A Critique of - and Alternative to - Stephen Wolfram's
"New Kind of Science"
With his computer software products of the last 30 years - solely based upon Cellular Automata - Stephen Wolfram builds, by very simple rules, certain surprisingly complex patterns. He compares them with the Binary 1s and 0s in Computing Machine Code where they are used to emulate a whole range of complex systems, that he and the Computing community have developed to a remarkable degree. But here, involving only Black and White identical squares, which via the "Wolfram Language", he has suggested a further, "more basic-and-abstract" set of Software developments, which, he insists, transcend all the anomalies-and-contradictions of the two currently dominant theories in Physics, such as those delivered by both Relativity Theories on the one hand, and Quantum Theories, on the other.
For, he insists that the far-more-basic study of all the results involved in his new kind of simple abstracted elements, are very different from those currently subscribed-to in those "Fundamental Theories" mentioned above. And, to that same end, he has also produced a "Wolfram-based" piece of software, incorporating, in addition, an extensive Knowledge Base, and possible direct access to its solutions, when posed with obviously relevant questions typed into it.
BUT, (and this is most important) he nowhere in his "New Science" addresses any of the causes inherent in those usually Subscribed-to-Areas of Theory and Knowledge, which have always been wholly dependant, ever since the Greek Intellectual Revolution, absolutely solely upon the artificial Rationality of Mathematics.
This foundation was possible due to an invention I have dubbed Simplified Relational Abstractions.
These abstractions were very effective, and have been used ever since, but they are true only in the relationships between Fixed Pure Forms, that always exist only in Forever Fixed Relations to one another (Laws or Rules), and therefore could alone be used, via Theorems and their Proofs, using that unique Mathematical Rationality, which, in order to work at all, just had to conform exactly to The Principle of Plurality.
But Plurality was not, and never can be true, of literally all other Reasoning, which instead must conform to the Principle of Holism, in which all "Laws" or "Rules" eventually vary, and such qualitative changes have to be the sole-means of Rationality, used in tracing out the only possible qualitative changes. Purely quantitative changes can never deal with such areas, and they will definitely include both General Reasoning, and ALL of The Sciences too, for all natural reality evolves and changes over time unless we try and stop it doing so.
Now, though Plurality can-and-will approximate to Reality within Effectively Stabilised Situations, they are never, as is usually assumed - The Natural Norm of Reality. They are instead actually only temporary, if occasionally very long-lasting interludes, which will always terminate as the nexus of mutually-supporting-factors, are ultimately always and naturally successfully challenged. All Real Qualitative Development simply MUST, and indeed WILL, only conform to Holism.
At the same time as the Ancient Greeks were settling upon Plurality as the means for studying reality, in India - majorly influenced by The Buddha - they were settling instead upon Holism, as the rational Basis of all Reasoning, AND crucially all Development too! But, of course, both of these conceptions were, at that time, inadequately defined, as Mankind was, in both cases, breaking wholly new ground, and as with all such "Incomplete Understanding", it will always turn out to be less-than-sufficient, to include all the relevant factors.
So, Causality in Fixed-Law Plurality, and hence also in Wolfram's identically philosophically-based stance, all fixed Rules are either ON or OFF, and can only Quantitatively SUM, when acting simultaneously with other Pluralist Laws.
However, in Holism which more accurately represents how physical reality behaves, a huge variety of interactions are possible - all of which can change-each-other in various ways. While overall - taking all of them together, actually produce a range of diverse, consequent Phases, depending upon the weights, but also crucially the kinds, of the influences involved. The crucial thing about Plurality, is that the Laws cannot change qualitatively, and, as such, remain fixed no matter what the containing circumstances are.
But, the same cases within Holism, because of their mutually modifying effects, infer an almost continuous variation in how they all act: including, once changed, how they then react-back-upon what changed them, and, indeed, change that too, in consequence! You are bound, therefore, to get both Recursion, and even the ultimate appearance of the Wholly New: where it WILL, in such circumstances, also be the Emergence of total Novelty - real Qualitative Development is therefore not only possible, but inevitable - and this is reflected in the dynamic reality we observe.
Now, additionally, there will also be actual contention- indeed sometimes all the way to processes producing the Direct Opposites of other processes. And the amount of such opposition, will vary in various ways from effectively Ignorable in one direction, all the way to Total Cancellation, with neither process NOT having any effect, on to the Total Dominance of one over the other (and all states in between these distinctive Phases). And Recursion will also guarantee that the many modifying Effects will "in sum" create constant variations in literally everything, though itself will be adjusted by the sizes of the differently-acting Opposites.
Now, in such a melée, it seems inevitable that very long-lasting Stabilities could, and occasionally would, be totally impossible, but that turns out to be incorrect! Indeed, when the above relations, all acting together, work themselves out, a kind of Balanced Stability is achieved, with the diametrically opposite processes controlling groups of situations into constantly varying, yet effectively "constant" results by a built-in entire controlling into a "Negating Balance of Opposites", which whenever an unbalancing commences, quite mechanistically also varies what will change it back in the opposite direction: though all such operations occur over very short time-spans.
Interestingly, these "Balanced Stabilities" are NEVER permanent, and in rare Crisis Situations, can and indeed do, carry on into overall avalanches of collapses of all the Balanced Stabilities into a total Dissolution of the overall System of them, into what appears to be Total Chaos! The name usually applied to these situations when we observe them in society, is a Revolution, but similar patterns are observable in natural development too - and its following resolution into a New System of balanced stabilities, if such occurs, is termed philosophically, an Emergence.
So, now, we must begin to adequately equip a genuinely New Kind of Science - based resolutely in a New Holism - as the old historical version of holistic thinking is, as yet, ill-equipped for the necessary task of solving Science's philosophical inadequacies.
We dealt with some possible new Holistic approaches in the last issue of SHAPE Journal - Circles, Spirals and Helices
Now, both the problems, and the virtues, of the Holist Stance arise from its maximal variability! For, without any Stable Waystations being available within its Reasoning, all Explanations get turned into different seemingly Infinite Regressions. So, there have to be both Processes and consequent achieveable Waystation States, wherein reasonably "long-lasting Interludes of Relative Stability are achievable, where in, in some cases at least, the old pluralist methods could still be used within the achieved Temporary Stabilities. BUT, it could never extend to predicting those States' guaranteed terminations, and, crucially, what they would then be replaced by. Indeed, ALL Qualitatuive Changes are totally beyond Plurality!
So, even in the best of circumstances, the actual trajectory of all Development is always unavoidably due to a kind of ever-present Blind Holism - it can never describe exactly what you will get in such Holistic Changes! But, Reality is never in a single Universe-wide State. It is inevitably structured as a Hierarchy of Levels, and within those Levels of Further separate Localities - all ruled by Holism, but everywhere attaining temporary interludes of Stability - both achieved, maintained and ultimately terminated along with its temporarily "stable states".
Let us begin to investigate just how these are achieved!
Here again we must approach "Circles, Spirals and Helices", because it is never in single instances that qualitatively changed Compositions, and, therefore caused flips to alternate States, are thereby achieved: it can only happen in constantly repeated Cycles of Processes, which, alone, can over-time dramatically change compositions, and hence ultimately precipitate Wholly New Outcomes. Indeed, such changes, initially, have negligible effects: but, nevertheless, they will be affecting many different simultaneous processes - to different extents - until the whole system flips-over into a series of different modes, each of which, either settle into a self-adjusted relatively stable state, or precipitate an overall collapse into a major Qualitative Change!
The Cyclic Nature of the System, both "steadies the boat", in one sense, by briefly returning to previous conditions, but also ensures Cumulative Build-Ups, that take the System to Wholly New Circumstances. The multi-factor nature of these Cyclic Systems is governed by the multiple simultaneous interactions, which can both steady things, or alternatively build-up to destructive proportions.
It is the former of these two alternatives that usually dominates, and ensures that the situation remains stable most of the time - look at the cyclical stabilities of atoms, metabolic pathways, ecosystems, orbits in planetary systems and the fusion reactions in stars. These recurrent stabilities throughout nature allow us to use Plurality and Mathematics to understand their forms, but we understand nothing about their underlying dynamics, lifespans or origins.
These cyclical stabilities boil down to the unavoidable Causal Dominance of Diametrical Opposites: for ONLY these can oppose their opposites, entirely cancel their effects, and maybe even precipitate their individual domination or even demise!
Now, these latter paragraphs reflect the very different Nature of Holistic interactions. They not only differ from the usual Pluralistic Causality, but can actually take different consequent and even diametrically opposite paths. So, there is a great deal more to it, than I have inferred here.
Holistic Rationality is still in its infancy, and that also means that Holistic Science (especially in subjects like Physics), is practically non-existent! We see its origins in the Dialectical Materialism of Karl Marx, both in History and in Capitalist Economics, but even that took Marx the rest of his life to just begin the process, AND even in those areas it has to be constantly updated with new study, for nothing we discover is fixed like in Mathematics, everything constantly evolves!
I cannot let this important passage pass, without describing its relationship to "Balanced Stabilities". For these are the Holistic Equivalents of all the Supposedly Basic, and potentially-permanent Stabilities in Plurality.
But, of course, they are in fact the very Opposite of Basic, and are, somehow, actively-maintained as Stable (presumably via the cumulative effects of processes in Repeating Cycles), which usually effectively eliminate all destructive contributions by the ever increasing successes of Pairs of Diametrical Opposites, not only selectively eliminating all others, but also, settling into whole sets of Balanced Pairs of opposites, acting as self-adjusting maintainers of the achieved Overall Stability.
Now, the switches, from absolutely NO causally-explained Qualitative changes, as in all Pluralist Science, is still not universally accepted, as most scientists actually recognise such changes, but either totally fail to explain what causes them, and/or just signal-and-describe, rather than explain, the occurrence of such changes, by merely noting-when the exceeding of a previously observed and thereafter known threshold occurs, and the consequent switching to a different behaviour then happens, without any explanation for that change in the Science.
Clearly, this tells us nothing: but such was the established norm, with the various behaviours considered to be adequately described by mathematical equations - that have been fitted-up to measured values from experiments, and both dominated by, and sufficient for, Effective Pragmatic Use (or Technology) only, but often with little or no explanation of Reality (or Science).
The "use-tail" therefore always wagged the "explanatory dog"!
And with the dexterity of Human Hands, tool-making and the development of our intelligence, even that had been sufficient to transform their World and Lives truly significantly! With the gains of the Greek Intellectual Revolution, Humanity would continue to do so for still more millennia.
But a New Approach (as yet undefined) was even then, clamouring-at-the-Door! It was the need for a deeper Understanding of our world, and therefore Real Explanation of its mysterious and dynamic nature. Now there had been many failed attempts to do this in human history, via Magic, Chance, Religion or even the Plans of Great or Wise Leaders, but what was already becoming possible were the emerging means of investigating aspects of Reality - in order to really Understand them - not the Technology which took over, but Science itself!
But the steadfast commitment to Plurality was already deflecting attention, even then, into only Fixed Laws limited to constrained contexts: and the vast majority of Causal Systems were not Pluralistic at all! So what began to be discovered were individual Laws, within rigidly-maintained circumstances, but never how those limitations and their necessarily Fixed Laws could be transcended, which was still causally unknown!
Two millennia ago, The Buddha was already developing an alternative approach, which later became known as Holism: and slowly the dynamics of Natural Qualitative Change began to be attempted to be addressed by human beings - but still not yet via a developed System of proven ideas, though, initially, at least, by continuing re-assessments and occasional profound Thought - and always available for improvement.
Yet that is absolutely imperative, if Science is to form a basis for most Reliable Understanding: and we must start with how they work within recurring processes as in Cycles, as in Orbits and in Spins.
With the one-off occurrence of an effect, qualitative changes are likely to be small and soon swamped by a cascade of other very different ones. But, in constantly repeated, seemingly-identical cycles, such changes can, and indeed often do, accumulate into an ever growing Effect, which can ultimately become dominant, and flip the whole situation into a different mode! Now, such things can literally never happen with Fixed Pluralist Singly-happening Laws: but, with collections of multiple, different and simultaneous Holistic sets of Laws, particularly in repeated Cycles, they could be very likely indeed.
But, such changes within an Holistic set of laws can do several very different things! They can establish temporary Stabilities for long periods. Aberrations can cause the total collapse of such a Stability. Cycles can selectively eliminate aberrations in Systems. They can allow Qualitative Changes in Real Development.
And, as the common form of "Stability" in a Holistic World, it is only ever temporarily delivered within a Balanced Stability of many laws - linked Laws primarily in Balanced Pairs of Diametrical Opposites, such aberrations though similarly ineffectual singly, are on the contrary, within constantly repeated Cycles, highly likely to grow, for though normally singly eliminated by the self-adusting Pairs, which can usually overcome a single aberration, they will, on the contrary, be highly susceptible within constantly repeated identical Cycles, so such aberrations can then accumulate over many repeats, which can in some circumstances even precipitate a complete dissolution of the system - not only of single Balanced Pairs, but could, along with others, dissociate an entire Balanced Stability.
In an Holistic situation Formal Logic doesn't hold!
Many simultaneous causes contend!
You have to reveal The Whole Mix!
But, notice that, because any diametrical opposites will mutually-cancel, they will not be easily eliminated: on the other hand, less related and thereby balanced-and-maintained components, will instead be selectively-eliminated over the constant, successive repeats of the ongoing Cycles - to leave only the more retainable content over time!
The Nature of Modern Holism, not appreciated until very recently, now involves very different dynamic scenarios to those of the usual Pluralist Stance, because the simultaneous interactions of multiple contending and modifying factors, are now seen to involve a whole range of different outcomes, that were wholly inconceivable previously in Plurality.
Indeed, even The Tetralemma, as mentioned in the writings of many Buddhist Philosophers, that listed the 4 conceivable judgements, that cover all the possible applicabilities of such ideas - indeed that they can be
both True & Untrue,
or neither True or Untrue
- instead of being only absolutely unexplained Descriptions, are now each capable of being covered by a series of rational explanations for the first time.
And the initial places these began to become possible were in changing contents and ultimately outcomes of constantly repeated Cycles!
Now, this development has already precipitated an alternative to the usual Pluralist Theories dominating current Cosmology: as they have led to a rejection of the usual Theories particularly concerned with the Origin and Subsequent Development of the Whole Universe. Indeed, all sorts of extensions to Reality are referred-to, in compiling current explanations in this significant area of ideas, actually taking most of them well beyond Reality and Deep into the heart of Ideality!
Yet, the sort of possibilities now being revealed concerning Natural Electricity and Magnetism, are not only providing a fully-explicable "Non-Big-Bang" beginning to Everything, and thereby not only providing an alternative initial primarily Electromagnetic Origin, but also delivering the best chance, today for a Nuclear Fusion means of providing Electricity in the near Future, with the efforts of Eric Lerner and his Fusion Focus team in New Jersey, USA!
Now this paper commenced with the proposed alternative deep mathematical abstractions of Stephen Wolfram, but in taking this new Holistic Route to Understanding has expounded the real way forwards, while also demonstrating the truly vast, indeed Infinite extent of Ideality, that seduces with its detail, but nevertheless leads Mankind only into the Swamps of Myth!