International Federation for Systems Research Conversation
St. Magdalena Conference Hotel, Linz, Austria
April 14-19, 2012

Linz, Austria


In recent years there has been discussion of what has been called “science 2.”  In my view what distinguishes science 2 is the addition of a dimension — the amount of attention paid to the observer.  Science 1 excluded the observer in an effort to create objective observations.  This strategy worked well in the natural sciences and has produced many useful results in the social sciences.  But social systems are different from physical systems.  Theories of social systems, when acted upon, change the behavior of social systems.  This interaction between theory and phenomenon does not occur in the physical sciences.  However, if we include the observer in scientific observations, are we still doing science?  The underlying metaphor for science 1 is taking a photograph; a theory should be a good representation of the phenomenon of interest.   The underlying metaphor of science 2 is riding a bicycle; one must achieve one’s purposes in an environment of potholes, traffic, and cross-winds, while obeying the rules of the road.  If well-defined methods and procedures can be defined for science 2, then in that sense science 2 knowledge can be examined through peer review, just as can science 1 knowledge.


Background materials

Second Order Science: Logic, Strategies, Methods (Slides)
Stuart Umpleby

Second Order Science: an Example of Emergence in Social Systems (Slides)
Helmut Loeckenhoff

Third Order Cybernetics: Biosemeosis and the Logical Contrasts between Electro-chemical and Electro-mechanical Cybernetics
Jerry LR Chandler

Cybernetics and the Russian Intellectual Tradition (Paper) (Slides)
Tatiana Medvedeva

Final Report: Science Too! The Science 2 Team: A Report from the 2012 IFSR Conversation (Paper) (Slides)


Table 1 describes the features of science 1 and science 2.
Table 2 compares the purposes and methods of science 1, science 2, and law.
Science 1 creates descriptions of how the world works.
Science 2 creates methods for acting successfully to achieve one’s purpose.
Law is a set of rules that constrain human behaviors within acceptable limits.

Table 1: Features of Science 1 and Science 2

Science One
Science Two
Cause and effect
Form of knowledge
Outside the system observed
Part of the system observed
Necessary conditions
Reliability of knowledge
Agreement or acceptance
Create or design


Table 2: The Role of Knowledge in Science 1, Science 2 and Law

Science One
Science Two
What is the purpose?
The purpose is to describe how the world works.
The purpose is to help people work together to achieve common goals.
The purpose is to achieve political stability and to protect human rights.
Who practises it?
Scientists are highly educated.  They have special training.
Managers sometimes have education in management. They need leadership skills.
Lawyers and legislators generally have a legal education.
How is knowledge codified?
Knowledge is codified in the form of theories.
Knowledge is embodied in the form of methods.
Experience is codified in laws and court judgments.
How is knowledge developed?
Knowledge is developed using scientific methods.
Knowledge is developed through experience, consulting practice.
Laws and precedents result from elections, legislation, and court appeals.
How is knowledge passed on?
Knowledge is preserved in scientific literature and taught in science courses.
Methods are learned and passed on by using them.
People are expected to obey laws.  Laws are enforced by the police and courts.
How are rules changed?
Theories change through testing, experimentation, and invention.
Methods change through imitation, experimentation, and innovation.
Laws are changed through the legal process – elections, legislation, enforcement, court appeals.
Why are ideas accepted?
Theories are accepted as the best available explanation of observations.
Methods are accepted as a means to improve group performance.
Laws are obeyed partly out of desire for a stable society and partly out of fear of punishment.
The nature of the journey.
Theories are steps in an endless search for truth.
Methods aid coordination, production of goods, and conflict resolution.
A body of laws, precedents, and judicial interpretations assure political and social stability.

(from left to right: Helmut Lockenhoff, Leoni Salamans, Allenna Leonard, Jerry Chandler, Michael Lissack, Stuart Umpleby, Tatiana Medvedeva)

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