Competing models of stability in complex, evolving systems: Kauffman vs. Simon [Book Review]

Biology and Philosophy 13 (4):541-554 (1998)
Abstract
I criticize Herbert Simon's argument for the claim that complex natural systems must constitute decomposable, mereological or functional hierarchies. The argument depends on certain assumptions about the requirements for the successful evolution of complex systems, most importantly, the existence of stable, intermediate stages in evolution. Simon offers an abstract model of any process that succeeds in meeting these requirements. This model necessarily involves construction through a decomposable hierarchy, and thus suggests that any complex, natural, i.e., evolved, system is constituted by a decomposable hierarchy. I argue that Stuart Kauffman's recent models of genetic regulatory networks succeed in specifying processes that could meet Simon's requirements for evolvability without requiring construction through a decomposable hierarchy. Since Kauffman's models are at least as plausible as Simon's model, Simon's argument that complex natural systems must constitute decomposable, mereological or functional hierarchies does not succeed.
Keywords complex natural system  stability  evolvability  decomposable hierarchy  genetic network  Random NK Boolean Network
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