Natural Inclusion/modeling

Modeling Nature

Curiosity motivates us to question, observe, analyze, and model nature to better understand our world. Development of the telescope allowed Galileo to study the heavens shortly before the microscope allowed Leeuwenhoek to probe deeply into biological specimens.

The holism approach to scientific inquiry is at least as old as Galileo's use of the telescope.

As Galileo gazed into the heavens and learned more about each planet, he was able confirm the heliocentric plan of the solar system proposed by Copernicus. Looking outward, studying various elements of the solar system inspired and confirmed a simple and elegant system that explained planetary motion. Elements, in this case the planets and their moons, were synthesized into a whole—the solar system. This is the essence of the analytical system now known as holism.

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek greatly improved the microscope allowing him to gaze inward and understand the makeup of various biological specimens. He is credited with observing and describing various microscopic aquatic creatures, bacteria in the human mouth, the vacuole of cells, spermatozoa, and the structure of muscle fibers. Looking inward he was able to discover and learn about the inner structure of components that combine to make up larger organisms. This is the essence of the analytical approach now known as reductionism.

Both the reductionist approach and the holistic approach have made invaluable contributions to our understanding of the natural world. Focusing in, looking deeper, and taking things apart has led to our understanding of anatomy, chemical elements, atomic structure, particle physics, chemistry, microbiology, and many other fields. Holistic approaches have led to discoveries in astronomy, geology, physics, ecology, systems thinking, social sciences, and other areas.

Both approaches are essential, yet they can present a false dichotomy. Consider the problem of deciding where cuteness resides in a kitten. Dissecting the kitten certainly will not provide the answer, yet simply stating that cuteness emerges once the entire kitten is observed provides no insights that allow us to extend our understanding of cuteness. Is there some third way to model nature? Natural Inclusion combines analysis and circumspection, faces both inward and outward, and reconciles all views from distinctive orientations. Both the microscope and telescope are used to advantage. The following table characterizes and compares these three approaches to observing and modeling nature.

Three Approaches


Three different renderings of the natural world provide two antithetical worldviews and their dynamic, co-creative reconciliation

0 ← Reductionism Natural Inclusionality - Each in the Other Holism → ∞
Exclusively analytical – focused, outside-in worldview Combines analysis and circumspection, faces both ways, reconciles all views from distinctive orientations. Exclusively circumspect – panoramic, all-round worldview
Microscope, drill down Microscope and telescope both used to advantage Telescope, frame up
Favors ‘apartness’ by treating boundaries as dividing lines and space as distance between completely discrete things and localities as ‘subjects’ and ‘objects’, entire in themselves. Recognizes the continuity of natural space as limitless, intangible presence and natural boundaries as fluid interfacings and transition zones, serving to distinguish distinctive flow-forms and localities, without isolating or integrating them completely. Favors ‘wholeness’ by ignoring or completely integrating the presence of distinguishing boundaries and natural space.
Favors ‘propositional’, either/or logic, which holds that two mutually contradictory statements cannot both be true. Favors flow-logic, which recognizes that natural boundaries are continuously mobile inclusions of energy in space and space in energy, hence obviating definitive contradiction between complementary viewpoints. Favors dialectic, both/and logic, which holds that two mutually contradictory statements can both be true.
Underpinned by conventional mathematics, which imposes unnatural discontinuity between content and context (local numerical or geometric ‘figure’ and infinite ‘space’) , and so treats ‘1’ as an absolute, independent singleness, and ‘infinity’ and ‘zero’ respectively as limitless ‘quantity’ and ‘no quantity’. Regards ‘zero’ and ‘infinity’ as qualities of ‘intangible presence’ respectively at the heart of and throughout and all around local geometric and numerical figures as ‘flow-forms’. Underpinned by conventional mathematics, which imposes unnatural discontinuity between content and context (local numerical or geometric ‘figure’ and infinite ‘space’) , and so treats ‘1’ as an absolute, independent singleness, and ‘infinity’ and ‘zero’ respectively as limitless ‘quantity’ and ‘no quantity’.
An approach to determining and defining the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things. Reductionism does not preclude the existence of what might be called emergent phenomena, but it does imply the ability to understand those phenomena completely in terms of the processes from which they are composed. An awareness that natural systems are intrinsically dynamic inclusions of space and so cannot be completely self-contained, either as collections of parts or as autonomous wholes.

Natural systems are most comprehensively understood as energetic configurations of and in space. They cannot adequately be understood by reducing them down to parts or by defining them as entire in themselves.

Natural systems (physical, biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not as collections of parts. This often includes the view that systems somehow function as wholes and that their functioning cannot be fully understood solely in terms of their component parts.
Reductionist thinking and methods form the basis for many of the well-developed areas of modern science, including much of physics, chemistry and cell biology. Classical mechanics in particular is seen as a reductionist framework, and statistical mechanics can be viewed as a reconciliation of macroscopic thermodynamic laws with the reductionist approach of explaining macroscopic properties in terms of microscopic components. Natural inclusionality recognizes the limitations in both reductionist and holistic thought, while bringing them into confluence, through an appreciation of space and energy as distinctive but mutually inclusive presences, neither of which is absolutely definable. In the latter half of the 20th century, holism led to systems thinking and its derivatives, like the sciences of chaos and complexity. Systems in biology, psychology, or sociology are frequently so complex that their behavior is, or appears, "new" or "emergent": it cannot be deduced from the properties of the elements alone.
In science, reductionism implies that certain fields of study are based on areas that study smaller spatial scales or organizational units.

While it is commonly accepted that the foundations of chemistry are based in physics, and molecular biology is rooted in chemistry, similar statements become controversial when one considers less rigorously defined intellectual pursuits. For example, claims that sociology is based on psychology, or that economics is based on sociology and psychology would be met with reservations.

Natural inclusionality does not impose a false dichotomy between microcosm and macrocosm, but recognizes underlying fluid-dynamic pattern-generating processes common to all scales of natural organization.

The partitioning of distinctive fields of human enquiry into ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ categories is hence viewed as counter-productive, if not damaging. Natural systems are, to varying degrees, ‘predictably unpredictable’ at small scales and over long durations due to the indeterminacy of their intrinsic dynamics.

Scientific holism holds that the behavior of a system cannot be perfectly predicted, no matter how much data is available.

Natural systems can produce surprisingly unexpected behavior, and it is suspected that behavior of such systems might be computationally irreducible, which means it would not be possible to even approximate the system state without a full simulation of all the events occurring in the system.

The limit of reductionism's usefulness stems from emergent properties of complex systems, which are more common at certain levels of organization. For example, certain aspects of evolutionary psychology and sociobiology are rejected by some who claim that complex systems are inherently irreducible and that a holistic approach is needed to understand them. Natural inclusionality recognizes how emergent properties arise from the inclusion of space in flow- form and flow-form in space, without paradoxical self-reference or contradiction. The limit of holism’s usefulness stems from its abstract treatment and/or disregard of natural space and boundaries, which renders it incapable of adequately explaining emergent properties, without paradoxical self-contradiction.
Question: Is the apple an array of atoms and space; a collection of chemical molecules; a lump of organic cells; or a piece of fruit? Or is it the tree and ecosystem that is waiting to grow within it?
An apple as a whole is an aggregate of parts. An apple is an energetic configuration of space in space – a natural flow-form, distinct, but not defined into absolute, independent singleness or apartness. An apple is both a whole in it self and a part of a larger whole.
Abstract objectivity, based on propositional logic. Natural systems thinking, based on fluid boundary logic. Abstract System’s thinking, chaos theory, complexity theory, based on dialectic logic.

“Essentially, all models are wrong,” George Box noted, “but some are useful.”

Neither the reductionism approach nor the holism approach to modeling nature is entirely effective. Natural Inclusion reconciles these two dichotomies and provides an inclusive approach to modelling nature.



Several summaries of these ideas are available here: