Reductionism, Emergence, and Panpsychism
Just another repost from Uncommon Descent
In an article at BigThink, University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank (pictured) argues that reductionism is — for good reasons — fading in science: “Reductionism offers a narrow view of the universe that fails to explain reality.” It is slowly being replaced:
Reductionism is the view that everything true about the world can be explained by atoms and their interactions. Emergence claims that reductionism is wrong, and the world can evolve new stuff and new laws that are not predictable from “nothing but” atoms. Which perspective on science is correct has huge implications, not only for ourselves but for everything from philosophy to economics to politics.ADAM FRANK, “REDUCTIONISM VS. EMERGENCE: ARE YOU “NOTHING BUT” YOUR ATOMS?” AT BIGTHINK (APRIL 29, 2021)
Frank intends a series of articles at BigThink on why emergence is replacing reductionism. The capsule version is that reductionism reduces everything to the behavior of elementary particles and “describes a world without fundamental novelty or essential innovation.” But that isn’t the world we live in.
As philosophers Brigitte Falkenburg and Margaret Morrison put it, “A phenomenon is emergent if it cannot be reduced to, explained or predicted from its constituent parts… emergent phenomena arise out of lower-level entities, but they cannot be reduced to, explained nor predicted from their micro-level base.” From an emergentist view, over the course of the universe’s history, new entities and even new laws governing those entities have appeared.ADAM FRANK, “REDUCTIONISM VS. EMERGENCE: ARE YOU “NOTHING BUT” YOUR ATOMS?” AT BIGTHINK (APRIL 29, 2021)
Frank argues that evolution is the creative force that does all this (including evolving new laws?) But it’s not clear that what he means by “evolution” is the garden variety change in life forms over time.
To the extent that emergence marches with panpsychism, it probably is catching on. That means we may see ourselves in different kinds of philosophy of science arguments over evolution.
Why is science growing comfortable with panpsychism (“everything is conscious”)? At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems.
How a materialist philosopher argued his way to panpsychism. Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness. To Strawson, it makes more sense to say that consciousness is physical — and that electrons are conscious — than that consciousness is an illusion.
And a comment:
tjguy May 13, 2021 at 1:20 am
So imagining some sort of mysterious emergence that cannot be tested or demonstrated in any way – that’s fine, but positing intentional creation, that’s not.
Got it! I guess scientists are free to place their faith in anything they want as long as it is within their worldview and has nothing to do with a Creator.
I think tjguy has it exactly right.
For a number of reasons, straight-up Darwinian Atheistic Materialism is becoming increasingly untenable. And, even though Our Leaders still despise God with every fiber in their body, they are no longer confident in their ability to rule. This confidence has been declining since World War I, then again with de-colonialism, and yet again with the end of the Soviet Union.
What confidence they still have will be gone with the death of the welfare state – the Great Default – and the coming Great Demographic Age-out.
That’s when – at the very moment Darwin’s hold on power is broken – the New Faith in the Living Universe will arise. “All scientists agree!”
The Temporary Rise
I expect most Christian Churches will quickly sign on, happy to get on the government payroll again – so long as the “Christ” worshiped at tax-supported churches is understood to be just a local, culturally-accepted face of the real deity, the Spirit of the Cosmos.
A Spirit that is tied to no Transcendent, Unchanging Ethical Code or Sacred Law; that teaches that ALL gods lead to salvation and eternal life; and is surprisingly comfortable with the worship of wood and stone.
And with the out-and-out worship of men as literal gods.
Especially politically powerful men.
Dog goes back to their vomit...
The Permanent Fall
… but this isn’t AD 66.
God isn’t going to be nearly as tolerant of pantheism today, as He was back then.
The Ignorantly Pagan West knew nothing then, so her stripes were few and fairly light…
…but still led to hell.
The Willfully Godless West knows far more now, so her stripes will be many and brutal.
And will also lead to hell.
If Darwinism led to the spiritual, moral and intellectual wasteland of today… if Marxism led to the gutting of the real potential of Russia and China (and any other nation that adopted it)… then the destruction awaiting the aging, bankrupt, deluded nations that adopt Panpsychism will be fearsome.
Not as explosive a suicide as Nazi Germany, not the brutal poverty of Communist states.
More like rapid-onset senility, madness, howling incoherence, and death.