A tale of two worldviews: How feedback leads to scientism and how it can be harnessed to rescue science


The title for this forthcoming book (~2017) is tentative.

Feedback is ubiquitous and provides for the emergence of an infinite amount of change and complexity. However, the power to explain change in simple terms requires an open-form language that harnesses feedback, e.g., as used in the “hard science” of Physics. However, the “softer sciences” (and philosophy) continue to apply closed-form thinking – language and meaning that fundamentally disallows feedback – to the problem of change. It is an unfortunate mathematical fact that, at best, closed-form concepts lead to an endless set of local re-descriptions that over time and in hindsight, amount to scientism. Moreover, each closed-form approximation also requires an infinite set of terms to improve local precision. This book highlights the differences between these two epistomologies – languages for theorizing about change – and attempts to harden the soft sciences by converting closed-form thinking to open-form. It amounts to a revolution from the current linguistic turn (which happens to be closed), to an open one.

Infinity Dragons by Dan Morris (2010)The “naturallanguage of continuous change is of a system of interacting open-form expressions that harness feedback. They are epitomized by “dynamics” – the partial differential equations of modern physics – and were critical to overcoming the closed-form limitations of natural language. That, and the search for universal laws, i.e., invariants not relative to local contexts, permitted Physics to become a “hard science“, a unified science.

The Tower of Babel by Pieter BruegelHowever, the “softer sciences” (and philosophy) are replete with the closed-form conceptions of natural language. The closed-form problem stems from the dictionary style hierarchically structured definitions of words that does not allow for feedback. These do not have the power to explain change in a unified manner, and can only allow for an endless and infinite variety of local re-descriptions – the hallmark of scientism. Indeed, that is why the search for unification and external validity is given such short thrift in the soft sciences – they are mathematically impossible.

David’s book exposes the linguistic flaw within the soft sciences and philosophy. All the assumptions withing the closed-form linguistic turn are exposed, and this allows the move to the open-form linguistic turn to begin. The hardening of soft sciences demands it. The search for unification can now begin with a firm foundation.