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.


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