Emergence is an attribute of complex processes (systems). As a complex process evolves new structures and patterns emerge. They are novel, unpredictable and cannot be deduced from the parts which make the process. The new pattern is generally associated with a new behavior of the process (system) that was not pre-programmed. We ought to realize that most complex systems are ongoing processes which evolved from some initial condition. The only complex system which was created as such is outlined in the first chapter of Genesis.
Nevertheless we read that “Biology (including biological evolution) can be viewed as an emergent property of the laws of chemistry. Chemistry (including the evolution of both elements and molecules over time) can be viewed as an emergent property of the laws of physics. Most of the laws of physics themselves as we experience them today appear to have emerged during the course of time making emergence the most fundamental principle in the universe and raising the question of what might be the most fundamental law of physics from which all others emerged”. (Wikipedia)
This kind of emergence is different from the above. Biology, chemistry
and physics, do not exist as such in nature. They are theoretical
constructs (hierarchies) to describe nature and as such they are static. Here
emergence means a transformation which cannot be deduced from laws of the
lower scientific hierarchy. Nevertheless many scientists do not distinguish
between the two kinds of emergence. They claim that when nature becomes
more complex it selects its novel (emerging) behavior from a huge domain
of the possible, by pruning the less advantageous. This domain of the possible
is purely theoretical. Nature does not select anything it simply emerges.
Yet these theoreticians lack the necessary concepts to describe this kind
of emergence. They even claim that the pruning rules are consequences of
the laws of science, and so will work universally.
We may thus distinguish between two views of complexity:
1. Platonic, which regards complexity as invariant.
2. Process oriented, which regards complexity as evolving.
The first still applies traditional physical concepts to complex processes, e.g. entropy, or random walk Yet real processes do not “walk randomly” and measures like entropy fail to predict their behavior. Nevertheless these “Platonists” enforce their view on the interpretation of bio-medical complexity which seems to me unfortunate.