Re: more, briefly

Massimo Pigliucci (pigliucci@utk.edu)
Sat, 11 Apr 1998 10:45:08 -0400

> Can you define mathematically, the term 'epiphenomenon'? I hear this
> term
> bandied about by mechanists like design is bandied about by the ID
> group,
> but I don't see how one can give it an objective definition. It has
> all the
> smell of a subjective term to me.

For a mathematical treatment of epiphenomena I refer you to Stuart
Kauffman's "The Origins of Order", 1993, Oxford University Press, and
especially to the excellent bibliography therein.

For a more intuitive definition, epiphenomenon simply means "emergent
property". The simplest example of emergent property I can think of is
the junction of oxyne and hydrogen to yield water. While there is
nothing magical or non-physical about it, the properties of water are in
no way reducible to the sum of the properties of hydrogen and oxygen,
since what makes water what it is is the *interaction* between the two.

ciao,
Massimo

--
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Massimo Pigliucci, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolution
Society for the Study of Evolution "Dobzhansky" Awardee
Dept. of Botany, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-1100
phone 423-974-6221 fax 0978

Lab page http://fp.bio.utk.edu/pgl Science & Society http://fp.bio.utk.edu/sands Darwin Day http://fp.bio.utk.edu/darwin Rationalists of East Tennessee http://www.korrnet.org/reality

"I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this." -- Emo Phillips ******************************************************************