Reductionism and Holism

According to the Gleason-Ramenskii continuum individualistic concept (reductionism), there are no necessary bases for the initiation of spatial cells as relatively discrete formations without any additional conditions. The existence of such cells is the basis of Clements's organism concept (holism). It is worthwhile to note that, strictly speaking, Clements may not be its original author. Even at the dawn of the development of geography, in 1811, Butte stated that none ofthe scientists had any doubts regarding the existence of earth organisms. Within any specific field, a combination of all the phenomena is not a simple set; they represent a holon. Butte assumed individual countries and districts (including humans), as 'organisms', which, as any organism, may be considered both in terms oftheir physical and psychical aspects. He wrote that ''areas as a holon assimilate the human population'', and ''population assimilates these areas not less constantly''. At the same time, opponents ofthe hyperholon paid attention to the fact that it was difficult to find districts the boundaries of which could be determined as the basis of all the phenomena. The most complete criticism of this integral concept was given by A. L. Bucher in 1827. As a result, he concluded that there was no necessity to study boundaries, and regions might be distinguished in any arbitrary manner. He proved that geography should study relations between particular phenomena in any area ofthe earth's surface. Even now the same contradictions exist: on the one hand, the individualistic concept has been fully recognized; on the other, Gaia's superorganism concept is very popular. The criticism of this concept rests on traditional bases and factually repeats the discussion that has been continued for almost 200 years. If to leave aside these disputes, we can state that the two models of living matter - individualistic (reductionism) and organism (holism) - may be considered as those reflected in real natural phenomena. Developing these models up to possible logical limits, in both cases we obtain incompatible constructions. In the first variant, it is a construction similar to Dawkins's selfish gene; in the second one, it is a superorganism with its own purposeful development and superstability similar to Gaia's model. The individualistic model has been well substantiated theoretically and realized in microcosm and perfusion cultures. For the simplest linear variant, a theorem has been proved asserting that, in the homogenous environment, the number ofstable coexisting populations is equal to the number ofresources or, in general, to the number of any operating factors. The relations following this model were obtained by the methods of ordination for a wide diversity ofplants and animals in direct terrain investigations. Particularly, such relations between different layers of a forest community and main tree species were shown for the Eurasian forest zone.

To prove the integrity of biogeocoenosis, ecosystem or plant community and their emergent properties should be understood more completely. Raised bogs may be referred to the formations of this type, the progressive growth of which is supported by the positive feedback between the groundwater table at the territory adjacent to the bog and development of sphagnum mosses. The accumulation of dead parts of mosses raises the groundwater table, and this process promotes the further moss growth and peat accumulation. Raised bogs form their own dynamic spatial structure, and minimization of moisture evaporation in hot summer months may be accepted as its emergent feature. Such a raised bog in fact resembles a superorganism, which occupies slowly (up to 10 cm per year) the neighboring territories displacing forest communities. True, this superorganism exists primarily due to the almost complete cessation of the cycle of matter, representing an essential deceleration of the water cycle at the exergy lowest for the forest zone. Such organism features are difficult to find for many typical cases. If not to ignore the traditional experience to distinguish phyto-coenoses as relatively homogenous spatial formations that indicate biogeocoenosis, their integrity may be accepted as an empirical fact. At the same time, it is admitted that the corresponding mechanisms are poorly known.

From the standpoint of postmodern science, there is no necessity to create a single eternal theory. The most topical concept is one that initiates research and provides foundations for verification of competitive hypotheses, as well as stimulates their diversification and does not eliminate their joint acceptability. From these positions, a priori denial of these two models is identical to a non-acceptance of liberal or social views in the organization of human society. It is evident that the individualistic concept is mainly close to the thermodynamic model of the world in its movement to equilibrium and higher entropy. The basis of the individualistic model is maximization of independency of each component and its resilience within the holon that is a rather satisfactory strategy for its survival. But at states far from equilibrium, positive correlation and effects of self-organization and relatively discrete spatial structures arise in the thermodynamic system in accordance to the theory of nonequilibrium thermodynamics. This is a good hypothesis, which is useful to be verified for the biosphere. If to lean upon the theory of dynamic systems, the entire biosphere and its patches may be considered with certainty as nonlinear oscillators of high dimension. From these positions, the efficiency of the fractal model for characterizing the diverse natural processes is well explained. Formally, a fractal set is continuous but undifferentiated, and displays a cascade of bifurcations in the spatial-temporal dynamics of nonlinear oscillators. In nature, it manifests itself in the possibility to distinguish between different-scaled and hierarchically subordinate relatively homogenous formations, boundaries of which may also be divided into such structures. The formal fractal model assumes a self-similar division into indefinitely small units. Real natural objects do not possess this specific feature - their fractality has a finite range of dimensions. Taking into account this property, the model is sufficient for the theoretical definition of a biogeocoenosis as a spatial-temporal cell commensurable with linear dimensions of dominant plant species in it, that is, including some minimal population stable at least in one generation. Direct measurements of the fractal landscape cover the structure using data of remotely sensed investigations and three-dimensional models of relief show that, almost everywhere, a fractal spectrum connecting the amplitude of spatial variation of the variables measured with the spatial wave number reveals quasi-harmonic fluctuations, but describes only some percentage of the spatial variation. However, the relative peaks of the spectrum, corresponding to definite linear sizes, allow correcting a choice of scale for different hierarchical levels. The nature of local spatial homogenous structures may be determined by the organization of relief, soil-forming rocks, soil, dynamics of vegetation, effects of animals, tree windfalls, fires, and so on. The spatial-temporal dynamics of each of these components are stipulated by both their own fluctuations and those originated due to their interactions. As a result, the spatial structure is fractal, and distinguishing the relatively even territories is possible and strictly realizable on the basis of classification of multispectral images, in particular. In the framework of the model of a nonlinear oscillator, the individualistic concept does not contradict the different-scale discontinuity, and although nonlinear oscillators produce effects of self-organization under definite conditions, these models do not contain mechanisms of structural stability. On the basis of these models, a holistic model is impossible to construct. On the other hand, using the multifractal model, the proportion between total energy, free energy, and entropy is deduced resulting in the natural generalization of two models of reality. Following this method, the concept of biogeocoe-nosis as an elementary cell of the biosphere may be of constructive importance in both the organization of terrain investigations for assessment of biogeocoenotic and biosphere processes and the elaboration of corresponding models. The fractal scheme of organization of the biogeo-coenotic cover gives prerequisites for the recalculation of parameters obtained in large-scale studies to those corresponding to the high level of organization. In order to obtain the behavior similar to that of an organism, it is necessary to add contours of positive feedback providing relationships between components of the system and supporting system resilience under conditions far from the thermodynamic equilibrium in the environment to the model of nonlinear dynamics. The fact that such relations are realizable in organizing the components of the biosphere was shown from the example of the bog. A similar type of relation holds for a tropical forest that evaporates moisture intensely. The same is true for boreal spruce forest that evaporates more moisture than a deciduous forest and supports low temperatures favorable for spruce due to expenditures of heat for evaporation. The positive feedback is characteristic of mycorrhizae fungi and their hosts. There are many examples of positive feedbacks in a plant community (mutualism). However, the conditions under which they determine holistic features of biogeocoenosis and those of higher levels of its organizations are not evident and need special investigation. At the same time, their potentially significant role in the maintenance of homeostasis in an aggressive medium is evident, as is the nature of spasmodic and catastrophic transformations at small disturbances, primarily in the margin areas of the system tolerance.

Solar Power

Solar Power

Start Saving On Your Electricity Bills Using The Power of the Sun And Other Natural Resources!

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment