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Name: Eric
Status: educator
Grade: 9-12
Location: NY
Country: N/A
Date: 8/17/2005


Question:
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.


Replies:
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 interesting exploration.

Vince Calder


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.

J. Elliott


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!

Grace Fields



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