Simple Complexity?

Dr. Bruce Wilson

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”- H.L.Mencken

Why do we try to eliminate complexity by trying to make things simple? Could simple just be an avoidance strategy for not exploring the fullness of the issue? In the history of the world, we have tried over and over again to simplify the complex due to our desire to maintain what we already know at the expense of what we could learn to know.

Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, that the sun was the centre of our solar system and not the earth, which originated in the early 16th century, was delayed for 20 years due to astronomical, philosophical, and religious objections. The world was not ready to move on to the new view of our place in the universe and tried very hard to maintain the old view of earth as the centre. Science was an inconvenient truth. It still is!

“Stop trying to change reality by attempting to eliminate complexity.”

David Whyte

In the current milieu there is a massive trend toward misinformation. It has become easier to believe the unbelievable due to the complexity of the issues. What is really happening here? We are trying to maintain antiquated beliefs and fearful of the potential learning processes involved. We want simple black and white answers, even if they are unjustified, because they require less research and less scrutiny. Many of these issues are too complex because they are not simple enough. So, we make them simple to avoid the required effort of discovery.

“The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.”- Edward R. Murrow

We are living in a world of social media that allows likeminded thinking to perpetuate permutations of truth very easily. The likeminded feel comforted by having a camaraderie with little regard for the accuracy of the misinformation they purvey. Especially, when the information simplifies the complex. A simple message is easier to pass along.

“If the brain were so simple we could understand it, we would be so simple we couldn’t.”- Lyall Watson

A simple complexity is an anachronism to truth. We know that the scientific method takes time and effort. Problems are not solved through gross non-specific generalisations. Most of our attempts to simplify the complex realities of modern living are short cuts at best, and misleading at worst. Misinformation is a manipulation of the truth that has gone viral because it has become so easy to achieve.

“Simplicity does not precede complexity, but follows it.”- Alan Perlis

Copernicus was fearful in 1514 that his ideas were too threatening to the status-quo. He was right in his calculation that even though science would eventually prove him correct, he was unsure of how it would be received. The misinformation of the time was inexplicably connected to preconceived notions of thought. Expanding and growing the intelligence of the planet was dependent on an acceptance of newly discovered truths over misinformation. We are still fighting the same battle.