Linear vs Expansive

The difficulties of describing the world strictly with causality become clearer when it is realized that causality can be equated with linear thinking. In both cases, it is to see one event after another, occurring in a line. There is no complexity, subtlety, or big-picture-ness to it, just one immediately occurring event passively giving rise to the next.

Yet it is clear that the mind can work in ways other than just with linear thoughts. (If our minds were restricted to linear processing, we would never hear a melody, but only hear one note at a time cascading into the next). And so the issue for finding causality in nature becomes: How does science describe the physical world? Is it just with linearity?

By examining the equations of science, it becomes evident that science does not restrict itself to describing linear sequences of events. The equations (as with human thoughts) describe patterns, probabilities, bigger pictures, abstractions, and even that which can only be described using imaginary numbers. The world itself is more complicated than hard causality would have us believe. In other words, it is more complicated than one thing bumping into another to make a sequence of one bump causing the next bump.

It is true that our minds tend to formulate thoughts by seeing one event after another. But we should also give our minds more credit than to believe that they can do only that. It is more accurate to say that we witness one event after another as that is incorporated into seeing patterns and bigger pictures. For instance, I do not simply hit a ball; I can see it as part of a bigger picture of playing a game. The ball-hitting is understood in terms of the game. And it seems clear that nature can work that way, as well. An immediate event can happen in terms of how it belongs to a bigger situation of how many events are fitting together. (Nature is capable of fitting together). That is because energy makes arrangements of itself.

As already hinted in this book, the way that science can have an expansive understanding of change is to see a single event “in terms of” complex entities such as patterns, probabilities, and bigger pictures. This chapter will explore that further.