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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0195121058, Paperback)How can you tell when a scientific theory is revolutionary?
As a rule, when a distinguished scientist says he's come up with a fourth law of thermodynamics, he's wrong. Stuart Kauffman may be the exception.
The three laws of thermodynamics have been summarized as: You can't win, You can't break even, and You can't get out of the game. Kauffman's candidate for fourth law is: But the game keeps getting more complicated, and there are always more different ways to play.
One of Kauffman's key concepts is that of the adjacent possible. Imagine a set of things that exist in a particular system (such as a group of reacting chemicals, or an ecological community, or the kinds of toys available in a capitalist economy). The adjacent possible is the set of things that are only one step away from actual existence. Like potential energy in physics, the adjacent possible is a metaphysical idea with real utility.
You can think of "normal science" (as described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) as proceeding step by step into the adjacent possible. Most self-styled revolutionary scientific treatises are really crackpottery. They don't stop in the adjacent possible; they go wandering across the landscape and over the speculative horizon. Investigations may be the real thing. Kauffman is pushing into the adjacent possible at many points, from biology, chemistry, thermodynamics, and economics. As he says, "whatever Investigations is--useful, as I hope, or foolish--it is not normal science." --Mary Ellen Curtin
(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 20 Apr 2011 22:23:17 -0400)
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