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Beyond systems thinking?
Posted by: tom (
Date: July 23, 2005 01:00PM

In what should be regarded as a wake up call to the systems community, Validmir Dimitrov (at []) makes the case that the "new" science of complexity obsoletes systems thinking. He writes:

1. System Thinking versus Complexity Thinking in Exploring Reality

1.1 System Thinking: World Made of Systems and Parts

Unlike the holistic standpoint of complexity thinking, systems thinking, be it 'hard' or 'soft', deterministic or probabilistic, exploratory or intervention-oriented, is always focussed on some pre-selected part; this part is called a system. The system inevitably has its own boundary that makes it distinguishable from the rest of the world. The functioning of the system is according to a specific partial truth (provable in a strictly limited, pre-defined area of operation); the system thinker strongly believes in this partial truth, works on it, explores it deeper and deeper.

While working with partial truths, system thinkers see the world made of parts (systems, sub-systems, components, elements, particles) that can be separated and analysed independently from one another. The underlying assumption is that the whole is more than the parts, where 'more' usually relates to 'more complicated' or 'more difficult to study and understand'; consequently, the parts are simpler and therefore easier for studying and understanding. For artificial (human-made) systems, such an assumption can be accepted. In nature and society, this assumption fails.

The microcosm is not simpler than the macrocosm; the same inseparably connected dynamics ? energies and forces that make the spiral of our galaxy fold and stretch pulsate in a similar way through any living cell of our organism. The life of a single individual is not simpler that the life of society considered as a whole. In the fractal structure of nature, revealed by Mandelbrot [1], the whole consists of wholes, only the scale changes. The scale of an atom's nucleus is different than the scale of the sun, but the 'whole' consisting of atom's nucleus and the orbits of the electrons that this nucleus attracts is similar to the 'whole' consisting of the sun and the orbits of the heavenly bodies that the sun attracts.

While seeing existence as a holistic manifestation of inseparably interwoven dynamics, complexity thinking deals with concepts like strange attractors, fractals, self-organizing criticality, edge of chaos, etc. These concepts are not in the vocabulary of the system thinkers.


OK, but is this because complexologists are creating their own words for what they say are new concepts? Or are they creating new words for particular applications of old system concepts?

I challange the complexity movement to do their requiste prior research. Ignorance of prior research may be forgivable of the layperson, but a scientist, if his credibilty is sustainable, ought not be forgiven. Science is a methodology, a way of doing science. it is not a philosophy. To ignore the philosophy of systems thinking, for a scientist, borders on deception, the very reason science has come to be trusted by humankind. Once this trust is broken, then it is all up for grabs.

Ignorance of scientific data is not occuring only in the systems sciences, a deep inquiry into cosmology reveals that data refuting the big bang theory has been surpressed by scientific journals (quantization of the redshift {Arp, Tifft}shows us that it does not contain the assumed velocity component thereby invalidating the further assmption that the Univese is expanding), data refuting evolution by selection has been ignored by mainstream science (obviously, selection is after the fact}; data of problems with the conventional view of 911 has been hidden from our view; {All evidence which would show what kind of airplane hit our structured has been classified as secret...)the pharmaceutical industry does not spend a significant amount of resources to develop cures, {it would hurt their profits developing lifetime treatments; There is a lot more, our biology texts still contain forged photos of embryo's,

It's almost as if the truth will always be covered up by the counterfeiters one way or another.

Perhaps what we need, at least in America, is a kind of scientific police which then would defer to a scientific court. American's are not all dumb. But most of them, while realizing they are fed propaganda, dismiss it as that's the way things are..."

And that is really sad.

The above comments by Dimitrov contend that systems thinking is in terms of parts. Then he claims further that systems science concerns itself with these parts. This is not true. Consider these words by Bela H. Banathy


"The mind set of the industrial era has its roots in classical science - often associated with Newton - that emerged some three hundred years ago. Disciplined inquiry during the last three hundred years, inspired by the Cartesian-Newtonian scientific world view has sought understanding by taking things apart by seeking the "ultimate part" and groping to see or reconstruct the whole by viewing the characteristics of its parts.

"not able to grasp "wholeness" which EMERGES from the mutual interaction of parts."

This REDUCTIONIST orientation was not able to grasp "wholeness" which EMERGES from the mutual interaction of parts, where the part gets its meaning from the whole and by its interaction with all the other members of the whole. The properties of the whole cannot be seen from the viewpoint of the parts.

Today, we realize that the reductionist method of analysis has to be complemented with synthesis and with expansionism, aimed at understanding larger and larger wholes in which our systems of interest are embedded."

I think it would be fair to simply compare the two ideas being presented above

Tommy Mandel

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/23/2005 01:47PM by tom.

Re: Beyond systems thinking? (fractal definition)
Posted by: tom (
Date: July 23, 2005 05:50PM

Valadimir writes:

"complexity thinking deals with concepts like strange attractors, fractals, self-organizing criticality, edge of chaos, etc. These concepts are not in the vocabulary of the system thinkers. "

OK/ Let's take fractals. The definitions here are from Charles Francois' ISSS Dictionary, now named the International Encyclopedia of Systemics and Cybernetics.


For Fractal:

A figure that is self-similar at different scales. THe conceptual base of fractals is revursive self-smilarity by scaling. Fractals involve similarities generated by a template, independant of changes of scales. They are also characterized by the absence of derivative, an infinity of details, an infinite length, and a fractinal dimension. The mathematical theory was established by B. Mandebrott (1983), but numrous fractal figures where described beforehand by various authors, who did not seem to have perceived their common ground,
Lichtenberg's figures\\
Koch's snow flakes\\
Sierpinshi's carpets\\
Menger's sponges\\
Peano's curves\\
Cantor's triadic sets

The Weierstrass function is also self-similar and may lead to fractalized representaions of processes. Recently A. Edwards fractalized the Venn diagram, a very interesting and usefull application, for taxonic purposes.

Fractals describe structures and are somehow static objrects. If one is not interested in the order of appearance of their components at sucessive self-similar levels.

Frncois goes on to define

Fractal aggregation\\
fractal basin boundaries\\
fractal curves, surfaces and volumes\\
fractal dimensions\\
fractal processes\\
f`ractal scaling\\
fractal time\\


Interesting comment about strange attractors, also according to Valadimir not in our vocabulary, but nevertheless described by our past president I. Prigogine"Chaotic attractors are not characterized by whole dimensions, as a line or a surface, but by frationary dimensions. They are what is called since Mandelbrot, fractal varieties. (1982 p 73)

Re: Beyond systems thinking? (fractal definition)
Posted by: Kevin (
Date: November 06, 2005 04:43PM

"Ignorance of scientific data is not occuring only in the systems sciences, a deep inquiry into cosmology reveals that data refuting the big bang theory has been surpressed by scientific journals (quantization of the redshift {Arp, Tifft}"

Absolutely true. Other models predicted the background radiation temperature as well, and they were even more correct than the big bang value.

The fact that big bang supporters distort this historical reality and claim that the big bang was accepted as leading theory because other models supposedly did not predict this radiation goes to show what good liars they are. I have an article here somewhere showing the whole history of red shift models and their predictions.

What is wrong with the scientific community, we may ask? Originating out of societies full of superstition, the scientific method should have helped us towards truth. It has never done so in my opinion. It has lead towards higher forms of technology, not towards understanding.

Re: Beyond systems thinking?
Posted by: tom (
Date: April 29, 2007 01:13AM

The science of complexity is a mathematical science. And is perhaps as useful in reality as mathematics is useful. How they intend on showing emergence mathematically will be interesting to see. Calculus was a new mathematics which could do thing that ordinary arithmetic couldn't, but did calculus obsolete arithmetic? Is it fair also to say the calculus invented addition division multiplication?

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