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Chem Biodivers. 2007 Oct;4(10):2480-91.

Causality and complexity: the myth of objectivity in science.

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  • Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, Virginia Commonwealth University, P.O. Box 842030, Richmond, VA 23284-2030, USA. mikuleck@vcu.edu

Abstract

Two distinctly different worldviews dominate today's thinking in science and in the world of ideas outside of science. Using the approach advocated by Robert M. Hutchins, it is possible to see a pattern of interaction between ideas in science and in other spheres such as philosophy, religion, and politics. Instead of compartmentalizing these intellectual activities, it is worthwhile to look for common threads of mutual influence. Robert Rosen has created an approach to scientific epistemology that might seem radical to some. However, it has characteristics that resemble ideas in other fields, in particular in the writings of George Lakoff, Leo Strauss, and George Soros. Historically, the atmosphere at the University of Chicago during Hutchins' presidency gave rise to Rashevsky's relational biology, which Rosen carried forward. Strauss was writing his political philosophy there at the same time. One idea is paramount in all this, and it is Lakoff who gives us the most insight into how the worldviews differ using this idea. The central difference has to do with causality, the fundamental concept that we use to build a worldview. Causal entailment has two distinct forms in Lakoff 's analysis: direct causality and complex causality. Rosen's writings on complexity create a picture of complex causality that is extremely useful in its detail, grounding in the ideas of Aristotle. Strauss asks for a return to the ancients to put philosophy back on track. Lakoff sees the weaknesses in Western philosophy in a similar way, and Rosen provides tools for dealing with the problem. This introduction to the relationships between the thinking of these authors is meant to stimulate further discourse on the role of complex causal entailment in all areas of thought, and how it brings them together in a holistic worldview. The worldview built on complex causality is clearly distinct from that built around simple, direct causality. One important difference is that the impoverished causal entailment that accompanies the machine metaphor in science is unable to give us a clear way to distinguish living organisms from machines. Complex causality finds a dichotomy between organisms, which are closed to efficient cause, and machines, which require entailment from outside. An argument can be made that confusing living organisms with machines, as is done in the worldview using direct cause, makes religion a necessity to supply the missing causal entailment.

PMID:
17955472
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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