Chaos: A New Main Lesson - Waldorf High School Research Project

Marisha Plotnik & Jim Kotz


Waldorf Journal Project
We continually strive to find alternatives to reductionist science when we teach physics in Waldorf schools. Reductionism, which is an attempt to describe complex systems in terms of their simplest parts, has given us ever more detailed knowledge of the smallest parts of nature. What we have lost in the process is a view of the whole. Chaos theory informs us that the whole can never be reconstructed from its parts: there is a boundary on the predictive value of mathematical models in many physical systems. What cannot be predicted also cannot be controlled. Instead, what chaos
theory reveals are forms within the rhythms of behavior (dynamical systems), and rhythm within the physical forms of nature (fractal geometry). These forms show the specific details of the parts emerging from the image of of the whole. We are, perhaps, approaching a science of the etheric. Taught as a main lesson in the twelfth grade, chaos theory provokes the students into questioning the purposes and implications of mathematical modeling, and suggests how they may use the concepts and techniques of mathematics to view the wholeness of nature in a new way. While chaos theory and its application to physical systems might arguably.