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The second essay in this part, "Biological Challenges to Contemporary Paradigms ofPhysics and Mimetics" are aimed at two problems, first the role of physics in dealingwith the properties of living systems, and second, the role of mimetic approaches(prefixed by "artificial"). In this essay he tackles reduction of biology tophysics head on. Here he weaves in another thread, the ontology of the"something" that makes the whole more than the mere sum of its parts (and,generally, different from its parts). Here is n essence that has to be appreciatedif one is to appreciate Rosen at all. There is actually something here which getslost when the system is fragmented. It is non-fragmentable. How do we "see" suchthings? We observe what the system does. We see that disappear when the fragmentation isperformed. These things are defined by their context. They are contextdependent! This idea now takes on a life of its own feeding on the other threads in theweave much as what it is telling us about. He then contrasts this with the strong desireto obtain objectivity through context independence in physics. He weaves back inthe non-generic character of such things. He then shows the inability of mimesis to copewith these issues and weaves back in the thought that complex systems are not simulable.
Chapter 5, "Drawing the Boundary between Subject and Object: Comments on theMind-Brain problem", is a paper published in the Journal of Theoretical Medicine.This paper is an example of its own subject and therefore exemplary of the notion ofself-referential loops and impredicativities. This of course is a further exampleof the context dependence of complex systems in contrast to simple systems. In thischapter he reviews the use of mathematics in the study of mind and sets the recordstraight about the history of neural network theory that actually started with the earlywork of Rashevsky. This is his first explicit attempt to talk about the mind-brain problemand it immediately is related to the "measurement problem" in physics and thewhole basis for the concept of "objectivity". He says in the introduction tothis part of the book: "Hence, by extension, a reductionist excursion into themind-brain problem in the name of objectivity merely exposes the limitations of thereductionist approach itself."
In this chapter, the essence of what is lacking in the traditional approach to scienceis summed up very nicely in the critique of the study of the mind: "On the otherhand, experience has shown that the resultant lists or algorithms either turn out to beinfinitely long, which is unacceptable, or else must turn back on themselves, which isalso unacceptable. The latter essentially constitutes impredicativity - BertrandRussell's viscous circle. Such impredicativities cause semantic referents within them, inthis case self-referents that depend entirely on the context created by the circle itself.Attempts to eliminate such circles by purely syntactic(context-independent) means, toexpress them as a finite list, even in a bigger syntactic system, simply destroy theseproperties."
The final part of the book, Part V, on biology and technology is a treat in its ownright. Once again if one wants ideas for future work, this is a rich source. The focus ison what biology has to teach us about other disciplines. Rosen believed that biology was ameans for learning to approach complex problems, especially those in human society. Thequickness with which complexity science has been applied to human organizations andinstitutions says that he was on the mark this time too. These matters were reluctantlyomitted from life itself for logistic reasons. He says: "The common relational modelsthat bridge biology and the technologies allow us, in principle, to separate the fruits ofselection without needing to emulate its methods. They provide a Rosetta stone that allowsus to utilize the billions of years of biological experience contained in Nature'sencyclopedia, and to realize them in our own ways, applied to our own problems." Whata challenge to those who are looking to the future and have realized the latent power ofbiotechnology!
Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. Each separate misfortune, as it comes, seems, no doubt, to be something exceptional; but misfortune in general is the rule.
Certain it is that work, worry, labor and trouble, form the lot of almost all men their whole life long. But if all wishes were fulfilled as soon as they arose, how would men occupy their lives? what would they do with their time? If the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey, where every Jack obtained his Jill at once and without any difficulty, men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders; so that in the end mankind would inflict more suffering on itself than it has now to accept at the hands of Nature.
It is just this characteristic way in which the brute gives itself up entirely to the present moment that contributes so much to the delight we take in our domestic pets. They are the present moment personified, and in some respects they make us feel the value of every hour that is free from trouble and annoyance, which we, with our thoughts and preoccupations, mostly disregard. But man, that selfish and heartless creature, misuses this quality of the brute to be more content than we are with mere existence, and often works it to such an extent that he allows the brute absolutely nothing more than mere, bare life. The bird which was made so that it might rove over half of the world, he shuts up into the space of a cubic foot, there to die a slow death in longing and crying for freedom; for in a cage it does not sing for the pleasure of it. And when I see how man misuses the dog, his best friend; how he ties up this intelligent animal with a chain, I feel the deepest sympathy with the brute and burning indignation against its master.
In general, however, it should be said that this view of life will enable us to contemplate the so-called imperfections of the great majority of men, their moral and intellectual deficiencies and the resulting base type of countenance, without any surprise, to say nothing of indignation; for we shall never cease to reflect where we are, and that the men about us are beings conceived and born in sin, and living to atone for it. That is what Christianity means in speaking of the sinful nature of man.