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Showing posts from July, 2020

Escaping Flatland - when determinism falls, it takes reductionism with it

For the reductionist, reality is flat. It may seem to comprise things in some kind of hierarchy of levels – atoms, molecules, cells, organs, organisms, populations, societies, economies, nations, worlds – but actually everything that happens at all those levels really derives from the interactions at the bottom. If you could calculate the outcome of all the low-level interactions in any system, you could predict its behaviour perfectly and there would be nothing left to explain. It’s turtles all the way down.
Reductionism is related to determinism, though not in a straightforward way. There are different types of determinism, which are intertwined with reductionism to varying degrees.
The reductive version of determinism claims that everything derives from the lowest level AND those interactions are completely deterministic with no randomness. There are things that seem random, to us, but that is only a statement about our ignorance, not about the events themselves. The randomness in t…