The Systems View of Life
Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi
Systems seemed to find a home whatever my career choice. In the chemistry lab, in the church, in the family, and in computer science - each required an understanding of systems theory. Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi’s The Systems View of Life is attempt to meld the concept of systems into the far ranging fields of physical science, biological science, social science, and religion. The success with which this is done might depend on the reader’s interest and training, but the book makes for interesting reading regardless of the reader’s background.
Claiming to be an undergraduate textbook, Capra and Luisi’s text explores the history of scientific thinking from ancient times forward. The authors attempt to move the student through the rolling attitudes that seem to bounce between a very mechanistic approach (i.e. the entire universe is a machine) and a holistic approach (i.e. the universe is more than its whole).
Recognizing that the philosophy of science seems to be a pendulum that moves between these to extremes, the book stresses that the 21st century is in the much more holistic than we have seen in the immediate past. That being so, there is room in the current scientific landscape for a spiritual (not necessarily religious) perspective of our world. The authors point out that there are fundamentalists that are both religious (e.g. Christian or Muslim) and scientific (e.g. Richard Dawkins) who attempt to exclude each other from valid scholarship.
Though coming from Cambridge University Press, the book is not a specifically Christian (or even religious) view of science or a scientific view of religion. Rather, it is an attempt to allow members of each community to appreciate the contribution of the scientific community and the religious community toward a holistic world view. The authors, early in the book, make it clear that they are writing for an undergraduate audience. This might be true for an undergraduate class in the Philosophy of Science, but otherwise the book might not find a place in most undergraduate degree programs. On the other hand, it would find a home in the seminary training for a modern pastor (at least for some) or the graduate science student looking beyond the typical laboratory setting.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are my own.