Re: [asa] Emergence

From: wjp <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Mon Jun 15 2009 - 09:46:49 EDT

Dave:

You ask:

> How will "adding together C and D" result in free will if the elements
> are purely physical/scientific?

Do you mean by this question to indicate a firm metaphysical commitment
to the possible outcomes of the "addition" of "physical" entities?
You are, of course, free to hold such a commitment.

I would suggest, however, that this is certainly not the only "scientific"
position.

Suppose I told you that by adding a mass of entity A and a mass of entity
B, the result was massless? How impossible would that I have sounded
not so long ago? Science attempts to follow the phenomena.
The "How" part has a strange history.

In part, modern science, following Newton and Galileo, tend not to become
committed to certain hows. This was taken to be a mistake of Aristotelian
physics. We answer "hows" generally by mathematical theories that save
the phenomena. The interpretation of that theory is open (cf. QM),
albeit not irrelevant since it motivates theoretical development.

You go on to say:

I take it that most such elements are
> strictly causal, but if C simply causes D, there is no freedom. I can't
> urge the chap hurtling past the 30th floor, "Slow down! You're going to
> kill yourself." This holds even with deterministic chaos, where the
> unpredictability is a consequence of not being able to know the initial
> state. The alternative would seem to be true randomness. But that means
> absolute unpredictability no matter how much is known. No action is
> freely willed if there is no control over it. Free will is a subdivision
> of determinism or causal relations, with the proviso that the
> individual's decision/choice makes the difference in the outcome. Note
> that the choices may be highly restricted. No one has to like the
> consequences of the choices imposed.

My only comment is that there is no necessary reason, physical or otherwise,
to support these conclusions. According to some, the quantum world is
acausal. We supposedly bit that bullet because we had no choice.
It saved the phenomena.

You are struggling, I take it, with how "free will" is possible given our
presumptions about the physical world. If science is to remain
quiet on metaphysics and the necessary possibilities of the world, as I think
it has tended to do (less so of late I think), then almost anything is
possible. In being quiet on metaphysics, science remains "humble."

There, then, is simply no "physical" reason to exclude the possibility that "free will"
can result from the addition of "physical" entities.
That does not mean that we might not have "theoretical" difficulties.
But what's new about that?

bill

>
> Note also that the range of decisions may be broader than we usually
> think. A person with a gun to his head will have any action excused. But
> it is possible for the individual to respond to the threat, "I'll die
> before I'll do that."
> Dave (ASA)
>
> On Sat, 13 Jun 2009 22:06:56 -0600 wjp <wjp@swcp.com> writes:
>> Randy:
>>
>> What I am asking is
>>
>> 1) Is it possible that the project of building up our understanding
>> of the
>> world from bottom up could be mistaken in important ways?
>>
>> This is a metaphysical question, for some might suggest that it is
>> something
>> like physical necessity that the "sum of the parts must equal the
>> whole."
>> The difficulty in flushing out what exactly this means has to do
>> with what
>> we mean by "equal."
>>
>> Nonreductive physicalists focus, not on the ontology, by rather on
>> epistemology,
>> or explanatory power. I think we should at least consider something
>> more
>> radical. But I find it difficult to say exactly what I could mean.
>> I would have had less difficulty 100 or so years ago. But today
>> what is material
>> is bizarre. The sum of a particle plus its anti-particle bears no
>> resemblance to
>> the two and we do this without batting an eye. Einstein, following
>> orthodoxy,
>> thought nonlocality "spooky," a fall back to Aristotleian physics,
>> but today we
>> speak of it over breakfast and the morning paper.
>>
>> 2) So this sort of leads to the second question. Is science really
>> reductive?
>> That might be one way of putting the question. It seems that
>> science does
>> not depend upon fundamental building blocks in ways that we might
>> have expected.
>> For example, what exactly would be "improper" about the possibility
>> that by
>> adding A and B consciousness results? Or by adding together C and D
>> that
>> free will results?
>>
>> There appears to be no "scientific" objection to such a possibility.
>>
>> We have no idea what adding entity one to entity two will result in.
>>
>> 3) If it is possible that the sum of the parts do not "equal" the
>> whole, what kind of whole would it be? I've given two examples
>> where adding parts produces something that appears "novel."
>> (e.g., hydrogen atom and particle/anti-particle collision).
>> Yet we still believe that this doesn't violate the presumed
>> dictum of the bottom-up ontology.
>>
>> In both cases we are able to "absorb" these "novel" additions into
>> the bottom-up paradigm. What would it take for us to reject this
>> paradigm and explanatory/ontological model?
>> Or is it unfalsifiable?
>>
>> I hope this helps.
>>
>> bill
>>
>> On Sat, 13 Jun 2009 21:09:07 -0400, "Randy Isaac"
>> <randyisaac@comcast.net> wrote:
>> > Bill wrote:
>> > "What I'm suggesting is that this presumption that all entities
>> are made
>> > up of fundamental building blocks is somewhat misleading.
>> > And this is so because, while we may not be changing the building
>> blocks,
>> > the theories intended to account for novel combinations multiply.
>> > Is this "multiplication" a kind of fraud that disguises or points
>> to
>> > a chink in the armor of that fundamental presumption that the
>> whole is
>> > made up of fundamental parts?
>> >
>> > Well, that's the question. I find it interesting to consider just
>> because
>> > it is such a fundamental way that we go about science."
>> >
>> > I'm baffled. Can you try again? I don't know what you are asking.
>> Fraud?
>> > multiplication of theories? misleading? I'm lost.
>> >
>> > Randy
>> >
>> >
>> > ----- Original Message -----
>> > From: "wjp" <wjp@swcp.com>
>> > To: "Terry M. Gray" <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu>
>> > Cc: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
>> > Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 9:45 PM
>> > Subject: Re: [asa] Emergence
>> >
>> >
>> >> One of the most basic presumptions of science, at least of the
>> basic
>> >> sciences, is that the whole is made up of parts, and that by
>> > understanding
>> >> the parts we can construct and account for the whole.
>> >>
>> >> It is a bottom-up structure and explanatory model. So we spend
>> >> considerable
>> >> time and effort attempting to determine and understand the
>> elemental,
>> > and
>> >> fundamental, believing that in doing so we will know the building
>> blocks
>> >> of
>> >> all entities.
>> >>
>> >> It seems to me that this is a metaphysical presumption and need
>> not be
>> >> true.
>> >> Even the tools that we use, viz. mathematics, presume the same.
>> >> One plus one is and always shall be two.
>> >> But it need not be. One sheep plus one sheep is two sheep.
>> >>
>> >> Doesn't it seem at least possible that adding one building block
>> and
>> >> another
>> >> may not be just two building blocks, but something entirely
>> different,
>> >> perhaps even something that has no "memory" of being one plus
>> one, but
>> >> something else that should you try to break it down into two
>> parts would
>> >> no longer be the whole.
>> >>
>> >> Whether or not this is ever the case, I can readily imagine such
>> a
>> > world.
>> >>
>> >> If we add a proton to an electron, we get a hydrogen atom,
>> something
>> >> very unlike either of the two, something I think we never would
>> have
>> >> imagined possible given what we knew of free electrons and
>> protons.
>> >>
>> >> We "save" ourselves from thinking that "one plus one" actually
>> doesn't
>> >> equal two, by developing a whole new theory to describe how the
>> > properties
>> >> of electrons and protons enable to them to interact in such a way
>> as to
>> >> create a hydrogen atom.
>> >>
>> >> So we say that a hydrogen atom is "made up" of an electron and a
>> proton.
>> >> But didn't we have to actually discover and examine a hydrogen
>> atom in
>> >> order to "see" that the hydrogen atom is "made up" of an electron
>> and
>> >> a proton?
>> >>
>> >> I've brought a point like this up before and made something of a
>> fool of
>> >> myself. So I'm trying to be more careful now.
>> >>
>> >> What I'm suggesting is that this presumption that all entities
>> are made
>> >> up of fundamental building blocks is somewhat misleading.
>> >> And this is so because, while we may not be changing the building
>> > blocks,
>> >> the theories intended to account for novel combinations multiply.
>> >> Is this "multiplication" a kind of fraud that disguises or points
>> to
>> >> a chink in the armor of that fundamental presumption that the
>> whole is
>> >> made up of fundamental parts?
>> >>
>> >> Well, that's the question. I find it interesting to consider
>> just
>> > because
>> >> it is such a fundamental way that we go about science.
>> >>
>> >> bill
>> >>
>> >> On Fri, 12 Jun 2009 17:16:58 -0600, "Terry M. Gray"
>> >> <grayt@lamar.colostate.edu> wrote:
>> >>> 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" <wjp@swcp.com>
>> >>>> To: "Randy Isaac" <randyisaac@comcast.net>
>> >>>> Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
>> >>>> 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
>> www.teach12.com
>> >>>>>>
>> >>>>>> Randy
>> >>>>
>> >>>>
>> >>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu 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
>> >>>
>> >>>
>> >>>
>> >>> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
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>> >>
>> >>
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>> >>
>> >
>> >
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>>
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Received on Mon Jun 15 09:47:29 2009

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