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Perplexed comments on Reductionism - Less Wrong

40 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 16 March 2008 06:26AM

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Comment author: Perplexed 02 February 2011 02:10:47AM 0 points [-]

Too short. But intriguing. Please explain.

Comment author: Sniffnoy 03 February 2011 06:24:31AM *  1 point [-]

What I mean is, your objection doesn't hold water because raw objects at lower levels can always be put in a wrapper to be made suitable for use at a higher level. E.g. if we consider an elementary particles level, and a general-particles-which-for-now-we-will-consider-as-sets-of-particles-level (yes, I realize this almost certainly does not actually work in actual physics), then in the higher level we have proton={up_1, up_2, down}, and electron_H={electron_L}. But for most purposes the distinction between electron and {electron} is irrelevant, so we elide it. Your point seems to me analogous to the statement "But 2 can't be the rational number {...,(-4,-2),(2,1),(-2,-1),(4,2),...}, it's the integer {...(1,-1),(2,0),(3,1),...}!"

Comment author: Perplexed 03 February 2011 12:45:31PM 3 points [-]

Ah! Good point. And now that it is explained, good analogy.

I still have some reservations about Eliezer's approach to reductionism/anti-holism and his equation of the idea of "emergence" with some kind of mystical mumbo-jumbo. But this is a complicated subject and philosophers of science much more careful than myself have addressed it better than I can.

Thank you, though, for pointing out that my argument in this thread can be refuted so easily simply by taking Eliezer a little less literally. Electrons at one level reduce to electrons at a lower level. But the two uses of the word 'electron' in the above sentence refer to different (though closely related) entities. As closely related as A and {A}. You are right. Cool.

Comment author: timtyler 03 February 2011 10:33:29PM 0 points [-]

Strong emergence is mystical mumbo-jumbo.

I don't think scientists should waste too much of their terminology on that sort of thing, though.