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When Healing Becomes Educating, Vol. 2 - Waldorf Research Institute

When Healing Becomes Educating, Vol. 2 - Waldorf Research Institute

Chaos and the Search for

Chaos and the Search for the Etheric* Andreas Goyert Chaos is a new scientific discipline that has attracted increasing interest in recent years. It has found application in many sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and more recently also medicine. Leading scientists have suggested that this theory is liable to bring about a change of paradigm. According to Thomas S. Kuhn a paradigm is the theoretical concept determining the theoretical and methodological basis of a scientific discipline. The theory of science says that the evolution of sciences is not the simple result of a growing body of knowledge and scientific advances but is essentially due to changes in theory. A change of paradigm, replacing established theoretical and methodological principles with new ones, may cause science to advance in leaps and bounds. 1 In medical science, the only sure way of gaining scientific knowledge is still considered to be the theory that the processes in the human body follow the laws of physics and chemistry and are therefore definable, quantifiable and capable of correction. Observation and experiment lead to theories that are tested before they become part of the established body of knowledge. The theoretical and methodological basis for this is the reductionist principle that René Descartes introduced about 350 years ago: “If a problem is too complex for you to solve, divide it into smaller ones that can be solved individually.” 2 Essentially reductionists assume that it is possible to explain complex systems such as life forms on the basis of molecular and other basic physical and chemical principles. They do not consider the possibility of such systems having laws of their own. Reductionism also tends to go hand in hand with determinism, which says that if one knows the initial conditions it should be possible, at least in principle, to predict the outcome of everything that follows. There can be no doubt that these theories and methods provided the basis for the great scientific and technological advances of the 20th Century, for scientists have gained remarkably detailed knowledge of the *Original title: “Chaosforschung und die Suche nach dem Ätherischen,” Der Merkurstab 1992; 45: 257-71. English by A.R. Meuss, FIL, MTA. 54

composition of natural objects, right down to the molecular level. Their certain knowledge has, however, been limited to the physical end products of processes. In spite of this, scientists thought this method, developed out of the “exact” sciences of physics and chemistry to gain access to the physical basis of the world, could also be used to investigate the world of life coming into being, and the complex interactions of the natural world. On the basis of determinism, an adequate definition of the initial conditions would be all that is needed to predict the processes that give rise to life, i.e., make them calculable. Once this is done, they can also be influenced to achieve specific goals. An attempt will be made in this paper to describe the development and basic principles of the new science known as chaos theory. This will raise the question as to its significance in medicine. Finally we shall consider the developments in science that come to expression in chaos theory and whether it may serve to build bridges between modern science and anthroposophy. As the term “chaos” suggests, the new science is concerned with seeming disorder, irregularity and the incalculable. It does not base itself on the end products of processes, i.e., matter at rest, which provide such a clearly defined system for physics and chemistry, where experiments will give the same results, independent of time, providing the initial conditions are the same, and which is the basis of all our technology; instead it considers a nonlinear, complex feedback system. This is an open, evolving system, changing with time, with initial conditions that can never be clearly defined, in short, the processes that occur in time in the living world of nature. In the words of the physicist Gert Eilenberger, If we compare “natural” and “manufactured” objects, there can be no doubt that they are qualitatively very different. This comes as no surprise. Today, more than ever, we are aware of the contrast between “nature” and technology, with the differences sometimes irreconcilable. This should surprise us, however, for technology certainly our modern technology is, after all, applied natural science. The question is, why do its derivatives not impress us as natural? The answer is simple: The products of technology are essentially linear, natural objects are not. Euclidean geometry, the straight line, with its inherent one-dimensionality, dominates many sciences: mathematics, logic with its causal chains, the basic laws of physics, which are largely linear, the function of technological apparatus, based on the one-dimensional, causal 55

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