Complexity

Discussion in 'Health and medical' started by Chupacabra, Apr 14, 2004.

  1. Guy Hoelzer

    Guy Hoelzer Guest

    in article [email protected], John Wilkins at
    [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04 9:07 PM:

    > William Morse <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > ...
    >> But before I do that: isn't the science of physics doomed
    >> due to the absence of rules that we can know of governing
    >> metaphysics? Assuming a reductionist stance for now -
    >> that biology is explained by chemistry, and chemistry is
    >> explained by physics - then I have to ask the question:
    >> what explains physics? Is there physical metaphysics?
    >> There appear to be three possible answers - probably Dr.
    >> John (Wilkins) can come up with more:
    >
    > I shan't, but you raise a very cute problem: if
    > explanation is something along the lines of the n-d (nomological-
    > deductive) model, where you have satisfactorily explained
    > a phenomenon or explanadum E only so far as you have
    > deduced E from a generalisation or law L and a set of
    > boundary and initial conditions C [they teach us to talk
    > like this, you know], how can metaphysics explain physics?
    >
    > For there are no laws or generalisations in metaphysics
    > from which we can deduce or even infer the laws of physics
    > or the very existence of a physical world.
    >
    > I shall have to think this one through, and publish a
    > paper on it :)

    Ultimately, I think that physics must explain itself. It
    must be fundamentally teleological.

    Guy
     


  2. "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > in article [email protected], Wirt Atmar
    > > at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    > >
    > > > Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    > > > philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    > > > mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    > > > process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    > >
    > > [snip] I see vitalism as something to be explained by
    > > science, rather than avoided as if it must represent a
    > > falsehood. I suspect that the
    term
    > > "vitalism" connotes different things for us.

    > I think you are anachronistically interpreting "vitalism"
    > the term.
    >
    > Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    > that a property occurs at a physical level or scale which
    > cannot be reduced to the properties of the components.
    > Hence, for example, consciousness is the paradigmatic case
    > of an emergent property, because it is supposed to have
    > features that cannot be explained as the vector sum of all
    > the dynamics of neurons and their environmental inputs.
    > But each new discovery shows this to be false. Likewise
    > with evolution. Each emergent property turns out to be
    > either a cause for a research program to decompose it into
    > its substrate, or can already be explained that way.
    > People who rest satisfied with emergent properties do,
    > indeed, tread close to mysticism and vitalism.
    > >
    > > I also take issue with your assertion that when
    > > "emergent properties are introduced into a philosophy of
    > > evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness is
    > > simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost
    always
    > > parts of our models, especially in the study of such
    > > high-order
    phenomena as
    > > evolutionary biology. That is what assumptions are all
    > > about. Even our assumptions are usually about very high-
    > > order phenomena, which
    themselves
    > > would require hefty assumption sets to explain. I do not
    > > see the introduction of emergent properties [note that
    > > this is VERY different
    from
    > > the notion of emergent systems] as introducing either
    > > mystery or
    vitalism
    > > into theory. Pressure, for example, is an emergent
    > > property of a
    collection
    > > of atoms, which is not definable for a single atom in
    > > isolation. Would
    you
    > > say that introducing the concept of pressure into
    > > physical theory
    invoked
    > > additional mystery and "treads close to vitalism?"
    >
    > The primary claim made by emergentism is that you cannot
    > account for the property in terms of its parts without
    > remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted for -
    > there is no emergence here. The classical example,
    > introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of Logic, is the
    > liquid properties of water, which he said could not be
    > deduced from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But
    > we do exactly that these days - you can model quite
    > accurately the dynamics and microproperties of water on a
    > computer using only the known properties of hydrogen and
    > oxygen atoms. It only took a computer that was more
    > powerful than Mill had to hand.

    I have no desire to defend Guy Hoelzer's reading of
    "vitalism", but I do wish to take issue with John Wilkins'
    reading of "emergentism". However, since John knows much
    more about the history of the use of this word than I do,
    prudence dictates that I should coin a new term for the
    variant form of emergentism that I wish to defend.
    Therefore, I will call myself an "emergence-oriented
    reductionist". I suspect that most scientifically literate
    persons interested in emergence adhere to this ideology.

    An "emergence-oriented reductionist" definitely does NOT
    believe that you cannot account for the emergent property in
    terms of the properties of the system components and their
    interactions. If an "emergent property" is discovered that
    is not yet explained in those terms, then that is motivation
    for the creation of a reductionist research programme to
    find the missing explanation.

    But if all "emergence" exists only to be explained away, you
    may ask, why does the "emergence-oriented reductionist" go
    out of his way to call attention to "emergent properties"?
    Good question. The answer requires that we consider a three-
    level description of a system.

    Consider a top-level system S which can be decomposed into
    mid-level subsystems M_sub_1, M_sub_2, ..., M_sub_i, ...
    Suppose that there is a property S_EP that is emergent in
    the sense that the explanation of S_EP is only possible
    reductionistically by considering the properties of all the
    M_sub_i subsystems AND their interactions.

    Now, assume that the M_sub_i subsystems are further broken
    down into lower-level subsystems L_sub_i_sub_j, and that the
    properties of the mid-level subsystems (both emergent and
    nonemergent) are reductionistically explained by the low-
    level properties and their interactions.

    The question now arises: can we eliminate the middle level
    of subsystems and interactions from our explanatory
    structure? In theory, this should be possible, as long as we
    can come up with a way of describing all of the interactions
    - M to M, L to L, and M to L - in the same language. But,
    this attempt to translate all of the interactions into a
    single low-level language may fail because we have
    impoverished our descriptive vocabulary. We have eliminated
    all of the properties that were emergent at the mid-level!
    So, how do we translate the original description of M to M
    interactions into descriptions of L to L interactions?

    At the very least, an "emergence-oriented reductionist"
    views the task of eliminating explanatory level M with
    distaste. On a day when he is feeling intransigent, he may
    even claim that the elimination of the middle level of
    explanation is impossible in principle.

    Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness of
    water as an example of what I have just expounded. A
    reductionist explanation of liquid water might postulate a
    "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains of crystaline water
    separated by boundary regions of gaseous water. The dynamics
    is that water molecules are continually moving from the
    crystaline phase to the gas phase and back. That is, we have
    a three-level description - molecules, crystaline domains,
    and the liquid system as a whole. And, there is just no way
    to collapse this to a two-level description and throw out
    the properties - emergent and otherwise - of the middle
    level. Similarly, it would be impossible to do a
    hydrodynamic model of stream flow at the molecular level,
    because emergent properties of liquid water (viscosity,
    surface tension, etc.) have been lost.
     
  3. Guy Hoelzer

    Guy Hoelzer Guest

    Hi John,
    in article [email protected], John Wilkins at
    [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04 9:07 PM:

    > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >> Dear Wirt,
    >>
    >> I am responding to a wonderful post of yours. You and I
    >> are in extremely close agreement on these issues, in
    >> general, but I want to "pick one nit" out of your post.
    >> You and I have discovered our disagreement on this
    >> particular issue before, but I thought it might be useful
    >> to lay it out for discussion in sbe.
    >>
    >> in article [email protected], Wirt Atmar
    >> at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    >>
    >>> Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    >>> philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    >>> mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    >>> process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    >>
    >> I often see the term "vitalism" used in this way (the way
    >> I think you are using it), as a rhetorical punishment for
    >> perceived false logic, or warning to avoid this direction
    >> in our modeling of nature. I don't understand this
    >> position. I see vitalism as something to be explained by
    >> science, rather than avoided as if it must represent a
    >> falsehood. I suspect that the term "vitalism" connotes
    >> different things for us. To me it connotes an actively
    >> driven system that behaves in ways that maximize its
    >> functional effectiveness and persistence. Life certainly
    >> does this, as well as any dissipative system (sensu
    >> Prigogine).
    >
    > Vital fluids, interior molds, elan vital, entelechies and
    > the like postulate an occult force as an explanation. When
    > the mechanisms of reproduction, growth and metabolism were
    > unknown, it might have been worthwhile to postulate them,
    > but now it is merely mysticism. "Vitalism" is the theory
    > that there is something qualitatively different *at every
    > level* between life and nonlife - the vital force must
    > explain why cells divide, why organisms grow, why they
    > react to stimuli. But we know why they do these things,
    > and there is no non-physical remainder left over to
    > explain. I think you are anachronistically interpreting
    > "vitalism" the term.
    >
    > Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    > that a property occurs at a physical level or scale which
    > cannot be reduced to the properties of the components.
    > Hence, for example, consciousness is the paradigmatic case
    > of an emergent property, because it is supposed to have
    > features that cannot be explained as the vector sum of all
    > the dynamics of neurons and their environmental inputs.
    > But each new discovery shows this to be false. Likewise
    > with evolution. Each emergent property turns out to be
    > either a cause for a research program to decompose it into
    > its substrate, or can already be explained that way.
    > People who rest satisfied with emergent properties do,
    > indeed, tread close to mysticism and vitalism.

    I strongly disagree, and I don't see anything here other
    than an unfounded claim. I see and appreciate the historical
    and philosophical baggage associated with the term
    "vitalism." I guess I need a different term to label the
    kinds of physical systems I described above. How would you
    feel about calling them "energetic."

    >> I also take issue with your assertion that when "emergent
    >> properties are introduced into a philosophy of
    >> evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness is
    >> simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost always
    >> parts of our models, especially in the study of such high-
    >> order phenomena as evolutionary biology. That is what
    >> assumptions are all about. Even our assumptions are
    >> usually about very high-order phenomena, which themselves
    >> would require hefty assumption sets to explain. I do not
    >> see the introduction of emergent properties [note that
    >> this is VERY different from the notion of emergent
    >> systems] as introducing either mystery or vitalism into
    >> theory. Pressure, for example, is an emergent property of
    >> a collection of atoms, which is not definable for a
    >> single atom in isolation. Would you say that introducing
    >> the concept of pressure into physical theory invoked
    >> additional mystery and "treads close to vitalism?"
    >
    > The primary claim made by emergentism is that you cannot
    > account for the property in terms of its parts without
    > remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted for -
    > there is no emergence here. The classical example,
    > introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of Logic, is the
    > liquid properties of water, which he said could not be
    > deduced from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But
    > we do exactly that these days - you can model wuite
    > accurately the dynamics and microproperties of water on a
    > computer using only the known properties of hydrogen and
    > oxygen atoms. It only took a computer that was more
    > powerful than Mill had to hand.

    "I think thou dost protest too much."

    I am familiar with the two paradigmatic examples of
    emergence that you claim fall short, but your claim seems to
    me to either be patently false, or you are failing to
    appreciate the additional information that you have folded
    into the reductionistic view. I contradiction to your
    claims, I think it has become increasingly clear that
    cognition cannot be understood at the level of the neuron,
    and that the properties of water cannot be understood at the
    level of the water molecule. Indeed, I think it has become
    very clear that cognition is not even manifested in part at
    the level of a single neuron, that the properties of water
    (e.g., surface tension) are not even manifested in part by a
    single water molecule, and that pressure is not even
    manifested in part by single molecules. All of these
    phenomena emerge through the interaction of parts at reduced
    scales. It is utterly irrelevant that you may have a reductionistically-
    based sense of understanding as to how the parts might
    interact, and be able to explain the phenomena that emerge
    in collections of interacting units. This is why I have
    always shied away from unpredictability as part of the
    definition of either emergence or complexity. Of course
    these things are predictable, in principle, if you know
    enough about the qualities of the interacting units and the
    environmental context in which they are to interact. This is
    why computational modeling is an effective way to study
    emergence in complex systems.

    Cheers,

    Guy
     
  4. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:

    > "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > > in article [email protected]ara.org, Wirt
    > > > Atmar at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    > > >
    > > > > Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    > > > > philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    > > > > mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    > > > > process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    > > >
    > > > [snip] I see vitalism as something to be explained by
    > > > science, rather than avoided as if it must represent a
    > > > falsehood. I suspect that the term "vitalism" connotes
    > > > different things for us.
    >
    > > I think you are anachronistically interpreting
    > > "vitalism" the term.
    > >
    > > Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    > > that a property occurs at a physical level or scale
    > > which cannot be reduced to the properties of the
    > > components. Hence, for example, consciousness is the
    > > paradigmatic case of an emergent property, because it is
    > > supposed to have features that cannot be explained as
    > > the vector sum of all the dynamics of neurons and their
    > > environmental inputs. But each new discovery shows this
    > > to be false. Likewise with evolution. Each emergent
    > > property turns out to be either a cause for a research
    > > program to decompose it into its substrate, or can
    > > already be explained that way. People who rest satisfied
    > > with emergent properties do, indeed, tread close to
    > > mysticism and vitalism.
    > > >
    > > > I also take issue with your assertion that when
    > > > "emergent properties are introduced into a philosophy
    > > > of evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness
    > > > is simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost
    > > > always parts of our models, especially in the study of
    > > > such high-order phenomena as evolutionary biology.
    > > > That is what assumptions are all about. Even our
    > > > assumptions are usually about very high-order
    > > > phenomena, which themselves would require hefty
    > > > assumption sets to explain. I do not see the
    > > > introduction of emergent properties [note that this is
    > > > VERY different from the notion of emergent systems] as
    > > > introducing either mystery or vitalism into theory.
    > > > Pressure, for example, is an emergent property of a
    > > > collection of atoms, which is not definable for a
    > > > single atom in isolation. Would you say that
    > > > introducing the concept of pressure into physical
    > > > theory invoked additional mystery and "treads close to
    > > > vitalism?"
    > >
    > > The primary claim made by emergentism is that you cannot
    > > account for the property in terms of its parts without
    > > remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted for -
    > > there is no emergence here. The classical example,
    > > introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of Logic, is the
    > > liquid properties of water, which he said could not be
    > > deduced from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But
    > > we do exactly that these days - you can model quite
    > > accurately the dynamics and microproperties of water on
    > > a computer using only the known properties of hydrogen
    > > and oxygen atoms. It only took a computer that was more
    > > powerful than Mill had to hand.
    >
    > I have no desire to defend Guy Hoelzer's reading of
    > "vitalism", but I do wish to take issue with John Wilkins'
    > reading of "emergentism". However, since John knows much
    > more about the history of the use of this word than I do,
    > prudence dictates that I should coin a new term for the
    > variant form of emergentism that I wish to defend.
    > Therefore, I will call myself an "emergence-oriented
    > reductionist". I suspect that most scientifically literate
    > persons interested in emergence adhere to this ideology.
    >
    > An "emergence-oriented reductionist" definitely does NOT
    > believe that you cannot account for the emergent property
    > in terms of the properties of the system components and
    > their interactions. If an "emergent property" is
    > discovered that is not yet explained in those terms, then
    > that is motivation for the creation of a reductionist
    > research programme to find the missing explanation.

    So far so good. This sense of emergence is legit so far as I
    see. I would call this "emergencism" to distinguish it.
    >
    > But if all "emergence" exists only to be explained away,
    > you may ask, why does the "emergence-oriented
    > reductionist" go out of his way to call attention to
    > "emergent properties"? Good question. The answer requires
    > that we consider a three-level description of a system.
    >
    > Consider a top-level system S which can be decomposed into
    > mid-level subsystems M_sub_1, M_sub_2, ..., M_sub_i, ...
    > Suppose that there is a property S_EP that is emergent in
    > the sense that the explanation of S_EP is only possible
    > reductionistically by considering the properties of all
    > the M_sub_i subsystems AND their interactions.
    >
    > Now, assume that the M_sub_i subsystems are further broken
    > down into lower-level subsystems L_sub_i_sub_j, and that
    > the properties of the mid-level subsystems (both emergent
    > and nonemergent) are reductionistically explained by the
    > low-level properties and their interactions.
    >
    > The question now arises: can we eliminate the middle level
    > of subsystems and interactions from our explanatory
    > structure? In theory, this should be possible, as long as
    > we can come up with a way of describing all of the
    > interactions - M to M, L to L, and M to L - in the same
    > language. But, this attempt to translate all of the
    > interactions into a single low-level language may fail
    > because we have impoverished our descriptive vocabulary.
    > We have eliminated all of the properties that were
    > emergent at the mid-level! So, how do we translate the
    > original description of M to M interactions into
    > descriptions of L to L interactions?
    >
    > At the very least, an "emergence-oriented reductionist"
    > views the task of eliminating explanatory level M with
    > distaste. On a day when he is feeling intransigent, he may
    > even claim that the elimination of the middle level of
    > explanation is impossible in principle.

    So far you have explicated a position proposed by Alexander
    Rosenberg. He claims that what makes (practical) science
    emergencist (remember: my term, not his) is that we cannot
    in practical terms do the computation that allows us to each
    time deal with higher level phenomena. In effect, the
    problem is not the ontology, but the epistemology - there is
    insufficient time in the universe for the fastest computer
    to do the reduction for each event or process that is
    emergent in that way.

    This is fine for me - if emergence is a fact about our
    abilities to compute what we recognise at a particular
    scale, then this is "harmless emergence". Emergencism is
    fine. In fact, it is an epistemic necessity. If I want to
    investigate psychological states, it is of no benefit to me
    to have to wait until we know and can make the inferences
    from the structure at the molecular level of the
    neurological systems of humans. In fact, we'd also need to
    incorporate a complete description of the environment in
    which those systems were employed. It makes epistemic
    economic sense to approach things at the relevant level.

    That said, emergence is not an excuse for failing to go
    looking at the componential makeup of the systems that
    evidence that phenomenon in such a way that the phenomenon
    is explained. If I find that people who use mercury in their
    profession exhibit symptoms similar to schizophrenia, the
    explanation is not complete until we know how mercuric oxide
    (from memory) affects neuronal behaviour and neurochemical
    production, and the like. Where we stop is a matter of
    convenience, but no metaphysical conclusions can be drawn
    from this, as is the case historically and contemporaneously
    in emergen*t*ism.
    >
    > Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness of
    > water as an example of what I have just expounded. A
    > reductionist explanation of liquid water might postulate a
    > "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains of crystaline
    > water separated by boundary regions of gaseous water. The
    > dynamics is that water molecules are continually moving
    > from the crystaline phase to the gas phase and back. That
    > is, we have a three-level description - molecules,
    > crystaline domains, and the liquid system as a whole. And,
    > there is just no way to collapse this to a two-level
    > description and throw out the properties - emergent and
    > otherwise - of the middle level. Similarly, it would be
    > impossible to do a hydrodynamic model of stream flow at
    > the molecular level, because emergent properties of liquid
    > water (viscosity, surface tension, etc.) have been lost.

    is the "no way" here a matter of computational limitations,
    or are you claiming that there is no substrate-based
    explanation of liquidity even for God?
    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  5. Guy Hoelzer

    Guy Hoelzer Guest

    I have snipped the following out of an interesting longer
    post to clarify my position on this issue, which I think has
    been unclear.

    in article [email protected], John Wilkins
    at [email protected] wrote on 5/10/04 8:37 AM:

    > That said, emergence is not an excuse for failing to go
    > looking at the componential makeup of the systems that
    > evidence that phenomenon in such a way that the phenomenon
    > is explained. If I find that people who use mercury in
    > their profession exhibit symptoms similar to
    > schizophrenia, the explanation is not complete until we
    > know how mercuric oxide (from memory) affects neuronal
    > behaviour and neurochemical production, and the like.
    > Where we stop is a matter of convenience, but no
    > metaphysical conclusions can be drawn from this, as is the
    > case historically and contemporaneously in emergen*t*ism.

    I entirely agree that a complete understanding of any
    phenomenon requires a balanced recognition of both bottom-
    up (reductionistic) and top-down (holistic) effects. I have
    never argued that reductionistic approaches are flawed, in
    general, only that they are incomplete. I would differ with
    the statements above only in the arbitrariness of the
    reductionistic stopping point. I think that there is a
    point at which the information return for drilling deeper
    with reductionistic explanations of macroscopic phenomena
    diminishes to virtually zero. I doubt, for example, that we
    can learn ANYTHING at all about animal behavior by
    improving our understanding of the nature of quarks. In my
    experience it seems that a virtually complete
    reductionistic understanding of a phenomenon rarely
    requires drilling down more than one or two levels of
    organization. I suspect the same can be said of drilling up
    for the sources of top-down effects.

    Cheers,

    Guy
     
  6. "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness of
    > > water as an example of what I have just expounded. A
    > > reductionist explanation of liquid water might postulate
    > > a "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains
    of
    > > crystaline water separated by boundary regions of
    > > gaseous water. The dynamics is that water molecules are
    > > continually moving from the crystaline phase to the gas
    > > phase and back. That is, we have a three-level
    > > description - molecules, crystaline domains, and the
    > > liquid system as a whole. And, there is just no way to
    > > collapse this to a two-level description and throw out
    > > the properties - emergent and otherwise - of the middle
    > > level. Similarly, it would be impossible to
    do
    > > a hydrodynamic model of stream flow at the molecular
    > > level, because emergent properties of liquid water
    > > (viscosity, surface tension, etc.) have been lost.
    >
    > is the "no way" here a matter of computational
    > limitations, or are you claiming that there is no substrate-
    > based explanation of liquidity even for God?

    In order to answer this question, I am going to have to make
    some reductionist assumptions regarding God's mental
    processes. I assume from the question that you will not
    object to my assumption that God's mind can be modeled as
    based on mechanisms similar to that of a human brain or a
    digital computer, only bigger and faster.

    Now, let us imagine a scientist (perhaps another god)
    examining a trace of the neural firings of the original God
    as she computes the consequences of the interactions of
    10^23 water molecules using brute force epistemology. This
    scientist will notice that the same microcomputation is
    performed over and over. Investigating further, he will see
    that this happens because certain hydrogen bonds between
    molecules are particularly persistent. In fact, the set of
    all hydrogen bond instances in God's computation can be
    naturally divided into two subpopulations - the transient
    ones and the persistent ones. Investigating further, the
    scientist will see that the persistent hydrogen bonds (that
    is, the patterns of repeat neuron firings in God's
    computation) are caused by the existence of microcrystaline
    arrays of molecules in the simulation.

    Now I used the word "existence" here, which means that I am
    trespassing from my starting domain of epistemology into the
    more metaphysical domain of ontology. Be aware that I am
    untrained in philosophy, so my terminology will probably not
    be standard. But it seems to me that if a particular level
    of explanation (my microcrystals) arises afresh in the
    investigations of any epistemologist, then that level exists
    ontologically. And in my example, I am claiming that they
    arise even though an attempt was made to hide them in the
    traces of a brute force molecular-level computation that did
    not make use of that intermediate level.

    So, yes, in the sense I have just explained, there is no way
    to remove the middle level, even for God, assuming that God
    submits her computations for peer review. I am claiming that
    almost any epistemologist, even a god, will recognize that
    the middle level of explanation is "really there"
    ontologically.
     
  7. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Hi John, in article [email protected],
    > John Wilkins at [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04
    > 9:07 PM:
    >
    > > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >
    > >> Dear Wirt,
    > >>
    > >> I am responding to a wonderful post of yours. You and I
    > >> are in extremely close agreement on these issues, in
    > >> general, but I want to "pick one nit" out of your post.
    > >> You and I have discovered our disagreement on this
    > >> particular issue before, but I thought it might be
    > >> useful to lay it out for discussion in sbe.
    > >>
    > >> in article [email protected], Wirt
    > >> Atmar at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    > >>
    > >>> Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    > >>> philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    > >>> mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    > >>> process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    > >>
    > >> I often see the term "vitalism" used in this way (the
    > >> way I think you are using it), as a rhetorical
    > >> punishment for perceived false logic, or warning to
    > >> avoid this direction in our modeling of nature. I don't
    > >> understand this position. I see vitalism as something
    > >> to be explained by science, rather than avoided as if
    > >> it must represent a falsehood. I suspect that the term
    > >> "vitalism" connotes different things for us. To me it
    > >> connotes an actively driven system that behaves in ways
    > >> that maximize its functional effectiveness and
    > >> persistence. Life certainly does this, as well as any
    > >> dissipative system (sensu Prigogine).
    > >
    > > Vital fluids, interior molds, elan vital, entelechies
    > > and the like postulate an occult force as an
    > > explanation. When the mechanisms of reproduction, growth
    > > and metabolism were unknown, it might have been
    > > worthwhile to postulate them, but now it is merely
    > > mysticism. "Vitalism" is the theory that there is
    > > something qualitatively different *at every level*
    > > between life and nonlife - the vital force must explain
    > > why cells divide, why organisms grow, why they react to
    > > stimuli. But we know why they do these things, and there
    > > is no non-physical remainder left over to explain. I
    > > think you are anachronistically interpreting "vitalism"
    > > the term.
    > >
    > > Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    > > that a property occurs at a physical level or scale
    > > which cannot be reduced to the properties of the
    > > components. Hence, for example, consciousness is the
    > > paradigmatic case of an emergent property, because it is
    > > supposed to have features that cannot be explained as
    > > the vector sum of all the dynamics of neurons and their
    > > environmental inputs. But each new discovery shows this
    > > to be false. Likewise with evolution. Each emergent
    > > property turns out to be either a cause for a research
    > > program to decompose it into its substrate, or can
    > > already be explained that way. People who rest satisfied
    > > with emergent properties do, indeed, tread close to
    > > mysticism and vitalism.
    >
    > I strongly disagree, and I don't see anything here other
    > than an unfounded claim. I see and appreciate the
    > historical and philosophical baggage associated with the
    > term "vitalism." I guess I need a different term to label
    > the kinds of physical systems I described above. How would
    > you feel about calling them "energetic."

    Now *that* I have no quibble with.

    I apologise for being rabidly historical about these things.
    "Emergence" arose in a context (which, as it happens, was
    evolution, despite the ahistorical usage of computer
    scientists). So, too, did "vitalism". These terms mean,
    refer to, or imply a set of claims in the discourse I engage
    in. These intensions are false. So when you use them, you
    will guarantee a reaction to me.

    I don't expect scientists to be historians, and it is a
    byword that they are not very good at it (being rather
    involved in the debates they report on), so when I see a
    misused term, or someone uses a historical term that refers
    to a dead theory, I will respond.
    >
    > >> I also take issue with your assertion that when
    > >> "emergent properties are introduced into a philosophy
    > >> of evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness
    > >> is simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost
    > >> always parts of our models, especially in the study of
    > >> such high-order phenomena as evolutionary biology. That
    > >> is what assumptions are all about. Even our assumptions
    > >> are usually about very high-order phenomena, which
    > >> themselves would require hefty assumption sets to
    > >> explain. I do not see the introduction of emergent
    > >> properties [note that this is VERY different from the
    > >> notion of emergent systems] as introducing either
    > >> mystery or vitalism into theory. Pressure, for example,
    > >> is an emergent property of a collection of atoms, which
    > >> is not definable for a single atom in isolation. Would
    > >> you say that introducing the concept of pressure into
    > >> physical theory invoked additional mystery and "treads
    > >> close to vitalism?"
    > >
    > > The primary claim made by emergentism is that you cannot
    > > account for the property in terms of its parts without
    > > remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted for -
    > > there is no emergence here. The classical example,
    > > introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of Logic, is the
    > > liquid properties of water, which he said could not be
    > > deduced from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But
    > > we do exactly that these days - you can model wuite
    > > accurately the dynamics and microproperties of water on
    > > a computer using only the known properties of hydrogen
    > > and oxygen atoms. It only took a computer that was more
    > > powerful than Mill had to hand.
    >
    > "I think thou dost protest too much."

    I've had these debates with many folk. It strikes me that
    there is a widely held view that is the "intuitive" default
    account, and it's wrong,. philosophically and, I believe,
    scientifically.
    >
    > I am familiar with the two paradigmatic examples of
    > emergence that you claim fall short, but your claim seems
    > to me to either be patently false, or you are failing to
    > appreciate the additional information that you have folded
    > into the reductionistic view. I contradiction to your
    > claims, I think it has become increasingly clear that
    > cognition cannot be understood at the level of the neuron,
    > and that the properties of water cannot be understood at
    > the level of the water molecule. Indeed, I think it has
    > become very

    Allow me to interrupt for a second. It is a common
    criticism of "reductionism" that they must insist that we
    refer *only* to the components of an entity to explain its
    behavior. This is both false, as you note, and unnecessary.
    A *full* description of a system must take account of both
    the componential properties *and also* the initial and
    boundary conditions. So cognition must involve also an
    account of the past history of the neurones, the inputs
    they have received and are receiving (both sensory and
    cultural), and of course the evolutionary heritage of the
    body that incorporates them.

    > clear that cognition is not even manifested in part at the
    > level of a single neuron, that the properties of water
    > (e.g., surface tension) are not even manifested in part by
    > a single water molecule, and that pressure is not even
    > manifested in part by single molecules. All of these
    > phenomena emerge

    As to water, the microstructure of water is eminently
    computable, and it generates surface tension effects as well
    as the other factors of solutes and the like. It's an
    exciting (and beautifully reductionistic) field.

    > through the interaction of parts at reduced scales. It is
    > utterly irrelevant that you may have a reductionistically-
    > based sense of understanding as to how the parts might
    > interact, and be able to explain the phenomena that emerge
    > in collections of interacting units. This is why I have
    > always shied away from unpredictability as part of the
    > definition of either emergence or complexity. Of course
    > these things are predictable, in principle, if you know
    > enough about the qualities of the interacting units and
    > the environmental context in which they are to interact.
    > This is why computational modeling is an effective way to
    > study emergence in complex systems.

    Then your emergence = my reduction.

    A few words on what "reduction" *really* means. It applies
    to theories - take T1 as the theory to be reduced (the
    reductee), and T2 as the reducing theory (the reducer).

    T1 reduces to T2 just so long as all the events, entities
    and processes of T1 are covered by the events, entities and
    processes of T2 without remainder. Clearly, for example,
    "genetic reductionism" is nothing of the kind - it is merely
    a claim that behavioural and phenotypic traits can be
    explained with reference to genetic effects, but nobody
    thinks either that either the traits form a "theory" or that
    genes act on their own (Dawkinsian rhetoric
    notwithstanding). The problem with genetic "reductionism" is
    that the scope of the explanation is broader than some think
    the data warrant, and that it is guided by a misleading
    metaphor and so on.

    If I explain the properties of water by a mathematical model
    that contains only the known properties of electrons, atoms
    and elements, then I *have* reduced the liquidity of water
    to those components, even if I need to also add boundary
    conditions for the shape of the container, the pressure and
    composition of the air, and so on.
    >
    > Cheers,
    >
    > Guy

    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  8. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:

    > "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > > Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness
    > > > of water as an example of what I have just expounded.
    > > > A reductionist explanation of liquid water might
    > > > postulate a "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains
    > > > of crystaline water separated by boundary regions of
    > > > gaseous water. The dynamics is that water molecules
    > > > are continually moving from the crystaline phase to
    > > > the gas phase and back. That is, we have a three-level
    > > > description - molecules, crystaline domains, and the
    > > > liquid system as a whole. And, there is just no way to
    > > > collapse this to a two-level description and throw out
    > > > the properties - emergent and otherwise - of the
    > > > middle level. Similarly, it would be impossible to do
    > > > a hydrodynamic model of stream flow at the molecular
    > > > level, because emergent properties of liquid water
    > > > (viscosity, surface tension, etc.) have been lost.
    > >
    > > is the "no way" here a matter of computational
    > > limitations, or are you claiming that there is no substrate-
    > > based explanation of liquidity even for God?
    >
    > In order to answer this question, I am going to have to
    > make some reductionist assumptions regarding God's mental
    > processes. I assume from the question that you will not
    > object to my assumption that God's mind can be modeled as
    > based on mechanisms similar to that of a human brain or a
    > digital computer, only bigger and faster.

    Yes. An omnicompetent scientist...
    >
    > Now, let us imagine a scientist (perhaps another god)
    > examining a trace of the neural firings of the original
    > God as she computes the consequences of the interactions
    > of 10^23 water molecules using brute force epistemology.
    > This scientist will notice that the same microcomputation
    > is performed over and over. Investigating further, he will
    > see that this happens because certain hydrogen bonds
    > between molecules are particularly persistent. In fact,
    > the set of all hydrogen bond instances in God's
    > computation can be naturally divided into two
    > subpopulations - the transient ones and the persistent
    > ones. Investigating further, the scientist will see that
    > the persistent hydrogen bonds (that is, the patterns of
    > repeat neuron firings in God's computation) are caused by
    > the existence of microcrystaline arrays of molecules in
    > the simulation.
    >
    > Now I used the word "existence" here, which means that I
    > am trespassing from my starting domain of epistemology
    > into the more metaphysical domain of ontology. Be aware
    > that I am untrained in philosophy, so my terminology will
    > probably not be standard. But it seems to me that if a
    > particular level of explanation (my microcrystals) arises
    > afresh in the investigations of any epistemologist, then
    > that level exists ontologically. And in my example, I am
    > claiming that they arise even though an attempt was made
    > to hide them in the traces of a brute force molecular-
    > level computation that did not make use of that
    > intermediate level.
    >
    > So, yes, in the sense I have just explained, there is no
    > way to remove the middle level, even for God, assuming
    > that God submits her computations for peer review. I am
    > claiming that almost any epistemologist, even a god, will
    > recognize that the middle level of explanation is "really
    > there" ontologically.

    Ummm... you missed your calling. However, unless you make
    the water bonds in our sample dependent upon the neural
    activity of our Superscientist, the case is not analogous.
    But at no point do I insist that the intermediate steps or
    levels are not ontologically there. They must be there - if
    the lower level phenomena that comprise the higher level
    phenomena exist, then so too do all combinations of them.

    What I am asking here is this: If liquidity exists (and I
    assume it does) is there any aspect of it that remains
    uncaptured by a model composed solely of [representations
    of] water molecules, and the attendent atomic and subatomic
    particles?
    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  9. "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > > Hi John, in article
    > > [email protected], John
    Wilkins at
    > > [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04 9:07 PM:
    > >
    > > > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    [snippage] ....
    > Allow me to interrupt for a second. It is a common
    criticism of
    > "reductionism" that they must insist that we refer *only*
    to the
    > components of an entity to explain its behavior. This is
    both false, as
    > you note, and unnecessary. A *full* description of a
    system must take
    > account of both the componential properties *and also* the
    initial and
    > boundary conditions. So cognition must involve also an
    account of the
    > past history of the neurones, the inputs they have
    received and are
    > receiving (both sensory and cultural), and of course the
    evolutionary
    > heritage of the body that incorporates them.
    >
    > > clear that cognition is not even manifested in part at
    the level of a single
    > > neuron, that the properties of water (e.g., surface
    tension) are not even
    > > manifested in part by a single water molecule, and that
    pressure is not even
    > > manifested in part by single molecules. All of these
    phenomena emerge
    >
    > As to water, the microstructure of water is eminently
    computable, and it
    > generates surface tension effects as well as the other
    factors of
    > solutes and the like. It's an exciting (and beautifully
    reductionistic)
    > field.
    >
    > > through the interaction of parts at reduced scales. It
    is utterly
    > > irrelevant that you may have a reductionistically-based
    sense of
    > > understanding as to how the parts might interact, and be
    able to explain the
    > > phenomena that emerge in collections of interacting
    units. This is why I
    > > have always shied away from unpredictability as part of
    the definition of
    > > either emergence or complexity. Of course these things
    are predictable, in
    > > principle, if you know enough about the qualities of the
    interacting units
    > > and the environmental context in which they are to
    interact. This is why
    > > computational modeling is an effective way to study
    emergence in complex
    > > systems.
    >
    > Then your emergence = my reduction.
    [snip]

    I also agree that in talking about "complexity,"
    "emergence," and even reductionism, one should shy-away from
    ideas of unpredictability as a defining factor and
    concentrate on "in-principle."

    One little note to your examples of neurons and the micro-
    structure of water though. While it is easy to say that the
    "boundary conditions" in reductionism need to be taken
    account of, I'd just like to emphasize that this is not at
    all so easy in the real world--certainly not when there are
    very many factors, and/or where a number of them are not
    even imagined.

    Taking the water example, all the reductionist theory in the
    world on molecular water doesn't help when your water has a
    unknown trace of sodium metal dropped in it--not without a
    whole lot of added theory one had not anticipated relating
    to other possible elements, compounds, substances, (or a
    zillion other things,) and unknown conditions present that
    are a factor.

    Similarly for the case of neurons, one has to at least
    provide for all the possible different variations in
    _function_ under a variety of differing
    conditions/circumstances...or again, the presence of a
    zillion other substances which may, or _may not_ be present
    at a given time, viz. biochemicals such as known or
    unidentified neurotransmitters.

    My only point is neither the Holistic nor the Reductionism
    approach are always simple--and both need to be used in
    theoretical research, with a careful determination of the
    _all_ the important factors that affect the process(s) under
    consideration. Also, _function_ under different
    circumstances, is extremely important. As always though, the
    devil is in the details. ...tonyC

    > >
    > > Cheers,
    > >
    > > Guy
    >
    >
    > --
    > Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    > who is not perplexed what to do with
    their
    > children" --Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February
    22, 1857
     
  10. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:
    > "Guy Hoelzer" <[email protected]> wrote in message

    > > Reductionism, as it is currently used IMHO, is a
    > > philosophy of science based on the assumption that
    > > causation always and only flows from the bottom up. The
    > > reductionistic paradigm in science is devoted to
    > > drilling down in scale to discover the causes of
    > > macroscopic phenomena. A reductionist never looks up for
    > > sources of causation, because they believe that things
    > > at larger scales than the one they study are merely
    > > consequences of what they are already studying.
    >
    > I'm not so sure that the misguided masses are quite so
    > deluded as you seem to think they are. [...]

    IMO, Guy's characterisation is reasonable - and doesn't
    describe anything misguided.

    The reductionists are correct in the views Guy attributes to
    them - and much of the (immense) power of reductionism comes
    from that.

    The problem with exculsively following reductionism is not
    that causation happens in other ways - but rather that
    reductionistic explanations can rapidly become very complex
    and unweildy when dealing with large composite structures.

    When this happens it may be time to forget about the details
    - and go for an explanation of the phenomenon on the basis
    of entities at a higher level.

    > In this, and in other matters, I think that it is useful
    > for anyone thinking about causation to ponder Aristotle's
    > thoughts on the subject. Efficient, material, formal, and
    > final causation can usefully be distinguished, and people
    > who wish to restrict the direction of causal flow in their
    > models would do well to treat each type of causation
    > separately. For example, the "central dogma" of molecular
    > biology restricts the flow of formal cause, but it says
    > nothing about the flow of efficient cause. And in
    > engineered systems, which are almost always subject to
    > reductionism, final cause usually flows down.

    The reductionists would probably say that there's no such
    thing as a "final cause".

    What /appear/ to be final causes are the conesquences of
    thoughts in the minds of individuals who evolved the
    capability of building models of the future on the basis of
    their past experiences. If you look in some detail at the
    flow of causation, it is efficient - not final - i.e.:

    ``The story is then, that the world is governed by "laws of
    nature", a universal structure of efficient causation.
    Things that happen can be explained, in the efficient sense,
    in terms of this framework of law. There is however no final
    causation - nothing can be explained as being for anything
    else. In this sense, things just happen.''

    Biology makes it *look* as though there are final causes -
    as though there is purpose and function in the world - but
    if there's any support for the idea from physics, it has yet
    to be established.

    One thing that would give the world at least a proximal
    purpose is if it turns out to be a large genetic algorithm -
    built by the maker of the world and whose purpose is to
    optimise some complicated function for them.

    While at the moment, it might look like a rather wasteful
    effort, if life is destined to invade the relam of the small
    - and spread throughout space - then it may actually come to
    utilise all the available resources.

    If such a scenario pans out, then maybe the existence of
    final causes as a mode of explanation will need to be
    reconsidered by the reductionists.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove
    lock to reply.
     
  11. Tim Tyler

    Tim Tyler Guest

    Phil Roberts, Jr. <[email protected]> wrote or quoted:

    > Even Douglas Hofstadter (a hard assed mechanistic
    > materialist if there ever was one) has had second thoughts
    > on such matters:
    >
    > The only way to explain G's [G = Godel sentence] non-
    > theoremhood is to discover the notion of Godel-
    > numbering and view TNT [or Peano arithmetic] on an
    > entirely different level. It is not that it is just
    > difficult and complicated to write out the explanation
    > on the TNT-level; it is IMPOSSIBLE [my emphasis]. Such
    > an explanation simply does not exist. There is, on the
    > high level, a kind of eplanatory power which simply is
    > lacking, in principle, on the TNT-level. G's non-
    > theoremhood is, so to speak, an INTRINSICALLY HIGH-
    > LEVEL FACT. It is my suspicion that this is the case
    > for ALL undecidable propositions, that is to say:
    > every undecidable proposition is actually a Godel
    > sentence, asserting its own nontheoremhood in some
    > system via some code.
    >
    > Looked at this way, Godel's proof suggests -- though
    > by no means does it prove! -- that there could be some
    > high-level way of viewing the mind/brain, involving
    > concepts which do not appear on lower levels, and that
    > this level might have explanatory power that does not
    > exist -- not even in principle -- on lower levels. It
    > would mean that some facts could be explained on the
    > high level quite easily, but not on lower levels AT
    > ALL. No matter how long and cumbersome a low-level
    > statement were made, it would not explain the
    > phenomena in question. It is analgous to the fact
    > that, if you make derivation after derivation in TNT
    > [or Peano arithmetic], no matter how long and
    > cumbersome you make them, you will never come up with
    > one for G [the Godel sentence] -- despite the fact
    > that on a higher level, you can SEE that G is true.
    >
    > What might such high-level concepts be? It has been
    > proposed for eons, by various holistically or
    > "soulistically" inclined scientists and humanists that
    > CONSCIOUSNESS is a phenomenon that escapes explanation
    > in terms of brain-components; so here is a candidate
    > at least. There is also the ever- puzzling notion of
    > FREE WILL. So perhaps these qualities could be
    > "emergent" in the sense of requiring explanations
    > which cannot be furnished by the physiology alone.
    > (Douglas Hofstadter, GEB)

    I too would label DH as a hard-headed materialist - but
    these paragraphs do appear to show some slight wavering :-(

    He tries to draw an analogy between:

    formal propositions ... and Godel sentences;

    ...and...

    physiology ... and consciousness.

    Any analogy in this area seems decidedly vague, wooly and
    unconvincing.
    --
    __________
    |im |yler http://timtyler.org/ [email protected] Remove
    lock to reply.
     
  12. Guy Hoelzer

    Guy Hoelzer Guest

    Dear John,

    in article [email protected], John Wilkins at
    [email protected] wrote on 5/11/04 1:24 PM:

    > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >> Hi John, in article [email protected],
    >> John Wilkins at [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04
    >> 9:07 PM:
    >>
    >>> Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    >>>
    >>>> Dear Wirt,
    >>>>
    >>>> I am responding to a wonderful post of yours. You and I
    >>>> are in extremely close agreement on these issues, in
    >>>> general, but I want to "pick one nit" out of your post.
    >>>> You and I have discovered our disagreement on this
    >>>> particular issue before, but I thought it might be
    >>>> useful to lay it out for discussion in sbe.
    >>>>
    >>>> in article [email protected], Wirt
    >>>> Atmar at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    >>>>
    >>>>> Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    >>>>> philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    >>>>> mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    >>>>> process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    >>>>
    >>>> I often see the term "vitalism" used in this way (the
    >>>> way I think you are using it), as a rhetorical
    >>>> punishment for perceived false logic, or warning to
    >>>> avoid this direction in our modeling of nature. I don't
    >>>> understand this position. I see vitalism as something
    >>>> to be explained by science, rather than avoided as if
    >>>> it must represent a falsehood. I suspect that the term
    >>>> "vitalism" connotes different things for us. To me it
    >>>> connotes an actively driven system that behaves in ways
    >>>> that maximize its functional effectiveness and
    >>>> persistence. Life certainly does this, as well as any
    >>>> dissipative system (sensu Prigogine).
    >>>
    >>> Vital fluids, interior molds, elan vital, entelechies
    >>> and the like postulate an occult force as an
    >>> explanation. When the mechanisms of reproduction, growth
    >>> and metabolism were unknown, it might have been
    >>> worthwhile to postulate them, but now it is merely
    >>> mysticism. "Vitalism" is the theory that there is
    >>> something qualitatively different *at every level*
    >>> between life and nonlife - the vital force must explain
    >>> why cells divide, why organisms grow, why they react to
    >>> stimuli. But we know why they do these things, and there
    >>> is no non-physical remainder left over to explain. I
    >>> think you are anachronistically interpreting "vitalism"
    >>> the term.
    >>>
    >>> Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    >>> that a property occurs at a physical level or scale
    >>> which cannot be reduced to the properties of the
    >>> components. Hence, for example, consciousness is the
    >>> paradigmatic case of an emergent property, because it is
    >>> supposed to have features that cannot be explained as
    >>> the vector sum of all the dynamics of neurons and their
    >>> environmental inputs. But each new discovery shows this
    >>> to be false. Likewise with evolution. Each emergent
    >>> property turns out to be either a cause for a research
    >>> program to decompose it into its substrate, or can
    >>> already be explained that way. People who rest satisfied
    >>> with emergent properties do, indeed, tread close to
    >>> mysticism and vitalism.
    >>
    >> I strongly disagree, and I don't see anything here other
    >> than an unfounded claim. I see and appreciate the
    >> historical and philosophical baggage associated with the
    >> term "vitalism." I guess I need a different term to label
    >> the kinds of physical systems I described above. How
    >> would you feel about calling them "energetic."
    >
    > Now *that* I have no quibble with.
    >
    > I apologise for being rabidly historical about these
    > things. "Emergence" arose in a context (which, as it
    > happens, was evolution, despite the ahistorical usage of
    > computer scientists). So, too, did "vitalism". These terms
    > mean, refer to, or imply a set of claims in the discourse
    > I engage in. These intensions are false. So when you use
    > them, you will guarantee a reaction to me.
    >
    > I don't expect scientists to be historians, and it is a
    > byword that they are not very good at it (being rather
    > involved in the debates they report on), so when I see a
    > misused term, or someone uses a historical term that
    > refers to a dead theory, I will respond.

    Thanks. We count on folks like you to set us straight on
    these things.

    >>>> I also take issue with your assertion that when
    >>>> "emergent properties are introduced into a philosophy
    >>>> of evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness
    >>>> is simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost
    >>>> always parts of our models, especially in the study of
    >>>> such high-order phenomena as evolutionary biology. That
    >>>> is what assumptions are all about. Even our assumptions
    >>>> are usually about very high-order phenomena, which
    >>>> themselves would require hefty assumption sets to
    >>>> explain. I do not see the introduction of emergent
    >>>> properties [note that this is VERY different from the
    >>>> notion of emergent systems] as introducing either
    >>>> mystery or vitalism into theory. Pressure, for example,
    >>>> is an emergent property of a collection of atoms, which
    >>>> is not definable for a single atom in isolation. Would
    >>>> you say that introducing the concept of pressure into
    >>>> physical theory invoked additional mystery and "treads
    >>>> close to vitalism?"
    >>>
    >>> The primary claim made by emergentism is that you cannot
    >>> account for the property in terms of its parts without
    >>> remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted for -
    >>> there is no emergence here. The classical example,
    >>> introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of Logic, is the
    >>> liquid properties of water, which he said could not be
    >>> deduced from the properties of hydrogen and oxygen. But
    >>> we do exactly that these days - you can model wuite
    >>> accurately the dynamics and microproperties of water on
    >>> a computer using only the known properties of hydrogen
    >>> and oxygen atoms. It only took a computer that was more
    >>> powerful than Mill had to hand.
    >>
    >> "I think thou dost protest too much."
    >
    > I've had these debates with many folk. It strikes me that
    > there is a widely held view that is the "intuitive"
    > default account, and it's wrong,. philosophically and, I
    > believe, scientifically.
    >>
    >> I am familiar with the two paradigmatic examples of
    >> emergence that you claim fall short, but your claim seems
    >> to me to either be patently false, or you are failing to
    >> appreciate the additional information that you have
    >> folded into the reductionistic view. I contradiction to
    >> your claims, I think it has become increasingly clear
    >> that cognition cannot be understood at the level of the
    >> neuron, and that the properties of water cannot be
    >> understood at the level of the water molecule. Indeed, I
    >> think it has become very
    >
    > Allow me to interrupt for a second. It is a common
    > criticism of "reductionism" that they must insist that we
    > refer *only* to the components of an entity to explain its
    > behavior. This is both false, as you note, and
    > unnecessary. A *full* description of a system must take
    > account of both the componential properties *and also* the
    > initial and boundary conditions. So cognition must involve
    > also an account of the past history of the neurones, the
    > inputs they have received and are receiving (both sensory
    > and cultural), and of course the evolutionary heritage of
    > the body that incorporates them.

    We disagree on the meaning of reductionism, but more on
    that later...

    I agree completely that the qualities of the components,
    environmental constraints (e.g., boundary conditions), and
    the momentum of the system (its past history) are all
    important aspects of a comprehensive understanding. I'm not
    so sure about initial conditions, but I also think that you
    have left out a key factor that is fundamental to the
    complexity view. That is the shape and scale of the
    interaction network. This is important because it is the
    primary determinant of whether higher order processes (e.g.,
    mass action effects) will tend to manifest as
    energy/information flow through it. This is the source of
    top-down effect providing the organization in self-
    organization.

    >> clear that cognition is not even manifested in part at
    >> the level of a single neuron, that the properties of
    >> water (e.g., surface tension) are not even manifested in
    >> part by a single water molecule, and that pressure is not
    >> even manifested in part by single molecules. All of these
    >> phenomena emerge
    >
    > As to water, the microstructure of water is eminently
    > computable, and it generates surface tension effects as
    > well as the other factors of solutes and the like. It's an
    > exciting (and beautifully reductionistic) field.

    I have no doubt that it is computable. I am persuaded by the
    notion of the computational universe, which proposes that
    the whole universe is effectively a computer carrying out
    one large computation through its physics; so I would be
    surprised if anything that happens in the universe was non-
    computable.

    >> through the interaction of parts at reduced scales. It is
    >> utterly irrelevant that you may have a reductionistically-
    >> based sense of understanding as to how the parts might
    >> interact, and be able to explain the phenomena that
    >> emerge in collections of interacting units. This is why I
    >> have always shied away from unpredictability as part of
    >> the definition of either emergence or complexity. Of
    >> course these things are predictable, in principle, if you
    >> know enough about the qualities of the interacting units
    >> and the environmental context in which they are to
    >> interact. This is why computational modeling is an
    >> effective way to study emergence in complex systems.
    >
    > Then your emergence = my reduction.

    Well, I feel rather certain that my emergence is also the
    emergence of most other proponents of the complexity
    paradigm, and almost all would disagree with you about
    reductionism.

    > A few words on what "reduction" *really* means. It applies
    > to theories - take T1 as the theory to be reduced (the
    > reductee), and T2 as the reducing theory (the reducer).
    >
    > T1 reduces to T2 just so long as all the events, entities
    > and processes of T1 are covered by the events, entities
    > and processes of T2 without remainder.

    This makes little sense to me as a meaning for
    "reductionism". I am sure that you have a good historical
    reason to define it this way, but this is a topic about
    which I have had extensive conversations with philosophers
    and scientists from several disciplines, and I have never
    run into these semantics before. Unlike with the meaning of
    "vitalism," a word I generally avoided, I am not persuaded
    by your definition of "reductionism," even if it accurately
    represents the original meaning.

    Your definition seems inappropriate to me because T1 must be
    a subset of T2, so T2 must be larger than T1. A small thing
    should not be said to REDUCE to a larger thing.

    Reductionism, as it is currently used IMHO, is a philosophy
    of science based on the assumption that causation always and
    only flows from the bottom up. The reductionistic paradigm
    in science is devoted to drilling down in scale to discover
    the causes of macroscopic phenomena. A reductionist never
    looks up for sources of causation, because they believe that
    things at larger scales than the one they study are merely
    consequences of what they are already studying. The
    reductionistic program is to continue drilling deeper and
    deeper until we find the bottom (no more smaller turtles).
    Adherence to this kind of reductionism is reflected in the
    widespread misconception that Biology can be REDUCED to
    Chemistry, which can be REDUCED to Physics.

    > Clearly, for example, "genetic reductionism" is nothing of
    > the kind - it is merely a claim that behavioural and
    > phenotypic traits can be explained with reference to
    > genetic effects, but nobody thinks either that either the
    > traits form a "theory" or that genes act on their own
    > (Dawkinsian rhetoric notwithstanding). The problem with
    > genetic "reductionism" is that the scope of the
    > explanation is broader than some think the data warrant,
    > and that it is guided by a misleading metaphor and so on.

    Right. I think this example supports my contention that
    "reductionism" has taken on a meaning quite different from
    the one you are holding onto.

    > If I explain the properties of water by a mathematical
    > model that contains only the known properties of
    > electrons, atoms and elements, then I *have* reduced
    > the liquidity of water to those components, even if I
    > need to also add boundary conditions for the shape of
    > the container, the pressure and composition of the air,
    > and so on.

    I would distinguish a mathematical model from a
    computational one, and I doubt that a purely mathematical
    model could effectively model the properties of water. I
    think this would be impossible because qualities like
    surface tension emerge through localized interactions among
    water molecules. Every molecule has a unique interaction
    neighborhood, so a mathematical model of water would have to
    represent each molecule with a unique parameter. Mean field
    approximations would obliterate the global structure that
    emerges from the localization of interaction. To avoid
    confusion, note that I am not saying mathematical models
    cannot be constructed to estimate something like the extent
    of surface tension in a liquid. I am saying that such models
    would necessarily be both error prone (hence estimation) and
    heuristically misleading.

    Cheers,

    Guy
     
  13. [email protected] (John Wilkins) wrote in
    news:[email protected]:

    > Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >> "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    >> news:[email protected]...

    >> Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness of
    >> water as an example of what I have just expounded. A
    >> reductionist explanation of liquid water might postulate
    >> a "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains of crystaline
    >> water separated by boundary regions of gaseous water.
    >> The dynamics is that water molecules are continually
    >> moving from the crystaline phase to the gas phase and
    >> back. That is, we have a three-level description -
    >> molecules, crystaline domains, and the liquid system as
    >> a whole. And, there is just no way to collapse this to a
    >> two-level description and throw out the properties -
    >> emergent and otherwise - of the middle level. Similarly,
    >> it would be impossible to do a hydrodynamic model of
    >> stream flow at the molecular level, because emergent
    >> properties of liquid water (viscosity, surface tension,
    >> etc.) have been lost.

    > is the "no way" here a matter of computational
    > limitations, or are you claiming that there is no substrate-
    > based explanation of liquidity even for God?

    James Gleick, in Chaos, relates:

    There was a story about the quantum theorist Werner
    Heisenberg, on his deathbed, declaring that he will have two
    questions for God: why relativity, and why turbulence.
    Heisenberg says, "I really think He may have an answer to
    the first question."

    Yours,

    Bill Morse
     
  14. "Guy Hoelzer" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Reductionism, as it is currently used IMHO, is a
    > philosophy of science
    based
    > on the assumption that causation always and only flows
    > from the bottom up. The reductionistic paradigm in science
    > is devoted to drilling down in
    scale
    > to discover the causes of macroscopic phenomena. A
    > reductionist never
    looks
    > up for sources of causation, because they believe that
    > things at larger scales than the one they study are merely
    > consequences of what they are already studying.

    I'm not so sure that the misguided masses are quite so
    deluded as you seem to think they are. However, change
    "causation always and only flows from the bottom up" to
    "explanation always and only flows from the bottom up", and
    you may be close to enunciating a sociological truth.

    (Incidentally, your misinterpretation provides yet another
    another illustration of the importance of a methodological
    rule that I will call the "Peorian guide for the perplexed".
    The rule is: Never allow the opponents of a doctrine to
    define the doctrine - they will inevitably distort it. John
    Wilkins, please take note.)

    In this, and in other matters, I think that it is useful for
    anyone thinking about causation to ponder Aristotle's
    thoughts on the subject. Efficient, material, formal, and
    final causation can usefully be distinguished, and people
    who wish to restrict the direction of causal flow in their
    models would do well to treat each type of causation
    separately. For example, the "central dogma" of molecular
    biology restricts the flow of formal cause, but it says
    nothing about the flow of efficient cause. And in engineered
    systems, which are almost always subject to reductionism,
    final cause usually flows down.

    > The reductionistic program is to continue drilling deeper
    > and deeper until we find the bottom (no more smaller
    > turtles).

    Your cosmology is very different from mine. In my cosmology,
    the turtles down near the bottom are BIG suckers.
     
  15. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Dear John,
    >
    > in article [email protected], John Wilkins
    > at [email protected] wrote on 5/11/04 1:24 PM:
    >
    > > Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >
    > >> Hi John, in article [email protected],
    > >> John Wilkins at [email protected] wrote on 5/7/04
    > >> 9:07 PM:
    > >>
    > >>> Guy Hoelzer <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >>>
    > >>>> Dear Wirt,
    > >>>>
    > >>>> I am responding to a wonderful post of yours. You and
    > >>>> I are in extremely close agreement on these issues,
    > >>>> in general, but I want to "pick one nit" out of your
    > >>>> post. You and I have discovered our disagreement on
    > >>>> this particular issue before, but I thought it might
    > >>>> be useful to lay it out for discussion in sbe.
    > >>>>
    > >>>> in article [email protected], Wirt
    > >>>> Atmar at [email protected] wrote on 5/4/04 7:54 PM:
    > >>>>
    > >>>>> Whenever emergent properties are introduced into a
    > >>>>> philosophy of evolutionary design, a higher-order
    > >>>>> mysteriousness is simultaneously introduced into the
    > >>>>> process that treads dangerously close to vitalism.
    > >>>>
    > >>>> I often see the term "vitalism" used in this way (the
    > >>>> way I think you are using it), as a rhetorical
    > >>>> punishment for perceived false logic, or warning to
    > >>>> avoid this direction in our modeling of nature. I
    > >>>> don't understand this position. I see vitalism as
    > >>>> something to be explained by science, rather than
    > >>>> avoided as if it must represent a falsehood. I
    > >>>> suspect that the term "vitalism" connotes different
    > >>>> things for us. To me it connotes an actively driven
    > >>>> system that behaves in ways that maximize its
    > >>>> functional effectiveness and persistence. Life
    > >>>> certainly does this, as well as any dissipative
    > >>>> system (sensu Prigogine).
    > >>>
    > >>> Vital fluids, interior molds, elan vital, entelechies
    > >>> and the like postulate an occult force as an
    > >>> explanation. When the mechanisms of reproduction,
    > >>> growth and metabolism were unknown, it might have been
    > >>> worthwhile to postulate them, but now it is merely
    > >>> mysticism. "Vitalism" is the theory that there is
    > >>> something qualitatively different *at every level*
    > >>> between life and nonlife - the vital force must
    > >>> explain why cells divide, why organisms grow, why they
    > >>> react to stimuli. But we know why they do these
    > >>> things, and there is no non-physical remainder left
    > >>> over to explain. I think you are anachronistically
    > >>> interpreting "vitalism" the term.
    > >>>
    > >>> Wirt is exactly right about emergentism. It is a claim
    > >>> that a property occurs at a physical level or scale
    > >>> which cannot be reduced to the properties of the
    > >>> components. Hence, for example, consciousness is the
    > >>> paradigmatic case of an emergent property, because it
    > >>> is supposed to have features that cannot be explained
    > >>> as the vector sum of all the dynamics of neurons and
    > >>> their environmental inputs. But each new discovery
    > >>> shows this to be false. Likewise with evolution. Each
    > >>> emergent property turns out to be either a cause for a
    > >>> research program to decompose it into its substrate,
    > >>> or can already be explained that way. People who rest
    > >>> satisfied with emergent properties do, indeed, tread
    > >>> close to mysticism and vitalism.
    > >>
    > >> I strongly disagree, and I don't see anything here
    > >> other than an unfounded claim. I see and appreciate the
    > >> historical and philosophical baggage associated with
    > >> the term "vitalism." I guess I need a different term to
    > >> label the kinds of physical systems I described above.
    > >> How would you feel about calling them "energetic."
    > >
    > > Now *that* I have no quibble with.
    > >
    > > I apologise for being rabidly historical about these
    > > things. "Emergence" arose in a context (which, as it
    > > happens, was evolution, despite the ahistorical usage of
    > > computer scientists). So, too, did "vitalism". These
    > > terms mean, refer to, or imply a set of claims in the
    > > discourse I engage in. These intensions are false. So
    > > when you use them, you will guarantee a reaction to me.
    > >
    > > I don't expect scientists to be historians, and it is a
    > > byword that they are not very good at it (being rather
    > > involved in the debates they report on), so when I see a
    > > misused term, or someone uses a historical term that
    > > refers to a dead theory, I will respond.
    >
    > Thanks. We count on folks like you to set us straight on
    > these things.
    >
    > >>>> I also take issue with your assertion that when
    > >>>> "emergent properties are introduced into a philosophy
    > >>>> of evolutionary design, a higher-order mysteriousness
    > >>>> is simultaneously introduced." Mysteries are almost
    > >>>> always parts of our models, especially in the study
    > >>>> of such high-order phenomena as evolutionary biology.
    > >>>> That is what assumptions are all about. Even our
    > >>>> assumptions are usually about very high-order
    > >>>> phenomena, which themselves would require hefty
    > >>>> assumption sets to explain. I do not see the
    > >>>> introduction of emergent properties [note that this
    > >>>> is VERY different from the notion of emergent
    > >>>> systems] as introducing either mystery or vitalism
    > >>>> into theory. Pressure, for example, is an emergent
    > >>>> property of a collection of atoms, which is not
    > >>>> definable for a single atom in isolation. Would you
    > >>>> say that introducing the concept of pressure into
    > >>>> physical theory invoked additional mystery and
    > >>>> "treads close to vitalism?"
    > >>>
    > >>> The primary claim made by emergentism is that you
    > >>> cannot account for the property in terms of its parts
    > >>> without remainder. Pressure can indeed be so accounted
    > >>> for - there is no emergence here. The classical
    > >>> example, introduced by Mill in his 1837 System of
    > >>> Logic, is the liquid properties of water, which he
    > >>> said could not be deduced from the properties of
    > >>> hydrogen and oxygen. But we do exactly that these days
    > >>> - you can model wuite accurately the dynamics and
    > >>> microproperties of water on a computer using only the
    > >>> known properties of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. It only
    > >>> took a computer that was more powerful than Mill had
    > >>> to hand.
    > >>
    > >> "I think thou dost protest too much."
    > >
    > > I've had these debates with many folk. It strikes me
    > > that there is a widely held view that is the "intuitive"
    > > default account, and it's wrong,. philosophically and, I
    > > believe, scientifically.
    > >>
    > >> I am familiar with the two paradigmatic examples of
    > >> emergence that you claim fall short, but your claim
    > >> seems to me to either be patently false, or you are
    > >> failing to appreciate the additional information that
    > >> you have folded into the reductionistic view. I
    > >> contradiction to your claims, I think it has become
    > >> increasingly clear that cognition cannot be understood
    > >> at the level of the neuron, and that the properties of
    > >> water cannot be understood at the level of the water
    > >> molecule. Indeed, I think it has become very
    > >
    > > Allow me to interrupt for a second. It is a common
    > > criticism of "reductionism" that they must insist that
    > > we refer *only* to the components of an entity to
    > > explain its behavior. This is both false, as you note,
    > > and unnecessary. A *full* description of a system must
    > > take account of both the componential properties *and
    > > also* the initial and boundary conditions. So
    > > cognition must involve also an account of the past
    > > history of the neurones, the inputs they have received
    > > and are receiving (both sensory and cultural), and of
    > > course the evolutionary heritage of the body that
    > > incorporates them.
    >
    > We disagree on the meaning of reductionism, but more on
    > that later...
    >
    > I agree completely that the qualities of the components,
    > environmental constraints (e.g., boundary conditions), and
    > the momentum of the system (its past history) are all
    > important aspects of a comprehensive understanding. I'm
    > not so sure about initial conditions, but I also think
    > that you have left out a key factor that is fundamental to
    > the complexity view. That is the shape and scale of the
    > interaction network. This is important because it is the
    > primary determinant of whether higher order processes
    > (e.g., mass action effects) will tend to manifest as
    > energy/information flow through it. This is the source of
    > top-down effect providing the organization in self-
    > organization.

    A complete description includes, by implication, both scale
    and shape; these are not add-ons, but fall out deductively
    from that complete description.
    >
    > >> clear that cognition is not even manifested in part at
    > >> the level of a single neuron, that the properties of
    > >> water (e.g., surface tension) are not even manifested
    > >> in part by a single water molecule, and that pressure
    > >> is not even manifested in part by single molecules. All
    > >> of these phenomena emerge
    > >
    > > As to water, the microstructure of water is eminently
    > > computable, and it generates surface tension effects as
    > > well as the other factors of solutes and the like. It's
    > > an exciting (and beautifully reductionistic) field.
    >
    > I have no doubt that it is computable. I am persuaded by
    > the notion of the computational universe, which proposes
    > that the whole universe is effectively a computer carrying
    > out one large computation through its physics; so I would
    > be surprised if anything that happens in the universe was
    > non-computable.

    I should add the caveat here - "in-principle". But I *don't*
    think the universe is a computer - it's just what it is by
    nature; computation simply models the universe more or less.
    The map is not the territory...
    >
    > >> through the interaction of parts at reduced scales. It
    > >> is utterly irrelevant that you may have a reductionistically-
    > >> based sense of understanding as to how the parts might
    > >> interact, and be able to explain the phenomena that
    > >> emerge in collections of interacting units. This is why
    > >> I have always shied away from unpredictability as part
    > >> of the definition of either emergence or complexity. Of
    > >> course these things are predictable, in principle, if
    > >> you know enough about the qualities of the interacting
    > >> units and the environmental context in which they are
    > >> to interact. This is why computational modeling is an
    > >> effective way to study emergence in complex systems.
    > >
    > > Then your emergence = my reduction.
    >
    > Well, I feel rather certain that my emergence is also the
    > emergence of most other proponents of the complexity
    > paradigm, and almost all would disagree with you about
    > reductionism.

    Perhaps they would. Fifty million Frenchmen *can* be wrong.
    >
    > > A few words on what "reduction" *really* means. It
    > > applies to theories - take T1 as the theory to be
    > > reduced (the reductee), and T2 as the reducing theory
    > > (the reducer).
    > >
    > > T1 reduces to T2 just so long as all the events,
    > > entities and processes of T1 are covered by the events,
    > > entities and processes of T2 without remainder.
    >
    > This makes little sense to me as a meaning for
    > "reductionism". I am sure that you have a good historical
    > reason to define it this way, but this is a topic about
    > which I have had extensive conversations with philosophers
    > and scientists from several disciplines, and I have never
    > run into these semantics before. Unlike with the meaning
    > of "vitalism," a word I generally avoided, I am not
    > persuaded by your definition of "reductionism," even if it
    > accurately represents the original meaning.

    The notion of theory reduction arose in just the sense in
    which I give it in the 1950s and 60s, and the locus
    classicus is

    Nagel, E. (1961). The Structure of Science: Problems in the
    Logic of Scientific Explanation. London, Routledge and
    Kegan Paul.

    Later discussions distinguish between microreduction and
    macroreduction, and so on, but the implication is that
    science is unified by reduction relations (usually that
    physics is the basal theory).

    >
    > Your definition seems inappropriate to me because T1 must
    > be a subset of T2, so T2 must be larger than T1. A small
    > thing should not be said to REDUCE to a larger thing.

    Why? We can explain the subset of physics known as
    ballistics (which covers only masses of a certain size under
    particular conditions ) to general relativity, which covers
    a lot more. This is reduction. It is the more restricted
    thing that is reduced - just as Newtonian physics reduces to
    Einsteinian, and that to quantum theory, and so on.
    >
    > Reductionism, as it is currently used IMHO, is a
    > philosophy of science based on the assumption that
    > causation always and only flows from the bottom up. The
    > reductionistic paradigm in science is devoted to drilling
    > down in scale to discover the causes of macroscopic
    > phenomena. A reductionist never looks up for sources of
    > causation, because they believe that things at larger
    > scales than the one they study are merely consequences of
    > what they are already studying. The reductionistic program
    > is to continue drilling deeper and deeper until we find
    > the bottom (no more smaller turtles). Adherence to this
    > kind of reductionism is reflected in the widespread
    > misconception that Biology can be REDUCED to Chemistry,
    > which can be REDUCED to Physics.

    This is neither clear to me, nor, I think, accurate.
    >
    > > Clearly, for example, "genetic reductionism" is nothing
    > > of the kind - it is merely a claim that behavioural and
    > > phenotypic traits can be explained with reference to
    > > genetic effects, but nobody thinks either that either
    > > the traits form a "theory" or that genes act on their
    > > own (Dawkinsian rhetoric notwithstanding). The problem
    > > with genetic "reductionism" is that the scope of the
    > > explanation is broader than some think the data
    > > warrant, and that it is guided by a misleading metaphor
    > > and so on.
    >
    > Right. I think this example supports my contention that
    > "reductionism" has taken on a meaning quite different from
    > the one you are holding onto.

    Many people use it wrongly, sure. I mention genetic
    reduction as an example of this misunderstanding.
    >
    > > If I explain the properties of water by a mathematical
    > > model that contains only the known properties of
    > > electrons, atoms and elements, then I *have* reduced the
    > > liquidity of water to those components, even if I need
    > > to also add boundary conditions for the shape of the
    > > container, the pressure and composition of the air, and
    > > so on.
    >
    > I would distinguish a mathematical model from a
    > computational one, and I doubt that a purely mathematical
    > model could effectively model the properties of water. I
    > think this would be impossible because qualities like
    > surface tension emerge through localized interactions
    > among water molecules. Every molecule has a unique
    > interaction neighborhood, so a mathematical model of water
    > would have to represent each molecule with a unique
    > parameter. Mean field approximations would obliterate the
    > global structure that emerges from the localization of
    > interaction. To avoid confusion, note that I am not saying
    > mathematical models cannot be constructed to estimate
    > something like the extent of surface tension in a liquid.
    > I am saying that such models would necessarily be both
    > error prone (hence estimation) and heuristically
    > misleading.
    >
    A model that is mathematical is, by strict definition,
    computational. Insert mentions of Universal Turing
    Machines here...

    But heuristics are a different matter. We *must* deal with
    level-specific phenomena at or about their own terms, and
    knowing *that* they reduce doesn't mean we *can* reduce
    them. But once we said that we would never be able to
    explain cellular behaviour in molecular terms, something
    that I see done daily where I work.
    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  16. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    William Morse <[email protected]> wrote:

    > [email protected] (John Wilkins) wrote in
    > news:[email protected]:
    >
    > > Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:
    > >
    > >> "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in
    > >> message news:[email protected]...
    >
    > >> Let us look at John's example of the emergent wetness
    > >> of water as an example of what I have just expounded. A
    > >> reductionist explanation of liquid water might
    > >> postulate a "fluid mosaic" model, with small domains of
    > >> crystaline water separated by boundary regions of
    > >> gaseous water. The dynamics is that water molecules are
    > >> continually moving from the crystaline phase to the gas
    > >> phase and back. That is, we have a three-level
    > >> description - molecules, crystaline domains, and the
    > >> liquid system as a whole. And, there is just no way to
    > >> collapse this to a two-level description and throw out
    > >> the properties - emergent and otherwise - of the middle
    > >> level. Similarly, it would be impossible to do a
    > >> hydrodynamic model of stream flow at the molecular
    > >> level, because emergent properties of liquid water
    > >> (viscosity, surface tension, etc.) have been lost.
    >
    > > is the "no way" here a matter of computational
    > > limitations, or are you claiming that there is no substrate-
    > > based explanation of liquidity even for God?
    >
    > James Gleick, in Chaos, relates:
    >
    > There was a story about the quantum theorist Werner
    > Heisenberg, on his deathbed, declaring that he will have
    > two questions for God: why relativity, and why turbulence.
    > Heisenberg says, "I really think He may have an answer to
    > the first question."

    Just like a theoretical physicist, to think his own
    conceptual limitations must be the same as a God's...

    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  17. "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > What I am asking here is this: If liquidity exists (and I
    > assume it does) is there any aspect of it that remains
    > uncaptured by a model composed solely of [representations
    > of] water molecules, and the attendent atomic and
    > subatomic particles?

    John,

    Throw in the four forces of nature. You can't limit your
    reduction to just the components - you must also take the
    interactions between components into account. Change the
    word "uncaptured" to "uncapturable", since we are not sure
    the right model is present. No additional changes required.

    I assent. There is no aspect that remains uncapturable. I am
    a reductionist in that sense. (So, I suspect, is almost
    every other poster to this group.)

    John, I'm sure you have heard the old proverb saying that
    "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
    It is frequently cited in engineering circles as a warning
    to specialists in some technology who seek to utilize their
    expertise on inappropriate problems.

    You sir, wield the philosopher's hammer. As part of your
    training, you have learned to use this hammer against some
    Very Bad Ideas that have been suggested by some fairly
    intelligent people in the past. These exemplary historical
    Very Bad Ideas are the nails that you were trained to attack
    with your hammer.

    While I very much admire your precision and your reverence
    for the history of words and ideas, I do occasionally think
    that you sometimes suspect the existence of nails where none
    exist. Just an observation.

    Thanks,

    Jim ;-)
     
  18. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:

    > "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > What I am asking here is this: If liquidity exists (and
    > > I assume it does) is there any aspect of it that remains
    > > uncaptured by a model composed solely of
    > > [representations of] water molecules, and the attendent
    > > atomic and subatomic particles?
    >
    > John,
    >
    > Throw in the four forces of nature. You can't limit your
    > reduction to just the components - you must also take the
    > interactions between components into account. Change the
    > word "uncaptured" to "uncapturable", since we are not sure
    > the right model is present. No additional changes
    > required.
    >
    > I assent. There is no aspect that remains uncapturable. I
    > am a reductionist in that sense. (So, I suspect, is almost
    > every other poster to this group.)

    You might be surprised at how many people who use the term
    "emergence" tend to think it means that there is something
    uncapturable by a (theoretically complete) lower-level
    description.
    >
    > John, I'm sure you have heard the old proverb saying that
    > "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a
    > nail." It is frequently cited in engineering circles as a
    > warning to specialists in some technology who seek to
    > utilize their expertise on inappropriate problems.
    >
    > You sir, wield the philosopher's hammer. As part of your
    > training, you have learned to use this hammer against some
    > Very Bad Ideas that have been suggested by some fairly
    > intelligent people in the past. These exemplary historical
    > Very Bad Ideas are the nails that you were trained to
    > attack with your hammer.
    >
    > While I very much admire your precision and your reverence
    > for the history of words and ideas, I do occasionally
    > think that you sometimes suspect the existence of nails
    > where none exist. Just an observation.
    >
    > Thanks,
    >
    > Jim ;-)

    Jim, you do me too much honour. I am neither terribly
    precise nor such a good philosopher, but allow me to follow
    up on an implication of what you said here.

    I see what I do as a kind of Lockean "clearing the
    undergrowth" program in the philosophy of science. I don't
    do science myself, but I pay close attention to the ideas
    and history of science when I consider how scientific
    words are used.

    I then try to apply basic logical and categorial precision
    to the present use of words, because words carry
    connotations (another logical term) fromthe past that
    systematically mislead people. To achieve this, I try to
    charitably interpret the words, and then deal with the
    remainder of contradiction and amphiboly, using logic that
    Aristotle would have recognised.

    So my question is this: should science be freed from logical
    coherence and consistency? Because if that is not a hammer
    for all nails, I really do not know what might be, and that
    is what you imply.

    As to the notions of complexity, holism, group properties
    and the like, they follow from simple logical considerations
    of set theory or syllogistic logic (choose your poison - I
    have a lot of respect for the traditional syllogisms), so I
    think it appropriate to apply them here. If you all want me
    to drop it, I shall. But I shall continue to think contrary
    claims are mistaken :)
    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  19. John Wilkins

    John Wilkins Guest

    Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:

    > "Guy Hoelzer" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > Reductionism, as it is currently used IMHO, is a
    > > philosophy of sciencebased on the assumption that
    > > causation always and only flows from the bottom up. The
    > > reductionistic paradigm in science is devoted to
    > > drilling down in scale to discover the causes of
    > > macroscopic phenomena. A reductionist never looks up for
    > > sources of causation, because they believe that things
    > > at larger scales than the one they study are merely
    > > consequences of what they are already studying.
    >
    > I'm not so sure that the misguided masses are quite so
    > deluded as you seem to think they are. However, change
    > "causation always and only flows from the bottom up" to
    > "explanation always and only flows from the bottom up",
    > and you may be close to enunciating a sociological truth.

    As in, this is (sociologically) true of the ways in which we
    have previously explained things?
    >
    > (Incidentally, your misinterpretation provides yet another
    > another illustration of the importance of a methodological
    > rule that I will call the "Peorian guide for the
    > perplexed". The rule is: Never allow the opponents of a
    > doctrine to define the doctrine - they will inevitably
    > distort it. John Wilkins, please take note.)

    Oh, I have, don't worry.
    >
    > In this, and in other matters, I think that it is useful
    > for anyone thinking about causation to ponder Aristotle's
    > thoughts on the subject. Efficient, material, formal, and
    > final causation can usefully be distinguished, and people
    > who wish to restrict the direction of causal flow in their
    > models would do well to treat each type of causation
    > separately. For example, the "central dogma" of molecular
    > biology restricts the flow of formal cause, but it says
    > nothing about the flow of efficient cause. And in
    > engineered systems, which are almost always subject to
    > reductionism, final cause usually flows down.
    >
    > > The reductionistic program is to continue drilling
    > > deeper and deeper until we find the bottom (no more
    > > smaller turtles).
    >
    > Your cosmology is very different from mine. In my
    > cosmology, the turtles down near the bottom are BIG
    > suckers.

    Oh, you read Pratchett too?
    --
    Dr John S. Wilkins, www.wilkins.id.au "I never meet anyone
    who is not perplexed what to do with their children" --
    Charles Darwin to Syms Covington, February 22, 1857
     
  20. "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Perplexed in Peoria <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > > "John Wilkins" <[email protected]> wrote in
    > > message news:[email protected]...
    > > > What I am asking here is this: If liquidity exists
    > > > (and I assume it does) is there any aspect of it that
    > > > remains uncaptured by a model composed solely of
    > > > [representations of] water molecules, and the
    > > > attendent atomic and subatomic particles?
    > >
    > > John,
    > >
    > > Throw in the four forces of nature. You can't limit your
    > > reduction to just the components - you must also take
    > > the interactions between components into account. Change
    > > the word "uncaptured" to "uncapturable", since we are
    > > not sure the right model is present. No additional
    > > changes required.
    > >
    > > I assent. There is no aspect that remains uncapturable.
    > > I am a reductionist in that sense. (So, I suspect, is
    > > almost every other poster to this group.)
    >
    > You might be surprised at how many people who use the term
    > "emergence" tend to think it means that there is something
    > uncapturable by a (theoretically complete) lower-level
    > description.

    Do you put yourself in that category?

    I'd like to explore this further. Are the following people
    committing a philosophical error? Do they believe in
    emergence in the above sense? 1a. Someone who claims that
    the final cause of an enzyme is uncapturable by a
    theoretically complete lower-level description. 1b. Someone
    who claims that the material or formal cause of an infant is
    uncapturable at lower levels.
    2. Someone who admires Coleridge's definition of life as "a
    whole that is pre-supposed by all its parts".
    3. Ilya Prigogine who claimed in some of his books that
    Boltzman's reduction of thermodynamics to statistical
    mechanics must be flawed and that the second law must be
    fundamental or else a consequence of an unknown
    fundamental law of nature.
    4. Someone who claims that no reductionist explanation of
    water's wetness is possible unless you postulate a "fifth
    force" which is operative at mid-scale distances.
    5. J.S. Mill, who claimed (correctly) that water's
    properties could not be reduced to Newtonian mechanics
    and Maxwell's electrodynamics.

    > > John, I'm sure you have heard the old proverb saying
    > > that "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like
    > > a nail." It is frequently cited in engineering circles
    > > as a warning to specialists in some technology who seek
    > > to utilize their expertise on inappropriate problems.
    > >
    > > You sir, wield the philosopher's hammer. As part of your
    > > training, you have learned to use this hammer against
    > > some Very Bad Ideas that have been suggested by some
    > > fairly intelligent people in the past. These exemplary
    > > historical Very Bad Ideas are the nails that you were
    > > trained to attack with your hammer.
    > >
    > > While I very much admire your precision and your
    > > reverence for the history of words and ideas, I do
    > > occasionally think that you sometimes suspect the
    > > existence of nails where none exist. Just an
    > > observation.
    > >
    > > Thanks,
    > >
    > > Jim ;-)
    >
    > Jim, you do me too much honour. I am neither terribly
    > precise nor such a good philosopher, but allow me to
    > follow up on an implication of what you said here.
    >
    > I see what I do as a kind of Lockean "clearing the
    > undergrowth" program in the philosophy of science. I don't
    > do science myself, but I pay close attention to the ideas
    > and history of science when I consider how scientific
    > words are used.
    >
    > I then try to apply basic logical and categorial precision
    > to the present use of words, because words carry
    > connotations (another logical term) fromthe past that
    > systematically mislead people. To achieve this, I try to
    > charitably interpret the words, and then deal with the
    > remainder of contradiction and amphiboly, using logic that
    > Aristotle would have recognised.

    An admirable program. My "nail" parable suggests that
    occasionally you are less charitable than you should
    be, though.

    > So my question is this: should science be freed from
    > logical coherence and consistency?

    Of course not.

    > Because if that is not a hammer for all nails, I really do
    > not know what might be, and that is what you imply.

    No, that is what you *read* me as implying. And that, come
    to think of it, was my point. But, in this case, I don't
    think that you are imagining the nail. You are pretending to
    imagine it for rhetorical effect. Please don't do that. It
    is impolite and counterproductive IMO.

    > As to the notions of complexity, holism, group properties
    > and the like, they

    I've lost track here. What is the antecedent of "they"? Is
    it the same as the antecedent of "them" below?

    > follow from simple logical considerations of set theory or
    > syllogistic logic (choose your poison - I have a lot of
    > respect for the traditional syllogisms), so I think it
    > appropriate to apply them here. If you all want me to drop
    > it, I shall.

    Don't drop it on my account.

    > But I shall continue to think contrary claims are
    > mistaken :)

    Sorry, I've lost track again. Claims contrary to what?
     
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