February 21, 2005

Self-organized complexity & Design-System implications

Book: From Complexity to Life edited by Niels Henrik Gregersen
Chapter by same author entitled, "From Anthropic Design to Self-Organized Complexity"
Gregersen attempts to point out the false dilemma that tauts a view of creation as either one that can be identified with the fingerprint of a divine designer or one that can only be credited to nature and chance. However, Gregersen opens up categories that allow for both design and chance to have emerged together. This is how he views divine design with self-organized complexity.

He qualifies this integration of design and self-organized complexity with two conditions. One, divine design"relates to the constitution of the world of creation as a whole and to the coordination of the basic laws of nature but not to the details emerging with the framework of the world. The other condition is that "self-organization should not be elevated into a metaphysical principle that is able to explain all-that-exists." This is laws of physics such as gravity or quantum mechanics are not foundational phenomena, they depend on a presupposed "flow of energy and are channeled within an already existing order" (p. 208).
What is helpful about his contribution is that self-organized complexity is not an either / or category. If it were, it would be synonymous with self-creation. Rather it can be viewed as a both / and. Gregersen makes the distinction that there is room for both chance and design. He makes his point this way, "...as often argued by Arthur Peacocke (2003, 75-78), it is the intricate interplay between laws (which guarantee the overall order) and chance (which introduces novelty into the world) that drives evolution forward. In fact, the open-endedness of evolutionary processes (within a given phase space) is highly congruent with the idea of a benevolent God. Who, by analogy, are the more loving parents: those who specifically instruct their children to become, say, lawyers, or those who let their children explore their individual possibilities within a well-proportioned balance of safe background conditions and an influx of time and circumstance?" (p. 210-1)
Without reviewing the rest of the article yet, I want to point out the significance of novelty occuring within a process of self-organized complexity. This view allows novelty yet within a system of energy. That sounds an awful lot like cybernetics and the way that Bateson proposed that change occurs: novelty within the system.

Is that the basic premise behind self-organized complexity? Complexity, of course, referring here to nonlinear processes in which small/simple inputs can result in large/complex outcomes.


JIM'S RESPONSE

Gregg, I'm not sure I understand your question. It seems to me that the main thrust of Gregersen's thinking (working to synthesize certain theological and systemic perspectives) is on the SELF-organizing dynamics rather than on the complexity, novelty, etc. That is, to what extent do systems produce their own organization, or self-defining relations (autopoesis), versus to what extent are they "created" by something outside themselves (allopoesis). There is indeed a dialectic interplay between design and chance, between randomness and order. The key question, of course, is Does there need to be a Creator who has predetermined an order? Or does randomness itself eventually produce order as complexity increases? Or is there, in fact, no order--only that which is imposed on the world via human perception? (which arguably seems to be the view held by Bateson)

Posted by gschache at 5:29 PM

February 13, 2005

Paradigms and Change Dynamics

J.M. Curtis wrote (1978) "On the Nature of Paradigms" which broadens the understanding of the concept of paradigms from its original formulation by Thomas B. Kuhn in 1962. Curtis points out that past experience creates expectations under which (in either science or society at large) anticipate continued evidence of those expectations. X-rays are a scientific phenomena that fell outside the "old science" expectations established by scientific theories. The findings didn't violate the rules of science, however, just the expectations.

Kuhn theorized that no paradigm ever resolves all worldview issues, but "creative tension" occurs when issues within a paradigm are at odds. If the "tension becomes excessive, it means that the paradigm has failed" (p. 5) which spurs a reworking of the worldview, expectation, etc. One of the things that breaks down during a paradigm shift is the distinction between interpretation and description. The dissolution of these functions make the relative nature of paradigms evident. (At least, that's how I interpret Kuhn). One reason is that justification of a paradigm is found within that paradigm; hence, a circularity. This is why proponents of contrasting paradigms talk past each other.

Curtis takes Kuhn's work and tries to broaden its application from the narrow scope of hard science to human perception, in general. In the same way that everyone knows that a football field in the NFL is 100 yards long, paradigms in general are never never questioned or discussed, no one would ever point out that football fields are 100 yards long, it's assumed. To challenge something so internalized can lead to the shaking of one's cognitive and emotional foundations, i.e. that which gives them purpose. So, Curtis points out that a paradigm shift involves more than mere cognitive assent to a new worldview. Many physicists experienced personal crises when Einstein ushered in the new science.

Kuhn says that anyone who enters a paradigm shift needs to experience support for the new paradigm. This involves an aesthetic appeal, since mere logic lacks compulsion. Curtis points out that in society generally, it is "notoriously more difficult to articulate one's principles than in science;" hence, Curtis advocates for this process to be done in "unemotional terms" (p. 9). This is how Curtis envisions a move from a linear paradigm to a nonlinear paradigm.

MY QUESTION: Is the interpretation and description involved in paradigms the same as the way of knowing (epistemology) and what is known (ontological reality)?

JIM'S RESPONSE

Not exactly. The point is that within a given paradigm, the activities of description and interpretation merge (both of them are aspects of, or reflect, a particular epistemology). Here, dialectics is helpful: humans simultaneously perceive and create reality. That is, we can know reality because something is there to be known; however, our acts of knowing (and describing) reality are always interpretive, ie. reflective of the paradigm within which we experience our world.


Posted by gschache at 10:03 PM

February 12, 2005

The epistemology behind ecosystemic thought transformation

The article, "Thinking About Thinking in Family Therapy" in Family Process journal (1985) examines the emergence of "new science" and Batesonian evolution in order to see how these epistemologies fit with ecosystemic thinking to produce rules which are fundamental to 'Storey' technology and thought transformation in therapy. Auerswald points out that the new science--epitomized by Max Planck and Albert Einstein who rewrote the rules of Newtonian science through their work around quanta--contains implicit rules that can be applied to thought transformation in living system, i.e. families within their ecosystems.

One example of the change in technology is reworking a family therapy technique, such as structural family therapy, from an either/or to a both/and paradigm, so as to address boundary or role issues but from a contextual perspective. The story cited is a client who is first treated by a linear medical model view of causality. This view of a person only treats that which is present at the time of examination. The 2nd and 3rd views show how consideration of the client's family, housing circumstances, religious beliefs, relationship with children, gender role subscriptions , as well as psychosomatic presentation all combine to complete her ecosystem. The technology of therapy, Auerswald asserts, is to fill out as much of the story (context) of a client's situation as possible.
The result is a move away FROM a dualistic worldview, separation between time and space, research distinguishes mind from other phenomena, linear time, atomistic examinations and positivistic views of certitude TO a monistic worldview, timespace seen as four-dimensional, linear time is only heuristic, mind/ideas are included equally in research, events are seen in four-dimensional contexts and certainty is no longer reified.
QUESTION: How is time/space understood in a four-dimensional model?

JIM'S RESPONSE

Taken literally, the question you ask could have an infinite number of answers. That is, time/space could be defined however the developer of a given model wanted to define it. A more useful question would be "How is time/space understood within the systemic/ecological paradigm?" The way I think of it is that time/space is an "existential dimension" that creates an historical context for experience. Given that be-ing (life) is a PROCESS, then time/space is transformative (ie., change is constant) and indeterminant.

Posted by gschache at 2:00 PM