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FQXi FORUM
September 18, 2014

CATEGORY: FQXi Essay Contest - Spring, 2012 [back]
TOPIC: Recognising Top-Down Causation by George F. R. Ellis [refresh]
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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 11:23 GMT
Essay Abstract

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 it 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:

Author Bio

George Ellis is a relativist and cosmologist residing in Cape Town, South Africa. His books include On the Large Scale Structure of Space-Time co-authored with Stephen Hawking. In addition to contemplating relativistic and philosophical aspects of cosmology, he is now engaged in trying to understand how complex systems such as you and me can arise out of the underlying physics.

Download Essay PDF File




John Merryman wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 17:27 GMT
George,

While I would agree top down effects are under-appreciated in the fundamental sciences, I suggest the real point to be made is the inseparable dichotomy of top down vs. bottom up relations. Often information systems(maths) congeal into top down platonic systems, where the underlaying medium becomes immaterial and dismissed as non-existent. I think it is the feedback between bottom up actions and top down interactions that really forms and informs reality. As Newton said, 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Logically actions are linear, but the reactions tend to be non-linear feedback. I don't think it is entirely true that we cannot understand top down activity in terms of bottom up actions, because the initial action creates the potential for feedback and reaction and when this is multiplied across massive scales, feedback becomes infinitely variable. So top down and bottom up are inseparable sides of the same coin. Energy(bottom up) manifests information(top down), as information defines energy.

It is only as processes and states become ever more complex, that we start to loose sight of the fundamental processes still motivating them. The evolution of the brain is a good example: E.O. Wilson described the insect brain as a thermostat, yet it has been shown that varieties of ants use counting footsteps as a navigation tool, so they also have an inherent sequential function as well. I would argue these two functions underlay the conventional divisions of the right hemisphere of the brain as being emotional and intuitive, while the left is analytical and logical. Essentially the right brain is a very evolved thermostat, while the left is an equally evolved sequencer, or clock. So these two very basic functions of measuring energy levels and identifying sequential patterns within this environment, are the salient features of this most evolved and complex manifestation of the universe.

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 05:25 GMT
John

There is a presumption in here that, to put it simply, the future can be affected. Which it cannot. Because it does not exist, and is therefore not available to be affected. Or put another way, "reactions" are just the next set of "actions". The brain, etc is irrelevant to physical existence.

Paul

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John Merryman replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 10:31 GMT
Paul,

Since present is cause to future effect, it is affected. If I was to break a leg today, it would certainly affect what I will be doing tomorrow.

"Reactions" may be just the next set of "actions," but notice you included the plural. The action, as we tend to perceive it, is singular, while the environmental reactions to it are plural. The feedback from a complex environment to a simple action is complex.

The brain evolved out of physical existence and is a reflection of it, thus both time and temperature are foundational to its functions.

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 13:11 GMT
John

"If I was to break a leg today, it would certainly affect what I will be doing tomorrow".

Yes, the present that subsequently occurs is different from what it would have been. But what it would have been never existed. The future does not exist, so you cannot affect it.

As above, reactions are the next actions, the fact that I used the plural form of these words is irrelevant. My point was a repetition of the above. While they can be depicted as reactions, there is no form of reversal of physical existence. Everything could be described as a reaction to something.

Brains are physically existent, not a "reflection" of it, so are eyes, ears, etc. We are not somehow external to physical existence. What is different in sentient organisms that they possess a processing capability that enables them to be aware of the physical existence.

Paul

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Daniel L Burnstein wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 20:08 GMT
Dear George,

An intriguing and very well written essay that raises interesting questions and/or formulates them in new interesting ways.

Though I believe that any and all interactions can be expressed and described in terms of the fundamental aspects of reality, we lack the theory to do so. And even if we did have such theory that would show all higher scale interactions to be emerging from the fundamental interactions, the amount of data necessary to track every elementary particle and force would prohibit the description of even the simplest systems.

My understanding is that objects are structurally bound if, within a given scale of reality and under effect of a given force associated with the given scale on them, they behaves as a single object. So, the mathematical models of a particular scale of physical reality can threat composite objects as "virtually fundamental" in such a way that the top-down or bi-directional causalities not only make sense, but becomes the only workable alternative to tracking the interactions between the fundamental particles composing the interacting structures.

That said, the subject of your essay deserves a lot of consideration. I will certainly explore some of the avenues it opens.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 15:09 GMT
Dear Daniel, thanks for that.

As to your second para, the issue is what are "fundamental aspects of reality". One does not have to agree that the only such aspects are those described by physics: what abut mathematics for example? Or logic?

Your third para is more or less agreeing with me. See my answers to others below

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Daniel L Burnstein replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 21:43 GMT
"As to your second para, the issue is what are "fundamental aspects of reality". One does not have to agree that the only such aspects are those described by physics: what abut mathematics for example? Or logic?"

Interesting questions...

How we define “fundamental” determines how we interpret data and build models.

While in mathematics one can arbitrarily chose any...

view entire post


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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 04:26 GMT
"Reality, I suggest, can be thought as an axiomatic system in which fundamental aspects correspond to axioms and non-fundamental aspects correspond to theorems."

- a very old dream, and one that is probably unattainable both because of Godel's theorem (on the logical side, showing th eproblems with axiomatic systems) and because of the issues Laughlin raises (on the physical side, showing the limits of bottom up deduction; see his quote in the appendix to my essay).

In any case suppose it were true, this raises a whole new set of issues:

* in what way do these axioms and theorems exist, and where do they exist? Are they Platonic forms for example?

* what decides the form they have? (there are various possible forms of logic: who chose this one?)

* how do they have the power to create any physical entity whatever?

Actually axiomatic systems are rather limited in their powers and in their ability to represent reality. I suggest you take a look at Eddington's book On the nature of the physical world regarding our use of mental models, and the limits to their use. They are partial representations of reality, and should not be confused wit reality itself.

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J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 22:29 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

it was a pleasure to read your thought-provoking essay.

I'd like to comment on just one aspect of your essay: the arrow of time. As I've argued in my essay in this competition, Rethinking a Key Assumption About the Nature of Time, what we perceive as and refer to as "the flow of time" is, in reality, nothing more and nothing less than the evolution of the physical universe, an evolution governed by rules which we strive to understand and which we refer to as the laws of physics. When seen in this light, the so-called "arrow of time" is seen to be inevitable, if not almost trivial.

To say that the laws of physics are reversible is, in my opinion, a red herring. Yes, of course they are reversible! The fact of the matter, however, is that the universe is comprised of a great deal of macroscopic "stuff" (to use the technical term) which is, for the most part, in motion. We observe that the physical universe is evolving. This evolution represents a great deal of stuff in motion, i.e., a great deal of momentum. Yes, of course it is true that particle A or object A theoretically *could* be moving from right to left from your perspective, but if it is, in fact, moving from left to right from your perspective, then that is hard, objective reality! Particle A or object A can't be moving in both directions! Taken on the scale of the entire universe, it is this evolution of "stuff" that we perceive as "the flow of time," or, alternatively, as what we call "the arrow of time." This of course does not rule out reversibility at the microscopic, thermodynamic level of a gas, for example.

If I've correctly understood the point of your essay, these observations support your thesis.

Best regards,

jcns

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 05:32 GMT
JCN

"This of course does not rule out reversibility at the microscopic, thermodynamic level of a gas, for example"

Of course it does. Physical alteration occurs, it cannot then be reversed. The sequence can involve a subsequent state which is identical to a previous one, but that is not reversal.

Paul

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J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 12:56 GMT
Paul,

With apologies to Professor Ellis for what probably is a distraction from the main point of his essay, insofar as it may bear at least tangentially on his topic I will reply to your post here, but if we wish to pursue this debate further we should move the discussion to one of our own blogs. You wrote:

"The sequence can involve a subsequent state which is identical to a previous one, but that is not reversal."

This is the thing you've never appeared to comprehend, Paul. According to my view of time (which I believe is consistent with Julian Barbour's view, in this regard at least), a particular time is identically equivalent to a particular configuration of the universe. This is my preferred wording of the concept which Barbour expresses by stating that "The relative configurations, or shapes, of the Universe do not occur at instants of time . . . they are the instants of time."

By this way of thinking, if the configuration of the universe were, hypothetically, to oscillate between two identically equivalent configurations, then time would oscillate between those two particular times. That said, however, things would get sticky because of the momentum involved in such an oscillation. The precise moments representing the end points of the oscillatory motion would be identically equivalent configurations and identically equivalent particular times. This sort of thing is easier to envision if we think of the universe as comprised entirely of three not-further-reducible billiard balls in a not-further-reducible shoebox.

I have no desire whatsoever to belabor this argument further, Paul, here or elsewhere, but if you insist on doing so, please pick another blog (yours or mine) where we may do so. Thanks.

jcns

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 13:15 GMT
JCN

As requested I will copy this and a response across to my blog, but hopefully people will follow that, because there is not much point in us two having a repeat of previous exchanges amongst ourselves.

Paul

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Karl Coryat wrote on Jul. 17, 2012 @ 23:10 GMT
Hello George, great job on the essay, and thank you for participating. I was surprised that you didn't specifically mention rescuing free will, as this seems to be what you are getting at in the section on state vector preparation. An experimenter's brain/body, in choosing a polarization angle for example, is imposing top-down causation upon the apparatus and ultimately upon the micro systems prepared, correct?

I couldn't help noticing similarities between your diagrams 1/6/7 and Figure 1 in my essay, which is based on a graphical formalism developed by Bob Coecke at Oxford. I tried to come up with a sketch for a top-down causation mechanism by tracing the flow of contextual information, where complex systems impose context-specific boundary conditions upon measurement events, thereby generating further-enriched complexity in the process. This results in a universe of ever-increasing complexity. I hope you have the time to give it a look.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 15:18 GMT
Thanks for that. Yes if I had more space I was going to add that the discovery of the Higgs is an example of top down causation from the human mind to the level of particles, causing them to smash together in a preplanned way in the LHC.

Your emphasis on the contextual nature of information is in accord with my view.

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Alan Lowey replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:54 GMT
They *haven't found the Higgs though! CERN may have found exotic Higgs 'impostor' particle. Easy mistake to make.

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Paul Reed wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 05:17 GMT
George

“A sensible view is that the entities at each classical level of the hierarchy (Table 1) are real”

While this reflects the normal, and indeed practical, view of physical reality, it is ontologically (physically) incorrect. Because certain existent, but superficial, physical characteristics are deemed to constitute any given ‘it’ (eg computer, you, etc). That ‘it’ is then thought to remain in existence, albeit with changes occurring to it, until one or more of the defining characteristics is no longer manifest. However, this just depicts reality at a higher level than the actuality, though it could be correct, in itself, at that level. Physically, that ‘it’ is a sequence of physically existent states. The higher level of differentiation just giving the appearance of less change than there physically is, and the illusion of a level of persistence to existence which does not physically occur.

For physical reality to occur, and alter, there must ultimately be a physically existent state at any given point in time. This can be defined as the state of the properties of the elementary particles involved, and their spatial position, as at that point in time. So there is a “fixed set of lower level entities”. And, by definition, any “event” could be tracked back to alterations at that level. That is, physically it must be ‘bottom up’.

The point here is that while that is physically what occurs, we could never establish it in such detail, and would probably all go mad trying. So, we conceptualise up some levels. But we must maintain ontological/physical correctness about the direction of the process. What is ultimately causing alteration in the properties of elementary particles and hence a change in their spatial position is another issue.

Another point to bear in mind that what exists is a present (ie that which was physically existent as at a given point in time). Previous existences have ceased (the past) as at that point in time. Successive existences (the future) do not exist. In other words, one does not affect the future, what happens is that a present occurs which is different to the one which would have otherwise done so.

Paul

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 15:13 GMT
Hi Paul

Thanks for the comments

> “A sensible view is that the entities at each classical level of the hierarchy (Table 1) are real”. While this reflects the normal, and indeed practical, view of physical reality, it is ontologically (physically) incorrect.

• well you are stating the standard fundamentalist reductionist viewpoint. It may or may not be...

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 19:47 GMT
George

Rather than respond to all that as such, let me express it so:

Having eradicated all metaphysical possibilities, we have two knowns: 1 Physical existence is independent of sensory detection. 2 Physical existence involves alteration. This means physical existence is a sequence, and that can only occur one at a time, because the successor cannot occur unless the predecessor ceases. In other words, there is a definite physically existent state as at any given point in time (timing, a point in time, ie the unit of timing, that being the fastest rate of change in reality).

What was physically existent as at any given point in time, is known as the present. Difference involves: 1) substance (ie what it was), 2) order (ie order of occurrence), 3) frequency (ie the rate at which differences occur. That is, the number of changes, irrespective of type, which occurred in any given sequence, compared to any other number that occurred meanwhile. The latter could be in any sequence (including the former), and either occurred concurrently, or otherwise. This is timing.

Now, this involves a vanishingly small degree of change and duration, but it must be so. Otherwise physical existence cannot occur. The key point here being that it reveals the falsity of attributing the concept of time to being a characteristic of a reality (ie a physically existent state). It is concerned with the difference between realities, not of a reality. Physically, there is alteration, and the timing system calibrates the rate at which change of any type occurs.

Paul

PS: I will have a look at your ref to time

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 04:34 GMT
Paul

I really don't want to go into the issue of time here, it is a separate issue than what I am focusing on in my essay. Nevertheless I'll respond this time:

* I agree with your first main paragraph, interpreted as regards the passage of time along world lines in spacetime

* IN the third paragraph, you state " this involves a vanishingly small degree of change and duration, but it must be so." This is a physics assumption that may or may not be true. Many assume spacetime is quantised, in which case there is a minimum unit of time, and what you say is not true.

George

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 12:18 GMT
George, this is just a wonderful piece of work, far worthier of more honor than any prize competition could bestow. I suppose that should come as no surprise -- if anyone were capable of distilling the history and dynamics of the entire universe into 10 pages, it would be you.

" ... life would not be possible without a well-established local arrow of time." So well put. And "Emergence of genuine complexity is characterised by a reversal of information flow from bottom up to top down." If you get a chance to vist my essay site, I would hope to convince you that both conditions are satisfied by topological orientability in a coordinate-free locally realistic model.

Again, thanks for this great paper.

Tom

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George Ellis replied on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 05:23 GMT
Thanks Tom for this very positive comment, much appreciated.

george

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Joe Fisher wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 14:46 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

Your meticulously crystal clear cogent reasoned essay seems to me to be one of the more superior reads of the essays published at this website so far. That said, I think the Universe is the simplest structuring emerging. There is and ever will be only one Universe once although it seem to be having three differing aspects only one of which is seeing appearing. As I have thoughtfully pointed out in my essay, Sequence Consequence, identical snowflakes have never existed so it is reasonable to assume that identical physical states cannot ever exist. I contend that when you pressed down the letter A on your computer keyboard, the A you produced on your computer screen was not only minutely different from all of the other A’s on your computer screen, it would also have to be different than any other A that has ever appeared on any computer screen in the past, different than any A presently appearing on any computer screen located anywhere on earth, and also different than any A that will ever appear on any computer screen that will ever become operational in the future. There is only one of anything once in the one real Universe once. Each one of anything will seem to be having three aspects only one of which one can see here and now.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 04:49 GMT
Dear Joe

Thanks for that. Your comments on identity strike to the heart of what I say about multiple realisability. You are right, the keyboard letters are never exactly identical: yet the abstract letter "A" represented by them is still the letter "A" despite all the variations you mention.

It is also the letter "A" if

* you change font (Times New Roman to Helvetica)

* you change to bold or italic

* you change size of the font

* you change colour of the font

* you change the medium from light on a computer screen to ink on paper

One of the key problems in Artificial intelligence is to assign all these different representations to the same abstract entity that they all represent. This way varied lower level representations of a higher level entity occur is characteristic of top-down causation: what matters is the equivalence class of all these representations, which is the characteristic of the higher level entity, not which particular representation has been chosen.

So all those different appearances all represent the same thing. And our minds easily handle this and recognize the higher level abstract thing all these phenomena represent, whether it is the letter "A" or the plan for a jumbo jet airliner. Those higher level entities (such as the plan for the airliner) really exist as entities in their own right. Proof: Jumbo jet airliners exist. It could not do so unless the abstract plan, with all its multiple represntations, were real.

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 05:54 GMT
Joe

Exactly, as I have said elsewhere to you, and this is my fundamental point. As at any given point in time (as in timing), there is a specific physically existent state. To discern it, we would have to identify the particular state of the properties, and the relative spatial position, of every elementary particle involved. An impossible task, but our inability to do that does not detract from the fact that that is what constitutes physical reality (aka the present)as at that point in time. Even your A is more than one of these physically existent states. Misconceptualising this, leads to problems. Neither does sensory detection have any impact on that, because it occurred before it was sensed (something which the Copenhagen interpretation does not recognise).

Paul

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Sridattadev wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 15:26 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

We are in between the bottom up and top down approaches of information flow. Relativistic universe is in a constant flux of this information flow and it is in an infinite feed back loop. Conscience is both at the absolute center and outer periphery of the universe (holographic effect). We as individual beings are caught in between these two equivalent states (singularity) and percieve the relativistic universe as a virtual reality.

Please see the essay

Conscience is the cosmological constant.


Love,

Sridattadev.

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J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 18:22 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

You wrote, "The degree of complexity that can arise by bottom-up causation alone is strictly limited. Sand piles, the game of life, bird flocks, or any dynamics governed by a local rule . . . do not compare in complexity with a single cell or an animal body. The same is true in physics: spontaneously broken symmetry is powerful . . . but not as powerful as symmetry breaking that is guided top-down to create ordered structures (such as brains and computers). Some kind of coordination of effects is needed for such complexity to emerge"

While I'm aware of the stringent constraints on the length of our essays, your essay appears to cry out for some discussion of how your ideas square with the concept of Darwinian natural selection. We're familiar with the top-down influence which created computers, but what top-down influence created brains? I'd welcome your thoughts on these points.

Your essay recalled to my mind the following words of David Deutsch: ". . . everything that is not forbidden by laws of nature is achievable, given the right knowledge. . . . This is the cosmic significance of explanatory knowledge --and hence of people, whom I shall henceforward define as entities that can create explanatory knowledge." ('The Beginning of Infinity, p. 56)

Thank you again for an excellent essay!

jcns

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 20:06 GMT
Dear jcns

Adaptive selection is one of the most important types of top-down causation. I did not have space to go into that aspect of things in the essay, but it is discussed in two papers accessible as follows:

On the nature of causation in complex systems ,

[linl:http://www.mth.uct.ac.za/~ellis/Top_down_gfre.pdf] Top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms

Adaptive selection is top-down because the selection criteria are at a different level than the objects being selected: in causal terms, they represent a higher level of causation. Darwinian selection is the special case when one has repeated adaptive selection with heredity and variation. It is top-down because the result is crucially shaped by the environment [as demonstrated by numerous experiments: e.g.a polar bear is white because the polar environment is white].

However adaptive selection occurs far more widely than that; e.g. it occurs in state vector preparation, as I indicate in the essay.

Hope that clarifies this.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 20:09 GMT
sorry for the error:

Top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms

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J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 21:01 GMT
George,

Thank you very much for the references. I'll take a close look at your paper 'Top-down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms' as well as your paper 'Physics in the Real Universe: Time and Spacetime.' It's my preliminary sense that we share more than a few ideas in common about the nature of time. More later.

jcns

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Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 21:56 GMT
Dear George:

Excellent paper and clearly written to provide a wholesome perspective of reality provided by the top-down causation. In other words, the sum of parts is not the Whole, which could be more than and different from the linear sum of parts.

The theme of your paper is vindicated by the fact that a top-down causation model with simple boundary conditions is shown to predict the observed expansion of the universe and galaxies without any bottom up causation used in the standard model or particle physics. As described in my posted paper – “From Absurd to Elegant Universe”, the current paradoxes, singularities, and inconsistencies in the standard cosmology are shown to be artifacts of the absence of the top-down wholesome approach. The proposed Relativistic Universe Expansion (RUE) model based on the top-down conservation of the relativistic mass-energy-space-time continuum accurately predicts the observed universe accelerated expansion, dark energy or cosmological constant, and galactic star velocities without the concept of dark matter. It also predicts the dilation and creation of mass without any anti-matter and eliminates black hole singularity without the need for any super luminous inflation. The model also explains/predicts the inner workings of quantum mechanics and resolves paradoxes of the measurement problem, quantum gravity and time, and inconsistencies with relativity theory.

The evidence presented in my paper directly and mechanistically vindicates the following statements regarding the top-down causation in your paper:

“ …the foundational assumption that all causation is bottom up is wrong, even in the case of physics.”

“The key feature is that the higher level dynamics is effectively decoupled from lower level laws and details of the lower level variables:……you don’t have to know those details in order to predict the higher level behavior.”

My paper also proves as true the following concluding statement in your paper:

“…. recognizing this feature will make it easier to comprehend the physical effects underlying emergence of genuine complexity, and may lead to useful new developments, particularly to do with the foundational nature of quantum theory. It is a key missing element in current physics.”

I am delighted to read your paper as it mirrors the overall theme and results of my paper. I would greatly appreciate and welcome your comments on my paper.

Sincerely,

Avtar Singh

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Avtar Singh replied on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 22:16 GMT
Here is the link to my paper:

Please visit the From Absurd to Elegant Universe.

or,

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1317

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Georgina Parry wrote on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 21:57 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

I found your essay very comprehensible, succinct and eloquent, as others have also found. It was enjoyable to read. The subject matter is interesting to me. I was also interested to see, in your comments, that you have written another essay in which natural selection is discussed. I have just touched on this kind of pattern control at the end of my essay and if there had been space I would have liked to have discussed it further. So it was really good to see your essay here because you have done a really thorough and clear job of getting the very important concept across.

One complaint often given by intelligent design supporters is that complex forms or functions can not arise by random chance. I think we are both saying that the outcome is not chance but a consequence of the organisation that already exists -and- the rules of physics and biology. Your photoshop example made me think of how an egg shell is formed. Calcium carbonate from ground up oyster shell or cuttle fish bone may be input to a bird (organised structure) and a beautifully formed eggshell is output. That egg form would not occur without the complex bird organism.It is a product of the organisation and rules not just self assembly of atoms.

I really like that you have considered this over many different scales from the smallest to the largest. There seems to be organisation at whatever scale is investigated and I think we agree that to concentrate on the smallest scales, and to expect all of the answers to come from there, is "myopic".It is also really good that you have explained your work in this discussion thread. I have found your comments helpful and think your full participation and patience is admirable.

You are sure to have many more appreciative readers.Good luck in the competition.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 04:58 GMT
Dear Georgina Parry

many thanks for that. I like your eggshell example - yes it is a nice illustration. For an in depth discussion of top-down causation in developmental biology, the book by Gilbert and Epel ("Ecological developmental biology") is excellent.

The key point about adaptive selection (once off or repeated) is that it lets us locally go against the flow of entropy, and this lets us build up useful information. In this regard, I can't resist the following comment: it is often said that you can't unscramble an egg. Yes you can. How? By feeding the omelette to a chicken! (you get less egg than you started with:that's the Second Law in operation)

Good luck to you too.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 05:00 GMT
Typo: you can't unscramble an omelette

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J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 14:58 GMT
Dear George,

The paper to which you referred me, 'Top down causation and emergence: some comments on mechanisms,' did indeed help to answer my earlier question about squaring your ideas with natural selection. Thank you.

I'd like to comment on the point you made in your example illustrated by the question: "Why is an aircraft flying?" You wrote, "And why was it designed to fly? Because it will potentially make a profit for the manufacturers and the airline company! Without the prospect of that profit, it would not exist. This is the topmost cause for its existence."

I question whether there may be an even higher level cause: some human somewhere along the line posed the question "If birds can fly, why can't I?" And then our fellow humans refused to stop seeking until they found a satisfactory answer. Human curiosity about the way things work.

We might ask why all these essays have been written and submitted to the FQXi essay competition. Was it primarily because all these authors hope to win some easy money? I suspect not. More likely it is because they all have thought about the workings of the universe and have developed their own ideas and explanations that they believe are sensible, and they seek to share their ideas with similarly thoughtful people and, hopefully, perhaps to receive validation in the form of recognition and appreciation, regardless of any potential monetary reward.

Is it possible that human curiosity and creativity and eagerness for constructive collaboration are among the top of the topmost causes?

jcns

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John Merryman replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 16:33 GMT
jcns,

With George's point about planes existing because they make a profit for airlines and manufacturers, it is a top down logic of careful analysis of the situation and how it might be incrementally expanded. With your observation about flight being a consequence of human curiosity, it leans more toward a bottom up evolutionary striving, where all possible options get tried and those which succeed are the most repeated. Obviously there is no clear line between the two, but a constant feedback between experimentation and planning.

One might define the basis or bottom, as simple, while the elevated state is simply more complex, rather than "higher." So that initial question, "If birds can fly, why can't I?" is not so much a higher cause, but a more elemental cause. George's top down position is rather a vantage point from where one might plan on how to push even further up.

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John Merryman replied on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 19:17 GMT
It should be noted that complexity tends to multiply, until it becomes unstable, which is where our banking system currently is. The reason for this particular exponential complexity has been the advantage it provides those managing banking to drain resources from the rest of the economy. Obviously this is not to the benefit of society, or even the long term health of banking, which is built on trust, so the question it brings up is as to whether there is such a thing as a "top," from which one might look down, or is that always just a completely subjective point of reference?

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J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 13:06 GMT
John,

You have raised some interesting points. Rather than comment directly on them myself I'd prefer to get George's own views; he clearly has given this topic far more thought than I have, and probably far more than both of us combined.

It certainly is a fascinating topic. David Deutsch has offered what strikes me as a classic comment on the topic in his book 'The Fabric of Reality' as follows (apologies for the odd spacing; I know not how to fix it):

"For example, consider

one particular copper atom at the tip of the nose of the statue

of Sir Winston Churchill that stands in Parliament Square in

London. Let me try to explain why that copper atom is there. It

is because Churchill served as prime minister in the House of

Commons nearby; and because his ideas and leadership contributed

to the Allied victory in the Second World War; and because it is

customary to honor such people by putting up statues of them;

and because bronze, a traditional material for such statues,

contains copper, an so on. Thus we explain a low-level physical

observation-- the presence of a copper atom at a particular

location-- through extremely high-level theories about emergent

phenomena such as ideas, leadership, war and tradition.

There is no reason why there should exist, even in

principle, any lower-level explanation of the presence of

that copper atom than the one I have just given."

jcns

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 17:25 GMT
What sort of role might Erdos-Renyi networks play here? The sort of nearest neighbor approach with probability weights is a neural model of sorts. These networks are the basis for percolation theory and mean field theory. When the number of connected nodes reaches some threshold the properties of the system can change. In the case of percolation theory this can lead to a rapid failure of a material.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 21:55 GMT
Hi Lawrence

there are some similarities because the brain a structured network, but it is not like the Erdos-Renyi networks because they are carefully constructed to be random whereas the brain is not: it's connections embody the results of our interaction with the world, encoding our knowledge and learnings. While the usual statistical approaches to networks are illuminating to some degree, they miss out on key issues such as identifying the structural motifs that enable brain circuits to function as they do. Uri Alon's writings are illuminating in this regard; see his book: "Introduction to Systems Biology: Design

Principles Of Biological Circuits", and for example

here .

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 14:36 GMT
In thinking about this I then ponder whether random networks subjected to some sort of selection process can then evolve into a form suggested here. This is in a manner of thinking a sort of Darwinian process. A random network might compared to some random noise or white noise system, but where given some sample of possible random networks subjected to a culling process plus some “survival criterion” results in networks which are less random and output what might be called pink noise.

Thanks for the reference.

Cheers LC

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Daniel L Burnstein wrote on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 22:04 GMT
[corrected] Please ignore earlier reply.

@ Prof. Ellis

As a follow-up to our exchange.

" a very old dream, and one that is probably unattainable both because of Godel's theorem"

Gödel's incompleteness theorems are often invoked as an argument against the possibility of a complete and consistent axiom set from which all interactions at all scales of physical reality can...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 12:43 GMT
I don't want to enter into to the territory of Godel's theorem Roger Penrose is the person to talk to about that. Rather I'll just commnent one statement:

"If the Universe is found to be both consistent and complete, that is, the fundamental objects and the laws that govern them are consistent (consistency) and all that they produce remains part of the Universe (completeness), then all physical processes are emergent."

This is a non-sequitur. "Completeness" above means that you can't get out of the universe by application of physical laws. It does not guarantee that everything in the universe can be attained in this way. Some physical processes are not emergent but are entailed in a top-down way. For example there is no bottom up process by which the computer memory states embodying a Quicksort algorithm can emerge from the action of the underlying physics acting in a purely bottom-up way. Indeed the same is true of the processes leading to creation of a teacup or a pair of spectacles (see my Nature article "Physics, complexity and causality" 435, 743 (2005)). If you believe this is wrong,please advise me of a physical law or process that unambiguously determines how a tea cup can be created in a purely bottom-up way.

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Member Hector Zenil replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 21:17 GMT
Dear George,

I couldn't add a new post at the end of the discussion page so I try in this thread that seems somehow related.

How robust your hierarchy depicted in Table 2 for a digital computer system is in the light of Turing's universality? From Turing universality we know that for a computation S with input i we can always write another computer program S with empty input computing the same function than S for i. Also one can always decompose a computation S into S and i, so data and software are not of essential (ontological?) different nature. I also wonder if it isn't statistical mechanics the acknowledge that the view you are arguing against is not the general assumption in the practice of science.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 11:57 GMT
Hector,

I hope I don't seem too presumptuous or rude for jumping in here -- I am also interested in George's reply, and your question is important to me as well. You write, " ... one can always decompose a computation S into S and i, so data and software are not of essential (ontological?) different nature ..." which I think gets down to the "murky" level 1 of Table 2, and the quantum...

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Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 23:50 GMT
Dear George:

Following up on my earlier comments, there are additional physical and mechanistic arguments that support your statement –

“ …the foundational assumption that all causation is bottom up is wrong, even in the case of physics……… The key feature is that the higher level dynamics is effectively decoupled from lower level laws and details of the lower level variables:……you don’t have to know those details in order to predict the higher level behavior.”

The bottom up causation is used in standard cosmology to describe the universal reality based on the quantum reality exhibited by individual particles/fields. However, quantum reality represents only partial reality due the quantum measurement problem. A classical measuring instrument interprets the quantum phenomena (V~C) from a Newtonian (V~0) frame of reference, hence the quantum reality represents a truncated partial reality resulting in the observed weirdness and inconsistencies. The quantum phenomenon being observed occurs in a dilated space-time due to V~C, while the Newtonian space-time frame of reference of the observer remains fixed and undilated due to V~0. In order to describe the non-truncated wholesome universal reality, a top-down causation approach such as the one described in my paper - “ From Absurd to Elegant Universe”, is essential that satisfies laws of conservation of mass, energy, space-time, and momentum via proper inclusion of the relativistic effects. Paradoxes of quantum measurements and quantum reality (entanglement, tunneling, multiverses, multi-dimensions and anti-matter etc.) are artifacts of the quantum observational limitations imposed by the fixed space-time and not satisfying the overall conservation laws at the universe level. The top-down causation approach allows universal connectivity and non-locality via governing eternal and omnipresent conservation laws throughout the universe, which are missed out due to the consideration of only local or discrete realities of particles/fields in fixed space-time in the bottom-up approach.

And yes, bodies and brains can be created as well as annihilated by the top-down causation. As explained and described in my paper, both the creation and dilation of matter are predicted by the top-down causation model without the need for any nucleo-synthesis or anti-matter concepts used in the standard model.

The seriousness of the impact of the top-down causation should not be underscored. Without the top-down causation consideration, it is impossible to determine the universal wrongness or correctness of any assumption or theory. From the bottom-up causation, only a partial or local, and not universal, appropriateness of any assumption/theory can be estimated. For this very reason, the widely successful bottom up quantum theory at worldly level fails to predict 96% (dark matter and dark energy) of the wholesome universe.

Sincerely,

Avtar Singh

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 18:31 GMT
Dear Avtar

I am glad we agree on top down causation.

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 12:24 GMT
Some while ago I said I'd post about a Feynman quotation which is illuminatng as to his view on which if any level is fundamental. Here it is:

In his book "The character of physical law" , on pp.124-125,

Richard Feynman summarises the hierarchy of structure, starting with

the fundamental laws of physics and their application to protons,

neutrons, and electrons, going on to atoms and heat, and including

waves, storms, stars, as well as frogs and concepts like `man',

`history, `political expediency', `evil', `beauty', and `hope'. He

then says the following (pp. 125-126):

"Which end is nearer to God, if I may use a religious metaphor.

Beauty and hope, or the fundamental laws? I think that the right

way, of course, is to say that what we have to look at is the whole

structural interconnection of the thing; and that all the sciences,

and not just the sciences but all the efforts of intellectual kinds,

are an endeavour to see the connections of the hierarchies, to

connect beauty to history, to connect history to man's psychology,

man's psychology to the working of the brain, the brain to the

neural impulse, the neural impulse to chemistry, and so forth, up

and down, both ways. And today we cannot, and it is no use making

believe we can, draw carefully a line all the way from one end of

this thing to the other, because we have only just begun to see that

there is this relative hierarchy."

"And I do not think either end is nearer to God. To stand at either

end, and to walk off that end of the pier only, hoping that out in

that direction is the complete understanding, is a mistake. And to

stand with evil and beauty and hope, or with fundamental laws,

hoping that way to get a deep understanding of the whole world, with

that aspect alone, is a mistake. It is not sensible for the ones who

specialize at one end, and the ones who specialize at the other, to

have such disregard for each other ... The great mass of workers in

between, connecting one step to another, are improving all the time

our understanding of the world, both from working at the ends and

from working in the middle, and in that way we are gradually

understanding this tremendous world of interconnecting hierarchies."

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J. C. N. Smith replied on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 13:57 GMT
Dear George,

Thank you for that Feynman quote; it nails the topic perfectly, in his inimitable way.

On the theory that one good quote deserves another, here's another of my favorites by David Deutsch, this one from his book 'The Beginning of Infinity' (p.75).

"Like an explosive awaiting a spark, unimaginably numerous environments in the universe are waiting out there, for aeons on end, doing nothing at all or blindly generating evidence and storing it up or pouring it out into space. Almost any of them would, if the right knowledge ever reached it, instantly burst into a radically different type of physical activity: intense knowledge-creation, displaying all the various kinds of complexity, universality and reach that are inherent in the laws of nature, and transforming that environment from what is typical today into what could become typical in the future. If we want to, we could be that spark."

jcns

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jul. 21, 2012 @ 20:28 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

A very interesting read. In a reply to Paul you note that "reality is unclear" at the particle level because of uncertainty, wave-particle duality, and entanglement. In this sense any change in understanding of these aspects of reality might be expected to have some effect on the conception of 'the bottom' (although equivalence classes might not change). For this reason I invite you to read and hopefully comment on my current essay, The Nature of the Wave Function.

At the other end of the spectrum, in a comment to jcns, you bring 'meaning and purpose' into the picture. This brings up the question, "where is the top?". Do you make an assumption here, or is the top an open ended concept?

I agree that most discussions of emergence do NOT treat 'top down causation' and you are to be commended for doing so.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 22, 2012 @ 05:08 GMT
"In a reply to Paul you note that "reality is unclear" at the particle level because of uncertainty, wave-particle duality, and entanglement"

Indeed, to which I have responded with the point that this cannot be so, otherwise there would be no physical existence, which there is, and no alteration to that, which there is. Whatever reality 'ultimately' is, which we can never know, because we too are part of it, what we certainly do know is that there is 'something out there' ('out' being extrinsic to sensory detection systems)and it alters. The whole process of sensory detection(ie seeing, hearing, etc) involves the physical receipt of physically existent phenomena (eg light, noise, vibration), which are themselves the result of an interaction between other physically existent phenomena (one of which we tend to label the reality). That is the fundamental physics.

So physical reality obviously occurs in a specific physically existent state. It does not exist in some "unclear" manner. The issue is our inability to identify that. The sensory systems evolved to ensure survival of organisms, not the sensing of the very constitution of reality ('the bottom'). The Copenhagen interpretation, and any other theory that assumes there is no 'bottom', or that sensing affects the 'bottom', is invalid. In the latter case, it is sheer nonsense. Not only do organisms not receive reality anyway, when sensing, by definition, reality has already occurred for them to be able to sense it!

The question then becomes, having swept away metaphysical presumptions and invalid theories, what constitutes the 'bottom'? My definition, and I am perfectly happy with improvements thereto-just no the incorrect assertion that there is not one, is: " the physically existent state which occurs as at any given point in time, is a function of the particular state of the properties of the elementary particles involved, and their spatial position, as at that point in time"

Paul

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Jul. 22, 2012 @ 22:27 GMT
Paul,

You have repeated your beliefs on FQXi probably more often than any one else. My question was addressed to George Ellis, who has not flooded FQXi with his opinions, and whose thread this is.

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 02:25 GMT
Well said Edwin.

Paul, has a gift for systematic analysis of statements by physicists. This may be put to very good use for example in writing a monograph on how historically various physicists changed their own positions on subjects such as SR , the ether, time, etc. That would be really interesting.

Cheers to both of you

Vladimir

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Jul. 22, 2012 @ 07:34 GMT
George,

I'm afraid that you (and everybody else, for that matter) confuse causality with reason.

If we understand something only if we can explain it as the effect of some cause, and understand this cause only if we can explain it as the effect of a preceding cause, then this chain of cause-and-effect either goes on ad infinitum, or it ends at some primordial cause which, as it cannot be reduced to a preceding cause, cannot be understood by definition.

Causality therefore ultimately cannot explain anything. If, for example, you invent Higgs particles to explain the mass of other particles, then you'll eventually find that you need some other particle to explain the Higgs, a particle which in turn also has to be explained etcetera.

If you press the A key on your computer keyboard, then you don't cause the letter A to appear on your computer screen but just switch that letter on with the A tab, just like when you press the heck, you don't cause the door to open, but just open it. Similarly, if a let a glass fall out of my hand, then I don't cause it to break as it hits the floor, I just use gravity to smash the glass so there's nothing causal in this action.

Though chaos theory often is thought to say that the antics of a moth at one place can cause a hurricane elsewhere, if an intermediary event can cancel the hurricane, then the moth's antics only can be a cause in retrospect, if the hurricane actually does happens, so it cannot cause the hurricane at all. Though events certainly are related, they cannot always be understood in terms of cause and effect.

The flaw at the heart of Big Bang Cosmology is that in the concept of cosmic time (the time passed since the mythical bang) it states that the universe lives in a time continuum not of its own making, that it presumes the existence of an absolute clock, a clock we can use to determine what in an absolute sense precedes what.

This originates in our habit in physics to think about objects and phenomena as if looking at them from an imaginary vantage point outside the universe, as if it is legitimate scientifically to look over God's shoulders at His creation, so to say.

However, a universe which creates itself out of nothing, without any outside interference does not live in a time continuum of its own making but contains and produces all time within: in such universe there is no clock we can use to determine what precedes what in an absolute sense, what is cause of what.

For a discussion why big bang cosmology describes a fictitious universe, see my essay 'Einstein's Error.'

Anton

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 22, 2012 @ 10:35 GMT
Anton

I am not going to make a judgement on the validity of your general point, but will alight on “then this chain of cause-and-effect either goes on ad infinitum, or it ends at some primordial cause which, as it cannot be reduced to a preceding cause, cannot be understood by definition”.

Now, there are two issues here:

1 Cause must involve physically existent phenomena. In simple language, cause is not something which is somehow ‘separate’ from physical existence (and I am not implying you are saying that). So it is definitive and knowable, and must have correspondence with physically existent phenomena.

2 We are concerned with knowledge of reality, not reality. In other words, assuming a valid closed system can be identified (which it can-sensory detection in all organisms), then there is a ‘limit/confine’, within which all is, potentially, knowable (only practical problems in the sensory detection process prevent this from being so, not metaphysical considerations). There is a valid limit to the knowledge that is potentially available to us. The confusion is in not understanding that we are ultimately dealing with knowledge of the actuality, not the actuality.

Paul

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Anton W.M. Biermans replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 01:41 GMT
Paul,

What is or happens within a perfectly closed system has no physical reality to someone outside of it: it does not belong to his universe, is unobservable so he cannot say anything about it. The same goes for the second law of thermodynamics: if a system is perfectly closed, that is, if there's no physical communication possible with what's inside of it, then it doesn't even make sense to ask how much entropy it contains. As in a self-creating universe the observation interaction affects the observed, there is no absolute, i.e., objectively observable reality at the origin of our observations. It isn't that our observation is imperfect; the point is that in a universe where particles create one another, their properties are as much the effect as the cause of their interactions so the observation interaction unavoidably affects the nature of the thing to be observed. Here we cannot really distinguish between the properties of a fundamental particle and their expression. In such universe there is no reality separate from its observation, though imperfect observational equipment or methods of course blur observations.

Anton

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Paul Reed replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 05:27 GMT
Anton

“What is or happens within a perfectly closed system has no physical reality to someone outside of it”

Exactly. And we are part of physical reality, we cannot extricate ourselves from it. We can only know that which is ‘outside’, ie independent of, sensory detection. Which means we have a validated closed system. That determines the ‘boundary’ between scientific knowledge and belief. Bearing in mind that we have to hypothecate to overcome known practical problems in the physics of the sensory detection process, but must reference this back to validated direct experience, ie avoid belief when doing this.

“As in a self-creating universe…” But this is not the reality of which we are a part. When we sense something, we are receiving a physically existent phenomenon, ie it exists independently of our sensing of it.

Paul

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Vladimir F. Tamari wrote on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 02:11 GMT
Dear George

(As a courtesy to Professor Ellis, and to keep discussions focused I hope other posters will not respond to this on his page unless he does.)

You make a convincing case for being wary of simplistic down-up causation. Your arguments make sense but only in the context of present-day physics which is far from being a harmonious conceptual whole where one theory applies both to the very large and the very small - please see my present fqxi essay Fix Physics! about that. I am conviced that if such a simple theory of everything were to be found, causation would be always local and linear at the smallest scales and the effects of large systems will be the resultant of effects transmitted locally and causally down to the local level and vice-versa simultaneously in a balanced way:

Think of a ripple tank where one 'simple local' point sends out waves to a 'complex system' consisting of points on a surrounding perimeter. Anywhere in the space between the 'local or down point' and those of a larger 'higher complex perimeter' system the resulting interference pattern will be caused by both systems simultaneously. Here is my tentative approach to such a ToE Beautiful Universe Theory .

With best wishes from Vladimir

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 15:27 GMT
Vladimir you state

"I am conviced that if such a simple theory of everything were to be found, causation would be always local and linear at the smallest scales and the effects of large systems will be the resultant of effects transmitted locally and causally down to the local level and vice-versa simultaneously in a balanced way'

I agree with you completely. My more technical article on the way quantum theory works is based in precisely that premise. You will find it

here .

George

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Vladimir F. Tamari replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 16:46 GMT
Thanks George

I just downloaded your paper and it will take me some time to read. My first impression is that it differs from my Beautiful Universe paper in scope and intention (and the presence of non-linearity it appears) as you will see if you read it. Another difference is that mine is the work of someone who has waded in deeper waters than he was trained for!

Cheers

Vladimir

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nmann wrote on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 15:59 GMT
Dr. Ellis,

"In addition to contemplating relativistic and philosophical aspects of cosmology, he is now engaged in trying to understand how complex systems such as you and me can arise out of the underlying physics."

Could this be made to work without a thorough simulation, down to the particle interaction level, of the underlying physics -- in this case, of condensed matter physics?

One assumes the higher-level effects ("epiphenomena" seems to be a word to avoid) emerge as interactive constraints upon the substrate physics. (Let's not get into the contentious issue of substrate independence, which isn't a required topic at this point.) Whether or not their emergence is inevitable (and why shouldn't it be?) we know they wouldn't exist, at any rate to begin with, in the absence of the underlying physics. And the more complex the higher-level emergent phenomena, the more you need to know about the operational physics in order to map the emergence ... or is that a fallacious assumption?

Anyway, what about the fermion minus-sign problem? And thanks for your provocative and knowledgeable essay.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 05:59 GMT
You don't need simulation to establish effective laws at any particular level. For example you can establish the effective gas laws without using any simulations, through two routes: (a) experimentally, (b) by use of kinetic theory. The latter does not need to involve simulations, nor does it need quantum field theory, much less M-theory or string theory.

"One assumes the higher-level effects ... emerge as interactive constraints upon the substrate physics." I'd phrase it this way: the high level structure emerges somehow (it may be spontaneous, or may be manufactured, or may emerge through developmental processes) and then sets constraints on the underlying physics.



Yes, this emergence would not take place in the absence of the underlying physics. "The more complex the higher-level emergent phenomena, the more you need to know about the operational physics in order to map the emergence" - well not really. Digital computers are really good examples: they are the most complex things we have built. You don't need to know anything about the underlying physics to design the computer itself, you just need to know that it established the possibilities of existence of transistors and hence various kinds of gates. On that basis you can work out the logic of integrated circuits and make CPUs, memory banks, etc. Hence computer scientists are not taught quantum theory as part of their computer science courses. Someone else needs to know how the transistor works but you don't need to do so: you can take the transistors as the bottom level, for your purposes. And it's crucial that we are able to do so, for as I've already said we don't know what the bottom level is: we'd be unable to do most of present day physics if it was requisite that we understand the quantum gravity foundation layer first. The key question is, Which is the operational level? It's the one that is convenient for you to choose as the lowest level in your particular analysis.



The fermion minus-sign problem is to do with quantum Monte Carlo simulations; a technique for trying to understand specific types of emergent systems. I cannot meaningfully comment on that technique and problem, except to say that I don't think it helps understand systems such as the brain or a computer.

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nmann wrote on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 16:11 GMT
Thanks for the extended response. We'll simply have to disagree that manufactured artifacts are useful analogues of complex nonequilibrium systems -- complex natural processes -- to the extent I read you as believing them to be.

"Hence computer scientists are not taught quantum theory as part of their computer science courses."

Actually, that's not true in the case of quantum computation itself. And perhaps overly optimistic though it may seem, qcomp programming is taught on the theoretical level. You can't understand quantum algorithms without some fundamental knowledge of QM. Anyway, my own paradigm these days is the role of proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) in photosynthesis. Now, to be sure, a plant doesn't need to understand anything at all about quantum tunneling in order to do its photosynthesizing thing, but if you're designing an artificial leaf (vide the Nocera team's ambitious project) you definitely do. Anyway you and I, a couple of complex systems, generate information no computer can, no matter how sophisticated its programming.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 18:08 GMT
"We'll simply have to disagree that manufactured artifacts are useful analogues of complex nonequilibrium systems -- complex natural processes -- to the extent I read you as believing them to be." Well I don't want to overdo the analogy, but for me a key similarity is they both are hierarchically structured modular systems with information hiding. This kind of structuring is very nicely described by Grady Booch in his book on object oriented programming. The mechanisms used in these two kinds of systems are quite different, but some of the logic is similar. And of course you can get the digital system to simulate many aspects of the physical system to high accuracy, basically because digital computers are universal computers (Turing).

Yes of course I agree about quantum computing. I should have added the caveat "classical computing" in all above.

Proton-coupled electron transfer seems fascinating. I'd be really interested to know how it relates to quantum state vector reduction. And I agree with you about the limitations of computers (though many don't).

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nmann wrote on Jul. 24, 2012 @ 18:28 GMT
Note. Anticipating a possible objection here. An artificial leaf, albeit a manufactured artifact, doesn't stand in relation to a real leaf as a digital computer does to a brain. An artificial leaf reproduces a known process selected from a real leaf's repertoire of physics, whereas a computer can't be demonstrated to reproduce any process selected from the physics or systemic functionality of the brain.

An artificial leaf copies to some degree a real leaf. The computer is sui generis, a physically realized TM, as anyone familiar with Turing's papers from the 1930s realizes. Is the brain a TM? A lot of people seem to think so, but haven't proven it.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 18:19 GMT
"a computer can't be demonstrated to reproduce any process selected from the physics or systemic functionality of the brain." The physics functionality, I agree; the systemic functionality, perhaps not. The brain is an embodied brain certainly; but it also carries out pattern recognition and prediction processes that can be digitally simulated to some degree (indeed that's where Artificial Neural Nets came from). Furthermore computers can indeed learn to some degree, through adaptive programs such as genetic algorithms.

The brain is not a Turing Machine inter alia because emotion plays a key role in its functioning (see for example Damasio's writings). You can to some degree simulate those effects but I certainly don't believe you can reproduce them.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 21:15 GMT
it becomes interesting.:) It was times to have concrete discussions.

Mr Ellis.

the artificial intelligence, that said , can be made if the biology is inserted. the informations can be encoded with a kind of sortings of these informations. But of course it becomes intriguing. The emotions indeed are results of specific biological evolution. Can we reproduce these emotions, I think that no also, but we can create a process of evolution and sortings implying a kind of artificial intelligence.I ask me how the synapctic messages can be inserted ? How the diffusions of informations are inside a closed system. The brain is fascinating. It is possible easily to insert parameters of movements. But this entanglement, correlated with the evolutive human brain for example, is so complex. I agree so, we cannot reproduce emotions, but we can imply a kind of comportment correlated. Like a specific algorythm of selectivity about these comportments. It is intriguing all that.

The brain is more than a turing machine, we are aged of 13.7 to 15 billions years ! It is evident that the biology is very complex in all its combinations. The brain and the adn like wonderful creations.

Regards

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nmann wrote on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 20:06 GMT
"Proton-coupled electron transfer seems fascinating. I'd be really interested to know how it relates to quantum state vector reduction."

This topic has never been mentioned in any paper I've seen. The question for me has been to what extent is PCET a coherent quantum phenomenon. You don't even need to believe in wave function collapse to wonder about that, as one is interested also in the whole emerging discussion of room-temperature and high-temperature quantum coherence. (See Vlatko Vedral on the ubiquity of entanglement. Seth Lloyd on entanglement as crucial to ordinary bivalent bonds. And when you visited the IQOQI you were doubtless regaled with an account of the super-hot double-slit buckyball experiment.) Nocera & Co. are adamant that PCET's a coherent quantum tunneling effect, and appear to have established this contention to the satisfaction of those sectors of the scientific community that have paid attention.

Here's a now-defunct webpage from Daniel Nocera's MIT site, undoubtedly not technical enough for you but okay for most kibbitzers, which a friend of mine downloaded and converted to pdf a while back. It lays out the basic stuff:

http://www.dancing-peasants.com/Proton-Coupled_Electro
n_Transfer.pdf

I can cite deeper material if desired.

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nmann wrote on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 20:09 GMT
looked okay in the preview

http://www.dancing-peasants.com/Proton-Coupled_Electr
on_Transfer.pdf

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 19:17 GMT
Here it is I hope: Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer

It's interesting, thanks. From my viewpoint, it's a really nice further illustration of how local context underlies real quantum detection events as claimed in my paper arXiv:1108.5261, because (1) it is indeed a detection event [a photon causes an electron to be released that then causes further reactions down the line] which (2) takes place because of the specific molecular structures R1 and R2 within which electron is imbedded. These are higher level structures, i.e. at a larger scale than the electron, that channel the electron's interactions by setting its local context: a form of top-down constraint. Thus it's another very nice illustration of top-down effects: what happens at the electron's level would not happen if the specific molecular structures were not there. At the quantum level, this must cause a collapse of the wave function, because specific classical events occur as discussed in this reference (it is striking that this paper uses essentially classical models, enhanced by the concept of tunnelling and the idea of the photo-electric effect: there's no wave function for example).

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Jul. 25, 2012 @ 20:23 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

In a comment above, you state, "Proton-coupled electron transfer seems fascinating. I'd be really interested to know how it relates to quantum state vector reduction."

I do invite you to read my current essay, The Nature of the Wave Function, as I address the issue of "quantum state vector reduction" and I would very much appreciate your thoughts on my approach.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 29, 2012 @ 10:31 GMT
Well I'm very puzzled. I wrote a response to your essay and thought I'd posted it over on your thread. Seems not to be there - I wonder what happened.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Jul. 26, 2012 @ 06:42 GMT
Paul Davies and Sara Walker have put up two very useful papers on the internet that will interest those of you involved on the biology side. They are

Evolutionary Transitions and Top-Down Causation



and

The Algorithmic Origins of Life


Here is the abstract of the latter paper:

"Although it has been notoriously difficult to pin down precisely what it is that makes life so distinctive and remarkable, there is general agreement that its informational aspect is one key property, perhaps the key property. The unique informational narrative of living systems suggests that life may be characterized by context-dependent causal influences, and in particular, that top-down (or downward) causation -- where higher-levels influence and constrain the dynamics of lower-levels in organizational hierarchies - may be a major contributor to the hierarchal structure of living systems. Here we propose that the origin of life may correspond to a physical transition associated with a fundamental shift in causal structure. The origin of life may therefore be characterized by a transition from bottom-up to top-down causation, mediated by a reversal in the dominant direction of the flow of information from lower to higher levels of organization (bottom-up), to that from higher to lower levels of organization (top-down). Such a transition may be akin to a thermodynamic phase transition, with the crucial distinction that determining which phase (nonlife or life) a given system is in requires dynamical information and therefore can only be inferred by identifying causal relationships. We discuss one potential measure of such a transition, which is amenable to laboratory study, and how the proposed mechanism corresponds to the onset of the unique mode of (algorithmic) information processing characteristic of living systems."

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nmann replied on Jul. 26, 2012 @ 16:00 GMT
Information is probably just as real and physical as Energy. Maybe Claude Shannon stands as something like the Sadi Carnot of Information. (Incidentally, one is always interested in a distinguished physicist's take on the Brukner-Zeilinger quantum revision of Shannon and also on Jan Kåhre's work.) But we don't yet have an Infodynamics on the order of Thermodynamics.

The Elephant in the Room throughout all of this, one suddenly realizes, has been Macrorealism. "Recognising Top-Down Causation" might be characterized as a defense of same, accomplished by means of conscripting Hierarchy Theory and subtly decoupling QM. It's a pretty good defense.

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T H Ray replied on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 14:21 GMT
Hi nmann,

" ... we don't yet have an Infodynamics on the order of Thermodynamics."

Yes, we do. Shannon's information entropy is perfectly modeled by the same mathematics as thermodynamic entropy. Applied to a network of communication nodes, a dynamic system emerges.

Tom

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nmann replied on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 15:25 GMT
Hi Tom,

What we don't have is an understanding of informational transduction. There's a sense in which energy comes coded too (for example, you can't make a computer operate directly on any form of energy other than electrical) but we've identified and defined electrical energy and understand how it as well as kinetic energy, thermal energy, mechanical energy etc. are linked and are able to be converted from one form to another.

But how does the electrochemical information coursing around in your brain relate to the symbolic information your brain outputs, as represented for instance by your post? How many transduction processes are involved, and what the heck are they?

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Peter Jackson wrote on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 19:03 GMT
George

Excellently written piece, well argued and very agreeable. I see scale as a full 2 way causal street. But I have questions;

1. Has anybody argued otherwise? I agree few think about it, and need to, but you don't falsify a counter argument. I wonder if there even is one?

2. The point about complexity is anyway, I agree, worth eeking out and considering. I've suggested one step more, in that simply, because there are so many small particles, complexity is so great is resembles 'chance' to us. If we were the size of a proton might we not find nature simple, as we do macro nature now?

3. This suggests the 'bottom' may be only assumed the one way source of causality as we see, so feel we 'better' understand the top end. Do you agree?

4. Can mathematics using just 'point' particles really properly describe the effects of evolution of interaction between waves and 'real' particles over non zero time when negotiating a medium boundary in relative motion?

5. As a relativist, do you consider that understanding the quantum universe better will allow us to unite physics? - by providing a quantum mechanism to produce the macro effects we term relativity?

I've derived a 'two way' mechanism discussed in my essay. The motion of one medium or 'system' within another will give rise to quantum effects, which then in turn implement the postulates of special relativity and curved space time. This seems to resolve a number of astronomical anomalies, and a causality issue with assumptions about refraction not previously identified.

I'd be extremely grateful if you were able to read my essay and give your views.

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1330

I've thrown is some kinetic theatre to break up the density.

Best wishes

Peter

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 05:28 GMT
Dear Peter

1. "Has anybody argued otherwise?" Oh yes: it is the basic assumption of many, e.g. Francis Crick in his book The Astonishing Hypothesis; Lewis Wolpert in response to talks I have given; Jonathan Shock, to name a few.

2. "If we were the size of a proton might we not find nature simple" well yes: quantum theory is linear, that's its key feature. But it only applies on small scales.

3: We understand the top end (i.e. the scale of everyday life) better because that's our scale! Its only on this scale that we can easily test and probe and experience.

4: You have to take the properties of the boundary into account as well. You regard it as a macro entity, i.e. you don't try to describe its constitution detail.

4. Understanding the quantum level does not per se make relativity emerge - yo have to put it in by hand. That's the difference between quantum theory and quantum field theory.

I enjoy the theatre in your essay.

George

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Peter Jackson wrote on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 19:11 GMT
George

5. Should read; ...the 'bottom' may be only assumed to be the (one way) source of causality because we can actually SEE the top end, so feel we better understand it. Do you agree?

Peter

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Peter Jackson replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 18:04 GMT
George

Thank you. I'm not too astonished some argue against, in Quantum and Classical there must of course always be someone who's convinced black is white.

Point 4. You say "You have to take the properties of the boundary into account as well. You regard it as a macro entity, i.e. you don't try to describe its constitution detail." Interesting view. I know you're currently thinking in a different area, but my essay is actually ALL about the constitution of the quantum boundaries of 'space time geometries' (frames) and how the real interactions there (with non point particles and temporal evolution) produce all the classical macro scale effects we term Relativity.

I'm a little surprised and disappointed that did not emerge for you. I hoped you may try to falsify the ontology as we've have had no success doing so to date.

Have you actually read it all yet?

Best wishes

Peter

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Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 27, 2012 @ 22:05 GMT
Dear George:

What are your thoughts on the role of consciousness or free will as the top down causation that gives rise to human beings? I have expressed some of my thoughts below based on my paper -“ From Absurd to Elegant Universe”:

Causation vs. Free Will – What is Fundamental?

The following arguments support the conclusion that Free Will or Spontaneity or Consciousness is the fundamental or root cause process of all physical phenomena and the widely used assumption that particles/strings are fundamental reality is wrong as evidenced by its failure to predict/describe 96% of the universe and resulting in the prevailing paradoxes/inconsistencies.

An outcome of an event is determined by the input parameters and the governing law (or equation). The governing laws are the fundamental universal laws of conservation of mass, energy, momentum, space, and time which are existent at Free Will without any external cause. The input is also chosen at the free will of the observer or operator. In some cases, the input is determined by the outcome of a preceding event such as in the Domino Effect. But even in those cases, the originating or primary root input is always determined at the free will of the originator or source. Hence, the universe is not a Clockwork Universe wherein its fate is predetermined. The evolution of the material or manifested universe is subject to the free-willed laws and inputs.

The widely used assumption that particles or strings of matter are the most fundamental elements of universal reality is incorrect. The particles are known to be born spontaneously out of or decay spontaneously into the so-called vacuum or nothingness. Hence, the fundamental reality, both top-down and bottom-up, is vacuum (or the Zero point state of the mass-energy-space-time continuum as described in my paper. This state is synonymous with the implicit eternal and omnipresent laws of the universe.

The fundamental physical process that leads to spontaneous (no causation) birth or decay of particles is the free will or spontaneity in the universe. A universal theory that does not entail this free-will dimension allowing spontaneous conversion of mass-energy-space-time continuum will remain incomplete and unable to describe the universal reality. This is vindicated in my paper wherein it is demonstrated that allowance of such spontaneous process in conjunction with general relativity leads to the correct prediction of the observed universe, creation and dilation of matter, and classical as well as quantum behavior of particles eliminating black hole singularities and paradoxes related to inner workings of quantum mechanics.

Regards

Avtar Singh

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 05:10 GMT
Dear Avtar

while I believe in free will - inter alia, because science is not rationally possible if we do not have some meaningful kind of free will, as pointed out for example by Anton Zeilinger - I do not believe it is manifested by particles in themselves. Quantum uncertainty is not the same as free will, it is arbitrary, while free will entails purpose and meaningful choice.

Regards

George

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nmann replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 23:48 GMT
Zeilinger has indeed said that. However, he has also said that something which sounds to me a lot like superdeterminism cannot be ruled out. And his group's paper describing their experimental violation of [a slightly tweaked version of] the Leggett inequality [ArXiv 0704.2529, page 7] says this:

"... Furthermore, one could consider the breakdown of other assumptions that are implicit in our reasoning leading to the inequality. These include Aristotelian logic, counterfactual de niteness, absence of actions into the past or a world that is not completely deterministic. ..."

The first time I read the sentence I thought maybe they needed an editor for English clarity but no: it says what it says.

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nmann replied on Jul. 28, 2012 @ 23:53 GMT
That's "counterfactual deFIniteness" of course. Careless cutting and pasting on this poster's part.

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J. C. N. Smith wrote on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 18:06 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

Apropos of nothing other than the topic of your essay, I just now stumbled upon another delightful quote which I think you might appreciate in the event you've not already seen it.

"We seek reality, but what is reality? The physiologists tell us that organisms are formed of cells; the chemists add that cells themselves are formed of atoms. Does this mean that these atoms or these cells constitute reality, or rather the sole reality? The way in which these cells are rearranged and from which results the unity of the individual, is not it also a reality much more interesting than that of the isolated elements, and should a naturalist who had never studied the elephant except by means of the microscope think himself sufficiently acquainted with that animal?" - - Henri Poincare, 'The Value of Science,' originally published in 1913, translated by George Bruce Halstead, Cosimo Classics, ISBN: 978-1-60206-504-8, p.21.

Cheers,

jcns

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Georgina Parry replied on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 20:27 GMT
Hi J.C.N Smith,

Its another good one, well found.

I find it interesting that increasing in scale and complexity of pattern also affects how the arrangement is able to interact with its environment.The variety of ways in which it can interact seems to increase with complexity. The size of the impact on the immediate environment increases with scale. (Though shape (as form is related to function) and populations also need consideration.)

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 31, 2012 @ 03:43 GMT
Dear J.C.N.Smith,

very nice, thank you. Here's another one for you, one of my favourites:

"All Truth is shadow except the last, except the utmost; yet every Truth is true in its own kind. It is substance in its own place, though it be but shadow in another place (for it is but a reflection from an intenser substance); and the shadow is a true shadow, as the substance is a true substance."

Isaac Pennington (1653).

Somehow that seems to state things very nicely.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 31, 2012 @ 04:03 GMT
Dear Georgina

indeed - one of the characteristics of truly complex systems is that higher level variables are not always just coarse grainings of lower level variables; they are sometimes crucially related to the details of the structure.

Hence in highly ordered structures, sometimes changes in some single micro state can have major deterministic outcomes at the macro level (which is of course the environment for the micro level); this cannot occur in systems without complex structure.

Examples:

(i) a single error in microprogramming in a computer can bring the whole thing to a grinding halt (got that at the moment in my laptop);

(ii) a single swap of bases in a gene can lead to a change in DNA that results in predictable disease;

(iii) a single small poison pill can debilitate or kill an animal, as can damage to some very specific micro areas in the brain.

This important relation between micro structure and macro function is in contrast to statistical systems, where micro changes have no effect at the macro level, and chaotic systems, where a micro change can indeed lead to a macro change, but it's unpredictable.

Cheers

George

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Avtar Singh wrote on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 22:32 GMT
Dear George:

Thanks for replying to my post on Free Will. I have responded to your comments on my paper under my posting - “ From Absurd to Elegant Universe

Please let me know if I addressed all your comments/questions satisfactorily.

Regards

Avtar

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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Jul. 30, 2012 @ 23:30 GMT
Thank you for your interesting article, it is some days that I thinking to it.

I think that the top-down causation can be a strong experimental-theoretical instrument to analyze the quantum effect in a macroscopic structure; I think to amplify the little scale effect using the cooperative effect like an instrument (cooperative microscope).

It is only an idea (I speak not like an expert), but I think it is possible to measure the halo of the strong force in a single stable heaviest atomic nuclei (narrow atomic layer) using neutron beams (with different energy).

In alternative, I think that can be possible to use the superfluid liquid helium to measure the strong force in an indirect way, measuring the large scale effect of some macroscopic quantity; if the mathematical model is correct, then the macroscopic measure must be correct: the model must be include the large scale effect, and the little scale effect.

Saluti

Domenico

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 31, 2012 @ 04:17 GMT
Dear Domenico

I agree with your idea that in superfluidity and similar quantum phenomena, in general "the model must include the large scale effect, and the little scale effect" (this is what Laughlin wrote about in his Nobel lecture). What I am not sure about is the strong force examples you give. One might expect that if this was so, then the formulae for superfluidity would involve parameters related to the strong force, and I don't think that is the case (but I am not an expert).

Worth thinking about.

Saluti,

George

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Marcoen J.T.F. Cabbolet wrote on Aug. 2, 2012 @ 12:09 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

I agree with your remark on page 1 that "the foundational assumption that all causation is bottom up is wrong, even in the case of physics".

In my PhD project I have developed a formal axiomatic system, that is potentially applicable as a foundational framework for physics under the condition that there is a matter-antimatter gravitational repulsion.

Seven non-logical axioms of this system describe what happens in the individual processes that take place at supersmall scale; in each of these processes then a choice is made (at elementary particle level thus).

As part of the research I have developed a physicalist approach to the mind-body problem from the perspective of this framework; this yielded a mechanism for mental causation which demonstrates that observers have a free will in this universe, that is, in the universe governed by these principles.

The point is that choices in the elementary processes are then imposed by the choice made at macroscopic scale by an observer. So this is an example of top-down causation; in my dissertation this is formalized in an expression.

This discussion is not mentioned in my essay (topic 1336): the essay focuses mainly on the initial considerations in the development of my theory.

Best regards, Marcoen Cabbolet

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Peter Jackson wrote on Aug. 8, 2012 @ 16:43 GMT
Hi George.

You commented on my essay on quantum boundary conditions, but it's easy to miss posts here so in response to your Point 4; ("You have to take the properties of the boundary into account as well. You regard it as a macro entity, i.e. you don't try to describe its constitution detail.") I paste my response 28/7;

"Interesting view. I know you're currently thinking in a different area, but my essay is actually ALL about the constitution of the quantum boundaries of 'space time geometries' (frames) and how the real interactions there (with non point particles and temporal evolution) produce all the classical macro scale effects we term Relativity.

I'm a little surprised and disappointed that did not emerge for you. I hoped you may try to falsify the ontology as we've have had no success doing so to date.

Have you actually read it all yet?"

etc.

I do hope you've now had a chance to do so, as it deals precisely with what you suggested, and, you are of course correct, the result is of massive import, and cause and effect is a 2 way street. I look forward to your views.

Thanks, and Best wishes

Peter

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 12, 2012 @ 19:01 GMT
Hi Peter

I posted a comment over there

George

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Alan Lowey wrote on Aug. 10, 2012 @ 15:54 GMT
Dear George,

A truly excellent essay which I seemed to miss the first time round. Your fundamental thoughts are most welcome in the competition and I learnt a great deal from your essay. I was pleased to read that you are open minded enough to consider non-ordinary matter, unlike most essay authors. Yes, bottom-up to top-down causation needs to be appreciated by all.

P.S. I have rebalanced the Public Rating score which you most certainly deserve.

Alan

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 12, 2012 @ 18:59 GMT
Thanks for the positive comment, Alan.

George

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 09:45 GMT
George

Top-Down Causation reminding me Causa finalis(Aristotelian). It is look like teleological causation.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 12:12 GMT
Yuri

Sometimes it is, for example when I type these symbols on my computer keyboard and electrons flow to make the same symbols appear on your screen; and sometimes it is not, for example when a particular crystal structure leads to existence of Cooper pairs and hence superfluidity. I have given many examples of both in my essay and the papers it refers to.

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Avtar Singh wrote on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 18:56 GMT
Hi Steve and George:

Thanks for your comment on Determinism.

Your Question: “What is for you a free will dimension, physically speaking,..... scalars , vectors,proportions, causes,.... ???”

Answer:

Free Will in a physical theory is not a spatial or time like dimension but a Degree of Freedom that allows spontaneous conversion of mass to energy or vice-versa without any external condition of cause. Such Degree of Freedom is necessary to allow equivalence of mass and energy and to integrate the missing physics of spontaneous decay and birth of particles from the Zero-point state of the so-called vacuum or dark energy, wherein mass, space, and time are fully dilated as described in my paper - - “ From Absurd to Elegant Universe”.

Since this Zero-point state is the most fundamental state of the universe from which particles are born and into which the matter decays over time, the physics of all these phenomena are fundamentals that must be included in any universal theory to avoid any singularities and paradoxes such as those experienced by the current theories – general relativity and quantum mechanics.

I see a lot of questions and discussions going on in this forum regarding paradoxes that should not arise if the above physics is integrated as shown in my paper. I would greatly appreciate review and comments on my paper from all the participants in this forum so as not to miss the important insights regarding the missing physics that could resolve the ills of physics and cosmology today and avoid unnecessary as well as irrelevant questions that are nothing but artifacts of the missing physics. The universe is a lot simpler to understand than portrayed by current incomplete theories.

Regards

Avtar

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Steve Dufourny replied on Aug. 13, 2012 @ 19:54 GMT
Hello all,

Mr Singh,

Thank you for your answer. But you know, the free will is a result of evolution.Let's take the brain, we have synapses and messages and so causes .In fact even a free will has a cause, here the entangled spheres aged of billions years. The brains are results of evolution, and the free will is a comportment.Lamarck and Darwin shall agree.Because there is a cause between the mass /energy/information Equilibrium.

So the free will is an effect of a cause. It is evident.Now when the free will converges towards the pure determinism, it is there that it becomes very relevant.Because the pure creativity can be deterministic. The rational convergences appear. If now the free will is not universally coherent, so there is a probelm. We can not say that a free will has not a cause.

The degrees of Freedom like you say must be always deterministically coherent at all 3D scales , fractalyzed with sense and reason and even wisdom.

Your zero point state seems in the same logic that a BEC of our mind. You know the number 1 is the secret , the main central sphere.The quantum number becomes a key for finite groups, the volumes so are very very relevant. It is spiritual all that.

ps: The space time dilation in a pure lorentzian appraoch is dterministic.Maxwell will agree at my humble opinion. :)

Regards

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Avtar Singh replied on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 17:05 GMT
Hi Steve, George, and Friends:

Thanks for your reply and comments.

Free will that you are referring to is nothing but biological consciousness emanating from brain, which, I agree, is the result of evolution and causative.

Free will that I am describing in my post and paper is not biological but universal or cosmic spontaneity (non-causative) as evidenced by the...

view entire post


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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 03:55 GMT
Hi Avtar

"Free will that I am describing in my post and paper is not biological but universal or cosmic spontaneity (non-causative) as evidenced by the well-observed spontaneous decay and birth of particles from Zero-point state (So-called Vacuum)."

The properties of the vacuum are well known and a standard part of physics. They are subject to quantum indeterminacy. To call that "free will" is stretching things: it is not free will in the usual sense.

Regards

george

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George Ellis wrote on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 03:52 GMT
The issue of time has come up repeatedly in this discussion, even though it's not the essay topic. I've put up a paper on the archive today arXiv:1208.2611v1 [gr-qc], considerably strengthening my position about time as stated in my FQXI essay some years ago. I just point this out for those interested; but discussion should take place somewhere else, else this therad will grow out of hand!.

Here's the abstract:



Space time and the passage of time

George F. R. Ellis, Rituparno Goswami

(Submitted on 13 Aug 2012)

This paper examines the various arguments that have been put forward suggesting either that time does not exist, or that it exists but its flow is not real. I argue that (i) time both exists and flows; (ii) an Evolving Block Universe (`EBU') model of spacetime adequately captures this feature, emphasizing the key differences between the past, present, and future; (iii) the associated surfaces of constant time are uniquely geometrically and physically determined in any realistic spacetime model based in General Relativity Theory; (iv) such a model is needed in order to capture the essential aspects of what is happening in circumstances where initial data does not uniquely determine the evolution of spacetime structure because quantum uncertainty plays a key role in that development. Assuming that the functioning of the mind is based in the physical brain, evidence from the way that the mind apprehends the flow of time is prefers this evolving time model over those where there is no flow of time.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 11:57 GMT
George, with your permission, I think I can address at least one of your points above without mentioning the "t" word.

The distinction you make between world lines and surfaces defines the difference, does it not, between what can be described as top down causation, and what is laterally distributed causality?

Tom

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Daryl Janzen replied on Aug. 14, 2012 @ 16:41 GMT
Dear George:

I would be very honoured if you read and commented on my essay. There, I've presented an argument that ties in closely with your points (i) -- (iii), from the perspective of cosmology---the role of which, as you've previously written, is the "background for all the rest of physics and science", while "it is inevitable that... specific philosophical choices will to some degree shape the nature of cosmological theory, particularly when it moves beyond the purely descriptive to an explanatory role---which move is central to its impressive progress."

I hold that space-time is an evolving block, bounded by the cosmic present---but a difference between your EBU model and mine is that while you consider the EBU to be real, whereby the recombination epoch should still exist in no less real a state as five minutes ago, or even the present time that you are reading this comment (possibilism), I consider it to be an ideal mapping of the events that occur in an enduring three-dimensional universe, which is all that really exists (presentism). In section 3 of my essay, I've described how I think this view needs to be reconciled with special relativity theory; therefore, I've argued for a different physical description of simultaneity than what was given by Einstein, which is instead consistent with your point (iii)---since, as I see it, it's Einstein's interpretation of the relativity of simultaneity that leads to the requirement of a block universe.

Since the problem of the description of time in relativity theory is central to it, I would gladly receive any comments relating to this aspect of my essay.

Best regards,

Daryl

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 03:43 GMT
Tom,

You say "The distinction you make between world lines and surfaces defines the difference, does it not, between what can be described as top down causation, and what is laterally distributed causality?"

Yes indeed. The first is both top-down and bottom up; this is described by the six time evolution equations of general relativity theory, similarly in the case of Maxwell's equations. The second is effective on spacelike surfaces; these are described by the four constraint equations of general relativity theory (two in the case of Maxwell's equations). These constraints are true now because they were initially true (the initial data must satisfy them) and they are conserved by the time evolution equations. Thus there is no instantaneous spatial *action* now: there are spatial relations that are true because they were set up that way and then the time evolution equations keep them so.

Daryl, I agree with your statements that there are preferred spatial sections in cosmology (see my response on your thread). However I don't think simultaneity is particularly important. Homogeneity is - and the homogeneous surfaces in an expanding cosmology are locally rest spaces for the fundamental observers, but are not globally simultaneous as defined by radar. But the latter fact has no observational or physical consequences.

George

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Edwin Eugene Klingman wrote on Aug. 15, 2012 @ 05:21 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

I commented above that in another reply you said that "reality is unclear" at the particle level because of uncertainty, wave-particle duality, and entanglement. Thus any new understanding of these aspects of reality might have some effect on the conception of 'the bottom' (although equivalence classes might not change). For this reason I invite you to read my current essay, The Nature of the Wave Function. I know that you are probably as overwhelmed by the flood of essays as I am, nevertheless, I think you might find my essay interesting and relevant to "the bottom" and I would very much appreciate your feedback.

Thanks,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Aug. 23, 2012 @ 02:21 GMT
Dear George,

I am very interested to know your views on the relationship between causality and time. To be sure we understand each other, let me say that I lean toward the view that time is a way of talking about causal relations. This is part of what I call the causal metric hypothesis, as I describe in my essay:

On the Foundational Assumptions of Modern Physics

Rafael Sorkin and the causal set theorists have a similar view, but with a number of important differences.

From my perspective, your essay seems to imply something quite radical, so radical that the simplest version of it is more complicated than the idea of multiple time dimensions. I mention this as an unlikely possibility near the end of my essay, but your treatment makes the idea sound quite reasonable.

Let me be more precise. As you well know, causality is sometimes regarded, at the classical level, as a binary relation on the set of spacetime events. By definition, such a relation is exclusively bottom-up; the relationships between two subsets of the universe are reducible to relations between individual events. In this view, the arrow of time corresponds to the order of events with respect to this relation. Multiple independent relations could be interpreted as multiple time dimensions in an obvious way.

What you seem to be claiming is that causality in fact involves binary relations on the power set of the set of spacetime events; i.e., that subsets involving multiple events influence each other in irreducible ways. In this view, it seems as though time might be understood as one-dimensional at the level of power sets (provided only one power-set relation is involved), but much more complicated at the level of spacetime itself.

One other point of comparison I would like to make is that a degree of holism already appears at the quantum level even if one restricts to binary relations involving only pairs of events, since the phases associated with transitions a priori depend on the entire universes involved (in practice, this would be somewhat restricted; the causal set theorists play around with axioms to this effect, but I don’t go into these details). This makes me wonder if complicated power-set relations are really necessary at the classical level. Most of your examples are classical, so it seems that you think the answer is “yes.”

I thoroughly enjoyed your thought-provoking essay. I’d be grateful for any remarks you might make on these issues.

Ben Dribus

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 18:33 GMT
Dear Ben Dribus,

I assume that Carey Ralph Carlson's essay on causal set theory gives a reasonable introduction to causal set theory and thus is helpful in interpreting your essay. My sense is that it is a mathematician's theory, or a physicist 'gone native'. As I understand it, you begin with time (as an ordered binary relation) and no space. Thus, to handle George's two-way causal flow...

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 21:05 GMT
Edwin,

Thanks for the response to my remark. I don't want to clutter George's thread, but the discussion is directly relevant to his essay, so I don't think he'll mind if I reply here.

I do not think the issues regarding time and causality raised by top-down causation are specific to approaches based solely on causal structures, nor to approaches involving configuration spaces. I mentioned the causal approach in this context not because it is my own, but because it simplifies the issue I was trying to get at, by removing independent structures that might clash with the causal structure, independent notions of locality, and so on. I mentioned configuration spaces because they seem to introduce top-down causality at the quantum level without requiring any radical new interpretation of the classical relationship between causality and time.

The issue can be stated in a simple setting that has nothing to do with the origin of the universe or the microscopic structure of spacetime. Assume special relativity as a large-scale, low energy approximation. We call causally-related events timelike-separated for reasons that are obvious to every physics undergraduate. What, if any, corresponding time-related statement do we then make about larger subsets that are causally related in an irreducible way?

If time in relativity is taken to represent a refinement of the causal order, then top-down causation clearly does require a radical new interpretation of time. If time merely corresponds to the lowest-level part of a power-set-relation, then this correspondence clearly endows the lowest-level part with unique significance.

Either way, I am interested to know what George would say about the relationship between causality and time in a top-down paradigm.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Aug. 26, 2012 @ 22:24 GMT
Dear Ben,

As indicated by my mention of Carey Carlson's essay, I'm a neophyte to causal sets, with little knowledge of it or intuition for it. I suspected it was over-simplifying to say that you start with 'time and no space' since you've elsewhere commented that "the causal metric hypothesis includes the assumption that what we call time is just a way of talking about causality, and what we call causality is just a way of talking about binary relations on sets." This seems to jive with "If time merely corresponds to the lowest-level part of a power-set-relation, then this correspondence clearly endows the lowest-level part with unique significance."

George mentions the brain in his essay, but does not directly mention consciousness. I suppose a materialist view supports a view of 'top down' causation that involves key strokes on a computer and other design tasks yet he does say that "The mind is not a physical entity, but it is certainly causally effective." As an exercise one can probably apply causal sets to the mind, but I believe that a more comprehensive perspective is required. Although these questions won't be settled anytime soon, I simply thought I'd point to my earlier essays that directly address these problems as I see them.

I too am interested to know what George would say about the relationship between causality and time in a top-down paradigm, and will not take any more of his blog space with my own views.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 03:01 GMT
George,

In your reply you don't point out what is logically wrong with my reasoning:

''If we understand something only if we can explain it as the effect of some cause, and understand this cause only if we can explain it as the effect of a preceding cause, then this chain of cause-and-effect either goes on ad infinitum, or it ends at some primordial cause which, as it cannot be...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 06:21 GMT
Dear Anton

"As far as I'm concerned, causality means that A causes B to happen with 100% certainty" Well that's not this universe. Please read Feynman on quantum physics.

"I am not very interested in causality at macroscopic scale". But that is what I am trying to explain.

"The point of my essay is that if we live in a universe which creates itself out of nothing, without any outside interference, that is, without any cause, then in such universe fundamental particles have to create themselves, each other." But the word "create" has no meaning of there are no causes.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 06:23 GMT
typo: "if there are no causes."

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 07:15 GMT
"we live in a universe which creates itself out of nothing,"

George

We live in a universe that was born from a previous universe

See my essay http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1413

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Aug. 27, 2012 @ 08:05 GMT
George,

I see that your reply to my first post on your thread has disappeared. For the readers who want to understand my above reply to it, I again post your own reply to my comment.

Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Jul. 23, 2012 @ 15:22 GMT

Anton

"Causality therefore ultimately cannot explain anything." If so please explain to me how you go about your daily life. If you are unable to cause any changes about you in your daily existence, then you don't exist as a person (and you certainly won't be able to get a job).

I explained carefully at the start of my paper that there are always numerous causes in action, and we get a useful concept of "the cause" by taking all except a few for granted. This produces a valid local theory of causation. You don't have to solve problems of ultimate causation to understand local physical effects (e.g. heating water causes it to boil). Your complaint seems to be that if you can't explain the entire universe you can't explain such local phenomena. The whole practice of science disagrees with you.

George

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J. C. N. Smith wrote on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 19:23 GMT
Dear George,

Just a quick note to thank you for recommending Arthur Eddington's marvelous book 'The Nature of the Physical World.' I'm reading it now and enjoying it immensely. Having also just recently read Poincare's 'The Value of Science,' dating from 1913, it's fascinating to observe the evolution of thinking on many topics still of keen interest and still very much in a state of flux even today. It seems very much in keeping with the theme of this essay competition to observe the flow and, dare I say, "crystallization" (or lack thereof) of thinking on these topics over the past century.

Fwiw, I'm personally convinced that we're currently living through and participating in what Thomas S. Kuhn would describe as a "crisis state" in physics. Would you agree? And if so, do you think that this is generally recognized and/or accepted in the wider physics community? I don't read or hear others talking in these terms, but I believe the evidence for it is abundantly clear; it's virtually a classic case, in my view. Exciting (and occasionally frustrating) times to witness.

Regardless, thank you again for the book recommendation.

jcns

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 21:07 GMT
Hi jcns

glad you are enjoying it. He was a great pioneer in astrophysics and cosmology, with a wonderful power of explanation. His book on the internal constitution of stars is still great reading, even though it was written before nuclear physics was understood. Physicists of his epoch did not deride philosophy, they realised its role as an underpinning to physical thought and took it...

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J. C. N. Smith replied on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 00:33 GMT
Hi George,

I regret to say that I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Lakatos; thank you for pointing me toward his work. I see that several of his works are available for purchase on the internet. Could you recommend a good, not-too-technical entry point for making his acquaintance?

I've long admired Kuhn's 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,' and see evidence of his "crisis state" in some aspects of physics. Lee Smolin touched on some of this in 'The Trouble With Physics.' Speaking of which, I've heard from a reliable source that Smolin plans to publish at least one new book on the nature of time later this year. I hope so.

Thank you for helping broaden my horizons.

jcns

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 06:48 GMT
Hi jcns

His major relevant book is

The methodology of scientific research programmes but the wikipedia article here

is a good start.

The key point is that he recognises a scientific theory as having a hard core, the central hypotheses of the theory, surrounded by a belt of auxiliary hypotheses that mediate between the core and actual data. These have to do with the experimental apparatus, sources of noise, subsidiary variables, etc. When the data don't agree with the theory, you alter the auxiliary hypotheses, not the hard core. For example in cosmology, you change your theory of galaxy evolution rather than your cosmological model. Apart from emotional issues and psychological investment in theories, it is this auxiliary structure that makes it so hard to persuade people their theory is wrong: you can always tweek some auxiliary parameter to fit the data (add another epicycle for example). The theory eventually becomes so baroque that it is no longer a satisfactory explanation. But different people differ as to when that occurs:that's when mature judgement comes in.

Yes Smolin has a book on time in the works (broadly supporting my view).

best, George

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Aug. 28, 2012 @ 22:58 GMT
George,

How do you explain the bottoms-up fixation? Do you think it is a cultural thing or universal? What about same-level mode as efficient and circular, the way some of your colleagues characterize it.

I can see that the fixation you describe could explain thinking regarding many issues in physics including the nature of gravity, which I deal with.

Jim

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 07:43 GMT
Hi James

I think there are two things at work. Firstly physicists recognise that all matter is controlled at the bottom level by the forces between particles; hence physics underlies all (e.g.Dirac stated this in relation to how physics underlies chemistry). There seems to be no room for any other kind of causation. I respond to that claim in the later part of my essay: essentially the...

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T H Ray replied on Aug. 29, 2012 @ 09:22 GMT
"If he (Crick) assumes that the level of cells and molecules is real, it's an arbitrary assumption unless *all* levels are real - which is my position. It's the only one that makes sense."

George, that is a beautifully compact statement of complex system self organization. If consciousness were not non-zero, what could we possibly mean by the term "life?"

Tom

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 13:07 GMT
By the way I did not intend the above to imply that I am immune to the emotional and philosophical pressures I mention: we all are subject to them, because we are all human. I believe that what I state in my essay and in the responses above are technically correct: they reflect the true nature of causation. But, just like those who take an opposite view, I also am driven by a passionate belief. In my case, it is that the view I take is the way that opens up most depth of meaning and understanding, being the bedrock from which a truly deep view of humanity can ultimately emerge, rather than a view that in the end denies some of the depth of humanity because it reduces them to mere machines. So yes I too am driven by a philosophical agenda, as we all are. This is irrelevant to validity or otherwise of the position I put here. The question is whether it is scientifically valid or not: and I believe it is, as I have tried to argue in my essay and in my responses here.

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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Aug. 30, 2012 @ 22:45 GMT
Hi George,

A thought stimulating essay worthy of submission. However, there is one small point  I do not fully agree with; it does not detract from the overall essence, but it does raise an interesting question.

As an example for  top-down causation changing the nature of constituent entities you wrote:  "....neutrons bound in nucleus have a half life of billions of years but they decay in 11 ½ minutes when free." implying, naively expressed, that an atomic nucleus is a marble like collection of protons and neutrons. I envisage each atomic nuclei as a unique homogeneous entity of energy and charge.  Only, for our better understanding or reasoning have we deconstructed the atomic nucleus top-down into a number of protons and neutrons.   Later we construct atomic models bottom-up immediately creating the problem why the whole thing does not fly apart under the strains of the coulomb forces, which consequently we reason away by defining the strong force.

Is the strong force now merely a bottom-up artefact?  - Stof tot nadenke

Groete

Anton @ (  .../topic/1458  )

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Aug. 31, 2012 @ 07:10 GMT
Hi Anton

I think the strong force is indeed real: otherwise we would not have nuclei.

"I envisage each atomic nuclei as a unique homogeneous entity of energy and charge. Only, for our better understanding or reasoning have we deconstructed the atomic nucleus top-down into a number of protons and neutrons." Well they can exist in their own. But when they join together in a nucleus they lose their identity: which is one of my major points, we don't have a situation of immutable lower level objects joining together unchanged to forma higher level entity: their existential nature changes according to context. That's what a purely reductionist account misses.

greetings

George

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Paul O'Hara wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 15:46 GMT
George,

This is a great essay. I enjoyed reading it. Many of the ides remind me of the theory of emergent probability formulated by Bernard Lonergan in his book Insight: A Study of Human Understanding,especially chapters IV and VIII. You might want to look at it some time.

Paul

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 16:19 GMT
Thanks Paul.

I have been put in touch with Lonergan's writing from time to time by several admirers, but never got into his work properly. I'll try to get round to it.

George

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Robert H McEachern wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 18:14 GMT
George,

Although I agree with your overall point, I note that your "Hypothesis", as stated, is self-contradictory:

"Hypothesis: bottom up emergence by itself is strictly limited in terms of the complexity it can give rise to. Emergence of genuine complexity is characterized by a reversal of information flow from bottom up to top down."

The "reversal of information flow", is well known to occur in many instances, as you note. Indeed, it is so well known, that we have a special word for it - "feedback".

In the context of your essay, if "bottom up emergence" is "strictly limited", then "feedback" processes would have never "emerged" in the first place. "Feedback" is the mechanism by which bottom up processes add top down ones, to their repertoire. It is the cause, the mechanism for emergence. The existence of bottom up processes is necessary to the existence of top down ones.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 1, 2012 @ 21:58 GMT
Hi Robert

Thanks for that.

You say "The 'reversal of information flow', is well known to occur in many instances, as you note. Indeed, it is so well known, that we have a special word for it - 'feedback'." Well feedback is indeed one type of top-down causation, but it is not the only type that can occur, please see here for a discussion of the four other types that are possible (a very important one is adaptive selection, for this is the process whereby new information is garnered: feedback control cannot lead to that result).

Then you say "The existence of bottom up processes is necessary to the existence of top down ones. " Yes I agree. But once they emerge, top down processes do indeed exist and have causal powers.

George

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Robert H McEachern replied on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 02:17 GMT
George,

Your comment that: "feedback ...is not the only type... a very important one is adaptive selection... feedback control cannot lead to that result.", implies that adaptive selection is an example of "top down causation", but not "feedback."

Others employ a much broader definition of "feedback" than you imply. Almost all modern communications signals employ a form of feedback, known in the literature as "decision directed feedback", that is what you are calling "adaptive selection". Instead of simply feeding-back an output into the input, they exploit a priori knowledge, to feedback what the emitter must have "intended to send", rather than what was actually received. They determine what was "intended to be sent", by adaptively selecting their "best guess" from an a priori known list of allowable possibilities; a limited "alphabet".

As you say, such processes do indeed exist and have causal powers. Indeed, processes like Decision Directed Feedback are a major causal power for why an HDTV picture is so much cleaner than older TVs.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 06:56 GMT
Hi Robert

well that's very interesting, thanks for that; yes indeed it seems as it is a form of what I call adaptive selection. What I have classed as feedback control is cybernetic feedback control as per Wiener, alias homeostasis which occurs all over the place in biology. The key dynamical feature is a preset goal. If I'm not now allowed to call this feedback control, then I need a new name for it, because it should be differentiated from adaptive selection for the reason I mention: one reliably attains set goals; the other attains a final state that is not uniquely implied by the initial data, and thereby can accumulate new information.

I'll learn more about Decision Directed Feedback. One of the problems of interdisciplinary work is that the same idea is given different names in different domains, making it hard to talk to people from different disciplines.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 2, 2012 @ 07:04 GMT
Addendum:

the really complex forms of behaviour result from my 4th and 5th categories of top-down causation:

- TD4, when goals of a cybernetic feedback control system are determined by adaptive selection, and

- TD5: when adaptive selection goals are themselves selected by a process of adaptive selection.

The latter is where intelligence comes in.

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Don Limuti wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 18:51 GMT
George,

Yep, I've changed my mind again. This is the best essay. Another top down phenomena.

And you have made this the most interesting thread I have seen on FQXi. It deserves an award all by itself.

Don Limuti

PS: Check out: http://www.digitalwavetheory.com/DWT/44_The_Arrow_of_Time.ht
ml

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 06:45 GMT
Many thanks Don. Appreciated.

George

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 3, 2012 @ 23:53 GMT
Hi George. You will see many of your ideas relate to mine (in different/linked ways) in my essay -- soon to be posted.

FUNDAMENTAL gravitational and inertial equivalency and balancing fundamentally sits at the heart of physics, and it demonstrates/proves F=ma fundamentally as well. George, do you agree with this statement?

Gravity sits at the heart of fundamental/general unification in physics. My essay proves this. Do you agree with this?

I would appreciate your rating and comments on my essay -- soon to be posted. Thanks. You are remakably silent given all that I have said in this thread. Yours is a necessary essay and topic/subject. My essay is foundational on waking AND dream physics -- and the link between the two is proven.

Thank you for your essay.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 06:42 GMT
Hi Frank

you stated "If the self did not represent, form, and experience a comprehensive approximztion of experience in general by combining conscious and unconscious expereince, we would then be incapable of growth and of becoming other than we are. " I agree. The question is how physics allows this to happen. Modular hierarchical structures with both bottom up and top down causation is a key part of the answer.

George

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Jeff Baugher wrote on Sep. 4, 2012 @ 22:49 GMT
Prof. Ellis,

Interesting essay. I think I may agree with you, but am not sure. In my theory (recent sketch here and essay here), General Relativity can be rewritten so as to have a causal background (i.e. curvature doesn't mean action at a distance). Please feel free to comment if we are speaking of the same thing in causal backgrounds that are top down (least complex to most).

Regards,

Jeff

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:11 GMT
Thanks for that. I am also not sure if your paper really relates to my view.

Let me ask you the following: does your approach (a) somehow embody Mach's principle? (b) somehow relate to the arrow of time?

If yes, then yes!

George Ellis

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Joel Rice wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 13:22 GMT
There might be another way to look at this - structurally rather than in terms of causation. If allowed associations of particles are determined by (non associative) algebra, that would change the way one looks at bound states as determined by 'forces' - not that one gets rid of photons, but that photons have to be consistent with the associations demanded by algebra. The issue being that we would not expect pure algebra to know anything about coupling constants or 'fine tuning'. If associations are more fundamental, then forces have to be consistent with what is demanded structurally .. for example e(uud).

Algebra does not seem to take a position on reductionism or teleology, or demand that causation be bottom up. But if we say that algebra requires that the universe produce hydrogen - that looks 'top down' or teleological - then the 'constants' must be compatible with the future existence of stable atoms, even if the early universe is too hot. One might say that the universe Must cool off or else it can not produce what algebra presumably demands. And if it applies to simple associations like Hydrogen, one might expect that DNA is just a more elaborate association. Perhaps all stable-neutral associations are given apriori. That would give us a very Top Down view of the world, but rather intractable, given the complexity and subtlety.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:16 GMT
Well for me the issue is whether algebra can sensibly describe a modular hierarchical structure. If so, it might work, If not, then not. As you say, it's all in the structure.

We really need graph theory. I am a novice in that area.

George

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Sep. 5, 2012 @ 13:45 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

I found your papers about top-down causation very interesting, and the present essay inspiring. I think there are strong parallels between how causation may "propagate" from "top" toward "down", and the relation between quantum measurements and reality. I hope I will return here with details about this. IMHO, there are two main factors that shaped the "standard" perception of causation. First, we perceive the things as simultaneously present in the "now", and the correlations between various events make us believe that there is a causal connection from past to future, from parts to whole, from simple to complex. This was reinforced by the success of the second factor: the fact that when solving equations describing the time evolution, we usually start with initial conditions at a time t, and are able to develop the solution for subsequent times. In addition, the effects appear as propagating in a local manner. Correlations appear to us as cause-effect connections, because of their succession in time. They appear to us as bottom-up causation, because the interactions are local. The local constraints are given by the equations, and are correct. But the more global aspects of causation are unfairly much less researched, and much less understood.

I dare to hope that you would take a glance at my essay, which is not connected to these aspects, but to the properties of singularities in general relativity.

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:21 GMT
Dear Cristi

" I think there are strong parallels between how causation may "propagate" from "top" toward "down", and the relation between quantum measurements and reality."

yes indeed. I think this is an area that will eventually be illuminated by this approach.

And yes a key to it all relates to constraints: this is how top down actin takes place, in physical terms. But as I state, they have very powerful properties: they can create, modify, and delete lower level entities. That is a key reason why a purely bottom up approach won't work.

Ah, singularities in GR: haven't worked on those for a long time. Will try to get time to look.

George

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Jeffrey Nicholls wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 00:31 GMT
Dear Prof Ellis,

I enjoyed your article and it gives me heart for my own project.

The next question (if the Universe started as something very simple) is how do we get a "top" to cause down from, how does a simple system bootstrap itself into a complex one, ie how does entropy (and corrresponding information) increase?

Your approach opens the way to an anwser I see: that random (symmetric) processes sometimes become concatenated into more complex processes which are capable of controlling their own foundations to ensure their own continued existence. This "algorithm" may work at all levels of complexity, and so is able to take us from a very simple unitary system to systems of unlimited complexity.

Thank you,

Jeffrey (/1435)

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:27 GMT
Dear Jeffrey

"that random (symmetric) processes sometimes become concatenated into more complex processes which are capable of controlling their own foundations to ensure their own continued existence" - nicely stated. Yes. But that is possible because the possibility space for such processes includes structures that have properties (e.g. crystal symmetries, molecular folding) that enables such top-down causation to happen. And this not only allows their own continued existence: it allows their building up of higher levels of complexity. This is possible via adaptive selection, choosing the higher level entities that work from those that don't.

George

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Member Ian Durham wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 02:36 GMT
Hi George,

Nice essay! I was expecting to find a complete refutation of reductionism but was pleasantly surprised to discover that we may actually agree on a few things. Notably, I prefer your definition of causality and have toyed with something similar myself. In particular, it provides for the possibility that entanglement is actually a causal phenomenon, just not in the way we...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 09:20 GMT
DearIan,

thanks for that. Multiple issues to deal with!

"the ultimate example of top-down causation also happens to be the ultimate boundary condition: the universe itself (even within the context of the multiverse - indeed, one could argue that physical laws are constrained by the universe for, if they were different, it wouldn't be the same universe). On the other hand, you say at one point that no real system is truly isolated (and, in principle, I tend to agree), but what about the universe as a whole? If there is no multiverse (an open question), then the universe truly is an isolated system."

Well one is there starting to deal with issues of existence of the laws of physics that underlie how things behave in our universe. If one extends the hierarchy from one of scale to one of causation (as one needs to do on the life sciences side) then the laws of physics causally lie above the largest scales of the universe (alternatively, whatever laws govern multiverses lie above the physical existence of multiverses).

These laws - which are not themselves physical entities - somehow intrude down on the physical levels (see e.g. Roger Penrose' writings on the large, the small, and the complex). IN this sense the physical universe is not closed: it is controlled by a causally higher level of non-physical entities such as laws of physics, with their mysterious basis in mathematics.

This takes us far from my essay, so I won't pursue it. I'll answer your other issues in another posting.

george

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 09:38 GMT
continued:

"1. I think the computing example with Word and Photoshop is a bit oversimplified."

- not sure why. It was Turing's genius to see that any application could be implemented by the same hardware, by changing its operating context; in this case, by loading different high level software. That software then determines the (data) ==> (output) relation.

"2. You...

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Member Ian Durham replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 15:18 GMT
George,

Thanks for the reply. Regarding, the computing example, on the one hand I see your point (and Turing's), but the reason I thought it was a bit oversimplified is because the program that one chooses to run is ultimately constrained by the underlying physics of the machine you're running it on. In quantum computing, for example, D-Wave's system (which Lidar's group at USC has shown has coherence times consistent with it being truly quantum) can really only run certain types of tasks (e.g. it happens to be best suited to machine-learning tasks). This is precisely because it is an adiabatic quantum computer. The way the adiabatic aspect of its implementation limits what it can do.

Sorry for leading us off-topic with the comments about universes, but it is something intriguing to consider at any rate.

Cheers,

Ian

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 03:16 GMT
Dear George,

In your reply you say "the word "create" has no meaning if there are no causes"

As I argued, if when there is a cause, to rationally understand it, we must be able to reduce it a previous cause, then this chain of cause-and-effect goes on ad infinitum, or it stops at some primordial cause which, as it cannot be reduced to a preceding cause, cannot be understood by definition, then nothing has any meaning since we cannot find its ultimate cause.

You still haven't pointed out what is wrong with this reasoning.

The problem is that a universe which has a cause, by definition has been created by some outside interference and violates the conservation law according to which what comes out of nothing must add to nothing.

If "the word "create" has no meaning if there are no causes" means that according to you a bigbang universe must have a cause, that is, has been created by some outside intervention, then this universe cannot be understood even in principle, so I'm afraid that the bigbang hypothesis a fairy tale.

In contrast, as I argue here (or, in this study), a self-creating universe has no cause and nor does it violate conservation laws as it has no physical reality as a whole: since in this universe particles create, cause one another, it can be understood rationally.

Anton

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 05:50 GMT
Hi, you are giving exactly the same arguments over again. And my reply remains the same.

"As I argued, if when there is a cause, to rationally understand it, we must be able to reduce it a previous cause, then this chain of cause-and-effect goes on ad infinitum, or it stops at some primordial cause which, as it cannot be reduced to a preceding cause, cannot be understood by definition, then nothing has any meaning since we cannot find its ultimate cause. You still haven't pointed out what is wrong with this reasoning." As I stated before, you don't have to understand ultimate meaning in order to understand local meaning. For example, we can carry out this discussion without knowing if God exists or if random chance underlies all.

I am simply not debating ultimate causation in this paper. Please see "Is There “Ultimate Stuff” and Are There “Ultimate Reasons”?" by David Rousseau and Julie Rousseau for that debate, which is not the topic of my essay. If you are not willing to look at how causation works in local situations such as daily life, my essay is obviously of no interest to you and you should debate with them.

"I'm afraid that the bigbang hypothesis a fairy tale." Ok so present day cosmology goes out the window.

"In contrast, as I argue here (or, in this study), a self-creating universe has no cause and nor does it violate conservation laws as it has no physical reality as a whole: since in this universe particles create, cause one another, it can be understood rationally." So how do particles come into being that can create themselves? If that has any meaning, it has nothing to do with this essay. take it up with David Rousseau and Julie Rousseau.

George

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Anton W.M. Biermans wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 03:27 GMT
I see that the links in the above reply don't work: for the essay, see "Einsteins' error", for the study, see www.quantumgravity.nl

Anton

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There is nothing new under the sun wrote on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 19:31 GMT
You start your amusing essay with the outdated thinking of Dirac: "chemistry is just an application of quantum physics." But as the Nobel laureate in physics P.W. Anderson wrote in his famous paper "More is different", published in Science, "Chemistry is not applied physics and biology is not applied chemistry."

You then present your belief that bottom-up causation is wrong and promise us that you find many examples of top-bottom causation. You write that "There is nothing new in all this: it's just that we don't usually talk about this as top-down effects."

The problem here is not only that there is nothing new, but that you only provide examples of bottom-up causation. No need to review all your examples, but I will comment on the arrow of time in cosmology and the Caldeira-Leggett model in quantum physics. As is well-known, the cosmological arrow of time can be derived by applying the usual cosmological approximations to the arrow of time at macroscopic scale. There is nothing fundamental in an approximation of the fundamental microscopic description. The same criticism about the Caldeira-Leggett model. This is a well-known approximated model which is derived from the microscopic description (check the section "microscopic derivations" of the same book that you cite). Again there is nothing fundamental in an approximation of the fundamental microscopic description.

The conclusion here is that your top-down causation hypothesis is nothing but the bottom-up causation in disguise.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 20:49 GMT
"As the Nobel laureate in physics P.W. Anderson wrote in his famous paper "More is different", published in Science, "Chemistry is not applied physics and biology is not applied chemistry." Well yes, that's reference [16] in my essay. Guess you failed to notice I'd referred to it.

"You then present your belief that bottom-up causation is wrong". Incorrect. I did not say its wrong, just that...

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T H Ray replied on Sep. 6, 2012 @ 21:24 GMT
The O.P. didn't read the same essay as I. I saw a complex system model in which top down causation is linked to laterally distributed causality. Self organized order with feedback.

Tom

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 05:02 GMT
Hi Tom

Agreed. It's a world away from the way fundamental physicists usually think, because they are unfamiliar with all that literature and with that way of thinking, so they find it difficult to relate to this viewpoint. The problem is that their restricted view, which excludes these effects, is supposed by them to encapsulate all forms of causation that occur in the real world. Not true.

Condensed matter physicists such as Anderson and Laughlin understand the crucial causal connections, which is why they take a broader view than this anonymous commentator (and win Nobel prizes in consequence). But their ideas are crucial to fundamental physics too: vide the key role Anderson's ideas on broken symmetries played in the development of the Higgs mechanism.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 7, 2012 @ 22:40 GMT
"I introduced the quote from the Science paper, because this important quote cannot be found in your essay." There are numerous important quotes I could not include because of the length limits on the essay. I have no obligation to include any particular one that you prefer.

"*All* the examples that you believe show that bottom-up causation "is wrong" are compatible with ordinary bottom-up...

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M. V. Vasilyeva wrote on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 08:48 GMT
Dear George, you agrue that causation is top down with those who argue it is bottom up. But even with feedback loops, either way, it is still a linear, one-dimensional view on things. Have you considered that it may be neither? (I know from your essay that you considered it could be both).

What if causation is a multidimentional, convoluted, worse yet, fractal thingie that defies all methodologies trying to trace it with a finger like a crack on the wall?

It so happens that all things in life and in physics are interconnected; nothing is ever a single, naked point in spacetime. Everything has many different causes, large and small, near and far, that converge into making that particular thing manifest. And it, in turn, also causes so many other things manifest, large and small, near and far -- after colliding, merging and parting ways with so many other things and causes, large and small, near and far..

Ah?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 10:02 GMT
I have sympathy with this view: "What if causation is a multidimentional, convoluted, worse yet, fractal thingie that defies all methodologies trying to trace it with a finger like a crack on the wall?" Yes the web of interactions in the real world is very complex. But it's not fractal: there seems always to be a lower level where in small enough domains the essential causal interactions are linear. Their outcome depends on context, but nevertheless we can understand the elements of causation by looking at such small local systems.

It is when you put them together to get really complex interaction networks that things get really complex: but even then there are identifiable hierarchical structures and network motifs that let us understand much of what is going on. It is in this context that we can reliably identify both bottom up and top down elements of causation.

So I am not as pessimistic as you.

George Ellis

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M. V. Vasilyeva replied on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 15:53 GMT
lol good for you, George!

But I seriously think that information is fractal (and information is related to causation). I base it on my observation of the real world, when I was trying to understand some strange phenomena. To me it appeared that an event had many consequences, large and small, near and far, just as I said above. And I saw those consequences (I am a visual type) as paisleys of various sizes making up a flowery pattern on a fabric. And the interesting thing I saw was this: before an event arrives (a big paisley), there are many small paisleys (and of course a few medium size ones) that arrive before it, in a way, announcing the arrival of the main event. They do it many times, at various times. And they run in streaks, like it befits a fractal thing proper. Likewise, after the main event, there are many "aftershocks", large and small, running in streaks. Then a streak changes as if madam info got tired of her tune.

I hope I made sense. This view of events as paisleys on repeated patterns, large and small, made me think that info is indeed fractal. And information, you must admit, is related to causation.

Also, when we think of causation, we tend to oversimplify and consider real only the obvious things, like, 'heating up water causes it to boil'. Usually, what's left out are things like, why exactly did mom put the kettle on the stove. Was it because she wanted some tea? Or because she expected a company? Maybe a habit; she always does it around that time. Even when a person thinks that he or she had a clear, well defined intent, in reality it is virtually impossible to trace the "intended action" to something concrete. As long as an action appears reasonable in a given context, one can always find a reasonable explanation. The trouble is, reasonable explanations are rarely right. Worse yet, they rob us of our illusion of free will.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 16:19 GMT
I find the first part of your response a bit mysterious: it may be to do with the mind rather than physics.

I very much like the second part about the kettle: it raises the real deep issues. The thing that's puzzling is how these deep questions relate to physics: how can we take the physics seriously, not underestimating it in any way, but not also not trivialising the deep issues? -- in particular, not trivialising life, consciousness, and the issue of free will. That's the real challenge that underlies this whole discussion.

You may have missed the post in this thread by J. C. N. Smith on Jul. 20. It's worth reading.

George Ellis

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Ted Erikson wrote on Sep. 8, 2012 @ 17:16 GMT
GE:

Yours was an interesting and informative essay.. As a newcomer to the FQXi community, I feel few of the "community" grade, or even look at, my essay which approaches the problem very realistically, based on an internal view.. Might you look at it, comment if so inclined, and grade it?

To Seek Unknown Shores

   http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1409

Thank you

TE

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 15:29 GMT
Ted it's a much more personal essay than is customary - that makes it interesting but also somewhat distant from present day fundamental physics. However I am glad to see you are getting quite a few responses.

George

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 11:32 GMT
George Ellis,

Your essay is empty - no wonder it gets top community rating. It is tautological - you just define as "top-down causation" influences that go from what you see (or mankind has defined) as higher hierachical level to what you see (or mankind has defined) as lower hierachical level.

Pentcho Valev pvalev@yahoo.com

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 15:11 GMT
Dear Pentcho Valev

Your comments would carry much more weight if you chose to omit the insults and sarcasm.

You claim "It is tautological - you just define as "top-down causation" influences that go from what you see (or mankind has defined) as higher hierarchical level to what you see (or mankind has defined) as lower hierarchical level".

There is indeed an issue here: how does one define higher and lower levels? That has to be done depending on context: it is quite different in the physical sciences, the life sciences, and artificial sciences. It can be sensibly done, as is shown in various articles referred to in my essay (indeed one cannot understand complex systems without categorising such levels: see for example Tannenbaum's book on digital computers for that particular case).

Given that context, this is a sound definition. The scientific issue is whether there are instances of existence of such effects. My claim is that there are indeed many examples showing this is the case, across the sciences. There is much evidence to support this claim.

George Ellis

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Pentcho Valev replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 15:41 GMT
Dear George,

Roughly speaking, in complex systems anything affects anything, so defining "higher levels" and "lower levels" and then finding instances where "higher levels" cause changes in "lower levels" is not very profound.

Pentcho Valev

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 17:56 GMT
Dear Pentcho Valev,

"Roughly speaking, in complex systems anything affects anything" Yes that certainly is roughly speaking and unenlightening.

In biology and in computer systems, the key feature leading to real complexity is existence of Modular Hierarchical Structures, where each word is important: see particularly the books by H A Simon and by Grady Booch that I refer to for an enlightening discussion. Indeed you can't understand biology without taking this kind of structure into account (with cells being the key modules on which it all hinges), see Campbell and Reece for example, nor can you understand digital computers without taking it into account, see Tannenbaum. Example: for the hierarchical structure of genetic modules, see the book "Modularity in Evolution and Development" by Schlosser and Wagner. Then there are various interlocking hierarchies in the brain, even though there is no specific "top", see for example Leergard, Hilgetag and Sporns, "Mapping the connectome: multi-level analysis of brain connectivity" (Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, Volume 6 Article 14, May 2012).

So there certainly are hierarchical systems out there. It is then a key issue as to how causation works in such systems. That is what my essay tries to address. Again I particularly point to Booch's book at characterising clearly core features (such as inheritance and information hiding) that are needed for complexity to emerge .

You do not find it profound.Fine, point me to something that is indeed profound and clearly illuminates how genuinely complexity emerges on the basis of the underlying physics (and please don't just give me the statistical properties of complex networks: even if they are useful in some ways, they simply fail to get at the essence of what is going on. Uri Alon's book on network motifs gets much closer to the real dynamics).

George Ellis

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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 12:49 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

As a relativist who has written about the structure of spacetime, how do you get causality out of block time? You don't mention block time in your essay, but it would seem from your bio that you think Minkowski spacetime is right, and that leads unavoidably to block time.

I've argued in my essay that if block time is right, and motion through time is an illusion, then the laws of physics, and crucial principles such as cause and effect, would have to exist within the illusion, because they require motion through time.

I've also argued that the two levels of time we seem to find, block time and motion through time, can't possibly co-exist as simply part of the nature of the time dimension, as many assume. Given the intrinsic unpredicability of quantum events, the two levels disagree over whether the future already exists. This means only one of these levels can be real - I've examined both possibilities.

Block time is one of these two possibilities. But it implies that you can't assume the spacetime interpretation of SR is right, and also have causality. This is one of many problems with block time that people often ignore. Because the time dimension is taken to be different from the other dimensions in Minkowski spacetime, people sometimes assume that the nature of the dimension somehow solves the problem. I've tried to show that this can't be the case. Do you have a way to get causality out of block time?

Best wishes,

Jonathan Kerr

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 14:51 GMT
Dear Jonathan Kerr,

that is not the topic of this essay or thread. However I have just put an extensive paper on the archive [ink:http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1208.2611]

Space time and the passage of time looking at the issue in detail. In brief: there is no problem if one has an Emerging Block Universes (EBU).

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 15:13 GMT
typo: However I have just put an extensive paper on the archive Space time and the passage of time looking at the issue in detail. In brief: there is no problem if one has an Emerging Block Universes (EBU).

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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 19:05 GMT
Dear George,

The issue is unavoidably relevant to your essay. Your essay discusses causality, which you admit in your arXiv paper can only exist if major adjustments are made to the standard view of spacetime. And spacetime is one of your fields. I'm sure you'll see the need to explain how the subject of your essay works in relation to this, as it's entirely dependent on it - and we're...

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Jonathan Kerr wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 21:57 GMT
PS. I see the 'crystallising block universe' and the 'emerging (originally evolving) block universe' come from the same place. The question is the same about all - how they get round the problem of the fact that which events have been crystallysed is observer-dependent (frame-dependent), and therefore seems to reside in the observer's perception if spacetime is right, just as with standard block time. JK

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 07:12 GMT
Dear Jonathan

"I'm sure you'll see the need to explain how the subject of your essay works in relation to this, as it's entirely dependent on it - and we're meant to be looking at the foundations." It works by taking into account what I say in my arXiv paper on the passage of time.

"The crux of the Rietdijk-Putnam argument is that an event can be in the past to one observer, but in the future to another. If that idea is wrong, block time falls apart completely." But I argue in my paper that what observers think is past or future on other world lines does not matter. What matters is (a) what happens on their own worldlines, which must have a proper temporal ordering, and (b) what happens in terms of interactions between events on different worldlines, which are mediated by timelike and null curves. Spacelike surfaces and instantaneity do not enter into it. Finally (c) there are preferred worldlines in spacetime, as I explain, so in fact the Lorentz symmetry of the theory is broken in realistic solutions of the equations.

In any case for the purpose of the present essay, what I need is that causality works in local situations as described by ordinary physics, with a well-defined flow of time as embodied in the standard equations of physics such as Newton's laws and Maxwell's equations and the Schroedinger equation, see the Feynman Lectures on Physics. All the evidence for ordinary physics shows this is true, indeed physics as we know it would not exist if it were not so. That is all I need for my essay.

George Ellis

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Jonathan Kerr replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 09:22 GMT
Hello George,

Thank you for your reply. I didn't mean there was any need to justify your essay, I believe in causality too. I was just trying to show the relevance of the block time issue, and of bringing it into the discussion on this page.

You say that in the EBU "what observers think is past or future on other world lines does not matter". I'm sure it doesn't in many ways, but the point I've made it that it matters if we're trying to pinpoint the crystallation of an event, and look at what could cause it in that context. It's all very well saying that an event goes into the fixed past because of the collapse of the wave function. But if to some observers it already has, while to other observers moving differently it hasn't yet been crystallised, then we end up with what looks like a perception-based thing, and exactly the same setup that led to the problems of standard block time in the first place.

I think it's very good that you're argued for a flow of time, or motion through time, as strongly as you have. I'll look at your work further, and will almost certainly refer to it in mine. People are coming round to the idea that block time is wrong, partly because it seems that something has to give if we're to get to quantum gravity. To me, a slight tweak to spacetime is not enough, and the problems with it do not wash out so easily, as I've shown. I think we need to face up to the fact that we simply have the wrong interpretation in front of us. Spacetime looks right, and it has helped us simplify a lot of theories. There's a great reluctance to reverse out of the cul-de-sac. But it's an interpretation, and if one gets conceptual problems with an interpretation, then one probably needs a new one.

I'd appreciate any thoughts you might have on my essay,

Best wishes, Jonathan

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 18:50 GMT
Hi Jonathan

I basically agree with you, and with what is in your essay. Block time is fine if it has a future boundary that keeps changing - that resolves the puzzles you point out in your essay. And spin foam models seem to be like this, in essence, so quantum gravity is not incompatible with this scheme.

best wishes

George Ellis

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Sep. 9, 2012 @ 23:21 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

Since you are calling yourself a relativist, I doubt that you are open for what the topic of the contest demands: "Questioning the Foundations". Doesn't this include Cantor's naive set theory, Einstein's special theory of relativity, Lorentz covariance, a priori existing Parmenidean spacetime, etc. too?

While I was initially fascinated by the many reasonable views you uttered, my doubts in correctness of relativity rose each time I read an essay or an other paper of you. I nonetheless accepted that there are many arguments in support of relativity.

Situation has suddenly changed after I tried and managed to understand an experiment by Norbert Feist. See Fig. 5 of my recent essay. I fear I cannot expect an other factual reply than silence from anybody who has to fear loss of reputation or who is simply lazy.

Do not get me wrong. I do not exclude that some relativity-related theories are about as useful approximations as is according to Ebbinghaus/Lessing Georg Cantor's naive set theory which was based on an obvious error.

Please do not feel hurt. You might understand my motivation and uncompromising rudeness when I tell you that some years ago a Hendrik van Hees blamed me for damaging the reputation of Otto-von-Guericke-University Magdeburg after I suggested that the ear performs a cosine rather than Fourier transformation. Fortunately my boss declared the matter undecidable because utterly foundational. MP3 works.

Respectfully,

Eckard Blumschein

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 07:28 GMT
Dear Eckard Blumschein

" Since you are calling yourself a relativist, I doubt that you are open for what the topic of the contest demands: "Questioning the Foundations". Doesn't this include Cantor's naive set theory, Einstein's special theory of relativity, Lorentz covariance, a priori existing Parmenidean spacetime, etc. too? "

I chose to deal with a particular topic that I regard of importance, and you state you doubt that I am up to what the competition is about because I did not deal with a whole set of different topics. What is the point of this gratuitous insult?

"Situation has suddenly changed after I tried and managed to understand an experiment by Norbert Feist. See Fig. 5 of my recent essay. I fear I cannot expect an other factual reply than silence from anybody who has to fear loss of reputation or who is simply lazy." This kind of accusation does not motivate me to read your essay or respond to it. On the contrary.

"You might understand my motivation and uncompromising rudeness ..." I have no intention of responding to any further such rudeness. It is incompatible with my attempts to have cordial collegial discussions on the topic of my essay.



yours sincerely

George Ellis

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 07:32 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

While H. v. H. soon excused himself for his rudeness, it was demanding for me to force him by factual arguments to admit that he was wrong. I doubt that the question "Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions are Wrong?" can be really answered in a cordial discussion among colleagues.

I see what you are calling bottom up causation the principle of superposition of influences. If you could really question it, then it then I was surprised. I will read you essay again. Maybe I overlooked something.

Yours sincerely,

Eckard Blumschein

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 10:24 GMT
"I doubt that the question "Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions are Wrong?" can be really answered in a cordial discussion among colleagues."

- what an extraordinary statement. I hope to never be in an institute where this is true. My own personal colleagues are able to behave in a collegial fashion. It is the hallmark of civilised discussion that you don't have to be rude to your opponent if you disagree with her/him.

"I see what you are calling bottom up causation the principle of superposition of influences. If you could really question it, then it then I was surprised. I will read you essay again. Maybe I overlooked something." Superposition is a linear interaction. Most real system in the universe are not linear. Yes they are based in linear interactions at the bottom level, where superposition holds, but these are put together in structures and complex interaction networks that result in non-linear behaviour at the higher level. These structures then act down in a non-linear ways on their component entities to allow them also to behave in a non-linear way. Example: state vector preparation (a non-unitary process). Example: superconductivity, where the lower level entities (Cooper pairs) only exist because of the context provided by specific crystal structure.

Many other examples are given in my more technical article on which this essay is based, see here .

George Ellis

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Joel Rice wrote on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 14:13 GMT
You mentioned that the issue was whether algebra can deal with a Modular Hierarchical structure, and the need for graph theory. Just wondering if there are top down aspects to a supernova, just to have a nice physical example to chew on, especially for being so 'event-like', and anthropic questions ? If so, it seems like there is more going on than modular hierarchy and graph theory, like why can't elements build up without kicking leptons out of the neighborhood.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 10, 2012 @ 18:34 GMT
Hi Joel

well the supernova stuff you mention is mainly due to local reactions in the core, but the context is set by the star as whole, which generates huge temperatures at the centre due to its global structure and the resulting gravitational field. Hence that's a top-down effect from the star as whole to the nuclear reaction rates at the centre.

Leptons escaping is possible because the lepton density outside is much smaller than inside (a version of Olber's paradox for leptons): it could not happen if the star were immersed in a high-density lepton sea, just as the sun could not shine if it was immersed in radiation at the temperature of its surface. Such "non-interference" effects can be thought of as a causal relation: the relation is that a possible interaction does not take place! Isolated systems can only occur because the universe does not interfere with local systems; this will not be the case in some possible universes (e.g. ones that are always immersed in dense gravitational radiation).

George

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There is nothing new under the sun wrote on Sep. 11, 2012 @ 23:00 GMT
This is a matter of preference. You cite the incorrect Dirac's phrase. I cite the modern correction by P.W. Anderson.

The Science paper does not confound reductionism with causality and shows how the emergence of new properties at higher levels is compatible with the ordinary bottom-up causation of physics. Murray Gell-Mann, another Nobel laureate who is now working in complexity at SFI, has an entire book devoted to such issues. The physiology of the heart is also compatible with ordinary bottom-up causation.

Anyone reading this amusing essay should look at Weinberg's proof of Boltzmann's H-theorem (p.150 of volume 1 of "The Quantum Theory of Fields"). This modern proof of entropy increase is formulated in the language of quantum field theory and avoids approximations, such as the Born approximation or time-symmetry invariance, which are used in ordinary statistical physics proofs. Cosmology is unneeded in the proof of the H-theorem.

You name two cosmologists. Their work is incorrect. One of them gave a talk in Santa Cruz promoting the idea that cosmology is the cause of the second law of thermodynamics. One expert at the audience said:

"Finally, the magnitude of the entropy of the universe as a function of time is a very interesting problem for cosmology, but to suggest that a law of physics depends on it is sheer nonsense. Xxxxxxx's statement that the second law owes its existence to cosmology is one of the [dumbest] remarks I heard in any of our physics colloquia, apart from [Rosenblum & Kuttner]'s earlier remarks about consciousness in quantum mechanics. I am astounded that physicists in the audience always listen politely to such nonsense. Afterwards, I had dinner with some graduate students who readily understood my objections, but Xxxxxxx remained adamant."

You write "It is conceivable this review could lead me to change my opinion". My goal was to expose some elementary facts ignored in your amusing essay.

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 04:46 GMT
1: "Murray Gell-Mann, another Nobel laureate who is now working in complexity at SFI, has an entire book devoted to such issues." That book is about adaptive selection, which is a form of top-down causation, as has been very clearly demonstrated in many writings since the seminal paper on the topic by Donald Campbell; see for example the book The Re-emergence of Emergence edited by Clayton and...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 04:49 GMT
That previous post was me. I thought I was logged in.

George Ellis

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George Ellis replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:30 GMT
Ok I have looked at the Weinberg derivation (pages 150-151 in his book). I agree it's good to have a derivation that depends only on unitarity. Unitary transformations however are time reversible. There is therefore nothing in the dynamics that can choose one time direction as against the other as far as any dynamical development is concerned, just as there is no intrinsic difference between the particles alpha and beta.

Consequently just as in the case of the Boltzmann derivation of the H-theorem, the H-Theorem (3.6.20) will hold for both directions of time (just reverse the direction of time and relabel alpha to beta: the derivation goes through as before). This is the point which is explained very clearly by Penrose in his various books as regards Boltzmann's derivation. Weinberg's derivation of the H-theorem does not determine a preferred direction of time from the underlying unitary dynamics. It can't do so, as there is no preferred direction of time in that dynamic.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 06:56 GMT
The point of the above is that it is impossible to derive the arrow of time - one of the most important aspects of macro physics and biology - from microphysics alone. Both statistical physics and quantum field theory give you a beautiful H-theorem: and the derivation applies equally in both directions of time (this applies for example to Weinberg's derivation of the H-theorem: see my last comment). Supposing you break this symmetry somehow by random fluctuations: you have no guarantee the direction of time will be the same everywhere. We do not see opposing arrows of time in the real universe. Bottom up causation alone is incapable of giving an explanation of one of the most important features of everyday physics.

Consequently, as pointed out by Wheeler, Feynman, Sciama, Davies, Zeh, Carroll, Penrose, and many others, one needs some global boundary condition to determine a consistent arrow of time in local physics:a top-down effect from the cosmological scale to everyday scales. This is what the Santa Cruz "experts" have not understood, even though the issue has been known since the time of Boltzmann and Loschmidt.

This global coordination is plausibly provided by a macro-scale low entropy condition of the early universe, see the writings of Carroll (From Eternity to Here: The Quest for the Ultimate Theory of Time) and Penrose (Cycles of Time). For readers who have not encountered this debate, a useful summary by Sean Carroll is here ; and

here he gives extensive quotes from Feynman on the issue. For my own summary of this and other top-down effects in cosmology, see here .

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 12:08 GMT
For those of you who are interested in the relation of this topic to the brain, Karl Friston's article A theory of cortical responses is excellent. He emphasizes the key role of hierarchical structuring in the brain. His "forward connections" are what I call bottom up, and his "backward connections" are what I call top-down (the difference in nomenclature is obviously immaterial). He makes quite clear that a mix of bottom up and top down causation is key as to how the brain works; backward connection mediate contextual effects and coordinate processing channels.

This is how the theme works out in a genuinely complex case. It is obviously compatible with the underlying physics, because it does indeed work. As in the case of digital computers, which can run any algorithm whatever, in the case of the brain the underlying physics enables us to think, but does not constrain what we are able to think about.

George

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 18:06 GMT
" As in the case of digital computers, which can run any algorithm whatever, in the case of the brain the underlying physics enables us to think, but does not constrain what we are able to think about."

Right on, George. Androids may dream of electric sheep, but only a human brain can dream of an android dreaming of electric sheep.

The capacity for infinite regress cannot be programmed into a finite state machine.

Tom

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 19:13 GMT
Thanks Tom.

And you may like this one:

Natural Selection and Multi-Level Causation, by Maximiliano Martínez and Andrés Moya, see section 3 for how downward causation is key to adaptive selection, the topic of Murray Gell-Mann's book, and hence to evolution.

George

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 11:25 GMT
Hi George,

Indeed, I do appreciate the Martinez-Moya reference.

I have thought for some time that brain science is the next great frontier of knowledge, because my wildest conjecture is that the brainscape perfectly mirrors an isolated cosmoscape in a simply connected network. Not to be too sci-fi on the subject -- as you say, " ... as pointed out by Wheeler, Feynman, Sciama,...

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 12, 2012 @ 12:28 GMT
Dear George

I would like to show interesting story where Top-Dawn approach get useful

http://vixra.org/abs/0907.0022

I mean trick with inversion dark green column

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Andrew H. Norton wrote on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 12:40 GMT
Dear Prof Ellis

I enjoyed reading your essay and was prompted to also read your other papers that you cite. In one of those you mention Wheeler’s delayed choice experiment as "a case of top down causation from the apparatus to the very nature of the particle/wave at the time it passed through the slits." In this instance, top down causation sounds a lot like retro-causation through the role of future boundary conditions (as modeling measurement processes) in selecting what actually comes about.

In this regard, I think you would find interesting Couder and Fort's bouncing droplet quantum analogues of single-particle diffraction and interference (refs [18],[21},[23] in my essay). Retro-causality also plays a second role in this system: the analogue of de Broglie's pilot wave is a standing wave (not a phase wave), in other words the particle is the source of a semi-retarded plus semi-advanced radiation field.

I have some ideas on the classical to quantum cut that I tried to explain in my essay, again related to retro-causality.

cheers

Andrew

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 15:10 GMT
Dear Andrew

your paper is very interesting, and I like its seriousness and originality.

I agree on the possibility of retro-causality: please see this paper for a view that is a bit similar to yours in that regard. I also like the multi-scales in your model, which accords with what I am trying to do here. However of course quantum theory has to do much more than just model an electron: it will be very interesting to see how you take it further.

Best wishes

George Ellis

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 13:08 GMT
Dr. Ellis

Does The Crystallizing Block Universe mean one single cycle of the Universe?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 13, 2012 @ 16:11 GMT
Not necessarily: it can have multiple cycles provided the transition between them is non-singular. No one has yet given a cyclic theory without singularities of one kind or another.

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 04:36 GMT
Hi George. Thank you for keeping an open mind in regard to my ideas.

You wrote that you agree with my statement: "If the self did not represent, form, and experience a comprehensive approximztion of experience in general by combining conscious and unconscious experience, we would then be incapable of growth and of becoming other than we are." DREAMS PROVE ALL OF THIS: That the self...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 05:44 GMT
Hi Frank

dreams may well be important as to how the mind works; people like Freud and Mark Solms have investigated this. But dreams can't be significant for how physics operates:its the other way round, in the end physics underlies dreams somehow because physics underlies the brain.

Which physics? You claim "Gravity is at the heart of our feeling, vision, and touch." I side with biophyiscs in saying it is electromagnetism that plays this role. In fact the principle of equivalence supports this: our bodies function adequately for extended periods in free fall, where there is no effective gravitational force. So gravity can't underlie mind functioning.

I'll put some comment over there.

George

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 17:22 GMT
Hi George,

You say: "...our bodies function adequately for extended periods in free fall, where there is no effective gravitational force. So gravity can't underlie mind functioning."

Unless you are excluding the gravitomagnetic component of gravity, this is not necessarily true.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 19:21 GMT
Hi Eugene

It's a nice idea, but it won't work because those effects are so weak. For this to work, they'd have to be detected by physical systems on Earth. The most expensive and complex gravitational wave detectors have so far failed to detect the gravitomagnetic component of gravity, see Kip Thorne's discussion of the nature of these effects in two papers at http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1208.3038 and http://xxx.lanl.gov/abs/1208.3034. If those detectors can't detect them, then certainly our brains can't.

George

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 20:44 GMT
Hi George,

That is true if Martin Tajmar's measurement's are false, but no one has yet shown this to be the case. If instead his measurements are correct, then the coherence factor (kappa) is as I describe in my essay, the Nature of the Wave Function, with potential effects I have described in my earlier essays. The fact that everyone has decided to ignore his results is par for the course, but proves nothing. Yet if he is correct, it is the most revolutionary discovery of recent times. My own position is to treat it as correct and investigate the consequences, which are many. In fact, there are other hi-ranked essays here that propose something similar, ignoring what has already potentially been discovered.

I don't expect to convince you, simply to record the fact that measurements exist that suggest an alternative.

Best,

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Frederico Pfrimer wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 17:18 GMT
Dear George,

I am fascinated because the ideas you propose in your essay are essentially some insights I got some years ago. They were from a philosophical or spiritual point of view, and you brought the same ideas into the language of physics. I’m a physicist too, and I know how hard is to propose anything on this subject. But the connection you established with computer programming is...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 19:30 GMT
Hi Frederico,

you say "The only way to describe a high level program is using a high level language. A high level program can be implemented in a low level language, but it is not described by it. That is, there are several different implementations of a high level program in a high level language; and it contains more information than the high level one; so, you cannot say that you are describing the same program in the low level language. " Exactly, nicely put.

"I believe our mind [...] would exist in high level layer and could only be described by high level languages. And then, as they exist, they would be able to provoke top-down causation in the lowest layer: physics. The interaction between mind and matter would be something of this form." Exactly. " That’s why it is not described by current physics: actually our mathematics does not really support top-down causation. " Well it's beginning to do so, see the papers By Walker and Davies I cited some way above, and particularly Karl Friston's article "A theory of cortical responses" (I gave the link a while back). We're getting there. Any help in sorting this out appreciated.

I'll take a look at your essay.

geporge

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Frederico Pfrimer replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 04:29 GMT
I didn’t know about these results. It is good to know we are making progress in this direction. I’m trying to understand these papers but they are not any simple for a first reading. I might work on this subject in the future; it is something that interests me. But first there are simpler things I would like to clarify. Our understanding of complex things may always be bounded by the clarity of simple things. Progress can be made, but is much harder than when the simple is already clearly understood.

All the best!

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 19:23 GMT
I have now added the following comment on your thread:

Dear Frederico

your essay and associated paper are thought provoking and deep. It will take time to assimilate it. My main comment for the present refers to this statement of yours:



"I have means to say that the main wrong assumption of physics is not

a physical assumption, but a millenary logical assumption: the principle of excluded middle .. This principle says that a proposition is either true or false, in other words, either the proposition or its negation is true" I think that you might be saying that the truth or falsity of a proposition may depend on its context. That is very close to the concept of contextual effects that I discuss in my essay.

George Ellis

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There is nothing new under the sun wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 20:00 GMT
The works of Gell-Mann and Anderson show that emergence is compatible with ordinary bottom-up causation. Anderson writes on the first page of the Science paper: "The elementary entities of science X obey the laws of science Y". He gives a table of X and Y. The first row says that the elementary entities of "solid state or many-body physics" obey the laws of "elementary particle physics", the...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 10:07 GMT
I have replied just below to this comment: the reply somehow got displaced.

Here is the kind of research you dismiss out of had. Must be amazing to live life with the ability to deny the validity of what so many other highly competent researchers are doing. I suppose you feel safer with your blinkers on. You should take note of the Feynmann quite I gave above (Jul. 21, 2012). Or do you look down on Fetnmann too?

Experimental application of top-down control analysis to metabolic systems.

(PMID:8438233)

Quant PA

Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, UK.

Trends in Biochemical Sciences [1993, 18(1):26-30]

DOI: 10.1016/0968-0004(93)90084-Z

Abstract Metabolic control analysis (MCA) has provided the language and framework for quantitative study of control over flux, or over metabolites, by individual enzymes of a pathway. By contrast, top-down control analysis (TDCA) yields an immediate overview of the control structure of the whole system of interest, giving information about the control exercised by large sections of complex pathways. Unlike MCA, TDCA does not rely on the use of specific inhibitors or genetic manipulation to determine control coefficients. The method and an application of TDCA to ketogenesis are described.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 16:04 GMT
Typos corrected:

Here is the kind of research you dismiss out of hand. Must be amazing to live life with the ability to deny the validity of what so many other highly competent researchers are doing. I suppose you feel safer with your blinkers on. You should take note of the Feynmann quote I gave above (Jul. 21, 2012). Or do you look down on Feynmann too?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 14:06 GMT
In case you miss the post below, here is a key element I point out there. In view of your statements, I think it needs spelling out.

You state

"The H-theorem (3.6.20) holds for both directions of time and Weinberg writes about the theorem: "so we may conclude that the entropy always increases". This is very easy to check. Your misunderstanding of the H-theorem is typical of the "deepest thinkers in cosmology". "

So the key point is, if entropy always increases, in which direction of time does it increase? Weinberg's derivation has no answer. I'll explain step by step.

Choose a time coordinate t. The theorem as developed by Weinberg, according to you says

dS/dt > 0. (1)

Now choose the opposite direction of time:

t' = -t. (2)

As you admit, "The H-theorem (3.6.20) holds for both directions of time" (I show why in my post of Sep. 12, 2012 @ 17:30). Hence it holds also for t'. Therefore the Theorem as developed by Weinberg also says

dS/dt' > 0. (3)

Is (1) true or (3) true, or are both true, or is neither true?

Weinberg's derivation, like Boltzmann's says both are true. It does not pick out the preferred direction of time which underlies the 2nd law of macroscopic physics.

So in which direction of time does entropy increase? Weinberg's equation (3.6.20) does not provide the answer. It can't explain the most elementary fact about everyday physics.

So where is the misunderstanding in this elementary line of reasoning? Your sardonic comments are in tatters if you can't reply convincingly.

Maybe if you look at this carefully you'll at last understand what Wheeler, Feynman, Sciama, Davies, Zeh, Penrose, and Carroll and others were on about.

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Saibal Mitra wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 22:48 GMT
Dear George,

I found your essay to be the most interesting one here. I do think that the views expressed in your essay fit better in the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, though. One can then argue that the sector an observer is located in is not a precisely defined branch, rather it is in some superposition of states that are in the same functional equivalence class (as defined on page 9 of your essay).

Such a superposition is a complicated entangled state of the system and the environment; such a state defines the computational state of the algorithm that the brain is executing. I explain this in my essay.

The then means that the top-down causation is in principle visible from the microstate of the system as it exists at any given time (although you will in general have a superpositon of systems in different macrostates).

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 22:51 GMT
You simply don't understand that at no point have I in any ways denied that the the laws of physics and chemistry apply at the lower levels. Of course they do. The point is that they do not by themselves determine what happens. That is determined by top down causation, as is abundantly clear for example in the case of the computer, which you conveniently continue to ignore.

It is also...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 14, 2012 @ 22:55 GMT
This response was to the previous post. It somehow got displaced.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 15, 2012 @ 05:59 GMT
Dear Saibal

that is an interesting perspective. Personally I think quantum theory is incomplete and that we need to find the mechanism that determines state vector projection; but I'll consider your proposal too. But I have never been able to understand what mechanism leads to splitting of the wave function, or what determines when it happens. Also as I understand it, this proposal can't account for the Born rule in any simple way. Deutsch's concept of uncountable infinities of fungible particles is hardly credible.

George

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Saibal Mitra replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 04:40 GMT
Dear George,

The Born rule in this setting where you have a system that is perfectly entangled with the environment, can be derived from the symmetries of such a state. Zurek has given a derivation here.

My personal idea on (effective) wavefunction splitting would be to first define the observer as some algorithm that can be in various computational states. E.g. a neural network that given the coordinates of some points can recognize certain certain shapes, like the points forming a square, a circle, or it doesn't recognize anything. Then if we were to give a microscopic description in terms of the electrons etc. then the generic state of this system would be some superposition, and you can then collect together the terms that correspond to "circle", "square", and "nothing".

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 11:30 GMT
Hi Saibal

I really like Zurek's work on environmental decoherence, particularly because it is indeed a form of top-down action from the environment to the system. It embodyies one of the key forms of top-down action: namely adaptive selection. However I've never thought of it as being a form of the many-worlds view. I'll have to look at it again.

A key point to remember here is that any proposal to deal with the measurement problem must deal with individual cases: dealing with statistics in not enough. Statistical results only exist if individual events occur.

George

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David Rousseau wrote on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 14:48 GMT
Dear George,

Your essay casts a valuable light from Physics on the complex way in which causal interactions play out in systems. These complex causal networks make reductionistic interpretations inadequate. Although 'top-down' processes have been recognised in biology and social science (as you point out), this idea cannot find a secure footing in the paradigm until physicists take it on...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 15:16 GMT
Dear David

Many thanks for that, I'm glad to know about your project.

" Formalizing the definitions you give in your essay in this way would make your point even stronger and clearer, and remove possible misinterpretations of your argument, such as assigning causal powers to 'patterns' rather than to the systems that realize them. This would enable important further distinctions to be made between the things you identify as "existing" and having causal consequences yet being "non-physical"." Yes indeed. Any help in such clarification will be welcome.

George

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Anthony DiCarlo wrote on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 17:41 GMT
Hi George,

Thanks you for reading and commenting on my essay. This was most appriciated. I have read your essay many times and feel that many of your ideas correlate well with those I have also contemplated.

You state:

"A key assumption underlying most present day physical thought is the idea that causation is bottom up all the way: particle physics underlies nuclear...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 16, 2012 @ 19:16 GMT
Hi Anthony

Thanks for that.

"Could "life information" be a superposition of both top/down and bottom/up, and, thoughts and measureable actions compromise the top/down and bottom/up information, respectively?"

Yes indeed. May essay kind of takes the bottom up for granted. Maybe I need to emphasize that it occurs too!

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 17, 2012 @ 18:15 GMT
Regarding “There is nothing new under the sun”:

Readers of this thread will have noticed I am under persistent attack by an anonymous theoretical physicist who hides behind this ludicrously false pseudonym (counterexample: the internet). He repeatedly claims I have not given one single valid example of top-down causation that cannot be explained by bottom up causation alone. I’m going...

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Anonymous replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 12:27 GMT
Hi George,

Sociological implications aside, your withering rebuke of the O.P. has much value for the scientific implications of a fully relativistic theory at multiple scales. That " ... existence of the Cooper pairs necessary for superconductivity is contingent on the nature of the ion lattice, which is at a higher level of description than that of the pairs ..." conveys the physical reality of uncollapsed potential; i.e., the information exchange between particles in the dynamic Cooper state has the particles conspiring to maintain zero angular momentum -- which IMO is fully translatable to higher levels of organization as pure unitary wave function. E.g., conceivably able to deal with questions of large scale phenomena, such as posed by Tanmay Vachaspati "What does an observer who falls into the collapsing object experience?" and Vesselin Petkov, "Can gravity be quantized?"

Point is, the distribution of causality at all levels of organization blurs the distinction between particles -- the "bottom" of the hierarchy -- and systems of particles interacting with other systems to create top down causality.

Back in May, I wrote a short piece that I never submitted or posted anywhere, "A fermionic condensate test of Bell's Inequality & local realism" that agrees with Lucien Hardy's statement, "I anticipate that quantum gravity will be a theory having indefinite causal structure whereas quantum theory has definite causal structure." I will attach it to a post on my own essay site ("The Perfect First Question"). I hope you get a chance to read it, as well as my essay.

George, your forum has become quite a clearinghouse for state of the art research in interdisciplinary science! I think it represents the best of what I perceive that FQXi is about.

All best,

Tom

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 12:30 GMT
Oops. Post above was mine.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 15:05 GMT
Hi Tom

thanks for that. Your article is very interesting: will take me time to digest. I am a slow thinker, but quiet thorough when I get there!

"Point is, the distribution of causality at all levels of organization blurs the distinction between particles -- the "bottom" of the hierarchy -- and systems of particles interacting with other systems to create top down causality." Yes indeed, but it is subtle. The ions create the lattice with electrons imbedded and this then creates the possibility of existence of phonons, Cooper pairs, and so on (if its properties are just right). So an inevitable conjecture is, is the existence of the electrons and protons also an outcome of some top-down effect? Maybe those who hold that only fields are real and particles are just excitations of fields are already saying that, but I've always had difficulty getting my head round that one - particularly because particles seem so solid and durable at the macro level.

The thing is that physics has so many aspects, and each aspect can be described in so many different ways (as Roger Penrose points out in The Road to Reality), and each of us is an expert in some corner of the thing - but seeing how it fits together coherently is the difficult part. Yes its easy to learn specific formalisms and calculation tricks and apply them to some part of the whole. That does not necessarily give enlightenment.

Cheers

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 05:57 GMT
Correction: "Extraordinary that he is willing to present this as his public face" should read "Extraordinary that he is willing to present this as the public face of theoretical physics". He himself, being anonymous, has no face at all: maybe that's why he feels safe making these derogatory remarks.

Roger Penrose has been one of the most able and creative thinkers in mathematical physics for the past 50 years, inter alia transforming general relativity theory. For someone with no discernible academic record of any kind to denigrate him in this way is outrageous. The senior physicists who have mentored this anonymous commentator have truly failed him by letting him think this behaviour is acceptable - and they have badly let down theoretical physics too. Do you really want to present the subject in this extraordinarily negative light? Is this the atmosphere you want to encourage? It is actually possible to do better.

George Ellis

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 14:15 GMT
What is your attitude to Gerard 't Hooft

Discreteness and Determinism in Superstrings ?

arXiv:1207.3612 (replaced) [pdf, ps, other]

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 15:25 GMT
Yuri,

I think he is an original and interesting thinker, and this is certainly worth pursuing. However I think cellular automata are rather limited in what they can do, despite Wolfram's propaganda. Yes I now they are Turing equivalent - but not in any practical way.

The usual concept of cellular automata, as I understand it, relies on symmetry: no neighbour is distinguished from any other. That's precisely what is *not* the case when top-down constraints are in place, e.g. the wiring in a computer channels causation at the lower levels in precisely specified ways between the components. Effective potentials also break lower level symmetry in a similar way. It is this symmetry breaking that creates possibilities of higher level complexity (Anderson points out the key role symmetry breaking has on emergence). So cellular automata is not the way I'd go - or at least not simple versions of that idea. Additionally I'm not a great fan of string theory, so I don't find the combination of the two ideas compelling.

Actually what I do find very intriguing is t'Hooft's work on conformal gravity - but that's another story.

George

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 03:20 GMT
Is the quantum gravity problem or pseudoproblem?

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 18, 2012 @ 15:07 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis,

I have read your essay with interest. As you have pointed out there are hierarchies of structures which influence the structure at lower levels.

In my view, interactions occur within a given structure only with a limited independence. In every interaction there is an overriding-interaction forming an organic linking with the next higher level of the hierarchy. This...

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attachments: 6_A_TREATISE_ON_FOUNDATIONAL_PROBLEMS_OF_PHYSICS2.doc

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 05:52 GMT
Hi Viraj

yes I agree: "So the question is, is there a top down causation on the motions of particles on earth by the Sun’s gravitational field?" - indeed we live in that environment and it has some effect. But it is a small effect, because of the equivalence principle: the Earth and all on it fall together freely in the the Sun's gravitational field, so we feel that effect of that field only through the tidal force due to the Sun. This is mediated by its free gravitational field: the Weyl tensor it generates here on Earth.

"But there is ‘top down causation’ always a top down interaction occurring to form an organic link with the background energy field." - in principle yes; but it will not have an local discernible effect if it is a uniform gravitational field. Only inhomogeneity will be effective (that is the equivalence principle).

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 10:52 GMT
Addendum:

It is the electric part of the Weyl tensor that represents tidal forces. If the magnetic part were non-zero, that would generate the kind of GEM effect that Edwin Eugene Klingman considers in his essay, a different form of top-down effect from rapidly moving massive objects to the local environment. However the magnetic Weyl tensor components are are probably very much smaller than the electric ones: there are no rapidly moving (in relativistic terms) massive objects in the solar system vicinity.

George

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Jose P. Koshy wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 13:24 GMT
Dear George,

I read your essay.It is well written and your argument is very clear. However, I would like to point out that the statement "The concepts that are useful at one level are simply inapplicable at other levels" is an assumption. It may not be true.It is that assumption that leads to the question whether it should be from bottom to top or reverse.



Bottom-top and top-down causations are equally possible, and you have pointed out examples. This may indicate that the system is in equilibrium and the ongoing process is a reversible one.The universe may be in a state of equilibrium at any instant, and the expansion may reversible process.

Another point where I diagree is with the statement "random events take place at the micro level". If what happens at microlevel is random, then surely top-down causation will not take place. But we find that in a given situation,the events happen in a pre-determined way. Otherwise when we type A, we can expect any character to appear on the computer screen. The whole computer programming becomes possible just because the events are deterministic.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 18:33 GMT
Dear Jose

You say "the statement "The concepts that are useful at one level are simply inapplicable at other levels" is an assumption. It may not be true." Agreed. There are a few concepts that remain valid at higher levels: energy and momentum for example. But in most cases the relevant variables are very different at different levels. I look at this in some detail in my paper here .

"Another point where I disagree is with the statement "random events take place at the micro level". If what happens at microlevel is random, then surely top-down causation will not take place." Well random events are what happens at the bottom level, whether we like it or not, inter alia because of the validity of quantum theory. Additionally there are classical statistical fluctuations at the lower levels, and this plays quite a role in biology, as is now becoming evident. This actually facilitates adaptive selection (a key form of top-down causation) because it provides an ensemble of items or behaviors that can be selected from to attain some higher level goal.

The remarkable thing, as you point out, is that reliable behaviour can emerge at higher levels from this unfirm lower level foundation. Basically both engineers and biology have learned to construct robust devices in the face of this fluctuating lower level behaviour. That's largely an effect of large numbers, combined with the stability of macro structures in energetic terms, plus the fact that classical structures do indeed emerge from the underlying quantum dynamics. It's the power of coarse-graining: lower level details are usually irrelevant as far as higher level structures are concerned.

George Ellis

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 15:41 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis,

Thank you for your response. I would like to mention that Physicists who are ‘imbued with their mother’s milk’ into believing in Einstein’s principle of relativity, are blinkered not to see the top down structure, between the motion of a particle relative to earth and earth’s GRAVITATIONAL MOTION round the sun.

One of the great damages that happened to...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 18:45 GMT
Dear Viraj

"The question I ask you is that has there been even a single experiment which has confirmed, that when x’ = gamma(x –ut) the corresponding time is t’ = gamma(1- ux/c2)gamma? " Yes - the decay of cosmic ray particles. This is discussed in most standard texts on special relativity, for example Flat and Curved Spacetimes (Ellis and Williams).

Special relativity is an extraordinarily well verified theory, within its domain of applicability; apart from predicting nuclear energy and nucleosynthesis, all those collider experiments at places like SLAC and CERN verify it millions of times over each time they do a run. I don't think there is much mileage in trying to show it is a wrong theory. It's not something I'd spend time on.

George

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Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 19, 2012 @ 21:56 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis,

1. I am bring to your attention that in my essay, going on EINSTEIN'S TRAIL on the search for the parallel between the perpetuum mobile in TD and Lorentz transformation that LT is THE TOP DOWN EFFECT of earth’s motion on a relative motion of a particle on earth. By this I am giving you the greatest gift to you to confirm your essay on “Top Down Causation”. But perhaps...

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Anonymous wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 05:15 GMT
Regarding the issue of the arrow of time and the H-theorem:

When I wrote my essay, I assumed that any competent present day physicist would be aware of the basic issues arising as to the time reversiblity of fundamental physics and the arrow of time. It has become painfully obvious through this thread that this is not the case. Yes of course it is PCT invariance rather than just T invariance that underlies present day particle physics: that makes no difference whatever to Weinberg's derivation of the H-theorem, which is based in unitarity. Unitary transformations are T-invariant. Weinberg's derivation of the H-theorem consequently does not solve the arrow of time issue in a purely bottom up way (my posting of Sep. 16, 2012 @ 14:06 GMT explains this in painful detail). If Weinberg had introduced some element related to collapse of the wave function into his argument, the situation would be different: but he does not do so.

For those of you who want a concise analysis of the issue by someone other than Penrose or Carroll, who it turns out are regarded with total disdain by some Californian physicists, here is a clear presentation of the issue by Craig Callender. This carefully explains, in the proper historical context, why some kind of cosmological condition is necessary to resolve the arrow of time issue, as has been realised by many great physicists including Einstein, Feynman, and Schroedinger. If you take the trouble to analyse it properly, bottom up effects alone are not able to resolve the arrow of time issue.

George Ellis

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James Lee Hoover wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 05:26 GMT
George,

You say,

"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."

My essay speaks of empirical evidence such as the trapping of anti-matter in space and the perceived weightlessness of thousands of sightings of UFOs in our atmosphere as good hard evidence. Macro and micro studies try to address this mystery. Is it an exception regarding your thoughts?

Jim

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 05:41 GMT
Dear James

I'm afraid I don't take UFO sightings seriously as evidence about fundamental physics.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 05:28 GMT
Dammit the system logged me out. That was me.

And here is the correct link, I hope. This websystem should allow one to look at the posting in its final form before putting it up: then these errors could be avoided.

George

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 20, 2012 @ 07:07 GMT
Dear Dr. Ellis,

1. First of all I must let you know that I am not a ‘special relativity’ denier, in the sense that I reject the a) principle of constancy of velocity of light, b) the validity of the displacement equation of Lorentz transformation, c) the slowing down of internal processes of a particle when in motion, d) transverse Doppler effect (TDE)of light, d) matter particles...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 21, 2012 @ 09:08 GMT
Another example:

Here is a study of top down effects (the role of environment on galaxy evolution) in astronomy, from a seminar here today.

Title: The MASSIV Survey

Abstract:

The MASSIV survey is composed of 84 star-forming galaxies at 0.9 < z < 1.8 selected from the VVDS. I will present its selection and focus on the main results of this survey: the kinematic diversity, the discovery of inverse metallicity gradients, the evolution of scaling laws and the role of environment on galaxy evolution as deduced from the study of the merger rate from MASSIV.These results will be put in regard to other integral fields surveys at larger (e.g. LSD/AMAZE, SINS or OSIRIS) and lower redshifts (e.g. GIRAFFE).

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 04:55 GMT
Some of the essays in this competition relate to the relation between models and reality: a key feature of the way science works. Those who want to think about this in depth may find this article on models in science useful.

Section 5.2 of that article is related to my essay, because we when we consider the hierarchy of structure and causation as discussed in my essay, we are actually using many different models, involving different representation/coarse graining scales, to represent the same physical reality. The issue is how they relate to each other. In general relativity, this leads to the issue of coarse graining and backreaction; in general it leads to the issue of what relations exist between these different models of the same system - that is, bottom up and top down relations between them.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 22, 2012 @ 05:00 GMT
The further essay here , discussing inter-theory relations, also takes up the same theme in a useful way.

George

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Fred Diether wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 05:35 GMT
Hi George,

Very nice essay. I am wondering if top-down / bottom-up causation is a duality? Could one exist without the other? I think that is what you are saying or the point you are trying to make.

Best,

Fred

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 05:43 GMT
Fred,

What an excellent observation!

Edwin Eugene Klingman

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Fred Diether replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 05:56 GMT
Thank you Edwin,

I suppose it is the same or similar to the argument that classical-quantum is a duality. Hopefully a good discussion point here.

Best,

Fred

PS. I am going to try to answer your questions about my essay tomorrow. Sorry it has taken so long; I will explain why over there.

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Edwin Eugene Klingman replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 06:37 GMT
Dear Pentcho,

I agree that the definitions of "top" and "down" are both fuzzy and arbitrary. To this extent it is may be a triviality. But I think it's deeper than that.

Edwin Eugene Klingman

PS. Some people get tired of your cutting and pasting, but I think that you have a knack for getting to relevant points of view. Keep it up.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 08:05 GMT
“There is nothing new under the sun”: one open question and two failed challenges.

The one respondent on this thread who has seriously challenged the scientific content of my essay is an anonymous physicist operating under the pseudonym “There is nothing new under the sun”, claiming I have not given a single genuine instance of top-down causation that could not be explained in a...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 11:56 GMT
Trying again!! This linking system does not seem to work.

I only need one example to prove that top-down processes do indeed occur in physics, just as they do in many other contexts such as in digital computers and in the human brain and in evolutionary theory . My case (elaborated here ) stands undefeated.

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Yuri Danoyan wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 15:07 GMT
Dear George

Did you get my e-mail?

Yuri

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 16:51 GMT
No I did not.

GE

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Yuri Danoyan replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 18:52 GMT
O.K.

I sending just now again

Dear Dr Ellis,

First of all I would like reminding to you one quote from famous neurophysiologist Warren McCulloch, known for his work on the foundation for certain brain theories and his contribution to the cybernetics movement .

In the last century he wrote:

''As I see what we need first and foremost is not correct theory, but some

theory to start from, whereby we may hope to ask a question so that we will

get an answer, if only to the effect that our notion was entirely

erroneous. Most of the time we never even get around to asking the question

in such a form that it can have an answer."(Discussion with John von Neumann

John von Neumann Collected works, Volume 5,p.319)

It was about mind - body relationship and brain function

My question is the following:

I think this is applicable to modern physics?

I put forward 3 questions:

1) 4D space-time?

2) Gravity as a fundamental force?

3) 3 fundamental dimensional constants(G, c, h)?

My attempts to get answers see my essay

http://fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/1413

Sincerely

Yuri
Danoyan

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 21:22 GMT
Dear Yuri

this is off the topic of my thread, but still:

1) 4D space-time? -- yes!

2) Gravity as a fundamental force? -- of course: but it's not a force like other forces, it's an expression of spacetime curvature, because of the principle of equivalence. Its the gravitational field (the Weyl tensor) that is more fundamental.

3) 3 fundamental dimensional constants(G, c, h)? -- well it's the dimensionless constants that really count. The "Living Review" by J-P Uzan is great on the topic: see here

I'll try to get to your essay

George

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 16:28 GMT
Dear Fred and George,

SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS - A 'TOP DOWN CAUSATION'.

Fred Diether wrote:“I am wondering if top-down / bottom-up causation is a duality? Could one exist without the other? I think that is what you are saying or the point you are trying to make”.

‘Top Down’ concept is not something marginal as the author of the essay seems to think. (For instance...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 23, 2012 @ 21:31 GMT
Viraj

I like that statement: "One of those GENERAL PRINCIPLES: The process below forms an organic link with the next higher level in the hierarchy. Or looked at it the other way, the two processes form an interface between the two levels by usurping a fraction of energy from the lower level. The second law of thermodynamics comes into effect by way of this process of interfacing of the two levels of energy. "

Not sure about the application to the particle motion. take it more to deal with systems of particles rather than individual particle.

George

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Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 02:29 GMT
Dear George and Fred,

George wrote: “Not sure about the application (of the general principle underlying 2nd law of TD) to the particle motion. take it more to deal with systems of particles rather than individual particle”.

The above comment was with reference to my earlier statement: ….” the two processes form an interface between the two levels by usurping a fraction of...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 06:02 GMT
Well I'm delighted you have proved Einstsin right.

Just one point: he got the gamma result direct from the relativity principle. He got it right.

George

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Viraj Fernando replied on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear George,

You wrote: “Well I'm delighted you have proved Einstein right. Just one point: he got the gamma result direct from the relativity principle. He got it right”.

1. Which “gamma result” did he get direct from relativity principle? Which of the following are you referring to?

Is it G = 1/sq rt(1- v2/c2) where v is the velocity of the particle. This G is variable. (which is in “mass increase” and “time dilation”).

Or is it G’ = 1/sqrt(1- u2/c2) where u is the velocity of earth’s orbit for all experiments that human beings have ever done. This G’ is constant for a given ref frame. For ECIF G’ = 1.000000005. (This G' comes in LT's)

2. Since you have said “He got it right” and you are so sure of it, can you explain how Einstein derived gamma-factors G and G’ direct from relativity principle?

Best regards,

Viraj

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Helmut Hansen wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 04:19 GMT
Dear George,

I've already read some of your paper, f.e. the prize-winning essay --Is the Universe expanding?-- I think it touches a deeper truth that is still unrecognized.

I think, too, that your issue of the top-down-causation is indeed a key missing element in current physics. You explicitly mentioned boundary conditions in cosmology as such a top-down-effect, in particular Mach's principle.

I investigated the possible physical meaning of TRANSCENDENCE and discovered that it implies a specific set of boundary conditions at infinity.

According to this set there must be a COINCIDENCE at the outmost edgde of the universe, otherwise the transcendence of the ONE would not be secured. That's the basic idea behind this approach: How must the physical Universe look like if its foundation (i.e. the ONE) shall not be describable or detectable in any way?

Actually, this demand though sounding paradoxical is higly restrictive with respect to the observable universe, but no one discussed it seriously, because Metaphysics is still a taboo in modern physics.

However, the predicted empirical coincidence could actually be found at the edge of our (!) universe. It is known as MACH0. Surprisingly this observational fact represents an ANOMALY within modern physics that cannot yet be explained convincingly. To my opinion it is - to make use of an Einsteinian metaphor - a Signature of GOD inside our universe. Or more generally, metaphysics is a promising top-down-approach.

In my FQXI-Paper 2009 I have sketched this approach: TAMING OF THE ONE.

see: http://www.fqxi.org/community/forum/topic/502

Kind Regards

Helmut

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 05:44 GMT
Dear Helmut

while my essay may well lay the ground for interesting metaphysical analysis, I am avoiding any such analysis in this essay and thread - I am confining it to purely verifiable physical effects. This already gives rich conclusions, such as I have shown in the section on digital computers.

I agree that metaphysical analysis based on what I say will be useful, but my aim here is to take the theme as far as I can without any such metaphysical aspect - precisely so that I can strongly counter commentators such as the physicist calling himself "There is nothing new under the sun" on their own ground (see my post of Sep. 23, 2012 @ 08:05 GMT). My response to him is based in analysing purely physical effects.

The point I am making here is that topdown effects do not only occur in biology and the mind, they also occur in physics, and this can be show in purely physical terms, provided one defines causation and existence carefully: which I do at the start of my essay.

Kind regards,

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 25, 2012 @ 19:09 GMT
Here is a great exposition by Mark H. Bickhard and Donald Campbell of emergence and its relation to downward causation [see attachment]. Note emphasis on the relation between particles and fields in quantum field theory.

George

attachments: Emergence_Campbell.docx

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 01:12 GMT
Dear George,

I cannot understand why you show so much hostility to my involvement in the discussion.

I have explained to you that I have no problem with the ‘tightly integrated package’ of experimentally verified phenomena you mentioned. So what is the “debate” over relativity that you are talking of?

What I was proposing to discuss with you in my previous post was...

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attachments: FUSION_AND_FISSION_INTERACTIONS_OF_ENERGY.doc

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Viraj Fernando wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 01:39 GMT
Please note that in the above post the last part has not come out clearly.

It should read as:

At “classical velocities” when v is very much smaller than c, as v/c tends to 0, gamma tends to 1 ,

then x’ -> x = vt as in Newtonian mechanics and

at “relativistic velocities”: when v -> c v/c -> 1, then the general equation of motion of a particle becomes:

x’ = gamma(x- ut.v/c) -> gamma(x –ut) Lorentz transformation as in SRT.

It will now be clear that it is this modified version (which is only applicable to the restricted case v ->c) of the general equation, is what has been recognized as the “Lorentz-transformation”.

QED.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 06:00 GMT
My goodness, you are persistent.

1. Binding energies are indeed an example of topdown effects: I mention this in section 5.2.3 of my article here . If you want to discuss binding energies further please take it up with any nuclear or particle physicist, not with me. It's a standard part of what they deal with on an every day basis, using standard special relativity theory, which works perfectly.

2. The Lorentz transformation equation you want to alter -- which means you are indeed a special relativity denier -- is verified every day by the operation of electric motors and generators, because Maxwell's equations are Lorentz invariant. Please see 348 to 354 of Flat and Curved Spacetimes, where Ruth Williams and I show how the standard relations between electric and magnetic field due to relative motion follow from the standard Lorentz transformation laws, and specifically the equation you complain about and want to alter.

This relation is tested millions of times every day by the way standard electrical equipment operates.

George

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 06:42 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

If someone is persistent then she or he may be stupid or correct. I am hesitating to assume anybody stupid.

Being an old EE, I cannot confirm that the Lorentz transformation "is verified every day by the operation of electric motors and generators". Well, Maxwell's equations were made Lorentz invariant because Michelson failed to detect the medium in which light propagates as a wave.

I gave you hints to belonging papers by Phipps Jr.

Didn't you read them?

You might judge yourself the appropriateness of statements like: "This relation is tested millions of times every day by the way standard electrical equipment operates."

What about binding energies, I am quoting your whole section 5.2.3 Binding energies:

"When there are such extra terms in the interaction, this will result in changes in energies. A crucial example is nuclear binding energies, the cost of putting emergent nuclear structures together, which can be reclaimed on dismantling the structure. These energies would not be there if the structure (a nucleus) was not there, so it is a direct result of the existence of the higher level structure, nucleons on their own have no such energy term. Molecular binding energies are another example, of crucial importance in chemistry."

This reminds me of making negative (differential) resistance an issue.

Sincerely,

Eckard Blumschein

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 14:24 GMT
Hi Eckard

"Maxwell's equations were made Lorentz invariant because Michelson failed to detect the medium in which light propagates as a wave." Not so: Maxwell did not in any way use Michelson's results when he derived his equations, indeed this could not have been possible. He died 1879. The Michelson Morley experiment was conducted in 1887.

Maxwell's equations are Lorentz invariant because of their structure; indeed they are the only part of standard physics Einstein did NOT have to alter when he developed special relativity theory, precisely because of this fact.

The way a moving charge generates a magnetic field follows directly from the standard Lorentz transformation matrix L^a_b applied to the electromagnetic field tensor Fab, see page 349-353 of Flat and Curved Spacetimes for an explicit derivation of this relation. This is a valid derivation of the theory underlying all use of electromagnets in electric motors and relays. My statement is correct.

I have no idea what your point about binding energies is. They underlie the stability of nuclei, nucleosynthesis in stars and the early universe, and the possibility of nuclear energy. Their existence and implications are uncontentious.

I can't believe I'm having to debate special relativity issues now. PLEASE will you all take the time to thoroughly read and understand any standard textbook on special relativity. I do not intend to continue this debate.

George Ellis



.

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 17:07 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

May I kindly suggest to you for the third time, please read "On Hertz's Invariant Form of Maxwell's Equations" in Physics Essays, vol.6, number 2, 1993 and also subsequent papers by Thomas E. Phipps, Jr.?

My own knowledge is limited because I was just pointed to the matter by discussions here at fqxi. Nonethelees, I did my best reading and understanding the many...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 27, 2012 @ 15:51 GMT
The theme of this essay and this thread is the existence of both bottom-up and top-down causation in science in general, and in physics in particular.

Some interesting issues have arisen from the postings on this thread that have addressed this theme. To avoid confusion I'll deal with them in separate postings. Here is the first.

Issue 1: Contextual Logic

Frederico Pfrimer's...

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 06:27 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

Regarding the global aspects of causality and the connection with quantum mechanics, which I barely mentioned in my previous comment, I would like to submit to your attention the slides of a talk titled "Global and local aspects of causality", which I will deliver in 2-3 weeks at a conference. I think is that this has strong connections both with top-down causation and with your EBU. I would appreciate any feedback.

Best wishes,

Cristi Stoica

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 19:55 GMT
Dear Crisit

your presentation is very nicely done. I agree completely with your emphasis on the importance of global conditions, which of course is fully in agreement with my essay. I also agree about quantum theory maybe having influences into the past.

As to wave function collapse: you state "But we can assume that the interaction with the measurement device (and the environment, as the decoherence program requires) only disturbed the unitary evolution, and the collapse is only apparently discontinuous" This is pretty close to my concept of the apparatus acting down on the particles to cause an effective collapse. "The measurement of O1 in fact refi nes both the initial conditions of the system \psi, and those of the apparatus \eta". I think I agree: this is a case of what I call adaptive selection (which occurs in state vector preparation).

Where we disagree is that you want to preserve unitarity: I think its clear you can't. The top down action from the apparatus causes non-unitary behavior at the particle level. I think that's clear in the case of state vector preparation.

Best wishes

George

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 22:56 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

Thank you very much for commenting about my presentation.

We can disagree about unitarity. At this point I find both unitary and discontinuous collapse explanations incomplete. I will take this opportunity to explain why it is not that clear there is a discontinuous collapse. For example, in the case of the experiment with Mach-Zehnder interferometer, with...

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George Ellis replied on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 05:18 GMT
The system tells me I'm logged in but this box does not know it ...

Christi I'll have to look at this further but just a brief response:



"The case of preparation-measurement, which is generally considered the irrefutable proof of collapse, was explained at the slides you quote,.....Those slides present a possible unitary explanation of the collapse, by using the entanglement with the preparation device."

Well I know many people claim entanglement solves the measurement problem; but there are many more (including me) who disagree. The key issue is that you have to be able to deal with individual measurements, not just ensembles; this is because you don't have an ensemble if you don't have individual events. Diagonalising the density matrix does not reduce all its terms except one to zero, so decoherence does not do the job of showing how individual events happen in the real world.



There are essentially two ways state vector preparation takes place: (i) dissipative, as in wire polarizers, and (ii) by separation followed by selection, as in Nicol prisms and the Stern Gerlach experiment. The first is non-unitary all the way; the second is unitary until selection takes place, which is effectively a projection. Neither can be described in a unitary way.



"It is very similar to the Mach-Zehnder interferometer experiment with delayed choice: what we choose to measure determines the way the system interacted with the preparation device. " yes indeed: fully in line with my proposals of the significance of top-down/contextual effects.

Best wishes

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 07:41 GMT
In view of the interaction above, here is a note on how special relativity interacts with bottom up and top down causation in the case of electromagnetism:

The electromagnetic field is described by an anti-symmetric tensor F, made up of electric and magnetic field components. The micro level laws are (i) Maxwell's equations for the electromagnetic field, including the Gauss law, with...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 07:44 GMT
And I so carefully previewed those equations! Oh well, here they are:

[equation]E'_x = E_x,\,\, B'_x = B_x,\,\,\\

E'_y = \frac{E_y - v B_z}{\sqrt{1-v^2}},\,\, B'_y = \frac{B_y + vE_z}{\sqrt{1-v^2}},\,\, \\

E'_z = \frac{E_z + v B_y}{\sqrt{1-v^2}},\,\, B'_z = \frac{B_z - vE_y}{\sqrt{1-v^2}}.[/equation]

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 07:48 GMT
I give up. You'll have to read them in Feynman.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 10:40 GMT
One further comment: hidden macro assumptions

If one looks for example at the Feynman derivation of the magnetic field due to electrons flowing in a wire coil, the wire is represented as a structureless macro entity, even though it is made up of atoms and electrons. We just take this macro structure (the physical wire) for granted in all such derivations. This is analogous to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, which is the de facto way things are thought of by experimentalists: detectors and mirrors for example are indicated in their diagrams as structureless macro entities, because their nature and mode of operation is taken for granted. It's not what the experiment is about.

Thus the causal effectiveness of macro entities is taken for granted in both cases (the way the wire channels the flow of electrons, the way the mirror transmits and reflects light and the detector records incoming photons). Yes of course they are made up of atoms and electrons at the micro level, but that is irrelevant to their role in the experiment, which role is due to the macro organisation embedded in these structures. These structural constraints act down to organise micro events (as is very clear in the case of the wire: its physical structure prevents electrons moving sideways out of the wire).

This top-down aspect of what is going on is hidden because we take it for granted. It's just part of what we assume to be the case, so we don't notice it.

George

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Joel Rice wrote on Sep. 28, 2012 @ 22:34 GMT
It would seem that to make mathematical sense the universe should exhibit strong patterns at the local level and in bulk, thus bottom up and top down - the Planck spectrum of the CBR being the most striking bulk pattern we know of - as if things must add up this way.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 07:16 GMT
Hi Joel

Indeed. The calculations leading to understanding of this spectrum are basically the present day version of the resolution of Olber's paradox (why the is the night sky not as bright as the surface of the Sun): one of the oldest calculations of global to local effects. My paper here makes that link. The divergence underlying Olber's paradox is also essentially the divergence that prevented Newton from ever creating a cosmological model based on his gravitational theory. Ted Harrison's books Cosmology: The Science of the Universe is a great source on all this.

Gworge

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Joel Rice wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 14:10 GMT
Thanks much for the link to your paper. I was just thinking that a really annoying top down problem is how on earth a proton can have spin 1/2 with all this stuff going on with valence and sea quarks of all kinds, not to mention gluons and photons and weak bosons. It is just amazing that there could be any simple quark model at all. Some bigger symmetry must be herding these cats. And an even weirder symmetry must require that electrons hang around these messy protons - and this is supposed to be 'the simplest atom in the universe'. I bet that a crucial ingredient in hierarchy is being able to 'chunk' 3 quarks into 1 proton, and 4 fermions into 1 atom as a 2 body problem. Parentheses do that in a fairly natural way, at least at this elementary level. Hence to look at octonions. Now I must dig up my copy of Large Scale Structure - it has been quite a while.

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 05:40 GMT
Yes interesting.

To me the very important thing is how when you chunk things in this way you change their properties. Thus neutrons decay in 11 1/2 minutes when free, but are stable for billions of years when incorporated in a nucleus. Electrons interact by Thomson scattering when free but not when bound in an atom. A hydrogen atom is not longer a hydrogen atom when combined into water.

If you believe that identity is described by patterns of behaviour or interaction of an entity, then context changes identity. That's why the billiard-ball model of bottom up interaction does not work in most cases.

The Large Scale Structure book won't help much in all this. It's about gravity and does not deal with octonions. Actually rather than octonions I's go for geometric algebra

George

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 09:57 GMT
Hi George,

You wrote, "If you believe that identity is described by patterns of behaviour or interaction of an entity, then context changes identity."

Context or multi-scale variety? I think the former assumes independence of identity and context, while the latter assumes continuous functions over multiple scales. In other words, I think the model is not bounded by context implying arbitrarily chosen conditions; rather, self organized and implying self-limitation.

"Actually rather than octonions I'd go for geometric algebra."

Not sure what link you chose, because it doesn't work -- maybe Doran and Lazenby?

Hestenes' spacetime algebra is fully relativistic.

I for one am convinced that these extensions of Hamilton's seminal result do conclusively restore analysis to a primary role in physical models.

Tom

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 12:45 GMT
Hi Tom

"Context or multi-scale variety? I think the former assumes independence of identity and context, while the latter assumes continuous functions over multiple scales. In other words, I think the model is not bounded by context implying arbitrarily chosen conditions; rather, self organized and implying self-limitation."

Well it's hard to avoid the usual way of talking, where one says hydrogen is bonded with oxygen to give water, even though they are neither hydrogen nor oxygen once bonded. Your description is more accurate but also more difficult to follow intuitively. One hangs onto the idea that it is the components that make the object exist, even when, as your comments imply, they lose their identity when this occurs. It's a historical statement really, about where the combined entity came from.

Yes I meant Doran and Lasenby, developing out of Hestenes' work.

George

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Frank Martin DiMeglio wrote on Sep. 29, 2012 @ 20:10 GMT
George, physical reality (as we need it to be for our natural survival) -- including the physical experience/reality of ourselves -- is not "caused". It is not a creation of thought. Now, television is a creation of thought George. It has nothing to do with "progress" or "evolution". Therefore George (most importantly), what do you think is the legitimate and true goal of modern physics and modern science?

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 05:20 GMT
Frank

"what do you think is the legitimate and true goal of modern physics and modern science?"

It is to understand the mechanisms whereby physical things work (the natural sciences) and how livings beings exist and function (the life sciences), together with understanding the historical process whereby they came into being (the historical sciences.)

Science cannot deal with issues of aesthetics, ethics, or meaning. This is because it deals either with issues that can be tested by replicable experiment that any community of scientists should be able to reproduce,or with observations of things that exist historically where any scientist can examine these historical remains and test the theories about them that others have proposed. The core of science is testability by observation or experiment of proposed theories.

Things like television sets are the product of technology, which utilises science to create useful artefacts. They are the outcome of abstract thought, and exist because of top-down action from the human mind to the physical world. No scientific theory can either predict or explain the existence of television sets, because they are not predicted by Maxwell's equations, Newton's laws of motion, or any other set of fundamental equations that describe how physics works.



George

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Avtar Singh replied on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 21:33 GMT
Hi George:

Your description of science’s true goal is very limited and underestimated. It is not merely to understand the mechanisms whereby physical things work (the natural sciences) and how livings beings exist and function (the life sciences), but also to understand how the universe (beyond matter) works and how the human mind and consciousness work. Once these are understood, the wholesome science will be able to naturally provide meaning and purpose to the universe and life in it.

Because of the underestimation of science’s true capability, the mainstream has imprisoned itself into the vicious circle of material-only theoretical and testing pursuits leading to inconsistencies, singularities, and irresolvable paradoxes (QM & GR) that leave 96% of the universe unexplained with a virtual dead-end. The ultimate test of any theory is its universal, and not just worldly, prediction. Experiences with QM and GR show that even countless worldly experiments or observations are no guarantee of their universal validation.

Further, an operational framework of the Top-down approach would remain undefinable until the “Top” is describable in true scientific terms. The “Top” here means the ultimate universal reality or Cosmic Consciousness or Free Will thru which everything emerges or into which everything merges. We cannot a priory underestimate science’s capability in describing the holistic Top-down (Holistic) approach that would naturally reveal purpose and meaning to the universe and life in it.

However, if this is not understood as the true goal of science, we would promote demeaning of science by default.

Best Regards

Avtar Singh

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Conrad Dale Johnson wrote on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 15:00 GMT
George,

I'm in complete agreement with your thesis... what's surprising is only that such a common-sense notion needs to be argued -- i.e. that higher-level structure can impose constraints on lower-level behavior.

The underlying issue seems to be that while the rationale for reducing physics to a simple and compact set of principles is clear to everyone, there's no such...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Sep. 30, 2012 @ 16:12 GMT
Hi Conrad

You say in your essay "The problem is that measurements are inherently contextual. They can't be analyzed into simple, self-contained elements without losing sight of what makes them work." Absolutely right!

Just a comment on vision: you say "so it requires a huge amount of complex low processing to support the seemingly stable sensible view of the world you see as you glance around." Yes, but also it actually it requires a huge amount of *high level* information to interpret what we see, because the light striking our retina, even though it conveys a vast amount of information, does not convey enough information to unambiguously tell us what is there. Eric Kandel explains this in detail in his book The Age of Enlightenment: he emphasizes that it is only because of top-down processing form the cortex that we are able to form visual images.

Yes I agree with you about time and information (you may have seen my new paper on time). And then you say "So it's conceivable that what we're looking at is an evolutionary process operating through a kind of natural selection, analogous to biological evolution. Instead of many organisms replicating themselves, reproducing their species, here we have many local systems contributing to the reproduction of their common environment, as a body of shared, self-defining information." Yes I agree - you will see in my quantum essay how I also emphasize this process of adaptive selection works in physics processes such as state vector preparation. It also lies at the heart of the difference between Hamiltonian and Lagrangian dynamics, as I comment elsewhere in this thread. I thinks it a key feature of how physics works, as well as of how biology works.



Congratulations on a great essay.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 1, 2012 @ 13:45 GMT
Some time ago Hector Zenil [Sep. 23, 2012 @ 21:17 GMT] posted as follows, and I missed it. Here is a response

"How robust your hierarchy depicted in Table 2 for a digital computer system is in the light of Turing's universality? From Turing universality we know that for a computation S with input i we can always write another computer program S with empty input computing the same function than S for i. Also one can always decompose a computation S into S and i, so data and software are not of essential (ontological?) different nature."

Well it's the standard decomposition in current computers. Turing addressed universality but not how to do interesting things. That requires this hierarchical structure - else we'd all have to be writing machine code if we wanted to use computers, so very few people would be using them.

Yes indeed their is that ambivalence of how one implements things: I emphasize that in my essay. Its the key feature of lower level equivalence classes underlying higher level function.

"I also wonder if it isn't statistical mechanics the acknowledge that the view you are arguing against is not the general assumption in the practice of science."

I am arguing that statistical physics is crucially limited in what it can do. It can describe unstructured systems very well. Most of the systems around us are structured in one way or another, and their essential causal properties are not statistical. Computers are an example.

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 07:24 GMT
Following up my post of Sept 27, 2012@15:51 GMT, here is a second issue that has arisen through these discussions.

Issue 2: Lagrangian formulation, holonomy, and non-local physics

In a response to "The Universe Is Not a Computer" by Ken Wharton, I said

"You stated 'As regards the LSU formalism, this non-local approach is very interesting. You state "Instead of initial inputs...

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 2, 2012 @ 12:30 GMT
Addendum: Conditional branching in computer programs

A further case of essentially the same logic occurs in the operation of digital computer programs. Complex programs are built out of simple operations by

(1) chunking bits of code as a named unit (a module such as a subroutine, or an object in Object Oriented Languages) with local (internal) variables, so that this code can be called by reference to this name; this can be done hierarchically; and

(2) allowing conditional branching or looping, characterised for example by "if .... then... else ..." or "while A then X else Y". The program continues on one course if a condition T is true, and another one if it is false.

This is in essence another case of adaptive selection (see here and here ): there are several options, and one is selected in preference to the others if a selection criterion (the truth or falsity of T) is fulfilled. The roads not taken are in essence discarded. The effect is to change the sequence of the underlying operations according to this selection condition.

If the relevant variable is a global rather than local variable, then top-down causation takes place from the global context to the local module (what happens locally is determined by a global variable). This logical difference then goes on to cause different flows of electrons at the gate level (cf. the discussion of computers in my essay).

The underlying physics of course allows this logic to operate, indeed it enables it to happen. Essentially the same process of decision choice between branching possibilities happens all over the place in molecular biology (see Gilbert and Epel: Ecological Developmental Biology for details).

George

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S Halayka replied on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 00:44 GMT
Hi,

Your local/global variable example is a really good illustration of a really good idea. Forgive me if I'm preaching to the choir: Your illustration reminds me specifically of plain old thread synchronization, where a child thread's code executes (or not) based on the state of some parent-owned (non-local) lock variable with atomic read/write operations. Adding in dozens or hundreds of child threads all sharing the same lock, and it reminds me of one giant, complicated dance between the parent thread and the child threads, where both top-down and bottom-up causation play a critically important role (the children not only read the lock, they write to it). It is unusual for me to catch someone reveling so much in such a thing, and so I thought I'd try to share -- this computer stuff is fun and wonderful when you look at it the right way.

- Shawn

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Stefan Weckbach wrote on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 03:44 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

yesterday evening i watched your fqxi talk about existence on youtube (Copenhagen meeting). I am impressed by your deep and tough-minded manner of analyzing and argumenting against some approaches that claim to have solved the problem of time and the problem of causality in QM.

I now read your latest paper "Space time and the passage of time" and it confirms my...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 3, 2012 @ 04:44 GMT
Dear Stefan

I think your approach is a sensible approach that takes the problematic issues seriously and tries to make sense of how quantum mechanics works, and in particular how, according to delayed choice experiments, it "reaches back" into the past in an apparently acausal way.

"QM could "mimic" causality via intermediate steps of instantaneous information transfers between the "deterministic evolution" of the "wave-function" (surely with the help of a yet unknown "principle" *what choice* is to make is best and due to what criteria - surely a criteria that has something to do with achieving the macrocosmical causal consistence)." This mechanism you sketch out is, I believe, more or less in accordance with what I have written about in my post above: Oct. 2, 2012 @ 07:24 GMT: yes it is about choice between competing possibilities. Please see that post.

I'll try to get time to comment on your thread.

George Ellis

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Stefan Weckbach replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 18:51 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

thank you so much.

I think your approach to take adaptive selection seriously is as promising as it is important. Selection mechanisms do cover all parts of science, biology and - meaningfully! - also human cognition (assumptions taken for granted, the working of our senses etc.), statistics and so on.

Your elaboration on that helped me to remind me how important the principle of selection is and how easy at the other side it is to understand/contemplate it - but also to forget it!

You stated in your talk mentioned by me above that in our dreaming states we incorporate what is important for us to know/to incorporate. What's important is not conscious, but unconscious. This is very interesting in my opinion, because everyday logics seems to say, what is important has to be all the time present in our consciousness.

Well, in my opinion, what really has to be all the time present in our consciousness, should be the fact that human minds permanentely do select assumptions in favour of others and built their world around them. This happens in society as well as in science.

The principle of adaptive selection, as you explained it, in my opinion, is surely more than an assumption. It does reflect the coherence of the external and internal world of human beings. The fact that adaptive selection does play a key role in so many branches of science is meaningfull at its own right - in my opinion.

Again, concratulations to your current essay as well as to your arXiv-papers which i enjoyed very much!

Best wishes,

Stefan

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Armin Nikkhah Shirazi wrote on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 12:38 GMT
Dear Professor Ellis,

First, I'd like to note that the idea that both bottom up and top down causation (in the sense you defined it, which seems adequate to me) are necessary to tell the whole story about causal interactions seems so obvious to me that I am rather surprised that anyone would seriously debate it.

What I would be interested to know is whether you have considered that...

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George Ellis replied on Oct. 4, 2012 @ 20:47 GMT
Dear Armin

Thanks for the nice comments.

You say "possibly the largest scale phenomena for which we have difficulty finding an adequate explanation may also be unrecognized top-down effects, in effect manifestations of events that must be properly explained within a higher dimensional analog." I probably agree with that if you have a fibre bundle over spacetime in mind; otherwise nit so sure about it. The problem is that dimensions are discrete: it's a big notch going down a dimension.

You state the following: " The "collapse" in this case is due to the fact that if one "attributes" to the object extent along the dimensions it lacks, then it is no longer necessary to take into account all of the values, the superposition reduces to the representation of the property which has just the value due to the attribute extent. " Sounds just like the idea of adaptive selection (see the post above at Oct. 3, 2012 @ 04:44 GMT). Seems concordant with this.

Best wishes

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 13:56 GMT
This is probably my last post unless something comes up that deserves a reply.

The negative side has been the hate postings from people who resent that I am a main stream scientist, and postings by one individual that had no serious scientific content, they were just trashing exercises. I just delete these. There have also been the numerous postings that have had nothing to with this essay;...

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Janko Kokosar wrote on Oct. 5, 2012 @ 21:58 GMT
Dear Mr. George Ellis,

I found your essay very late, so I please you that you give opinions about my essay, although it is end of the contest.

You wrote that cosmological time arrow is top-down effect. This is also my idea, written in my article, section 6.

I agree also that the mach principle exists, thus that Newton's bucket can be explained.

I suggest also conscious decisions. They are also top-down causation.

Similar ideas of top-down causation were written also by Mrs. Walker on this forum.

Best regards, Janko Kokosar

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 6, 2012 @ 16:20 GMT
Dear Janko Kokosar

Thank you for that. We agree on the top down nature of the cosmological effect in determining a consistent local arrow of time, and the top down nature of conscious decisions. So I am happy our essays are in concordance.

Mach's principle is not so clear to me. There are rotating solutions of the Einstein Equations where Newton's bucket result is not true, so again like the globally consistent arrow of time, a selection of solutions is required for this weak version to be true. That is top-down action to the local scene from distant matter: but it does not matter much for local physics that on Earth distant stars are at rest in your local non-rotating rest frame.

Of course it does matter very much that inertia *exists*, and nobody has a viable strong version of Mach's principle that derives this from cosmological conditions - which was Mach's original hope.

Yes the paper by Mrs Walker is very nice.

George Ellis

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 04:14 GMT
Mr. Ellis how can you use the pieces or detached observations to explain the totality regarding causation?... to understand the whole, one must consider the whole? right or wrong?

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 04:52 GMT
Well that's a good question. Yes of course that must be true in the end, if you only have access to parts you don't have enough data to determine the whole. But this is mitigated by all the connections between the whole and the parts, which is why Sciama emphasized the idea of "The Unity of the Universe" (he wrote a book under that title).

Hermann Bondi made the point as follows: if you contemplate the existence of a bus ticket carefully enough, you'll be able to deduce that we must be in an expanding universe, and maybe even estimate the present age of the universe and the Hubble expansion rate.



The point is that the bus ticket firstly is made of carbon and other elements that somehow came into existence, and second they only exist because humans exist, so all the Anthropic coincidences emphasized by Carter, Barrow and Tipler, Rees, and others must be true. Nucleosynthesis and structure formation must have taken place; planets must have formed; evolution of life must have taken place; so all the conditions necessary for this to happen must have been true. Indeed one of the few places where Einstein made a serious error was in considering the possibility of his static universe: he forgot to think of the thermodynamics of stars, and how it could be that we could still see stars existing in a universe that had an infinite history, hence an infinite past time for all stars to burn out.

The whole is an interconnected web, so you can deduce quite a lot about the whole by contemplating the existence and nature of the parts. This is also true for example in the case of human beings: if you were just given say a blood cell and asked to deduce where it came from, you should be able to deduce quiet a lot about the nature and existence of animals from the fact of its existence.

The causal link that makes this kind of thought possible is top-down causation from the whole to the parts.

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 05:44 GMT
Addendum:

One quite interesting similar story is astronomical influences on the biosphere.

Life on Earth is conditioned by four astronomical features:

1. Existence of the Earth, and the gravitational pull towards the surface of the Earth. This gravity is essential inter alia to the existence of the atmosphere, which otherwise would disperse to empty space.

2. Existence of the Sun, proving our heat source that powers the whole biosphere.

Its effect on the Earth is mediated by (a) the daily rotation of the Earth, leading to the day-night cycle that all animals are designed to relate to; (b) the annual seasonal cycle due to the rotation of the Earth round the sun, that is crucial to agriculture.

3. Existence of the dark night sky, that provides the heat sink that enables the biosphere to work as a thermodynamic engine receiving high grade thermal energy form the Sun and disposing of low grade thermal energy to the sky. As I mentioned before, this is the present day version of Olber's paradox.

4. Existence of the Moon, that provides tides which have been crucial in the evolution of life on Earth. Many biologists believe existence of the Moon was essential to our evolutionary history (enabling the transition from the sea to land).

So these are all examples of top-down influences from astronomical bodies to daily life.

George Ellis

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 06:03 GMT
Final addendum:

I recommend for further reading, two great integrational books that relate to what I have been saying:

1. "We Need to Talk About Kelvin", by Marcus Chown. Its subtitle is "What everyday things tell us about the universe". Just what my last two posts are about.

2. "The arrow of time" by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield. Looks at the issue of time in an integrated way across all sciences.

Good reading!

Gerorge

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 17:04 GMT
Hi George,

I read the Coveney and Highfield book when it first came out, and I just pulled it from the shelf for another read, on your recommendation. I note the year of publication is 1990, which reminded me of another favorite from that year, Kafatos and Nadeau, *The Conscious Universe* (the revision in 2000 was even better). I think interdisciplinary research that has hovered strongly in the background for a couple of decades is ready to flower.

Best,

Tom

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Joel Rice wrote on Oct. 7, 2012 @ 14:14 GMT
It seems like a central issue in the Top Down view would be the Necessity of particular Building Blocks with specific properties - not just the possibility, so the Top Down can match the Bottom Up - without any 'coupling constants' to fiddle with. Perhaps the universe just seems to be 'finely tuned' because of the way equations are defined. And QM ignores the expansion of the universe anyway, and that curious seeming fact that Photons lose energy in expansion, but fermions do not lose their rest energy, and Hydrogen remains invariant. Which makes me wonder why there is so much emphasis on Quantum Gravity rather than the simpler problem of uniform expansion. Einstein describes it rather than explaining how it is possible. It probably can not be explained geometrically, but needs details of what the vacuum actually is - without the 'useful simplifications' like a background space. Perhaps one possibility is that relationships of elementary oscillator objects given by a direct product already include spacetime relations, as if the direct product has a 'lifetime' and then disappears, and thus bulk spacetime is being continually recreated.

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 14:15 GMT
Understanding the complexity certainly seems to depend a lot on the existence of Protons in Bondi's Bus Ticket. In a sense, by usual geometric standards, protons should be just as pointlike as electrons. In other words - Dirac should have been right, if one believes that a Clifford Algebra is the last word on physically reasonable geometry. But since protons are not that pointlike, something in the Odd sector of the algebra must be different from Dirac algebra, while leaving the Even sector as is. One might then suspect that Einstein could have some serious problems whenever the internal structure of protons becomes an issue at crazy densities in collapse or the early Bang, where one might expect quark-gluon plasma. In some sense the structure of 3-space breaks down, or the rotational invariance that Pauli assumes breaks down. Maybe in the most extreem case, instead of the Pauli matrices forming a vector, we get something like 3 uncoordinated oscillators, and even pointlike electrons are broken up. So a Black Hole could have all the oscillators that fell into it, they would just not 'self organize' into electrons and protons, unless space is big enough for rotational invariance to hold. Another possibility comes from seeing that Pauli Algebra can be generated by +++ or +--. The latter is not a Pauli spin vector, but is algebraically reasonable - perhaps only inside a black hole, or "before the Bang".

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George Ellis wrote on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 19:33 GMT
Re both the last postings:

this is getting into deep territory and interesting that is outside my proper domain of expertise.

Just one comment: "It probably cannot be explained geometrically, but needs details of what the vacuum actually is": this is of course the kind of thing that is involved in the landscape of string theory: the very nature of particles is dependent on the context of the specific string vacuum in which they are realised. This theory may or may not be true, but in any case it is an example of the kind of contextual effect I have been talking about.

George

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George Ellis wrote on Oct. 9, 2012 @ 23:07 GMT
Returning to an old theme:

"An Extended Synthesis for Evolutionary Biology"
by Massimo Pigliucci confirms how the present understanding of evolutionary theory emphasizes how "emergent properties of biological systems provide an additional (not a substitute) mechanism to generate potentially adaptive complex phenotypes.... This accommodation by a developmental system of perturbations originating from either the external or the internal (genetic) environment is a necessary consequence of the inherent plasticity of living organisms."

In other words top down causation changes the nature of the organisms selected by evolution. It's a key part of adaptive selection in biology.

George

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 10:10 GMT
Hello George,

If you have the time and desire, might you respond to this (reproduced from a post at my essay site)?

While browsing *The Demon and the Quantum* by Robert Scully and Marlan Scully (good book - recommended)I came across (p. 148)a marvelous quote by George Ellis. Robert Scully relates that at a conference, Ellis was asked: "Do we need quantum mechanics to ensure free will?" Ellis is reported to have answered in a Zen koan-like manner: "On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I think not. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I think so."

Scully used the quote to support his contention that nobody knows " ... is classical chaos enough to provide freedom of choice, i.e., free will?" I think he missed the point of George's reply (which I am going to ask George himself to confirm or deny, in this forum) for the following reason:

Just a short number of pages prior (pp 130-132), Scully had noted that the quantum eraser proposed by Marlan Scully and Kai Druhl that when published in 1982 'shook the physics community' in the words of Aharonov and Zubairy " ... underscores the statement (that) information is a physical quantity. That is, information is real and the utilization of information is what the quantum eraser is all about."

In his figure 9.6, p 131, Scully shows the wavelike correlation between erased potential and detected information (which corresponds to figure 2 in my essay).

That is the single message of classical chaos, Wheeler delayed choice, and the quantum eraser: Information is real. I think that the opportunity Scully missed is in realizing that George's comment could only have come from a physicist so steeped in relativity that no other answer than "yes" is possible. We need the continuous measurement function equally with discrete quantum detection to have complete information -- and objective knowledge -- of the evolving state. What do you think, George?

All best,

Tom

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 10, 2012 @ 16:04 GMT
Hi Tom

I do like your figure 2. Very expressive. And of course you are right - why does nobody start with the dead cat? - because the flow of time is real and we just take it for granted. And just reassembling the components of any living being once they are dead will not by itself make them come alive. Something else is needed.

"Information is a physical quantity. That is, information is real": yes indeed, meaning by that it is physically effective and so must be recognised as real - else we will have uncaused events taking place.

"We need the continuous measurement function equally with discrete quantum detection to have complete information -- and objective knowledge -- of the evolving state" Exactly - and that is what we need for a classical world to emerge. And the one thing we do know for sure is that a classical world does indeed emerge. It also gives the flow of time and the arrow of time.

The issue about life and the brain is that it also gives uncertainty: a freedom from classical determinism. Please note my post of Oct. 2, 2012 @ 07:24 GMT. The Lagrangian formulation does somehow reach back into the past and choose the suitable initial data we need at present. It is not impossible that this is related to free will. Yes I now some hard nosed physicist swill just scoff at me for saying that. Well some of the founding fathers of quantum physics have thought along the same lines. (Just out if interest did you ever read the Jung-Pauli letters?)

best regards

George

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 18:23 GMT
George, you have good intuition. The Jung-Pauli letters (Atom & Archetype) is a book I have owned since it was first published here in the States, and though I have browsed it, I cannot say I have read it. I acquired it at a time when I thought that I was through with philosophy, and issues of free will and consciousness, forever. I had studied Damasio, and became convinced that Cartesian...

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 11, 2012 @ 18:33 GMT
Correcting the powerpoint link

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Oct. 12, 2012 @ 12:32 GMT
Correction: I should know by now not to trust my memory. Einstein's "stubbornly persistent illusion" remark was on the death of his friend Michele Besso, not Godel.

Tom

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Member Benjamin F. Dribus wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 08:19 GMT
Dear George,

After initially struggling with the idea, I’ve been thinking a bit about how your top-down causation idea might look from the perspective of nonmanifold models of fundamental spacetime structure that emphasize the role of causality. It seems that top-down causation might provide an interesting new perspective on such models. For definiteness and simplicity, I use Rafael...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 09:13 GMT
Hi Ben

I think that is an exciting possibility to pursue. Please note that it might relate also to my posting of Oct. 2, 2012 @ 07:24 GMT. I am a fan of Causal Set Theory, and trying to develop it the way you suggest would be a great project.

Maybe there is a Wheeler-like dictum here: "Part from whole!"

George

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 08:53 GMT
Over on the Rationally Speaking blog, Massimo Pigliucci has an interesting posting: Essays on emergence, part I , including a link to a a very interesting paper by Robert Batterman.

An ensuing interaction with Sean Carroll includes the following post by Carroll:

"Sean CarrollOctober 11, 2012 4:46 PM

I don't know what it would mean to "derived physical reductionism," nor do I...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 17, 2012 @ 10:09 GMT
I've contributed the following further comment over there:

Sure the lattice emerges according to well defined bottom up principles. Once this has happened, it then exists as an entity at a higher level of scale than the particles out of which it is composed (you have to use quite different variables to describe this lattice structure than you do to describe the particles: these variables...

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Jayakar Johnson Joseph wrote on Oct. 13, 2012 @ 15:01 GMT
Dear George Ellis,

As the thermo-dynamics of universe prevents the universe from gravitational collapse, gravity is the causation that is descriptive in top-to-bottom approach, in that the thermo-dynamics of the matters of universe and the gravity of universe are in balance. This implies Homeomorphic segmental-fluctuations of universe in causality cycles and thus Holarchial clustering of matters is ascribed in Coherently-cyclic cluster-matter paradigm of universe. In this paradigm the flow of time that correlates the dynamics of matters of universe, is in references with the discrete-times that emerge from Eigen-rotational quanta of strings in the Holarchy of universe, in that the nature of reference-time is expressional as cyclic.

With best wishes

Jayakar

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Anonymous wrote on Oct. 18, 2012 @ 15:01 GMT
Prof. Ellis, are physics and causation fundamentally limited to vision or visual experience?

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 10:34 GMT
If you want to understand what physics is about, you should read a basic textbook on the subject. I suggest Conceptual Physics by Paul Hewitt. The chapter headings will give you an idea what basic physics covers:

1. Mechanics; 2. Properties of matter; 3. Heat; 4. Sound; 5: Electricity and magnetism; 6. Light; 7. Atomic and nuclear physics; 8. Relativity.

A more advanced text would include chapters on statistical physics and quantum physics, as well as topics such as plasma physics. Specialised texts will deal with biophysics, which is relevant to vision, but it is a very small part of physics.

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Author George F. R. Ellis wrote on Oct. 21, 2012 @ 20:15 GMT
In response to a post by Peter Bokulich over on Massimo's blog (see my post here of Oct. 13, 2012 @ 08:53 GMT), I've now posted the following response:

Hi Peter,

I appreciate your approach. The key issue for me is that you agree that there are real high-level causes. Good. I agree that given the lower level dispositions of states resulting from those higher causes, the lower level...

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Stefan Weckbach replied on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 01:55 GMT
Hi George,

i always enjoy your insightfull comments here. Your example with the digital computer is, as always, very interesting. Some years ago i answered to Florin Moldoveanu here at fqxi in the same way. The question was if nature is as deterministic as maths, should mean, if nature is strictly deterministic or not and if there is something like a proof for this strict determinism. I...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 22, 2012 @ 12:29 GMT
Hi Stefan

Thanks for that. Well the deep issue you raise is, "Is the universe causally closed?" My answer is, if you mean only the physical universe, the answer is no! Ok hackles are rising and squeals of protest fill the air, but please hear me out.

This depends on issues of ontology: What kinds of thing exist? I addressed this in my paper True Complexity and its Associated...

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John Merryman wrote on Oct. 24, 2012 @ 16:58 GMT
George,

You have managed to engage and referee a very spirited and tenacious debate about top down causality, but doesn't it eventually have to lead to larger issues in how the discipline of physics is currently structured? Since bottom up causality is primarily based on reductionism, wouldn't the opposite be wholism? By this, I mean "oneness," as opposed to the "one" it is usually reduced...

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Author George F. R. Ellis replied on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 07:17 GMT
Hi John

yes I agree with you about physics - and will be pursuing this. I'm just reading Robert Rosen's very deep book "Life Itself" which argues that causation is much wider than usually considered in physics - indeed that reductionist physics is a special case of the much wider kind of causation that operates in the real universe.

He also looks at the case of mathematics and how it fits in. You might enjoy this book.

Just one point: I avoid the word "infinite" in this context. This is needed as a mathematical concept, but does not occur in physical reality (Hilbert). No real causal system is infinite.

George

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John Merryman replied on Oct. 26, 2012 @ 19:46 GMT
George,

Yes, emergence is like stepping out of a closed and ordered space, into one that is open and unconfined.

Instead of infinite, how about "continuous?"

Georgina and I have been discussing the dichotomy of information as static and energy/reality as dynamic, in which I made the following point;

"We live in a very dynamic reality and it's that reality we perceive. When we try to understand it, we create these conceptually static models, such as Julian's triangles. Or saying 1+1=2. Then because our most distilled and concentrated knowledge is impervious to change, or we wouldn't consider it fundamental if it was subject to change, then we assume reality must be also fundamentally static. It is a form of circular logic."

I thought that might also apply to defining what is known and what is understood.

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George Ellis replied on Oct. 27, 2012 @ 05:55 GMT
John,

"continuous" is fine as an approximation. But in the end space time is almost certainly discrete at a fundamental level. The quantisation principle applies to space and time to.

As to change and dynamic reality: yes there is change all around but there is an unchanging underlying set of laws or principles, in my view - else there would be no stability or predictability. The change is founded in unchanging laws, one of whose deep manifestations is the fundamental constants of nature (see the writings of John Barrow and Jean-Philippe Uzan). However we try, we can't get order form nowhere: we have to have some basic set of principles - axioms if you like - from which to start our reasoning.

So why does reasoning work at all? In the end because there are some such unchanging principles out there that we can mirror in our minds.

George

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