Needham traces the entry of continuity/wave concepts into Western science back to Leibniz and, through him, to the Chinese conception of nature. The Chinese saw the world as a continuum characterized by constant change as symbolized by the waxing and waning of yin and yang. Chinese ideographs, instead of being atomic components for linear arrangements, are gestalt symbols depicting complex interrelationships. They give a hint as to how our ecological problems might be comprehended. It appears that we might need to develop a script incorporating both ideographic and alphabetic elements. Interestingly, Japan is engaged in just such a project. Of the thousands of Chinese characters they took from the Chinese, the Japanese now limit themselves to 1,850 for their written daily use. These are supplemented and combined with a phonetic syllabary.
Our alphabet also seems to have encouraged the subjective/objective dichotomy, another aspect that in many areas we need to unlearn. The remarkable early achievements of the Chinese in science may well have been due to the fact that they looked at the world in a different way. Their study of terrestrial magnetism, their pioneering earthquake indicator, clock and Cardan suspension can be linked to their concern to be as sensitive as possible to the operation of subtle patterns and forces of nature with which humans felt they had to be in tune. Perhaps because of our rather limited and one-sided approach to natural phenomena, we are missing important clues for the unraveling of nature's secrets.