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Problems of sustainability are typically represented by major present-day challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental and social injustice. Framed this way, sustainable lives and societies depend on finding solutions to each problem. From another perspective, there is only one problem behind them all, stated by Gregory Bateson as: “…the difference between how nature works and the way people think,” and complexity provides a way to define and approach this problem. I extend Edgar Morin’s conceptions of restricted and general complexity into pedagogy to address problems of simplicity and reductionist teaching. The proposed pedagogy is based on long experience teaching a data-oriented course in which I engage geoscience majors in exploring data rather than in finding answers. They use data tools that emphasize visual understandings over quantitative models and the value of multiple possibilities over a single certainty. The tools, teaching and assessments bring complicity, the entanglement of the nominally objective with the subjective, to the fore so that students develop understandings of the phantom objectivity that characterizes “the way people think.” I suggest that complexity-oriented learning based on data exploration can be adapted to other disciplines and even used in non-academic areas since information in the modern world is strongly reliant on quantitative data.