Whenever there is widespread uncertainty in any field a new ‘organising idea’ is needed to bring clarity and a wider perspective to any difficulty. An organising idea pulls information together so that our minds can make sense of it. And a viable new idea always has to be ‘big’ enough to encompass and create a context for the earlier ideas that attempted to make sense of things or tackle a problem.
The quality of any organising idea is determined by how much of reality it reveals – the richer the resulting pattern in the mind, the more ‘true’ the organising idea is likely to be. You can recognise a true organising idea by seeing whether it reduces complexity.
Confusion flourishes, mistakes are made and harm inadvertently done when we forget that the way we look at any situation is dependent on an active effort of imagination and thinking. We are not mechanical recording instruments looking out on a fixed world. We organise what we see through what we believe we know.
All the various organising ideas in our own head (and at large in the wider culture) play an active role in shaping our perception and thinking, and thus guiding our actions, individually and as a society. If it is effective, a new organising idea will be able to explain the anomalies caused by existing disparate, and often conflicting, ideas or practices. And the clearer things become, the easier it is to find solutions.
The human givens approach to understanding human behaviour is a relatively new organising idea. It arose out of a solid basis of fundamental research and ever-increasing scientific knowledge about human biology, behaviour and psychology — and a genuine interest in how best to put such knowledge to practical use for the sake of both individuals and society in general.