Complexity and Evolution: fundamental concepts of a new scientific worldview

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These lecture notes provide an introduction to the basic concepts and principles of the evolutionary-systemic worldview. An overview is given of recent approaches in a variety of disciplines that offer new insights into the evolution, self-organization and adaptation of complex systems. These disciplines include systems theory, cybernetics, complex adaptive systems, chaos theory, biology, and the various recent applications of evolutionary thinking in disciplines such as psychology, ethics, culture and epistemology. What these different approaches have in common is that they replace the Newtonian, mechanistic worldview with a paradigm that emphasizes creative processes, i.e. the spontaneous emergence of new systems, structures, organization and functions. In general, this leads to to an increase in the complexity of the phenomena studied, be they physical, chemical, biological, mental or social. The course primarily aims to emphasize the fundamental concepts and principles that allow us to understand what complexity is and how it evolves. These concepts include entropy, information, natural selection, variation, self-organization, positive and negative feedback, fitness, integration and differentiation, attractors, hierarchies, goal-directedness, and control. The concepts are explained in the simplest and most fundamental way possible, with numerous concrete examples. Technical and mathematical aspects are only mentioned to the extent that they are really necessary for an in-depth understanding. The text shows how the evolutionary mechanisms that generate complex systems provide us with a foundation for an integrated worldview that is neither religious nor reductionist. This allows us to answer fundamental philosophical questions, such as: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? What are good and evil? ...
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBrussels
PublisherVrije Universiteit Brussel
Number of pages167
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • complexity
  • evolution
  • systems theory
  • cybernetics
  • self-organization


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