Scientific contradictions in materialism:
emergent and holistic properties, complexity, etc.
by Marco Biagini
Ph.D. in Solid State Physics
Materialists deny the existence of the psyche as an entity transcendent to physical reality and claim that sensations, emotions and thoughts are generated by cerebral processes, that is by matter. In my previous article I have explained how these ideas are denied by modern science, but here I will analyze in detail the logical and scientific inconsistencies of materialistic arguments.
In materialism, consciousness is considered a complex, emergent or macroscopic property of matter, but this definition is inconsistent from a logical point of view; in fact, science has proved that the so-called macroscopic properties are only concepts used by man to describe in an approximated way real physical processes, which consist uniquely of successions of microscopic elementary processes.
An example of macroscopic property often used by materialists is roughness; the materialist claims that quantum particles have o roughness, and therefore roughness is a new property, emerging only at the macroscopic level. This is completely wrong; in fact, roughness is only a concept used to describe a certain kind of geometrical distribution of the molecules in a surface. The laws of physics establish that there is an infinity of possible geometrical distributions of particles, and we can classify such possible distributions with different names, and elaborate the concepts of roughness or smoothness, etc. However these are only arbitrary and subjective concepts and classifications,used to describe how an external object appear to our conscious mind, and not how it is .
Also the concept of a macroscopic rigid and compact object is only an optical illusion, and not a physical entity. The image of the object we see is in fact only an approximate representation of the real physical object. No object exist in nature as we see it; solid objects appear to us as if they were uniformly filled with motionless matter, while they are only sets of rapidly moving particles; matter is concentrated in a very small fraction of the space occupied by the solid object, mostly in the atomic nuclea, and it has no uniform distribution as it appears to us.
The laws of physics establish that the possible properties of every particle or molecule are the same, that is the property of exchange energy with other particles or photons, and the property of movement; these are the properties of every quantum particle, and no aggregate of quantum particles can have new properties. Therefore, no real macroscopic properties exist.
The macroscopic properties quoted by materialists, are not objective properties of the physical reality, but they are only abstractions or concepts used to describe our sensorial experiences; in other words, they are ideas conceived to describe or classify, according to arbitrary criteria, a given succession of microscopic processes, and these ideas exist only in a conscious and intelligent mind. Therefore, the macroscopic property, being only an abstraction, presupposes the existence of consciousness. It is obvious that consciousness cannot be considered a macroscopic property of the physical reality, because the macroscopic property itself presupposes the existence of consciousness. We have then a logical contradiction. No entities which existence presupposes the existence of consciousness can be considered as the cause of the existence of consciousness.
Another argument used by materialists is the hypothesis that psychical life could be generated by the fact that in the brain there are many exchanges of information. Also this is a case of logical contradiction, because the concept itself of information presupposes the existence of consciousness, and so this concept cannot be used to explain the existence of consciousness. Materialists often say that also in computers there are many informations, but this is an improper language. In fact, in computers there are only electric impulses. It is the human mind who has established a conventional code that allows to identify specific successions of electric impulses as pieces of information. It is the same for the Morse alphabet: a succession of points and lines is not by itself an information; it becomes an information only if a conscious and intelligent mind has established a conventional code to attribute a given meaning to that succession of points and lines. So, every information is always the product of conscious psychical life, which proves that the concept of information cannot be used to explain the existence of consciousness.
I would like to add a comment on a typical argument used by materialists: the psychical life exists in the brain because of its complexity.
The invalidity of this argument can be easily proved with the following considerations.
First of all, the concept of complexity refers to a problem; but a problem exists only as a question which someone is trying to answer. It is then man who, being conscious and intelligent, puts a problem and tries to solve it; the man then decides to classify such problem as easy or complex. So, consciousness is a preliminary necessary condition for the existence of any problems and complexity; in absence of consciousness, no problems and no complexity would exist, which proves that complexity cannot generate consciousness.
Besides, the concept of complexity is an arbitrary and subjective; a given problem may be considered complex by a person and simple by another person. Since subjectivity presupposes the existence of consciousness, no subjective concept (such as the concept of complexity) can be used to try to explain the existence of consciousness. Also this is sufficient to prove the invalidity of the argument of complexity from a logical point of view.
In mathematics some definitions of complexity are used, but, as every mathematical definition, they are only arbitrary definitions, without any scientific value. In mathematics, in fact, it is possible to invent infinite definitions, equations, properties, and give them any kind of name, but they are only abstract concepts which existence presupposes the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. The equations of physics are the only mathematical equations which have a scientific value because they are the only ones which have been attested by experiments.
A common definition of complexity is the following: "a complex system is a set where the evolution of the single elements is predictable while it is not possible (or it is very difficult) to predict the evolution of the system".
From the above definition we can clearly see how complexity has an intrinsic conceptual nature, and therefore it cannot exist independently from an intelligent mind. If fact complexity is defined in relation to the capacity to predict the evolution of a system. Only an intelligent mind can try to predict the evolution of a system. Therefore, the existence of the psychical life is a necessary preliminary condition for the existence of complexity. Hence complexity cannot generate psychical life. We can also observe that typical examples of complex systems are ecosystems, meteorologic phenomena, the Earth Crust in relation to the possibility to predict earthquakes. If by absurd we hypothesized that complexity is the cause of existence of psychical life, then also the Earth Crust or every ecosystem would have a psychical life.
The concept of complexity does not exist in the laws of physics, where only concepts such as charge, mass, velocity, etc. are present.
The laws of physics are the foundations of all modern science and every natural process is determined uniquely by the laws of physics; in the laws of physics there is no law of complexity and no law establishing that complexity generates consciousness! The concept of complexity is necessary to explain no chemical, biological or cerebral processes, being all these natural processes explainable by the only laws of physics.
Let us analyse some typical examples quoted by materialists in the attempt to prove that the properties of the whole are not reducible to the properties of the parts. The first example is the electric conductor, where the electrons are free to move along all the crystal; in quantum terms, one says that their wave function is delocalized. The materialist claims that this delocalization is a new property, not-reducible to the ones of the components. This is clearly false. In fact, also the wave function of a single free electron can be delocalized, and therefore the delocalization is by no means related to the complexity of the system.
The materialist usually claims that the whirling motion of fluids is not reducible to the properties of the components, which is clearly false. In fact the motion of fluids is nothing but the motion of the particles making up the fluid. Since the calculation of the motion of all the particles would be too difficult, one usually make use of some simplified models to describe the fluid from a macroscopic point of view. However the properties of these models are not real properties, existing in nature, but they are only approximate descriptions of the real phenomena, which consist only in the motion of the particles, forming the fluid.
Another typical argument is the existence of some energy gaps in the electronic structures of crystals. By no means this property is related to the complexity of the system, since also in the hydrogen atom, which is made of two particles only, the possible values of energy are separated by gaps. Actually, the existence of permitted and forbidden values of energy is a typical feature of all quantum systems. The materialist usually claims that the bicycle is not only the sum of its components, which is clearly false; the bicycle is in fact only the set of its components in a given geometrical arrangement. Obviously, consciousness is not a geometrical figure, and cannot be explained as a geometrical arrangement of mechanical pieces.
In general, one can observe that the definition of every set is arbitrary, as well as it is arbitrary to establish which element is to be considered as a part of the set and which not. The holistic or collective properties, i.e. the properties of the whole set, are necessarily subjective and arbitrary, because they depend on the definition of the set. Since consciousness is a preliminary necessary condition for the existence of arbitrariness (and consequently of every arbitrary property), it follows that consciousness cannot be considered an holistic or collective property.
The incapacity to give any valid example of real properties, not-reducible to the properties of particles and the laws of quantum physics, proves the failure of the holistic (that is, antireductionist) philosophies.
The laws of physics always allow to explain directly all the properties of atomic and molecular systems; both in macroscopic and microscopic systems, there are no properties which are not directly reducible either to ordinary geometrical properties (since matter is placed in the space) or to the properties of elementary particles and to the laws of quantum physics. The only observable phenomenon, not-reducible to the laws of physics is consciousness.
Man can establish arbitrary criteria to classify natural phenomena, but these criteria exist only in human mind, and not in the physical reality, which is determined only by the laws of physics.
All processes occurring in our brain are uniquely determined by the laws of physics, and it is not possible to use concepts extraneous to such laws (the concept of complexity or information etc.) to try to explain consciousness as a product of some cerebral processes. Such concepts presuppose the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind, transcendent to the physical reality; therefore, such concepts cannot be used to deny the existence of a reality transcendent to the physical reality.
Let me give an example: if we put some bricks one over another, we will get always a heap of bricks, regardless of the fact that we can call it "house", "bridge" or "tower". The concepts of "house", "bridge" or "tower" exist only in the human mind; what exists in the physical reality are only quantum particles, such as electrons. These particles may occupy different positions in the space, so we may obtain sets of particles with different geometrical shapes. Since the electromagnetic interaction may be attractive, these particles may attract one another, and remain close to one another, forming some solid macroscopic objects. We may then choose to call a set of particles with a given shape "chair" and another set of particles with a different shape "table", etc. However these names and concepts are only abstract ideas which do not exist in the physical reality; these names and concepts presuppose the existence of consciousness, that is the existence of a conscious and intelligent person who analyses the external reality and conceives arbitrary concepts to classify it.
The fact itself that to try to explain consciousness, materialists need resort to such concepts, extraneous to the laws of physics, is a further evidence of the transcendent nature of consciousness. No concept extraneous to the laws of physics is in fact necessary to explain chemical, biological, neurological or cerebral processes; all these processes are perfectly explained by the laws of physics.
It is correct to say that the laws of physics are the cause of every physical, chemical and biological process.
If the explanation of consciousness requires the introduction of some new principle, extraneous to the laws of physics, this means that consciousness transcends the laws of physics; this is equivalent to say that consciousness is not a physical phenomenon, unless we changed the laws of physics.
As I have already explained, any change in the equations of physics implies the radical change of all their solutions, and then the lost of all those billions and billions of correct solutions obtained in this last century by the law of physics. Since the laws of physics are the foundations of all modern science, to change the laws of physics would imply the lost of all modern science and new start from zero. To hypothesize a change in the laws of quantum electrodynamics means to get out of science and get into purely speculative philosophy.
The logical process of materialism is the same of idolatry; in fact, the idolater thinks that the object (idol) under certain circumstances has a psychical life, regardless of the fact that it is made with ordinary material; this is exactly what the materialist thinks, because he thinks that the object (brain) has a psychical life under certain circumstances, regardless of the fact that it is made with ordinary material (electrons, electromagnetic fields, etc.)
A last typical contradiction in materialism is the claim that the electric impulse in the brain generate consciousness, sensations, emotions, etc.
Such a claim is incompatible with the laws of physics which establish that electric impulses in our brain are equivalent to all the other electric impulses out of our brain (electric impulses are formed uniquely by some moving electrons), and that all electric impulses generate only electromagnetic fields. You must change the laws of physics if you want to claim that electric impulses generate something else beyond electromagnetic fields. Actually, materialists simply take some key words from the language of physics, such as "electric impulse", "energy", etc. and then attribute to these words new properties incompatible with the laws of physics; this is a clear abuse of scientific language.