This series of issues attempts to set out the first definitive account of Jim Schofield’s new Systems Approach to Science. The various papers collected here, and over the next few editions of this journal, explore the proposed theory and explain why it is such a radical departure from the current universally applied scientific method.
While working on the recent YouTube video “Taking Shape: Denis Noble and the Systems Level Approach” (2022), it arose in discussion between myself and Jim, whether or not “system” was even the right word to use for these ideas. Schofield’s revised view of natural systems is certainly not the usual one. They are not “systematic”, mechanistic or carefully structured in any way. They don’t follow universal laws and rules. They are dynamic, contingent and emergent, containing contention and contradiction. They can be hidden, vastly complex, and sometimes seemingly chaotic from our human vantage point. Many are stable and extremely long-lasting, and are routinely misinterpreted by scientists as eternal and fundamental laws of nature. Schofield’s view of systems is Holist and Materialist, arguing that the holistic understanding of how natural systems evolve and maintain themselves, is vital if we are to really appreciate how things come to be, and why they are the way they are.