Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chapter I

The Perspective of Science

A city is an organism, a living, breathing biological organism.
This is different than saying that a city is like organism. Great writers like William Cronin in the classic Nature’s Metropolis, and others such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Anne Spirn and Aldo Leopold have put forward the image of a city as an organism. Theirs is an environmental concern. They are saying that like any organism, a city must be taken care of to keep it healthy. Their perspective is in the domain of human control, of human will.
In contrast, there are scientific perspectives outside the domain of human will. For example, the Theory of Evolution is about something that happens to us, something over which we have no control.  It is from this kind of perspective that I am going to look at cities. It is from the perspective of theoretical science. Philosopher of science Ernest Nagle characterizes theoretical science as requiring “… that inquiry be directed at the relations of dependence between things irrespective of their bearing upon human values." pg 10.
We think of the creating and managing of cities as a human enterprise. From the human perspective, that is true. However, from the perspective of science, that is not true. From the perspective of science humans are necessary but unremarkable organelle of what I call the Metropolis Organism.
That these two apparently contradictory perspectives co-exist is not the subject of this book. However, it is clear that they do, and here I will focus exclusively on cities from the perspective of science.
In the next chapter I am going to describe how I came to this perspective. Thereafter I am going to appeal to biological logic to demonstrate the scientific validity of this point of view, as well as roll it in my hand like a cut stone to reveal its facets.

1 comment:

Snowbrush said...

But what KIND of an organism is a city, and are all cities the same kind of organism? When I consider LA, for example, I can not conceptualize it as other than a parasite, a leech or a mosquito, maybe. Only a case could be made that leeches and mosquitos at least benefit other organisms, and I suppose LA does too--rats and roaches, anyway--but I should think that a great many more organisms would benefit if LA simply ceased to exist, and that such organisms as it does benefit would get along very nicely without it. No?