link: reductionism                                                                                                                    

                

           TRADITIONAL EDUCATIONAL METHODOLOGY: EFFECT OF REDUCTIONIST

                                                SCIENCE OR 'REDUCTIONISM'                

theme: The methods of modern science based on the well established assumptions of objectivism, positivism and determinism have become established as an orthodox science

or 'scientism' which is biased towards objective knowlege and the mechanistic worldview i.e. reductionist science or 'reductionism'. The scientific methodology of reductionism  has directly influenced educational methodology. The assumptions of reductionism form the basis for educational policies of the traditional paradigm.  It is the reductionist paradigm which shaped traditional education. The goals of education and educational policies of the traditional paradigm of education are formulated on the basis of values inherent in the assumptions of reductionist science. The aims of education are formulated in terms of the acquisition and measurement of 'objective knowledge'.

 "Reductionistic science, superb for the prediction-and-control task for which it was designed, has mistakenly been elevated by modern society to the position of a worldview. The time seems right for insistence on a holistic science, based on new metaphysical foundations, within which present positivistic, reductionistic science is a limiting case." (Willis Harman. The Shifting Worldview: Toward a More Holistic Science. Holistic Education Review. vol.5 no.3 1992. pp 59-64)

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beginnings of reductionism and Newtonian science...   scientific objectivity depends on observer detachment...

traditional paradigm...   modern reductionism...

 inadequate for solving human problems...    shift from reductionism to wholism...

implications for education...

 

 

Reductionist science began with Newtonian mechanics ... Reductionist science began with sixteenth and seventeenth century Scientific Revolution or 'Enlightenment...' initiated by Descartes who brought about a 'paradigm shift' in thinking about the universe... when the Christian worldview was replaced by the 'scientific' philosophy of Descartes  based on the assumption of disconnectedness between the material and spiritual realms of human existence. It was even thought that the human mind is separate from nature and was therefore in a position to control it. Descartes promoted the mathematical description of nature with the use of the 'Cartesian method' of analytic thought. Emphasis on the cause/effect relationships of the material world was the defining feature of this scientific worldview or 'paradigm'. Natural events were thought to be governed by observable natural laws.

 

Science was defined as an human activity of observation and inquiry involving a set of metaphysical assumptions known as 'objectivism', 'positivism', 'determinism' and 'reductioni

 According to objectivism, the scientist experiences the world objectively in a process of 'logical empiricism'; according to positivism, all scientific knowledge can be derived from physically measurable data; according to determinism, it is possible to predict phenomena on the basis of scientific laws; according to reductionism, all complex phenomena of physical reality can be explained in terms of simpler phenomena.

 

 Early reductionist science was based on the work of Isaac Newton. Newton believed that the universe is a giant mechanism which was set in motion by a Creator and made to obey universal laws of motion i.e. 'Newtonian mechanics'. According to Newton's laws, the universe  is made up of uniformly behaving bodies exerting forces on each other which are governed by simple relationships between them the laws of motion.

 

 Paradigm of reductionism: observer detachment and 'scientific detachment' In the paradigm of reductionist science, scientific methodology is based on the assumption that for observation and inquiry to remain objective, the observer must remain detached and observe without participating... the objectivity of scientific activity depends on the absence of observer participation in the observation process i.e. 'scientific objectivity'.  As objective observation and valid perception 'scientific objectivity' depends on observer detachment.  Observer detachment is considered to be crucial to the validity of perception and interpretation. The method used for valid descriptions of the physical world or 'physical reality' is based on the requirement for scientific objectivity - the 'scientific method'. Scientific method involves the postulation of a working 'hypothesis' which is used for making models for further research. The hypothesis is tested by way of well designed experiments and the experimental data are analysed. Analysis of data leads to conclusions which provide sufficient evidence to support the hypothesis or else to provide information which requires the hypothesis to be modified. It is this perception of reductionism which predominates as a worldview - the paradigm of modern 'objective science' or 'scientism'. The methods of scientism are based on the well established assumptions of traditional 'classic science' or 'orthodox science'.

 

Modern reductionism or 'scientism': confusion between the 'science' and the assumptions upon which it is based contributes to alienation from nature... Modern reductionist science is often confused with the assumptions upon

which it is based. In the confusion, knowledge systems which do not account for reductionist assumptions are disregarded and often excluded as being 'non-scientific'. Of great significance in Western scientific tradition is the demand for objectivity as detachment in scientific inquiry and observation. The notion of objective observation and observer detachment contributed to the concept of individuality and individual freedom. But the price was high. Misinterpretation of the concept of 'scientific objectivity' results in a sense of alienation from the natural world - both the 'outer world' of nature as environment and the 'inner world' of nature as nature of the human personality i.e. 'human nature'. The reductionist interpretation of observer detachment does not recognise the scientific validity of 'being human' - the 'inner reality' or 'inner life' of human nature. In the reducionist paradigm human nature is defined in terms of objective science and not in terms of the intrinsic nature of the human values for living - the 'operative values' of 'morality' i.e.'human values'. The inner reality of human values is a function of moral awareness or 'consciousness' i.e. the 'conscience'. Development of conscience determines extent of consciousness or 'consciousness state'. Reductionism discredits the consciousness state of human subjectivity in the estimation of the extent of validity of 'knowledge'. It ignores the spiritual dimension of the 'knower' -  that state of connectedness with all life - the 'human spirit'. This has led to a sense of alienation - a loss of the sense of 'oneness', 'wholeness' and 'connectedness' with nature and the universe i.e. 'holistic perspective' or 'holistic perception'. In its extreme form, the sense of alienation leads to the treatment of oneself as an object and the subsequent treatment of others as objects as well.

 

 

Reductionism which values knowledge in terms of its usefulness is inadequate for resolution of human problems In the paradigm of reductionism the value of knowledge is measured in terms of the usefulness of its objectives. This is reflected in the emphasis on objective knowledge in the traditional paradigm of education. Emphasis is on the 'objective' manifestations of learning - credentials etc. Educational methodologies are devised on the basis of the assumption that knowledge is valid only if it can be tested. The 'objectives' of class work and coursework are described in terms of the acquisition of objective knowledge and...  The paradigm of reductionist science is inadequate for the resolution of human problems which depends on the definition of cognitive knowledge in terms of its intrinsic value to the development of human potential and the enrichment of human life....  inner life.

The paradigm of reductionism is reflected in the subconscious perception of reality in terms of its basic assumptions. The same assumptions provide the framework for the construction of common cultural beliefs and the repercussions pervade all areas of human endeavour including education.

Reductionism shapes traditional paradigm of education: educational methodology The paradigm of reductionism shaped the paradigm of 'traditional education' as education for control of the future or 'banking education'. Traditional education was conceived for purposes of adaptation to work in the factory i.e. 'schooling'. Schooling as education is consistent with reductionism in that it emphasizes cause/effect relationships and involves linear and sequential processes. It is based on the belief that knowledge is valid if it is acquired objectively i.e. 'objective knowledge'. Objective knowledge is presumably acquired through cause and effect learning i.e. conditioned learning or 'conditioning'. Conditioned learning is the result of motivation by extrinsic rewards i.e. 'extrinsic motivation'.  Extrinsically motivated learning produces objective knowledge which can be tested with objective testing methods, measured in terms of 'performance' on objective tests and evaluated in terms of a punishment/reward system of numerical test scores, 'grades', grade averages and credentials such as diplomas, certificates, awards and so on. This educational methodology is a reflection of reductionism in that objectivity of scientific activity involves observer detachment and objective analysis.  

In the context of this scientific paradigm and its worldview, the reality of 'being human' i.e. the 'inner life' is defined in terms of objective science and not in terms of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human. In the reductionist interpretation of observer detachment, the scientific reality of the inner life is not even recognized. The scientific nature of human subjectivity is discredited as contributing no valid evidence. Policies in education which are formulated within the framework of the reductionist worldview disregard knowledge systems which are believed should be excluded from the realm of 'science.' They consider the individual's 'inner reality' to be invalid as a source of knowledge. This basic assumption is reflected in the educational methodology based on the detachment of the learner in the process of observation and inquiry or 'learning'. According to the concept of learning which is shaped by reductionist science, the learner is expected to be detached from the learning experiences of life. Educational methodologies are devised on that basis. The aims of education are formulated in terms of the acquisition and measurement of cognitive knowledge which is objective. Cognitive knowledge is assumed to be valid only if it can be tested and measured with 'objective' testing methods. The 'objectives' of classwork and coursework are described in terms of the acquisition and measurement in terms of the individual's 'performance' on tests. Emphasis is placed on the 'objective' manifestations of learning - test scores, grades, diplomas, credentials etc and successful performance in education. The value of knowledge is measured in terms of its objectives and its usefulness. This is the legacy of the 'traditional' curriculum conceived for the purposes of training individuals for the factory.  The dominant scientific paradigm of reductionism as a worldview is being reexamined and a fundamental shift is taking place.

Shift from mechanistic worldview of reductionism to ecological worldview of science of connectedness or wholeness i.e. 'holistic science'  mechanistic reductionist paradigm emphasises linear sequential processes.

 Policies in education which are formulated within the framework of the reductionist worldview disregard knowledge systems believed to be excluded from the realm of 'science'. The dominant scientific paradigm of  reductionism as a worldview is being re-examined and a fundamental shift is taking place. There is a trend away from the assumptions of reductionist science and towards the assumptions of a science of connectedness or 'wholeness' .. involving relationships between parts and wholes i.e. ‘holistic science’. Holistic science recognizes the intrinsic nature and value of the whole person and this includes the inner life. Holistic science validates not only the objectivity of physical sense data but also the inner subjective experience of the human person. Wholistic science validates not only the objectivity of physical sense data but also the inner subjective experience of the human person. It validates human subjectivity as a source of valid evidence...s a source of knowledge... knowledge depending on the individual's 'consciousness state' which is a function of the level of personality development which they have reached i.e. 'sociocognitive stage'. This has profound implications for education.

The paradigm of reductionism is reflected in the subconscious perception of reality in terms of its basic assumptions. The same assumptions provide the framework for the construction of common cultural beliefs and the repercussions pervade all areas of human endeavour including education. Educational policies and practices are formulated in the context of the values inherent in the belief systems of the culture i.e. 'cultural context'. In the culture of traditional Western culture, educational goals are defined in terms of motivating objectives external to the individual's instinctive drive for meaningful learning i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'. They discredit the value of life experience and 'experiential learning'. Experiential learning is meaningful learning which involves the natural human activity of observation and inquiry or 'scientific activity'. The validity of scientific activity depends on holistic perception which is characteristic of spiritual maturity of the developed personality i.e. 'self-actualisation'. Education for complete personality development is education for whole person health or 'wellness' i.e. 'holistic education'. Holistic education is concerned with human development as the construction of human conscience or 'soul'.

Using a 'scientific method', scientists make models of the physical world; they postulate hypotheses and design experiments to test their models; they analyse the data and reach conclusions which they use as the basis for their description of the world. The 'scientific' demand for objectivity in scientific inquiry and observation as detachment from the objective world is of great significance in Western scientific tradition. The notion of objective observation and observer detachment contributed to the concept of individuality and individual freedom. But the price was high. The concept of 'scientific objectivity' has been misinterpreted and this has led to a sense of alienation from the natural world - both the 'outer world' of nature and the 'inner world' of human nature. It has led to a loss of the sense of 'oneness' with the universe and a loss of the wholistic perspective. In the extreme form of alienation, individuals treat themselves as objects and other people as well. In the paradigm of reductionist science, the human mind is considered to be separate from nature and therefore in a position to control it. But modern reductionist science is often confused with the assumptions upon which it is based. In the confusion, knowledge systems which do not account for reductionist assumptions are disregarded. They are excluded from the realm of 'science'. It is this perception of reductionist science which predominates as a worldview. People subconsciously perceive reality within its framework and common beliefs are structured according to its assumptions. The repercussions pervade all areas of public endeavor including education. Educational policies are formulated on the basis of the values inherent in the cultural and scientific belief systems. It is the reductionist paradigm which shaped traditional education. Educational methodology is directly influenced by the scientific methodology of reductionist science and its bias toward completely 'objective' knowledge. They are formulated within the framework of the reductionist paradigm. Consistent with reductionist science is the belief that objectivity of observation and inquiry depends on the exclusion of subjective participation.

 

 Implications for education  

It is not possibe to have a truly meaningful education without the scientific recognition of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human i.e. 'human nature'.. The worldview of holistic science does recognize the intrinsic nature and value of the human inner life. It is possible to have a truly meaningful holistic education of human beings if it is based on the recognition and valorization of the human inner life. A holistic education is scientifically possible within the context of the worldview of a wholistic science.

Consider the nature of knowledge and the nature of reality within the context of the worldview of reductionist science. The scientific methodology is based on the assumption that in the process of observation, the observer remains detached from the reality being observed. The educational methodology, reflecting the same basic assumption, is based on the detachment of the learner from what is being learned in the process of learning. The society becomes dominated by the same worldview. People subconsciously perceive reality within its framework. Their beliefs are structured according to its basic assumptions. The repercussions pervade all areas of public endeavor including education. With a bias toward completely 'objective' knowledge, scientfic methodology directly influences the educational methodology. The aims of education are formulated in terms of the acquisition and measurement of 'objective' knowledge. Cognitive knowledge is assumed to be present only if it can be tested with objective tests. Classwork and coursework are designed to result in the effective answering of tests. The value of knowledge is measured in terms of its usefulness. In this worldview, the objective scientific reality of 'being human' is defined in terms of objective scientific reality. It is not defined in terms of the intrinsic nature and value of what it is to be human. Cognitive knowledge is not considered in terms of its intrinsic value to the development of the human potential or the enrichment of the inner life. The basic assumptons of this 'scientific' worldview must be reexamined. A new scientific methodology of wholistic science is based on the assumption that the observer participates in the process of observation. Reflecting the same basic assumption, a new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process. The worldview of holistic science forms the basis for a holistic education.

Educational policies and practices are formulated in the context of the values inherent in the belief systems of the culture i.e. 'cultural context'. In the culture of traditional Western culture, educational goals are defined in terms of motivating objectives external to the individual's instinctive drive for meaningful learning i.e. 'intrinsic motivation'. They discredit the value of life experience and 'experiential learning'. Experiential learning is meaningful learning which involves the natural human activity of observation and inquiry or 'scientific activity'. The validity of scientific activity depends on holistic perception which is characteristic of spiritual maturity of the developed personality i.e. 'self-actualisation'. Education  forcomplete personality development is education for whole person health or 'wellness' i.e. 'holistic education'. Holistic education is concerned with human development as the construction of human conscience or 'soul'.

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 "The quality of detachment from the surroundings (separation between ourselves and the objective world) is of great significance in the Western tradition" It is in the context of separation from the surroundings that individuals intuit their sense of individuality and freedom. The price is a sense of alienation from the outside world. The extreme form of this sense of alienation leads the individual to treat other human beings as objects without an inner life, eliminating the inner life from scientific reality. Within the worldview of reductionist science, the reality of being human is not scientifically recognized.

  Reductionist science produces mechanistic worldview – universe is a mechanical system composed of elementary building h…

Shift from the mechanistic worldview of reductionism to the ecological worldview of holistic science

 mechanistic reductionist paradigm emphasises linear sequential processes          

. Reductionist science began with the Scientific Revolution when the Christian worldview was replaced by a scientific worldview