Dual Closure a New Tool for Recognizing Thresholds Between Levels of Organization in Big History


Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis


Big Historians study the development of the universe and how it passed through different phases. A fascinating trend is the historical increase in the complexity of a part of all systems. To analyse this trend, rankings have been proposed with different scientific and pedagogical aims. For example, they rank epochs, regimes, levels of organisation or dynamic domains. As a result of this variation, the number of levels differs between approaches, while the systems ranked at these levels are the result of unequal processes and belong to different overall types. Such diversity invites a re-examination of the fundamentals involved in these ranking processes. Moreover, if rankings are to be predictive, they must be consistent in their logic. To this end, it would be useful to have a sequence of levels that share a common logic.

As such a common logic, and building on existing systems science and hierarchy theory, a new theory called O-theory proposes the use of a process called ‘dual closure’. Each successive dual closure represents a threshold between the old and new types of objects and their respective levels of organisation. In this way a causal logic is obtained, ranking systems from fundamental particles to organisms with brains, all of which are addressed by the generic name of operator. The hierarchy of the operators provides a basic framework that can be used to re-examine existing transdisciplinary classifications and learn more about why they differ in the number of levels they have. It is discussed how big historians might more easily achieve their broad goals if they added the operator hierarchy to their theoretical toolbox.


Author Biography

Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis, Wageningen University and Research, Wageningen, Netherlands

Gerard Jagers Op Akkerhuis. Evolutionist and system scientist. Driven by a lifelong passion for evolution and complexity, Gerard studies the past, present and the future of the universe. A unique aspect of Gerard’s work is the use of a modern, scientific version of the classical ‘Scala Naturae’ called the ‘Operator Hierarchy’. This hierarchy offers a fundamental mechanistic basis for the classification of objects in the world, connects the evolution of the abiotic world with that of the biotic world, and suggests extrapolations beyond the current horizon of evolution. This hierarchy also serves as a basis for defining the concepts of ‘organism’ and of ‘life’.

Gerard received his masters in Wageningen (1986, Cum Laude), received his first PhD in Ecotoxicology (Wageningen, 1993) and, seventeen years later, his second PhD in philosophy (Nijmegen, 2010). Gerard has written over 100 publications and several books: “The operator hierarchy”, “The pursuit of complexity”, “Evolution and transitions in complexity” and “ScienceBites”. He has been interviewed by a national newspaper in the series about “Controversial thinkers whose ideas can change our vision of the world”. His work has been discussed on radio and television.