Complexity in biology. Exceeding the limits of reductionism and determinism using complexity theory

The ultimate aim of scientific research is to understand the natural world. In order to achieve this goal, Western science has relied on different cognitive strategies, including simplification, both in terms of analysis and explanation. As the British natural philosopher Sir Isaac Newton (1643–1727) put it, “Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” In a way, examples of simplification include using idealized models, such as a ‘perfect sphere rolling down a smooth plane in a vacuum’; conducting experiments in a strictly controlled environment such as the laboratory; analysing complex systems by reducing them to their individual parts; and generally by using a linear and deterministic concept of how the world, including life, works.