tuart Kauffman on “The End of a Physics Worldview”



  1. Wow, this is what passes for cutting edge wisdom at MIT? I would say he’s obviously a charlatan just stringing together half understood Godel-Escher-Bach style nuggets of scientific folklore in order to impress his audience, but he really thinks he’s doing something.

    I laughed out loud when he claimed one man (Newton) was responsible for creating the scientific worldview associated with the setting up and solving of the differential equations of motion. The differential equations of motion he’s talking about do not appear in Newton’s published works and where actually published decades later by Euler. Euler seemed to think they were a big advance over what came before and not simply a restatement of what Newton had already done. That’s why it’s about an order of magnitude easier for a physicist today to read Euler’s papers than to read Newton’s Principia: the mechanics we learn as physicists comes from Euler not Newton.

    Then he made a big claim about how you can’t do probability or information theory without knowing the full sample space. Actually, people do this all the time, and get away with it all the time, for a variety of reasons. For example, a doctor will rightly consider the probability that a patient has a given illness even though he doesn’t know the space of all possible diseases.

    I could go on and on, but really this gentlemen needs to retire and stop publishing.

  2. I suppose the Nobel committees are all aflutter over Kauffman's new award category, "Shit Happens"…. this guy needs to get out more.

  3. I liked the conversation. Kaufmann is a good story teller and effective at communicating ideas. In retro-spect the unpredictability of complex adaptive systems seems trivial but it is interesting as it poses a deeper embedded challenge for ecology types. In the same way that anthropologists wish to preserve "cultures", ecologists will be forced to consider the concept of species and environmental preservation/conservation.

    At some point the act of conservation becomes a false/unsustainable ecology as much as one altered by extreme pollution. By acknowledging the lack of either an equilibria or end state a fundamental question of the role of steward/manager becomes deeply important for the era of the anthropocene.


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