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Dialectics versus Systems Theory
on September 5, 2011
I found the book very interesting and stimulating. I had read their earlier book `Dialectical Biologist' published in 1985 and was influenced by their logic of holism against reductionism particularly the genetic determinism. In fact I was inspired by this book to write on a dialectical approach to Indian agriculture (Need for a dialectical approach in agricultural research for sustainable growth: Current Science, Vol. 83 (25), 690-693, Sept. 2002).
The present book on dialectical essays on ecology, agriculture and health has been extended to clarify that dialectics is different from systems theory in that the former looks at the total process including social aspects in complex systems whereas the latter attempts to deal with complexity, nonlinearity, and change through sophisticated mathematical and computational techniques. For instance, a systems analysis of the regulation of blood sugar may include the interactions among sugar itself, insulin, adrenaline, cortisol, and other molecules but is not likely to include anxiety as a factor. A larger system including anxiety and social factors affecting it can reverse the expected effects of a pathway studied in the usual systems approach. The book, divided into three parts, attempts, in general, to apply the insights of dialectical materialism that emphasizes the wholeness, connectedness, historical contingency, the interaction of the levels of analysis and the dynamic nature of things as snapshots to processes. Interesting topics cover a wide range from Human Genome Project to psychological issues in Cuban agriculture. It is a major attempt to impact the public understanding of science and nature and is therefore worth reading by scientists and laymen alike.
I strongly recommend the book for reading and study by one and all.