Life as a System

Modern view on biological objects as complex systems is proposed by the prominent Austrian biologist L. von Bertalanfy (1901-84), who established a new scientific discipline - 'systems theory'. According to his definition, ''system can be determined as a complex of interacting elements.'' Bertalanfy proposed to consider the role of the systems theory regarding living matter as similar to the role of physics regarding abiotic world.

The systems analysis plays the role of methodological background of biology. Fundamental laws of life (such as the law of natural selection) can be interpreted as universal laws for complex dynamical systems. And, vice versa, systems laws are organic for biology and allow for solving many of its theoretical and practical problems.

The effectiveness of the systems approach in biology is closely connected with high level of emergency, which is typical for biological systems. A biological object, as well as all stable complex systems, cannot be understood as a set of separate elements only. Each new layer of hierarchy is a new special object with its own properties, which are based on properties of its elements, but are not their direct consequence. There are two aspects which can partially explain the phenomenon of emergency:

• A higher level is a very special result of self-organization processes in the lower one. It is a summary of huge current and past processes at the lower level. At the same time, in biology, the higher level plays the role of regulatory mechanism and can radically influence low-level processes. Thus, both levels determine each other.

• Nature prefers 'economy' in principles of system organization. Systems can have similar structure, irrespective of elements' nature, and vice versa. It gives a possibility to study systems, abstracting internal elements' organization.

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