Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought

Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought

Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought

Chaos and Life: Complexity and Order in Evolution and Thought

Synopsis

Why, in a scientific age, do people routinely turn to astrologers, mediums, cultists, and every kind of irrational practitioner rather than to science to meet their spiritual needs? The answer, according to Richard J. Bird, is that science, especially biology, has embraced a view of life that renders meaningless the coincidences, serendipities, and other seemingly significant occurrences that fill people's everyday existence.

Evolutionary biology rests on the assumption that although events are fundamentally random, some are selected because they are better adapted than others to the surrounding world. This book proposes an alternative view of evolving complexity. Bird argues that randomness means not disorder but infinite order. Complexity arises not from many random events of natural selection (although these are not unimportant) but from the "playing out" of chaotic systems -- which are best described mathematically. When we properly understand the complex interplay of chaos and life, Bird contends, we will see that many events that appear random are actually the outcome of order.

Excerpt

This is a book about chaos and life, and it mostly tells its own story. If there is a subtext it is that the scientific enterprise, which has been the inspiration of our age, is now flagging in that role. I try to explore some of the reasons behind the failure of science to engage the emotions and loyalties of the general population it serves. in my view this is because science has, at least since the Enlightenment, neglected those aspects of reality that it cannot comfortably incorporate into its associated edifice of belief. This has come to be summed up in the faith, especially entrenched in biology, that events are essentially random and that from this random set of events some are selected because they are better adapted than others to their surroundings. This belief, which is an axiom of Darwinist explanations, renders essentially meaningless those coincidences and apparently significant events that fill the everyday lives of men and women. It is an extraordinary fact that, in a scientific age, people turn to astrologers, mediums, cultists, and every kind of irrational practitioner rather than to science to meet their spiritual needs. This is a gap that science must fill, and fill urgently. This book is in part an attempt to show how this might be done.

An emerging worldview

The central theme of this book can be briefly stated: the world is a series of iterative systems; from iterative processes sequences emerge that carry information; our understanding of the world depends on our interpretation of sequence; events in the world occur not randomly, but in an organized way . . .

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