Recognising Top-Down Causation in Physics
Mathematics Department, University of Cape Town
Tue, Nov. 13th 2012, 11:00
Salle Claude Itzykson, Bât. 774, Orme des Merisiers
One of the basic assumptions implicit in the way physics is usually done is that all causation flows in a bottom up fashion, from micro to macro scales. However this is wrong in many cases in biology, and in particular in the way the brain functions. Here I make the case that it is also wrong in the case of digital computers - the paradigm of mechanistic algorithmic causation - and in many cases in physics, ranging from the origin of the arrow of time to the process of quantum state preparation. I consider some examples from classical physics; from quantum physics; and the case of digital computers, and then explain why this possible without contradicting the causal powers of the underlying micro physics. Understanding the emergence of genuine complexity out of the underlying physics depends on recognising this kind of causation. It is a missing ingredient in present day theory; and taking it into account may help understand such mysteries as the measurement problem in quantum mechanics.