Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lent: Not giving up on complexity

Today I had lunch with my good friend Eric. Eric and Judy are friends who I met in Jerusalem. They've saved my butt on any number of occasions. Eric and I have been trying to get together all week so it was good to get caught up.

Eric is really interested in studying complexity. He tells me that understanding complexity affects all sorts of different research arenas, from biology to international development. He says that in his field--international public health--people are always trying to quantify predictions of the results of various projects. It doesn't work, he says. The systems involved are too complex.

(As a disclaimer, this is my own interpretation of what Eric told me. See Facebook for his corrections).

He pointed out that one can see an understanding of complexity playing out in current approaches to anthropology, in which the researcher starts--not by being "objective"--but by naming where they are coming from, the lens they are seeing through. Moving away from a view of "soft science" that tries to make it as much like "hard science" as possible. Recognizing the complexity of systems.

Anyway. I like this idea. Because it gets us away from a view of the world where everything is deterministic and mechanistic. Because it leaves room for freedom, even in creation. That evil in the world isn't part of some inexplicable plan, that it's just evil, and needs to be confronted, freely, as such.

This Lent, I'm not giving up on complexity.

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