Chapter 1: REALITY AND SCIENCE, What's So - Let's Prehend
Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

Chapter 1: REALITY AND SCIENCE, What's So

"...It's not my fault, that's the way it works."
—A. Einstein

Experience vs. Reality

There seems to be a conflict between the images of common experience and the images from science. Electrons? Quarks? Super-strings? DNA? How does it happen that science takes us further and further from common sense? Which is really real, common sense or science. This disparity leads many people to abandon serious concerns and withdraw into the refinements of subjective life, such as golf and other meditations. Subjective life is important, an honored pastime for everyone, but it is not the concern of this book, except objectively of course.

Let's acknowledge that the scientists' objective approach has more validity than the ideas we derive from the seeming certainty of everyday experience. This mode in no way limits one's subjective life, it may well enhance it. Scientific studies have shown that scientists and objectivists experience life's joys and sorrows in the same manner as everyone else, subjectively. Think of objectivism as a method, not as a belief or way of life. A scientific or objectivist theory is a tool, used like an ax [AX].


Objectivism is about what's happening. Subjectivism is how one experiences life. Although some scientists who immerse themselves in their mystical and mathematical images may even experience Einsteinian and Quantum reality, let's not demand such exalted enhancements. We are obliged to consider the validity of their descriptions regardless of how we subjectively experience them. Clear and penetrating scientific thought has given humankind great wealth: microwave ovens, space travel, nuclear power, computers and the internet - but unfortunately these are not an unmixed blessing, as we shall Evaluate and Diagnose.

Objectivists aspire to open mindedness, unburdened by personal concerns. While objectivism invites infinite responsibility, it also frees us from the burden of subjectivist guilt. When we limit our ideas to our inner personal experience, we severely limit our understanding. When we deny the support we receive from our natural ecosystem, we severely limit our grasp of human ecology. Let's not limit our ideas of a valuable and healthy culture to our personal preferences and circumstances. Relying on subjective preferences limits our thinking to the accidents of our psychohistory - as any analyst can attest, for a fee. Instead, let's accept broader responsibilities for our culture and its change, regardless of the particular position of our personal life. [DIPL ]

Balancing this infinite responsibility is infinite support. According to Peter *Russell's Anthropic Principle: the universe was created to support us. Granted, it often feels quite the opposite. Scientist explain that if any of the fundamental constants were slightly different, we and our supporting universe could not exist. "Everything is just right" - if you will permit an objective statement in a subjectivist mode.


We often deny something just because we don't experience it directly. Even worse, a common nihilism is "If you can't prove it, it's not happening." As with global warming, nothing is certain in science or objectivism. But denying is not correcting, improving or expanding. The common Denial Ideology, DI, is always a problem for us. DI is not a mistake or flaw but simply a quality of the human mind as an information processing machine. We deny what doesn't suit us. Struggling against this trend, we strive to consider and communicate what's so, regardless of subjective discomfort.


The objectivist mode strives to Dissociate Ideas from Personal Life, DIPL, pronounced like 'dipple'. Without DIPL one is trapped in denials and justifications. The subjectivist, denying DIPL, is pained by ideas that don't match personal feelings. Given the conflicts of ordinary life, this pain results in dearth of ideas. "Why think about it if you can't do anything about it?" and "I'm looking out for number one." DIPL frees ideas from the subjectivist's denials, compulsions, justifications, and guilt. DIPL permits ideas to grow to fulfill the objectivist task, as we shall see.

Let's illustrate the DIPL dilemmas by considering the wise grandmother who said, "We shouldn't buy any more of those atomic bombs until we use up the ones we got!" Does that mean that she should refuse to pay taxes? Of course not, unless she believes that such an action might have some political effect. Grandma is obliged to make a risk-benefit assessment, just like all of us. With DIPL, she is quite able to oppose nuclear weapons while still paying taxes to support the increasingly powerful military system. She need not go to jail for 'disturbing the war'. If grandma has truly mastered DIPL, she may be able to support anti-military movements, even while her taxes go toward buying more weapons. Thus, enduring the discomfort of DIPL allows her the luxury of political life without the burdens of illegality.

Common wisdom may condemn DIPL. Most people feel that one should live according to our ideas, beliefs, and values. We may criticize as hypocrites those who say one thing and do another, profess one set of values but implement another, promote one image of life but live by another.

Some subjectivist heroes strive to live according to their ideals. Referred to as 'idealists', they are often respected, though sometimes despised as impractical. The more painful the contradictions of the culture, the more the subjective 'idealist' suffers. The price the individual pays for this simplistic integrity is too high. Without DIPL one must either give up one's ideas, or live a compulsive and uncomfortable life.

In the real world, the conflict is intense. Therefore, objectivists are obliged to DIPL in order to maintain and expand their understanding and concern. Subjectivists, in the face of their pain, are apt to deny their own ideas and contract their personal lives. They are often left in boredom or driven to trivial pursuits such as gin or golf. If subjectivism dominates the society and its media, people are mired in a poverty of culture. They live abstract lives, increasingly separated from the labor and resources that support them. Worse yet, their thoughts and ideas become increasingly dissociated from reality, leaving them in a schizophrenic consensual myth.


The objectivist solution to this dilemma emulates the objectivity of science. But let's also acknowledging that science itself is a system, perhaps a 'belief', a mode of thought in need of evaluation and diagnosis. Science carries burdens from its own Western European history, its own tools and equipment, its peculiar educational institutions, and its support from corporate and government funding. The Anthropology of Science is a vigorous and blooming field, enriched by such scholars as Laura *Nader.

Our culture prides itself on its tradition of science. From the Wright brothers' first manned flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the Apollo lunar landing in 1969, only sixty six years. But every human culture has its advanced wisdom and techniques that we might well call "science" in its broader sense. For forty thousand generations we homo sapiens have had brains of approximately the present size. We can only vaguely infer the intellectual life of prehistoric cultures. Today we need a broader view of our own science and culture. While the pace of our peculiar science accelerates, life on Earth becomes more precarious.

Like any system, science itself invites analysis, using the evaluation and diagnosis schemes presented in this book. Section [BRIEF MYSTERY OF TIME] surveys some current scientific issues. As objectivists we follow the mode of science, but we go beyond it. We are obliged to go all the way and ask all the questions.

Objectivist vs. Rationalist-Idealist

Reverting to ordinary philosophic traditions, let's assume there is a reality, a reality that exists regardless of rational proof or subjective perception. In philosophy, this has been called the 'realist' position.

Nowadays, "The philosophy of mind has ... displaced the philosophy of language... ." 'How we think' is a problem, not for philosophy and its epistemology, but for psychology. Verbal truth, and those rituals of reason so often called philosophy, have little interest to objectivists. Philosophic truth is a minor psychological or linguistic concern, appropriate to Chapter 3, PSYCHOLOGY and its section [TRAIN OF THOUGHT - TOOT, TOOT].

But the verbal philosophies of previous centuries seem to dominate modern thinking, especially in law, politics and much of common conversation. Therefore, we must first attend to these persistent positions, in the classic mode of setting out basic assumptions then building upon them.

Traditional 'rationalists' seem most interested in verbal truth - they try to 'prove' verbal statements and enjoy discussing them endlessly. Historically, rational truth may have been better than divine revelation or church authority in medieval Europe, but it has left philosophy and culture in an unfortunate position, unfortunate because "Reality is not made of words!" [BIRD]

Idealists, considered cousins to rationalists, assert that reality is all in the mind, that experience is the most basic truth, perhaps the 'gut feeling'. Idealists such as *DesCartes assert "I think, therefore I am."Objectively, it's the other way around: "I am, therefore I think I am, or hope so anyway." Notice that after we loose consciousness in sleep, we wake up to the same real world, if we're lucky. Bless the day!

Imagine the distraught idealist, thinking harder and harder until the real world fades from view, abandoning reality in schizoid isolation. To objectivists, the idealist position is a minor pathology examined in Chapter 3, PSYCHOLOGY. Deep down we are all objectivists, but we tend to slip into rationalist-idealist pitfalls, not by some ill will, but because of the nature of our minds as information processing devices.


Rationalism, Idealism, etc, these philosophic positions so dominant in the Western tradition, so common in current modes of thought, need a special term. Let's call Rationalism-Idealism, RID. Unfortunately for our Western intellectual tradition, RID gets rid of the objective real world and asserts the primacy of consciousness, as if conscious will has triumphed over reality. RID relies on its god and its reason, then justifies the narrow social contracts of our culture and the laissez faire tradition of our economy. If we don't get rid of the RID in all of us and take responsibility for the natural and human ecosystem, we will continue to invite the collapse of culture and nature. Fortunately, LET'S PREHEND corrects the errors of the RIDs tradition and saves the day, the century and the millennium as well! You're welcome.

While we assert that the scientist's world is the real world, and the scientists make an 'objective' model, let's pay attention to the way the human mind distorts reality in forming its objective model. Like good scientists, we must look to our instruments and to our operations. The distorting instrument is the mind itself, and the distorting operations are the processes of our blessed consciousness.


For example consider what is democracy. The RIDly approach demands a definition: "Democracy is rule by the people, like voting and free enterprize." But, like naming the bird, it doesn't tell us much. Objectivists don't 'define', we 'describe'. Democracy is not so easy to describe in our nation's present state of agitation. But let's make a stab at it in Chapter 8, POLITICS and [QOD].

Ayn Rand

We reclaim this term "objectivist" from previous usage. Ayn *Rand, the mother of an earlier objectivism, uses an approach burdened by her rationalist tradition. Although she cuts through a lot of nonsense, she ultimately asserts her elitism and authoritarianism, an unkind, irresponsible and ultimately disastrous position. Some self-proclaimed objectivists use the term to assert that reality is made of objects that have properties and relationships. But, as we shall see in Chapter 2, PROCESS MODEL, reality is made of organisms, processes, and systems. Our favorite instrument, the mind, falsely concretizes reality into objects.

Distortions Inherent in Mind: False Focus, FF

The mind distorts reality in two ways. First the conscious mind thinks of one thing at a time, because consciousness is sequential, a TRAIN OF THOUGHT. But in the real world as the scientists describe it, everything happens simultaneously, right now on the frontier of time. Therefore, as we falsely focus our consciousness on one thing, we inherently and automatically look away from everything else! We tend to miss the forest for the trees. We must have a special name for this disparity between the way the mind works and the way reality works. Let's call it False Focus, FF.

This FF of our awareness is neither a mistake nor a malady. It is inherent in the way consciousness works. To make matters worse, the harder we try, the narrower our view is apt to become. Let's attempt to correct for this distortion by emulating science, but with a broader approach.

False focus has another disastrous result: we overemphasize the separateness of things. We see the tree without regard to the forest, only as wood or lumber rather than as part of a forest ecosystem. This atomization makes things more separate from their organic process than they really are. Call it "thingism". As things become atomized, we must constantly reassert their process relationship, one step at a time. We compensate for this false-focus atomization by generalizing. But there is no cure for FF, only vigilance and alleviation.


Along with FF is seeing a simplistic 'causal relationship' between two events. In simple systems (there are none) we might be able to ascertain a simple causal relationship. Newton's laws of inertia and gravity 'cause' the Earth to go around the Sun. But there are a myriad of other forces in this seemingly simple system. Attributing anything to a single 'cause', even a combination of factors, or a computer full of functions, can never describe *REALITY AS A TOTAL SYSTEM. Yet we are obliged by the nature of our minds as information processing machines to think in terms of cause. Let's call this problem, False Cause, FAC. It's a FAC.

Those who demand certainty or seek for truth become trapped in FACs. They are obliged to limit their thinking to simple systems and gross abstractions, or give up the task and wait for their mind or mankind's intellectual culture to transcend itself and become one with the mind of God. Good luck. Meanwhile, let's continue as we were but keep these distortions and dilemmas in mind and do the best we can.

There-and-Then, TT

Consider this second distortion by which the mind distorts reality. The mind works by constructing a model of the world, so that it knows what to perceive and what to experience. But the model must inherently be built of memories. As a result, mind is always in the past, always 'then', never 'now'. Our here-and-now experience can only exist on the foundation of life's elaborately constructed mental model, a model created in our past. Our ideas and our world view are not real-time here-and-now, but must always be There-and-Then, TT.

This TT distortion fixates our mental model of reality. In the struggle with this fixation, we must constantly reassert the flux of things. [DUCK]

In Chapter 2, PROCESS MODEL, we try to alleviate these two distortions, FF and TT, in order to build a new more objective and organic model of reality. In subsequent chapters, we apply this new process model to correct errors in various fields of thought in order to alleviate some of the problems which plague our traditions.

This objectivist approach to how the mind works is not meant to disparage the great gift of subjective experience, nor to deny the vivid awareness and intuition of what's so. DIPL may seem to deny subjective experience, but it actually enhances and broadens it.

Science and Metascience

In Chapter 2, PROCESS MODEL, we will use the time-honored and vigorous heritage of science to build a new comprehensive model of reality and mind. We will also correct and amend the methods of science to broaden their scope to transcending the narrow reductionism that has made modern science so feeble in handling humankind's broader cultural issues. Meanwhile, let's keep an eye open to all the sciences to alleviate the natural tendency to fall into RIDly distortions. Such wonderful books as FUZZY THINKING, CHAOS, DESCARTES ERROR and others explain this beautifully. can direct you to many others.

Objective Method

Objective methods derived from scientific methods seem to have the following qualities, mostly positive but some negative:

  1. Objectivity: we assume there is a reality and we construct a model of it which we call the objective model. "The physical world is the guru." We attempt to validate our objectivist image by reference to reality, not by appeal to 'reason' alone, and not by conformity to belief systems, sympathetic though we may be.
  2. Science is a community endeavor. The scientific community, and the body of science itself, grows and flourishes without depending on any particular person. Yet each person contributes, more or less, just by living in the scientific and technological culture. Many within the scientific community experience and enjoy their auxiliary participation as subordinate members of a team, even though they may not win a Nobel prize.
  3. Science is a body of knowledge, a hunk of culture. Progress on its frontiers is made with an occasional leap, or an occasional internal correction. The body of science grows ever faster, and the technologies of communication and computation accelerate this progress.
  4. Science is organic: one change is apt to modify the entire system. (This philosophic use of the term "organic" is different from its reference to the chemistry of carbon compounds, or the designation of foods with minimum man made chemicals.) A change in one science, especially a basic change, is apt to influence all sciences, and the entire culture. For example, electron theory has become basic to most of the sciences. More recently computers have revolutionized every science by enabling the handling of complex variables and systems that the human mind could otherwise never grasp.
  5. Science is inclusive. A good theory should embrace and digest other theories, as Einstein's theories encompassed Newton's. If theories conflict, the scientific community works to check out, compare, combine, displace or reject, but usually to combine the theories. Idealists are more apt to reject, whereas objectivists include. Rationalists disprove whereas objectivists interpret, analyze and integrate. RIDs are apt to "disagree", but objectivists have no such luxury. They must hear, analyze, translate, integrate evaluate and diagnose, but may not simply disagree. "If it doesn't work this way, then how does it work?"

    Humans like things to 'make sense'. This is a psychological quality inherent in the human mind. Yet the need to understand is ultimately frustrated because the mind is different from, and less than, the whole of reality. The scientist, like most people, prefers consistency, but does not demand it. The deepest DIPL is the dissociation of ideas from personal experience. An example of DIPL is the seeming conflict between the particle and wave theories of light. Nevertheless, we accepted both and use them, even though they seem to be contradictory in common sense. This seeming inconsistency sheds light on our mental processes, as well as on the light itself.
  6. Science has aesthetic. Understanding is beautiful. It is a precious quality of the mind that a scientific theory can be subjectively experienced as beautiful.

Truth, Probability and Chaos

Scientific theories are never really true, they are only more or less accurate and complete in their description. Let's use the term 'validity' instead of 'truth'. Think of any statement as more or less valid, as more or less accurate and complete. In science, statements or descriptions are never simply 'true' or 'not true' in the rationalist *Aristotelian sense. Words and symbols can never catch up with (TT) or match (FF) reality. Therefore the terms 'truth' and 'certainty' refer to psychological problems. There is no certainty, of that we can be certain!


Proof itself is a matter of degree. It may refer to completeness of description, or to accuracy of prediction, or to reproducibility. Proof, to a scientist and objectivist, should never be mistaken for conviction or belief. The common notion of proof as truth is a lie, as we shall see. Too often proof is a distortion of understanding, a verbal psychological con job.

Proof is much easier, more controllable, and more reproducible in simple subjects than in complex ones. This results in the big tough jobs left unattended and small easy ones exaggerated in importance. Thus the culture of modern science and technology suffers from a pervasive compulsion to specialize, to fragment both science and reality, to become more and more certain about less and less. Information is reduced, theory is reduced, reality is reduced to what can be proved. Not only science, but thought itself is reductionist. Good science, like healthy thought and wholesome culture, struggles against this tendency to over simplify, but never overcomes it.

As for proof in mathematics - that's another long story.


Picture the subjects of the sciences on a scale of complexity from basic physics, to chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, political science, and so on. Each science studies support the building blocks of the field above: physics studies forces and atoms, chemistry studies how the atoms form molecules, biology studies how the molecules make life - including the brain, psychology studies how complex brains operate, sociology studies how minds operate in groups, political science studies how societies manage governments, and so on. Each science provides a foundation for the next: for understanding increasingly more complex systems.

Because their subject matter is more elemental and less complex, the basic sciences, such as physics, seem more valid than others, such as sociology. Many in the so called "hard sciences" disparage the "soft sciences" and even deny they are sciences at all. One source of this quaint prejudice is the class roots of Western science. The crafts-people knew metallurgy and evolved to become engineers. Meanwhile the aristocrats, many of whom learned to read from the clergy, studied, often far from the people who actually worked with metal. They tried to change lead into gold. So science evolved with residues of resentment between engineers and scientists. They still struggles to integrate.


In general, the more complex the science the lower the validity. The way the mind seems to work: a simple model is easier to understand than a complex one. RIDs, Rationalist-Idealists, tend to draw a line between what is science and what is beyond science. But if one must insist on this distinction, then let's call this 'beyond-science', "metascience" Aristotle used the word "metaphysics" because the topic came 'after' physics, which to him was real science.


Weather, the subject of that most humbling of the sciences, meteorology, offers an elegant illustration: Predicting the weather is usually considered a matter of probability. The RIDs assumption has been that the more data, the more accurate the prediction. It turns out that the magnificent new data from satellites and other monitors does help in predictions, but only somewhat. It's not that the data is lacking, but that weather cannot be predicted because it is not determined. It has not made up its mind.

Our traditional assumptions about causality must be replaced with modern notions of organic process. The butterfly effect, a cornerstone of *CHAOS theory, explains that, with such complex systems as weather, the flap of a butterfly's wing in Australia results in a snow storm in Seattle, or was it Arlington, Virginia. Complexity is deeply endless. An extreme and frantic RIDs approach might include an attempt to rid Australia of butterflies. Fortunately the new sciences have better ways of handling infinitely complex systems. They use Mandlebrot sets, attractors, and other exciting new ideas nicely described in *Gleick's CHAOS.

Complexity theory continues, but doesn't get any simpler. George Whitesides at Harvard designs systems that do something new in hopes they will teach us something. This field seems to have practical applications in business as well as science, even though its theory is hung up. (For a brief summary of complexity theory see [LANGUAGE].)

If we imagine that reality itself has 'free will', we might suggest that in all of reality only rationalist-idealists lack this blessed trait, being trapped in their dogmatic and fragile use of mind. Unfortunately, we are all RIDs more or less, doing the best we can with our mind's mechanisms. The challenge is to keep alert to the infinite wonders of our complex reality, to use our minds to correct and expand our objectivist model of reality, so that we may responsibly work toward health and improvement through culture design.

The demand for certainty is a RIDs pathology, whereas the quest for validity is the concern of objectivists. The essence of a controlled experiment is to limit the variables to those being studied. Unfortunately, this aspect of science makes it better at dealing with narrower fields and simpler systems. This false focus of the mind becomes reductionism in science. In the more common use of the word, reductionism is essential to concentrate data, to make order out of chaos, to make the complex simple enough to understand. Yet this essential mode tends to oversimplify and contract the view, to trivialize and fixate the trees, the forest, the ecosystem and the wholeness of reality.

As a result, sciences get reduced to the simpler tasks, and complex problems are distorted by being reduced to oversimplified ideas. This reductionism is an eternal burden to science and to the entire culture. It can't be avoided, but we can acknowledge and compensate for it.

Fortunately, we are passing the *TURNING POINT led by the *AQUARIAN CONSPIRACY and by the whole ecology movement, heading toward a more holistic "new paradigm," leading to the great "greening." Unfortunately, it doesn't pay very well.

The new objectivist model presented in the following chapters invites an expansion of interest and concern and provides a helpful context for discussion. Only an expanded world view can overcome the demand for certainty, a demand even the hardest sciences can never satisfy. Only an expanded intellectual responsibility can deal with the increasing impact of human power on our world culture and supporting ecosystem. Chapter 2, PROCESS MODEL, offers a simple scheme for the analysis and diagnosis of complex systems. Subsequent chapters use this new and unusual analytical scheme to discuss the problems, develop the discourse, and suggest solutions. That is the task of human ecology and its application to culture design. Let's prehend.

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