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What's So New In A Newfangled Science?

"In the long tradition of the scientific loner, Dr. Wolfram, a freelance physicist known among his colleagues for his abrasive and self-aggrandizing ways, has yanked the spotlight onto a strikingly counterintuitive idea — that the universe is really just a big computer, something that can best be described not by analyzing equations but by trying to figure out what kind of software it runs."

I'm nowhere near qualified to judge the scientific merit of the idea, especially based on one New York Times report. What I find interesting is how clearly this idea demonstrates that the hypotheses of science are tied to the sociocultural setting they arise in. Darwin is the best example -- evolution, particularly the strictly competitive version that he proposed, parallels the prevailing philosophical ideas about the sovereignty of the individual, and the beneficial effects of allowing individuals the freedom to pursue their own interests. The fact that other researchers have proposed ideas similar to Wolfram's only makes it clearer that new models and forms of explanation are often imported from other realms of life, not created out of pure induction (or inspired by Quality).


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