[An] emergent reality is [according to sociologist Christian Smith] one that, though remaining ever dependent upon the native properties of the elements composing it, nevertheless possesses new characteristics that are wholly “irreducible” to those properties. But this is certainly false. At least, as a claim made solely about physical processes, organisms, and structures—in purely material terms—it cannot possibly be true. If nothing else, it is a claim strictly precluded by most modern scientific prejudice. From a genuinely “physicalist” perspective, there are no such things as emergent properties in this sense, discontinuous from the properties of the prior causes from which they arise; anything, in principle, must be reducible, by a series of “geometrical” steps, to the physical attributes of its ingredients . . .
The heroic absurdism that, in differing registers, constitutes the blazingly incandescent core of the thought of Daniel Dennett, Alex Rosenberg, Paul and Patricia Churchland, and other impeccable materialists of the same general kind follows from the recognition”not very philosophically sophisticated as a rule, but astute nonethelessthat consciousness can exist within the world of nature only if matter is susceptible of formation by a higher causality, one traditionally called “soul.” And the soul, as such a formal cause, is precisely that which cannot simply “emerge.”