Re: Fw: Fw: economic irreducible complexity

Brian D. Harper (
Mon, 02 Dec 1996 14:01:31 -0500

At 10:37 AM 11/30/96 -0600, Pattle Pun wrote:
>The misunderstanding comes from me and not from Walter. But what Horgan
>quoted from John Maynard Smith, one of the pioneers of mathematical
>biology still stands,

I believe the "fact" quote originated from a debate between Maynard
Smith and Kauffman, a brief summary of which can be found at:

They both spoke with an honest fondness for each other, and
an admiration of each other's work. Towards the end of
question time, Maynard Smith suggested that his real problem
with a lot of complexity theory is that it fails to ground
itself in reality.

Maynard Smith: "My problem with Santa Fe, is that I can
spend a whole week there... and not hear a single fact."

Kauffman: "Now that's a fact!" [loud laughter from everyone]

It seems pretty clear that Maynard Smith has been openly critical
of complexology. Interestingly, he also goes out to SFI frequently
and actively participates in the various symposia organized by SFI.
In other words, though he is critical of complexology he is also
a participant. What can we make of this? It could be that he wants
to follow closely the career of one of his star students (Kauffman].
More likely, he considers the field to be very promising and wants
to use whatever influence he might have to keep things going in
the right direction.

In any event, I think one should be cautious in quoting MS to
the effect that complexity is a sham, or bogus, or whatnot. If
MS thought this way then it would seem to me that his participation
in the field would be a total waste of his time.

Surfing around on the web, I stumbled across an interesting reply
to John Horgan's sham article written by Philip W. Anderson,
one of the "big name" complexologists. You can find it at:

Brian Harper | "If you don't understand
Associate Professor | something and want to
Applied Mechanics | sound profound, use the
The Ohio State University | word 'entropy'"
| -- Morrowitz
Bastion for the naturalistic |
rulers of science |