Chapter 5: The Club of Rome and the Limits to Growth

18. The Value of Uncertainty
So what has happened in the realms of scientific thought? The notion of uncertainty has progressively replaced that of certainty. By now modern science, for most scientists, is not a structure where, once and for all, a certain definition of reality is established and remains valid forever, in time and space. Science does not consist of adding bricks a little at a time to a structure where every element represents an eternally valid certainty. Every time science produces a new brick, a new building material, this material means that the whole building system in question has to be reviewed. It is a dynamic vision that makes itself felt, not a vision in which an eternal, universal and immutable, in time and space, truth is defined. Truth is never found, only a greater truth. Every ancient “Truth” is redefined and modified into new “truths”.
The very history of evolution seems ever less like a series of balance situations, and increasingly like a sequence of non-balance situations. It is the identification of an “imbalance” that permits the indication of a purpose, and also the highlighting of the ramifications where numerous possibilities for development always exist. The definition of “balance” sanctions a purpose, often implicitly chosen, that can easily prove to be an “imbalance” if circumstances of observation and perception change. Some modern mathematics books can be cited, for example, such as Kline’s, which highlight how for a given problem tenable logical and mathematical possibilities can arrive at different solutions, all equally valid. What is learnt is that we cannot use ideas about natural science from the deterministic period of last century to justify deterministic views, or views in which every future can only consist of the inevitable development of an evolution with only one way out, considered “scientific”.
Evolution can take several directions: they appear determined only a posteriori while everything that will happen in the future is uncertain. Fortunately. In other words, paradoxically it is by accepting the notion of uncertainty in the natural sciences that the link forming a union, a new alliance between the natural sciences and the so called exact ones is reforged. The latter, discovering that they are only exact for a limited period in time and space differ from the human sciences only in the degree of uncertainty. There is an underlying cultural wave that can be found in hundreds of publications, and that justifies the idea that the secretariat of precision and of the soul created by Musil in his novel through Ulrich has effectively accomplished its task almost two centuries later. Despite having begun with an idea that was never made concrete from the organisational aspect, one can speak of a positive balance sheet. The two half-truths are no longer schizophrenically separate. We are in a post Cartesian reality, ideas are no longer eternally distinct. If they remain always distinct they often become irreconcilable. There is an ever growing consensus on the fact that between one field of human knowledge and another there are grey areas, overlapping areas. Between poetry and literature, economics, political sciences, chemistry and physics, there are no irreconcilable splits. The poet’s inspiration is close to the physicist’s intuition. The custom of cutting reality into slices was, after all, simply an easy tool of convenience to help promote research in a certain number of sectors, until the detail was integrated into the whole. This old method of thought is what caused the European disasters last century. It was the exclusive State-Nation and the lack of understanding of political federalism, condemned because “confused” and because it admitted, and even stimulated a division of sovereignty.
It will take a little time for culture to be courageous and mature enough to fully welcome these ideas: to accept uncertainties without turning to drugs, physical, intellectual or ideological, hoping in this way to eliminate life’s challenges and pluralism, both in day to day living and in the historical dimension.
Let us, therefore, avoid building new medieval castles with the false hope that by hiding behind these ramparts we can enjoy greater security. It is precisely this kind of attitude that will allow the psychoanalysts to freely state that we are preparing our own downfall in the reality on the move in the contemporary world. Uncertainty forms part of the order of things. It is through uncertainty that a real possibility for progress exists, and with the risks taken in overcoming every kind of frontier, our best survival and development are made possible. It is on this uncertainty that the future of Europe and the World hinges.
Now it can be better understood why my report to the Club of Rome – an economic analy­sis closely linked to some cultural fundamentals – after the one on the Limits to Growth had as its objective the Limits to Certainty.
I pictured the following dialogue as an “Intermezzo.”

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