How do cats work?

The reason we had no idea how cats worked was because, since Newton, we had proceeded by the very simple principle that essentially, to see how things work, we took them apart. If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have in your hands is a non-working cat. Life is a level of complexity that almost lies outside our vision; is so far beyond anything we have any means of understanding that we just think of it as a different class of object, a different class of matter; 'life', something that had a mysterious essence about it, was god given - and that's the only explanation we had. The bombshell comes in 1859 when Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'. It takes a long time before we really get to grips with this and begin to understand it, because not only does it seem incredible and thoroughly demeaning to us, but it's yet another shock to our system to discover that not only are we not the centre of the Universe and we're not made of anything, but we started out as some kind of slime and got to where we are via being a monkey. It just doesn't read well.

--Douglas Adams

How do cats work?

What we observe objectively is existing - but it is unalive, dead. In the interest of scientific objectivity, we have learned to kill the living even before we proceed to make any statements about it. Thus we build, of necessity, a mechanical machine-like picture of the living, a picture in which is lacking the most essential quality, the specific aliveness.

The typical mechanistic physicist thinks according to the principles of machine construction, which he essentially has to serve. A machine has to be perfect. Hence the thinking and acts of the physicist must be "perfect." Perfectionism is an essential characteristic of mechanistic thinking. It tolerates no mistakes; uncertainties, shifting situations are unwelcome. The mechanist works on artificial models of nature when he experiments. The mechanistic experiment of the 20th century has lost the essential part of genuine research: the handling and imitation of natural processes, which stamped the work of all pioneers in natural science. All machines if the same type are alike to the finest details. Deviations are observed as errors. That is fully correct in the realm of machine construction. But this principle, when applied to processes in nature, inevitably leads into confusion. Nature is inexact. Nature operated not mechanically, but functionally. Hence the mechanist always misses nature when he applies to it his mechanistic principles. There is a lawful harmony in natural functions, which penetrates and rules all being. But this harmony and lawfulness is not the strait-jacket of mechanistic technology into which mechanistic man has forced his character and his civilization. Mechanistic civilization is a deviation from natural law; more, it is a perversion of nature, a life-inimical variant, as a mad dog represents a sick variant of the species, dog. Hence mechanistic man can find no access to nature, outside the constriction of machines. Natural processes are characterized by the lack of any kind of perfectionism, in spite of the lawfulness of their functions. In a naturally thriving forest, to be sure, a unitary principle of growth functions. Yet there are no two trees, and, in the hundreds of thousands of trees, no two leaves which would be photographically identical. The realm of variation if infinitely wider then the realm of uniformity. Although the unitary natural law functions and is to be detected not only in the basis of all nature, but also in each single and smalles detail, there is nothing in nature that could be traced to perfectionism. Natural processes are uncertain, in spite of their lawfulness. Perfectionism and uncertainty are mutually exclusive. One cannot advance the functions of our solar system as a refutation of this assertion. To be sure, the orbits of the sun and the planets have not changed for thousands of years. But thousands of years, indeed millions of years, play only a small role in the natural process. The origin of the planetary system is as uncertain as its future. This is widely known. This even the planetary system, this "perfect" mechanism of the astrophysicist, is imperfect, in the :unlawful" fluctuations of thermical periods, sun spots, earthquakes, etc. Neither weather formation nor the tides function according to mechanical laws. The failure of scientific mechanism in these realms of nature is plain; their dependency on the functions of a primordial cosmic energy is basically just as clear. There is a natural law, so much is certain. But this natural law is not mechanical.

I can kill an animal and dissect ir as I please. No one would think of saying that the animal is made up of the parts into which I have dissected it. This is basically valid as a criticism of every kind of mechanistic research: The experimental interference changes the object of research. The staining of cancer tissue extinguishes its living quality. The decomposition of light by a prism only tells us how the light behaves under the influence of refraction but not how light behaves without such an influence.

--Wilhelm Reich