Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society
Volume 1 (1997), Issue 1, Pages 17-30

The new science of complexity

Joseph L. McCauley

Physics Department, University of Houston, Houston 77204, TX, USA

Received 9 October 1996

Copyright © 1997 Joseph L. McCauley. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Deterministic chaos, and even maximum computational complexity, have been discovered within Newtonian dynamics. Economists assume that prices and price changes can also obey abstract mathematical laws of motion. Sociologists and other postmodernists advertise that physics and chemistry have outgrown their former limitations, that chaos and complexity provide new holistic paradigms for science, and that the boundaries between the hard and the soft sciences, once impenetrable, have disappeared like the Berlin Wall. Three hundred years after the deaths of Galileo, Descartes, and Kepler, and the birth of Newton, reductionism appears to be on the decline, with holistic approaches to science on the upswing. We therefore examine the evidence that dynamical laws of motion may be discovered from empirical studies of chaotic or complex phenomena, and also review the foundation of reductionism in invariance principles.