Another concept which Prigogine and Jantsch misuse is that of ‘stability’ which for them is a feature of those ‘steady-state non-equilibrium structures’, such as planets and crystals, whose behaviour we are told is still governed by Boltzman’s Ordering Principle. It is not, on the other hand, a feature of living things, that are classified as ‘dissipative structures’ and that are brought into being by amplified fluctuations. In their efforts to prove this thesis, Prigogine and Jantsch constantly allude to an article by Holling, a Canadian ecologist, that is worth considering in some detail.
Holling, like Prigogine and Jantsch, sees stability as something that is undesirable.  For him stable systems, in which category he includes living things that have not been subjected to change for a very long time, are not persistent and are, for this reason, unsuccessful. Successful systems, like Prigogine’s ‘dissipative structures’, are necessarily unstable and Holling refers to them as ‘resilient’.
The first point one must make is that living systems which have remained constant over long periods, are the rule rather than the exception. In fact, the most striking feature of the behaviour of living things during the last 3 billion years is not their ability to change but, on the contrary, their extraordinary constancy. Many forms of life have not changed at all for hundreds of millions of years, a fact that is difficult to explain in terms of current evolutionary theory. Thorp refers to it “as the problem of fixity in evolution”. He asks,
“What is it that helps so many groups of animals to maintain an astonishingly constant form over millions of years? This seems to me to be the problem now – the problem of constancy rather than of change . . . These problems seem to me to stick out like a sore thumb in modern evolutionary theory.” 
Both Huxley and Waddington have been struck by the same dilemma. Darwin himself, as already mentioned , stated in a letter to Lyell, that if he had to start again, rather than use the term ‘natural selection’ he would use ‘natural preservation’. 
There is another objection to Holling’s thesis. For him a stable system is one that is capable of returning to an ‘equilibrium state’ after a temporary disturbance and “the more rapidly it returns and with the least fluctuation, the more stable it is.” In other words he regards a stable living system as ‘homeostatic’ and its behaviour as similar to that of a thermostat which assures the constant temperature of, say, a centrally heated apartment by bringing it back to a pre-determined norm after a temporary diversion.
As usual, a comparison between the behaviour of machines and living things is misleading, for the experience of the thermostat is reversible (so long as we ignore the minute effects of wear and tear), while among living things, as both Prigogine and Jantsch themselves point out, time and experience are irreversible.  They are thus being most inconsistent when they adopt, with Holling, a definition of stability that assumes the reversibility of time and experience.
In reality, living things do not react to a disturbance by returning to a pre-disturbance state. Every disturbance, however temporary, must affect them, if only to assure that when it recurs, they are better capable of dealing with it, so that it gives rise to a smaller fluctuation.
In other words, natural systems learn and this means that they can maintain their stability in a constantly changing environment in which machines would rapidly become unstable.
Living things must thereby be seen as dynamic rather than static, and stability, instead of being a point in space-time towards which they tend, must be regarded as a course along which they must move in order to minimise change, i.e. so as to achieve a climax state (see the Second Law of Ecodynamics).  When this state has been achieved, stable systems will continue to change, but at a very reduced rate, as the climax is the most stable (and hence the most desirable) state and all but minimal further change cease to be necessary.
Waddington  refers to such a course as the “chreod” (from the Greek chre – it is fated or necessary and Hodos – a path) though he does not describe it in the technical language I make use of. The nature of the ‘chreod’ that a system must adopt is determined by the instructions it contains in its genes and other organisations of information, in interaction with the environment within which it travels, which Waddington refers to as the “epigenetic landscape”.
Living systems, rather than display homeostasis, he sees as displaying homeorhesis (from the Greek homeo- same, rheo – flow). To quote Waddington,
“We use the word ‘homeorhesis’ when what is stabilized is not a constant value but is a particular course of change in time. If something happens to alter a homeorhetic system and control mechanisms do not bring it back to where it was at the time the alteration occurred, but bring it back to where it would normally have got to at some later time.” 
As a living system moves along its chreod, it is constantly subjected to fluctuations, the size of which must of course vary. Thus the behaviour of a system functioning in a highly orderly environment (such as that which exists within our bodies) will be characterised by small fluctuations; that of systems functioning in a disorderly environment, by much larger fluctuations.
The former will resemble, up to a point, what Holling refers to as stable behaviour, though not exactly. Our body’s internal environment is not immobile – it consists of innumerable processes that have moved along the ‘chreod’ corresponding to our optimum embryological and ontogenetic development. The latter behaviour, that which occurs within a disorderly environment, is characterised by large fluctuations and is, thereby, what Holling regards as ‘resilient.’
The distinction between the two, however, is not as critical as Holling makes out for the goal of both types of behaviour is the same: to maintain stability in the face of change. Of course, in the latter case, the change is greater than in the former, which means that the strategy required to achieve the goal is somewhat different. However, to say that the former system is stable and the latter unstable is simply nonsense. As Waddington  writes, Holling’s distinction between stability and resilience is simply based “on a confusion between two different types of stability.”
It is true that those highly integrated systems whose behaviour is subjected to smaller fluctuations (and thereby correspond most closely to those that Holling regards as stable) have become so specialised, and hence so committed to a very specific environment, that they are correspondingly vulnerable to unexpected environmental changes.
This does not mean, however, that they are ‘inpersistent’ and hence ‘unsuccessful’. If they were not highly persistent and highly successful, there would be no biological organisms on this planet – since the systems that make up their internal environment all fall within this category. It does mean, however, that such systems must be insulated in some way from the rigours of the external environment. If nature did not provide such insulation, then Holling would be right but in all but the most aberrant man-made conditions, nature always obliges.
The centralisation of our nervous system and the development of the neo-cortex enables us, for instance, to deal with environmental challenges and hence to insulate our internal environment. But in addition, further insulation is provided by the family, whose own internal environment is further insulated by the community of which it is part. Less highly perfected ecological mechanisms also exist to insulate all sorts of primitive forms of life that have not changed over long periods from radical environmental challenges.
As we move from the internal environment of an organism to that of the family and the community, so is behaviour increasingly ‘resilient’, to use Holling’s term, i.e. it is characterised by larger fluctuations. It is not very helpful to say that this resilience is more desirable than the less resilient behaviour that occurs within the organism since the function of behaviour within the community is above all, as we have seen, to insulate the behaviour which occurs within the family and the organism from external challenges, i.e. to help maintain their stability.
In addition, if external conditions become too challenging, it is the larger, more resilient systems that first collapse, not the smaller, more ‘stable’ ones (in Holling’s terminology) as the history of the progressive breakdown of our society clearly reveals. So Holling has got it all wrong.
There is however a critical distinction to make. It is not between systems displaying small fluctuations and those that display large fluctuations, but between those whose behaviour is characterised by constant or decreasing fluctuations and those whose behaviour is characterised by growing fluctuations.
The former we can regard as stable the latter as unstable. In the former case, fluctuations are under control, the system being capable of dealing with the challenges of its environment, in the latter case, they are out of control i.e. the challenges are of a sort that the system cannot deal with adaptively. Such systems are, of course, condemned to disintegration and extinction.
Holling regards the ideal system, the one with the appropriate resilience and persistence, as falling within the former category i.e. as being subjected to big -though not necessarily increasing – fluctuations. Such a system in my language (also Waddington’s) is stable. Prigogine and Jantsch, on the other hand, sing the praises of systems with growing fluctuations, i.e. unstable systems.
For this reason Holling’s argument, even if it were valid, would only very superficially support the Prigogine paradigm.Back to top
There are no laws
If behaviour is random, then it is not governed by any precise laws. This, Prigogine and Jantsch explicitly accept. Being Aristo-scientists, by ‘laws’, they mean the ‘laws’ of physics and thermodynamics. In fact, for Prigogine, the only universal laws are those of classical thermodynamics. But these only apply to those things that are ‘near thermodynamic equilibrium’, i.e. that are in a state of homogeneity. To quote him,
“Les seules lois macroscopiques universelles sont bien les lois qui decrivent l’évolution vers le dèsordre, vers les états déquilibre ou les états stationnaires proches de l’équilibre mais ces lois physiques ne constituent pas le context par rapport auquel le vivant doit se definir: non pas parce qu’il est vivant mais parce que, physiquement, il ne remplit pas les conditions d’application de ces lois, les conditions sous lesquelles ces lois sont pertinentes.” 
“The universal macroscopic laws that describe evolution towards disorder, to a state of equilibrium or a stationary state approaching equilibrium, . . . do not constitute the context in which life can be defined: not because it is alive, but because, physically, it does not fulfil the appropriate conditions for these laws, the conditions under which these laws are relevant.”
In other words, since living things do not fall within this category, the laws of classical thermodynamics cannot apply to them, and since there are no other laws, it must follow that the behaviour of living things is not subjected to any laws at all. All this sounds very much like the worst type of Mediaeval casuistry. Yet Prigogine assures us that it is the only possible position that a scientist can adopt, for it is the only one that is reconcilable with the statistical theory which is so fundamental to modern science. As Needham assures us, laws are but words we give to statistical regularities,
“valables uniquement pour des temps et des lieux donnes, en termes de description et non de prescription.” 
“valid only for a given time and place, [and] in terms of description, not prescription.”
When the Newtonian paradigm was in fashion, Prigogine admits, there were indeed Laws. However it was by specifically rejecting the notion that nature was governed by laws that it became possible to free science from the ‘Newtonian myth’. As Prigogine tells us,
“La Science échappe au mythe Newtonien parce qu’elle a conclue théoriquement a l’impossibilite de reduire la nature a la simplicité cachée d’une réalité régie par des lois universelles.” 
“Science is beyond the myth of Newtonian theory because it has concluded the impossibility of reducing nature to a simple hidden reality governed by universal laws.”
Morin, who is deeply steeped in the Prigogine mythology, tells us that it is only in “popular epistemology” that one finds reference today to the laws of nature. In other words only the stupid and the uneducated still believe that nature is governed by laws.  Modern science has abolished them all and has thereby liberated man so that he is now free to create his own laws, to determine the course of his own evolution, and hence his own destiny. This is the essence of Jantsch’s message in The Self-Organising Universe, in which he assures us,
“Evolution is basically open. It determines its own dynamics and direction. This dynamic unfolds in a systemic web which, in particular, is characterised by the co-evolution of macro and micro systems. By way of this dynamic interconnectedness, evolution also determines its own meaning.”
In reality, of course, nature is bound by a very large number of different laws. What is more, they are very much more than ‘statistical regularities’ and they are ‘prescriptive’ too.
As Waddington points out, laws are best seen as constraints.  Among other things, the term constraint is only meaningful in a teleological context, i.e. as a constraint that must be observed in order to achieve a specific goal. Since living things, as already seen, tend towards the same goal, it must follow that, at a certain level of generality, they also tend to be governed by the same constraints or laws.
These laws are not binding in an absolute sense of the term – it is this that confuses our Aristo-scientists – but if they are not observed then the systems bound by the law will not achieve their goal. They will become unstable and hence fail to survive.
Thus men can walk over cliffs, refrain from eating, and drink cups full of cyanide – but if they do this they will not be around for too long. Similarly, the general laws governing the behaviour of biological, social and ecological systems are those that must be observed, if these organisations are to remain stable and hence survive.
The systems that make up the biosphere are thus ‘prescriptive’, contrary to what Needham tells us – prescriptive for the achievement of their goal and hence for the achievement of biospheric stability.
Once more, however, this is not apparent to scientists who deny the validity of such key concepts as ‘organisation’ and ‘teleology’ without which one cannot understand the world of living things.Back to top
We have seen that, in order to rationalise the desirability of perpetual technospheric change, Prigogine and Jantsch have tried to show that, within the biosphere, units of behaviour or systems are of a purely random nature; that stability is self-defeating; that ‘structure’ is random too and also of little importance, no more so than the “grin on the face of a Cheshire cat”; that only ‘process’ is important – though it is also random and hence subject to no laws.
In other words, the world of living things is infinitely malleable. Anything goes.
Prigogine and Jantsch are not the first to have tried to justify the transformation of the world of living things under the influence of development by an appeal to the infinite malleability of man and nature. Lamarck tried to do so. It was his principal error. He assumed that man could adapt genetically to short-term environmental changes which meant that he could constantly undergo radical structural and behavioural changes, which of course, it is precisely the goal of behaviour in the natural world to prevent. Lamarck, as Piaget puts it, compared
“L’organisation héréditaire à un liquide épousant les formes de tous les récipients sans stabilité ni même, en principe, sans l’irréversibilité de nature historique.” 
“inheritance to a fluid organization espousing all kinds of forms without stability and even, in principle, capable of reversing its own [biological] history.”
Instead, as we know, the hereditary material is relatively non-plastic, unmmodifiable by the short-term experience of a species – though almost certainly not, as neo-Darwinists imply, by its long-term experience.
Those who wish to justify the radical way in which social structures are being transformed by the industrial process, must try to persuade themselves, against all the evidence, that social structures are even more malleable than are biological ones. As Ellul writes
“On souhaite en réalite (même si cela n’est pas clairement exprimé) une organisation sociale parfaitment malleable: car la technique pour progreser éxige une grande mobilité sociale puisqu’il faut des déplacements considerables de population, des mutations dans l’exercise des professions, des changements de qualification sociale, des affectations de resources et des modifications de structure des groupes.” 
“We wish in reality (even if it is not clearly expressed) for a perfectly malleable society: as technical progress requires a great mobilisation of society to enable considerable displacement of the population, transformation of the professions, changes in social skills, and modifications to group structure and resource allocation.”
Most modern historians and sociologists also see society in this way. H.A.L. Fisher, for instance, tells us that man does not have a nature, only a history – intimating, thereby, that human behaviour is infinitely malleable, that the course of history, as a result, is no more than random change.
Edward O. Wilson also talks of the “extreme plasticity of social behaviour”,  implying that we can adapt to living in just about any social environment, including of course, that which the industrial process imposes upon us – an environment composed of a structureless and anonymous mass of alienated individuals, one that could not differ more radically from that to which we have been adapted by our evolution.
The opposite of course is true. Like all living things, we are capable of adaptive behaviour because our biological and social structure, rather than being random and hence malleable, is on the contrary highly specific. The behaviour associated with it is very specific, governed by a very specific set of laws. It is goal-directed but the goal rather than the perpetual change is, on the contrary, the maintenance of stability, i.e. the preservation of both our own basic structure and that of a very specific social and physical environment which must closely resemble that to which we have been adapted by our evolution.
To say that it is adaptive means that it can correct superficial divergences from this ideal environment but not more profound ones, such as those imposed by development and industrialisation and in particular by the super-star technologies that Prigogine and Jantsch propose – and which can only lead to the annihilation of complex forms of life on this planet.Back to top
The self-organising Universe
Jantsch’s universe like Prigogine’s is above all a self-organising one. At the same time, both of them insist that the evolutionary process is a man-made one. Prigogine tells Salomon, if we remember, that it is only by means of high technology, the development of thermonuclear fusion, genetic engineering and the building of colonies in space that we can solve our problems. How can they reconcile these two apparently irreconcilable positions?
There is only one way in which it can be done. It is to identify man with the universe. If Prigogine and Jantsch can succeed in doing this (and they have performed other equally impressive feats of intellectual acrobatics), then the universe can be seen once more as self-organising. But how can their disciples be persuaded that man and the universe are one? Again there is a well-established expedient that can be exploited for this purpose. It consists in de-sanctifying nature and then, by attributing to man some key super-natural faculty that no other living things possess, to sanctify him in its stead.
In this way, our theologians have insisted that only man possesses a soul, a new idea since, when nature too was regarded as holy, all living creatures were also assumed to possess souls.
With the rise of rationalism in Europe came the notion that only man was capable of ‘rational’ behaviour, the behaviour of non-human animals being guided by blind-instinct alone.
For Prigogine and Jantsch, man’s holiness is bound up in his possession of a mind and hence of consciousness. Consciousness for Prigogine and Jantsch represents the highest state of evolution, as in the Noosphere of Teilhard du Chardin. Once this stage is achieved, the whole universe can be identified with consciousness and it is this consciousness that determines the course of further evolution.
It is because man possesses consciousness, Jantsch tells us that “mankind is not redeemed by God but redeems itself”.
The evolution of consciousness then becomes synonymous with the evolution of the universe. To quote Jantsch,
“Natural history including the history of man, may not be understood as the history of the organisation of matter and energy. But it may also be viewed as the organisation of information into complexity or knowledge. Above all however, it may be understood as the evolution of consciousness, or in other words, of autonomy and emancipation – and as the evolution of the mind . . . Mind appears now as self-organisation dynamics at many levels, as a dynamic which itself evolves. In this respect, all natural history is also history of mind. Self-transcendence, the evolutionary processes, is this evolution of the mind.”
If we are to attain Jantsch’s mystical paradise, it is because the human consciousness is moving us in this direction, via the ever greater fluctuations that it engenders. To subject these fluctuations to any biological, ecological and social constraints would be to divert us from this optimum course and hence to deprive us of all the delectable dissipative structures that otherwise lie in wait for us.
For this reason man’s every conscious whim, caprice and self-indulgence must be immediately satisfied, in particular those that involve the introduction of the super-star technologies that Prigogine and Jantsch so strongly favour, regardless of the biological, social and ecological destruction that their introduction must inevitably bring about.
This provides the ultimate rationalisation of individualism, egoism and irresponsibility – the invisible hand gone berserk. Not only is it now seen as assuring our material prosperity but of determining too the very functioning, and hence the evolution of the biosphere itself.Back to top
The New Ecology
Surprisingly enough, both Prigogine and Jantsch regard their message as highly ecological. They see consciousness-made evolution or the further ‘self-organisation’ of the universe as leading to a ‘new alliance’ between man and nature.
Monod, let us remember, told us that the evolution of man cannot be deduced from basic physical and thermodynamic laws.  Since there are no other laws, man must be the product of pure chance. This meant that the old pre-scientific alliance between man and nature could no longer be justified. Man is isolated, Monod tells us, in a world in which he is but a stranger.
Prigogine called his most famous book La Nouvelle Alliance. It was basically an answer to Monod. Its thesis was that the new non-linear thermodynamics, which he had invented, had brought man back once more into contact with nature. Man, for him, is not the product of chance, as Monod told us, for his occurrence is at least consistent with non-linear thermodynamics which explains how the dissipation of the sun’s energy gives rise to dissipative structures of which man is the most highly perfected example.
What is more, once we have all become genetic engineers, so must we become correspondingly more integrated into this world of living things. To Prigogine, genetic engineering is a highly ecological activity, even a ‘poetic’ one:
“Notre science occupe la position singulière d’écoute poètique de la nature – au sens étymologique où le poète est un fabricant – exploration active, manipulatrice et calculatrice mais désormais capable de respecter la nature qu’elle fait parler.” 
“Our science occupies the unique position of listening to the poetry of nature – in the etymological sense in which the poet is a creator – active exploration, manipulative and calculating, but now capable of respecting what nature is saying.”
Jantsch goes still further. The ‘new alliance’ that Prigogine has discovered gives new meaning to life. It provides a new sense of connectedness and
“this connectedness of our own life processes with the dynamics of an all embracing universe has so far been accessible only too mystic experience. In the synthesis, it becomes part of science which in this way comes closer to life.”
So we have a new ecology. Eugene Odum and Paul Ehrlich take heed: the study of a poetic and mystical self-organising universe, brimful of genetically engineered dissipative structures, brought into being by consciousness-assisted randomly amplified fluctuations. God help us.
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