ToK FAQs...

What is the Tree of Knowledge System?

     The Tree of Knowledge (ToK) System is a new unified theory of knowledge that maps the pieces of the scientific puzzle in a novel way that connects Quantum Mechanics to Sociological processes and everything in between into a coherent whole. The most novel aspect of the ToK is its visuo-spatial depiction knowledge as consisting of four dimensions of complexity (Matter, Life, Mind, and Culture) that correspond to the behavior of four classes of objects (material objects, organisms, animals, and humans), and four classes of science (physical, biological, psychological, and social).
Crucially, each dimension of complexity is connected to the dimension beneath it via a theoretical "joint point." A joint point provides the causal explanatory framework how the dimension of complexity evolved. For example, the modern synthesis (which is Darwin's theory of natural selection operating on genetic combinations through time) offers the conceptual framework for the evolution of life. A major and novel feature of the ToK System is the proposition that there are four such fundamental joint points and, correspondingly, four dimensions of complexity. Ultimately, the ToK System is a proposal for the theoretical unification of scientific knowledge.

Why is it called the Tree of Knowledge System?

     One reason is that the metaphor of the tree is used to illustrate how various branches of complexity emerge over time from more basic beginnings. Another reason is that the name conveys a holistic, organic and systemic view of knowledge. Finally, the most basic reason is that scientific knowledge has a story to tell about humanity and it is crucial that such knowledge is presented in the context of a meaningful narrative that explicitly emphasizes a moral component. It is in that spirit that the ToK is so named, as it is a reference to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Bible. Of course, in the traditional Genesis story the message is clear: obey God with blind faith and paradise will be delivered—challenge God’s authority and all hell breaks loose.
In contrast, the message of the ToK System is that humanity has matured to the point where it is clear that we must take charge of our own destiny, and to do so we must be committed to asking questions about who we are and where we have come from and be committed to developing rational answers. Thus, metaphorically speaking, we must eat heartily from the Tree of Knowledge if we are to flourish. Yes, eating from the Tree comes with some existential burdens. But it is our best hope. For it is only by acquiring such knowledge can we successfully and deliberately coordinate our actions and move humanity away from Evil toward Good.

Why is the ToK System Needed?

     Viewing the world from the bridge of a unified theory makes one realize just how desperately we humans require a shared general understanding of the way the world works. The most intractable and destructive of human conflicts involve at their root fundamentally different assumptions, and the absence of a shared general frame makes communication regarding those assumptions enormously difficult. Oliver Reiser was a philosopher keenly aware of the need for integrating our knowledge. The following quote from his book, The Integration of Human Knowledge, passionately describes this issue.
In this time of divisive tendencies within and between the nations, races, religions, sciences and humanities, synthesis must become the great magnet which orients us all…[Yet] scientists have not done what is possible toward integrating bodies of knowledge created by science into a unified interpretation of man, his place in nature, and his potentialities for creating the good society. Instead, they are entombing us in dark and meaningless catacombs of learning. (Reiser, 1958, p. 2-3, italics in original). Reiser argued cogently for a global worldview that would ultimately lead to a “world sensorium” in which individual humans, groups, societies and nations were all much more harmoniously in tune with one another.
     Although this is perhaps the most important and noble role of the academy, Reiser pointed his finger at the academy in general and science in particular and basically said, for shame. The foundational task of synthesis has been woefully neglected and the obsession with technical, specialized knowledge is entombing us in dark and meaningless catacombs. Without the beacon of organized, integrated, holistic knowledge, we will find ourselves further and further adrift, awash in enormous technical know-how, but ultimately guided by primitive, partially correct, local justification systems that condemn us to internecine conflicts and myopic actions.

No unified theory or model has succeeded to date in providing a universally accepted frame for the academy. Why might the ToK succeed where so many others have failed?

     The primary reason the ToK will succeed is that it finally offers a much needed macro-level map that defines key concepts (e.g., Life, Mind, Culture) and defines them in relationship to one another.
Related to this is the fact that the ToK System suggests a fundamentally new epistemology and ontology. That is, the dimensions of complexity argument is completely novel and it is the needed piece of the puzzle to see the whole.

Much of what has been published on the ToK System has been concerned with the theoretical unification of psychology. What is the connection?

     As scholars of the field know, unlike its sister disciplines of physics and biology, the discipline of psychology is an incredibly amorphous, pre-paradigmatic field. There are disputes on how to define the field, there are many incommensurate perspectives, and there is not even agreement as to whether the field is a natural science, social science or even a science at all.
It turns out that the discipline of psychology exists on the fault lines of many of our most basic questions. As Gordon Allport observed way back in the sixties, more than any other discipline psychology is connected to and intertwined with the three great branches of learning (the natural and social sciences and the humanities).
     As has been articulated in several papers, the ToK System demonstrates that psychology has traditionally spanned two separate but intimately related problems: (1) the problem of animal behavior, and (2) the problem of human behavior. Accordingly, the solution offered divides the field into two broad, logically consistent domains. The first domain is psychological formalism, which is defined as the science of mind, corresponds to animal behavior, and consists of the basic psychological sciences. The second domain is human psychology, which is defined as the science of human behavior at the individual level and is proposed as a hybrid that exists between psychological formalism and the social sciences.
By solving the problem of psychology, a new path emerges for consilient connections to be developed between the natural and social sciences and humanities