Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reinventing the Sacred - Kauffman

I've been going through Stuart Kauffman's book "Reinventing the Sacred: A new view of science, reason and religion".  It is a somewhat technical read, that I think, should form part of a standard base for scientists wishing to study religion (I would also add in Atran's In God's we trust, Wilson's Darwin's Cathedral, some complexity theory readings including Willis 2004 paper, "A complexity and Darwinian approach to management with failure avoidance as the key tool", and Ball's Critical Mass).

One of Kauffman's main intentions is to show how life is best viewed as an emergent property that requires no appeal to supernatural divinity.  In this process some interesting arguments come up:
  1. Some processes have multiple platforms from which they can be explained.  Forward predictive power determines the level from which things are best explained.  Just because you can explain everything back to the level of physics doesn't mean that is the level from which things are always best understood.  This depends on the level where predictions start functioning.  
  2. Life begins to emerge when endergonic cycles are coupled with exergonic cycles. This increase the number of reactions possible. Agency emerges as boundary conditions are naturally selected to favor certain combination of reactions over others.  For instance, a bacteria's path along a glucose gradient emerges as part of the process of maintaining a boundary condition with respect to food.

1 comment:

chris g said...

A quote from later in Kauffman's book, (2008, pp. 130)

"Thus a radical, and, I will say, partially lawless creativity enters the universe. The radical implication is that we live in an emergent universe in which ceaseless unforeseeable creativity arises and surrounds us. An since we can neither prestate, let alone predict, all that will happen, reason alone is an insufficient guide to living our lives forward. This emergent universe, the ceaseless creativity in this universe, is the bedrock of the sacred that I believe we must reinvent."