In an article at BigThink, University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank (pictured) argues that reductionism is — for good reasons — fading in science: “Reductionism offers a narrow view of the universe that fails to explain reality.” It is slowly being replaced:
Reductionism is the view that everything true about the world can be explained by atoms and their interactions. Emergence claims that reductionism is wrong, and the world can evolve new stuff and new laws that are not predictable from “nothing but” atoms. Which perspective on science is correct has huge implications, not only for ourselves but for everything from philosophy to economics to politics.ADAM FRANK, “REDUCTIONISM VS. EMERGENCE: ARE YOU “NOTHING BUT” YOUR ATOMS?” AT BIGTHINK (APRIL 29, 2021)
Frank intends a series of articles at BigThink on why emergence is replacing reductionism. The capsule version is that reductionism reduces everything to the behavior of elementary particles and “describes a world without fundamental novelty or essential innovation.” But that isn’t the world we live in.
As philosophers Brigitte Falkenburg and Margaret Morrison put it, “A phenomenon is emergent if it cannot be reduced to, explained or predicted from its constituent parts… emergent phenomena arise out of lower-level entities, but they cannot be reduced to, explained nor predicted from their micro-level base.” From an emergentist view, over the course of the universe’s history, new entities and even new laws governing those entities have appeared.ADAM FRANK, “REDUCTIONISM VS. EMERGENCE: ARE YOU “NOTHING BUT” YOUR ATOMS?” AT BIGTHINK (APRIL 29, 2021)
Frank argues that evolution is the creative force that does all this (including evolving new laws?) But it’s not clear that what he means by “evolution” is the garden variety change in life forms over time.
To the extent that emergence marches with panpsychism, it probably is catching on. That means we may see ourselves in different kinds of philosophy of science arguments over evolution.
Why is science growing comfortable with panpsychism (“everything is conscious”)? At one time, the idea that “everything is conscious” was the stuff of jokes. Not any more, it seems.
How a materialist philosopher argued his way to panpsychism. Galen Strawson starts with the one fact of which we are most certain — our own consciousness. To Strawson, it makes more sense to say that consciousness is physical — and that electrons are conscious — than that consciousness is an illusion.