An Eco-sustainable World
To the Future

From scientism to science

From scientism to science

Science is constantly evolving, like the society of which it is part. Consequently, the relationship between them is also transformed, generating a change which is in turn reflected in the way in which science is developed, told and explained.
We can affirm that science, despite having the cornerstone of demonstrability and reproducibility, is constantly evolving, dragging with it the same epistemological principles from which it is generated.
Yet today, almost five centuries after its birth, something is starting to make us understand that the same scientific model, developed by various researchers, including certainly Galileo Galilei (so much so as to define science as the Galilean method), is undergoing new and unthinkable dynamics.
At the basis of these new dynamics we must certainly include the ecological sciences, which have expanded the concepts of determinism and cause and effect and quantum mechanics.
The latter is certainly having a significant impact on scientific epistemology, or the study of the nature and origins of scientific knowledge. An impact that manifests itself in several key ways:
1. Determinism and Indeterminism
Quantum mechanics introduces the concept of indeterminism through the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that it is not possible to know pairs of conjugated physical quantities (such as position and momentum) simultaneously with absolute precision. This challenges the idea of ​​classical determinism, in which it was believed that by knowing the initial conditions of a system it was possible to precisely predict its future evolution. Quantum indeterminism therefore leads to rethinking how we understand causality and predictability in science.
2. Observer and Reality
The role of the observer in quantum mechanics is fundamental. The act of measuring a quantum quantity can influence the state of the system. This concept, known as “wave function collapse”, suggests that physical reality does not exist in a defined state independently of observation. This calls into question scientific realism, which holds that the physical world exists and has properties defined independently of observations.
3. Non-locality and Entanglement
The phenomenon of quantum entanglement demonstrates that particles can be related in ways that cannot be explained by classical physics, regardless of the distance that separates them. This implies a sort of “action at a distance”, which Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”. Quantum nonlocality challenges the classical notion of separability and impacts the understanding of causal relationships and spatial connections.
4. Measurement Problem
The measurement problem in quantum mechanics concerns the question of how and why the wave function collapses into a specific observed state. This problem raises epistemological questions about how to interpret the results of quantum experiments and what the ultimate nature of physical reality is. Different interpretations of quantum mechanics (such as the Copenhagen interpretation, the many-worlds interpretation, and the Bohm interpretation) offer different views of quantum reality and influence how we understand scientific knowledge.
5. Limits of Knowledge
Quantum mechanics highlights the limits of scientific knowledge. For example, Bohr’s complementarity principle holds that it is not possible to completely describe a quantum system using a single classical representation. This recognition of the inherent limitations of scientific knowledge leads to a more humble and critical approach to science, in which it is recognized that some questions may remain unanswered definitively.
Without having to delve too deeply into these assumptions (already quite complex in themselves), which would seem to belong exclusively to the subatomic world, it should be highlighted that even the study of macroscopic realities is increasingly influenced by more complex functions which, often, cannot be explained only as two-way cause and effect.
This is the case of ecological systems and the study of ecology, where the complexity of the cognitive approach can no longer be addressed with the previous assumptions and where there is a true macroscopic entanglement in which it is not possible to explain/study a phenomenon/organism separated from other factors/organisms.
Ecology, in fact, with its emphasis on complexity, interconnection and systemic dynamics, is bringing significant changes to the epistemological approach of science in several ways.
Ecology studies living organisms and their interactions with the environment in the context of complex systems. This has led to a more systemic and holistic approach in other scientific disciplines. Instead of analyzing isolated elements, the entire system and its internal dynamics are considered.
Furthermore, ecology requires knowledge ranging from biology to chemistry, from physics to economics. This need to unite different disciplines is pushing science towards greater interdisciplinarity, recognizing that complex problems require multi-perspective approaches.
Furthermore, ecosystems are intrinsically complex and often non-linear, with feedback loops and emergent behaviors that cannot be predicted simply by adding their parts together. This has led to a rethinking of traditional scientific methodologies which were often based on linear and reductionist models.
Consider, also, that ecology highlights how the context and the temporal and spatial scale are crucial for understanding natural phenomena. This perspective has influenced other sciences, encouraging them to consider the appropriate scale and context in which phenomena occur.
This is why ecologists are used to working with a large amount of uncertainty and variability in their data. This has led to greater recognition and acceptance of uncertainty in other scientific disciplines, promoting more robust statistical methods and probabilistic approaches.
As happens in quantum mechanics, here too the observer and the observed (to use a parallelism) influence each other.
In fact, ecology has brought greater awareness of the impact of human activities on ecosystems. This has influenced other sciences to more carefully consider the environmental consequences of their discoveries and technologies.
In this sense, ecology introduces an ethical aspect into science, underlining the importance of sustainability and the conservation of natural resources. This has led to greater environmental responsibility in scientific research and public policies.
In summary, ecology is contributing to an epistemological shift in science, shifting attention towards a more integrated, systemic and interdisciplinary approach, which recognizes the complexity and interconnection of natural and human phenomena. This change promotes more ethical, sustainable and context-sensitive science.
For this reason we can say that the birth of a new scientific era is underway where the observer (human species) must distance himself from the presumption of scientism, that is, that intellectual attitude related to positivism born in the second half of the nineteenth century and from which much of the socio-political framework of recent centuries was generated. A framework that was founded on total trust in the physical and experimental sciences and in their method, to the point of attributing to them the ability to explain all phenomena, solve all problems and satisfy all human needs, and exhaust the scope of knowledge to the detriment of any other form of knowledge.
Furthermore, the connection of all things, as if they were parts of a single organism (like the cells within an organism) requires an expansion of the investigations not only in the three dimensions of space but also in the temporal one, magnitude, as it happens , originating from entropy, that is, that function that is generated by the thermodynamic interactions of the complex relationships between matter and living beings.
We can say, as I often love to reiterate, that “We have reached the threshold of that step in history where the horizon is so broad that the secrets of matter surpass the finite to rejoin the Infinite”.
For this reason, a new generation of women and men is needed who know how to look at the reality they observe in the same way as a child looks at the celestial sphere. That wonder that gives us new humility and understanding of our intellectual limit compared to the infinity of Science.
In fact, it is not Science that can be understood by man but man who can be understood within himself.
All this changes the perspectives and coordinates with which to move and act.

Guido Bissanti

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