Having challenged the assumption that science is capable of entirely explaining anything in his book SEARCHING FOR CERTAINTY, John Casti returns to the scene armed with a number of recent theories in hopes that they might form the basis of a science that can model complex phenomenon.
Complexity, Casti suggests, arises not from the world itself but from humans’ attempts to model the world. When they approach reality with certain assumptions that are not borne out by observation, humans perceive the world as complex. Many of these assumptions arise from commonsense notions regarding the operations of the world, and many of these notions were incorporated into classical theory, making them all the more difficult to overcome. Casti identifies five of these assumptions and then outlines an area of recent investigation that not only disproves the assumption but also leads to a more complete model of reality. Interesting, and seemingly paradoxical, correlations between these theories arise. For example, the assumption that complicated systems can always be understood by breaking them down into simpler parts is overturned by theories of the irreducible. Contrarily, the assumption that surprise results only from complex interactions among a system’s parts is dispelled by a description of a computer game called Life with three simple rules that result in extraordinarily complex behavior. It is the complexities among the various models themselves, Casti suggests, that will provide the most interesting possibilities for future investigation.
Written clearly, with little recourse to abstruse mathematical language, this is an excellent book for the nonscientist wishing for a breath of rarified air.