This is the transcript of my interview: Fritjof Capra-- The Systems View of Life-- Replacing the Mechanistic View
Rob: And welcome to the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show WNJC 1360 AM outta Washington Township, reaching metro Philly and South Jersey. And also on iTunes, look for my name Rob Kall K-A-L-L and search iTunes and you'll find it there or at opednews.com/podcasts and you'll find hundreds of other interviews. My guest tonight is Fritjof Capra, he's one of the world's leading thinkers in Systems Theory and the author of many influential books including The Tao of Physics, The Web of Life, The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living, Learning from Leonardo: Decoding his Notebooks and the book that I'm going to be talking to him about primarily; which is, I think in many ways a summary of much of his previous writing. The Systems View of Life subtitle A Unifying Vision, which he co-authored with Pier Luigi Luisi. Welcome to the show.
FC: Thank you for having me and you're right, it is - this book is a grand synthesis of my work over the last thirty years or so. And so this has been quite an effort. I've worked on it for five years and I'm very happy, it's published by Cambridge University Press and I hope that many professors will use it in colleges as a textbook, but it's not only a textbook, it's also for the general reader.
Rob: Well, I want to read a little bit about what I've said about this book in a review I've written, in a sense this book feels like a Rosetta Stone for me, unlocking connections and the roots of a panoply of different ideas and concepts. It starts by walking us through the history of science and how scientific models influenced most aspects of cultures. I have to say that, and I've described this in recommending it to some of the smartest people I know because I think they'll all enjoy it. What I said is I've grown up - I was born in 1951, I've grown in the time in history when more science has been produced and published than ever before in history. And I really feel that what your book does is it summarizes it. I've been a big fan of science in my life; for decades I've subscribed to different science publications, but what you've done in this book, and in an incredible gift of a way, is summarize all those discoveries and where they've led and where they've taken us. Thank you so much.
FC: And not only summarize, but interconnect them. So that has been my work over the last thirty years, make connections between different fields, and it started with The Tao of Physics in the seventies where I connected the main concepts of modern physics with the basic ideas in eastern spiritual traditions. And you know, then I branched out and included other sciences: biology, economics, psychology, ecology, and so on. And when I did that, I realized that I have to go beyond physics because if I wanted to apply this to the current world situation and current social problems that we have, then these problems really have to do with life; whether you talk about poverty or health [or economics or climate change or whatever you know the big problems we have today, they all have to do with living systems with individual organisms, ecosystems and social systems. And so I tried to find a framework in which to talk about life in this general way of interconnecting things and this is what this book is. And Pier Luigi and I called it The Systems View of Life because thinking in terms of connectedness, in terms of patterns, in terms of relationships, it's the very essence of what is called systems thinking or systemic thinking in science.
Rob: Well I have to tell you, as I mentioned in the introduction of the show, I call the show the Bottom Up Radio Show because I believe we're transitioning from a top down culture -
Rob: - that civilization brought us to a more bottom up culture; which is the way that humans existed for millions and millions of years before civilization. And I knew about systems theory but it really hadn't gelled in me just how closely connected systems theory to bottom up versus top down.
FC: Yes it is. It is absolutely because another way of saying bottom up is saying that you emphasize community, that our actions arise out of communities and a community is just the general term for a social system. And so relationships have caused essential that the sort of, the designing characteristics of a community is that it is a network of relationships. And so it's very much connected to what you call the bottom up approach.
Rob: So I want to start of by just saying one more thing about the book. The book is chapters on different aspects of science. I mean there are literally chapters on the Scientific Revolution, Newtonian Physics, the mechanistic view of life, with different aspects of science and from physics and mathematics to biology and genetics and I have to tell you, I've never ever so excited and enthusiastic, almost aroused to look forward to reading the next chapter.
FC: Oh that's great.
Rob: You have that experience with novels sometimes -
Rob: - but that to be so excited about reading what's next in this book, it just stood out for me as an experience I've had with a book that I've never had before. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
FC: I'm very happy that you say that, that's fantastic. I mean, for an author, that's the best compliment you can get, you know?
Rob: Well my pleasure. So, you start - I think what we need to do to really get this conversation started is to - please talk about systems theory and it differs from the older mechanistic, atomistic models of science. Give us a kind of a brief overview of that. You've got chapters on it, but let's start so that the listener has that under his belt, her belt.