Daily Archives: July 1, 2014

The Evolution, Complexity, and Cognition Group

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

I have just been accepted as an affiliate member of the prestigious Evolution, Complexity, and Cognition Group at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). I am excited to be associated with this group and their important research, and I look forward to the possibility of presenting a seminar in Belgium in the coming years. Here is a brief description of my research interests and how they align with ECCO’s.

I first became interested in systems theory, a fundamental research interest of ECCO, while doing research for my 1996 book Piaget’s Conception of Evolution: Beyond Darwin and Lamarck, and that interest recently resurfaced while writing the article on Piaget’s biology for The Cambridge Companion to Piaget. Piaget’s theory of biological evolution involves feedback systems similar to those of Bertalanffy’s and Prigogine’s, two of the most important systems theorists. In fact, the motivation for Piaget’s work was nearly identical to the description of the “transdisciplinary perspective” noted on the ECCO website: “to unify science by uncovering the principles common to the holistic organization of all systems…” Moreover, the ECCO philosophy’s emphasis on “evolution and self-organization” is identical to Piaget’s approach. Piaget believed that regulatory self-organization was an invariant function in both the biological and epistemological realms and the key mover of evolution at various levels.

My most recent research involved writing two books on the meaning in life in a world revealed by modern science. These works studies the relevance of contemporary science and technology—especially cosmology, evolution, systems theory, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, and genetic engineering–for the question of life’s meaning. My research led to the discovery of the work of ECCO researchers Clement Vidal and John Stewart, whose work on the meaning of life was summarized in my blog (here and here) and in my most recent book. Thus the connection with the ECCO group.

I agree that we need “a comprehensive philosophical system, a coherent vision of the whole. A worldview [that] gives meaning to our life.” And I also believe that presently such worldviews are “all too often found in fundamentalist ideologies, or in irrational beliefs and superstitions.” Thus “we need to develop a coherent, new worldview that is solidly rooted in the most advanced scientific concepts and observations.” And I have no doubt this meaning will be found, if it is to be firmly anchored, on the idea of a self-organizing cosmos in which order emerges from chaos.

Note – All quotes from the ECCO website.