Re: [asa] Emergence

From: wjp <>
Date: Sun Jun 14 2009 - 00:57:35 EDT

According to Kim, the nonreductionist physicalist holds that

1) It is physical all the way down. That is, he holds a
physicalist ontology.

2) But holds to something like property dualism, whereby the properties
of the "base" physical elements are not sufficient to explain or
account for the properties of the higher level.

What this means is that a physical state P1 is sufficient to determine
the higher level properties M1, but the higher level properties are
not equivalent to the lower level ones P1, for the higher level properties
M1 are multirealizable, so that it might be that physical states P1, P2, and P3
all result in the same higher level properties M1.

This is the sense in which the higher level properties M1 are not reducible
to the lower level ones. Kim argues that the nonreductive physicalist must
be committed to downward causality.

Hempel has a broader definition of reduction.

He thinks that if we can take concepts in higher levels (e.g., biology or
chemistry) and have identical extensions of these concepts with extensions
at the lower level, then the higher level has been reduced to the lower.

Logically it might proceed something like this

Consider physical extensions (states) P1 and P2 and biological
extensions B1 and B2.

1) P1 is necessary and sufficient for P2 (P1 -> P2).
2) P1 is necessary for B1 (B1 -> P1)
3) P2 is sufficient for B2 (P2 -> B2)
4) Therefore, B1 -> B2

So that the biological relationship between biological properties
B1 and B2 is "reducible" to that of P1 and P2. The relationships
between extensional definitions of the biological and physical being
"bridge laws" employed in the reduction.

Does this help?


On Sat, 13 Jun 2009 21:06:13 -0400, "Randy Isaac" <> wrote:
> Well said. Good perspective.
> Nevertheless, Uko's view of emergence being reductionist, though I
> disagree
> with it, is one I find hard to dispute. I can see his point. If the
> emergent
> properties arise solely from the ensemble of component parts being
> together
> and interacting in a particular environment, they why wouldn't it be
> reductionistic? Perhaps we need to figure out what we mean by
> reductionist.
> We all have a pejorative connatation for it. But I don't feel I have a
> good
> handle on this. If reductionism means that the properties of the whole can
> be determined from a knowledge of the properties of the component parts,
> taken individually, then it is quite absurd and can easily be shown to be
> false, I would think. In any case, it would be definition be
> anti-emergence.
> If, however, it means that the whole is comprised solely of its component
> parts and their interaction with no supernatural forces, then it's a
> materialistic assumption, which may or may not be correct, depending on
> the
> system being discussed. I think I'm confused but I'm sure some of you can
> help clarify.
> Randy
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Terry M. Gray" <>
> To: "ASA" <>
> Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 7:16 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Emergence
>> Randy,
>> Yes. I apply emergence even to phenomena like inside/outside that
> results
>> when a bilayer self-assembles from phospholipids in water to form a
>> vacuole. The property is "unpredictable" from the individual components
>> and is the result of the system--in this case a amphipathic molecule of
>> the right geometry in water. Inside/outside is at completely different
>> level--perhaps even ontologically--and the molecules in question still
>> don't "know" that they are participating in the higher level.
>> To me this is a very interesting model for how the biological can at
> the
>> same time be reduced to the physical/chemical and yet not be reduced to
>> the physical/chemical.
>> Loren Haarsma and I discussed these sorts of phenomena in our chapter
> in
>> Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. Frankly, I see this as a very
>> promising direction for origin of life studies to take. Early
>> manifestations of these sorts of systems may even be acellular. It also
>> lends some solution to the protein first or RNA first conundrum. The
>> answer is neither. They were both present and the RNA/protein emerged
> as
>> an autocatalytic system. This is where some of the work of Stuart
>> Kauffman comes in.
>> Bill commented that emergence was considered non-reductionistic. I
> agree
>> with him. And this is the true meaning of irreducible complexity and
> why
>> I don't want to give up the term or leave it to the ID folks. The
>> function is a property of the whole. But it is conceivable given the
>> description/criteria that Randy summarized for the whole to be
> assembled
>> (sufficient complexity, energy flux, etc.) and then function to
> suddenly
>> emerge (and this is no miracle or act of special creation).
>> Interestingly, Uko Zylstra considers emergentism to be a form of
>> reductionism because the whole emerges from the parts based solely on
>> physical/chemical properties.
>> TG
>> On Jun 11, 2009, at 8:08 PM, Randy Isaac wrote:
>>> Hazen isn't suggesting these are sufficient, he's just identifying
>>> common features that always seem to be present in emergence of
>>> complexity. He didn't state either "necessary" or "sufficient", just
>>> "common".
>>> I think emergence isn't always precisely defined. It can be used in
> the
>>> more narrow sense as you did and some people use it in a broader sense
>>> to refer to any characteristic that could not be predicted from a
>>> knowledge of only one or a very few individuals.
>>> Randy
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Bill Powers" <>
>>> To: "Randy Isaac" <>
>>> Cc: <>
>>> Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 5:07 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] Emergence
>>>> Randy et al.
>>>> Remember that emergence, at least classically, is nonreductionist,
>>>> implying that what emerges is not merely surprising, but novel and
>>>> inexplicable in terms of the "base" level from which it emerges.
>>>> So it is not like the "slipperiness" of water.
>>>> What he has so far provided as "necessary" conditions seem likely to
> be
>>>> insufficient to produce emergence, i.e, there are too many examples
>>>> that have these conditions but would not be regarded as truly
> emergent.
>>>> bill
>>>> On Thu, 11 Jun 2009, Randy Isaac wrote:
>>>>> Another lecture I just heard from Hazen in his Origins of Life
> course
>>>>> warrants taking some notes. I need to write them down to help me
>>>>> remember so I'll go ahead and share them with you, in case you're
>>>>> interested.
>>>>> The topic of this lecture was emergence. Thinking about the
> phenomenon
>>>>> of emergence may have some relevant input into the study of origins
> of
>>>>> life. Hazen therefore takes the time to articulate four factors
>>>>> necessary for the emergence of complex phenomena in a group of
>>>>> individual elements. Two simple examples that he uses to illustrate
>>>>> these ideas are grains of sand and ants. I mentally added my own
> field
>>>>> of charge carriers in semiconductors.
>>>>> 1. Concentration. There needs to be a concentration of individual
>>>>> elements that exceeds some threshold level. Grains of sand won't
> show
>>>>> complex structures until you have enough of them concentrated in one
>>>>> region. Ants don't show social behavior until you have enough of
> them.
>>>>> Charge carriers aren't interesting if you don't have enough.
>>>>> 2. A mode of interaction. There must be a means of interaction among
>>>>> the individual elements in order for complexity to emerge. Grains of
>>>>> sand interact merely by touching each other. Ants have various means
>>>>> of interacting including carrying each other! Charge carriers
> interact
>>>>> through electromagnetic coupling but can also form Cooper pairs, for
>>>>> example.
>>>>> 3. Energy flux. There must be a source of energy through the system
>>>>> before complexity emerges. This must be in some optimal range. Too
>>>>> little and nothing happens. Too much and the complexity is
> destroyed.
>>>>> For sand, it is gravity and wind and/or water. I forgot what he said
>>>>> it was for ants. Maybe the food source. Charge carriers need an
>>>>> applied voltage or electric field.
>>>>> 4. Cycling of energy. This was the new one for me. He says that a
>>>>> cycling of the energy flux dramatically increases the complexity
> that
>>>>> emerges in a system. For sand it would be the ebb and flow of the
>>>>> waves or the wind. For ants there are various cycles including
>>>>> day/night cycles and seasonal fluctuations. Charge carriers respond
>>>>> much more interestingly due a varying field.
>>>>> How does this affect the study of the origins of life? I'm sure
> he'll
>>>>> use it more later but for now it can help shape the places and
>>>>> features to study. Concentration means you aren't looking for just
> one
>>>>> little microbe but a relatively large population. Interactions are
>>>>> most likely chemical so one needs to study all possible chemical
>>>>> reactions to form biomolecules. Energy flux can come from many
>>>>> sources--solar energy, chemical energy, geothermal, etc. Most of
> these
>>>>> are cyclical as well.
>>>>> We'll see where it goes from here.
>>>>> I really like his style of teaching. He describes science as it
> really
>>>>> works in a far-out frontier, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's
> not
>>>>> a smooth process and has lots of bumps in the road. But the process
>>>>> generates a lot of insight, whether the endgoal is reached or not.
> The
>>>>> Teaching Company has his course, among several other interesting
> ones,
>>>>> on sale through Sunday. See
>>>>> Randy
>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to with
>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>> ________________
>> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
>> Computer Support Scientist
>> Chemistry Department
>> Colorado State University
>> Fort Collins, CO 80523
>> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801
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Received on Sun Jun 14 00:58:12 2009

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