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St Thomas Aquinas was probably the most influential Christian thinker. He constructed logical proofs of the existence of God. One of these proofs referred to God as the ultimate organizer or designer. The argument was that everything had to be organized and this called for an organizer. In turn, the organizer had to be organized and so on back the original organizer who had to have existed from eternity: this was God. If something is organized we tend to feel that an outside influence must have organized it at some time. But it need not be so. The concept of a self-organizing system is important because it now seems that life itself came about through a self-organizing process whereby different chemicals came together in a more or less chance fashion and gradually organized themselves into living patterns. Of course, it may still be argued that there was a need for God to organize the chemicals in such a way that they could become self-organizing.

A chain made out of paper clips suggests that someone has taken the trouble to link paper clips together to make a chain. It is not in the nature of paper clips to make themselves up into a chain. But, if you take a number of paper clips, open them up slightly and then shake them all together in a cocktail shaker, you will find at the end that the clips have organized themselves into short or long chains. The chains are not so neat as chains put together by hand but, nevertheless, they are chains. A teacher can organize her class into groups by assigning each child to a specific group and picking the group leaders. She could also tell the children to organize themselves into groups of five and then let them get on with it in a self-organizing fashion. The diagram shows an object that has a magnet out on a prong (bottom of a Y) and two metal plates on the bulb (top of a Y). If we shake up a number of these objects we find that they tend to organize themselves into the arrangement shown. Once the magnet comes into contact with the metal plate it tends to stick there. In other words once something has happened, it does not un-happen so easily. It is this asymmetry that is the basis of self-organization. In the way our mind deals with the outside world in terms of perception we can find a self-organizing system. (De Bono) See also PRINCIPLE of self-organization, self-organization, self-organizing system. Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y Y

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