Theory in Biosciences

, Volume 130, Issue 3, pp 229–245 | Cite as

Complexity: against systems

  • Dominique Chu
Original Paper


This article assumes a specific intuitive notion of complexity as a difficulty to generate and/or assess the plausibility of models. Based on this intuitive understanding of complexity, it identifies two main causes of complexity, namely, radical openness and contextuality. The former is the idea that there are no natural systems. The modeler always needs to draw artificial boundaries around phenomena to generate feasible models. Contextuality is intimately connected to the requirement to simplify models and to leave out most aspects. Complexity occurs when contextuality and radical openness cannot be contained that is when it is not clear where the boundaries of the system are and which abstractions are the correct ones. This concept of complexity is illustrated using a number of example from evolution.


Complexity Evolution Artificial life Contextuality 



The research for this article was partially funded by the Norwegian Research Council. The author gratefully acknowledges the hospitality of the Senter for Vitskapsteori at the University of Bergen (Norway) where parts of this manuscript were conceived and drafted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computing, University of KentCanterburyUnited Kingdom

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