21.2 Methodology of levels
Now I will attempt to identify and characterize all the different levels within
the set of multiple generative levels. Let us sketch out some of the generic methodological
steps that might be commonly used in this kind of scientific investigation, a sketch
that tries to illuminate degrees and sub-degrees.
To begin with, we try to understand the overall nature of each degree, whether
in psychology or physics. We investigate what overall function that degree has within
the theistic universe. We focus on that particular degree or sub-degree and first
examine that level by itself. It is important to determine whether its function
is aided by the interaction of parts arranged in some space. Any such parts should
be found and investigated.
Functions may be accomplished not only by the interaction of spatially-arranged
parts but also by internal sub-degrees, especially if different sub-steps involve
distinct and successive qualities that might be arranged as derivative dispositions.
Science is, on the whole, rather good at investigating the detailed spatial and
temporal sub-processes needed to fulfill particular functions: everything from structures
of atoms through structures of cells to structures of planets. This feature of modern
science is fortunate. The deductive procedures of the scientific theism of Part
III are (as yet) poor at making suggestions for
spatial multiplicity and temporal sequences. They are more oriented to probing the
‘deep structures’ of individual causes and effects.
To investigate (within theistic science) any structure at any level, we have
to examine also the surrounding levels within the overall generative structure of
the universe. In the end we cannot avoid this. The behavior of a given degree will
necessarily depend, to some extent, on deriving dispositions from prior degrees
and on constraining selections from what has already happened at later degrees.
Theistic science is always able to put a given level within broader context. It
is able to provide a broader set of reasons and consequences for its operation.
This broader context is needed not just to understand the abstract ‘why questions’
but also to answer specific questions of cause and effect.
Various simplifications may be advisable in order to (temporarily!) remove that
broader context. It will often be a fruitful method to ‘bracket off’ nearby or distinct
degrees. This removal is always intellectually possible and sometimes useful for
methodological reasons. A consequence of this bracketing-off is that scientists
may (and do!) spend their entire life focusing on just one level and hence learn
a great deal about just one particular sub-degree. With the existence (by Chapter
19) of sub-sub-degrees of that level, there is always a
great deal to learn. The world is a wonderfully complicated place and is comprehensible
only gradually. Within an overall theistic science, such bracketting will never
be a long-term solution.