Another problem is that of sampling. There is no guarantee that the levels measured during a given period are in fact representative. Thus analyses of Rhine water have so far identified some 200 different pollutants and these are regarded as constituting perhaps no more than one-tenth of those present. Dr. Sontheimer, a chemist involved in this work, has said they have no way of foreseeing “what will be floating in the river tomorrow . . . A cleaning process that works one day, works badly the next day.”  Moreover, even were it possible to devise the correct monitoring equipment and purification plant the cost would be prohibitive. Sontheimer considers that it would cost at least 10 times more to extract poisons already diluted in the Rhine than it would to keep them out.
The argument against measurement is very much that against atomisation.
To understand how the world works one must look at the whole, not the parts, and proceed by deduction rather than induction.
Our understanding of pollution, for instance, will not be built by examining and measuring levels of individual pollution, but by examining the principle involved in the light of a general behavioural model of unified Science.
Centralisation of information
A further insurmountable problem is that arising from the centralisation of information. Indeed, the replacement of subjective information by objective information involves centralisation and this has many implications.
Consider the island of New Guinea where there are at present 700 different tribal groups, each with its own religio-culture. If the country were modernised these would inevitably be destroyed as the population was herded into large industrial complexes in which the children would soon be subjected to the standard western-type education.
These religio-cultures have developed over the course of thousands of years, not at random, but for a specific purpose – that of enabling the tribal groups in question to achieve a stable relationship with their environment. This they achieve remarkably well, as can be attested by all those who have examined the behaviour of tribal societies. However it is considered by us that their behaviour would be more adaptive were it based on a single organisation of information – the one which reflected objectively the world they, as well as countless other social groups throughout the world, happen to live in.
We forget, however that a society is a natural system, and it can be shown that its religio-culture is an integral part of it, that part which ensures its control. If one removes an integral part of a social control system in this way why not do the same with other systems? Why not for instance centralise genetic information? Why not start a world genetic data bank, which animals wishing to reproduce themselves in a modern and scientific way, whether they be fiddler crabs, dung beetles, or human beings, need but contact so as to obtain, by the aid of some giant computer, all the genetic information that they may require for this purpose?
However ridiculous this suggestion may sound, in behavioural terms the same principle is involved. In both cases it means counteracting the processes leading to the evolutionary development of normal control mechanisms. Such action is anti-evolutionary and can only lead to an increase in randomness.
Let us push the argument still further. If we deprive the inhabitants of New Guinea of their social control mechanisms, in the interests of centralisation, why don’t we do the same for the other mechanisms involved in their life processes? Why do we not set up, for their benefit, a single computerised liver for instance, or a complete digestive system which would deal with all the digestive processes of the island’s population thereby freeing it of digestive worries and letting it concentrate on more progressive activities such as watching TV or going to football matches?
Once more the example may appear absurd. But in cybernetic terms it is not absurd at all. Natural systems must be self-regulating if they are to be stable. A control mechanism is an integral part of a system. Remove it and the latter disintegrates, just as would an organism if one were to remove its liver or its digestive system. That is why traditional societies have not survived the destruction of their religio-cultures.Back to top
The original instructions initiating a behavioural process are differentiated during their implementation so as to adapt them to environmental requirements.
In this way the process cannot be explained solely on the basis of these instructions. Nor does the model on the basis of which the instructions are justified, suffice to justify the totality of instructions given at each level of organisation as behaviour proceeds. This principle is well illustrated by the behaviour of an army.
It is not even remotely. conceivable for a General to issue a complete and detailed Plan of Action, which will be observed to the letter at every echelon down to that of the section. The General cannot tell the exact nature of each problem that will be encountered by his men during the implementation of his instructions. He cannot know the position of each boulder, each tree, each bush which the individual soldiers will encounter -the physical strength of each individual opponent, the ruses he will resort to. In other words the imposition of a complete Blueprint from above is totally unadaptive. These instructions must be subjected to changes accommodating environmental influences, in precisely the same way as the cultural information on which is based a traditional cultural pattern is subject to evolutionary change.
In the case of an objective pattern of information, the mechanism for ensuring its differentiation is absent.
Consider that most of the disciplines, into which knowledge is at present divided, are based on a very insufficient sample of the total human experience. Modern economics, for instance, is based on the Western experience during the industrial age.  It is assumed indiscriminately to apply to traditional societies, and efforts to apply it in this way have led to social disruption on a considerable scale.
Modern agriculture has been devised largely on the basis of the experience of European countries enjoying a temperate climate. Its indiscriminate application to tropical areas has led to wholesale soil destruction and desertification.
Ideas of government are just as socio-centric and their exportation to Africa and Asia has led to the erosion of traditional cultures and to the setting up in their place of unstable political regimes which are nothing more than parodies of their already largely unsuccessful European counterparts.
All this is largely the result of the failure to adapt centralised objective knowledge to local requirements – to differentiate it, in fact, as subjective information is differentiated during the behavioural process among self-regulating natural systems.Back to top
The non-plasticity of generalities
The reason why the mechanism for adapting apparently objective generalities to environmental requirements is absent is that we cannot avoid regarding them subjectively as a priori truths, and thereby to rationalise any experiments which would invalidate the principle of their applicability. Why should this be so?
The reason is simple, the model used by the control mechanism of a natural system regardless of its level of complexity constitutes a hierarchical organisation of information. Information is organised in it, in accordance with its degree of generality. The more general the information the more important it is, since it colours all the other information in terms of which it is differentiated. Also, the more general it is, the longer the experience of the species or of the social group (in the case of cultural information), which it reflects. The more, therefore, it can be predicted that the circumstances to which it mediates adaptive behaviour are likely to be present, the less modifiable is this information.
Traditional man could predict with confidence that the circumstances that have been present for thousands of years are likely to continue being present. Their whole cultural pattern depends therefore on the continued presence of these circumstances, and little or no provision is made for their possible absence. Thus, the cultural pattern of a fishing society living on the edge of a lake would assume that the lake does not go dry and that its fish population is not depleted.
An Eskimo society living in the Arctic wastes will assume the particular climatic conditions in which it lives. Neither the fishing society, nor the Eskimo society can cater culturally for drastic changes in their basic relationship with their environment. If such changes occur, then the cultural patterns in question will collapse. But in terms of their very long experience there is no reason for them to suppose that it will.
The same is true of genetic information: Let us not forget that the generalities of our behaviour pattern are formulated in terms of our genetic information. This reflects the experience of a far longer period than does the cultural information. Its main feature is that it is largely non-plastic, i.e., it is not subject to change except over a very long period. If, for instance, it were modifiable on the basis of the experience of a single generation, then the species would cease to display any continuity; it would cease, in fact, to be stable.
When scientific information is built up, this essential fact is not taken into account. The generalities of a scientific model are supposed to be as modifiable as are its particularities, which are supposed to enable those who avail themselves of this information for the purpose of controlling our destinies, to adapt to the most radical environmental changes which a traditional culture could not hope to do. Needless to say, it doesn’t work out that way.
A normal organisation of information will contain the optimum, not the maximum amount of information. A system will not develop the capacity to detect signals and interpret them if it does not have the capacity to adapt to the situations involved, or can only do so at the cost of disrupting its basic structure; which is precisely what its entire behaviour pattern is designed to avoid.
To change the generalities of a pattern of information and hence to seek to adapt to very radical changes, must lead to precisely this result. It is clear that the human brain is not designed to contain an objective pattern of information. It cannot handle its generalities. This explains why scientists are incapable of applying scientific method to the analysis of social questions on which their views are uncritically those of their particular sub-culture.
The objective particularities of their ‘scientific’ world-view are grafted on to the subjective generalities of that provided by their specific sub-culture. (This is particularly clear in the case of Lord Zuckerman’s refusal to accept that pollution levels have gone up with industrialisation, and his other argument for still further industrialisation.)
Let us not forget that all behavioural processes, including ‘learning’ proceed from the general to the particular and once the generalities have been determined during infancy they are very difficult to modify, however impressive may be the scientific arguments produced for this purpose. Thus when a conflict arises, it is the subjective generalities which inevitably prevail and the subjective interpretation of any situation which they provide simply tends to be rationalised in the most convincing ‘scientific’ jargon.
That is why wisdom does not seem to grow with access to scientific knowledge, only ingenuity,, and ingenuity in the service of the wrong ideals, entertained on the basis of faulty assumptions, is a liability rather than an asset.Back to top
There is no mechanism for making use of objective knowledge for the purpose of control
Since the- human brain is incapable of containing an organisation of objective information, as is a cultural pattern, objective information if it is to be used must be imposed on the system from the outside. It cannot be part of .the system’s normal control mechanism. But how is it to be imposed? No means is in fact available. Science does not provide a mechanism for ensuring that scientific knowledge is actually made use of. Regardless of the amount of objective knowledge available, both individuals and governments will tend to behave on the basis of the subjective information which is part of their phylogenetically and ontogenetically developed control mechanisms. The objective information they will simply rationalise to make it appear compatible with it.
If we have been persuaded that they can, it is that we have wrongly interpreted these particularities in such a way as to make them appear amenable to technological solutions which are the only ones our society can provide, i.e., the solutions which are prescribed by the subjective cultural pattern with which we have been imbued.
If we were to use available objective knowledge we would be forced in fact to reverse practically all existing trends. If we consider the problems that face Man today it can be shown that all our remedies are counter productive. Poverty for instance cannot be combated by providing people with more material goods.
First. of all we are reaching a point where it is increasingly difficult to keep up with the manufacture of these goods. Secondly their provision in the most lavish way has no effect whatsoever in reducing poverty. In America for instance there are 21 million people who are classified as ‘poor’. The reason is firstly that the production of material goods changes the environment we live in, in such a way that more material goods are then required. Industrialisation creates needs faster than it can satisfy them.
Besides it is becoming increasingly clear that the misery we associate with poverty is the result of biological and social, rather than material, deprivation, while the production of material goods is the main cause of biological and social deprivation. In the same way, it can be shown that such basic problems as unemployment,  ignorance,  homelessness,  malnutrition  and disease  are on the increase throughout the world in spite of unprecedented investments in technology and industry and that they are not being resolved by technological and industrial progress.
On this basis the whole process should be reversed. If we do not reverse it, it is simply that we are incapable of making use of objective knowledge for the purpose of social control which continues and always will be assured on the basis of subjective information.Back to top
If perception cannot serve as the basis for objective knowledge in normal conditions, in a period of rapid environmental change it eventually becomes even incapable of providing useful objective information. The principle involved I shall refer to as cognitive maladjustment.
It is generally held today that man is infinitely adaptable. This is only because the concept has never been adequately defined. If we define it as the capacity of a system to maintain its stability, then it is simply not true. Man, by means of science and technology is capable of counteracting discontinuities, but only at great cost. The cost is in terms of reduced stability and hence of greater discontinuities in the future, with which science and technology will eventually no longer be capable of dealing. What, in our industrial society, we take for adaptation, is usually pseudo-adaptation, as Boyden calls it.
The notion that Man is only capable of adapting to that range of environmental changes which can be catered for by a traditional cultural pattern, conflicts with the notion that the substitution of a pattern of objective knowledge for his traditional knowledge increases his range of adaptations.
In reality as we diverge from the environment to which Man has been adapted biologically, by means of phylogeny and ontogeny, and socially, by means of his society’s cultural evolution, and his own education, so are we creating a host of maladjustments at different levels of organisation.
Thus, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a whole new range of diseases is appearing which is unknown in tribal societies living in their natural habitat – what is more the incidence of these diseases is increasing with per capita GNP. I refer to cancer; in particular cancer of the lungs and bowels, ischaemic heart disease, diverticulitis and tooth decay. These are already known among many researchers as the ‘diseases of civilisation’. Boyden refers to them as the ‘diseases of biological maladjustment’.  They appear to be, caused by environmental factors which were absent in primitive conditions, and what is more, the further we diverge from such conditions, as measured by per capita GNP, the greater is their incidence.
It is also becoming increasingly clear that we are faced with an ever increasing range of social pathologies, which were also absent in ‘primitive’ conditions. Their incidence also appears to increase with per capita GNP – I refer of course to crime, delinquency, alcoholism, illegitimacy, suicide, etc. These are best regarded as ‘the diseases of social maladjustment’.
Contrary to what many might think, against these ills modern science is impotent. In spite of enormous investments in research no cures have been found nor are they likely to be. Remedies provided by science are technological ones whereas the problems are biological and social ones, requiring biological and social solutions. Technological remedies do no more than mask the symptoms of a disease thereby rendering it more tolerable and serving in this way to perpetuate it. Their effect is thereby to accommodate trends rather than reverse them, to permit in fact a yet further deviation from the optimum environment to which we have been adapted by evolution, and thereby further increasing maladjustments at all levels.
This is what happens, for instance, when we fight crime by building more burglar alarms and armoured cars. If a system is limited in its range of adaptations, for somatic reasons, so it is for informational ones. As the relationship between a system and its environment undergoes change, so is its model ever less capable of representing it.
This means that we become ever less capable of understanding our relationship with the constituents of our changing environment, which, to use Forrester’s expression is becoming increasingly counterintuitive.
Thus, whereas our Palaeolithic ancestors had no difficulty in understanding what was their relationship with the cave bear and the woolly mammoth, we have no means of understanding what are the implications for us of subjecting our children to X-rays, of permitting a nuclear power station to be built in the vicinity of our homes, of allowing supersonic transport to erode the ozone belt which shields our planet from the sun’s radiation, of cutting down the world’s remaining stands of tropical forest, of countenancing, in fact, the industrialisation process itself.
Few people understand the full implications of these things, and hence, few are capable of reacting or influencing society to react adaptively to the strange new happenings which are rapidly transforming the world we live in. The result, of course, is that our scientifically influenced behaviour, which, as we have seen, remains based on subjective foundations, becomes increasingly unadaptive.Back to top
The development of science as part of the industrial process
It may well be that these arguments are all of purely academic interest, for the scientific adventure is condemned to failure by virtue of the fact that it can only occur in specific conditions – those, which in any case, must inevitably lead to the deterioration of the biosphere and if it continues for long enough, the annihilation of complex forms of life, such as man himself. I have argued elsewhere that there can be no flying saucers, since a planet whose inhabitants have developed the requisite technology, who are in fact technologically several decades, if not a century, in advance of us, would long ago have collapsed from the combined effects of environmental pollution, resource depletion, starvation and social chaos.
The same argument applies to the development of modern science. It could not have occurred in a hunter-gatherer society, nor in an idyllic rural society, but only as an integral part of that singular process of which technological development and industrial growth are the other necessary ingredients. That scientists, with all their remarkable ingenuity and capacity for improvisation, cannot deal with the problems which this process inevitably gives rise to, has been the subject of this paper. If they have an important contribution to make today it is in admitting their own inadequacies, in informing our political leaders, and the public at large that scientists are not the universal conjurors they are supposed to be.
Scientists must become sages rather than conjurors. They must re-assume responsibility for the study of the assumptions upon which their work is based, and organise objective knowledge into something approaching a general model of behaviour. Even if this will never be used to control our society, at least it may help divert the efforts of scientists from furthering the cause of technological development and industrial growth: for it will serve to reveal just how unjustified are such efforts. Further it will demonstrate that de-industrialisation is the only course of action which can be justified on the basis of available objective knowledge.
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1. Lord Zuckerman. Speech at United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. Stockholm 1972.
2. Richard Lee and Erwin Devote. Man the Hunter. Aldine 1969.
3. Edward Goldsmith. ‘The Study of Cultural Behaviour’. The Ecologist Vol. 3. No. 1.
4. Robert Frantz.. ‘The Origin of Form Perception’. Scientific American May 1962.
5. Judson Herrick, quoted by Stuart Chase. The Tyranny of Words. Methuen, London 1943.
6. Edward Goldsmith. ‘The Brain as a Probability Calculator’. The Ecologist Vol. 1 No. 11.
7. Hans Reichenbach. The Rise of Scientific Philosophy. University Press, California 1958.
8. W. Ittleson and W. Kilpatrick. ‘Experiment Experiments in Perception’. Scientific American August 1951.
9. Konrad Lorenz. ‘Gestalt Perception as Fundamental to Scientific Knowledge’. General Systems Yearbook Vol. VII, 1962.
10. Ludwig von Bertalanffy. ‘General Systems Theory: A Critical Review’. General Systems Yearbook. Vol. VII, 1962.
11. Charles Noel Martin. The Role of Perception in Science. Hutchinson. London 1963.
12. Denis and Denella Meadows. Limits to Growth. Potomac Associates, Washington DC 1972.
13. Edward Goldsmith, Robert Allen et alia. A Blueprint for Survival. Tom Stacey, London 1972,
14. Lord Zuckerman, ibid.
15. SCEP. Man’s Impact on the Global Environment. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1971.
16. Virginia Brodine. ‘Point of Damage’, Environment Vol. 14, No. 4.
17. Charles E Wurster. Effect of Pesticides in The Environmental Future, Nicholas Polunin. Macmillan 1973.
18. Charles F. Wurster, ibid.
19. Charles F, Wurster, ibid.
20. Notebook. The Ecologist, Vol. 3, No. 4.
21. Karl Polanyi. Primitive, Archaic and Modern Economics. Doubleday 1968.
22. Edward Goldsmith. ‘The Ecology of Unemployment’. The Ecologist Vol. 4 No. 11.
23. Edward Goldsmith, ‘Education, What For?’ The Ecologist Vol. 4 No. 1.
24. Edward Goldsmith. Does Building Houses Cause More Homelessness? The Ecologist Vol. 3, No. 12.
25. Michael Allaby. Who Will Eat? Tom Stacey. London 1972.
26. John Powles. ‘The Medicine of Industrial Man’. The Ecologist Vol. 2 No.10.Back to top