What is Systematic Typology? – Part Four

Wheels Within Wheels

The structure of the Bible resembles something which was grown rather than built, composed rather than assembled. Its employment of “structure-as-sign” at every level from micro- to macrocosmic leads to the conclusion that a hermeneutic worthy of Scripture requires not only training in history, art and music but also the wits bequeathed to us by modern fractal geometry.

The idea that there could be a mathematical theory of why cows, tigers, and tropical fish have stripes or spots was something that biologists had never really thought about, and neither had the mathematicians. People had simply not put those two things together.

The theories of British mathematician Alan Turing set the scene for much of what occurred in science over half a century later. The “universal machine” he described in a paper in 1936 was purely hypothetical, but it laid out the fundamental principle underpinning all computers. He applied his theory in the development of code breaking machines during World War II, but after the war, Turing returned to contemplating systems in biology. He decided that mathematics could, in principle, explain a process called morphogenesis, the way shapes and patterns emerge in living organisms as they develop, from whorled leaves on a plant stem to the stripes on a zebra.

He approached the problem from a purely mathematical point of view, and in 1951 published a paper entitled “The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis.” His equation described how patterns formed, demonstrating in principle that chemicals following incredibly simple mathematical rules could spontaneously create “binary” markings on living creatures. The stripes or spots are not inherent in the formula, but once the equation is set in motion as a system, out they come. Turing was now decoding nature.

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