The Science of Unitary Human Beings 2.0

Howard Butcher


Martha E. Rogers’ first sentence in the Forward in her landmark book An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing opened with the declaration “People are at the center of nursing’s purpose” (Rogers, 1970, p. vii). The epilogue ended with the lines “New horizons call. Nursing has moved into a new era of fulfilling human need” (p. 139). In between these beginning and ending lines resides a revolutionary synthesis of knowledge, breathing taking in its scope, that launched a unique scientific and humanistic vision specific to nursing. Her ground breaking scientific system, the Science of Unitary Human Beings, unleashed a new unitary vision of holism consummate with contemporary science.


Rogers’ work and legacy continue to soar. Since 1970 a rich body of knowledge has been being built on her theoretical foundation. Four major books of collected works have expanded her vision and science. First, in 1986, Violet Malinski’s Explorations on Martha Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings, made accessible a collection of reports from the first dissertations to be fully conceptualized within Rogerian science. Barrett’s Visions of Rogers’ Science-Based Nursing, published in 1990, included chapters serving as exemplars for the use of the Science of Unitary Human Beings in practice, research, and education. It was followed in 1994 with Rogers’ Scientific Art of Nursing Practice edited by Mary Madrid and Elizabeth Barrett and with the Madrid’s edited Patterns of Rogerian Knowing published in 1997. Malinski and Barrett’s Martha E. Rogers: Her Life and Her Work, also published in 1994, is an invaluable comprehensive collection of Rogers’ early papers, as well reprints of all the major articles and book chapters she wrote refining her thinking about the Science of Unitary Human Beings. These texts, hundreds of published articles, many published in Visions: The Journal of Rogerian Nursing Science, and dozens of dissertations form the lexicon that is the Science of Unitary Human Beings.

The relevance of Rogerian Nursing Science is ever greater now. While some question the relevance of nursing theory to contemporary nursing practice, disciplines simply don’t exist without a unique body of knowledge. By definition, there is no multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary practice or research if each participating member does not have something unique and additive to bring to the table. Each discipline brings its unique understanding and perspective to provide a more complete understanding of the situation. Nursing’s perspective is informed by nursing science, which is grounded in holism as articulated by nursing theories. Knowing more about medicine does not advance nursing knowledge. In fact, the biomedical model, because of its reductionist and particularist viewpoint, limits nursing’s holistic view. This does not mean that biomedical, biological, psychological, sociological, cultural, and spiritual knowledge from other disciplines are not relevant to nursing knowledge development or practice, but rather that knowledge from the perspective of other disciplines needs to be reformulated within the holistic (or in this case “unitary”) lens of nursing. One metaphor I have used is that medicine tends to view the patient and the universe through a microscope, focusing on the biochemical and physiological mechanisms and, even more so today, the genetics of diseases. Nursing is grounded in a “wide angle” lens, we see the whole, all the human-environment contextual relationships of health and illness. While at the same time, because of our understanding of biology, chemistry, genetics, and pathology, nurses can also “zoom in” and understand was is going on at the “micro” level, but we understand what is going on on a relationship, contextual, and holistic level because we see the larger environmental-universe context that is being mirrored at the micro level. Physicians typically are not equipped with a wide angle lens, and have limited ability to “zoom out,” and if they do, they typically chose to focus on the pathological level and not on the human-environment mutual process level.

Rogers’ unitary worldview continues to resonate with the many contemporary emerging scientific theories. To find scientific evidence supporting the major postulates and principles of Rogerian Science, one need not look far for support. Just visit the local bookstore, and see what is in the “science” section. Read “The Great Acceleration: How the World is Getting Faster” by Robert Colvile (2016) and James Gleick’s “Faster: The Acceleration of Just about Everything” (2000) and see how they resonate with Rogers’ correlates of change and theory of accelerating evolution. Read Louisa Gilder’s “The Age of Entanglement: When Quantum Physics was Reborn” (2008) and understand on a deeper level the meaning of a “unitary” universe and integrality. And, read David Deutsch’s “The Fabric of Reality” (1997) and “The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations the Transform the World” (2011) and better understand the implications of pandimensionality and integrality. Or, read Fitjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi’s “The Systems View of Life” (2014), or any of Capra’s books “The Turning Point,” (1982), The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems (1996), and The Hidden Connection: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Life into a Science of Sustainability (2002) which, while not completely consistent with Rogers’ “unitary” worldview, will help in understanding and seeing world-universe-person process as an open system and ever changing energy field, ever evolving, in a process of becoming and unfolding in ever unpredictable ways. In his books Capra clearly describes the the transformation of the mechanistic-Cartesian worldview that is grounded in Newtonian physics to a “systems view of life” informed by the “new physics.” He describes the implications of ecological thinking and nonlinear dynamics complexity theory across multiple disciplines. This is very similar to what Rogers (1988) described as a transformation from an “old view” to a “new view.” Read Lee Smolim’s “Time Reborn: From Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe (2013) and “The Life of the Cosmos” (1999) and The End of Time: The Next Revolution (1997) and gain a deeper understanding of Rogers’ postulate of pandimensionality, which she defined as a nonlinear domain without spatial or temporal attributes. Julian Barbour”s “The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics” (1999) is another useful text, as well as any of the books by Brian Green including “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality (2004); “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and Deep Laws of the Cosmos (2011), and “The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (1999). If you still have any doubts about the fact that everything is an energy field, then perhaps you should then read MIT professor Lisa Randall’s book “Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions (2005) “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinks Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World” (2011) or California Institute of Technology professor Sean Carroll’s books “The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for Higgs Boson Leads to the Edge of a New Wold” (2012) and “The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself” (2017). Carlo Rovelli’s “Reality is not What it Seems: A Journey to Quantum Gravity” (2014) and “The Order of Time” (2018) will also help one appreciate the nature of Rogers’ thinking. These are just some of the books on my shelf, and they can be on yours too. There are a multitude of books written by scientists or scientific writers informed by the latest advances in physics, quantum cosmology that present models, theories, and evidence that are concordant with Rogers’ vision. And for those that think the physics at the quantum level have nothing to do with physics at the macro level, the world we live in, then perhaps McFadden and Al-Khalili’s “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology” (2014) can offer some insight. If one wants to know more about the relevance these works have on everyday nursing practice, then perhaps reading Capra and Luisi’s “The Systems View of Life” (2014) will help, especially when one comes to realize that much of the biomedical model is grounded in outdated Newtonian Physics, and not on our current understanding of the nature of reality.


Perhaps the greatest stumbling block for those interested in Rogerian nursing science is the fact that Rogers’ last book was published nearly 40 years ago. Rogers never wrote a second edition to An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing, and she often stated, “ninety percent of what is written in that book needs to be torn out.” While there are a number of excellent book chapters written in secondary sources, it has now been over 4 decades without a “definitive source,” or a comprehensive contemporary explication of the Rogerian cosmology, philosophy, postulates, principles, theories, research methods and instruments, and practice methods. Also, many of the descriptions of the Science of Unitary Human Beings in nursing theory textbooks are too brief to be useful or are simply not updated to reflect the evolving nature of Rogerian practice and research methods. Without a definitive text or source, those seeking to learn more about the Science of Unitary Human Beings, must search through this dizzying kaleidoscope of literature, much of which is difficult to access or out of date.


There are a few valuable and accurate descriptions and recent advances in the evolution of the Science of Unitary Human Beings, and those seeking to learn more about the Science of Unitary Human Beings need to read works the works of John Phillips (2010a, 2010b, 2015, 2016, 2017); Elizabeth Barrett (2010, 2015, in press), and Violet Malinski (1991; 1993, 1994, 2004, 2012). Jacqueline Fawcett’s (Fawcett & DeSanto-Madeya, 2013) work on conceptual models and theories is also an excellent source for presenting an in depth and comprehensive description and analysis of the Science of Unitary Human Beings, as well as other notable nursing theories. Thought this book, their works were an inspiration. Another excellent resource are the chapters I co-wrote with Violet Malinski in the Smith and Parker (2010, 2015, in press) “Nursing Theories and Nursing Practice” textbook on nursing theories: A new revised chapter will be in the Fifth Edition of the book which will be published in early 2019. Later this year, a new chapter on the Science of Unitary Human Beings will be published in Portuguese. The reference once it is published will be updated: Butcher, H.K. (in press). Imbalanced Energy Field: Development, Conceptualization and Practice within Rogerian Nursing Science. PRONANDA: Programa de Atualização em Diagnósticos de Enfermagem in: T.Heather Herdman; organizadoras-geral, Anamaria Alves Napoleao, Camila Takao, Viviana Marlins (organizadoras). Artmed Panamerica: Porto Alegre, Brazil.


The time has come to ignite a new generation of Rogerian scholars, the Net-generation. This wiki site is a quantum leap in the evolution of Rogerian science. Wikis are powerful tools, drawing people together in a way that enhances connectedness, collaboration, and knowledge construction. Not only can a community of Rogerian scholars come together in mutual process and simultaneously co-create a comprehensive explication of the Science of Unitary Human Beings, but also anyone with a computer and a web-browser can access the knowledge and content on this site. Unlike printed text, the content on this site can be continually updated, won’t go out of print, and there is no page limitation restricting the amount or depth of explanations. Wikis allow for the incremental development of content as each participant, collaborator, shareholder, or partner contributes to this document. The content becomes ever changing and emergent as it evolves through the multiple edits, additions, deletions, and revisions.


Nightingale stated long ago, “No system can endure that does not march” (Nightingale, 1893/2004, p. 216). This wiki site provides a platform so that Rogers’ conceptual system can continue to evolve by drawing together a community of scholars dedicated to explicating and advancing the Science of Unitary Human Beings in a way that is participatory, transparent, open, flexible, and expansive. As Rogers (1970) concluded in the Forward of An Introduction to the Theoretical Basis of Nursing, “only the future can reveal the extent to which these aims may be realized” (p. viii).


The fire has been lit. A new horizon awaits. Let’s begin.



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

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