Welcome to my blog!
This weblog is one of three. Here you'll find my opinions on a variety of topics as well as links to other
things on the web that I find interesting. When the spirit moves me, I may also include longer essays. Most of what
I have here is more personal and does not belong on my Faculty page at VCU or else it involves my artwork which is for sale.
I am adding this announcement of our new book: Global Insanity: How Homo
sapiens lost touch with reality while transforming the world
by: James A. Coffman & Donald C. Mikulecky
2012, ISBN 9781938158049 (160 pages), Emergent Publications
Global Economy that sustains the civilized world is destroying the biosphere.
As a result, civilization, like the Titanic, is on a collision course with
disaster. But changing course via the body politic appears to be well nigh
impossible, given that much of the populace lives in denial. Why is that? And
how did we get into such a fix?
In this essay, biologists James Coffman and Donald Mikulecky argue that the
reductionist model of the world developed by Western civilization misrepresents
life, undermining our ability to regulate and adapt to the accelerating
anthropogenic transformation of the world entrained by that very model. An alternative
worldview is presented that better accounts for both the relational nature of
living systems and the developmental phenomenology that constrains their
evolution. Development of any complex system reinforces specific dependencies
while eliminating alternatives, reducing the diversity that affords adaptive
degrees of freedom: the more developed a system is, the less potential it has
to change its way of being. Hence, in the evolution of life most species become
This perspective reveals the limits that complexity places on knowledge and
technology, bringing to light our hubristically dysfunctional relationship with
the natural world and increasingly tenuous connection to reality. The
inescapable conclusion is that, barring a cultural metamorphosis that breaks
free of deeply entrenched mental frames that made us what we are, continued
development of the Global Economy will lead inexorably to the collapse of
Coffman and Mikulecky take on the pillars of Enlightenment science—determinism,
conservation and the continuum—and leave them in rubble. They see the
scientific wisdom of the 20th Century departing ever further from reality,
casting society into a breach of deep cognitive dissonance, a.k.a., insanity!
Robert E. Ulanowicz
Department of Biology, University
Hooked on growth and headed for collapse. It is a depressing story. But Coffman
and Mikulecky offer hope in focusing on the rebirth that will follow. And more
importantly, they provide the intellectual tools for comprehending the broad
sweep of what is taking place. A 21st Century analysis for a 21st Century
Science writer and author of Going Inside: A Tour Around a Single Moment of
This is a very current critique. The authors assemble input from most of the
unfolding perspectives in science—self-organization, complexity, development,
emergence, Aristotelian causal analysis, and internalism/semiotics... to
suggest ways of formulating our cultural and social problems in hopes of generating
a rational standpoint for confronting them.
Professor Emeritus, Biology, City University
of New York and Visiting Scientist in Biological