I understand your point, but I'd be interested to see this proven (or dis-proven) bottom-up from first principles... observing that something in particular (chlorophyll, photosynthesis, etc) reduces from the top down like this leaves too many holes for it to really disprove the idea (e.g. maybe this isn't a physical function that changes depending on higher-level organization).

I think the way to check this is that someone would have to come up with a specific theory that explains the currently-poorly-understood low-level behavior of fundamental particles based on the idea that the rules of their behavior depend on their higher-level organization.

Philosophical theory with an empirical prediction

by mgin 2 min read28th Oct 201610 comments


I have a philosophical theory which implies some things empirically about quantum physics, and I was wondering if anyone knowledgeable on the subject could give me some insight.

It goes something like this:

As an anathema to reductionists, quarks (and by "quarks" I just mean, whatever are the fundamental particles of the universe) are not governed by simple rules a la conway's game of life, but rather, like all of metaphysics goes into their behavior.

The reductionist basically reduces metaphysics to the simple rules that govern quarks. Fundamentally there is no other identity or causality, everything else is just emergent from that, anything we want to call "real" that we deal with in ordinary experience, does not have any metaphysical identity or causal efficacy of its own, it's just an illusion produced by tons of atoms bouncing around. If the universe is akin to conway's game of life, then I don't think the things we see around us are actually what we think they are. They don't have any real identity on a metaphysical level, but rather they are just patterns of particles in motion, governed by mathematically simple rules.

But suppose there actually is metaphysical identity and causal power in the things around us, well the place I can see for that, is that the unknown rules governing quarks, are not mathematically simple rules, but literally that's where all of metaphysics is contained, quarks entangle together according to high level concepts corresponding to the things we see around us, including a person's identity, and have not the mathematically simple causal powers like conway's game of life, but the causal powers of the identity of the high-level agent.

The empirical question is this: do we observe the fundamental particles of the universe behaving according mathematically simple rules, or do they seem to behave in complex/unpredictable ways depending on how they are entangled / what they are interacting with?


Adding an example to clarify:

The behavior of the quarks corresponds to the identity of the things we see around us. The things we see around us are constituted by quarks - but the question is, are these quarks behaving mindlessly as billiard balls, or is their behavior the result of complex rules corresponding to the identity of the thing they form?

In other words, suppose we're talking about a living ant, are the quarks which constitute that ant behaving according to simple mathematical rules like billiard balls, and the whole concept of there being an "ant" is just an illusion produced by these particles bouncing around, or are these quarks constituting the ant actually behaving "ant-like"?

Is the causal behavior of the ant determined by the billiard-ball interactions of quarks bouncing around, or does the causal behavior actually originate in the identity of the ant, with the quark interactions being decided according to its nature?

What I'm saying is that there metaphysically is such a thing as an ant, when quarks "get together as an ant", they behave differently, they behave ant-like. Given there is a lot of unknown on exactly why quarks behave the way they do, why is this ruled out: that when they "get together as an ant", they behave ant-like?

Basically the idea is, when it comes to the interactions of the quarks constituting the ant with the quarks constituting the things the ant interacts with, the behavior of those interactions is determined not by simple, universal rules of quark behavior, but by the rules of quark behavior that are in effect "when the quarks are an ant".

To further clarify this example:

This is framed in general terms, because I don't actually know any quantum physics, but I'm talking about the fundamental physical particles ("quarks", for lack of a better term), and their behavior at the quantum level - behavior which we don't fully understand. So one could say in general terms, sometimes the quarks "swerve left" and other times they "swerve right", and we don't exactly know why they do that in any given case.

So the question is, suppose the behavior of quarks in general is not determined by simple, universal laws of quark behavior, e.g. "always swerve left 50% of the time", but rather, there are metaphysically real and physically meaningful "quark groups", like if a bunch of quarks are entangled together in a group constituting what we'd observe to be an ant, then quarks in that quark group behave differently. So for example, the quarks in that "ant quark group" might always swerve left when they interact with another quark group of a different kind.