April 28, 2011 Leave a comment
I should probably stay out of this… but my favourite philosopher is Michael Polanyi and in his discussion of Tacit Knowing and Emergence, he describes how an idea is created as an ordered structure of parts. It is like a person collects facts and repeatedly rearranges them until they fit into an ordered integral structure like an equation that the human mind is designed to read. This structure can then be added to or modified on the surface like a background, but the basic structure stays the same. It can also be communicated efficiently at that point and might be accurately fit the common definition of a meme, a contageous idea. Then you have to follow this idea and its growth in the context of the concept of History of Consciousness, because an idea may well exist for a long time before it spreads or is used.
Now there is another aspect to this as well, since humans are made both of nature and nurture. So look at C. D. Darlington’s ideas on the Evolution of Man and Society. He would tell you that there is a large genetic componenent to knowledge and culture and in the time of the cities that has grown based on the genetic comings together of different peoples. In the West the first civil populations fo Sumeria, created by the joining of three tribes, were conquored by the Semites (Sargon the Great) that added a military caste to the civil social system as well as their genetic component that hybridized in over time. Other tribes were assimilated, but that culture in turn was dominated by the Indo European horse herders such as the Ayrans, Ionians and Dorians, the the Romans and Eutustrians (maybe not Indo European those). But it was when those Western societies hybridized with the Celts that the true change occured that created a new dynamicism that led not only to science, but modern society as well.
Then the philosophy of Science asks if Science is progressed by groups of researchers exploring a field of research or is it one person exploring their inspiration. I would answer that it is both.
Perhaps it is instinct of an individual that knows when humanity has a need and they respond with leadership to create the required answers.
Perhaps it is for the pursuit of the attendant wealth that new knowledge can produce.
Perhaps it is sometimes just serendipity.
Really though, the interesting thing to me is how new we humans are to all this. We are children walking out of a forest of out animal past, but still in woodlands. Some get arrogant and claim great wisdom, but I must doubt. Being a biologist, I look at longer time periods of life. I think we have far more to learn.