Books Reviews

Book Review: Science, Order, and Creativity

Science, Order, and Creativity by David Bohm and F. David Peat is an amazing book! One of the main purposes of the book is to “draw attention to the key importance of liberating creativity” (p. 271). The book has really deepened my understanding and appreciation of creativity and its relation to order. It has also given me new insights into the history of science. Bohm and Peat view “misinformation” as “pollution” (p. 249). I’d say this book contains very little misinformation. Usually, I mark sections as very interesting, worth noting, and don’t agree while reading. I noticed that my don’t agrees often turned into oh, now I understand.

The book was first published in 1987. I am impressed by how up-to-date the book feels. Bohm and Peat write for example that “current work in biology hardly takes the quantum theory into account” (p. 198). Yet, they say that “it may turn out that in certain macromolecular processes … quantum correlations may indeed be relevant” (p. 198). This is exactly what has happened almost thirty years later. Quantum mechanics explains nowadays the efficiency of the photosynthesis.1,2 Life isn’t possible without quantum coherence.

The causal interpretation
David Bohm worked on “the causal interpretation” of the quantum theory “over a period of several decades, beginning in the early 1950s” (p. 79). The work with this theory “ultimately lead to some … new perceptions about the nature of physical reality” (p. 80). The causal interpretation suggests that “nature may be far more subtle and strange than … previously thought” (p. 86). There is, for example, a “vast range of scale” between the distance now measurable in physics and the “shortest distance in which current notions of space-time probably have meaning” (p. 86). This range is “roughly equal to that which exists between our own size and that of the elementary particles” (p. 86). This means that there is “a vast range of scale in which … yet undiscovered structure” can be contained (p. 86). The causal interpretation introduces profound and radically new notions of order.

Notions of order
Bohm and Peat explore the meanings and implications of order. Rather than attempting to “make a definition or exhaustive analysis” they instead try to “deepen and extend the reader’s understanding” (p. 98). And, indeed, that is exactly what they do! There are four chapters covering “What Is Order?” (pp. 97–147), “The Generative Order and the Implicate Order” (pp. 148–188), “Generative Order in Science, Society, and Consciousness” (pp. 189–228), and “The Order Between and Beyond” (pp. 275–314).  This means that they spend half of the book (170 pages) on discussing order.

Bohm and Peat propose that “order pervades all aspects of life and that it may be comprehended as similar differences and different similarities” (p. 146). Orders in general are seen to lie in a spectrum between “simple orders of low degree and chaotic orders of infinite degree of which randomness is a limiting case” (p. 146). Structure is treated as an “inherently dynamic notion” (p. 146). Bohm and Peat introduce the notion of “generative order” (pp. 154–162), followed by the “implicate or enfolded order” (pp. 168–177) and the “superimplicate order” (pp. 177–181).

The generative order is relevant to creativity, perception and understanding nature. And the superimplicate order organizes the implicate order. This opens the way for “an indefinite extension into even higher implicate orders, which organize the lower ones, while capable of being affected by them” (pp. 187–188). The implicate order is a very rich and subtle generative order. All this may sound abstract but the implications are significant!

Bohm and Peat propose that consciousness is “a generative and implicate order” and that this is how “mind and matter” are related (p. 188). Bohm and Peat bring science, nature, society, and consciousness together in an overall common generative order. And they explore ways in which “order influences perception, communication, and action” (p. 275). Bohm and Peat propose that conflicts in societies can be “traced to contradictions and entanglements deep within unexamined notions of order” (p. 275). For this reason, they ask if it’s possible to move beyond fixed positions to an order that lies both “between and beyond” (p. 275).

Creativity and consciousness
Creativity act not only through “free play of thought” but also through “free movement of awareness and attention” (p. 227). These make it possible for “creative intelligence” to unfold toward manifestation through the “stream” of “the generative order” (p. 227). Bohm and Peat investigate the nature of this creativity and what impedes its operation. The essence of the creative act is “a state of high energy making possible a fresh perception, generally through the mind” (p. 270). And creativity can be blocked by the “rigidly fixed tacit infrastructure of consciousness” which blocks the “free play” (p. 271)

The generative and implicate orders are particularly significant here. These make it possible to understand “the unfoldment of creativity from ever subtle levels” (p. 271). Thus, if there are “rigid ideas and assumptions in the tacit infrastructure of consciousness” the net result is not only “a restriction on creativity” but also “a positive presence of energy that is directed toward general destructiveness” (p. 271). A clearing up of “misinformation” is therefore needed if “this energy is to be freed from its rigid and destructive pattern” (p. 271).

Science and order
Within science there have been periods of enormous activity combined with occasions when progress have been blocked. Instead of viewing science simply in terms of theories and ideas, Bohm Bohm & Peat suggest that “what is of most significance is … the prevailing scientific order and its transformation” (p. 276). This is because a change in order also involves a major perceptual shift. The “order of science, and indeed of society itself,” is a “nesting and entwining of several different orders,” some static and others dynamic (p. 277).

Order and society
Orders are lived and experienced. When orders change rapidly they can produce “confusions and contradictions … within the functioning of society” (p. 278). These “enfolded and entangled orders inform the way we perceive, communicate, and act, both individually and as a society in general” (p. 281). When an order is held by the whole society it is “so deeply ingrained that it is never questioned” (p. 281). Examining and changing orders must therefore take place at many levels at once “including, but also going beyond, verbal reflection” (p. 282). This is profound.

Liberating creativity
The problems we face arise from a “complex web of entangled conflicts, confusions, and misinformation in the order of our world” (p. 306). What is needed is considerable creative energy. This creative energy can be liberated when rigid and tacit assumptions are loosened. Bohm and Peat propose that “free dialogue” and “free exchange of ideas and information is of fundamental relevance for transforming culture and freeing it of destructive misinformation” (p. 240).

Dialogue can be considered as “a free flow of meaning” (p. 241). Something can happen in dialogue that is “analogous to the dissolution of barriers … in the generative order” (p. 244). In dialogue, “rigid but largely tacit cultural assumptions, can be brought out and examined by all” (p. 244). This is not a “prescription” but “an invitation to the reader to … investigate and explore in the spirit of free play of ideas” (p. 240). I invite you to read the book!

1 Quantum mechanics explains efficiency of photosynthesis,, 2014-01-09. (Accessed 2016-07-25)
2 Recent studies have identified quantum coherence and entanglement between the excited states of different pigments in the light-harvesting stage of photosynthesis. See for example Quantum biology – Wikipedia. (Accessed 2016-07-25)

Related book reviews:
Book Review: Infinite Potential
Book Review: Mind, Matter and the Implicate Order

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Organizing in between and beyond posts

By Jan Höglund

I share my reading, book reviews, and learning in my blog.

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