All of life is doing science…
Anything that is alive (e.g. plants, animals, humanimals, amoebas) is doing science, all day, every day.
What is this thing called science?
A great book on it is: Chalmers, A. F. (2000). What Is This Thing Called Science? (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
So, the characteristic method (or recipe, or procedure, or series of steps, or algorithm) of doing science, is this:
And – it can also be expressed more simply:
- Expectation (or, having a theory, or a hypothesis). e.g. “Theory: If I do [X] in context [Y], then [Z] will happen.”
- Trial [e.g. Try, doing [X]]
- Observe (and enjoy) the Result (and, if: Error, go back to Step 1 and adjust the Expectation, i.e. the Theory)
Some “Example Theories”, from Everyday Life:
- If I’m hungry, and then I eat something, then maybe (probably) I’ll stop being hungry for a while.
- If I’m sleepy and I rest, maybe (probably) I won’t be as sleepy, after the rest.
- If I open that door and go into the room behind it, I’ll then (probably) be, in the next room.
- If I don’t have a good excuse for not turning up to work, I may get fired.
- If I suddenly run into moving traffic on a busy freeway, I’ll probably: get dead.
These theories are tested all day, every day – by vast numbers of people. (And, they’re not even wearing white lab coats!)
Many people seem to assume that Science only began during The Enlightenment.
Not so. See this great book:
Ok and so, now – maybe think about this:
When a creative person creates a new cultural artifact – one which they hope is well-received (e.g. a product – say, a new painting, or a new movie, or a new song, or a new joke, etc) they too are DOING SCIENCE.
They have an expectation (a theory) about that planned or imagined artifact. Namely, they expect (and – hope) it will indeed be: well-received. (So, they have a Theory!)
Then, they do an Experiment. (aka, a Trial of their Theory.)
The Trial, is: to release the artifact “into the wild” – ie To present it to the Field / the audience, for that domain, in culture.
Example: Scientists can come up wth new models of: how stuff works.
The result is, the new cultural artifact – this new unit of culture (i.e. the movie, or song, or, new scientific theory [a model of how stuff works], or – whatever the artifact is exactly) is indeed, either well-received, or, is not. (ie – Result!. And, Conclusions can then be drawn… Of course – a Survey of the entire audience might well reveal: What The Audience Liked, about the new artifact. [Or – disliked – if, that was the case.]) In science people can test it themselves and find out if it’s true or false (or neither).
In other words, cultural creators “do science” every time they present a new artifact to the world…
e.g. So – a screenwriter may have a Theory, such as: “My new screenplay would make a really great movie-!” and the gatekeepers in the field (the screen readers, and producers, and agents, etc) then have to judge it…
The Theory (that the creator had, about the screenplay / the story / the screen idea, etc) is then tested by experiment. By: Trial (and maybe – resulting in, Error).
In the case of a successful Trial (the experiment of releasing the script into the wild), maybe a screen reader loves the script, and maybe so do producers (and financiers etc), and so do actors and directors, cast and crew members, etc.
Hopefully also once the script is made into a movie, and, then the movie is released, “into the wild” – movie audiences also agree with the Theory, that “This movie is a great movie” (i.e. Is worth seeing – and worth telling other people to see).
However: only 30% of movies achieve break-even or better in cinemas, and, 98% of screenplays go unmade. So less than 1% of screenplays actually make, what the audience finds to be, a good movie.
So, less than 1% of screenplays actually make, what the audience finds to be, a good movie. (This happens with novels and other cultural artifacts, too.)
See: StoryAlity #114B – The Less Than 1% Problem in the Domain of Novels
StoryAlity #115 – The `Less-Than-1%’ Problem in the Domain of Film
So in culture, 99% of artifacts, which includes the Theory behind those artifacts, are: falsified.
So too with species, in biology – 99% of species that have ever lived on Earth have gone extinct.
The trick is: to work out, what the successful 1% are doing, and do likewise. And work out the mistakes the other 99% are making – and avoid those same pitfalls.
Q: Why does Evolution (both in culture, and in biology) have this 99% filtering rate?
A: Because: Natural Selection.
(Also – if you are alive, and reading this, then: you are one of the lucky, less-than-1%! That, have not yet, been falsified. So – Yay, us!
In the words of that great philosopher, Queen, “we, are, the champions”.)
At any rate, all of life is, doing science.
That method – or algorithm – (i.e. – 1. Expectation [or, Theory], then 2. Experiment [good-old Trial and Error]) seems to be, what we’re all currently stuck with…
Actually – it’s a pretty good method…?!
In fact, it’s how all lifeforms (plants, animals, artificial life, etc) learn.
Here are three quotes which add weight to this concept.
The first two are from All Life Is Problem Solving (Popper 1999):
`Before I turn to the formation of scientific theories, I should like to point out another biological application of my three-stage model.
My three-stage model: ’
(1) the problem
(2) the attempted solutions
(3) the elimination
may also be understood as the schema of Darwin’s theory of evolution.
It is applicable not only to the evolution of the individual organism but also to the evolution of species.’
(Popper 1999, p. 5)
Another great Popper quote:
`We cannot conclude that our knowledge begins with sense perception. On the contrary: our senses, from the point of view of evolutionary theory, are tools that have been formed to solve certain biological problems.’
And finally, a quote from my (2016) PhD thesis:
The learning process itself can also be seen as a systems-cybernetic process. Lovelock (1995) states:
“The attainment of any skill, whether it be in cooking, painting, writing, talking or playing tennis, is all a matter of cybernetics. We aim at doing our best and making as few mistakes as possible; we compare our efforts with this goal and learn by experience; and we polish and refine our performance by constant endeavour until we are satisfied that we are as near to optimum achievement as we can ever reach. This process is well called learning by trial and error.”
(Lovelock 1995, p. 47).
What worries (in fact, often annoys) me, is, the current “anti-science” movement, or, the misunderstanding of science.
Science is not “just another discourse”…
If you’re alive, then you’re having expectations, and then, doing experiments to test out those expectations, all of the time… (Side Note: How do folks not realize this?)
(Side Note: They may not feel like experiments. But: Watch what happens, any time you have an Expectation – about anything – and then, see if your Test/Trial/Experiment works.)
All of life is: doing science.
In cultural evolution, early societies use wild guesses, like say magic, then later on religion to try and “explain” and understand and model things. (ie How stuff works.)
But eventually, conscious life (eg humanimals) recognize that the method (algorithm, recipe) that keeps them alive, all day every day (i.e. doing science), is also, the best way to get at the truth.
To find out, what works.
And also, if your theories (expectations) about how the universe (and, things in it) works, are falsified, you can: get dead.
Say, if you have a Theory (an Expectation) that you can jump off a skyscraper without a parachute, and, not get dead, then – you’re probably in for a very big surprise.
So – guys like Donald Trump, and these so-called “science-deniers”, vex me. Folks who don’t understand what science is, and why it works.
(Or maybe they’re evil, and are just pretending not to know.)
Those guys all really need to read:
Anyway – if you can falsify this Theory:
All of life is doing science.
i.e., Expectation, then Experiment (or, Trial-and-Error).
Then, let me know!
Also think about this. In the wonderful book, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2008, 2014), Jesse Schell notes:
`Hopefully, this book will inspire you to try designing some games of your own.
When you do that (maybe you have already), you might be thinking that you aren’t
going about it the right way, not using the methods that “real ” game designers use.
I’m guessing the method you used to design your games was something like
1. Think of an idea.
2. Try it out.
3. Keep changing it and testing it until it seems good enough.
Which sounds kind of amateurish. Well, guess what? That is exactly what real
game designers do.’ (Schell 2008, p. 58)
And guess what the part I bolded above is? Doing Science.
It’s also what inventors (innovators) do. It’s: Science.
Also check out what Jesse says about problem solving in that great (2008) book.
Also, below is an updated diagram of The Vertical Integration of the Sciences I just did.
(Let me know what you think of it… I have added the knowledge-domains of: History, Economics, and Politics).
And below, I’ve added some sub-domains of Biology. (Thanks to the genius Marcus Gibson for helpful suggestions!)
Namely, if you zoom in, Biology includes: Physiology & Anatomy (i.e., biological design solutions), Paleontology, Archeology [since humans created the bio-cultural artifacts we dig up], Neurophysiology (brain and nervous-system design solutions) & Ecology (since biological lifeforms live in Ecosystems).
See also The Carbon Paradox – Marcus Gibson:
See, also the great book: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harari 2015)
I should maybe note one important thing here – it seems the laws of physics operate all the way up and down…
With the above diagram in mind, to quote from General System Theory (von Bertalanffy 1968):
`Reality, in the modern conception, appears as a tremendous hierarchical order of organized entities, leading, in a superposition of many levels, from physical and chemical to biological and sociological systems.
Unity of Science is granted, not by a utopian reduction of all sciences to physics and chemistry, but by the structural uniformities of the different levels of reality…
In modern science, dynamic interaction appears to be the central problem in all fields of reality. Its general principles are to be defined by system theory.’
(von Bertalanffy 1968, pp. 87-8)
And another quote, this time from Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (Wilson 1999):
`The central idea of the consilience world view is that all tangible phenomena, from the birth of stars to the workings of social institutions, are based on material processes that are ultimately reducible, however long and tortuous the sequences, to the laws of physics.
In support of this idea is the conclusion of biologists that humanity is kin to all other life forms by common descent. We share essentially the same DNA genetic code, which is transcribed into RNA and translated into proteins with the same amino acids. Our anatomy places us among the Old World monkeys and apes. The fossil record shows our immediate ancestor to be either Homo ergaster or Homo erectus.
It suggests that the point of our origin was Africa about two hundred thousand years ago.
Our hereditary human nature, which evolved during hundreds of millennia before and afterward, still profoundly affects the evolution of culture.’
(Wilson 1999, pp. 291-2 – bold emphasis mine)
I suggest the laws of physics include System Theory laws; thus – since all the above domains/realms/levels (in the Vertical Integration diagram) are systems, no doubt some certain laws in Physics also apply in Biology, Psychology, Sociology, and even in Culture (such as, say, the holon/parton structure of the meme, the unit of culture).
At the same time, we should also note, the “rules of the game” change, at “higher” levels of emergent complexity, and, on different scales… Some of the “code” or “canon” of physics (rules of the game) differs somewhat from chemistry, and the rules of chemistry differ from geology, geology from biology, and so on up [and, down] the continuum.
Koestler in The Act of Creation (1964, 1989) said it well:
`One of the main contentions of this book is that organic life, in all its manifestations, from morphogenesis to symbolic thought, is governed by `rules of the game’ which lend it coherence, order, and unity-in-variety; and that these rules (or functions in the mathematical sense), whether innate or acquired, are represented in coded form on various levels, from the chromosomes to the structures in the nervous system responsible for symbolic thought.
…The rules are fixed, but there are endless variations to each game, their variability increasing in ascending order; this lends elasticity to habit, and gives rise to the subjective experience of freedom of choice between alternate possibilities of action.
There is also an overall-rule of the game, which says that no rule is absolutely final; that under certain circumstances they may be altered and combined into a more sophisticated game, which provides a higher form of unity and yet increased variety; this is called the subject’s creative potential.’
And if you want to get deeper into the 3 laws of Physics which extend through the vertical integration of the sciences, see:
- StoryAlity #100 – The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme – the Unit of Culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014, 2016)
- StoryAlity #100A – The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons (Velikovsky 2015)
- StoryAlity #132 – The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)
As an interesting note:
In a 1966 interview about his career, eminent-genius-level filmmaker Stanley Kubrick revealed his own view on creative problem solving:
`I think that, if you get involved in any kind of problem-solving in depth, on almost anything… it’s surprisingly-similar to problem-solving on anything…
I started out, by just… getting a camera, and learning how to take pictures, and learning how to print pictures, and learning how to build a darkroom, and learning how to do all the technical things… and then finally trying to find out, how you could sell pictures… and: Would it be possible to be a professional photographer? And it was a case of… from the age of say, from… 13 to 17, you might say, going through, step-by-step, by myself – without anybody really helping me – the problem-solving of: becoming a photographer.
And I think, in looking back that… this particular thing about problem-solving is something that schools, generally, don’t teach you. And that, if you can develop a kind of generalized approach to problem-solving, that it’s surprising how it helps you, in anything.’
(Kubrick in Popova, 2013, minutes 1-4)
– Comments, always welcome.
JT Velikovsky, PhD
High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher
& Evolutionary Systems Analyst
& Human & Computer Creativity Researcher
& Random Person
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/
Chalmers, A. F. (2000). What Is This Thing Called Science? (3rd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1988). Society, Culture, and Person: A Systems View of Creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), The Nature of Creativity (pp. 325–339 ). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (1st ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Harari, Y. N. (2015). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (First U.S. edition. ed.). New York: HarperCollins.
Koestler, A. (1964, 1989). The Act of Creation. London: Arkana.
Popper, K. R. (1999). All Life is Problem Solving. London; New York: Routledge.
Popper, K. R. (2001). All Life is Problem Solving. London; New York: Routledge.
Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema: A comparative study of the top 20 Return-on-Investment (RoI) Movies and the Doxa of Screenwriting’. PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.
Von Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General System Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications, New York, George Braziller, Inc.
Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1st ed.). New York: Knopf: Distributed by Random House.
Feynman on Scientific Method