, separating systems into parts and measuring them with great precision. When doing art, they use their intuitive faculties and their feelings. Don't let feelings get into science, don't let intuition get into science it'll mislead you.

This is a self-inflicted wound. We've invested in this particular way of knowing, the analytical mode, for 400 years, and we've developed it to a very high degree. But of course there's an enormous sacrifice that's made the other half of our nature. That's why people are now, I feel, very suspicious of science, because it is fundamentally wounding, splitting scientists in two and alienating people from nature by turning it into an object. People have an instinct to heal this separation. They want to add holistic medicine to the analytical tradition, they want holistic styles of living. You don't hear much about holistic science, but that's in fact what we're exploring and developing.

Previous | Page 1 2 3 4 5 | Next