Paradigmatic Shift – Objects to Systems?

I watched a talk by Eva Jablonka on the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) which I’ve mentioned previously in connection with Kevin Laland et al. (In fact she provides one of the cover blurbs for his “Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony“.)

Apart from the general plea for the phenotypic focus (*) on evolutionary change – of which (DNA) genetics are simply one (important) aspect along with several other epigenetic processes – with which I’m already on-board, I was struck by one particular section captured in this screen shot:

The more general underlying problem with mainstream / orthodox science – that the style of thinking itself excludes proper consideration of alternatives, even alternatives that might solve long-standing problems.

I often talk in terms of many stalemates boiling down to being too narrowly and objectively reductive in “what counts as evidence”. Yes, we all demand evidence – empirical evidence – in support of any thesis, but we might need to be more open-minded in what evidence is available for consideration.

Those quotes above from Fleck are excellent – very reminiscent of Kuhnian revolutionary paradigm shifts – in terms of denial preceding tipping points. In terms of what counts as evidence this stood out:

“judgement which
the thought-collective
considers evident”

“The Thought-Collective” – ie a group-think problem.

The emphasis on style of thinking captured by the orthodox paradigm – where I am very much pushing “Systems Thinking” alternative to objectivity for want of a better definition of the orthodoxy. Even the textbook definitions of genotype and phenotype are trapped inside objectivity. Fascinating possibilities here.

(*) focus on the whole organism (typical individual and the species) properties and behaviour, not just its DNA and gene-sequencing as if the former is simply / wholly the expression of the latter. It’s not.

In all questions of inheritance it’s about what kinds of property or process information can be captured (remembered) and communicated (transmitted) directly or symbolically to future generations. I’ve never been too precious about even genes being all that clearly defined objectivity, so have never found objections to memes on such grounds to be problematic. (Jablonka has herself been sceptical about memes previously). But the lines we draw round stuff to consider them as “distinct things” we give names to have always been essentially pragmatic / useful – and organisms are no different in defining their own boundaries. (Consider the Python’s black knight?)

Anyway, boxes & arrows / nodes & edges / trees or networks – are the natural language of Systems Thinking. Loved this too:

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