Saturday, September 2, 2017

Debating emergence and reductionism

As part of a TV documentary, Why are we here? produced by Ard Louis and David Malone there is a nice series of interviews where emergence is discussed by George Ellis, Peter Atkins, and Denis Noble.
I can't seem to embed the interviews here and so have put in links to short clips.

George Ellis discusses the difference between weak and strong emergence and his attitude to each.

In separate clips, Denis Noble discusses emergence  and reductionism in biology.

Peter Atkins, a hardcore reductionist, IMHO does not seem to seriously engage with the issue.


  1. Is academic quintessence reductionist and academic managerialism an emergent phenomena ?

  2. Somebody needs to ask Peter Atkins what the criteria for the size of an ensemble is to define temperature. If he starts blathering too much he'll defeat his argument. Fairly ironically I guess.

    1. I can answer that question. It depends on the average energy.

      But to explain it completely requires great care. Since the real world is quantum, you simply cannot ignore the uncertainty principle.

      Long ago I did actual experiments that showed that at a total energy of about 3/8 e.v. it requires only a few (<20) atoms to behave as a quantum microcanonical ensemble.

  3. Emergence and Reductionism: an awkward Baconian alliance

    Piers Coleman
    Center for Materials Theory, Department of Physics and Astronomy,
    This article discusses the relationship between emergence and reductionism from the perspective of a condensed matter physici