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Limits of the Scientific Method

I think Sensei clearly points out the limits of traditional scientific methodology here, but I feel he limits the term science to include only clinical studies utilizing minimal variables. I think that science is beginning to voyage into the real world more and more...

I think of [url=https://www.sociology.columbia.edu/fac-bios/venkatesh/faculty.html]Sudhir Venkatesh's[/url]work in the sociology of urban environments and how that spawned economical studies of crack dealing and prostitution by Levitt and Dubner, or [url=https://copland.udel.edu/~dtallamy/host/index.html]Doug Tallamy's work[/url] assaying wild life on different trees, and how there was less biomass on non-natives than natives. These are not sterile laboratory computer modelled abstracts; these are measures of natural worlds and natural systems. As we finally catalogue the world around us the new science is showing Sensei's intuitions to be correct; that we cannot understand the full complexity of the system, but we can glimpse enough to know trends.

In much the same way that Venkatesh could not have gotten good data without a real and true immersion into the culture of urban life, with ALL it's attendant dangers and issues, we cannot get natural gardens without risking some issues, accepting some losses. There is a certain amount of fatalism in either adoption, but the rewards are worth it in the long run... but I am not sure the abandoning of science is entirely necessary as long as we use that definition of science as making the most accurate measurement you can. We need yardsticks to measure success; they simply must be accurately marked...

HG
Scott Reil

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Sometimes I just can't help myself.... Science has not just "[begun] to voyage into the real world more and more"; it began to do so at the very moment, figuratively speaking, when O-sensei withdrew from it.

O-sensei gave up the agronomic (in his terms, "scientific") life in the first half of 1938. He experienced his satori, described eloquently on p. 8 of TOSR, on May 15 of that year. His mind had been deeply shaken by several months of serious illness--pneumonia--during which he feared for his life. Because 1938 is the very moment in time when antibiotics were first being consciously and purposefully developed and used by scientists to combat previously fatal diseases and infections, O-sensei's pneumonia may or may not have been treated with antibiotics. He might have recovered as slowly as he did due to their absence, and his recovery *at all* may have been due to being basically a healthy man in his 20s. Pneumonia still kills people, even when it's not an antibiotic-resistant strain. It can weaken a person for months afterward, even today.

In this weakened physical condition, and possible state of depression, F-san forsook his position at the governmental department. I believe he left the field of science and its methods, viewpoint, and all else just when the trajectory of science began to diverge, however slowly, from its 19th-century carapace.

The non-linear possibilities of quantum physics were being developed in the late '20s and the '30s, first in Germany and then in the intellectual Diaspora after Jewish scientists fled the country in the face of anti-Jewish policy and laws. The Paradox of Schrödinger's Cat ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schrödinger's_cat ) was presented in Austria in 1935 and discussed internationally among physicists and mathematicians. This "thought experiment" had *no* single solution.

A scientific experiment with *no* single solution was controversial when it first appeared, and many people, to this day, still refuse to try and wrap their brains around the possibility. It was--and is--very unsettling to them. It wasn't black-and-white; it was...something else.

Yet many situations in daily life and, of course, in growing plants present paradoxes, and we wave them off with remarks like, "Well, yes, but without X, the system will be unbalanced." The paradox is dismissed with a mere sentence, leaving only newcomers to shake their heads in puzzlement.

(Here I have in mind leaving plant-destroying insects around so that predator insects will be enticed to stay. This takes a little getting used to for gardeners/growers new to non-chemical methods, and is a difficult paradox for them.)

F-san himself, in the Second Principle of Natural Farming, says "no compost," yet he himself applied prepared compost to his kitchen garden (note on p. 28 ). Another paradox.

Science today has become much more self-aware than it was in the '30s, when O-sensei resigned his agricultural position. The authors of major reports include, in those reports, as much disclosure as possible about the observer effect as they can and immerse themselves in conditions as close to those of their subjects as possible, realizing that there is no such thing as a completely separate observer of a living system and wanting to experience the process of what our ancestors made/underwent themselves. (Here I have in mind the author of "When the Sea Saved Humanity" https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=152922 and Prof. Elizabeth Wayland Barber's work in prehistoric textiles; https://press.princeton.edu/titles/4816.html .)

So O-sensei withdrew from the outside world at a critical juncture. We have benefited from his insights, but perhaps those insights and principles would have reached more people much sooner had he not been so isolated. The thirty years he glosses over with a page turn might not have been so painful if he had still received some respect and acknowledgement from the outside world. There have always been a few who will listen to those in advance of their time; it's a shame that his "time" seems to have been so delayed due to his withdrawal from the outer, "scientific," world.

Cynthia H.

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Interesting historical perspective, Cynthia. :o
History was never my favorite subject. I have a decent memory for things I've read or heard or seen -- I think I'm particularly good with pattern recognition and associations -- but for some reason, my memory mechanism has a block when it comes to those 4 digit numbers and names.... :roll:

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Nice post Cyn. I also shake my head when I read certain passages, because Fukuoka sometimes appears less as the lovable iconoclast than as a really observant ostrich. As sharp as his vision is, the view is still the inside of a small hole slightly larger than the size of an ostrich head. When we take into account quantum physics, string theory, etc... we should feel a little sadness for him, because he really missed out thanks to his tendency, both pre- and post- "enlightenment", to see every decision as a choice between polar and irreconcilable opposites.

F-san also missed out on Karl Popper. I would love to resurrect them and buy them each a mugwort tea. This is from Popper's wiki entry:
He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historio-cultural settings. Logically, no number of positive outcomes at the level of experimental testing can confirm a scientific theory, but a single counterexample is logically decisive: it shows the theory, from which the implication is derived, to be false. The term "falsifiable" does not mean something is false; rather, that if it is false, then this can be shown by observation or experiment.
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Thanks for you nice post, Cynthia, and yours, too, Toil. Of course we'll never know what might have happened had Sensei not been so ill before his inspiration or if he would have lightened up a bit with regard to the benefits of scientific inquiry if he hadn't "closed off" to it at such an early age. He contends that his understanding is timeless...that it arises from the wellspring of agriculture and has nothing to do with a particular stage in human history or human understanding.

By the way, I love history. Asian history was my first major in college. It's not about the dates and names so much as to seeing how people have faced the similar challenges of living at different times and under different conditions. Heck, I even love geology, which is largely history, and paleobotany, which is about which plants existed during past geologic epochs. :)
"There is no time in modern agriculture for a farmer to write a poem or compose a song" --Masanobu Fukuoka
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Larry hits on that point I keep coming back to again and again; Sensei seems to look at this change in a more spiritual one than simply rational departure from the scientific method. His concept remains timelessly correct and most of us sense this; there is simply not enough understanding or recognition of the complex web of ecology and soil biology for us to posit on all the effects of biodiverse polyculture (or grass fed beef, or nutrient dense foods) to say that natural farming holds all the right answers...

When the scientific community says prove it, and we have no study to point to to answer a particular claim, is the benefit of organics nullified? What can science tell us about the interconnectedness of all things? DOes it's inability to do so make any of it less true? Is that what you feel in your bones?

The Dogon tribe have been describing the star Sirius as a tertiary star system for 12,000 years. The second start was discovered back in the ealy Twenty First century and the third star wasn't able to be seen until 1976. The science caught up to the truth very slowly...

HG
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Yeah, HG, that's what makes F-san himself timeless, and his work indispensable.
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gershon
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I grew up in the days surrounding Sputnik and I've watched science develop over the years. I haven't eschewed science. I've remained blissfully and willfully unaware of it as it pertains to gardening.

As a kid, we gardened in an area that used to be a shooting gallery in an amusement park. Part of the fun was finding 22 shells in the garden. The only tools we had were a spade and a pitchfork. Weeds were pulled by hand. We never considered this was an exceptionally bad area to garden. Neither did the vegetables. They just grew.

Composting was easy. We had a corner in the yard we raked the leaves into. Each spring my father would rake off the top and take the compost from the bottom and put a little bit below each plant. Except for onions and beans. They grew without any.

I'm a little more advanced now. I have a couple of hoes. I use a tiller in the beginning of the season. I can look at the soil, smell it and taste it and tell what will grow there. I don't bother composting much. I just add some uncomposted organic stuff about this time of year to areas that need attention.

Unfortunately, I've read some information on composting. Then I started doing the math on how much stuff I'd have to collect for a garden with 1,800 sq. feet of planted area. No thanks. But now I have this guilt feeling about not doing something I don't need to do.

My morning prayers are done six days a week while scuffle hoeing the garden. In Gen 2:4 it says "5 No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground"

In Hebrew, the word "till" means to serve. My only science is to serve the soil each morning by stirring it up with the scuffle hoe. I've found there is enough organic matter that comes with the wind. If I stir it each day with the hoe, the soil stays fertile and the weeds don't come.

This simple verse tells us all that is needed for a good enough garden. Rain and serving the soil.

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Great post everyone which seems to open our eyes more & more to the present! The waste and garbage created today makes garden a completely new venture compared to days or yeaster year! America was made on inovation in production of crops and will move forward as the feeders of the world! Lets just hope that clean water continues to play a role in Americas greatness and organic leads the trail!!
I enjoy fishing ,gardening and a solar greenhouse! carpet installation repair and sales for over 45 years! I am the inventor of the Bobber With A Brain - Fishing Bobber!

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