Chaos theory and fourcultures

More on Chaos theory, evolution and fourcultures.

Meika recently posted a piece about brain research, bias and chaos theory.

And DK asked:

How does chaos complicate or enrich evolutionary theory in biology? How does the nonlinearity that chaos features interact with mutation/drift/natural selection? Is there a canonical text (or at least something authoritative & comprehensive) on this?

I think one of the key texts on this subject is going to be

Guastello, S.J., Koopmans, M., & Pincus, D. (Eds.). (2009).  Chaos and Complexity in Psychology:  Theory of Nonlinear Dynamics. NY: Cambridge University Press.

Stephen Guastello is aware of grid-group cultural theory, citing Douglas and Wildavsky (1982) in his introduction to the ‘civilization’ special edition of Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences

[Guastello, S. 2008 ‘Civilization in spite of ourselves’. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 1-2.]

On evolution more generally, this is probably still the one:

Kauffman, S. (1993). The origins of order: Self-organization and selection in evolution. New York: Oxford University Press.

And even more generally,

Auyang, S. Y. (1998)  Foundations of complex-system theories: in economics, evolutionary biology and statistical physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

There is a good bibliography for Chaos theory in psychology and the life sciences, based on popular citations up to 2007. And it’s updated here.

Some applications of chaos theory relevant to cultural cognition and to grid-group cultural theory:

  • Stephen J. Guastello and Denise D. Guastello, Dynamics of Attitudes and Genetic Processes
  • M. Spohn, Violent Societies: An Application of Orbital Decomposition to the Problem of Human Violence

Chaos theory explained using Magnetix

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6 thoughts on “Chaos theory and fourcultures

  1. Thanks for the links to the sources. You might be interested in Kauffman’s new book, Reinventing the Sacred. It covers some of the same territory you see in his other work but with a clear effort to call into question both reductive scientism and certain theistic claims.

    • Milton – thanks for reading. Your book on complexity and leadership looks very interesting and I’m also intrigued by your experiences with various different publishing models.
      Yes, the Kauffman book you mention is interesting. I thought he set up ‘postmodernism’ up as a straw man to caricature a worldview without values, but as I read him, the caricature reminded me more of Jacques Monod’s ‘blind chance’ scientific reductionism, which isn’t ‘postmodern’ at all. There’s an interesting summary of the Reinventing the Sacred thesis at the Edge. I’m quite keen myself on the fact/value distinction which Kauffman seems to want to overcome. It’s quite useful. My take on it is that the world is as it is, and we have to make up values and ethics and so on as we go along. We make them up, but of course we have to get them from somewhere and the place we get them from is ourselves. Since we’re part of the world, clearly there is ultimately a naturalistic explanation for human values, as there is for all forms of seemingly transcendent creativity. But this is in no sense a counsel of despair, and it isn’t reductionist. Kauffman worries that if we are operating according to some kind of algorithm, however complex, then we are somehow diminished. I’d dispute this (even though I agree that we’re probably not operating like that). I think we could live quite happily, say, with the knowledge that the Mona Lisa was a product of an algorithm. It’s still great art and, vitally, that’s how we experience it. I remember sitting on a beach once at dusk watching as the sun set over the ocean. Living in the century I do, I knew it was just a function of the earth rotating so as to place the Sun below the horizon, but this prosaic factuality based on mechanistic physics didn’t in any way diminish my sense of awe at the beautiful sight. People who claim we live in a meaningless world (Kauffman’s ‘postmodernists’ perhaps) are a) stating the bleeding obvious, but we’ve got to start from somewhere and b) expressing their finely-honed values system, thus disconfiming their own argument. People such as Kauffman who seem to want some kind of ‘more than’ to attach to human values, are really expressing anxiety about the lack of apparent external authority for a values system. Christians find external authority in the divine, Kauffman finds it in emergence, which he calls the divine, and I find it… nowhere. Some people see this last view as nihilist; I see it as the opposite. Like art and music, values are just what we create- no more and, crucially, no less. And that in my long winded way is why I didn’t mention Reinventing the Sacred. It’s well worth reading, but in my opinion, not the best place to start with Kauffman.

  2. It seems that for many ideas that explore the unknown edges of life and thought, humility is important. Fundamentalisms of all kinds tend to preclude possibilities other than the specified ranges that they operate within. Can theists concede that reductive science has yielded important gains in knowledge across many disciplines? Can naturalism concede that theistic belief frames questions of value, dignity and ultimate imagination in distinct and important ways? Can we somehow envision contributions to the greater good in ways that don’t push us into a dichotomy of conflict? Our increased interconnections and greater densities of life and communication will most certainly require that of us.

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