The model by Prigogine and Nicolis suggesting how microscopic fluctuations can instigate major changes in macroscopic configurations stands as a landmark contribution, helping to incite the current explosion of interest in complex systems. This model restricts causal agency solely to simple, generic microscopic fluctuations and is formulated under assumptions that pertain largely to physical systems. In the realm of ecosystem dynamics, however, where the hierarchical order of attributes is sometimes inverted, it appears unlikely that the order-through-fluctuations scenario can provide a sufficient narrative of change. In particular, mutualistic, macroscopic configurations within ecosystems appear to exert active agency upon their microscopic features.
At a recent lecture hosted by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, John Haught (2001a) outlined the two extremes between which philosophical opinions on the core issues of life and death have shifted over the last three centuries. He related that before the seventeenth century life was regarded as ubiquitous and ascendant. It […]