From Complexity to Construction to Intersecting Processes: Puzzles for Theoretical and Social Inquiry

Although stable systems may be extremely rare as a fraction of the complex ecological systems being sampled (as shown in the 1970s theoretical work of Robert May), they can be readily constructed over time by the addition of populations from a pool of populations or by elimination of populations from systems not at a steady state. The implications of such a constructionist perspective could challenge not only ecologists, but also theorists in all fields that make use of models without a process of construction over time of the complexity of the situation studied.

A paper to appear in the journal Ecological Complexity centers not so much on advancing this perspective, but on two consequent puzzles:
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Genotype-phenotype distinction, with schemas

A revised entry on the genotype-phenotype distinction has been published by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A major difficulty we had preparing this revision followed once it was noted that philosophers write on the genotype-phenotype relationship, not on the genotype-phenotype distinction. Continue reading

Dialogue hours at Cambridge Science Festival (over the internet), 7 & 8 pm tonight

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
By google+ hangout at
(or in person at MIT — for technical and other details, see )
7pm “Genomic citizens and misfits in a digital age”
(Discuss the promises, fears, and claims being made about genetics in this evolving digital era. What and who is to believed?)
8pm “Science and literature exploring life on the near-future earth”

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To resist GMOs is to be anti-science? No, the contrary

I’ve been thinking about how the anti-science label tends to get assigned to anyone who tries to move the GMO debate to the level of political economy. (That is, away from whether GMO food is safe and towards who controls production and prices.) Continue reading

A constructive conversation about population-environment problems

I have drafted a quick activity to get input that extends this multi-party conversation from 2000 about “How do we know there is a population-environment problem?” to bring in the following additional 3 discussants:
Novelo–Novelist concerned that climate change has been omitted from most literature
Futuro–Sci Fi writer concerned with gender and race as well as the usual fantasizing about scientific and technological developments
Litero–Interpreter of literature who is prepared to branch out from fictional literature to all discourses about knowledge.
I welcome comments on this blog post so as to a) glean ideas to weave into a Part 2 of this multi-party exchange and b) begin to address the issue Activo points to at the end: what are the “conditions make interactions among people from different fields as open as our were today”?  (This activity relates to Project 2 in a course on gender, race, science, and literature.) Continue reading

“Intersecting Processes: Spaces still available at May 2017 New England Workshop on Science and Social Change

Location: Old Fire Station, Woods Hole MA, USA
New Dates May 2017, 8am Sat 27 – 2.30pm TUES 30

In this FOUR-day workshop participants will create spaces, interactions, and support in formulating plans to extend our own projects of inquiry and engagement around “intersecting processes.” More info

Hayekian accounts rest on a self-contradictory assumption about natural selection

This post emerges from my puzzling over the overlap between Hayek’s neoliberal critique of attempts to model complexity well enough to make predictions and economic policy and my view that “knowledge, plans, and action [have to] be continually reassessed in response to developments — predicted and surprising alike” (as described in a 2011 post).

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