SIG Chair: John Kineman
As of 2012 the “What is Life/Living” SIG, formed in 1999 to explore theories and perspectives on the nature of complexity and life, was renamed and refocused to “Relational Science”. This change reflects 12 years of progress on the original question, and a bold answer: Complexity is relation and life is a special organization of relation. We have thus moved from an initial exploratory discussion in which a wide range of topics were considered, to a more focused exploration of Relational Science, a field that we see emerging primarily from the work of Dr. Robert Rosen.
Progressing from its origins, the goal of the Relational Science SIG is now to continue Rosen's work and delve farther into the nature of relation. A tentative “synthesis” of that work was published in 2011, which may or may not be acceptable to Rosen followers. That synthesis attempted to combine two main theory tracks that Rosen emphasized; that of Category Theory causal mappings and that of Modeling Relations. The integration of these two ideas provides us with a mathematical representation of complex modeling relations that necessarily exist in science and in nature. Therefore, we present a challenge to relational theorists, applied scientists, and relationists in general to test these new ideas and help us improve them.
As we redefine our domain of discourse, we are aware that there already exists a broad philosophical literature on “Relationism” or “Relationalism” with which we need to interact. By re-focusing the SIG to Relational Science, we open ourselves up to contrast and comparison in this broader philosophical field in addition to our own traditional systems perspectives in ISSS. For example, a detailed discussion exists about relational space-time physics. While Rosen often said that his theories would impact physics, it has been only recently that some specific proposals have been made as to how (discussions have mostly focused on why). Traditionally, relational theory has been focused on the biological, ecological, and sociological sciences, including questions of society and governance. But now, as a general theory of physical complexity and life, Relational Science touches every field. Therefore, not only has the SIG entered a new arena of discussion with potential new colleagues and critics alike, it has also broadened its scope to include all of the sciences, many human endeavors, and more.
With regard to 'more', we hope to continue our past tradition of being open to experiential perspectives on life and reality, through the lens of relational thinking and participatory modes of exploration. In fact, many leading-edge studies in science that expose bizarre phenomena are open to study from a relational perspective. Science does not cover all of human experience, whereas reality does; and we propose that relational science is a way of exploring reality that is capable of bridging the gap between objective and subjective worlds, between science and experience, between phenomenon and noumenon, between duality and non-duality, between body and mind. In the recent 'synthesis' this dichotomy is framed as between realization and contextualization.
With regard to the life sciences, our focus on its deep causality should continue and also gain strength. One particular focus is on improving ecological theory. Advances have been made in our understanding of the causal nature of life and these causal structures can be applied in many fields: in ecology, biology, sociology, business, management, and much more. Leading-edge work in the nature of ecological relations is being conducted with practical applications in landscape and ecological sciences, leading to a new concept in natural information and informatics that may help us address current needs to understand and manage ecological systems at all scales.
Finally, as a result of recent collaboration with INCOSE, some exciting new opportunities may be opening up in systems engineering. Presently ISSS and INCOSE are collaborating on relational models to help understand the ontology of systems. Our hope is that a grounding in the methodology of relational science will bring clarity to whatever field it is applied in.
The 2012 meeting will be largely exploratory of these new dimensions, and we will establish both foundations and pathways for future development. Please join us at this meeting to chart a new direction. Some current topics of interest are:
A special focus for 2012 will be exploring common domains with the Evolutionary Development SIG. Interest in this area may be directed to Kathia Laszlo ED SIG email@example.com