Life’s Other Secret

The new mathematics of the living world, 1998. This updates D’Arcy Thompson’s classic On growth and form, ending with a manifesto for a ‘new’ mathematics, and a good explanation of the relationship between mathematics and scientific ‘knowledge’.

Like most post-80s writings, it’s main failing is that it sees science as having achieved some great new insights in the 80s, ignoring the work of Whitehead et al, as explained by Smuts, for example.

Ian repeatedly notes the tendency for models to assume fixed rules, and hence only to apply within a fixed Whitehead-epoch, whereas (as Smuts also noted) life bears the imprint of having being formed during (catastrophic) changes of epoch.

The discussion provides some supporting evidence for the following, but does not develop the ideas:

The manifesto is for a model combining the strengths  the strengths of cellular automata with Turing’s reaction-diffusion approach, and more. Thus it is similar to Smuts’ thoughts on Whitehead et al, as developed in SMUTS. Stewart also notes the inadequacy of the conventional interpretation of Shannon’s ‘information’.

See also

Mathematics and real systems. Evolution and uncertainty, epochs.

Dave Marsay


About Dave Marsay
Mathematician with an interest in 'good' reasoning.

One Response to Life’s Other Secret

  1. Pingback: Holism and Evolution | djmarsay

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