In this paper we aim to show that phenomenal consciousness is realized by a particular level of brain operational organization and that understanding human consciousness requires a description of the laws of the immediately underlying neural collective phenomena, the nested hierarchy of electromagnetic fields of brain activity – operational architectonics. We argue that the subjective mental reality and the objective neurobiological reality, although seemingly worlds apart, are intimately connected along a unified metastable continuum and are both guided by the universal (...) laws of the physical world such as criticality, self-organization and emergence. (shrink)
Possibly the most fundamental scientific problem is the origin of time and causality. The inherent difficulty is that all scientific theories of origins and evolution consider the existence of time and causality as given. We tackle this problem by starting from the concept of self-organization, which is seen as the spontaneous emergence of order out of primordial chaos. Self-organization can be explained by the selective retention of invariant or consistent variations, implying a breaking of the initial symmetry exhibited (...) by randomness. In the case of time, we start from a random graph connecting primitive “events”. Selection on the basis of consistency eliminates cyclic parts of the graph, so that transitive closure can transform it into a partial order relation of precedence. Causality is assumed to be carried by causal “agents” which undergo a more traditional variation and selection, giving rise to causal laws that are partly contingent, partly necessary. (shrink)
Recent work on self organization promises an explanation of complex order which is independent of adaptation. Self-organizing systems are complex systems of simple units, projecting order as a consequence of localized and generally nonlinear interactions between these units. Stuart Kauffman offers one variation on the theme of self-organization, offering what he calls a ``statistical mechanics'' for complex systems. This paper explores the explanatory strategies deployed in this ``statistical mechanics,'' initially focusing on the autonomy of statistical explanation as it applies (...) in evolutionary settings and then turning to Kauffman's analysis. Two primary morals emerge as a consequence of this examination: first, the view that adaptation and self-organization should be seen as competing theories or models is misleading and simplistic; and second, while we need a synthesis treating self-organization and adaptation as geared toward different problems, at different levels of organization, and deploying different methods, we do not yet have such a synthesis. (shrink)
The Darwinian concept of natural selection was conceived within a set of Newtonian background assumptions about systems dynamics. Mendelian genetics at first did not sit well with the gradualist assumptions of the Darwinian theory. Eventually, however, Mendelism and Darwinism were fused by reformulating natural selection in statistical terms. This reflected a shift to a more probabilistic set of background assumptions based upon Boltzmannian systems dynamics. Recent developments in molecular genetics and paleontology have put pressure on Darwinism once again. Current work (...) on self-organizing systems may provide a stimulus not only for increased problem solving within the Darwinian tradition, especially with respect to origins of life, developmental genetics, phylogenetic pattern, and energy-flow ecology, but for deeper understanding of the very phenomenon of natural selection itself. Since self-organizational phenomena depend deeply on stochastic processes, self-organizational systems dynamics advance the probability revolution. In our view, natural selection is an emergent phenomenon of physical and chemical selection. These developments suggest that natural selection may be grounded in physical law more deeply than is allowed by advocates of the autonomy of biology, while still making it possible to deny, with autonomists, that evolutionary explanations can be modeled in terms of a deductive relationship between laws and cases. We explore the relationship between, chance, self-organization, and selection as sources of order in biological systems in order to make these points. (shrink)
Historical aspects of the issue are also broached. Intuitions relative to self-organization can be found in the works of such key Western philosophical figures as Aristotle, Leibniz and Kant. Interacting with more recent authors and cybernetics, self-organization represents a notion in keeping with the modern world’s discovery of radical complexity. The themes of teleology and emergence are analyzed by philosophers of sciences with regards to the issues of modelization and scientific explanation. (publisher, edited).
Four articles in this issue of topiCS (volume 4, issue 1) argue against a computational approach in cognitive science in favor of a dynamical approach. I concur that the computational approach faces some considerable explanatory challenges. Yet the dynamicists’ proposal that cognition is self-organized seems to only go so far in addressing these challenges. Take, for instance, the hypothesis that cognitive behavior emerges when brain and body (re-)configure to satisfy task and environmental constraints. It is known that for certain systems (...) of constraints, no procedure can exist (whether modular, local, centralized, or self-organized) that reliably finds the right configuration in a realistic amount of time. Hence, the dynamical approach still faces the challenge of explaining how self-organized constraint satisfaction can be achieved by human brains and bodies in real time. In this commentary, I propose a methodology that dynamicists can use to try to address this challenge. (shrink)
In this research we apply the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) to study decisions related to information privacy protection. A TPB-based model was proposed to investigate whether organization-based self-esteem and perceived deindividuation can be employed to measure the strength of the perceived behavioral control construct. In addition, we examined if the addition of a causal path linking subjective norms to attitudes and another causal path linking organization-based self-esteem to subjective norms enhanced our research model's predicting power. Our study shows that (...) information systems (IS) professionals' intentions to protect personal information privacy are influenced by their attitudes, subjective norms, perceived deindividuation, and organization-based self-esteem. It further shows that attitudes are influenced by subjective norms, which, in turn, are influenced by organization-based self-esteem. (shrink)
The representation of knowledge in the law has basically followed a rule-based logical-symbolic paradigm. This paper aims to show how the modeling of legal knowledge can be re-examined using connectionist models, from the perspective of the theory of the dynamics of unstable systems and chaos. We begin by showing the nature of the paradigm shift from a rule-based approach to one based on dynamic structures and by discussing how this would translate into the field of theory of law. In order (...) to show the full potential of this new approach, we start from an experiment with NEUROLEX, in which a neural network was used to model a corpus of French Council of State decisions. We examine the implications of this experiment, especially those concerning the limits of the model used, and show that other connectionist models might correspond more adequately to the nature of legal knowledge. Finally, we propose another neural model which could show not only the rules which emerge from legal qualification (NEUROLEX's goal), but also the way in which a legal qualification process evolves from one concept to another. (shrink)
Knowing only what is empirically knowable can't by itself entail knowledge of what consciousness "is like." But if dualism is to be avoided, the question arises: how can a process be completely empirically unobservable when all of its components are completely observable? The recently emerging theory of self-organization offers resources with which to resolve this problem: Consciousness can be an empirically unobservable process because the emotions motivating attention are experienced only from the perspective of the one whose phenomenal states (...) are executed by the self-organizing processes which themselves constitute the consciousness. I argue that a self-organizing process can differ from the sum of its (empirically observable) substrata because, rather than just being realized by them, it actively rearranges the background conditions under which alternative component causal sequences can realize the self-organizing pattern into the future. (shrink)
There is presently considerable interest in the phenomenon of "self-organisation" in dynamical systems. The rough idea of self-organisation is that a structure appears "by itself in a dynamical system, with reasonably high probability, in a reasonably short time, with no help from a special initial state, or interaction with an external system. What is often missed, however, is that the standard evolutionary account of the origin of multi-cellular life fits this definition, so that higher living organisms are also products of (...) self-organisation. Very few kinds of object can selforganise, and the question of what such objects are like is a suitable mathematical problem. Extending the familiar notion of algorithmic complexity into the context of dynamical systems, we obtain a notion of "dynamical complexity". A simple theorem then shows that only objects of very low dynamical complexity can self organise, so that living organisms must be of low dynamical complexity. On the other hand, symmetry considerations suggest that living organisms are highly complex, relative to the dynamical laws, due to their large size and high degree of irregularity. In particular, it is shown that since dynamical laws operate locally, and do not vary across space and time, they cannot produce any specific large and irregular structure with high probability in a short time. These arguments suggest that standard evolutionary theories of the origin of higher organisms are incomplete. (shrink)
Over the past decades, self-assembly has attracted a lot of research attention and transformed the relations between chemistry, materials science and biology. The paper explores the impact of the current interest in self-assembly techniques on the traditional debate over the nature of life. The first section describes three different research programs of self-assembly in nanotechnology in order to characterize their metaphysical implications: (1) Hybridization (using the building blocks of living systems for making devices and machines) ; (2) Biomimetics (making artifacts (...) mimicking nature); (3) Integration (a composite of the two previous strategies). The second section focused on the elusive boundary between self-assembly and self-organization tries to map out the various positions adopted by the promoters of self-assembly on the issue of vitalism. (shrink)
'Self organization' is a popular theme in current studies of human social activity, enterprises, and information technology (IT). This document introduces one well developed theory of self organization (autopoietic theory) and discusses its application to enterprises and their management.
Here we discuss the challenge posed by self-organization to the Darwinian conception of evolution. As we point out, natural selection can only be the major creative agency in evolution if all or most of the adaptive complexity manifest in living organisms is built up over many generations by the cumulative selection of naturally occurring small, random mutations or variants, i.e., additive, incremental steps over an extended period of time. Biological self-organization—witnessed classically in the folding of a protein, or (...) in the formation of the cell membrane—is a fundamentally different means of generating complexity. We agree that self-organizing systems may be fine-tuned by selection and that self-organization may be therefore considered a complementary mechanism to natural selection as a causal agency in the evolution of life. But we argue that if self-organization proves to be a common mechanism for the generation of adaptive order from the molecular to the organismic level, then this will greatly undermine the Darwinian claim that natural selection is the major creative agency in evolution. We also point out that although complex self-organizing systems are easy to create in the electronic realm of cellular automata, to date translating in silico simulations into real material structures that self-organize into complex forms from local interactions between their constituents has not proved easy. This suggests that self-organizing systems analogous to those utilized by biological systems are at least rare and may indeed represent, as pre-Darwinists believed, a unique ascending hierarchy of natural forms. Such a unique adaptive hierarchy would pose another major challenge to the current Darwinian view of evolution, as it would mean the basic forms of life are necessary features of the order of nature and that the major pathways of evolution are determined by physical law, or more specifically by the self-organizing properties of biomatter, rather than natural selection. (shrink)
The intuitive difference between a system that choreographs the motion of its parts in the service of goals of its own formulation and a system composed of a collection of parts doing their own thing without coordination has been shaken by now familiar examples of self-organization. There is a broad and growing presumption in parts of philosophy and across the sciences that the appearance of centralized information-processing and control in the service of system-wide goals is mere appearance, i.e., an (...) explanatory heuristic we have evolved to predict behavior, but one that will eventually get swept away in the advancing tide of self-organization. I argue that there is a distinction of central importance here, and that no adequate science of complex systems can dispense with it. (shrink)
Three arguments are given to show that neural constructivism lacks an essential ingredient to explain cognitive development. Based on results in the theory of adaptive signal analysis, adaptive biological pattern information and self-organization in nonlinear systems of information processing, it is concluded that neural constructivism should be further extended to accommodate the occurrence of phase transitions generating qualitative development in the sense of Piaget.
Recent neurophysiological observations are giving rise to the expectation that in the near future genuine biological experiments may contribute more than will premature speculations to the understanding of global and cognitive functions. The classical reflex principle — as the basis of neural functions — has to yield to new ideas, like autopoiesis and/or self-organization, as the basic paradigm in the framework of which the essence of the neural can be better understood. Neural activity starts in the very earliest stages (...) of development well before receptors and afferent input become functional. Under suitable conditions, both in nervous tissue cultures and in embryonic tissue recombination experiments, the conditions of such initial autopoietic activity can be studied. This paper tries to generalize this elementary concept for various neural centers, notably for the spinal segmental apparatus and the cerebral cortex. (shrink)
In these notes I want to address some issues concerning self-organization that seem to me to apply generally from the micro-physical through the biological and social to the cosmological. That is, they are a part of the general theory of self-organization. I prefer to distinguish the theory of selforganization from the analysis of the concept of self-organization (which Maturana claims is oxymoronic, since there is no self that organizes1). General usage gives us something to which the term (...) 'self-organization' refers. We can set aside the question of whether or not selves can really do such a thing until we know what it is they are supposed to do.2 This approach also allows the possibility that self-organization does not pick out a single natural kind, but may refer to a range of things that are grouped together by a Wittgenstein style “family resemblance”. (shrink)
Abstract Microtubules, major elements of the cell skeleton are, most of the time, well organized in vivo, but they can also show self-organizing behaviors in time and/or space in purified solutions in vitro. Theoretical studies and models based on the concepts of collective dynamics in complex systems, reaction–diffusion processes and emergent phenomena were proposed to explain some of these behaviors. In the particular case of microtubule spatial self-organization, it has been advanced that microtubules could behave like ants, self-organizing by (...) ‘talking to each other’ by way of hypothetic (because never observed) concentrated chemical trails of tubulin that are expected to be released by their disassembling ends. Deterministic models based on this idea yielded indeed like-looking spatio-temporal self-organizing behaviors. Nevertheless the question remains of whether microscopic tubulin trails produced by individual or bundles of several microtubules are intense enough to allow microtubule self-organization at a macroscopic level. In the present work, by simulating the diffusion of tubulin in microtubule solutions at the microscopic scale, we measure the shape and intensity of tubulin trails and discuss about the assumption of microtubule self-organization due to the production of chemical trails by disassembling microtubules. We show that the tubulin trails produced by individual microtubules or small microtubule arrays are very weak and not elongated even at very high reactive rates. Although the variations of concentration due to such trails are not significant compared to natural fluctuations of the concentration of tubuline in the chemical environment, the study shows that heterogeneities of biochemical composition can form due to microtubule disassembly. They could become significant when produced by numerous microtubule ends located in the same place. Their possible formation could play a role in certain conditions of reaction. In particular, it gives a mesoscopic basis to explain the collective dynamics observed in excitable microtubule solutions showing the propagation of concentration waves of microtubules at the millimeter scale, although we doubt that individual microtubules or bundles can behave like molecular ants. Content Type Journal Article Category Regular Article Pages 1-28 DOI 10.1007/s10441-012-9149-1 Authors Nicolas Glade, AGIM Laboratory, Laboratory of AGeing Imaging and Modeling, University of Grenoble, CNRS FRE 3405, Domaine de la Merci, 38700 La Tronche, France Journal Acta Biotheoretica Online ISSN 1572-8358 Print ISSN 0001-5342. (shrink)
QED is a fundamental microscopic theory satisfying all the conservation laws and discrete symmetries C, P, T. Yet, dissipative phenomena, organization, and self-organization occur even at this basic microscopic two-body level. How these processes come about and how they are described in QED is discussed. A possible new phase of QED due to self-energy effects leading to self-organization is predicted.
There are many reasons for questioning the relevance of the concepts of self-organization (SO) and emergence. By studying three types of SO, respectively related to ontogeny, phylogeny and formalized models, we show that we always have to suppose an associated hetero-organization and preconceived immergence, unconsciously present in the authors mind. In order to understand how these unusual couples are working, they must be considered as agonistic antagonistic couples. Heteroorganization and immergence put constraints on the system so that SO and (...) emergence will produce new patterns and forms, depending on these constraints. Besides, such couples (SO and heteroorganization, emergence and immergence) seem to belong to a series of couples of the same type, allowing us to define a kind of model of life.The concept of self-organization has been presented as the main concept defining systemics, and second order cybernetics. This concept has been accepted also in general Biological Theory (BT) where authors endowed the key to many phenomena until then poorly understood. (shrink)
Bering makes a good case for turning attention to an organized system that provides the self with transcendental meaning. In focusing on the evolutionary basis of this system, however, he overlooks the self-organizing properties of cognitive systems themselves. We propose that the illusory system Bering describes can be more generally and parsimoniously viewed as an emergent by-product of self-organization, with no need for specialized “illusion by design.”.
Division of labor and its associated phenomena have been viewed as prime examples of group-level adaptations. However, the adaptations are the result of the process of evolution by natural selection and thus require that groups of insects once existed and competed for reproduction, some of which had a heritable division of labor while others did not. We present models, based on those of Kauffman (1984) that demonstrate how division of labor may occur spontaneously among groups of mutually tolerant individuals. We (...) propose that division of labor itself is not a product of natural selection but instead is a "typical" outcome of self organization. (shrink)
Locus equations offer promise for an understanding of at least some aspects of perceptual invariance in speech, but they were discovered almost fortuitously. With the present availability of powerful machine learning algorithms, ignorance-based automatic discovery procedures are starting to supplant knowledge-based scientific inquiry. Principles of self-learning and self-organization are powerful tools for speech research but remain somewhat under-utilized.
Somewhat surprisingly, evolutionary economists are far from agreeing upon the economic concept of evolution. The debate revolves around the question whether the mechanisms of variation, selection and retention are general principles of evolutionary processes, also valid in economics, or if economic evolution can be described by self-organization. The paper argues that self-organization is a useful concept, but has not yet fulfilled the aspiration to describe economic evolution as an endogenous process. In self-organization models important aspects, like novelty (...) generation or the attribution of its economic quality, are introduced exogenously. In verbal descriptions however, even critics of general evolutionary principles sketch these processes in a way that is perfectly compatible with the universal principles. The paper thus argues that the controversy is mainly based on a misinterpretation of Universal Darwinism and tries to clarify the concept. It concludes that variation, selection and retention are in fact general evolutionary principles; as self-organization maybe is. (shrink)
Context: Using radical constructivism, society can be considered from the perspective of asking the question, “Who conceives of society?” In Luhmann’s social systems theory, this question itself is considered as a construct of the communication among reflexive agents. Problem: Structuration of expectations by codes operating in interhuman communications positions both communicators and communications in a multi-dimensional space in which their relations can be provided with meaning at the supra-individual level. The codes can be functionally different and symbolically generalized. Method: More (...) than Luhmann, I focus on the hypothetical status of the communication of meaning and the uncertainty involved. Meaning can be communicated because of reflexivity in interhuman communications; meaning cannot be observed. Results: The communication (and reflexive translation) of denotations between semantic domains can generate “horizons of meaning” as reflexive orders that remain structurally coupled to individual minds. This elusive order contains a trade-off between “organization” at interfaces integrating (differently coded) expectations at each moment of time, and the potential of further differentiation among symbolically generalized codes of communication in a “self-organization” over time. Implications: One can model the coding in the communication of meaning as latent variables (eigenvectors) that evolve as an implication of the interacting intentions and expectations. The structure of expectations can be visualized (at each moment) and animated (over time) using semantic maps. The self-organizing horizons of meaning operate in a multidimensional space different from the network topology, and at another pace, since meaning is provided to events from the perspective of hindsight. Constructivist content: This perspective of the radical constructedness of social reality transforms the status of agency and organization in sociological theorizing from a source of change to a resource of communicative competencies and reflexive performativity. (shrink)
Foremost among the tasks facing a semiotically-informed modeling of natural open systems is the recognition and representation of self-organization. This forces attention on process, time, and energetics to complement the conventional semiotic bias toward structure, space, and informatics. While self -organization might be captured in numerous operational idioms, we suggest that the fundamentally distinctive formal structures of (a) development (intrinsic predictability) and (b) evolution (unexpected change through change in contextual meaning) constitute thewarp and woof of virtually all observations on (...) systems undergoing change, and that, since these represent complementary orientations toward phenomena generally, interaction of these styles of change within systems can lead to generic models of enormous utility in many fields. (shrink)
This article addresses the question of the mechanisms of the emergence of structure and meaning in the biological and physical sciences. It proceeds from an examination of the concept of intentionality and proposes a model of intentional behavior on the basis of results of computer simulations of structural and functional self-organization. Current attempts to endow intuitive aspects of meaningful complexity with operational content are analyzed and the metaphor of DNA as a computer program (the `genetic program') is critically examined (...) in relation to an alternative metaphor of DNA as data. It is argued that relatively simple networks of boolean automata can classify and recognize patterns of binary strings on the basis of non-programmed, self-generated criteria, but lack a capacity for self-observation and interpretation. To overcome this problem it is necessary to clarify the relationships between the goals and underlying mechanisms of a process and between a system and its environment. It will be shown that memory devices that record the histories of interactions are essential for models of conscious and unconscious intentional behavior and that the possibility of infinitely sophisticated - and therefore unprogrammable - machines cannot be avoided. It will be argued that the notion of infinite sophistication allows the ideas of self-organization and physical determinism to be reconciled. These models will be used to suggest how the voluntary aspect of decision-making in general can emerge out of functional self-organizing processes. The conclusion will introduce the notion of `underdetermination' of theories, which imposes an intrinsic limitation on models of complex natural systems - a limitation that, at the same time, may be precisely what makes possible mutual understanding and intersubjectivity. (shrink)
We describe a “centipede’s dilemma” that faces the sciences of human interaction. Research on human interaction has been involved in extensive theoretical debate, although the vast majority of research tends to focus on a small set of human behaviors, cognitive processes, and interactive contexts. The problem is that naturalistic human interaction must integrate all of these factors simultaneously, and grander theoretical mitigation cannot come only from focused experimental or computational agendas. We look to dynamical systems theory as a framework for (...) thinking about how these multiple behaviors, processes, and contexts can be integrated into a broader account of human interaction. By introducing and utilizing basic concepts of self-organization and synergy, we review empirical work that shows how human interaction is flexible and adaptive and structures itself incrementally during unfolding interactive tasks, such as conversation, or more focused goal-based contexts. We end on acknowledging that dynamical systems accounts are very short on concrete models, and we briefly describe ways that theoretical frameworks could be integrated, rather than endlessly disputed, to achieve some success on the centipede’s dilemma of human interaction. (shrink)
This article discusses the issue of social and cultural ‘autotranscendence’ - self-production, creativity - in the debates on self-organization. The point of departure is Cornelius Castoriadis’s idea of ‘self-creation’. First, a schisma between mechanical and ontological modeling is indicated and used to introduce the idea of a ‘creative organization’. This is further discussed in relation to Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s concept of social ‘autotranscendence’ by ‘complex methodological individualism’, with particular respect to the incomprehension of the social. Following Johann P. Arnason’s treatment (...) of the question of cultural articulation in Castoriadis, the article argues that the problem of autotranscendence presents a further problem of self-creation discernible in Castoriadis’s notions of phusis/nomos, living being/human, and constraint/magma. The article closes with a consideration of Duncan Watts, Alberto-László Barabási and Bernardo Huberman’s sketch of a network sociology. (shrink)
The philosophical foundations of the theory of molecular self-organization (TMS) are reconstructed and compared with the explicit methodological statements made by occasions by its author(s). Special attention is paid to those philosophical fundamentals of TMS which can turn out helpful in answering the question evoking vivid discussions in the philosophy of nature of the recent decades: whether it is possible to search for a physico-chemical explanation of the genesis of life and at the same time defend its specific character. (...) In other words: do the latest findings in self-organization of prebiological molecules allow to overcome the traditional disjunction “either physics or evolution” and to replace it with the conjunction “physics and evolution”? (shrink)
Scholars have suggested that the tendency for an individual to perceive him- or herself as more ethical than others might influence the individual''s perceptions of his or her organization''s ethics. The purpose of this study is to consider if and/or when such a relationship exists. A thorough consideration of the nature of perceptions of relative ethicality suggests that a positive self-bias would negatively influence perceptions of organizational ethicality. The results of an empirical study involving working managers and employees of a (...) hospital support that argument. Furthermore, the results indicate that organizational identification, perceived organizational cohesion, and an individual''s insulation also influence individual perceptions of relative organizational ethicality. The findings illuminate this particular phenomenon and further our understanding of the relationship between the individual and the organization, more generally. (shrink)
An attempt to critically analyse the claims of the theory of self-organization of complex systems (synergetics) to the interdisciplinary generalizations and the universal efficacy of its models is made in the paper. The grounds for transfer of synergetic models to different disciplinary fields are under discussion. It is argued that synergetics is a mental scheme or a heuristic approach to exploring the complex behaviour of systems, rather than a universal key to solving concrete scientific problems. The prospects for development (...) and the possible future of synergetics in the coming decades are estimated. Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. (shrink)
The improbability of a spontaneously generated self-assembling molecule has suggested that life began with a set of simpler, collectively replicating elements, such as an enclosed autocatalytic set of polymers (or autocell). Since replication occurs without a self-assembly code, acquired characteristics are inherited. Moreover, there is no strict distinction between alive and dead; one can only infer that an autocell was alive if it replicates. These features of early life render natural selection inapplicable to the description of its change-of-state because they (...) defy its underlying assumptions. Moreover, natural selection describes only randomly generated novelty; it cannot describe the emergence of form at the interface between organism and environment. Self-organization is also inadequate because it is restricted to interactions amongst parts; it too cannot account for context-driven change. A modified version of selection theory or self-organization would not work because the description of change-of-state through interaction with an incompletely specified context has a completely different mathematical structure, i.e. entails a non-Kolmogorovian probability model. It is proposed that the evolution of early life is appropriately described as lineage transformation through context-driven actualization of potential, with self-organized change-of-state being a special case of no contextual influence, and competitive exclusion of less fit individuals through a selection-like process possibly (but not necessarily) playing a secondary role. It is argued that natural selection played an important role in evolution only after genetically mediated replication was established. (shrink)
Some biochemical systems require multiple, well-matched parts in order to function, and the removal of any of the parts eliminates the function. I have previously labeled such systems "irreducibly complex," and argued that they are stumbling blocks for Darwinian theory. Instead I proposed that they are best explained as the result of deliberate intelligent design. In a recent article Shanks and Joplin analyze and find wanting the use of irreducible complexity as a marker for intelligent design. Their primary counterexample is (...) the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction, a self-organizing system in which competing reaction pathways result in a chemical oscillator. In place of irreducible complexity they offer the idea of "redundant complexity," meaning that biochemical pathways overlap so that a loss of one or even several components can be accommodated without complete loss of function. Here I note that complexity is a quantitative property, so that conclusions we draw will be affected by how well-matched the components of a system are. I also show that not all biochemical systems are redundant. The origin of non-redundant systems requires a different explanation than redundant ones. (shrink)