[Carol Sanford. I have already posted these comments, linked to the locations in your chapter they refer to. https://www.academia.edu/s/4794df7ce6   I am also posting them here, as a whole, in my blog.

Carol, I recognize your intention in considering these four paradigms for improving how human persons relate to each other in the process of creating and using their built environment, in ways that are sustainable and in right balance with the “natural” processes of Gaia. Your strategy is to effect change in how human persons interact to achieve these objectives, and to avoid actions which contradict these objectives.

I don’t comprehend these paradigms as causes of (or cures for) the dysfunctions of humankind. They are limiting (and enabling) contexts, among many other contexts. All contexts are both constraining and enabling, as every “structure” enables some processes and limits other processes. When organizations propose new structures they focus more on new processes enabled and often ignore valuable processes blocked. This is most evident for “education”, where every proposed structure is significantly limiting. Effective education requires a fluid application of complementary structures – which may be achieved by applying the meta-dynamics of OLLO (Organizing-for-Learning=&=Learning-for-Organizing).

I learned of a bias I had – in initially viewing all four paradigms to be limiting; to discover that the last two are positive or enabling paradigms. I should have reasoned this, as there was no room in your chapter to present your solution if all four paradigms were limiting. I say this here, after I have written comments about the machine and behavior paradigms, and before I have read the regenerative paradigm and before I have commented on the human potential paradigm.

I comprehend each of the four as “clusters” of perspective, paradigms and barriers.



Lewis Mumford postulated that the CITY became the metaphor for the first machines (which are different from tools, which are ancient).

The continued maintenance, repair, and upgrade of machines are consistent with the transFORMation perspective/paradigm.

Systems can be more than machines, especially when stochastic processes are involved. However, I also have noted a “mechanistic” feature of “systems thinking” and that contemporary science is limited to transFORMational explanatory theories. Even Humberto Maturana (co-inventor of Autopoiesis) limits scientific explanation to mechanistic stories. There is, as yet, no science for “origination”, as illustrated by the multiple universe fantasies to avoid the origination for the Big Bang. Contemporary studies of “emergence” (that I am aware of) attempt to map it back on “transformation”.

Using thermodynamics and Carnot to illustrate the rise of mechanistic thinking in science can have a twist. However, your point that there could be scientific principles that transcend the specific is interesting. I sense, in you, an emotional/intuitive bias against “the abstract” – which may have some merit; I have a positive, emotional/intuitive bias for “abstractions are real”. Thermodynamics was originally a phenomenal science, about relationship of observables: volume, pressure and temperature. It was the later “Statistical Mechanics” that shifted the thinking towards mechanistic models. The “emergence” of thermodynamics from statistical mechanics was my first introduction to the term “emergence”.

Analyzing a phenomenon in terms of a model with components, attributes, and relationships is “systemic” – which permits “the whole is greater than the parts” to emerge as a mathematical/logical feature. This falls short of the metaphysical/mystical concept of “soul” or “spiritual essence”. For Hofstadter & Sander, Surfaces and Essences are new associated terms for “concrete” and “abstract” (my interpretation).

We must never forget the distinction between “system” as something “objective”, out there to be observed and “system” as a frame or context we apply to our experiences. Some persons don’t claim belief for an objective existence of systems – everything is deeply connected to everything else, and to “extract” any part distorts the part. This view can be taken too far and wars against analysis.

I agree that mechanistic thinking and mechanical models are insufficient tools for comprehending life, mind, and humankind. It is their naive application that causes difficulty, not the utility of these tools, when their domains of applicability are properly comprehended.


I take some issue with you about “feedback”. Second Order Cybernetics significantly transcends mechanistic thinking – in my analysis. I, too, make a very sharp distinction between living and non-living systems.

My speculative distinction yet enables me to consider stars and galaxies as alive, as the cosmos may be alive. Mechanistic processes may be part of the overall functioning of living systems. I postulate the distinction being related to “time” and “causality”. Machines fit the conceptual model of linear sequential momentary states. They line up within “time”. “Causality” “flows” only one direction, from the past, through the fictitious momentary state, into the future. For living systems “existence may spread out to fill a ”duration of time”. In the mechanistic frame we might consider information capable of flowing back in time. There may be temporal integration/resonance in living systems that is not present in non-living systems. With mind and intention I have proposed a process I call “feedpast bootstrapping”. This idea is especially difficult to grasp as we are forced to use old analogies to conceptualize the new, which contaminates.

Analysis (making distinctions – parts – and considering relationships) is a conceptual technology in complementarity relationship with Synthesis (the emergence of an appreciative reality resulting from an “integration” of the “products” of analysis. “Products” include much more than a listing of parts. Synthesis is not a mechanistic assembly, but an “organic” or “holistic” origination/emergence (different from a transformation) of a new whole. None of this occurs in the physical world (unless we consider the neural-molecular processes of the human body). Our mind/brains play the Analysis/Synthesis game (maybe a dance between brain hemispheres). If we become better at playing this game our actions in the real world may be more appropriate.

We never directly experience the “real world”. All our experiences are “inner”: yet, the content of our inner woven/constructed worlds confirms the “existence” of OTHERS. The reasoning above is necessarily non linear – which we simply must live with (a characteristic of being non mechanical).


My long-term antagonism with contemporary “businesses” and “economies” is that THEY ARE MACHINES and NOT living systems. They are creations of humankind. I have discussed elsewhere as how “economics” is not a science. I recognize your distinction between what they “are” and how we “treat” them. In the sense that businesses involve humans in social relationships, we may view them as dysfunctional living systems – which you would like to make functional (or enable the emergence of functionality).

I sensed, at this moment of writing, the distinction between existential and process ontologies. Western worldviews (now adopted by most wealthy non-Westerners) make an ideology of existential ontologies, which is an alternative way of framing your objection to “systems terminology”. I view the two ontologies (as if there were only two) in complementarity, and not necessarily competitive. [Competitive vs Cooperative, Mutual Aide vs Capitalism, are other examples of limiting paradigms.]

Your argument against the systems terminology can be applied also to our study of machines. The problem/solution (question/answer) paradigms cause difficulty for the study of non-living systems as well as living systems. We cannot ignore the sun, or cosmic rays – from which the Earth’s magnetic field protects us, when considering the changes in the Humankind/Gaia relationship. Persons working in societal systems (businesses, governments, universities, corporations, etc.) may apply these “systems” concepts more inappropriately than the scientists/philosophers who invented them.

It is the narrow adherence to one paradigm that most often results in dysfunction – and not specifically the traits of any specific paradigm. Being able to consider alternative, complementary paradigms is a competency of persons at higher levels of adult stage development. More work is needed on this phenomenon. Ken Wilber has captured Don Beck’s interpretation of Spiral Dynamics (excluding Christopher Cohen’s perspective) and limits its evolution. Robert Kegan, now assisted by Lisa Lahey, has attempted to move persons in modern organizations up levels. In Immunity to Change, they report an elevation of at best one level. My take is that changes in adult stage development are nearly impossible when the person remains embedded in social environments that reinforce lower levels. I find Kegan’s “objectification” model promising conceptually, but his subject-object interview process to determine levels is unwieldy, for general application. Yet, these phenomena cannot be simplified. The two mind hypothesis (old/mammalian/intuitive/emotional/fast) and (new/human/conceptual/rational/slow) needs to be applied to adult stage development.

On Kegan, see:

Kegan’s Subject-Object Model
Kegan’s StagesNuet and Kegan


Your take on the role of “behaviorism” in theory/practice is standard. The research did start with lower mammals, but that human behavior is modified as behaviorists predict is an empirical feature of humans. Again, it was the single focus dominance of behavior modification that led to its being “censored” in psychology, even if continued in practice in businesses. In my analysis, we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Change agents today act as if behavior is not modified and ignore many positive and useful methods for persons to use techniques to modify THEIR OWN BEHAVIOR. That we avoid using video recordings of our own behavior as a tool to modify our own behavior is a fact needing study. “Elites” using behavior modification to control others is repugnant.

The “true nature” of human agency, in my analysis, remains an open query. I believe we have agency, but it is not what we think, and is mostly suppressed in civilization – not just modern societies.

Research has demonstrated that our brains signal a decision being made BEFORE we are conscious of the decision. That our consciousness made the decision is an illusion. However, it was our whole being which made the decision – which I would trust more than I would a momentary state of consciousness.

Human response to stimuli is very highly determined – by the totality of the biological state of the person at the moment of stimulation. We have a large repertoire of behavioral “programs” that our subconscious masterfully select and organize. Where we have agency is when we think (a form of doing) or do that is not a response to stimuli. Through this process of creative, spontaneous action, and developing quality contexts through learning, we have the agency to – indirectly – modify how we deterministically respond to stimuli. Guilt in our failure to “take control” of ourselves can be damaging to human development.

It is also an illusion that we are self-made persons. Decades old research in social psychology is continually ignored in the destructive paradigm that we are personally responsible for who we are – at any stage in our life. We do make a difference, but most of that are inherited character propensities. Social pressure is a very powerful force, as is acculturation. The paradigm of individualism has been disastrous for humankind. This is not to say that consideration of each person is not important, or that we don’t have potential agency. Talented mediators can learn to “control” some functions, and stay within a limited range of bio/mental states, but they are not free to engage everything – except to ignore that which they can’t control.

However, our destinies are not determined by any “higher” plan or program. Random circumstances are a strong driver – including the circumstance of the culture and family of birth and childhood.

Humankind is too new in evolutionary terms that our primate/mammalian and uniquely human selves have yet to adequately adapt to each other. In analogy, humankind is still embryonic; we are now in the birthing process – with the possibility of a still birth.

Yes, societal systems treat humans as programmable machines. The leaders of these societal systems are themselves the result of social pressures, behavior modification, and the luck of circumstances. A person driven to succeed acquired the drive in a basically deterministic fashion. S/he didn’t decide to be determined to succeed. Once one acquires a drive to succeed, that will be applied in a deterministic fashion.

It may be “the single cause” paradigm that is causing much of our trouble. Statistically, a “single cause paradigm” probably had early survival value and was selected in our evolution. It has negative effect on the survival/thrival of humankind today.

Individual humans are never IN CONTROL of their own destinies, but they have the potential to learn to have more influence. As we individually change, we develop sets of propensities that “push us along” developmental paths within our social environments. That we change agents didn’t choose (from a set of alternatives) to be who we are doesn’t distract from who-we-are, now, and our potential to contribute to the future of humankind and Gaia. Collectively we can have much more influence that we can ever have by personal will power to resist negative social pressure and to seek positive social pressure.



I grew up in the human potential movement, and enjoyed the illusion. I remain a strong champion of human potential, but as I commented under the behavior paradigm, my comprehension of human agency and potential has changed. This change resulted from two general issues: (1) my observation of and continued frustration with activists for both social and personal change and (2) my frustration about my own seeming inability to change as I wished. An old diagram illustrates my view of the personal/social change dilemma.

There are multiple realities. Illusions are real, in the sense that they probably have correspondence with neural-molecular brain activity. In this sense, illusions can be as real and powerful as so-called scientifically validated conceptual schemes. The illusion of self may be a construct, created by our whole-beings, as a tool for guiding behavior and change beyond the determinism of S/R moments. Just as I accept the experience of conscious choice as an illusion, I still act out of my whole being. We can accept the fiction of our self-organizing “selves” in a “personal drama” scripted by our whole being. We play roles in our woven/constructed inner worlds with the hopeful intent of having appropriate effect on objective others.

The potential of future humanity is well beyond the potential of any individual. Yet, as we actualize our collective potentials we probably will discover our personal potentials also enhanced. But, we won’t have all the illusionary “freedoms” that our individualism claims.


In “promises beyond ableness” you open the door for my view of our need for UPLIFT.

In “role vs. self”: the realization that we perform roles in social environments doesn’t imply that we always perform roles expected of us to conform to the social environment. The roles we design and perform may be to effect optimal change in the social environment and the “others” who are participants. Kegan’s concept of “self” may be more appropriate.

Only the quality of ideas matter” – neglects the diversity of humans – ideas don’t have existence independent of humans. Only when our individual differences are acknowledged and respected, might we be able to converge collective behavior around a common, “abstract” idea.

I have a problem with the “re” in regenerative. While resilience and dynamic stability are important, to focus on returning to previous states or conditions as our primary drive, may be dangerous. I would prefer just “generative”, implying a mix of re- and pro-generative.

I greatly respect Elizabet Sahtouris’s overall work. However, her The Butterfly Story appears to have crystallized the conceptual scheme of metamorphosis as metaphor and seemingly blocks consideration of Societal Metamorphosis as a viable strategy for human change. I have no interest in claiming priority, but I was decades ahead of them in writing about Societal Metamorphosis (1975). Looking now at her recent version http://dance-with-life.blogspot.com/2011/10/elisabet-sahtouris-butterfly-story.html , it appears she has modified it, possibly due to my interchange with her. My only concern is that I have not found any biologists using the term “imaginal cell”. They use imaginal disc or bud. She also appears to have removed her earlier story of “competition”, with the caterpillar destroying “imaginal cells” as aliens cells, until the “imaginal cells” became too numerous. Her story is now “Cells with the butterfly genome / proteins were held as aggregates, or ‘discs’ of stem cells that biologists call ‘imaginal cells’, tucked inside pockets of the caterpillar’s skin all its life, remaining undeveloped until the crisis of overeating, fatigue and breakdown allows them to develop.”

In this long quote, “Such metamorphosis makes a good metaphor for the great changes globalization, in the sense of world transformation, is bringing about. as Norie Huddle first used it in her children’s book Butterfly. Our bloated old system is rapidly becoming defunct while the vision of a new and very different society, long held by many ‘imaginal cell’ humans who dreamt of a better world, is now emerging like a butterfly, representing our solutions to the crises of predation, overconsumption and breakdown in a new way of living lightly on Earth, and of seeing our human society not in the metaphors and models of mechanism as well-oiled social machinery, but in those of evolving, self-organizing and intelligent living organism.” Elizabet confuses emergence with transformation and seemingly misses the unique nature of metamorphosis as NOT the morphing of caterpillar form to butterfly form. She identifies what change agents seeking transFORMation are attempting as analogous with metamorphosis, which it is not.

I am a great fan of James Greer Miller’s opus, Living Systems. Often neglected is Miller’s calling holarchy “NESTED HIERARCHY”, and distinguishing that form from “echelon hierarchy” or human bureaucracy. Not all hierarchies are bad. Nested and Networked are two primary organizational relationships in “nature”. We have yet to invent a computer app that will represent both nested (outliner) and networked (hypertext) in the same document. It may not be possible in our 3 dimensional space. Miller’s work also motivated me to propose two additional structures, holarchies and ecologies to accompany systems and networks as four fundamental structures we use in organizing reality. SysNet (proposed decades ago by Stan Pokras) can be used when it isn’t important to distinguish system from network. “System” here is limited to label a single holon in a holarchy (the other three structures are not “systems”) . Holon (or system) is a simpler conceptual scheme – with components (treated as classical objects with attributes), in “lawful” relationships, and existing in an “environmental interface” of forces. In a holarchy, the components and environments of holons are treated also as “systems” (holons).

There are limits to Miller’s model. It works best from cell to organism, with tissues and the distinction between organ and subsystem. It also works well from atom to cells – including three types of molecular holons ( bead, chain, and fabric) which are as distinct as planet, solar system, and galaxy (yet we lightly call them all “molecules”). I don’t feel Miller’s model works as well when we go beyond “tribe”. The circular role of human agency contaminates (making them machine-like, as Carol points out) for institutions, organizations, corporations, governments, and nations. In my view, Humanity, emergent from the caterpillar/civilization model of humankind, via societal metamorphosis – beginning with UPLIFT – can be a Living System.

In Nu Genesis, I speculate on a new “creation myth” that introduces “information” as a third, independent aspect of reality, along with matter/energy and mind. Only within humankind does information exist not embedded in matter/energy. This moves human systems beyond biology.