Friday, May 23, 2008

Stuart Kauffman - Reinventing the Sacred

May 20, 2008
Stuart Kauffman - Reinventing the Sacred
Bobbi Emel hosted the recent event - what she calls a surprisingly not-so-boring evening of science.~~

To be honest, I was very tired and not looking forward to my second hosting event in as many evenings. I had not had time to look at the book and was thinking all sorts of stereotypical thoughts about having a scientist speak: it will be boring, he'll be too academic, too stuffy... grumble, grumble, grumble.

Returning from Cafe Borrone with my mocha as a pathetic attempt to perk me up, I found the author was just checking in at the info desk. He turned to me, animated and congenial, "Hi! I'm Stu." Okay, so much for stuffiness. No "call me Dr. Kauffman" here. Stu introduced me to his cousin, Rich, who lives in Menlo Park and we all chatted for a few minutes about some of their adventures growing up together.

Because Stu helped me feel comfortable with him immediately, I confessed that I had not had a chance to read his book and asked him for a nutshell version of it. In the middle of the main aisle, in front of the Book Club display, Stu proceeded to give me the reasons why Reductionism is wrong, why the Darwinian notion of pre-adaptability doesn't work, why there is agency in the universe and the importance of that, and why it is important to distinguish between a Creator God and the natural creativity of the universe.

I am not a scientist. My background is in psychology and I understand only a little of the "hard" sciences. However, Stu made this conversation so interesting that we were late getting the event started because I became engrossed in the conversation. Not surprisingly, the same thing happened with the audience. Stu told me it was going to take him about an hour to give his talk. I explained that we usually had authors speak for half an hour and then take questions. We compromised at 45 minutes of speaking time.

He spoke for an hour. I kept scanning the audience to check for signs of boredom or people looking at their watches. The faces I saw showed people who were both being entertained and educated at the same time. Stu speaks without notes about what some have termed his "God of complexity" theory and he is also quite witty. He is 68 years old yet defines the concept of his book as "Stu's Most Excellent Theory." So much for boring and academic.

Uncharacteristically, I allowed the event to go 15 minutes over time as I could tell the audience continued to be riveted by his talk. There were some great questions from the audience as well.

It took awhile to get through the signing line because Stu talked to each person individually, answering their questions about physics, complexity theory, and the creativity of the universe.


rose said...

Awesome! Is there a copy of his lecture at your school or any other place.


rosewelsh44 at hot mail dot com

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