Sunday, May 29, 2005

Sunday Sermonette: Simon Says

Herein our weekly homily, extolling the virtues of freethinking:
I retain vivid memories of the astonishment and disbelief expressed by the architecture students to whom I taught urban land economics many years ago when I pointed to medieval cities as marvelously patterned systems that had mostly just "grown" in response to myriads of individual human decisions. To my students a pattern implied a planner in whose mint it had been conceived and by whose hand it had been implemented. The idea that a city could acquire its pattern as naturally as a snowflake was foreign to them They reacted to it as many Christian fundamentalists responded to Darwin: no design without a Designer!

Herbert Simon, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd ed., pp. 33 -34, 1996; quoted in P. Ball, Critical Mass, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004, p. 154