My first association with the notion “growth” is given by the 18th thesis in my dissertation of 16 December 1988. It was in the after-days of the so-called Report of Rome in which all kind of scientists and experts predicted a catastrophic and fatal development of life, nature and atmosphere on this planet, if we could not moderate the economic growth in the so-called Western world and stop the depletion of our natural sources. As an extra thesis to the regular theses that were linked with the subject and the content of my dissertation i.e. “The Organization of Connective Tissue in the Human Body”, I added as 18th thesis: “The common curves of development that usually are applied to indicate the economic growth in the Western countries, too poorly express the malign character of this growth process”.
My second association of course has to do with the human embryo about which I already for more than 30 years give lectures, courses and seminars. From the human embryo I really learned what growing and developing actually mean and it represents an important item that I bring to people when I make them acquainted with “The Embryo in us”.
I think that both associations have brought me to the title of my talk:
GROWTH, NOT ONLY BY INCREASING – LESSONS FROM THE HUMAN EMBRYO.
As a biologist (embryologist) I appreciate growth as an essential feature of living nature. In my view growth is a kind of behavior and a necessary but not sufficient condition for the development of an organism. In my view mankind is a kind of organism, like a human being is an organism. In a living organism we deal with cells and organs in coherence and integration with each other. In mankind, and also in human institutions and populations, we deal with individuals in social coherence living together. I therefore think that we may (and have to) learn from living nature how social organisms should grow and develop in the proper natural way. I however also learned from the embryo that our usual concepts as to growth and development are quantitative concepts which in fact are false and non-vital concepts and therefore might be or become pathological and dangerous for the health of social organisms like mankind on this planet. Another feature that I directly associate with growth and development is the necessity to develop through crises, moments of dying and disintegration, obligatory to reintegrate on a higher level. Life realizes and merges itself in a constant subtle equilibrium of Chaos and Cosmos as the two poles (faces) of “Death” being too much disorder versus too much structure. That is why development and growth is not simply the principle that a given phase is followed by the next phase, simply by “more of the same” but in between two successive phases, a crisis of disintegration, reorientation and reintegration is necessary and inevitable.
I will try to show in my talk that are different ways and gestures of growing and development in living nature. And that for living and social organisms other parameters of growth should be applied than for the physical so-called ‘dead’ organic and inorganic matter. In the latter dimension the principle of quantitatively growing by multiplication, replication, repetition is the growth model. To apply a similar model of growing onto living nature is the same type of “thinking accident” like the paradigm that also for living organisms it should be valid that “the sum is the product of the parts” (reductionism). Growing in a living organism always happens in time and not only in space, is not only measurable by quantitative parameters but also needs qualitative parameters: it is a matter of emergence and not a matter of “more of the same” like we usually apply in our simple models of economic growth. At the end living nature could teach us how to grow in an ecological, simply in an economical way. In my view the largest number or entity we can imagine, is the ONE and not the many (the billions, the trillions and more). Living organisms strive to be ONE. That ONE is never to the sum or the result of the parts, the particles, the cells, of the many so to say. Sheer (pure) growth, as being the drive for more, better, superior, actually represents a pathological condition if left alone and not opposed by the integrative power of oneness and wholeness in the organism.
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