Consilience – and `Vertical Integration’

Or (to paraphrase Oscar WIlde): Why doing Consilience, is better (or – is less-worse) than: not doing Consilience

So, here’s a diagram I prepared earlier, that shows, one possible way to `vertically-integrate’ the Sciences.

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

`Culturology’ (in the diagram, above) would include, the study of knowledge in: the arts (including fiction), communication, sciences, language, jokes, and also religion.

(So, `Culturology’ would include: the study of cultural artifacts – such as, specific movies, novels, videogames, poems, songs, jokes, words, scientific theories, etc.)

…Why is all this (i.e. `vertical integration’), probably, a good idea..?

Well, the idea is that – if scientific findings in one domain of science (e.g. say, Sociology, or Psychology, or Biology, etc.) disagree with findings in other related domains – then, something’s probably wrong, somewhere.

Prof D K Simonton presents a study of `the hierarchy of the sciences’ (which is somewhat similar to Comte’s hierarchy of the sciences) in terms of their empirical accuracy (or, the `objective characteristics of both the field and domain’):

(the `field’ is the audience, the domain is all the knowledge…)

Figure 3 - Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

Figure 3 – Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

It appears that this was also what Comte (1855, 1896) was getting at, for example in his `Positive Philosophy’.

On whether the methods of the Natural Sciences can be applied to the Human Sciences

While Comte, Durkheim and other social science researchers aimed to `positively’ determine, study, predict (and ideally therefore, control) social phenomena in the social sciences using methods of the natural sciences (Crotty 1998, p. 24; Blaikie 2007, p. 111; Grix 2004, p. 80), Blaikie writes:

`During the past twenty-five years, Positivism has been the subject of much criticism within sociology (see, e.g., Giddens 1974, Fay 1975, Keat and Urry 1975, 1982, Adorno et al 1976, Benton 1977, Hindess 1977, Halfpenny 1982, Bryant 1985)’

(Blaikie 2007, p. 112).

Also – in The Sciences of the Artificial (Simon 1996b, p. 5) it is suggested that natural (or, biological) and artificial (or, cultural) artifacts differ in at least four potentially-important ways.[1] In his autobiography, the same polymath Herbert A. Simon states:

`The true line is not between “hard” natural science and “soft” social sciences, but between precise science limited to highly abstract and simple phenomena in the laboratory and inexact science and technology dealing with complex problems in the real world.’

(Simon 1996a, p. 304)

In the Systems (and therefore, the Complexity) worldview, a key problem is complexity, or that precision in measurement of a cultural phenomena is inverse to its complexity. Ward also comments on Comte’s hierarchical taxonomy of the sciences, which was arrived at:

`by taking as the criterion of the position of each the degree of what he called “positivity,” which is simply the degree to which the phenomena can be exactly determined. This, as may be readily ‘seen, is also a measure of their relative complexity, since the exactness of a science is in inverse proportion to its complexity.’

(Ward [1898] 1913, p. 7)

Comte’s `hierarchy of the sciences’ can be seen as increasing in complexity `upwards’ (and thus also, decreasing in predictability), as represented in the diagram below:

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015) – which is essentially the Hierarchy of the Sciences, adapted from Comte 1855 and also Simonton (2004, 2012)  [2]

Many complex systems obtain in any human individual, given the systems of, their own individual biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology and culture(s) and also their physical environment(s), let alone, interacting – and evolving – systems of these systems, all with multiple causes, effects, and variables.

We might therefore well assume, it is impossible to predict anything in culture, as a result of this overwhelming complexity – indeed, such as: predicting the probable characteristics of the story and morphology of a movie that makes over seventy times its production-budget in ticket-sales due to its audience reach, thus entering the top 20 RoI movie list.

See, for example:

StoryAlity #54 – StoryAlity Screenwriting Guidelines – for any aspiring Writer of High-RoI Films

StoryAlity #55 – Patterns In The Top 20 RoI (Return On Investment) Films: On Frequency

StoryAlity #56 – Patterns in the Top 20 RoI Films: # of Scenes vs Film Duration/Screenplay Length – and: Elliot Waves

StoryAlity #66 – Scientific & Empirical Proof that the StoryAlity™ Theory works: the movie `The Devil Inside’ (2012)

(and, there is more, here)…

However – if the view is adopted that such prediction is indeed impossible, then, movie-creatives can (and, possibly, even should) simply disregard any potential heuristics for high-relative-audience-reach movie-making or screen storytelling, and instead just use their own intuition and habitus (i.e. use their own “feel for the game”), and just take their chances with the `Less Than 1% Problem’ in the domain of movies. (And – Good Luck, with all that.)

Yet – even if they choose to ignore it, the problem-situation remains, that certain `filters’ or `evolutionary bottlenecks’ in movie-making exist, such: as screen-readers, and other industry gatekeepers who may de-select screen ideas for movie production

There also exists, a screenwriting doxa, or a `screenwriting convention’ (Macdonald 2004, 2013) and this enabling constraint both informs – and restricts – to varying degrees, the kind of screen idea that is financed, and thus produced, as a movie (by the mainstream field of movies).

One potential solution (as also employed by a number of `micro-budget’ top 20 RoI movies, such as Paranormal Activity, El Mariachi, Clerks, and Primer) is, to independently create the movie, and take the risk, that a distributor may – or may not – theatrically distribute the completed movie.

See also:

StoryAlity #3 – The Top 20 RoI (Return on Investment) Films of the Last 70 Years (1968-2011)

StoryAlity #3B – Trailers of the Top 20 RoI Movies

StoryAlity #3C – Trailers of the Bottom 20 RoI Movies

At any rate – one really good book, about consilience (and thus also, `vertical integration’), is:

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (E O Wilson 1998)

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (E O Wilson 1998)

And – another really good book – is this one:

Creating Consilience (eds: Slingerland and Collard 2011)

Creating Consilience (eds: Slingerland and Collard 2011)

Which was a book that came out of this workshop:

Integrating Science + Humanities

Also – there are lots more good books and videos (about all of this), here:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

And also – another good idea is: to use Evolutionary Theory, in all of them, wherever possible.

Both Biology and Culture evolve. Try and stop 'em.

Both Biology and Culture evolve. Try and stop ’em.

i.e., Evolutionary Biology. (Which is actually, the only kind of Biology we have in Science, so, we don’t bother saying “Evolutionary” in front of the word “Biology” all the time – as it’s sort of odd to think of it, any other way).

And also, we can think of Evolutionary Psychology, and Evolutionary Sociology, and Evolutionary Culturology, etc.

…What is Evolutionary Culturology, you may ask…?

Basically, it is the Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988-2014).

General model of creativity (in the Wiley Handbook of Creativity, ed: DK Simonton 2014)

General (systems) model of creativity (in The Wiley Handbook of Creativity, ed: DK Simonton 2014)

The systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1988-2014) is an explicitly evolutionary model of creativity, and also seems to be one of the best explanations we have, for how creativity works (on a grand scale)…

`The systems model of creativity is formally analogous to the model of evolution based on natural selection.

The variation which occurs at the individual level of biological evolution corresponds to the contribution that the person makes to creativity; the selection is the contribution of the field, and the transmission is the contribution of the domain to the creative process (cf. Simonton 1988; Martindale 1989).

Operating within a specific cultural framework, a person makes a variation on what is known, and if the change is judged to be valuable by the field, it will be incorporated into the domain, thus providing a new cultural framework for the next generation of persons (Csikszentmihalyi 1988b).

Thus creativity can be seen as a special case of evolution.

Creativity is to cultural evolution as the mutation, selection, and transmission of genetic variation is to biological evolution.

In creativity, it makes no sense to say that a beneficial step was the result of a particular person alone, without taking into account environmental conditions.

To be creative, a variation has to be adapted to its social environment, and thus has to be capable of being passed on through time.’

(Csikszentmihalyi & Wolfe 2000, pp. 83-4)

Maybe read that whole article, if this sounds interesting…

i.e.: Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Wolfe, R. (2000). `New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Mönks, R. Subotnik & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent (2nd ed. ed.). Amsterdam; Oxford: Elsevier.

(It has some great diagrams in it, as well. If you like that sort of thing. And – I do. I love diagrams. Mainly because of VARK Learning Modalities. You can find out what your own learning preference probably is [e.g. visual, aural, read-write, kinesthetic, or – multimodal], by taking this quick online quiz. – If you like that sort of thing.)

Also – Distinguished Professor Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi has recently published a book, collecting 40 years of all his major work (i.e, published scientific articles) on the systems model of creativity:

The Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 2015)

The Systems Model of Creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 2015)

And also – maybe take a look at – the Evolutionary Theory of Creativity (Simonton 1984-2014).

Cambridge Handbook of Creativity

The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (ed: Kaufman & Sternberg 2010)

One good reason to look at it is, this: In the Cambridge Handbook of Creativity (Kaufman & Sternberg 2010), creativity researchers Kozbelt, Beghetto & Runco summarize the ten major extant categories of theories of creativity (Kozbelt, Beghetto & Runco 2010, p. 21). The ten major categories of creativity theory summarized are:

(1) Developmental, (2) Psychometric, (3) Economic, (4) Stage and Componential Process, (5) Cognitive, (6) Problem-Solving and Expertise-based, (7) Problem-Finding, (8) Evolutionary, (9) Typological, and (10) Systems (Kozbelt, Beghetto & Runco 2010, p. 21). However, it should also be noted that each theory in these major categories is focused only on one key perspective from which to view creativity.

Regarding Evolutionary Theories of creativity, the authors state:

`Evolutionary Theories – [of creativity]

Researchers have proposed a number of theories of creativity drawing on ideas from evolutionary biology, which can be Darwinian (e.g. Albert, in press; Lumsden, 1999; Lumsden & Findlay 1988; Simonton, 1997, 1999) or Lamarckian (Johnson-Laird, 1993) in nature.

Of these, a strong candidate for the most comprehensive theory of creativity – generally speaking – is the Darwinian (formerly “chance configuration”) model of Dean Keith Simonton (1984, 1988, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2004).

To varying extents, Simonton’s model covers all of the P’s of creativity: person and potential, in identifying dispositional and developmental idiosyncrasies associated with the realization of initial creative potential into actual creative achievements; process, in laying out a two-step model of ideation and elaboration, in which chance combinations of ideas play a paramount role and whose complexities are hard to control; product, in noting sometimes unreliable initial assessments versus longer-term stable judgements of creative artifacts; place, in identifying social factors leading to outstanding creativity; and persuasion, in emphasizing how social dynamics establish verdicts of creative outcomes.

More than any other theory of creativity, Simonton’s Darwinian view aims to understand the nature of genius, eminence, and Big-C achievements. The basis of Simonton’s Darwinian model is a two-stage mental process, involving the blind generation and selective retention and elaboration of ideas (Campbell 1960). In this view, ideas are combined in some blind fashion, typically below the threshold of awareness; the most interesting combinations are then consciously elaborated into finished creative products; these in turn are judged by other people.

Simonton (1984, 1988, 1997, 2004) has developed Campbell’s argument into a sophisticated quantitative model of how creative productivity unfolds over the life span, with broad implications for understanding the nature of eminence, the creative process, and creative environments…

In general, it is probably fair to say that the model’s highly quantitative basis gives it a rigor that is unsurpassed by any other major theory of creativity.

(Kozbelt, Beghetto & Runco 2010, pp. 35-7 – bold emphasis mine)

So evolution seems to be making its way not only through Psychology (as Charles Darwin foresaw) but also through the scientific study of creativity, from the perspectives of psychology and sociology. (In my view – this is a good thing.)

So, vertical integration – or consilience – is probably: a really good idea. As E O WIlson explains in his excellent 1998 book (Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge), it’s really all about… the unity of knowledge.

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

Another good way to unify knowledge (while, doing all of the above) is also, to use Systems Theory (and, Systems Science). See, for example:

On Systems Theory and Evolution

StoryAlity #70 – Key Concepts in Systems Theory, Cybernetics & Evolution

StoryAlity #70B – The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Capra & Luisi 2014)

StoryAlity #70C – Systems Philosophy (Laszlo 1972)

StoryAlity #70DThe Evolving Self (Csikszentmihalyi 1993)

And maybe even, take a look at, the whole blog: https://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

Perhaps, see, also:

StoryAlity #71BInvalid criticisms of Consilience

StoryAlity #14B – Creativity – the missing link between “The Two Cultures”

I know some people are very `anti-consilience’; but probably, they just don’t understand what science is. A good book on science (for beginners) is All Life Is Problem Solving (Popper 1999).

Q: How Do You Convince Someone of Something, If They Refuse To be Convinced?

As it turns out, to change someone’s opinion (or, view) on something – (and: you’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts…) – there are 4 key areas which may well be `sticking points’, and if any of these 4 areas are unchangeable (i.e., for that person, who wants to cling to their old view, despite evidence to the contrary) then they probably will (somewhat stubbornly) stick to, their opinion (even, if it’s wrong).

There are at least these 4 sticking points, below… Sociological, Psychological, Deferential, and Rationality.

As Pollard states in `Pollard On Film‘ – and which is also in the DVD-Extras in the movie “Creation” 2009 (a movie about Charles Darwin writing On The Origin of Species, 1859):

See: http://www.damaris.org/pollardonfilmpages/pofcreation

In the short (6 minute) video above, Pollard (rightly) asks: Why do people have strongly-held beliefs?

i.e., What are the potential reason/s that, someone might believe something?

As Pollard (2009) notes, extant psychological research shows that there are at least 4 possible reasons that a person might be under the impression they believe something: (and for the purpose of clarity, I have slightly-rephrased and added to Pollard below [see the italics]… but I recommend watching the 6-min film, Pollard On Film, above.)

It turns out – the 4 major reasons that people believe certain things, are:

1 – Sociological reasons – e.g. Because my family or friends – or my `culture’ believes it (so, I am going to believe it too — N.B. whether it’s true, or not…)


2 – Psychological reasons  – e.g. Because the specific belief gives the person, meaning and/or purpose, (or at least – they are under the impression, that it does so)


3 – Deferential reasons – e.g. Because I was told this belief by my teacher ([and, I believed them], and/or, the person read it in a book – or saw it on TV, so therefore: it must be true)


4 – Rational reasons – e.g. I believe it, because it’s based on the best available evidence, it is soundly argued, and stands up to the strongest available objections (and criticisms).

[Pollard On Film, 2009]

At any rate, I liked what Pollard says, there.*

But so, some people are committed to their anti-consilient views. They believe that Science has no place in the Arts… But – Films (for example) are a confluence of Science and the Arts.

Also, here is another great book: Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics (Simonton 2011). It reviews over 200 scientific studies of cinema (or, movies; or, film).

Great FLicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics (Simonton 2011)

Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics (Simonton 2011)

So, at any rate – I personally enjoyed the movie Creation (2009) about Charles Darwin. Another really interesting film is The Ledge (2011), written and directed by Charles Darwin’s great-grandson, Matthew Chapman.

See also this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

– Comments most welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



* (Also of course, whether I believe something, or not – has no effect on: whether or not, it is actually true. And of course, this also applies to: everybody.)

[1] Simon notes as one of the four indices of artificial things: `3. Artificial things can be characterized in terms of functions, goals, adaptation’ (Simon 1996b, p. 5). This specific criteria does not create a boundary between natural and artificial things, suggesting that Applied Evolutionary Epistemology (Gontier 2012) in aiming to identify the units, levels and mechanisms of evolution in both biology and culture is a worthwhile pursuit.

[2] See also: `Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain’(Simonton 2012, p. 74)


Blaikie, N. W. H. (2007). Approaches to Social Enquiry (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Comte, A. (2000). The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte [1896], [trans.: H. Martineau] (Vol. 1). Kitchener: Batoche Books.

Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Wolfe, R. (2000). `New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Mönks, R. Subotnik & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent (2nd ed. ed.). Amsterdam; Oxford: Elsevier.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). `The Systems Model of Creativity and Its Applications’. In D. K. Simonton (Ed.), The Wiley Handbook of Genius. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Kozbelt, A, Beghetto, RA & Runco, MA 2010, ‘Theories of Creativity’, in JC Kaufman & RJ Sternberg (eds), The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 20-47.

Macdonald, I. W. (2004). The Presentation of the Screen Idea in Narrative Film-making (PhD Dissertation). Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds.

Macdonald, I. W. (2013). Screenwriting Poetics and the Screen Idea. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Simonton, D. K. (2012). Fields, Domains, and Individuals (Chapter). In M. D. Mumford (Ed.), Handbook of Organizational Creativity (pp. 67-86). Oxford, UK: Elsevier Science.

Simonton, D. K. (2011). Great Flicks: Scientific Studies of Cinematic Creativity and Aesthetics. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Simonton, D. K. (2004). Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts’. In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

Ward, L. ([1898] 1913). The Outlines of Sociology. Norwood, Mass.: Macmillan.

Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1st ed.). New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House.


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