The science based on Darwin holds that plants evolve over time to fit various ecological niches. This bunchgrass, for example, evolved to take advantage of hot, windy climates.
The science based on Goethe holds that plants have an essential nature which exists in potentiality within plants and expresses itself in response to varying conditions in a manner similar to the evolving relationship between the first rounded leaf of spring and the long, deeply cut leaves of Autumn.
Dandelions, or Lion’s Teeth
Note the rounded leaves at the left and the older, deeply cut leaves in the individual at the centre of the image.
The difference seems to be an attitude to spirit and time. With Darwin’s science, time is a line, that is always pushing forward. With Goethe’s, time is a continuum, that opens out of itself, like this arrow-leafed balsam root, a gorgeous yellow sunflower, at the end of its season.
Diversity is certainly key. This Scotch Thistle expresses the same tendencies to leaf as the dandelion or the balsam root, the same sense of extension, and the same tendency for individual stalks. Like the wheat grass, which lays down seeds in a balanced pattern and at set intervals, it lays down spines. It expresses these tendencies differently, but as Goethe might have pointed out, they are the same tendencies. They are the same ones in these old, twisted sagebrush stalks…
Where Darwininan sees a ladder of being, Goethean science sees an opening of potential in response to conditions. Neither is wrong, but perhaps it would be good to give Goethean science a real try. Through exposure to it, society might transform itself into a field of energy in which, say, Sunnis and Shiites, or Ukrainians and Russians, have the ability to express their common potentiality, rather than their differences and their points of historical divergence. The thought that this yellow clover …
(Yeah, yellow! Go figure!)
… is essentially the same plant as that sagebrush above gives me pause to marvel, and to consider that the great philosopher of potentiality (He called it “being”.), Heidegger, has often been dismissed as a Nazi (He was, for a time.), although his philosophy held within it the potentiality to diverge from Nazism (which he did), while the deterministic philosophies of those who have dismissed him hold within them the potentiality to grow into rigid, top down societies, such as was the 1930s German Nazi state, and such as is the IS state in Syria and Iraq, which is currently dividing and killing people on the basis of points of rigid, evolutionary diverge of social forms. To talk about Nature is to talk about ethics. Maybe it’s time to take the long view, like this: