Kauffman’s biocomplex spirituality explained

June 26, 2008 at 4:00 am 5 comments

By the Skeptic’s Michael Shermer, from Scientific American article pasted into this blog. Article titled Using faith to explain anomalies in physics.

“In Kauffman’s emergent universe, reductionism is not wrong so much as incomplete. It has done much of the heavy lifting in the history of science, but reductionism cannot explain a host of as yet unsolved mysteries, such as the origin of life, the biosphere, consciousness, evolution, ethics and economics. How would a reductionist explain the biosphere, for example? “One approach would be, following Newton, to write down the equations for the evolution of the biosphere and solve them. This cannot be done,” Kauffman avers. “We cannot say ahead of time what novel functionalities will arise in the biosphere. Thus we do not know what variables—lungs, wings, etc.—to put into our equations. The Newtonian scientific framework where we can prestate the variables, the laws among the variables, and the initial and boundary conditions, and then compute the forward behavior of the system, cannot help us predict future states of the biosphere.”

“This problem is not merely an epistemological matter of computing power, Kauffman cautions; it is an ontological problem of different causes at different levels. Something wholly new emerges at these higher levels of complexity.”

Shermer’s own book Mind of the Market has a similar way of looking at emergence “Utilizing experiments in behavioral economics, Shermer shows why people hang on to losing stocks and failing companies, why business negotiations often disintegrate into emotional tit-for-tat disputes, and why money does not make us happy. Employing research from complexity theory, Shermer shows how evolution and economics are both examples of a larger and still somewhat mysterious phenomenon of emergence, where one plus one equals three.”


Entry filed under: biocomplexity. Tags: , .

Regime shifts increasing The picture is the place

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. quasiperiodic  |  June 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    i’m dubious. he makes emergence sound deterministic, if only….

    i’m a fan of the mckenna theory of the hyperdimensional attractor that is the eschaton (which is greek for “final object”). history is a convinient construct for the production of this object, while also being the result of it’s pull.

  • 2. kevindjones  |  June 29, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    kauffman sees it as a necessary result of complexity

  • 3. quasiperiodic  |  June 30, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    the eschaton/singularity is spontaneously emerging? like kurzewil’s superhuman ai. the theory doesnt provide a mechanism, just deus ex machina.

    mckenna’s theory at least has a “causal” relationship defined between this craziness (read as: time speeding up), and the end result.

    been listening to a lot of mark pesce since i got my ipod shuffle., past two days. he’s awesome. less psychadelic, but smart as hell. mostly talks about media distribution, hyperdistribution, hyperpeople, the here comes everybody model of production, and how production values are trumped entirely by amateur medai that speaks directly to you.

  • 4. kevindjones  |  June 30, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    i have no idea who mark pesce is

  • 5. kevindjones  |  June 30, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    cory has a new story out


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