This chapter responds to claims that causal closure of the underlying microphysics determines brain outcomes as a matter of principle, even if we cannot hope to ever carry out the needed calculations in practice. The reductionist position is that microphysics alone determines all, specifically the functioning of the brain. Here I respond to that claim in depth, claiming that if one firstly takes into account the difference between synchronic and diachronic emergence, and secondly takes seriously the well established nature of (...) biology in general and neuroscience in particular, downward causation enables genuine causal powers to occur at higher emergent levels in biology and that causal closure is in reality an interlevel affair involving even social levels. (shrink)
Contextual emergence was originally proposed as an inter-level relation between different levels of description to describe an epistemic notion of emergence in physics. Here, we discuss the ontic extension of this relation to different domains or levels of physical reality using the properties of temperature and molecular shape as detailed case studies. We emphasize the concepts of stability conditions and multiple realizability as key features of contextual emergence. Some broader implications contextual emergence has for the foundations of physics and cognitive (...) and neural sciences are given in the concluding discussion. Relevant facts about algebras of observables are found in the appendices along with an abstract definition of Kubo-Martin-Schwinger states. (shrink)
The causal closure of physics is usually discussed in a context free way. Here I discuss it in the context of engineering systems and biology, where strong emergence takes place due to a combination of upwards emergence and downwards causation. Firstly, I show that causal closure is strictly limited in terms of spatial interactions because these are cases that are of necessity strongly interacting with the environment. Effective Spatial Closure holds ceteris parabus, and can be violated by Black Swan Events. (...) Secondly, I show that causal closure in the hierarchy of emergence is a strictly interlevel affair, and in the cases of engineering and biology encompasses all levels from the social level to the particle physics level. However Effective Causal Closure can usefully be defined for a restricted set of levels, and one can experimentally determine Effective Theories that hold at each level. This does not however imply those effective theories are causally complete by themselves. In particular, the particle physics level is not causally complete by itself in the contexts of solid state physics, digital computers, or biology. Furthermore Inextricably Intertwined Levels occur in all these contexts. (shrink)
Microphysical laws are time reversible, but macrophysics, chemistry and biology are not. This paper explores how this asymmetry arises due to the cosmological context, where a non-local Direction of Time is imposed by the expansion of the universe. This situation is best represented by an Evolving Block Universe, where local arrows of time emerge in concordance with the Direction of Time because a global Past Condition results in the Second Law of Thermodynamics pointing to the future. At the quantum level, (...) the indefinite future changes to the definite past due to quantum wave function collapse events. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the architecture of downward causation on the basis of three central cases. We set out by answering the question of how top-down causation is possible in the universe. The universe is not causally closed, because of irreducible randomness at the quantum level. What is more, contextual effects can already be observed at the level of quantum physics, where higher levels can modify the nature of lower-level elements by changing their context, or even creating them. As (...) one moves up through higher levels, contextual effects on lower levels occur on various scales within nature, which is crucial in biology in general and the brain in particular. We then argue that there are important logical downward causes.objects have causal effects on material-energetic systems. It can be shown that abstract objects have measurable effects on lower levels, which needs to be accounted for by successful explanations of real phenomena such as intentional action. Intentional action has the form of deductive causation from logical structures to human agency. Without this assumption, we would not be warranted in believing that our physical theories latch onto a universe that is essentially the way we discover it to be. Denying top-down causation on account of the idea that the universe permits only bottom-up constitution of wholes from lower-level elements leads to undermining the very possibility of knowledge and science. Thus, it can be rejected as a global form of explanation. We sketch a model for mind-body interaction according to which the various levels of a human organism together enable the emergence of mental top-down effects. They are necessary conditions for the emergence of human mindedness. Once it is clear that downward causation is a widespread natural phenomenon, the apparent mystery of mental causation is, in principle, solved. (shrink)
Physics and chemistry underlie the nature of all the world around us, including human brains. Consequently some suggest that in causal terms, physics is all there is. However, we live in an environment dominated by objects embodying the outcomes of intentional design (buildings, computers, teaspoons). The present day subject of physics has nothing to say about the intentionality resulting in existence of such objects, even though this intentionality is clearly causally effective. This paper examines the claim that the underlying physics (...) uniquely causally determines what happens, even though we cannot predict the outcome. It suggests that what occurs is the contextual emergence of complexity: the higher levels in the hierarchy of complexity have autonomous causal powers, functionally independent of lower level processes. This is possible because top-down causation takes place as well as bottom-up action, with higher level contexts determining the outcome of lower level functioning and even modifying the nature of lower level constituents. Stored information plays a key role, resulting in non-linear dynamics that is non-local in space and time. Brain functioning is causally affected by abstractions such as the value of money and the theory of the laser. These are realised as brain states in individuals, but are not equivalent to them. Consequently physics per se cannot causally determine the outcome of human creativity, rather it creates the possibility space allowing human intelligence to function autonomously. The challenge to physics is to develop a realistic description of causality in truly complex hierarchical structures, with top-down causation and memory effects allowing autonomous higher levels of order to emerge with genuine causal powers. (shrink)
There has been much controversy over weak and strong emergence in physics and biology. As pointed out by Phil Anderson in many papers, the existence of broken symmetries is the key to emergence of properties in much of solid state physics. By carefully distinguishing between different types of symmetry breaking and tracing the relation between broken symmetries at micro and macro scales, I demonstrate that the emergence of the properties of semiconductors is a case of strong emergence. This is due (...) to the existence of quasiparticles such as phonons. Furthermore time dependent potentials enable downward causation as in the case of digital computers. Additionally I show that the processes of evolutionary emergence of living systems is also a case of strong emergence, as is the emergence of properties of life out of the underlying physics. A useful result emerges: standard physics theories and the emergent theories arising out of them are all effective theories that are equally valid. (shrink)
This paper is a comment on both Bunamano and Rovelli (Bridging the neuroscience and physics of time arXiv:2110.01976. (2022)) and Gruber et al. (in Front. Psychol. Hypothesis Theory, 2022) and which discuss the relation between physical time and human time. I claim here, contrary to many views discussed there, that there is no foundational conflict between the way physics views the passage of time and the way the mind/brain perceives it. The problem rather resides in a number of misconceptions leading (...) either to the representation of spacetime as a timeless Block Universe, or at least that physically relevant universe models cannot have preferred spatial sections. The physical expanding universe can be claimed to be an Evolving Block Universe with a time-dependent future boundary, representing the dynamic nature of the way spacetime develops as matter curves spacetime and spacetime tells matter how to move. This context establishes a global direction of time that determines the various local arrows of time. Furthermore time passes when quantum wave function collapse takes place to an eigenstate; during this process, information is lost. The mind/brain acts as an imperfect clock, which coarse-grains the physical passage of time along a world line to determine the experienced passage of time, because neural processes take time to occur. This happens in a contextual way, so experienced time is not linearly related to physical time in general. Finally I point out that the Universe is never infinitely old: its future endpoint always lies infinitely faraway in the future. (shrink)
Nancey Murphy has been influential in the religion‐and‐science field through her espousal of the work of Imre Lakatos, more recently developed into a three‐tier approach to the joint epistemology of scientific and religious thought incorporating also the ideas of Hempel and MacIntyre. She has proposed a substantial influence of the radical reformed tradition on science and has demonstrated the nature of social influences on the form of Darwinism. She has developed important links between ethics and the science‐theology debate and has (...) examined in depth ideas associated with hierarchical structuring, supervenience, and the nature of the soul. Together these form a unique and sharply focused contribution to the understanding of the relation between science and religion. (shrink)
In this response, George Ellis comments on the publications of Part IV. He responds first to James Woodward, Richard Healey, Jan Voosholz, Simon Friederich and Sach Mukherjee, before outlining his thoughts on Max Kistler’s piece.
In this response, George Ellis comments on the publications of part III. He responds first to Denis Noble, before outlining his thoughts on Larissa Albantakis’, Francesco Massari’s, Maggie Beheler-Amass’ and Giulio Tononi’s piece.