Tue, Jul 30, 2013 - Page 8 News List

New paradigm must be adopted

By Jerome Keating

Ever since Marshall McLuhan popularized the term “global village” in the 1960s, the word “global” has become standard fare in everyday discourse.

The practical business world quickly adopted the metaphor and expressed the need to see all from a new paradigm, a global economy.

Executives instructed their companies to search out global markets, develop global policies, produce global brands, etc.

The business world was not the only one; ecologists adopted it and coined their own term, global warming.

They now seek to raise awareness of this threat, a threat to the planet that businesses bent on profit ironically contribute to.

The arts then got in on the act. In literature and film over the past decade, the concern over global warming spawned a new genre (or sub-genre depending on how one defines it) to address this danger. That genre, “cli-fi,” pointed to the developing and conflicting paradigms and the problems they bring.

The use of the word paradigm gained prominence with Thomas Kuhn in his work The Structure of Scientific Revolution (1962). Kuhn was only describing the paradigm shifts and perspective changes in “physics” i.e. science; but his use of the word was quickly coopted by numerous other fields beyond science, including economics and others where metaphysical paradigms exist with humanistic teleology and purpose.

The global or spherical perspective of Earth had been available for some time as a paradigmatic frame of reference, but it did not have the immediacy of influence that is caused by the reduction of the planet to a village. However has that change in perspective gone far enough?

Today, a half-century later, global warming and cli-fi are pointing out that it has not; we still only frame things in terms of our solar system. Technology continues to advance and consciousness expands, bringing a new immediacy. It is an immediacy that pushes us to look back at how paradigms develop and influence our lives, as well as to look forward in how they can help impact future change. The global village must shrink further to a single home.

Science and metaphysical paradigms have had a long complimentary interplay. Ancient seafarers first saw the Earth as a flat plane or disc and in their resultant paradigm they realized that their ships could take them to trade with lands not visible from their shores.

Homer felt by sailing far enough west on this plane, Greeks might even reach the storied Elysium Fields. Yet at the same time, the plane could not be endless; there must be end points on this “flat sea” that when reached, a ship would fall off.

Pythagoras (sixth century BC) used the science of his time to dispel this belief and introduce a sphere. Ptolemy (90—168 CE) calculated the circumference of this sphere. His calculations were a bit short and Columbus, basing his first voyage (1492) on them was lucky he ran into and “discovered” the present day Americas.

Neptune and the Greek gods had disappeared, but in the new paradigm, sea monsters still lurked within the deep, and Magellan circumventing the sphere still took three years.

The spherical paradigm prevailed of course. Columbus’ achievement promoted a new type of business model, one that allowed Europeans to explore and colonize for trade and economics; this brought its own problems.

In addition, science brought a new paradigm shift when the global perspective changed from geocentric to heliocentric.

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