Consilience of knowledge in the natural sciences

I was reminded recently of the great EO Wilson and his most interesting work on consilience.  This is a word not greatly understood by many knowledge managers who happily are prepared to recite the data-information-knowledge mantra but do not consider either what is next or some of the fundamental issues around dealing with knowledge.

Consilience is the linking of facts and fact-based theories across discuplines to create a common groundwork of explanation.  As an integral and systems thinker who is constantly working to “transcend and include” the dilemmas and paradoxes that confront me, I find the exploration of consilience one way to act against the reductionist mindsets that are constantly surrounding us. 

Consilience is occurring in the biological sciences with unification between ecological and molecular biology, overcoming the schism that lay between molecular genetics (and the certainty of chemistry and physics) and evolutionary biology (which is more observational and seeks patterns in the data).  I read recently that the next phase of consilience in the 21st century will see the unification of biology and psychology as we move from understanding the role of the gene to understanding the brain.  Of course, I would prefer to not just look at the role of the physical manifestation of the brain but also its consilience with energetic and other properties which at this stage are often considered esoteric or unscientific or simply discounted. 

As the boundaries blur between traditional knowledge domains and we learn to communicate better across disciplines (science, humanities, philosophy, theosophy) and as easy access to more factual knowledge grows, more integral perspectives will arise and we will approach as EO Wilson puts it, the greatest of all intellecual challenges, the testing of consilience. 


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