Making Curves in Science

A more curvaceous, holistic science is possible.

Selected literature on decolonizing science; and reconciliation of Western and Indigenous science

Science and culture:
Western science could learn a thing or two from the way science is done in other cultures

"science is part of culture, and ... how science is done largely depends on the culture in which it is practised"

Maurizio Iaccarino

EMBO reports   VOL 4, NO 3, 2003, p. 220-223

Knowing Home:

Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science, Book 1

Edited by: Gloria Snively and Wanosts'a7 Lorna Williams

Philosophy of Native Science

"Native American philosophy of science has always been a broad-based ecological philosophy, based not on rational thought alone...but also the knowledge and truth gained from interaction of body, mind, soul, and spirit with all aspects of Nature."

Gregory Cajete, in Anne Waters (Ed.) American Indian Thought, Blackwell Publishing Inc., 2004, p.45-57

Knowing Home:

Braiding Indigenous Science with Western Science, Book 2

Edited by: Gloria Snively and Wanosts'a7 Lorna Williams

Indigenous anti-colonial knowledge as ‘heritage knowledge’ for promoting Black/African education in diasporic contexts  


"We pursue anti-colonial education not simply in affirmation and self-defence of our knowledges and experiences, but also to liberate our selves, bodies and minds from Eurocentric mimicry."

George Sefa Dei

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada 

Decolonization: Indigeneity,  Education &  Society 

Vol. 1,  No.  1, 2012, pp. 102-­‐119              

Prospect of Integrating African Indigenous Knowledge Systems into the Teaching of Sciences in Africa

"For thousands of years, the African indigenous knowledge systems existed and have their own education systems, long before western educations were introduced by the European colonialists and missionaries. The introduction of the western educations meant that learners faced the conflicting demands of the new education and those of their home cultures, because the purpose, content, and processes of knowledge transmission conflicts with those of indigenous education."

J. Abah, P. Mashebe, D.D. Denuga

American Journal of Educational Research, 2015, Vol. 3, No. 6, pp.668-673

Instrumental Works in my process of coming to know....

Selected literature on Western nonlinear science; and the reconciliation of linear (reductionist) with nonlinear (holistic) paradigms in science and medicine

Complexity in biology: Exceeding the limits of reductionism and determinism using complexity theory

"The ultimate aim of scientific research is to understand the natural world. In order to achieve this goal, Western science has relied on different cognitive strategies, including simplification, both in terms of analysis and explanation. As the British natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) put it, “Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” In a way, examples of simplification include using idealized models, such as a ‘perfect sphere rolling down a smooth plane in a vacuum’; conducting experiments in a strictly controlled environ­ment such as the laboratory; analysing complex systems by reducing them to their individual parts [reductionism]; and generally by using a linear and deterministic concept of how the world, including life, works."....

"An epistemological rethink is needed to instigate a paradigm shift from the Newtonian model that has dominated science, to an appraisal of complexity that includes both holism and reductionism…"

Fulvio Mazzocchi

EMBO reports VOL 9, NO 1 , 2008, pp. 10-14

The Limits of Reductionism in Medicine: Could Systems Biology Offer an Alternative?

"Since Descartes and the Renaissance, science, including medicine, has taken a distinct path in its analytical evaluation of the natural world [1,2]. This approach can be described as one of “divide and conquer,” and it is rooted in the assumption that complex problems are solvable by dividing them into smaller, simpler, and thus more tractable units. Because the processes are “reduced” into more basic units, this approach has been termed “reductionism” and has been the predominant paradigm of science over the past two centuries. Reductionism pervades the medical sciences and affects the way we diagnose, treat, and prevent diseases. While it has been responsible for tremendous successes in modern medicine, there are limits to reductionism, and an alternative explanation must be sought to complement it."

Andrew C. Ahn* , Muneesh Tewari, Chi-Sang Poon, Russell S. Phillips
PLoS Medicine, VOL 3, NO 6, June 2006, pp. 709-713

A Brief History of Systems Biology


‘‘Every object that biology studies is a system of systems.’’ - Francois Jacob (1974).

"A system is a network of mutually dependent and thus interconnected components comprising a unified whole. Every system exhibits emergent behavior, a unique property possessed only by the whole system and not shared to any great degree by the individual components on their own.....Currently, this is an age of systems, and systems structure and behavior should form the core of all student biology courses. All biological systems are effectively systems within systems, as indicated by Jacob above. Understanding the complexity of biological systems represents the greatest intellectual and experimental challenge yet faced by any biologist."

Anthony Trewavas

The Plant Cell, Vol. 18, October 2006, pp. 2420–2430,

Clinical Applications of a Systems Approach 

"Reductionism becomes less effective when the act of dividing a problem into its parts leads to loss of important information about the whole....The primary side effect of a reductionist approach is that the act of reduction (from larger to smaller) disregards component–component interactions and the dynamics that result from them. Therefore, as a general rule, reductionism is less helpful for systems where interactions between components dominate the components themselves in shaping the system-wide behavior (Table 1). In clinical medicine, complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary artery disease, or asthma are examples where this rule may apply. In these examples, a single factor is rarely implicated as solely responsible for disease development or presentation. Rather, multiple factors are often identified, and the disease evolves through complex interactions between them."....

"Systems medicine, as we see, begins to explore medicine beyond linear relationships and single parameters. Systems medicine involves multiple parameters obtained across multiple time points and spatial conditions to achieve a holistic perspective of an individual."

Andrew C. Ahn* , Muneesh Tewari, Chi-Sang Poon, Russell S. Phillips, PLoS Medicine, Vol. 3, NO 7, July 2006, pp. 956-960

Nonlinear Systems in Medicine

"Many achievements in medicine have come from applying linear theory to problems. Most current methods of data analysis use linear models....However, nonlinear behavior commonly occurs within human systems due to their complex dynamic nature....Nonlinear thinking has grown among physiologists and physicians over the past century, and nonlinear system theories are beginning to be applied to assist in interpreting, explaining, and predicting biological phenomena."

"[Reductionism] is the basis of linear system analysis, where output is proportional to or can be determined through applying simple differential equations to the input. Yet systems within nature, including the human body, frequently lack mechanical periodicity or linear dynamics and thus are referred to as nonlinear systems [2]. Within nonlinear systems, output is usually not proportional to input, and output for the same input value may not be constant over time [3]. Furthermore, in contrast to linear systems, breaking a nonlinear system down into its elements (parts) and analyzing those parts under controlled conditions does not accurately reflect the complex behavior present, nor capture the dynamic relationships operating between various elements [4, 5]."

John P. Higginsa


Beyond Reductionism: Systems Biology and Drug Discovery


Modern pharmaceutical development has reached an impasse. Reductionism, as the underlying bioscience of pharmacology, no longer provides a model able to cope with the emerging view of biological complexity. As a result, the reductionist “one target - one drug - one disease” approach is failing to treat complex disease. A new approach is required. Systems biology offers a promising new approach. With advances in biotechnology and computational analysis, systems biology is allowing us to observe, more comprehensively, the biological whole. Through systems analysis, disease is understood to arise from interacting networks that span multiple levels of biological organization... This new understanding of disease is resulting in a new approach to the treatment of disease that involves treating the whole disease network using multi-component, multi-target and synergistic medicines [such as those found in herbal and nutritional medicines]. This approach is not new, however. An epistemological approach that embraces the biological whole and a treatment approach that utilizes the healing power of complex synergistic medicines is ancient and also still alive today in many indigenous and traditional medical systems...

Laura Batson

CAND Vital Link,  Spring 2014,  pp. 37-45

Additional reads in complexity science, systems science, and holism in nature

Additional reads in traditional, indigenous and holistic medicine