Emergence, reductionism and the stratification of reality in science and theology

McKenzie, Ross H. (2011) Emergence, reductionism and the stratification of reality in science and theology. Scottish Journal of Theology, 64 2: 211-235. doi:10.1017/S0036930611000068

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Author McKenzie, Ross H.
Title Emergence, reductionism and the stratification of reality in science and theology
Journal name Scottish Journal of Theology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0036-9306
1475-3065
Publication date 2011-05
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1017/S0036930611000068
Open Access Status
Volume 64
Issue 2
Start page 211
End page 235
Total pages 25
Place of publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Language eng
Abstract The success of reductionism as a method in the natural sciences has heavily influenced modern theology, much of which attempts to reduce theology to other disciplines. However, the past few decades in science have shown the limitations of reductionism and the importance of emergence. The properties of complex systems with many constituents cannot be understood solely in terms of the constituent components and their interactions. I illustrate emergent properties and concepts with specific examples from geometry, condensed matter physics, chemistry and molecular biology. Emergence leads to a stratification of reality which affirms that ontology determines epistemology. To show the significance of emergence for the dialogue between theology and the natural sciences parallels are drawn with the theology of Karl Barth. The approach here is distinctly different from most writing on emergence and theology which embraces ‘strong’ emergence (which most scientists consider speculative), an immanent God and does not engage with orthodox Christian theology. Aspects of Barth's theology which are particularly relevant include his view that theology is an autonomous discipline which is not reducible to anthropology or history, the irreducible character of revelation, and the emphasis that ontology determines epistemology.
Keyword Universe
Physics
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collection: School of Mathematics and Physics
 
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