Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Emergence and Determinism
In systemic view, everything which exists is part and whole at the same time. So being part and being whole is inseparably interconnected and has universal significance. These are attributes of "holons" (the term was coined by Arthur Koestler), the basic elements of the integral world model depicted by Ken Wilber.
All holons have the ability of self-transcendence. This is how subatomic particles become atoms, which then form molecules etc. From one way of existence, totally new forms of organisation can be created. The creation of new holons is called emergence in the case that the attributes of the new holon cannot be derived from the former one. Basic attributes of animals have not been contained in plants; reptiles did not have prerequisites for flying, which the birds developed etc.
The idea of emergence is opposed to a deterministic model of the world which assumes that every development of the future can be calculated supposed that all present conditions are known. A scientist at the time of plants could not have any clue that animals would develop out of them neither which species would come or how they would look like.
In the view of emergence, calculable deterministic phenomena are not the rule in the universe, but the exception. It occurs when a holon loses its ability to self-transcendence. Yet emergence can be found in all areas, from vortex movements in the water to the behaviour of social groups.
Science can explain phenomena created by emergence only retrospectively. In these cases, which are by far the most, it can only work reconstructively. Yet our ideal of science is based on its deterministic version. Science in the strict sense is what allows stable prognosis, which can be checked and counterchecked. Insights without prognosis is speculation, but not science. Yet this form of science can only by applied to anorganic objects in a limited space of observation, like e.g. the laws of gravity which allow prognosis about a heavy object falling to the ground. In the areas of quantum physics, this law does not work anymore and its application on living objects grants only minimal gain of knowledge.
We are so used and acquainted with the deterministic norm of science as it is highly successful in our world of things and technical application, and, when working with objects, we aim at this kind of perfection to make our lives easier. We want a hammer that drills the nails without breaking itself or them. We want a mobile that connects us with our partner when we need to, and not only when it is in the mood to do so. Our perception is not made for observing quantum elements. For the rough structure we can see and touch, the deterministic model of experience and handling is sufficient.
Yet we made the "mistake" to transpose this model of science to all the other areas of reality. Since the invention of agriculture, the model of technical manipulation of lifeless nature entered the areas of living beings. Thus it became a common procedure to render plants and animals to predictable behaviour by breeding and taming them. So they could serve our purposes of gaining nutrition.
This is how the basis of the deterministic model of the world was consolidated. The age of enlightenment, which caused the transition from the religious perception of reality in middle ages to the modern times, which were dominated by rationality and determinism. Though by this, an important part of humanity was displaced to the background. With the victory of the materialistic consciousness, the social plane was subordinated under the economic plane. Economy claimed deterministic thinking and planning, and presented economic constraints and compulsion to increase its influence in society. Economy needs reliable and calculable data for its functioning.
The degradation of the social realm becomes obvious wherever we notice the shortcomings of the materialistic consciousness - in ecological problem zones, in crisis of the financial system, in the growing outsider areas of rich societies, in underdevelopment of regions, in diseases caused by stress. Only slowly, the genuine reality and logics of communication comes to recognition needed to keep modern individuals and societies in balance.
This is how also more space and recognition is created for areas in which emergence can be felt and observed especially and eminently: In the areas of arts and non-technical sciences. They need to be set free of stress for their productivity and creativity, as due to the general tension of the inner and the social systems the powers for self-transcendence are blocked. Instead, too much energy goes towards securing what we already have by using deterministic relations. Structural conservativism is the counterpoint of all orientation using creative emergence.
We can find the difference between emergence and determinism also inside of ourselves. When our nervous system is in the stress mode, it acts in a predictable way. When we get angry, we always react in a similar way. The repertoire of our behaviour is limited to a minimum and the possibilities of our reactions are reduced to very few alternatives. In extremities, we get into a state of total blockage governed by immense fear without any degree of freedom.
As opposed to that, in a state of relaxed or focused awakening, with an active smart vagal modulation according to the polyvagal theory we can enfold our social and creative elements and set smaller or bigger steps in self-transcendence, in the emergence of unexpected news. In these states we feel connected to ourselves and to our fellow beings and we have to trust to contribute fruitfully. Thus we add our individual contribution to the emerging development of humankind and of consciousness.
We do not need to be hypnotized by believing in a model of science following the reactions of lifeless matter without understanding the creativity of emergence. Instead, let us enlarge the field of our vision, thinking and experiencing to the manifold aspects of all different realities, to the surprises and miracles, which evolve out of them continuously and reliably.