We assume that effect follows cause. But could this most basic of beliefs be mistaken?
Mathematician George Ellis made his name focusing on some of the big questions of cosmology and relativity. Along with Stephen Hawking, he co-authored 1973’s The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, which attempted to describe the very foundations of space itself.
More recently, Ellis has been focusing on top-down causation – the process by which higher level organised systems, such as humans, interact with their own component parts. His theories have important repercussions across many fields of research – from consciousness and free will to understanding quantum phenomena. Ellis is also an active Quaker and was a vocal opponent of apartheid during the 1970s and ‘80s.
We spoke to Ellis about his theories, their implications, and the reasons behind certain resistance to these ideas.
What exactly is top-down causation?
A key question for science is whether all causation is from the bottom up only.