Complexity in 140 words

Complexity in 140 words

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Recent developments in complexity theory with particular emphasis on “emergence” may provide a bridge between science and other approaches.  Emergence in systems of agents interacting by non linear rules allows one both to take a reductionist position and believe in novelty.  Selection rules or pruning algorithms allow the generation of upper hierarchical levels from the combinatoric explosion generated by complex non linear systems interacting by reductionist laws.  This selection is a new feature of modern computer driven science and tends to reify “the whole being different from the sum of the parts.”  To the computer theorist with a theological bent this is how the word (laws of nature, divine immanence) becomes flesh.  This view opens up a dialogue between science and religion at a new level that avoids many of the difficulties of past confrontations although epistemological differences still persist.

Reference.  Holland, John H., 1998, Emergence, From Chaos to Order, Addison-Wesley, Reading MA

Harold Morowitz received his PhD in Biophysics from Yale University in 1951.  He worked at the National Bureau of Standards and the National Institutes of Health and returned to Yale in 1955 as Assistant Professor of Biophysics.  Over the next 33 years he was Associate Professor and Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and Master of Pierson College.  In 1988 he became Robinson Professor of Biology and Natural Philosophy at George Mason University.  His books include two monographs, “Energy Flow in Biology” and “The Beginnings of Cellular Life”, four textbooks, and a number of trade books including “The Thermodynamics of Pizza” and “Mayonnaise and the Origin of Life”.  From 1993-1998, he was the Director of the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study at George Mason University.  He is Editor-in-Chief of “Complexity; An International Journal of Complex & Adaptive Systems”.  At present he is co-chairman of the Science Advisory Committee at the Santa Fe Institute.

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