Posted by: Johan Normark | April 16, 2011

2012: Calleman’s purposeful universe. Pt 3 – Self-organization

This will be a short note inspired by a recently encountered Youtube clip that gives you the basics in complex systems theory and how self-organization works: from the emergence of atoms to stars, planets, living organisms, and consciousness. Calleman also attempts to cover these complexities in his recent book. In this book he criticizes the idea that “the universe and its biological organisms have an inherent tendency to self-organize” (p 85). On the following page he asks the question: “If the big bang was self-organized, what is then meant by “self”?” Well, it is supposed to mean from “within itself” (it is immanent). Parts form greater wholes and thereby greater complexity without the need of an external transcendent source (the Tree of Life in Calleman’s cosmology).

Calleman then falsely claims that “there seems to be no experimental evidence that [a trend toward higher complexity] would be the result of any “self-organization”” (p 86). Just check out Wikipedia and you will see plenty of examples of how self-organization creates greater complexity. If you are going to open the Black Box of complexity you’ll need to develop a more detailed critique than less than half a page. All Calleman does is to make use of intelligent design rhetoric that attempts to disclaim self-organization as explanation. He states that “if we mix together the different components of a cell, they will fail to “self-organize” into a cell” (p 86). That is absolutely true and Calleman has proved nothing by that statement.

Calleman is obviously a believer in Michael Behe’s idea of irreducible complexity (whose work he refers to a couple of times). Arguments for irreducibility tend to assume that things started out the same way they ended up. In this perspective the emergence of a cell started out as a cell, not from less complex entities because these simpler entities today cannot form a cell. Well, all parts were not put together at the same time, etc. This reminds me of Bergson’s critique of earlier neo-Darwinian ideas (which strangely enough suits Calleman’s reasoning here as well). Bergson argued that these evolutionists tended to think in terms of a final product and projected evolution linearly backwards to an ancestral form as if evolution at that earlier phase only could take the path that eventually led up to the already known final product. Bergson argued that this was a mechanical and deterministic view, not what Darwin originally had in mind. Evolution is open and not predetermined.

Of course, Calleman thinks the opposite and believes the whole universe was intelligently designed. He asks us: “If biological organisms emerge through an inherent tendency to “self-organize” in this universe, why then do the quantum jumps in evolution adhere to the Mayan calendar?” (p 86) Well… they do not follow the true Long Count (Calleman has created a Long Count version that the Maya did not use). There are no quantum jumps, but there are thresholds that emerge through self-organization. Check out the Youtube clip below to see how thresholds work. They are not quantum leaps…

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