Chapter 12: The Principle of Computational Equivalence

Section 12: Historical Perspectives


Since the mid-1960s postmodernism has argued that science must have fundamental limitations, based on its general belief that any single abstract system must somehow be as limited—and as arbitrary in its conclusions—as the context in which it is set up. My work supports the notion that—despite implicit assumptions made especially in the physical sciences—context can in fact be crucial to the choice of subject matter and interpretation of results in science (see e.g. page 1105). But the Principle of Computational Equivalence suggests at some level a remarkable uniformity among systems, that allows all sorts of general scientific statements to be made without dependence on context. It so happens that some of these statements then imply intrinsic general limitations on science—but even the very fact that such statements can be made is in a sense an example of successful generality in science that goes against the conclusions of postmodernism. (See also page 1131.)

From Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science [citation]