There are two versions of the stance towards Emergent Phenomena:
I think that the arguments here relate to terms ‘explain’, ‘understand’ and ‘predict’.
Maxwell ‘explained’ the motion of gas atoms in terms of Newton’s equations.
While the equations are in theory capable of locating each atom at each time, there are three utter obstacles to doing this:
- Weak Emergence
- Emergent phenomena are mere convenience—unnecessary in principle but practically necessary.
- Strong Emergence
- Emergence is real and such phenomena cannot, even in theory, be explained in terms of behavior of the system components.
Nonetheless Newtons equations are falsifiable without having been falsified.
(Actually they were by Relativity and Maxwell’s constructs were easily adapted (some would say simplified) to fit the new rules.)
- There is no way to learn the initial positions.
- There is no way to get the position of any atom with precision necessary to know how it acts upon other atoms.
- No computer could be built to perform these calculations.