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Much of today’s science is reductionist (bottom-up); in other words, behavior on one level is explained by reducing it to components on a lower level. Chemistry is reduced to atoms, ecosystems are explained in terms of DNA and proteins, etc. This approach fails quickly since we cannot extrapolate to the properties of atoms solely from Schrödinger’s equation, nor figure out protein folding from an amino acid sequence or obtain the phenotype of an organism from its genotype. An alternative approach to this is holism (top-down). Consider an ecosystem or an organism as a whole: seek patterns on the same scale. Model a galaxy not as 400 billion-point masses (stars) but as an object in its own right with its own properties (spiral, elliptic). Or a hurricane as a structured form of moist air and water vapor. Reductionism is largely about content, whereas holistic models are more attuned to context. Reductionism (content) and holism (context) are not opposing philosophies – in fact, they work best in tandem.
The notion of emergence is the point of contact between reductionism and holism, and is of central importance to both the sciences and humanities. Inspired by the forest surrounding Albert Einstein’s summer house in Caputh, I would like to share some views on the intricate interconnectedness of existence and its relevance to the notions of emergence and deep ecology.
Shyam Wuppuluri studied at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University, Anantapur. He is co-editor of Space, Time and the Limits of Human Understanding (2017). Recently published books: The Map and the Territory. Exploring the Foundations of Science, Thought and Reality (2018) and On Art and Science. Tango of an Eternally Inseparable Duo (2019).