Emergence of Consciousness: Friend or Foe?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.


In an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled “Emergence”, the crew’s spaceship, the USS Enterprise, developed its own consciousness. The crew members were perplexed as to how this could have happened until Lieutenant Commander Data, a conscious synthetic android with artificial intelligence, explained that

[c]omplex systems can sometimes behave in ways that are entirely unpredictable. The human brain, for example, might be described in terms of cellular functions and neurochemical interactions. But that description does not explain human consciousness, a capacity that far exceeds simple neural functions. Consciousness is an emergent property.1

Data theorized that the ship’s newly formed consciousness was a similar emergent property. Although Star Trek is science fiction, the concept of emergent properties has been much discussed lately in the fields of both technology and theology.

In the field of theology, Christians have often used human consciousness and objective morality as building blocks from which to craft arguments for God’s existence.2 This is usually done by arguing that theism provides a better explanation for these two phenomena than the most popular form of naturalism, reductive materialism.3 Reductive materialists claim that the only things which exist are physical materials and that all things, as well as all causes, can be explained by reducing them to their most basic material elements. Francis Crick, Nobel Laureate and one of the co-founders of the DNA molecule in 1953, summarized the implications of this view well when he wrote that “your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”.4 For an example of a Christian contrasting theism with reductive materialism, consider a recent work by R. Scott Smith in which he wrote that

[c]learly, naturalism is an ontologically reductive approach, in that what we thought were mental or immaterial things (such as souls, thoughts, propositions or even virtues and moral principles) can actually be reduced to what is physical.5

Although most naturalists are reductive materialists, there are a growing number of naturalists who agree that reductive materialism does not provide a plausible explanation for consciousness and morality. Instead of turning to theism though, these thinkers have proposed various forms of non-reductive naturalism. One of the most popular forms of non-reductive naturalism centers around the idea of emergence. Naturalists who adhere to emergence (from here on out referred to as emergent naturalists) differ from reductive naturalists in that they claim certain properties and entities cannot be explained by the lower level physical materials of which they are constituted. New properties, some claim even new entities, emerge when certain physical parts achieve a particular level of organizational complexity. These novel properties and possible new entities cannot be explained by their particular parts but are only understood properly when considered as a whole. Proponents of strong-emergence go even further and claim that some emergent entities, such as consciousness, have their own causal powers which cannot be reduced to, or explained by, the physical causes associated with their micro level material parts.6 This is a radical departure from reductive naturalism, leading Philip Clayton to note that strong-emergence “may represent one of the most significant philosophical developments of the late twentieth century”.7

It is for this reason that Christians must move beyond merely criticizing reductive naturalism, showing how it struggles to explain consciousness and morality, and also engage with non-reductive forms of naturalism such as emergentism. How should Christians respond to emergentism? I propose that it should be considered a friend in that it helps point out the failings of reductive materialism, which is still the most predominant form of naturalism. Such critiques encourage people to consider alternative explanations of reality, including theism. On the other hand, it should also be considered a foe in that it is often presented as an alternative to theism, one that can better explain reality. Christians should seize this opportunity, which has been sparked by movements away from reductive materialism, join this exciting conversation, and show how theism provides the best explanation for the reality of morality and consciousness. In this article I will first provide an overall framework for understanding emergentism. Then I will argue that if strong-emergence is true, it should be used as evidence for theism as part of an overall fine-tuning argument for the existence of God.

Historical Background

Emergent ideas were proposed as far back as the mid-1800s, most notably by British Emergentists in the late 1800s and early 1900s. John Stuart Mill is often considered the father of British Emergentism, though he never used the term itself.8 He wrote that

mechanics is a deductive . . . . science and chemistry not. In the one, we can compute the effects of all combinations of causes . . . . from the laws which we know to govern those causes when acting separately . . . . [but with bodies] new uniformities arise, which are called the laws of life.9

He went on to explain that

the phenomena of life, which result from the juxtaposition of . . . . parts in a certain manner, bear no analogy to any of the effects which would be produced by the action of the component substances considered as mere physical agents. . . . .10

He concluded that “no mere summing up of the separate actions of those elements will ever amount to the action of the living body itself.11

The actual term emergence was first used in this context by George Henry Lewes.12 By the late 1800s, emergentism was fully embraced by many British philosophers. Although C. D. Broad’s The Mind and Its Place in Nature is the most well-known work from this group, Conway Lloyd Morgan was the movement’s most influential advocate.13 He wrote that the levels of order in reality imply that there is “increasing complexity in integral systems as new kinds of relatedness are successively supervenient. . . . . [T]here is an ascending scale of . . . . richness in reality. . . . . [T]he richest reality that we know lies at the apex of the pyramid of emergent evolution up to date”.14

The concept of emergence fell out of favor by the mid-1900s, mostly because of two related developments. First, emergent ideas were often associated with vitalism, the notion that all living organisms have a non-physical animating element, a vital spark or élan vital.15 As vitalism became discredited in the scientific community, it was quickly discarded, taking emergence down with it, presumed guilty by association. Second, the main competitor to emergentism, reductive materialism, seemed to make several successful advances in explaining life and physics in terms of more basic elements, for instance genetics, molecular biology, and DNA, as well as subatomic particles, nuclear energy, and quantum mechanics. As McLaughlin noted, it is “no coincidence that the last major work in the British Emergentist tradition coincided with the advent of quantum mechanics”.16

However, there has recently been a resurgence of interest in emergentism. In 2006 Paul Davies noted that

during the last couple of decades, the mood has shifted [back towards emergence]. . . . . In large part this is due to the rise of the sciences of complexity. This includes subjects such as chaos theory, network theory, nonlinear systems, and self-organizing systems.17

Two men in particular have played important roles in resurrecting strong-emergence: Michael Polanyi and Roger Sperry.18 Michael Polanyi was a world-renowned physical chemist but became an influential philosopher who advocated for strong-emergence.19 Roger Sperry was a neuropsychologist, neurobiologist, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1981. He wrote that

if we are correct about . . . . “emergent determination”, these lower-level physical forces . . . . are successfully enveloped, overwhelmed, and superseded by the emergent forces of higher and higher levels that in our own biosphere include vital, mental, political, religious, and other social forces of civilization.20

Emergentism as a Friend

Christians should consider emergentism as a friend in the sense that it helps point out the inadequacies of reductive materialism. There are a growing number of naturalists who agree that reductive materialism is unable to explain key aspects of reality, including consciousness and morality.21 Some even consider this topic to be one of the most important issues being discussed in philosophy today. For example, John Searle wrote that

for many . . . ., myself included, the central question in philosophy at the beginning of the twenty-first century is how to give an account of ourselves as apparently conscious, mindful, free, rational, speaking, social, and political agents in a world that science tells us consists entirely of mindless, meaningless, physical particles.22

Many recognize that reductive materialism provides little to no explanation for the parts of our lives we hold most dear. For example, Thomas Nagel wrote that this conflict between reductive materialism and anti-reductive positions is a “staple of recent philosophy”.23 He went on to explain that on

one side there is the hope that everything can be accounted for . . . . by the physical sciences. . . . . On the other side there are doubts about whether the reality of . . . . consciousness, intentionality, meaning, purpose, thought, and value can be accommodated in a universe consisting . . . . only of physical facts.24

At its best, reductive materialism tends to ignore important aspects of our humanity such as purpose, meaning, and moral values; and at its worst, it denies they even exist. While arguing for “pluralistic moral realism”, which he maintains is metaphysically naturalistic, Kevin DeLapp commented, concerning reductive materialism, that

[a]ccording to such a conception, both physical phenomena and “human nature” alike may be satisfactorily understood in purely materialistic, if not mechanistic, terms. Despite the apparent explanatory and pragmatic successes of such a program, it seems prima facie difficult to account for “values” in a plenum of pure “facts”.25

Some argue that reductive materialism has failed, not only when it comes to explaining important aspects of our humanity, but also when it comes to empirical explanations, its most celebrated arena. Philip Clayton remarked that

[n]ot only has there been a complete failure to achieve the sort of downward reduction once triumphantly proclaimed by the unity of science movement, but we also now have good empirical reasons to think that such reduction is not even possible in principle.26

Consciousness in particular seems to present tremendous difficulties for reductive materialists. Naturalist David Chalmers claimed that “[i]n their own domains, the physical sciences are entirely successful. They explain physical phenomena admirably; they simply fail to explain conscious experience . . . .” yet he quickly noted that “to deny materialism is not to deny naturalism”.27

Some naturalists point out that reductive materialism has come to be embraced by many with a near religious fervor. Searle commented that “[t]here is a sense in which materialism is the religion of our time. . . . . Like more traditional religions, it is accepted without question and it provides the framework within which other questions can be posed, addressed, and answered”.28 However, some hope that change is on the horizon:

There is a growing band of scientists who are pushing at the straightjacket of orthodox causation to “make room” for strong-emergence, and although physics remains deeply reductionistic, there is a sense that the subject is poised for a dramatic paradigm shift in this regard.29

Nagel claimed that reductive materialism is a view that is ripe for displacement.30 Stuart Kauffman is one thinker in particular who has declared his intention to “demolish” the “hegemony” of “the Pythagorean dream, the dream of the ‘theory of everything’, reductive materialism” because he believes by it “[w]e have lost . . . . our consciousness and free will . . . . and with that loss, lost our humanity”.31

All of this pushback against reductive materialism might be one of the reasons why philosophers have become interested in metaphysics once again, some even becoming more open to the idea of theism. Dean Zimmerman observed that “[n]owadays, hardly any analytic philosophers will still try to argue that theological statements are meaningless, or that the very idea of God is obviously incoherent”.32 In fact, some naturalists are concerned that the failures of reductive materialism might lead us back down this path. In his critique of materialism, Howard Robinson warned that “[i]f science cannot encompass the subjective, then subjectivity becomes a door through which mystical, irrational and religious notions can enter and reassert themselves against the modern metaphysic of scientific realism”.33 As a case in point, Lawrence Cahoone, whose work centers around the concept of emergence, admits of being impressed with the fact that our universe “exhibits far more organized complexity than we have a right to expect given the laws of physics”.34 Presumably this led him to re-consider the idea of God: “I will confess that it never occurred to me in my career as a professional philosopher to make an argument for the existence of God, or that a reasonable argument could be made, until I began reading the works of current physical cosmologists”.35

Emergent naturalists have played an important part in pointing out the inadequacies of reductive materialism, showing how it leads to the dead end of determinism and a meaningless universe. Emergence thus should be considered a friend to Christianity in that, in its critique of reductive materialism, it encourages people to consider alternative explanations of reality, including theism. However, Christians should also consider emergentism as a foe if and when it is presented as a naturalist alternative to theism, an alternative that better explains the origin of life, consciousness, and morality.

Emergentism as a Foe

Emergent ideas can be, and have been, paired with various types of ontologies, including theism. Some of the early British Emergentists were theists, including the two key figures discussed above, C. D. Broad and Conway Lloyd Morgan. Broad maintained that emergence is consistent with theism and Morgan saw God as the “immaterial source of all”.36 More recently, some Christians have begun incorporating emergent ideas in their theology.37 Emergence has also been paired with panentheism, the view that the physical universe is part of God but God is more than merely the physical universe, and panpsychism, the view that consciousness pervades all of matter, even at the most microscopic level.38 Responding to all these forms of emergentism would take us well beyond the scope of this article. My purpose here is simply to note the many types of ontologies that have been paired with the concept of emergence.

However, emergence has mostly been put forth as a naturalistic theory. In El-Hani and Pereira’s thorough definition of emergence, they explain four features which are usually associated with this concept, the first being “Ontological Physicalism”.39 Some of the early British Emergentists were naturalists. In addition, Roy Wood Sellars, who helped draft the 1933 Humanist Manifesto, opposed any sort of religious interpretation of emergence.40 More recently, Terrence Deacon adamantly maintained that emergence is strictly a physical explanation.41

Besides atheism, I also consider most forms of pantheism to be naturalistic in the sense that pantheists believe the material universe is all that exists; it is just that they attribute some divine characteristics to the material universe as a whole. For example, Clayton described Samuel Alexander, another early British Emergentist, as “a naturalist who believed that only the natural world exists; and yet he argued that, as the universe evolves, it gradually takes on the properties formerly associated with deity”.42 Alexander wrote that “as being the whole universe God is creative, but his distinctive character of deity is not creative but created”.43 In other words, he thought divine attributes would be the ultimate result of the emergent process, not the orchestrator behind it.

For a more recent example of emergent pantheism, consider biophysicist Harold Morowitz. He proposed that what has historically been considered the transcendence of God should now be thought of as the pinnacle of nature’s accomplishment—human consciousness. Morowitz even used familiar Christian terms to explain what he claimed strong-emergence has accomplished naturally:

The emergence of the societal mind resonates with the theologians’ concept of “the Son” or “being made in God’s image”. This argues that the human mind is God’s transcendence, and miracles are what humans can do to overcome “the selfish” gene and other such ideas in favour of moral imperatives.44

How Christians Should Respond to Emergentism as a Foe

It seems that emergent naturalists want to etch out a middle ground somewhere between reductive materialism and theism. They acknowledge that reductive materialism fails to explain key aspects of reality such as morality and consciousness, but they do not want to go so far as to posit an infinite-personal God who stands above and beyond the physical universe. It is for this reason that Christians need to engage emergent naturalism, point out its weaknesses, and show how theism provides a more plausible explanation for reality. In this final section I will present two such strategies that Christians can utilize in engaging emergent naturalism.

First, Christians can challenge emergent naturalists as to their consistency. In other words, they can push back against such naturalists and argue that emergence is inconsistent with their naturalistic ontology. This strategy can be seen in the work of J. P. Moreland and Scott Rae when they argued that the “most consistent naturalist view is to hold that the physical realm is causally closed and that there are no “gaps” in the causal fabric to be filled by causes at so-called higher, emergent levels. . . . .45 They concluded that the “most reasonable view for naturalists to take is to commit themselves at least to what is called causal reduction: the existence and causal powers of “reduced” macroentities are entirely explainable in terms of the causal powers of the “reducing” microentities”.46 This strategy does not deny strong-emergence but argues that naturalists, if they are to be consistent with their naturalism, should reject strong-emergence.

There is no shortage of naturalists, both reductive materialists and those who accept only weak-emergence, who agree that strong-emergence is impossible given the basic tenets of naturalism, namely, the causal closure of the physical. Arguments from such thinkers can be used to point out the inconsistencies between naturalism and strong-emergence. For example, Mark Bedau rejects strong-emergence because he claims it has not been empirically verified, viewing it is as a speculative and mysterious hypothesis.47 The most influential argument against strong-emergence is Jaegwon Kim’s “downward causation argument”.48 Kim, not wanting to multiply causes beyond necessity, argued that strong-emergence is incompatible with the naturalist’s commitment to the causal closure of the physical realm.

Thus this first strategy attempts to push emergent naturalists back towards reductive materialism, arguing that this position is more consistent with their naturalism. At this point Christians could then revert back to the classic comparison between reductive materialism and theism as discussed in the beginning of this article—showing how theism provides a better explanation for consciousness and morality than reductive materialism. A second strategy for responding to emergent naturalists, one that seems to me more productive, is to argue for the following conditional: If strong-emergence is true, then this phenomena itself needs an explanation, and theism does the job well, especially as part of an overall fine-tuning argument for God’s existence.

For example, consider that Nagel, a naturalist well known for critiquing reductive materialism, recognized that emergentism itself could not be a final explanation because it too needs to be explained. He is drawn to the idea of strong-emergence but pointed out that Emergentists cannot merely posit that mental events supervene on complex physical state because that “would be the kind of brute fact that does not constitute an explanation but rather calls for explanation”.49 He argued that the concept of emergence is helpful in understanding consciousness, but that the explanation cannot stop there. He argued that even if strong-emergence was a causally correct explanation for consciousness, the result would not be intelligible unless there was some further connection. It would simply present consciousness as a “mysterious side effect of biological evolution-inevitable, perhaps, but inexplicable as such”.50 He believes a psychophysical theory of emergence is one serious option but that it has the

disadvantage of postulating the brute fact of emergence, not explainable in terms of anything more basic, and therefore essentially mysterious. . . . . [I]t relies on the large assumption that a reductive physical theory could confer sufficient likelihood on the appearance . . . . of the right kind of physical organisms to trigger that emergence.51

In his next chapter he expressed the same concern in relation to our cognitive faculties, specifically our ability to reason, namely, that emergence as an explanation just does not go far enough. He affirmed that an emergent answer seems “increasingly more likely than a reductive one as we move up from physical organisms, to consciousness, to reason . . . . [but] the historical question still remains”.52 He went on to explain, concerning emergence as an explanation for consciousness and human reason, that

if this is to be an explanation that renders the appearance of reason not a complete accident, it must in some way account not just for the physical complexity itself but for the appearance of just the kind of complexity that is a condition of the emergence of reason.53

Though Nagel helpfully pointed out that emergentism itself needs an explanation, he went on to propose two such possible explanations, a teleological one and an intentional one. He surmised that if emergence is the correct answer concerning human reason, then “it may be that the historical question will require either a teleological or an intentional solution”.54 By an intentional solution, he meant one that that posited a being like God who intervened and arranged the constitutive parts together in the correct way.55 Unfortunately he rejected this explanation in favor of a godless teleological one based on, what he referred to as, his own ungrounded intellectual preference.56 His godless teleological proposal is that, just like there are laws which govern the behavior of the basic elements, there are also natural teleological laws which govern the development over time of organization.57 These laws lead history to develop in a certain way, to go down a route which results in certain outcomes such as the existence of conscious organisms that can reason.58 He speculated that these teleological laws of organization and development are not caused by the intentional influence of any deity but are themselves part of the natural order.59 He admitted that he is not confident that this Aristotelian idea of teleology without intention makes sense but that “I do not at the moment see why it doesn’t”.60

In keeping with this second strategy, that is, the argument that if strong-emergence is true then the best explanation of it is that God exists and orchestrated it, I would maintain that Nagel’s idea of teleology without intention does not make sense. Or better yet, I would argue that teleology with intention makes more sense, that it is more plausible because, if for no other reason, we have just never witnessed teleology without intention. In this same vein, I would apply the same critique to Nagel’s teleological laws that he used against emergentism: teleological laws do not work as a final explanation because they too call for an explanation. I maintain that the best explanation of teleological laws, if they indeed exist, is that there is a personal-infinite God who intended them. It is hard to imagine intentions, goals, and teleology without a mind because in our own experience we have never seen such things without a personal mind standing behind them. Every time we see teleology within the universe on a human level, it is always the result of intentions or purposive influences of a mind, usually a human person. I see no reason why this should not be carried over analogously to the universe as a whole.

This is the overall fine-tuning strategy that I recommend using towards strong-emergence as well. It seems more plausible to maintain that human personality, which is inextricably linked with consciousness and morality, comes from a personal source rather than an impersonal one. Moreland pointed out that

[b]ecause of its impoverished epistemic attitude, etiology, and ontology, naturalism cannot offer a deep theory of emergence of genuine novelty and must settle for empirical correlations that beg the question against the theist who offers a personal explanation for the origin of emergent entities and their relation to the physical.61

Even naturalist Paul Draper suggested that the

probability that moral agents exist given naturalism is extremely low, much lower than it is given theism. . . . . [T]he existence of embodied moral agents are much more probable on theism than on naturalism and hence significantly raise the ratio of the probability of theism to the probability of naturalism.62

Not only philosophers but scientists too have noted that the organized complexity seen in nature is an indication of fine-tuning. Stephen Barr, professor of physics at the University of Delaware, argued that when we see

situations that appear haphazard . . . . automatically or spontaneously “arranging themselves” into orderly patterns, what we find in every case is that what appeared to be . . . . haphazard actually had a great deal of order already built into it. . . . . Order has to be built in for order to come out . . . .63

He went on to note that scientific explanations do not “allow us to escape from the Design Argument: for when the scientist has done his job there is not less order to explain but more. The universe looks far more orderly to us now than it did to the ancients who appealed to that order as proof of God’s existence”.64 Emergentist Paul Davies, professional physicist and Regents’ professor at Arizona State University, has proposed a similar fine-tuning argument specifically in connection with emergence. He wrote that by selecting the laws of nature “God is able to bestow a rich creativity on the cosmos, because the actual laws of the universe are able to bestow a remarkable capacity to canalize, encourage, and facilitate the evolution of matter and energy along pathways leading to greater organizational complexity”.65


In their battle against naturalism, Christians have mostly focused on reductive materialism, and for good reason, as it was the predominant form of naturalism during the last century. But there are now various forms of non-reductive naturalism that provide sophisticated alternatives to theism, emergent naturalism being one of them. It is important for Christians to understand what emergentists are claiming and develop appropriate responses. I propose that there are things we can learn from the study of emergence that will strengthen our understanding of the world. In addition, emergence seems to be a helpful ally in pointing out the problems with reductive materialism, specifically, how that position is unable to provide a satisfactory explanation for consciousness and morality. In that sense emergent naturalism could be considered a friend, especially when it prompts people to consider other ontological positions, including theism.

Unfortunately though, emergence is most often presented as a naturalist alternative to theism, as though by itself it can better explain the origin of life, consciousness, and morality. In this sense it should be considered as a foe. In this article I presented two responses that Christians can employ against emergent naturalism. First, we can point out the inconsistencies between strong-emergence and naturalism, showing that strong-emergence seems to violate a basic axiom of naturalism, the causal closure of the physical. Second, we can argue that emergence itself cannot be a final explanation, that it too needs to be explained. I propose that if the process of strong-emergence is true, then the best explanation for it is that there was a creative infinite-personal God who orchestrated it. This should be included in an overall fine-tuning argument for the existence of God. I believe this second response is the stronger and potentially more productive one.


[1] Cliff Bole (Director), “Emergence” in Star Trek: The Next Generation (CBS 09th May 1994).

[2] Robert M. Adams, “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief”, in Rationality and Religious Belief, ed. C. F. Delaney (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1979), 116-40. For an argument for God from morality and consciousness, see Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God (New York: Clarendon Press, 2004), 192-218.

[3] Here I will use Plantinga’s definition of naturalism: the “thought that there is no such person as God, or anything like God”. Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), ix. According to Stroud, the very charm of naturalism is that it rescues ethics from religion. Barry Stroud, “The Charm of Naturalism”, Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 70.2 (1996): 43-55.

[4] Francis Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul (New York: Scribner, 1995), 3.

[5] R. Scott Smith, In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2014), 108.

[6] Philip Clayton, “Conceptual Foundations of Emergence Theory”, in The Re-Emergence of Emergence: The Emergentist Hypothesis from Science to Religion, eds. Philip Clayton and Paul Davies (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 2-4.

[7] Clayton and Davies, The Re-Emergence of Emergence, 27.

[8] Brian P. McLaughlin, “The Rise and Fall of British Emergentism”, in Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science, eds. Mark A. Bedau and Paul Humphreys (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008), 26.

[9] John Stuart Mill, A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive: Being a Connected View of the Principles of Evidence and the Methods of Scientific Investigation (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1858), 211.

[10] Ibid.


[12] George Henry Lewes, Problems of Life and Mind (London: Trübner & Co., 1874).

[13] C. D Broad, The Mind and Its Place in Nature (London: Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1925).

[14] Conway Lloyd Morgan, Emergent Evolution: The Gifford Lectures, Delivered in the University of St. Andrews in the Year 1922 (New York: Henry Holt, 1923), 203.

[15] Henri Bergson, L’Évolution Créatrice (Paris: Felix Alcan, 1907). It is worth noting that this work was heavily referenced in Morgan’s Emergent Evolution.

[16] McLaughlin, “Rise and Fall of British Emergentism”, 23.

[17] Paul Davies, “Preface” in The Re-Emergence of Emergence, xi.

[18] Proponents of strong-emergence (also called ontological emergence) claim that emergent entities develop their own causal powers that can be exerted even upon the physical parts of which they are constituted (downward causation). Whereas proponents of weak-emergence (also called epistemological emergence) believe that all causes can ultimately be traced back to an entities micro-physical elements. For a detailed comparison of weak-emergence and strong-emergence, see M. Silberstein and J. McGeever, “The Search for Ontological Emergence”, Philosophical Quarterly 49.195 (1999): 186.

[19] Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), 381-407.

[20] Roger Sperry, “Discussion: Macro- Versus Micro-Determinism”, Philosophy of Science 53.2 (1986): 269.

[21] Not all of the authors quoted in this section are necessarily emergentists, but I have included them in order to show that emergentism is part of a larger movement within naturalism that is critiquing reductive materialism.

[22] John R. Searle, Mind: A Brief Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 7.

[23] Thomas Nagel, Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 13.

[24] Nagel, Mind & Cosmos, 13.

[25] Kevin DeLapp, Moral Realism (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 4.

[26] Philip Clayton, “Emergence from Quantum Physics to Religion”, in Re-Emergence of Emergence, 310-11. For evidence to back up his claim, Clayton refers readers to, among others, Terrance Brown and Leslie Smith, eds., Reductionism and the Development of Knowledge (Mahwah: Psychology Press, 2002) and Stephen Rothman, Lessons from the Living Cell: The Limits of Reductionism (New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2001).

[27] David John Chalmers, The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 170.

[28] Searle, Mind, 34.

[29] Clayton and Davies, Re-Emergence of Emergence, xii–xiii.

[30] Nagel, Mind & Cosmos, 12.

[31] Stuart A. Kauffman, Humanity in a Creative Universe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), xv.

[32] Dean Zimmerman, “Three Introductory Questions”, in Persons: Human and Divine, ed. Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 9-10.

[33] Howard Robinson, Matter and Sense: A Critique of Contemporary Materialism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 2.

[34] Lawrence Cahoone, The Orders of Nature (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014), 269.

[35] Cahoone, The Orders of Nature, 336.

[36] Morgan, Emergent Evolution, 298.

[37] William Hasker, The Emergent Self (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999). Hasker argued for an emergent dualism, that mind should be conceived as an emergent individual. See also Nancey Murphy, “Nonreductive Physicalism: Philosophical Issues”, in Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, eds. Warren Brown, Nancey Murphy and H. Newton Malony (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998). Murphy, a Christian materialist at Fuller Theological Seminary, argued for emergent mental properties.

[38] For an example of emergence paired with panentheism, see Arthur Peacocke, God and the New Biology (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986). For an example of emergence paired with panpsychism, see Stuart A. Kauffman, Humanity in a Creative Universe.

[39] Charbel Nino El-Hani and Antonio Marcos Pereira, “Higher-level Descriptions: Why should We Preserve Them?”, in Downward Causation: Minds, Bodies and Matter, eds. Peter Bogh Andersen et al (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2001), Chapter 7.

[40] Roy Wood Sellars, Evolutionary Naturalism (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1922).

[41] Terrence W. Deacon, Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Matter (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013).

[42] Clayton, “Emergence from Quantum Physics to Religion”, 319.

[43] Samuel Alexander, Space, Time, and Deity (New York: Humanities Press, 1920), 2:397.

[44] Harold Morowitz, “Emergence of Transcendence”, in From Complexity to Life: On The Emergence of Life and Meaning, ed. Niels Henrik Gregersen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 185.

[45] J. P. Moreland and Scott B. Rae, Body & Soul: Human Nature & the Crisis in Ethics (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 95.

[46] Moreland and Rae, Body & Soul, 95. See also J. P. Moreland, “Should a Naturalist Be a Supervenient Physicalist?”, Metaphilosophy 29.1-2 (1998): 35-57.

[47] Mark A. Bedau, “Downward Causation and Autonomy in Weak Emergence”, in Emergence: Contemporary Readings in Philosophy and Science, 155–88.

[48] Jaegwon Kim, “Blocking Causal Drainage and Other Maintenance Chores with Mental Causation”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67.1 (2003): 151-76.

[49] Nagel, Mind & Cosmos, 55.

[50] Ibid., 60.

[51] Ibid., 60-61.

[52] Ibid., 87-88.

[53] Ibid., 88.

[54] Ibid.

[55] Ibid., 59.

[56] Ibid., 26. However, throughout his book he gave several grounds for why he rejected theism—he does not find it anymore credible than reductive materialism (p. 22), it pushes the quest for intelligibility outside of the world (p. 26), it is merely a projection of our internal self-conception onto the universe (p. 29), and the history of our world includes huge amounts of pain (p. 117). All of these concerns can be addressed, and have been by able Christian philosophers, but doing so would be outside the scope of this article.

[57] Ibid., 66.

[58] Ibid., 67.

[59] Ibid., 93.

[60] Ibid., 93.

[61] Moreland, “Should a Naturalist Be a Supervenient Physicalist?”, 50.

[62] Paul Draper, “Cosmic Fine-Tuning and Terrestrial Suffering: Parallel Problems for Naturalism and Theism”, American Philosophical Quarterly 41.4 (2004): 311.

[63] Stephen M. Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 79.

[64] Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith, 79.

[65] Paul Davies, “Teleology Without Teleology”, in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, eds. William R. Stoeger, Francisco Ayala and Robert John Russell; Berkeley: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1998), 158.

Convincing Proof