What is Life?
On the one hand, "No more perfect candidate of the status quo has ever come along than Hillary Clinton." Conversely, "Donald Trump is a wholly different matter. No one, especially the media, knows what he really intends to do. The media doesn't like this because if there's one thing they don't like, no matter what they profess, it is change. Or loss of control." It is why liberals hate the free market, the first amendment, talk radio, anything that lessens their grip.
The problem is that change is obviously inevitable. Complex, dynamic systems -- such as the weather -- are defined by change. However, they exhibit a certain type of change: too much change results in chaos, whereas too little results in stasis, AKA death. Thus, a complex system operates on the mysterious knife edge between order and disorder. Too much of either is fatal.
As it applies to the psychopolitical dimension, Chesterton said it well: "A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation." One definition of conservatism is the desire to conserve the institutions, customs, and laws that make this type of healthy change possible. One definition of liberalism is total ignorance of these same things, e.g., marriage, rule of law, private property, equality before the law, respect for the constitution, the necessity of religion, etc.
Everyone wants "change" in the abstract, because nothing is perfect. But the absence of perfection can hardly be used as the pretext for change, since nothing will ever be perfect. Nevertheless -- and here is another sharp difference between the two political philosophies -- liberals project unavoidable existential realities into the realm of politics, whereas conservatives accept man as he is, and do not pretend there is a political cure for what ails him.
To bring it down to a practical level, liberals look at the world and ask why it can't be better. Conservatives look at the same world and are astonished that it works at all. The more one studies history, the more one appreciates the rarity and fragility of what we once had in the United States. The left never appreciated that rarity, for which reason they have always been so casual about discarding the values, principles, and institutions that made it all possible.
What is the ruling principle of the left? Surely it is equality. Okay, fine. But what happens if you try to force things to be "equal" in a complex system? Complex systems are always hierarchical. For example, if equality existed in the world of physics, there would be only hydrogen atoms; if it existed in the biosphere, we would all be amoebas; and if it existed in the economy, we would all be Venezuela.
Likewise, if equality exists between man and woman, then we are all Pajama Boy, or Chris Hayes, or Lena Dunham. Olympic athlete Kerri Walsh Jennings made the error of advertising her biological inequality, declaring that she was born to have babies. The horror! "What is NBC doing to us?" "Is Donald Trump running the network?!" Kerri Walsh Jennings is a woman. But what is that commenter? Something arrested on the way to womanhood, I suppose.
Not only is complexity impossible without hierarchy, but one measure of complexity is the degree of hierarchy. For example, there is more hierarchy in a man than a mollusk. "The most important common attributes of complex systems are hierarchy and near-decomposability" (Mitchell).
Complex systems such as the human body are composed of subsystems, from organs to cells to to cellular subsystems and on down, probably even to the quantum level. And each interacts both horizontally and vertically; in man, our verticality reaches up into the realms of mind and spirit, which is why it is so fucking retarded to try to reduce a higher level to a lower one, when the whole system only exists because of its irreducible dynamic and hierarchical complexity. And there is no hierarchy without a toppermost of the poppermost.
Can you really understand, say, carbon -- the molecular basis of life -- by examining only its atomic structure as opposed to its possibilities, i.e., its power to relate, to bond with other molecules? The wiki article quotes materialist brainiac Stephen Hawking, who says that "What we normally think of as 'life' is based on chains of carbon atoms, with a few other atoms, such as nitrogen or phosphorus." Well, yes. We might also say that what we normally think of as "Shakespeare" is based on chains of consonants, with a few vowels such as 'A' and 'E" tossed in. This type of bottom-up approach doesn't explain, but explains away.
What we normally think of as life. Hawking implies that it is abnormal to think of life in his molecular terms, and surely he is correct. Note that the higher up the hierarchy we proceed, the more absurd the reduction to molecular interactions. Is it possible to consider the phenomenon of life on its own terms, instead of reflexively reducing it to a bizarre and inexplicable side effect of physics and chemistry?
Well, for starters, I thought this was one of the very purposes of the science of complexity. The hint is in its name: complexity, not simplicity, i.e., reductionism. This is why I was so delighted when I somehow discovered the works of theoretical biologist Robert Rosen. Back when I was writing the book, it was his ideas that provided me with some intellectual back-up for the vertical links between life and physics below, and life and mind above. Rosen does not attempt to reduce life to physics; rather, the converse: he maintains that physics applies only to statistically rare types of systems, and that biology may well be our paradigmatic science.
I would go much further than Rosen. To paraphrase Whitehead, biology is the study of large organisms, whereas physics is the study of the smaller ones. For the same reason, conservatism is the politics of life, while leftism is the politics of death.