Order in Nature
I am looking for ways to teach the students about "order"
in nature. In other words ways that they could appreciate the beauty of
the natural order in such a way that they would be able to explain why it
is beautiful, well ordered and systematic.
Answer-like reply: Opinions vary as to whether, or not, nature is ordered. A
quotation that deserves to be more widely know than it is goes "The purpose
of science is to find meaningful simplicity in the midst of disorderly
complexity" Herbert Simon.
Simon was a Nobel Laureate which shows you how serious a person might object
to the view that nature is ordered. On the other hand Simon was an economist
so it is not entirely clear he was dealing with Nature (ha, ha).
I have been so bold as to edit the statement to.... "The purpose of science
is to find meaningful simplicity in the midst of natures confusing
complexity" This edition relies heavily upon the influence, upon me, of
Henry H. Bauer's thinking (Bauer himself neither endorses, nor disavows,
this modification being blamed upon him). Bauer is a chemist and clear
thinker/observer of both Nature and scientific activity. I recommend his book
"Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method" highly.
Michael Loop, Ph.D
Not all things in the Universe are "ordered". Cream poured into a cup of
coffee and stirred does not become "ordered". On the other hand, consider
snowflakes. If one could examine every snowflake in a snowbank (very
disordered) one would be very unlikely to see two that were the same.
Search, or have students search: "Fibonacci numbers in nature" and
you/they will find an extraordinary number of "ordered" phenomena, but the
fundamental Fibonacci number: (1 + sqrt(5))/2 = is irrational, which means
it has no repeating decimal sequence. So in "Nature" you can find order
imbedded within disorder and disorder imbedded within order. An
In my opinion this is more a philosophical question than a science question.
You can get a lot of arguments about whether or not there is some systematic
order in nature - also in my opinion there is not. Evolution is messy and
does not lead to any particular goal or design. Nature IS beautiful, and
things do fit together in amazing ways. The beauty is in the complexity of
relationships and numbers of species, the chaos of nature is itself
beautiful. "Natural order" like "balance" is not terminology present day
ecologists are likely to use, current thinking is more on the lines of
dynamics and change.
Everything in nature as in the rest of the world has a cause and effect and
works together perfectly. Try explaining to them the "circle of life." Here
are some examples. Walnut trees drop their walnuts to the ground. Squirrels
eat the nuts which help to fatten them up for the winter months to survive.
The squirrels will burry extra nuts to dig up later, but often they are
never found again. Those nuts then grow underground and turn into a large
walnut tree. This tree provides shelter and safety for the squirrel and many
other animals. When this tree gets large enough, it will drop walnut seeds
and the whole circle continues. Other example is that plants flower in
spring or fall. Insects fly from flower to flower, gathering pollen on their
legs and taking it to female plants. The plant can then form seeds. Some of
those seeds get stuck on animals as they brush by them, then later brushed
off somewhere else where they can then be buried into the ground to grow
into a new plant. Decomposition of the dying plants along with waste from
animals helps to fertilize the new plant, causing it to grow into a new
large plant. Sometimes the animals can eat its leaves or its fruit,
providing sustenance for them, or providing perches for songbirds, or if it
is a larger plant, for birds of prey to sit at and look for food. I hope
this helps you!
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Update: June 2012