First it was chaos. Now it's complexity. Or is it all hokum and hype? In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, debates about a new kind of science. Can a single theory explain economies, ecosystems, and human evolution?
At the Santa Fe Institute, Nobel Prize winners, MacArthur "geniuses," and other eminent scientists use their computers to simulate complex systems like economies, immune systems, and traffic networks. They're hoping to emerge with the underlying laws that govern chaos and complexity. John Casti, a faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute and author of Would-Be Worlds, tells Steve Paulson why he is optimistic that his colleagues' quest for a new scientific paradigm will be successful. The Santa Fe Institute's nemesis, John Horgan, senior writer for Scientific American and author of The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age, tells Judith Strasser why he thinks the field of "chaoplexity" is mostly hype, and the idea of scientific revolutions is of purely historical interest.SEGMENT 2:
Thomas Kuhn, the author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, introduced the concept of paradigm shifts in the history of science-- a concept that has rooted itself firmly in the popular imagination. Stan Temple, an ecologist who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, heard Kuhn speak in the 1960s, and tells Jim Fleming it changed his ideas about his own scientific field of study.SEGMENT 3:
So how can a non-scientist tell whether a paradigm shift has occurred? It's pretty difficult, according to Christopher Toumey, the author of Conjuring Science: Scientific Symbols and Cultural Meanings in American Life. Toumey tells Judith Strasser that the appropriation of the symbols of science--like lab coats and PhDs--by hucksters and charlatans is rampant in American society, and that the public's scientific illiteracy makes Americans susceptible to scientific conjurers.
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