single versus multiple cause theories

Gessler, Nicholas (gessler@ANTHRO.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU)
Mon, 24 Apr 1995 16:03:00 PDT

Harriet, John, Nick, et al:

Yes Stephen Lansing's "Balinese Water Temples" is exemplary. Also Robert
Reynolds' (with Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus) "The Flocks of the Wamani"
demonstrates this complex adaptive systems approach through the concept
of multiple agency. There are many others in economics and social policy.

Just an additional comment, which is perhaps obvious, that both single and
multiple cause theories or models are great in so far as they work. I
believe that the key heuristic here is "leverage:" Getting the most
explanatory power from the least explanation. In a way, complex adaptive
systems models are themselves looking for the simplest primitives by
computing the results of the interaction of many simpler (and often
single-cause) models. Hence the aphorisms: "From simple rules to complex
behavior," and "(simple rules) x (complex environment) = (complex behavior)."

Nick Gessler UCLA - Anthropology