Robert Rosen (theoretical Biologist) - Research

Research

Rosen's research was concerned with the most fundamental aspects of biology, specifically the questions "What is life?" and "Why are living organisms alive?". A few of the major themes in his work were:

  • developing a specific definition of complexity that is based on relations and, by extension, principles of organization
  • developing Complex Systems Biology from the point of view of Relational Biology as well as Quantum Genetics
  • developing a rigorous theoretical foundation for living organisms as "anticipatory systems"

Rosen believed that the contemporary model of physics - which he thought to be based on an outdated Cartesian and Newtonian world of mechanisms - was inadequate to explain or describe the behavior of biological systems; that is, one could not properly answer the fundamental question "What is life?" from within a scientific foundation that is entirely reductionistic. Approaching organisms with what he considered to be excessively reductionistic scientific methods and practices sacrifices the whole in order to study the parts. The whole, according to Rosen, could not be recaptured once the biological organization had been destroyed. By proposing a sound theoretical foundation via relational complexity for studying biological organisation, Rosen held that, rather than biology being a mere subset of the already known physics, might turn out to provide profound lessons for physics, and also to science in general.

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