Clocks and Clouds …

The Limits of Reductionism

“The method of science depends on our attempts to describe the world with simple theories: theories that are complex may become untestable, even if they happen to be true. Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification-the art of discerning what we may with advantage omit”…

— Karl Popper[1]

“ The quest for precision is analogous to the quest for certainty, and both should be abandoned”…

— Karl Popper[2]

“ For one of the things which almost everybody thought had been established by the Newtonian revolution was the following staggering proposition:

“All clouds are clocks-even the most cloudy of clouds” …

- Karl Popper[3]

“All clouds are clocks-even the most cloudy of clouds[3]” …

viewing our complex Material World as a mechanical Newtonian Machine with discrete parts that had become the scientific and social orthodoxy since the dawn of the Age of Reason

an increasing realisation of the entangled nature of Reality that had begun to become increasingly apparent from the new ideas of Quantum Mechanics[19] and various events that have unfolded over subsequent decades.

More is Different

“The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe”…

- PW Anderson

“It is hard to overstate the importance of the ideas of Phil Anderson to the science of SFI and complexity in general,”…

….“His ‘More is Different[25]’ article from Science in 1972 was the most important and rigorous refutation of the foolishness of reductionism for complex systems yet published. Not only did Phil articulate why confusing parts for the whole was a problem, but in the process, he explained why different fields of inquiry — from genetics to economics — needed to exist. This was a supreme act of intellectual modesty and generosity.” …

“It is not true, as a recent article would have it, that we each should ‘cultivate our own valley and not attempt to build roads over the mountain ranges … between the sciences.’ Rather, we should recognise that such roads, while often the quickest shortcut to another part of our own science, are not visible from the viewpoint of one science alone”…

-PW Anderson , More is Different[25]

“The outstanding example of this is the crystal. Built from a substrate of atoms and space according to laws which express the perfect homogeneity of spaces the crystal suddenly and un- predictabIy displays an entirely new and very beautiful symmetry”…

“The phenomenon of superconductivity is the most spectacular example of the broken symmetries which ordinary macroscopic bodies undergo”…

…”The essential idea is that in the so called N< Infinity limit of large systems (on our own, macroscopic scale) it is not only convenient but essential to realise that matter will undergo mathematically sharp, singular “phase transitions” to states in which the microscopic symmetries and even the microscopic equations of motion, are in a sense violated”…

Footnotes:

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