Posts tagged ‘emergence’

Kauffman’s biocomplex spirituality explained

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.”

June 26, 2008 at 4:00 am 5 comments