biology or the poverty of chaos

Jamal Hannah jamal at bronze.lcs.mit.edu
Sat Sep 16 03:22:18 MDT 1995


> HUh!!!  I do not think you have a good understanding of chaos theory if
> you make such a statement yourself.  The whole idea of chaos theory is
> that let's say you have an equation that appears to hold true to most tests.
> When a variable is changed to a small degree the rest of
> the equation is so far off from original estimates that the entire equation
> is no longer valid.  Read some of Lorenz's material to understand how
> chaos is related to weather and you might understand the meaning of
> chaos.  I still do not see how this deals with Marx in the least bit and
> your post is very hard to follow and understand.
>
> Kevin

Oh yeah.. I remember this perticular take on Chaos Theory.. but this
is related to drawing fractals.  I suppose the analog to it would be
watching the "path" that a set of dicisions that an individual makes
leads to.

I think some of the (social context) conclusions one can come up with are:

1) There's no way possible to predict the future, since each step
between now and the future time must be played out in order to get
there in the first place (Theory and Practice, doncha know.)

2) History will never repeat itself because it's unlikly that
all the same steps will ever be repeated in the same order in
two seperate instances of time.  (depending on the complexity of
some event).  So one might "suspect" that one event will
lead to another.. but they can never truly know.

3) Some small insignificant event (like a leaf blowing in the wind)
may have just as much impact on some outcome as any other event.  This
certainly proves itself true in many situations where some random chance
determines "victory" or "defeat".


The thing is, it's hard to tell if this aspect of Chaos Theory is really
some new useful way of thinking, or is a side-effect of the current
social system.  Is Chaos theory simply a justification or explanation
for something scientists have been fiddling with in the rhealm of
computers and mathematics?  (then again, this could be said for
any theory..)  Or, are capitalists using it as a smug way to crush
positivist theories? (some seem to, as I mentioned before)

This aspect of Chaos Theory also posits an even more troubling idea
than the notion that there is nothing at all after death:
that everything that ever happends in the universe is locked into
a specific, unwaiverable path.   You know, if you observe a "Life"
program on a computer which always starts out the same, it _appears_
to be random, but no matter how many times you replay it, it
always has the same outcome.  Increasing the complexity doesnt
change the fact that randomness, autonomy and self
determination are ultimatly illusions.

(Geeze, what a downer!  Now I know why people prefer to stick with
a religion instead of getting into science. I knew a guy who was
deeply depressed about this whole delemma, in fact.  Thats what you
get for reading too much Science Fiction.)

The saving grace could be that subatomic particles have much different
properties than simple units resembling billiard balls.. or 2-dimentional
blips on a computer screen.

It's also possible that the difference between "living" and "non-living"
matter in the universe is that living matter has autonomy of some sort,
and nonliving matter does not.

 - Jamal



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