The Evolution, Complexity, and Cognition Group

Seal of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel

I have just been invited to be 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.

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4 thoughts on “The Evolution, Complexity, and Cognition Group

  1. Excellent news Dr. Messerly!! It would be a nice boon to your loyal readers if you could make any seminars you do available on your site. Either in transcript ( far inferior option) or video (a far superior option).

  2. Thank you Glen Cannon. But remember, prestige, honors, physical beauty, and material possession mean nothing. What matters is inner peace, contentment, and love.

  3. It’s not order from chaos, it just looks like chaos from our limited perspectives. Animals and plants are nothing but analog data recording machines, that collect environmental and physical data, they take the data and create mutations based on the data, that’s then passed down to offspring. Those mutations if any, that are in the offspring, are then weeded out by society as far as what will become popular traits.

    We know that nature will kill us all, that’s natures path. To verify let’s look down the road at Earth – oh wait down the road Earth is gone. Not by anything man made, just by nature’s own path. The problem with humanity is that we’re very smart, but we have no perspective as we only live a small fraction of time. If we zoom out we can see that the Earth will be destroyed regardless of anything done by humans, so to say that humans destroy the world is stupid, the world (Earth) is already on its cosmic path to destruction, we can get off or be destroyed – period.

    Technology is what’s really destroying the Earth, but it’s also the only thing that can save it. We started technology on its own evolutionary path, and it’s a cycle that must be played out or end, and by end if we stop using technology – we all die, because without technology there is no way to prevent the Earth from nature’s destructive path. So if we use technology from what it is to what it shall become (a way to bypass nature, a compression of time fueled by information) then we have a chance to save our civilization and if we can’t come together and see that, perhaps we aren’t a civilization that needs saving.

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