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THE MISSING DIMENSION FREDERIC A. GIBBS, M.D.* Each of us must have wondered at times whether the ever-increasing complexity which science is disclosing cannot be reduced to simple, comprehensible terms. We live in a world oftime, space, and motion. These aspects ofreality are perceived almost as primary sensations. They make the universe vivid, immensely exciting, but distressingly chaotic. Can we discover a new dimension that will introduce order into this apparent chaos? Anyone who takes the trouble to look objectively and calmly at the earthand thethings on it cannot failto be impressed with the fact that subatomic systems are organized into atoms, atoms into molecules, molecules into supermolecules, supermolecules into cells, cells into tissues, tissues into organisms, and organisms into societies. This increasing complexity is as real as time, as demonstrable as space, and as perceptible as motion. A wise man has no trouble seeing that, not only in theory but also in fact, there is a vastrange oforganizational complexity on this earth. I wish to suggest that iforganizational complexity1 is used as a dimension, much that seems chaotic can be brought into a scheme ofsystematic relations. The process that has produced ever-increasing complexity has been given a name; we have called it "Evolution." As the culmination ofevolution , a system has developed that is so complex that it is able partially to reflect and, in a limited way, to approximatethe organizational complexity of the universe. What I am referring to is the human brain. It is an organized system often billion nerve cells. Each cell is a highly organized universe ofmolecules and atomic particles. The human brain represents, so far as we know, thepinnacleoforganizational complexity onthis earth. * Neuropsychiatrie Institute, University ofIllinois College ofMedicine, 912 SouthWood Street, Chicago 12, Illinois. 1 Ralph Gerard (1) has used the term "organism" to cover a large part ofthe concept I put forward here, but "organism" as ordinarily conceived is restricted to the biological levels ofcomplexity and does not lend itselfto quantification. 486 Frederic A. Gibbs · The Missing Dimension Perspectives in Biology and Medicine · Summer i960 However, it is only in recent centuries that the brain has acquired the power to look down through the simpler forms ofbiological organization on which it rests into the organized and relatively unorganized matter which lies at the bottom of the scale of complexity. Only recently has man's self-consciousness become sufficiently developed to let him see that he is, in fact, constructed out of the "dust ofthe earth"—that he is made ofthe same physical material as the rest ofthe universe. Man's awareness ofhis place in nature isjust beginning to dawn upon his intelligence. When the modem informed mind views the world steadily and whole, it sees a relatively small biosphere erected upon a vast, relatively unorganized base ofinorganic matter. Yet this rational view, which recognizes the continuity and unity ofnature and the position of the brain at the apex ofthe hierarchy oforganizational complexity, is not fully appreciated by more than a minority ofthe scientific community or by more than avery small percentage of the general population. The universe outside our brains and the universe inside our brains (when considered at all) are usually regarded as entirely separate and in a state ofconflict. The average man's span ofinterest and attention is so limited that it can be covered by some such label as "labor," "agriculture," "homemaking," "politics," finance, business, physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, "psychology," "art," "philosophy," or "theology." Each person is inclined to consider his view the correct one; however, if these views are concerned with aspects of reality, all have validity and are related. But they are all fragments; an infinite number of partial views, aimed in all directions, is needed to scan the universe. Scientists share human frailties with everyone else; they tend to identify with their subject matter and adjust their values to suit their tastes. The physicist believes that electrons are more important than molecules. The botanist considers plants more interesting than animals. To suggest that man is the most highly organized part ofthe physical universe, and that the organ that gives him distinction and that makes him human is the brain, smacks ofhomocentricity. Yet, it is true...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 486-490
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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