The Found and the Made: A precis of the book [Book Review]

Abstract

The Found and the Made: science, reason, and the reality of nature is a critical study of the role of abstraction and mathematical modeling in science, and how these affect the relationship of science and society to nature. This is a précis of the book, which questions the bias inherited from our religious and classical roots: that physical reality must be well defined, passive, and inert—a matter of divine or human specification. Determinism, time-reversibility, and isolated systems are persisting artifacts of such a view, along with the notion that nature can be definitively grasped in a ‘theory of everything.’ However, if nature is autonomous in the way that organisms are (and mechanisms are not) it can be expected to self-organize in ways that elude mechanist treatment. Science could advance by taking a more self-reflective stance, acknowledging its role as a form of human cognition and examining the role of its practices and tacit assumptions in producing knowledge. Specifically, it could extend concepts of agency to non-living systems, in order to better explore self-organization in the cosmos at large. Such a shift in thinking might encourage society to extend to nature its natural legal rights.

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