1 Origins of Nursing Science

The Science of Unitary Human Beings 2.0

Howard Butcher

1.0 Introduction: Origins

Nursing science does not develop in a vacuum (Rogers. 1970).  Rogers believed nursing is a scientific extension of humans interest in life and its many manifestations. Nursing science’s origins are woven into the origins of our universe.Knowledge of our past, our origins provides an essential “foundation for present understanding and for evolving theories and principles that must guide nursing practice” (Rogers, p. 4). Thus, understanding of Rogers postulates and principles begins with understanding the origins and nature of the universe. Rogers (1992) asserted that nursing science evolves out of a “multiplicity of knowledge, from many sources, to create a kaleidoscope of potentialities” (p.  ). An examination of the “footnotes” and “related reading” throughout Rogers landmark and revolutionary book “An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing” published in 1970 includes an incredible array of sources, including notable philosophy science texts including the works of Bronowski. Popper, Toulmin, Whitehead, Hempel, Russell; other key philosophical writings by Langer and Polanyi; physicists including Bennett, Bohr, Einstein, Capek, Feynman, Ganow, Heisenberg, and deBroglie; theories of evolution by Rensch, deChadrin, Dobzhansky, Dunn, Herrick, and Mumford; other scientists including Barrett, Bertalanffy, Dubos, Cannon, Maslow, Campbell, Asimov, Selye, Lewin, Burr and Northrup; and other notables like Frankl, Huxley, Koestler, Margenau, May, and Carl Rogers, just to name a few.Rogers’ science of nursing emerged out of a synthesis and resynthsis of “facts and ideas” Rogers’ gleaned from these sources, a mass of others she cited, and her own thinking.

Rogers repeatedly stated that nursing was a noun, referring a body of abstract knowledge. She believed nursing needed to be grounded on a “sound foundation” that gives n nursing a scientific identity. Science she defined as an “organized body of abstract knowledge arrived at by scientific research and logical analysis” Rogers, 1992, p.   ). New knowledge and scientific research Rogers (1992) believed involves testing of theories using multiple methods including “quantitive qualitative methods and encompass philosophic, descriptive, and other approaches” (p.   ). She also believed new tools and methods needed to be developed that were consistent with the Science of Unitary Human Beings.

The uniqueness of any discipline and science lies in its unique focus, its phenomenon of concern (Rogers, 1992). Nursing’s phenomenon of concern according to Rogers is “people and the world they live in” (p.  ). The aim, or purpose of nursing “is to promote health and well-being for all persons wherever they are” (p.   ).  Nursing is both a science and and art, and the art of nursing is “the creative use of the science of nursing for human betterment” (p.   ). Rogers emphasized the uniqueness and distinctiveness of nursing knowledge. Nursing she stated was “not the study of the biological world” and theories derived from sociology are specific to sociological phenomena, theories of physics are specific to the physical world. Research in other fields “is not a substitute” for building nursing specific knowledge.


1.1 Beginnings: The Origin of Universe and Life

“How did the universe begin?” Rogers (19970, p. 3) asks in the introduction to Unit 1. Rogers did not explicitly answer this cosmological question, and focused on the evolution of human beings  and culture beginning 19 million years ago. Since Rogers first posed this question, new knowledge and understandings of the origin of the universe and the origins of life and humanity.

In the beginning or right before, explains Alan Burdick (2017) in “Why Time Flies” there was no time. There was no mass, no energy, no gravity, no motion, no change. Hawking (1988) like other proponents of this hypothesis believe the universe materialized literally out of nothing, and time and matter, and thus time and matter emerged out of the Big Bang.  Or, was our universe contracting, reaching a minimum size just before the Big Bang as Sean Carrol suggests, and has ben expanding ever since, “like a Slinky that falls on the floor, reaching its highest compression upon impact, and then bounces back to larger dimension” (Lightman, 2018, p. 169)?  In Carroll’s “Big Bounce” model, time has existed forever, coming from infinite time and heading toward infinite time.While theories about the origin of the universe abound and are debated, and we don’t know if the universe is finite or infinite, whether there is one or multiple universes, we live in a universe, a vast sea of energy and dynamic spacetime that humans can see and experience, a universe we are in mutual process with, filled with energy, galaxies, stars, dark energy, and dark matter.

Rogers notions of continuous change, accelerating evolution, and postulate of energy fields are deeply grounded in an understanding of the universe and evolution, but the evolution of the cosmos and of life. At the time of Rogers’ creation of the Science of Unitary Human Beings, new understanding of the universe were exploding in the scientific literature. Many of these writings were referenced in her 1970 text. Writings by deBroglie, deChardin, Einstein, C. J. Herrick, Mumford and many others referenced by Rogers describe an evolutionary view of the universe and human beings that now extend out and resonate with current contemporary theories. For example, Teilhard deChardin’s holistic philosophy of human beings, physics, spirituality, and evolution is notable in how Rogers’ referenced his work as describing all matter as in a “process of becoming” (Rogers, 1970, p. 58). deChardin, in his major life work, The Phenomenon of Man, presented his hypotheses concerning the origins of life, which started with an explanation about the genesis of the universe. He explained the evolution of life from simple to more complex organisms, how life on earth progressed from plants to animals, from simple forms of fish, amphibians, vertebrates, mammals, to human beings.

Science has consistently shown that the the universe continually evolves. In the late 1990s, two independent research teams, the Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-z Supernova Team shocked the community of physics when they discovered the rate of expansion of the universe was not slowing down, but was actually accelerating. Dark energy, which makes up more than 70% of the universe is thought to account for the accelerated expansion of universe( Randell, 2011).

The Big Bang/Big Bounce theories are efforts to explain what happened at the very beginning of our universe. Discoveries in astronomy and physics have consistently shown that our universe did in fact have a beginning. A multitude of science books authored by prestigious scientists and science writers has explained the origin and evolution of the universe (Deutsch, 1997, 2011; Ferris, 1997; Green, 1999; 2004; 2011; Guth, 1997; Hawking, 1988, 2001; Randall, 2011; Smolin, 1997; 2013; Weinberg, 1993). These writers agree that prior to the origin of the our universe there was nothing, and during and after that moment there was something: our universe. According to the standard theory, our universe sprang into existence as “singularity” around 13.75 billion years ago. Singularities are zones which defy our current understanding of physics. They are thought to exist at the core of “black holes.” Black holes are areas of intense gravitational pressure. The pressure is thought to be so intense that finite matter is actually squished into infinite density (a mathematical concept which truly boggles the mind). These zones of infinite density are called “singularities.” Our universe is thought to have begun as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, infinitely dense, something – a singularity.

After its initial appearance, the universe apparently inflated (the “Big Bang”), expanded and cooled, going from very, very small and very, very hot, to the size and temperature of our current universe. In first-generation stars, heavier elements like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen were formed. Aging first-generation stars then expelled them out into space – we, who consist of these elements, are thus literally born from stardust. The heaviest elements were born in the explosions of supernovae. The forces of gravity subsequently allowed for the formation of newer stars and of planets. Finally, in the process of biological evolution from bacteria-like tiny cells (the last universal common ancestor) to all life on earth, including us humans, complex life forms arose from simpler ones.

Essential to the spontaneous origin of life was the availability of organic molecules as building blocks. The famous “prebiotic soup” experiment by Stanley Miller (Miller 1953, Miller-Urey experiment) had shown that amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, arose among other small organic molecules spontaneously in the lab by sparking a mixture of methane, hydrogen, ammonia and water. These conditions were assumed to simulate those on the primitive earth.It is now widely agreed that at the origin of life there was not the current DNA/(RNA)/protein system for gene information on one hand and catalysis, regulation, and structural function on the other. It would beg the question, what came first, protein or DNA? Protein catalysis without gene information, which allows it to be maintained and propagated, is not sufficient in the long term, and DNA gene information without catalysis, necessary for the function of life, would be useless as well.

Instead, it is assumed that RNA acted as a precursor of both protein and DNA, in the sense that it can serve both as catalyst (like protein enzymes) and as carrier of genetic information (like DNA, RNA is a polynucleotide). Even in the modern cell ribozymes (catalytic RNAs) still play a vital, albeit limited, role. In the ribosome, the synthesis of the peptide chains of proteins from RNA code is accomplished by ribozymes. They also catalyze splicing of RNA.

Could this so-called RNA World have offered a good basis for the origin of life? In an article published In Nature, and reported on in the New York Times, May 14, 2009, researchers at the University of Manchester discovered a major advance concerning the origin of life. For more than 20 years, researchers were unable to explain or demonstrate how nucleotides, in the form of RNA, could have appeared spontaneously on the primitive earth. However, for the first time, researchers John Sutherland, Mathew Powner, and Beatrice Gerland report that they have solved the mystery. Starting with naturally occurring compounds, half sugar and half base, then adding another half sugar half base, the RNA nucleotide called ribocytidine phosphate emerges. And a second nucleotide emerges when ultraviolet light is shone on the mixture. While the other two nucleotides have not been formed naturally yet, forming the first two naturally, was though to be more difficult. Once all 4 nucleotides are naturally formed, then then can easily combine to form the RNA molecule, and a plausible pathway to the natural origin of life emerges. And so beings the journey of life, and the destiny of the human species.

1.2 Human Beginnings


1.3 The Emergence of Nursing



Martha E. Rogers' Nursing Science Copyright © 2018 by Howard Butcher. All Rights Reserved.

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