Re: Reductionism (was: future of human evolution)

From: David Picon Alvarez (
Date: Thu Oct 07 2004 - 01:14:38 MDT

From: "Marc Geddes" <>
> In the case of reductionism versus holism, there are
> various levels of organization and explanation, and
> it's not clear why we should the bottom level as being
> somehow 'fundamental reality' whilst dismissing upper
> levels as simply 'cheapo explanations arising from
> intractability and existing only in the mind'.

This seems obvious to me. If you run a bottom level simmulation you will get
all those higher level phenomena happening. This is a prove that all higher
level phenomena are contained in the bottom level description of reality.

> For starters, how can we be sure we know what the
> 'bottom' or 'fundamental' level is? We can't. For
> example early philosophers thought 'atoms' were the
> fundamental level of matter, and then it transpired
> they were divisible into electrons and protons. And
> later still it appears that even the protons may be
> still further divisible into quarks. Who is to say
> that what we currently think of as 'fundamental
> physics' doesn't have some still deeper physical level
> beneath it? And would the discovery of a deeper level
> then make current physics simply 'unreal' or a 'cheapo
> explanation'?

Yes. Our description of reality which is most fundamental is our working
hypothesis on how the universe does its thing, but it's just a description,
at the end of the day, and not the real thing. If we discover that the
universe is actually a cellular automata (just to put a silly (?) example)
the rules of such automata would be the real thing, and the physics
explanations we would have been using would be only approximations and cheap
(or perhaps expensive, actually) explanations on how the universe works.
Would this mean we have to get rid of physics? No, but it would mean we'd
have to push down the stack in search of explanations for it, chemistry,

> Further, in many instances it simply doesn't make
> sense to regard higher level concepts as 'cheapo'
> mental constructs. For example take the concept of a
> 'Mind'. We do not regard minds as cheapo constructs
> to help us understand complex electrical firing
> patterns in brains. We regard a 'Mind' as an actual
> *real* entity. So it appears that some higher level
> concepts are just as real as lower level ones.

I think you're making the mistake of believing that "we regard" is something
the universe cares about. Just because "we regard" minds as real doesn't
make it so, just because "we regard" God as the greatest being that can be
conceived and that includes existence, doesn't make God exist.


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