Paradigms of Order
Last modified: March 9, 2006
From the beginning of humanity we have sought to find order and regularity in our experiences of the world. Indeed, recent results in cognitive science and network dynamics indicate that any complex neural network operating within an external environment from which it receives input will automatically impose order on this input. The ordering ideas and paradigms that are found in a culture are subject to selection--beliefs that are disadvantageous will not, in the long run, survive. Nevertheless, cultural paradigms or order do not have to be factual, they only need to result in behaviors that are functionally effective. Science, on the other hand, seeks factual knowledge of the world. Thus, the paradigms of order that are used in science are subject to more stringent constraints than those found in other areas of human thought and action. In this paper we describe the major paradigms of order that have arisen in the history of science, highlighting similarities and differences between them, showing developmental connections, and suggesting ways that they show up in research on complex systems.