Evolution towards simplicity versus complexity

March 25, 2006

I don’t mean merely anthropological evolution, the evolution of concepts, behaviors, social systems, blah blah blah… etc. as well. Organisms seem to be evolving, for the most part, toward higher forms of complexity in order to continue the fighting the war that is life. Our immune systems become stronger and more complex with more antibodies. This is evolution towards complexity. However, sometimes biological evolution takes another route and the organism becomes less complex. We begin to lose parts and traits which we once had evolved to have, typically these are called vestigial organs. This is evolution towards simplicity.

Then, more abstractly, ideas are subjected to these two types of evolution. Theoretical physicists are looking for the holy grail of physics with a “Unified Theory” or “final theory” of everything. String theory, relativity, and quantum theory all try to explain everything in our universe from the smallest quarks to the largest nebulae. This is an example of an idea which is trying to evolve towards simplicity. Mathematics and programming, on the other hand, seems only to become more complex. There is a problem with computer programming in which “the problem” becomes more complex, unnecessarily so, once it is translated into a computer-literate language so it can be solved. Cryptography takes a simple concept and muddles it into a near-unbreakable realm of complexity for the simple purpose that it is so complex that nobody bothers to understand the simple concept it muddled. (aright, in my head that made sense and I know I should clarify it… but fuck it) This is, heh.. obviously, an example of a concept evolving purposefully towards complexity.

I find all of this grandly beautiful. It’s the recognization of these kinds of patterns which are my substitue for spirituality. I think I sort of understand now why I used to have little faith in “beliefs.” I’ve come to notice that I’d much rather have a belief which is founded on logically flowing premises, falsifiable evidence, and an acceptable philosophy rather than a belief for the sake of having something to believe in. I’m not saying I only believe in things which can be proven, rather I’m saying I believe in things which at least attempt to prove something. I tend to look at religious ideas as something which people believe as true, and because of that vague indemonstrable connection to truth, continue to believe it. That’s why I adore philosophy over theology. Why I like arguments instead of opinions.
I am simply loving this  “what we believe but cannot prove.” book.


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