May 5, 2008

In an Amazing Breakthrough, Scientists Discover Dialectics

bloglines Digg facebook Google Ma.Gnolia Newsvine Technorati socializer StumbleUpon Yahoo
An article titled "Frustration in Complexity" (sorry, they don't make the full article available to the public) in a recent issue of the prestigious scientific journal Science examines the characteristics of a number of complex systems and attempts to identify features common to them with the goal of uncovering principles that may in fact be common to all complex systems.

As the article notes, one basic feature has been considered to be cooperation, defined here as "complicated global patterns emerging from local or individual interaction rules between parts of a system." (This is obviously somewhat of a recursive definition, trying to define complexity using the word "complicated.") Basically, to boil it down, it's talking about situations in which big fancy things arise out of the mutual interaction of repeated occurrences of seemingly simple things.

This article makes a broader assertion that the most general common feature of complex systems is not cooperation but "frustration." The term is not being used here in the sense of "Crap, my paper was rejected for publication yet again," but in a sense that those of us who have studied Marxist philosophy might find just a little familiar. As the article summary states: "The common thread between all complex systems may not be cooperation but rather the irresolvable coexistence of opposing tendencies."

Wow--the unity of opposites! Twenty-first-century complexity theory discovers 19th-century Hegelian and Marxian philosophy! The detailed scientific arguments in the article will be particularly resonant for people who have read The Dialectical Biologist by Marxist scientists Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin. Too bad the author of this article didn't give credit where credit is due, but that's probably an indicator of the Left's lack of influence within mainstream science rather than of the author's purposeful narrowness.

As a final point, it's important to note that Marxists view "the irresolvable coexistence of opposing tendencies" not merely as an emergent property of complex systems but as the fundamental character of everything in the universe. But that's a lesson for another time.


Jonathan said...

The fellow who wrote that paper may well be inspired by Marxian dialectics in the first place like Lewontin and Levins, rather than coincidentally hitting upon it, no?

nickglais said...

Interesting Post