Is “Evolution” solely a theory about the emergence of life, or is it a more generalized “Meta-Theory” about “The Emergence of Everything”…
Over the last 400 years or so Mathematical Physics has become the science that we rely on to explain the behavior of the universe. Mathematical physics is the ultimate science of the “deterministic/predictable” dynamics of “cause and effect”.
In general, the Science of Physics likes to believe that all dynamics, all natural behavior, can be explained mathematically; and consequently physicists like to build “mathematical models” of (cause and effect in) the real world. Sometimes these models are unbelievably concise, and can be expressed as a neat linear differential equation, and when this happens we confidently call the model a “Deterministic”, “Law of Physics”.
It is precisely because of these so-called “hard and fast scientific laws” that physicists are wont to describe their science as the hardest of “hard science”. This of course would seem to imply that many of the so-called “soft sciences” are in some way not quite as elevated, not quite as good.
In truth however we could say that physics is an “easy science”, and the soft sciences are “difficult” because the “laws” of physics only really work in the absence of “noise”, and yet the soft sciences are condemned to deal with our everyday world which is full of noise — because virtually everything in our everyday world is continually battered and buffeted by “constantly changing feedback” which can generate wild “nonlinear dynamics”.
In reality all dynamics have feedback (and resultant nonlinearity), it is just that some dynamics have much less feedback than others.
Physics is, in a sense, the science of the nonlinear stuff that can be safely “compressed into the neat linear mathematics of cause and effect”. In other words; Physics is primarily a science of “linear” dynamics, a science of dynamics “without feedback” (or more realistically a science of dynamics with negligible feedback). Such dynamics are indeed easily compressible, but our real world is a world that abounds with feedback, a “nonlinear” world full of “incompressible dynamics”.
[Note: In the simplest possible terms, linear dynamics are dynamics where the effect is proportional to the cause, and nonlinear dynamics are where the effect can be disproportional to the cause.]
It could be said that throughout its 400 year history physics has had great difficulty dealing with non “linearizable” dynamics, because these wild dynamics are messy, mathematically unstable, and consequently difficult to predict.
Turbulent systems are the most obvious example. Turbulent systems are mathematically non-linearizable because they have lots of internal instabilities due to the excessive amount of “energy” in the system.
More recently (in the last 40 years or so) we have started to become more aware of other types of systems that are mathematically non-linearizable. Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) are systems whose elements are not completely independent of each other and consequently they can exhibit a lot of internal instability due to the excessive amount of “adaptation” in the system.
The economy is the most obvious example of a CAS. And so while economists might like to think they can build mathematically models of the economy, this is simply not possible, because the economy is mathematically non-linearizable and full of incompressible dynamics.
In the coming years many more people will begin to understand the difficulty and inherent uncertainty involved in dealing with CAS’s. As our world becomes ever-more interconnected and co-dependent, more and more systems will become adaptive and complex, and consequently will exhibit incompressible dynamics and unpredictable “emergent behavior”.
And so in the future we will all have to learn to live with uncertainty. But in case all of this seems overly pessimistic, fear not, for there is another side to CAS. Complex Adaptive Systems may be unpredictable but they are also massively “Creative”.
The Century of Complexity and Creativity
In Conclusion: Physics tell us that to understand the world we need simply to understand “the dynamics of cause and effect”; but the simple dynamics of cause and effect fail quite miserably when it comes to explaining “Natural Evolution and Emergent Complexity”...
However, understanding evolution is going to turn out to be much more important than anyone might previously have thought. Because despite what most people might think, evolution is not solely a theory about the emergence of life, but a more “Generalized Meta-Theory” (of which biological evolution is merely a special case). Evolution is effectively spontaneous and complex creativity in action…
And so although science may have spent the last 400 years honing its understanding of The Linear Dynamics of Cause and Effect, the reality of life in the 21st century is that the really interesting stuff will increasingly result from the “Universal Creative Dynamics” of “Adaptive Integration and Emergent Complexity”…
The 21st Century will see the rise of the Complex Adaptive System. Complex Adaptive Systems are systems that are capable (without any external assistance) of self-designing and reinforcing themselves into existence. This means that, in an evermore interconnected world, the future of the human race is likely to become much more uncertain — but as evolution shows us, uncertainty generates emergent complexity, so
Embrace The Chaos and Harvest the Creativity…