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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 8  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 157-170

On emergent quantities, mental perceptions and constructs, and agencies: A holistic view of existence

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, NV, USA

Date of Submission14-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance16-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication13-Aug-2021

Correspondence Address:
Yunus A Cengel
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, NV
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jnbs.jnbs_33_21

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There is general agreement that physical entities exist, but there is widespread disagreement on whether nonphysical entities such as emergent quantities, mental constructs, and agencies qualify as existence and the nature of those quantities. At the core of this disagreement lie subjective worldviews and ideological convictions rather than objective reasoning based on observations. Further, there is a growing tendency to view all nonphysical quantities as properties of organization and label them emergent qualities which appear out of nothing and disappear into nothingness. In this paper we present plausible arguments that emergent qualities are not limited to large assemblies of matter and that they are encountered even at subatomic level. We also make a distinction among different kinds of nonphysical entities such as mental constructs invented by the mind and entities discovered by inference, such as the laws of nature. Finally, we present a novel view of the notion of agency, such as the agency of physics which is comprised of the laws and forces of physics, characterized by causal power with the capacity to subjugate and manipulate physical entities made of matter–energy. Once the emergent quantities, mental constructs, and agencies are properly characterized and their concealed interconnections revealed, we can develop a better understanding of reality and envisage how physical and nonphysical entities interplay and how they can be manipulated.

Keywords: Agencies, emergent quantities, mental constructs, nonphysical existence, ontology, physical realm

How to cite this article:
Cengel YA. On emergent quantities, mental perceptions and constructs, and agencies: A holistic view of existence. J Neurobehav Sci 2021;8:157-70

How to cite this URL:
Cengel YA. On emergent quantities, mental perceptions and constructs, and agencies: A holistic view of existence. J Neurobehav Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 26];8:157-70. Available from: http://www.jnbsjournal.com/text.asp?2021/8/2/157/323811

  Introduction Top

The enterprise of objective scientific inquiry is an attempt to unveil the subjective invisible mechanisms behind the inner workings of the observable natural world. The enterprise of science is the pursuit to understand the natural world and build a factual model of it collectively by inference based on objective observations. Science is coding and transposing actual structures of physical realm perceivable by the five senses into representative abstract or nonphysical structures of phenomenological realm perceivable by the mind. The new insights gained by the manipulation of these abstract structures, including the mathematical representations, are then decoded back into the physical realm.

The appearance of emergent qualities is contingent upon the existence of the physical entities on which they emerge since, otherwise, we cannot perceive the emergent qualities. This sets the stage for the perfect illusion that emergent qualities originate from the physical entity, especially when considering the tendency of the mind to be conditioned when it sees two things that always appear and disappear together. The absence of a tangible source for emergent qualities reinforces this notion. However, intimacy should not be confused with causality. Sustained intimacy is not a valid reason for causality. Unless a causal mechanism is identified and replicated, the claim that emergent qualities originate from physical entities themselves remains an unsubstantiated hypothesis.

Anderson,[1] in the visionary article More is Different, published in Science calls for serious attention to the emergence phenomenon at different levels, with a new set of laws, concepts, and principles at each level – such as during transition from chemistry to biology: “At each stage, entirely new laws, concepts, and generalizations are necessary, requiring inspiration and creativity to just as great a degree as in the previous one. Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry.[…] In this case, we can see how the whole becomes not only more than but very different from the sum of its parts.[…] Thus, with increasing complication at each stage, we go on up the hierarchy of the sciences. We expect to encounter fascinating and, I believe, very fundamental questions at each stage in fitting together less complicated pieces into the more complicated system and understanding the basically new types of behavior which can result.

The laws of nature are expressions of order, regularity, and organization in the fast-changing dynamic environment of the universe. The laws of nature act globally without any discrimination or preferential treatment. They firmly control physical existence via the forces of nature, which are recognized as pull–push effects. Newton, for example, noticed that things fall when dropped; they do not go up or remain suspended in midair. He reasoned that this can only happen if there is a downward acting force or influence on physical objects, and from there, he inferred the existence of the invisible force of gravity. He then noticed that the force is everywhere, acting consistently in a repeatable and predictable way, which led him to infer the invisible law of gravity which is perhaps the most familiar universal law of physics. The set of the laws and forces of physics qualifies as an agent with causal power, as discussed later, since they govern the behavior of all physical existence in the entire universe, rendering the behavior of terrestrial and extraterrestrial objects predictable.

Even in social life, order, regularity, and organization are associated with the laws and regulations and the implementation of them. Good laws and effective enforcement indicate good governance. When we visit a city or country for the first time and notice an orderly flow of life and conduct of business, we praise their laws and the enforcement agencies, even if we do not have the faintest idea of what those laws are and which agencies are enforcing them.

The force of gravity is a global phenomenon since any mass anywhere in the universe influences that force of attraction acting on any other mass anywhere in the universe regardless of the distance. Furthermore, electrically charged particles repel each other if they are of the same charge and attract each other if they are of the opposite kind, with a force inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Therefore, two electrons repel each other, but an electron and a proton attract each other. Fluid at a higher pressure flows toward a region of low pressure (as in the case of wind), heat at a higher temperature flows in the direction of decreasing temperature; and charged particles flow from a region of higher electric potential toward a region of lower one. All of these are physical influences since they can be observed, sensed, and measured. These influences act the same way everywhere in the universe albeit at different strength. We have no idea why matter attracts matter and where that influence originates from.

With a constricted view of existence, and resistance to change, the most profound and fascinating phenomena in the existence go unnoticed. There is a need to think out of the box and reassess the status quo. As the microbiologist, Woese[2] points out, “Science is an endless search for truth. Any representation of reality we develop can be only partial. There is no finality, sometimes no single best representation. There is only deeper understanding, more revealing and enveloping representations. Scientific advance, then, is a succession of newer representations superseding older ones, either because an older one has run its course and is no longer a reliable guide for a field or because the newer one is more powerful, encompassing, and productive than its predecessor (s).”

There is an abundance of literature on existence, notably by Goldstein,[3] Corning,[4] and O'Connor and Wong[5] on emergence as well as Davidson[6] and Schlosser[7] on agency. There are considerable differences in the definitions and descriptions of different forms of existence and inconsistencies abound. For example, agencies are commonly treated as emergent quantities and thus properties of assemblies of matter. With the systematic and logical ontological framework presented here, we are bringing coherence among emergent qualities, mental constructs, and agencies. We are not adding anything new to our inventory of existence; we are simply putting all existence into their rightful places and logically interconnecting, realigning, and recataloging them.

In addition, we are not redefining the physical realm, which is the premise of sciences; we are simply removing the centuries-old contention that limits existence to the physical realm. We are granting nonphysical entities, including emergent qualities and mental constructs, the status of existence, though not necessarily external existence – existence of its own right out there, not confined by the bounds of the human mind, yet discoverable by the mind. In short, we are democratizing existence by adapting an inclusive approach and bringing it in line with our felt experience of existence, as argued by Feyerabend.[8] As Woermann[9] puts it, “To my mind, the hallmark of a successful philosophy is thus related to the degree to which it resonates with our views on, and experiences in, the world.”

  Physical and Nonphysical Existence Top

We are all familiar with matter and energy since, from sunlight to our bodies, all physical things that we can see or feel are made of matter and/or energy or matter–energy for short. Physical entities are comprised of a slew of fundamental particles made of mass and/or energy, such as electrons and photons, listed in the standard model of particle physics, constituting the basic building blocks of the physical existence. Therefore, anything made of fundamental particles, such as a chair or the radio waves, is a physical being, which is also called an objective, material, visible, or tangible thing. Everything else is a nonphysical being, also called a subjective, immaterial, invisible, virtual, abstract, or intangible thing. The phrases being, entity, thing, and quantity mean basically the same thing and are used interchangeably.

Things made of matter–energy, together with the laws and forces of physics, constitute the physical realm. Everything else – such as meaning, life, intelligence, consciousness, perceptions (sensations of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, pain, pleasure, etc.), beauty, dreams, images in mirrors, shapes, the laws of nature, entropy, quantum fields, mental constructs, and conceptions such as space, time, mathematics, thoughts, imaginations, knowledge, and ideas – comprises the nonphysical realm, as shown in [Figure 1]. The physical realm is also called loosely the visible realm or the physical world, while the nonphysical realm is also called the subjective realm, the invisible world, the phenomenal world, the abstract realm, or the realm of abstractions. The physical and nonphysical realms together constitute the entire realm of existence since we cannot think of any other forms of existence.[10] That is,
Figure 1: The physical realm comprising entities made of matter–energy and the nonphysical realm comprising entities not made of matter–energy together constitute the entire realm of existence. An entity that contains even a single elemental particle of physics with mass or energy in its composition is a physical entity; everything else is a nonphysical entity

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Realm of existence = Physical realm + Nonphysical (or subjective) realm.

Physical existence is subject to the laws of physics such as the conservation of mass and energy, but the nonphysical existence is not. Physical existence is bound by space and time, but nonphysical existence is not. As such, nonphysical existence can appear out of nothing and disappear into nothingness and can be everywhere without being anywhere. Immaterial things such as light, heat, and radiobroadcasts are also physical existence since they can easily be sensed by instruments and quantified, although they do not have a sturdy physical body made of matter, which is simply a pocket of energy with the acquired property of mass. Physical and nonphysical existence may or may not interact with each other, and the existence of one may or may not depend on the other.

Most physical properties such as shape, color, hardness, conductivity, smell, taste, and sound are also nonphysical, as explained below. However, we commonly view them as being physical since they are intertwined with physical things and change when the physical thing undergoes a change. Even distance, heights, angles, and coordinate systems are subjective entities since they are mental constructs and not physical entities made of matter–energy. Of course, under nonphysical or subjective realm, which is the complement of the physical realm, everything goes, including sensations such as pain and pleasure.

Some label certain subjective qualities such as consciousness and free will as illusions.[11] However, this does not matter at all: Even illusions, hallucinations, imaginations, and conceptions are all nonphysical entities by definition since they are not made of matter–energy. Physical existence is conserved giving rise to the conservation of mass and energy principle. Nonphysical things, however, are not conserved. As philosopher Emerson[12] puts it, “So of cheerfulness, or a good temper—the more it is spent, the more of it remains.” Therefore, energy cannot be created out of nothing, but entropy, beauty, and melody can. Physical existence can be positively confirmed. However, nonphysical existence can only be logically reasoned and inferred. There is universal agreement on confirmed physical existence, but disagreements abound about nonphysical existence. Prejudices deeply rooted in worldviews and ideological convictions often prevail and influence judgments.

Forces, such as the force of gravity and the force of repulsion between electrons, are not physical entities per se in a strict sense since forces are not made of matter–energy and they can be created and destroyed. Therefore, there is no such thing as “conservation of force.” Forces are characterized as physical influences since forces affect physical entities and the strength of the exerted influence can be measured. The passage of electric current in a wire generates electromotive force out of nowhere, for example, and we can lift a heavy object like a car with one hand by using a lever or a carjack. Further, when an electron and a proton combine into a neutron, the forces associated with the proton and the electron disappear. When a neutron is split into a proton and electron, the forces associated with these massive particles reappear. Therefore, at the fundamental level, the forces of physics appear to emerge on the building blocks of matter. The attractive force of gravity, for example, emerges on mass out of nowhere, and thus, it can be viewed as an emergent property of mass. Likewise, the attractive and repulsive forces emerge on charged particles such as electron, protons, and quarks, but not on neutrons or neutrinos.

The physical realm is the domain of inquiry of sciences, but limiting existence to the physical realm is a philosophical thought or worldview known as materialism or physicalism and not science. It is odd that as we probe deeper into the solid matter, we end up with nonmatter. In the book The Matter Myth, Davies and Gribbin[13] depict it as ”Then came quantum theory, which totally transformed our image of matter. The old assumption that the microscopic world of atoms was simply a scaled-down version of the everyday world had to be abandoned. Newton's deterministic machine was replaced by a shadowy and paradoxical conjunction of waves and particles, governed by the laws of chance rather than the rigid rules of causality. An extension of the quantum theory, known as quantum field theory, goes beyond even this; it paints a picture in which solid matter dissolves away, to be replaced by weird excitations and vibrations of invisible field energy. In this theory, little distinction remains between material substance and apparent empty space, which itself seethes with ephemeral quantum activity.

The predominant reality of physical realm continues to be questioned: “One begins to wonder whether there is something fundamentally flawed in the idea of a world built up out of matter.[…] One has the sense that, at the end of the day, the speculation of the philosophers and the data of scientists are pointing in the same surprising direction. At the root of all physical reality is not 'primary matter' or little atoms of 'stuff'.”[14]

All considered, the visible physical realm might just be the tip of the iceberg of existence, with a rich invisible ontology concealed lurking underneath. The physical and nonphysical realms are intertwined, and they influence or interact with each other. The nonphysical realm is outside the domain of the direct inquiry of sciences, but scientific inquiries may have profound ramifications on the nonphysical realm, such as emergent properties, because of the interconnectedness of the physical and nonphysical realms. As such, we have considerable leverage to manipulate nonphysical existence through physical tools.

In addition, many properties or features of physical entities are subjective since they are emergent properties and are not reducible to matter–energy. Therefore, all physical beings come packaged with some intrinsic subjective qualities that cannot be traced back to the properties of their parts. As such, all physical existence is in fact a combination of the physical and nonphysical realms, giving rise to the phrase “the whole is not only more than but very different from the sum of its parts.”[1]

Properties of the physical things as well as the laws of physics are nonphysical existence since they are not made of matter–energy. The forces of physics such as the force of gravity are not made of matter–energy either, as stated before. Even temperature, pressure, and density are conceptual representations of the levels of molecular activity and compactness of physical beings and are not physical entities themselves. However, they are considered part of the physical realm since the properties qualify and the laws and forces govern the physical beings. Therefore, the physical entities and the overarching physical realm can be expressed as follows:

Physical entities = Matter and Energy + Properties

Physical realm = Physical entities + Laws and forces of physics


Physical realm = Matter and Energy + Properties + Laws and forces of physics.

By definition, an entity that contains even a single elemental particle of physics with mass or energy in its composition (such as an electron or a photon) is a physical being and is therefore a constituent of the physical realm. Obviously, life does not qualify as a physical entity, but living beings do since they have physical bodies made of mass–energy. Besides, all physical beings are comprised of a physical carcass made of matter–energy and a set of nonphysical qualities that they exhibit. In addition, physical entities, especially large complex assemblies, can temporarily acquire additional qualities at certain combinations on top of their intrinsic qualities, which always accompany them. Therefore, distinction should be made between inherent intrinsic qualities of physical beings such as the amounts of mass and energy and acquired extrinsic qualities such as color, length, shape, volume, life, and consciousness. Note that the description and thus the characterization of physical things are phenomenological and thus nonphysical.

The physical realm is comprised of the animate and inanimate realms, with life serving as the distinguishing quality between the two. The nonphysical realm can be considered at least in three categories, depending on the origin, character, and association of the nonphysical beings with the physical realm, as shown in [Figure 2].
Figure 2: The physical and nonphysical realms together constitute the entire realm of existence. All physical existence, including elemental particles, possesses some qualities that are emergent and thus nonphysical, and therefore, any physical existence is actually a combination of physical and nonphysical existence

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  1. Emergent qualities that emerge out of nowhere on physical beings made of matter–energy and qualify them in a deterministic repeatable and predictable way and disappear when the physical being is decomposed into its constituents
  2. Mental constructs that are the mental renderings of the perceptions, discoveries, and inventions of the mind in the nonphysical realm
  3. Agencies that are virtual mechanisms or active agents with the ability to control and manipulate matter.

That is,

Physical realm = Animate realm + Inanimate realm

Nonphysical realm = Emergent quantities + Mental constructs + Agencies + Others.

Note that the emergent qualities manifest on physical entities and the mental constructs emanate from a mind as the renderings of the mind. In addition, emergent qualities and agencies are perceived by the mind, but they are not created by the mind. Therefore, mental renderings of perceptions should not be confused with mental creations such as imaginations, dreams, plans, thoughts, and designs. The images that appear in mirrors are nonphysical existence as well since, unlike the images on LCD TVs, they are not made of light.

Meaning, which is the essence of information and represented by symbols such as words, shapes, and 0's and 1's, is also another form of nonphysical existence. Meaning is not a quality that emerges on the symbols of information; it is ascribed by a conscious mind to the symbols. This is evident from the same meaning being represented by different symbols in different languages or the same words meaning different things. The names that we use in languages are symbols of representation for physical or nonphysical entities. However, adjectives are symbols of representation for nonphysical qualities that qualify entities.

A familiar entity that qualifies as agency is the set of universal laws and forces of physics, which governs the physical realm, and the other is life which comes with a particular set of laws and influences of its own and controls the bodies of living beings, as discussed later. The mind also qualifies as an agency, but it is considered as part of the all-inclusive agency of life since the mind is an aspect of the more comprehensive life. When life disappears, so does the mind.

There are many scientists and philosophers who call nonphysical or subjective realm an “illusion.” However, there are also those who label the physical realm the same, like the Danish author of popular science T. Nørretranders, “The visual world, what we see, is an illusion, but then a very sophisticated one. There are no colours, no tones, no constancy in the 'real' world, it is all something we make up.[15] This assessment can be justified on the premise that the physical realm is just the matrix in which the things that we cherish such as colorful sceneries, music, tastes, and smells, as well as thoughts and emotions manifest. Without such rich forms of existence, the all-material world would be a miserably boring place in which to live.

There are widely different views of subjective qualities. Some think that matter creates them – such as the material brain creating the subjective mind with traits such as consciousness, and then the brain tricking us into believing that mind exists. For them, this is all there is to it, and this is all the understanding we need. However, we cannot claim to understand subjective qualities fully unless we can build something that produces subjective qualities. Brain is simply a chunk of organic matter like the other bodily organs, and treating organic matter as a causal agent is not tenable since no artificial organic matter has ever produced subjective qualities such as consciousness and life. Propositions such as “consciousness is the product of brain activity” are mere opinions, not scientific facts. They will remain so until neuroscientists build an artificial brain from scratch using lifeless matter that produces its own consciousness. Nothing else will constitute credible scientific proof.

  Emergent Quantities Top

It is common observation that many properties of the assemblies of matter emerge out of nowhere since they cannot be reduced to the constituents of the assembly. Most properties of water, for example, cannot be tracked back and related to the properties of hydrogen and oxygen gases. The emergence phenomenon of appearing out of nothing is at work at all levels of existence – from the quarks that comprise protons and neutrons to chemical elements, molecules, compounds, living organisms, and sentient conscious beings. Emergent quantities do not have a distinctive stand-alone existence of their own; their existence depends on the existence of a suitable physical entity to manifest on. Emergent quantities are commonly called emergent qualities since they simply qualify physical entities. They vanish when the physical entity no longer is. The qualities of water, for example, disappear when water is split back into hydrogen and oxygen during electrolysis. The emergent qualities are pinned on the physical things that they appear on in a deterministic fashion.

The core concept of the emergence phenomenon is the properties exhibited by the whole are not foreseeable from the nature, structure, or behavior of the individual parts that comprise it. The behaviors of its individual constituents at the micro level do not reveal much about the behavior of the whole at the macro level. For example, some properties of water like the molar mass and specific heat can be traced to the properties of its constituent hydrogen and oxygen atoms. However, many properties of water such as color, taste, viscosity, and conductivity are emergent and cannot be predicted from the corresponding properties of hydrogen and oxygen.

Emergent qualities manifest on physical beings made of matter–energy and qualify them consistently and continually in a repeatable and predictable manner. From subatomic elemental particles such as electrons, photons, and quarks to the atoms, molecules, mixtures, alloys, and complex structures made of matter–energy, all physical beings come with a set of subjective properties at each organizational stage that uniquely qualify them as we move on the hierarchy of complexity. The subjective properties of a physical being do not originate from its constituents and cannot be traced back to them since the constituents themselves do not have those properties.

Emergence is described as the phenomenon of a property or quality appearing out of nothing on a physical entity when it is assembled from its parts and disappearing into nothingness when the entity is disassembled into its parts. Therefore, emergent qualities are the properties of physical beings that just appear out of nowhere and disappear into nothingness when the physical thing is taken apart into its constituents. That is, emergent qualities do not originate from the physical constituents of an entity, assembly, or organization. As such, emergent existence is a subcategory of nonphysical existence which is intimately associated with physical existence. An emergent quality is subjective disembodied existence that becomes embodied when it manifests on physical existence.

The emergence phenomenon is often expressed as the whole being more than the sum of its parts, and it is characterized by the observation that the whole exhibits features not found in the constituents – the individual parts that comprise the whole. Emergent qualities are so intertwined with the physical entity that they are considered the intrinsic properties of it and are listed under its physical properties of that entity.

It is important to note that emergent properties passively qualify physical beings and not actively govern them. They do not exert an influence on physical beings, such as forcing them to act in a certain way. That is, emergent properties are just qualifiers or qualities and not agencies with causal power. In contrast, the laws and forces of physics govern the physical universe as an active agent and keep all existence made of matter–energy in strict order, as discussed below, rather than merely qualifying the physical entities. As such, the laws and forces of physics are distinctly different in nature, and they are more properly categorized as an agency rather than emergent quantities.

Emergent qualities are not mental creations since they are intimately tied to physical entities they appear on in a certain way, and they are not the inventions of a mind – they are merely noticed and inferred by the minds. Emergent quantities existed long before the minds did. When hydrogen and oxygen chemically combine to form water, for example, we know from past experience precisely what properties water will acquire. Properties associated with a conservation principle – such as the conservation of mass, energy, and charge – are conserved or additive properties and they are reducible to their constituents. The mass of a chemical compound such as water, for example, is simply the sum of the masses of its constituent atoms. Some properties are operational – like density being the ratio of the mass of a physical entity to the volume it occupies. All other properties of physical beings such as color, hardness, taste, and smell are emergent – they are not-conserved and are not reducible to the constituents.

The carcasses of all physical entities are built of matter–energy, and thus, they are tangible or objective entities. However, the properties of the physical entities are intangible or subjective entities since they are not made of matter–energy; they simply qualify or characterize the physical entity made of matter–energy. We do not “build” properties. As sentient conscious beings, we simply observe, perceive, conceptualize, categorize, ascribe meaning, and name properties. Moreover, as learned conscious and intelligent beings, we assemble matter in such a way that it will have certain properties based on experience.

Therefore, properties such as shape, dimensions, volume, temperature, pressure, density, entropy, enthalpy, amount of matter, amount of energy, taste, smell, hardness, thermal conductivity, electrical resistivity, absorptivity, transparency, molecular structure, and wavelength – everything other than the elemental particles of physics themselves and their assemblies – exist as abstract entities in conscious minds. That is, all properties are abstractions or conceptualizations. Matter is a physical entity that can be seen and felt directly by the five senses; however, the amount of matter that quantifies its massive magnitude mathematically is a mental abstraction. We can see and touch matter itself, but not its amount.

Emergent properties strongly depend on how the physical body is structured, and thus, they are said to be properties of organization. Yet, there is order in the emergence of the emergent properties, and there are no surprises: Each time, the constituents are organized in a certain way the same properties emerge on the organization. After the initial trial-and-error phase, these repeatability and predictability of emergent properties enable engineers to engineer materials with the desired properties.

Although emergent properties of a physical entity do not originate from its constituents, those qualities are still properties of that entity and qualify it. Therefore, emergent qualities are intangible in nature. In addition, there appears to be hierarchical levels of order at different stages of organization. For example, a hydrogen atom is basically one proton, and a helium atom is made of two protons in its nucleus. That is, the nuclei of both hydrogen and helium are comprised of the same building blocks of protons – except in different numbers. Yet, the properties of helium are very different than those of hydrogen which, when ionized, is just a proton.

Emergent qualities are not merely properties associated with large assemblies of organized matter, as commonly thought. The whole does not have to be a complex system with a great number of interconnected or interacting parts to acquire and exhibit emergent qualities at the macro level. That is, the emergence phenomenon is not limited to the large assemblies of matter organized in a particular way. The emergence phenomenon is observed even in the subatomic realm, and some properties of the fundamental particles are also emergent.

For example, the number of protons in the nucleus of the atoms of an element, called the atomic number, is the defining characteristic of the physical properties of that element. The number of protons in the nuclei of hydrogen, carbon, iron, and gold atoms are 1, 6, 26, and 79, respectively. All protons are the same, similar to the fact that all the grains of rice in a package we buy from a grocery store are essentially the same. Yet, the properties of the protons tightly held together by the same strong force vary greatly, depending on the number of protons in the stack. When we tightly wrap the rice grains in stacks of 6, 26, or 79, each rice stack still has essentially the properties of a single rice grain, except for the amount of mass, the volume occupied, the overall shape, etc., If, when tightly wrapped, 6 grains of rice become a bean instead of a 6-grain rice stack, 26 grains become a corn, and 79 grains become a hazelnut, there is something peculiar going on, and an enigmatic phenomenon is at work. Obviously, many properties such as texture, hardness, color, and taste of bean, corn, and hazelnut are very different and have no resemblance to the properties of rice.

In short, the intrinsic properties of hydrogen, carbon, iron, and gold are very different from each other. It is clear that these properties do not originate from the protons themselves since there is hardly any resemblance to the properties of protons. The protons possess neither the character of carbon, nor iron, nor gold. Therefore, most physical properties of carbon, iron, and gold must be emergent (appearing out of nowhere) since they do not originate from the protons and they cannot be reduced to the properties of the protons. It also appears that it is quite possible to convert carbon or iron into gold – all we need to do is to split the nucleus of the carbon or iron atoms as we split uranium atoms in nuclear power plants and recombine the released protons into groups of 79. Once we do that, the color, hardness, electrical conductivity, and many other properties of gold will emerge out of nowhere.

If we were to make a new element with 200 protons by fusion, for example, no one can predict the physical properties of that newly invented element, except for additive properties such as atomic mass. Further, the raw material or the basic fabric of the fundamental particles such as quarks, electrons, and photons is quanta of vibrational energy, but the fundamental particles are a lot more than packets of energy. The characteristic properties of the fundamental particles such as charge and spin appear to be emergent since they do not originate from the quantized excitations of the underlying elusive fields. Therefore, emergence should be recognized as a fundamental phenomenon, and the nonphysical emergent existence should be regarded as an essential constituent of the realm of existence.

Images that appear out of nowhere in a mirror are not emergent qualities since they do not qualify or characterize the mirror. Images are not mental creations either since, unlike imaginations, they are not created by a mind out of nothing. Therefore, images that appear in mirrors as an after-effect of reflected light constitute a different category of nonphysical existence than the emergent qualities, mental constructs, and agencies. Although we all can vouch for their existence, mirror images do not have an independent external existence of their own; they are simply the reflections or manifestations of a physical existence. Mirrors appear to be gateways from physical realm to nonphysical world of imagery, like the state of sleep being the gateway to the realm of dreams. It is interesting that if no images formed in mirrors and no dreams occurred during sleep, we would never question it and no one would feel like something is missing. Same can be said about imagination and the things imagined.

We emphasize that emergent quantities are not mental constructs created by the mind. This is because they appear out of nothing on the physical entity consistently and predictably and disappear when the physical entity is taken apart. The conscious mind plays no role in it, other than being aware of it as an external observer. That is, the mind only notices or perceives emergent qualities and conceptualizes them as percepts. It then tags them with names as physical symbols of representation and categorizes them. The mind also establishes the cause–effect relations based on observations, measurements, and reason. Emergent qualities would go unnoticed if no mind paid any attention to them. However, they would still exist out there independent of the minds. The mind only renders a factual description and mental image of emergent qualities during scientific inquiry.

  Discovered and Invented Mental Constructs Top

As the name implies, mental constructs are the nonphysical (or subjective) constructs of the mind, such as fiction and fictitious characters that we mentally create, and anything we think of or imagine. Unlike emergent qualities, mental constructs are not the properties of the mind; they are the renderings of the mind. They do not transpire on the mind out of nowhere and qualify it in a certain way; but rather, they display the innate abilities of the mind as an active agent with constructive power. As such, mental constructs differ fundamentally from emergent quantities, and they need to be classified as a separate category.

Mental constructs owe their existence to a mind. That is, mental constructs exist relative to or in reference to a mind or minds. If a mind vanishes, so do the mental constructs associated with that mind. Our ability to represent the mental constructs by physical symbols such as sketches and written or spoken words does not change the fact that all mental constructs are nonphysical entities with no external existence.

It appears that mental constructs or mental renderings constitute a major part of the nonphysical realm of existence. All abstract mental constructs such as mathematics, languages, literature, philosophy, thoughts, beliefs, plans, imaginations, and dreams are part of the nonphysical realm. Even the sensations such as sight, sound, and smell as well as emotions such as pain, pleasure, excitement, and happiness are mental constructs – some controlled, but most uncontrolled.

Some mental constructs such as sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch are weaved out of the electrochemical signals triggered by stimuli from the physical realm out there via the five senses. Such mental constructs constitute physical perception – our experience and depiction of the physical world. There seems to be an enigmatic virtual mechanism in the mind with access to memory that does this depiction or rendering as a built-in function.

Some mental constructs such as the laws of physics and mathematics are discovered. That is, they already exist out there unnoticed, until a conscious mind becomes aware of them and expresses them using physical symbols of representations such as words and numbers. Other intentional mental constructs such as imaginations, plans, conceptions, thoughts, and designs are creations or inventions of the human mind. The invented mental constructs do not exist out there for other minds to discover, and thus, they do not have an external existence. They are simply created or conceived by the will of a mind out of nowhere. That is, invention is a willful act. The mind has full control and authority over its authorship and inventions. Invented mental constructs are unique to a mind, but discovered mental constructs share commonalities and eventually merge into a common mental representation of an external entity which already exists. The conceptions of dark matter and dark energy, for example, are discovered mental constructs that are being built collectively by the minds of physicists to render a factual mental representation of them. They will remain as mental existence until their physical existence is confirmed by observations.

Properties of physical things are associated with the physical things themselves and qualify them, and thus, properties can be said to stem from the physical realm as emergent quantities. Properties and other emergent quantities intimately connected with physical entities are perceived by sentient conscious minds via the five senses and thus constitute rendered physical perceptions or just percepts. They constitute discovered mental constructs. In contrast, invented mental constructs such as a new story or a new design stem from the subjective realm of ideas, thoughts, imaginations, etc., The laws of physics and mathematics are also discovered by inference based on the observations of the physical realm and are part of discovered mental constructs.

Physical perceptions via the five senses together with the emotions and the nonphysical perceptions such as consciousness, intuition, and inspiration comprise the unintentional mental constructs. These unintentional automated renderings of the human mind that are beyond our control together with the intentional mental creations such as thoughts and imaginations constitute the virtual world that we live in. Such mental constructs can be viewed as interactions of the mind with some virtual worlds or realms such as the realms of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch, ideas, and information.

  Physical Sensations as Mental Renderings Top

We learn about the external world through physical perception via the five senses. Yet, our sensory organs which are at the forefront of gathering information are playing a very clever trick on us: we intuitively feel that our eyes reflect the true images of lit objects into our head, just like a mirror does, via the optic nerves which transmit sensory signals from the eyes to the brain. However, the notion of “what you see is what it is” is a deep illusion. Everything we think we are sensing directly from the external world, including the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, is actively reconstructed in the mind from scratch as virtual reality, against the backdrop of our preconceptions, prejudices, beliefs, and opinions, and with the interventions of our temperament and expectations.

The mysterious mind continually replots three-dimensional (3D) images of the external physical world by processing the sensory electric signals that are transmitted from the eyes to the brain via the millions of optic nerves, constructing the virtual reality that we live in, portraying it as the physical reality out there. Even sound is a subjective phenomenon – it is the nonphysical sound that throbs our head, not the physical vibrations in the air; there are no physical vibrating diaphragms or cones in the brain as there are in the speakers to convert electrical signal waveforms into mechanical sound waves.

A similar account can be given about the subjective sensations of pain and pleasure. Yet, we tend to close our eyes to the subjective world that we live in denial because the notion of immaterial virtual reality is not compatible with the presupposed notion of an all-material universe. Obviously, we need to broaden our horizon of existence to include our subjective experiences to make it truly compatible with the observed reality that exists out there. As Burtt[16] stated decades ago: “The world that people had thought themselves living in – a world rich with colour and sound, redolent with fragrance, filled with gladness, love, and beauty, speaking everywhere of purposive harmony and creative ideals – was crowded now into minute corners in the brains of scattered organic beings. The really important world outside was a world hard, cold, colourless, silent, and dead; a world of quantity, a world of mathematically computable motions in mechanical regularity.”

Perceiving electric signals as smell is a striking example of rendered mental construct.[10] The molecular mass of the scent molecule of a fragrance is the sum of the masses of the atoms that constitute the molecule, and thus, it is a physical property reducible to its constituents. However, the smell of a scent molecule is an emergent property. Smell is a mental construct since it owes its existence to sentient minds without which there would be no such thing as smell.

When a new molecule is formulated and composed, we can accurately predict its reducible properties, such as the molecular mass, but not the irreducible properties, such as smell and taste. On the visible objective physical side, the scent molecules chemically stimulate the millions of olfactory receptor cells in the nasal cavity, triggering electric signals that are transmitted along the olfactory nerves to the brain, causing some neurons to fire and set off a pattern of electric activity in the brain. This is the end of the visible and traceable physical reality associated with the perception of smell. The rest of the reality is invisible subjective mental construct inferred by reason and logic.

The inquiry of propositions regarding the subjective mechanism of the experience of smell is not science since those propositions cannot be taken to the laboratory for a test. Here, the challenge is to conceive and construct a plausible mental mechanism for the conscious sensation of smell that is fully compatible with the interface of input provided by neuroscience and the output of experienced sensation. In the end, the propositions for the subjective mental mechanism will be judged on the basis of being sensible, logical, consistent, and conforming with the innate sense of reality.

For example, it is natural to think that the source of the pleasure of eating an apple is the apple itself, since, when there is no apple, there is no pleasure of eating an apple. However, this is a delusion, and dreams are sufficient to burst this bubble of deeply entrenched notion. The virtual apple that we eat in our dreams with our eyes and mouth closed is as colorful and pleasurable as the physical apple. It looks like we are doing just fine even when our physical body is almost completely shut off, without any sensory signal input to the brain from the taste buds.

The sense of taste is produced when the chemicals in the food that we eat react with the thousands of taste receptor cells located on taste buds on the tongue and in the mouth. The taste receptors sense the five distinct tastes of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and savory and generate appropriate electric signals and transmit them via the taste nerves to the brain for processing and perception. The waveform of the electric signal produced and transmitted determines the taste that we perceive. That is, there is a one-to-one correspondence between perceived taste sensation and the aggregate electric signals sent from the tongue and the mouth (there is no such interconnection when we eat a virtual apple in our dreams).

This observation suggests that we can create a virtual apple by measuring the intensity and waveform of the electric current generated while eating an apple and duplicating that current artificially. It means, if we apply the artificially generated electric current associated with eating an apple to our tongue and transmitting it to the brain, we will experience the same sensation of enjoying an apple without eating the apple. When this theory was put to test in a laboratory, it worked as predicted. Once the technology is perfected, we will be able to lick a battery-operated electronic ice cream bar instead of eating an actual one and satisfy our ice cream craving without consuming any calories. It appears that the web of nerves tightly knit throughout the body serves as the signal transmission lines for the mind, which is a major segment of the agency of life, to perceive and experience the physical realm.

We seem to be living in a fast-changing dynamic, vivid, rich, mentally constructed, and subjective virtual reality world at all times. That is, what we see, hear, and feel are merely voluntary or involuntary mental constructs or hallucinations weaved by the enigmatic mind. When we look out of the window, for example, what we see are not the actual physical trees outside, but a rendered 3D simulation of those trees somehow constructed in our permanently locked dark and silent skull. As Seth[17] put it: “We don't just passively perceive the world, we actively generate it. The world we experience comes as much, if not more, from the inside out as from the outside in.

  Mathematics and the Laws of Physics as Discovered Mental Constructs Top

As an abstract field of learning and a systematic body of knowledge, mathematics is rooted in physics and logical reasoning and is developed from the need to count, quantify, and describe physical beings and nonphysical quantities in a concise and systematic manner. It is an essential tool for all sciences, but math itself is not a science since it is not based on the observations of the physical universe and cannot be disproved experimentally (failing the falsifiability criterion of the scientific method). Sciences are concerned with the investigation of the physical universe and everything in it, but mathematics is not. Instead, mathematics is generally regarded as the common language of sciences since physical phenomena are best described and the results of scientific studies are best communicated by mathematics. Mathematics is an operational language with precise definitions, well-laid out rules, logical deductions, and the ability to evolve. Proofs of mathematical theorems are decisive, but the scientific theories are always open to falsification by the presentation of a violation as evidence.

Math and sciences have developed in close interaction throughout the history in a partnership that benefited both. Preparing realistic mathematical models for physical problems, solving the problems using mathematical methods, and then physically interpreting the results are commonly done in sciences and engineering. The need to obtain a solution for the mathematical model of a complicated physical problem often inspires new mathematics.

The robustness of the inner structure of the mathematical world, the firmness of the logic and the generality associated with it, and the mysteries involved pave the way for exciting and enjoyable exploration in this well-structured virtual universe. Using simulations, mathematics enables scientists to predict the type and extent of change that physical phenomena will impose on physical entities before the change actually occurs. As such, mathematics makes virtual time travel to the past as well as the future possible. Of course, this does not mean that time travel in the physical realm is possible.

As a nonphysical entity, mathematics is beyond the limitations of space and time, but the physical entities are bound by the constraints of space and time. Therefore, the mathematical existence of something is no guarantee for the physical existence of that thing. Those who think of traveling to the past and the future in the physical realm should think again. In engineering, we commonly discard some legitimate mathematical solutions of differential equations that are mathematical representations of physical phenomena when they are deemed physically impossible.

Events in the physical world proceed along a path interwoven by the laws of physics as a template. The actual physical path can be observed by carefully monitoring the motions of matter during physical experiments in real time. Events in the virtual mathematical world proceed along a path interwoven by the same laws of physics, and the virtual path is rendered using numbers or graphics which portray the same information.

Some mental constructs are completely independent of the signals triggered by physical beings out there, such as a new design of a house we imagine or an idea we are exploring. Their construction – such as planning an activity, developing a theory, or just daydreaming – is initiated by the subjective mind itself. Therefore, they are invented mental constructs. Literature, poetry, and art can also be included in this category since they do not require making any inferences from observations of physical realm, and they do not attempt to build a factual mental representation of the observed phenomena. Invented mental constructs differ from perceived mental constructs (or mental perceptions) in that the former are not associated with any direct physical perception via the five senses, but the latter are.

Whether mathematics is discovered or invented by the human mind is hotly debated even today. Mathematics as well as science is mental rendering of perceived physical realm, and there would be no mathematics and sciences as branches of learning if people did not exist. However, this does not mean that science and mathematics are inventions of the human mind. Both mathematics and sciences existed out there in the physical realm as virtual templates or “rule books” long before humanity, waiting to be noticed and discovered. The rules of mathematics and the laws of physics are already interwoven into the basic fabric of the physical world. The virtual particles commonly used in physics are best categorized as discovered mental constructs such as the laws of physics since virtual particles exist and interact out there, waiting to be envisaged by the inquiring minds.

There is only one mathematics and one science, characterized by a set of rules and laws, and thus, both must have been discovered. Inferred mental constructs such as mathematics and the mental picture of the physical realm depicted by sciences are distilled out of careful observations of the visible realm by many minds. If they were invented, there would be different inventions of mathematics and science developed by different minds, competing with each other. As Glattfelder[18] puts it, “Platonism is the notion that a realm of perfect abstractions exists where all mathematical entities reside. In other words, mathematics has its own reality. In this sense, mathematics is discovered and not invented by the human mind.”

Technologies, on the one hand, are invented by scientists and engineers as products of creative minds. That is why we have different technologies as intellectual properties and we apply for patents to protect the ownership of those inventions. There are no patent applications for discoveries since discovered things already exist, and thus, no claim of ownership can be made for what is already out there waiting to be discovered. Therefore, mathematics, science, and technology are all mental constructs, but of different kinds.

Scientists and engineers are grateful that the abstract world of mathematics works beautifully to encode observable natural phenomena into a concise and compact form by translating the physical essence into abstract formal representations. They use mathematics as a powerful tool in their work but stay away from getting into the subjective nature of mathematics, giving rise to the pragmatic advice “shut up and calculate!”

If the current trend of mathematics reigning supreme continues, soon we will establish the subjective realm of mathematics as the primary existence and the physical realm as its secondary materialized manifestation. This will create a perplexing dilemma for those who subscribe to the worldview that the physical realm is the sole existence. As Markie[19] puts it, “Intuition and deduction can provide us with knowledge of necessary truths such as those found in mathematics and logic, but such knowledge is not substantive knowledge of the external world. It is only knowledge of the relations of our own ideas.”

Invented mental constructs such as new stories and new designs do not have an external tangible existence of their own, and thus, they cannot be perceived by others. Their presence is dependent on the existence of a mind, and as such, they have no assurance of continuity. All mental constructs owe their existence to the sentient conscious minds. If all humanity were to disappear today, so would all mental constructs. Mathematics and the laws of physics are discovered mental constructs, and thus, they do have an external existence out there, though unbounded. The laws of physics are mental renderings of a template that provide order in the physical realm. The forces of physics appear to have an extensive external existence since they are observed everywhere by the influence they exert on physical things. After all, the forces of physics interact with physical things and subjugate the entire physical existence in accordance with the template of the laws of physics.

  Active Agents: Enigmatic Agencies with Causal Power Top

The phrases agent, active agent, and agency are commonly used in a variety of fields from chemistry to philosophy in a wide range of settings within the context of causation. Agents or agencies are characterized by causal power, and thus, the capacity to cause changes. An agency has the capacity to act as an active agent. An agency is said to be purposive or goal oriented if its activity is aimed at realizing an objective or a goal. The enigmatic life, for example, qualifies as a purposive agency since, from cells and plants to animals and humans, all living beings are goal oriented and act as distinct entities. The laws and forces of physics, on the other hand, qualify as a nonpurposive agency since they exert the same pull or push effect of certain magnitude on all physical existence in the entire universe without being selective.

An observed influence indicates the existence of an influencer. The discovery of dark matter and dark energy is simply the inferred result of the observed new influences. A consistent observable influence is a credible evidence for the external existence of a phenomenon or an aggregate of phenomena, and the regularity of the influence is indicative of the existence of the underpinning laws. The set of rules, principles, and laws associated with the physical sciences such as physics, chemistry, and astronomy and thus govern the inanimate realm is called the laws of physics. We recognize the existence of the laws and forces of physics as orderly influences of attraction and repulsion (the push–pull effect) on physical entities.

Influences constitute a higher level of existence than matter and energy since influences fully govern physical entities in a repeatable and predictable manner. The laws of physics act globally without being selective and firmly control physical existence via the associated forces of physics. That is, these laws are imposed on all physical existence and tightly control it. As such, the laws and forces of physics constitute a higher hierarchy in the ladder of existence relative to the physical existence comprised of matter and energy, and the laws of physics cannot be reduced to matter and energy. Life is such an influence commonly observed and easily distinguished from nonlife in ways unpredictable by the laws of physics, which are a subset of the laws of nature.

Agencies are noticed and recognized as virtual mechanisms or agents with the ability to manipulate physical entities made of matter–energy. Agencies, also called active agents, are subjective entities that exert noticeable influence on physical existence and actively control them. Agencies are not inventions of the mind; they are discovered by inference. Like the force of gravity, agencies are noticed and discovered by the mind but are not brought into existence by the mind. Agencies differ from invented mental constructs in that they exist out there on their own, independent of the mind. That is, agencies have external existence which may be spread out with no boundaries like the laws of physics or distinct in a confined space as in the case of life. They also differ from emergent properties in those agencies more than passively qualify matter; they actively control matter.

Several agencies can be identified and described in nature. The most familiar existence that qualifies as agency is probably the enigmatic life. A more general example is the agency of physics, which is comprised of the universal laws and forces of physics. Here, we briefly present the agencies associated with (1) the inanimate realm (the agency of physics), (2) the animate realm (the agency of life), and (3) the quantum realm via the creation and annihilation of the fundamental particles (the quantum field agency). Although the agencies govern all natural phenomena and thus qualify as the government of the universe, they are invisible virtual entities inferred by conscious minds.

Agencies are not made of matter–energy, and thus, they are not physical entities. Therefore, they cannot be decomposed into the fundamental building blocks of physics or any other physical existence. Agencies are visible to the mental eye, but not to the biological eye. Despite being subjective entities, agencies do have external existence since their influence on matter is evident. The force of gravity, for example, exerts a pulling effect on all material things in accordance with Newton's law of universal gravitation. Life also subjugates matter within its domain of influence in accordance with its set of laws and influences.

Agencies resemble virtual machines, mechanisms, or operators. They operate on matter, and thus, they reign supreme over matter. The term “agency” is used here to characterize the virtual mechanism that appears to be performing certain acts in a repeatable and predictable manner, just like the virtual mechanisms of quantum fields that convert bundles of energy into fundamental particles with a distinct set of properties in a consistent manner.[20] The agency of physics, for example, governs the physical realm and subjugates it with its laws and forces. Life does the same within the bodies of living beings.

Agencies act as invisible causal mechanisms while fully complying with the laws of nature, which is the constitution of the universe. The existence of agencies cannot be verified by direct observations or measurements but must be inferred mentally via inductive thinking and reasoning of observed influences on physical things. The notion of agency can be scrutinized by subjecting it to the tests of logical consistency, plausibility, reasonableness, and compliance with observations. The discovery of an agency is indicated by the apparent void created in explaining a natural phenomenon when the propositioned agency is disregarded.

Agencies are entities that exist out there of their own and are perceived mentally since their existence is noticed and their influence is modeled (usually mathematically) by a mind. The existence of agencies does not depend on the existence of the physical realm or the existence of a mind since agencies do not originate from either. However, the discovery of agencies requires the existence of a conscious mind, without which nothing would be known. Agencies are not invented by the mind, like conceiving a new car design. They are discovered by noticing their influence on physical existence. Therefore, agencies are natural entities, just like the laws and forces of physics, and they existed long before the humans did. Unlike the artificial agents such as robots or autonomous cars, (natural) agencies cannot be annihilated by humans, and they will continue to exist long after the human race goes extinct.

Agencies are often incorrectly portrayed as emergent qualities, which are properties of assemblies of matter. When matter organizes in a certain way, it is observed to acquire certain qualities that qualify the organized matter. When the assembly is dispersed, the emergent qualities that appeared out of nothing during organization simply disappear into nothingness, as discussed before. Agencies do not fit into this description of emergent qualities.

Strictly speaking, agencies – such as the agency of physics comprised the laws and forces of physics – are not emergent entities since they do not appear out of nowhere and disappear into nothingness. They are always there, with no acts of disappearance, remaining unchanged regardless of how the organization of the physical existence changes. Of course, the earth's gravitational pull on a physical object can be eliminated by sending the object to space, and a living being can be rendered lifeless by making the body inhabitable for life. However, the law of gravity continues to prevail and life continues to flourish.

The universal laws and forces of physics qualify as an agency with causal power since, collectively, they govern the behavior of all physical existence in the entire universe. Alfred Montapert has expressed this eloquently as “Nature's laws are the invisible government of the earth.” Einstein[21] put it as “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”[21] The notion of existing above and beyond the visible universe and fully governing the entire physical existence is a peculiar characterization of the laws of nature that have no mass or energy.

The laws of physics are inferred as the rulebook or template that governs the behavior of physical things under the perceived influences of physics such as the pulling force of gravity. Once the laws of physics are recognized as nonphysical entities since they are not made of matter–energy and that they are beyond time and space, the questions “where do the laws of physics exist?” and “since when do the laws of physics exist?” become meaningless. Observations are consistent with the notion that the laws of physics exist everywhere throughout the universe at all times without being anywhere. That is, the laws of physics must be omnipresent and timeless. Obviously, the law of the conservation of mass–energy was at work during the big bang.

Observations on the repeatability and predictability of the behavior of the physical entities affirm that there is an indubitable unity of the laws of physics, portraying a unified rule under a unified influence. That is, the laws of physics are integrated in a coherent and harmonious fashion, acting like a virtual universal ghost. A set of incoherent laws of physics would have caused physical things to behave erratically in an unstable way under disparate influences.

All internal changes and external behaviors of existence and thus all occurrences on the moon, for example, are governed completely by the purposeless agency of physics since there is no life there. On earth, however, the occurrences in the inanimate realm are governed by the agency of physics alone, while the occurrences in the animate realm are governed by the purposive agency of life superimposed on the agency of physics.

When a ball is thrown into a river, for example, the laws and forces of physics control its motion and determine its trajectory, which can be predicted by a scientific analysis. However, if a live dog is dropped into a river, the laws and forces of physics alone will not determine what the dog will do. The dog may just decide to swim and get out of the water from anywhere it sees fit or even swim upstream. This is because the dog is alive but the ball is not. Apparently, the dog has another set of laws and influences that comes with life superimposed on the laws and forces of physics to govern its behavior, but the ball does not. The quality that sets animate beings apart from the inanimate ones is the enigmatic phenomenon of life and the set of attributes and influences that come with life which qualifies as an agency.

  Closure Top

The physical and nonphysical realms together constitute the entire realm of existence. An existence that contains even a single elemental particle of physics with mass or energy in its composition is a physical existence; everything else is a nonphysical or subjective existence. Phenomena such as life, consciousness, beauty, meaning, space time, quantum fields, laws of physics, and even entropy are nonphysical since they cannot be reduced to matter–energy and they cannot be constructed out of the fundamental building blocks of physics. They simply manifest in the mind as mental renderings when triggered by some intentional or unintentional means.

When ideologies or worldviews turn to dogmas, objectivity becomes the first victim. The notion “all is matter and matter is all” is a dogmatic worldview, not a scientific fact. Treating this ideological notion as an indisputable fact in scientific inquiries is a prejudice, not a zealotry or guardianship of science. Nobel Laureate Max Planck[22] warns his contemporaries against the pitfalls of prejudice: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light; but rather, because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

We should face the challenge and adopt a new view of existence as a fabric woven out of the threads of matter and meaning, thus unifying the subjective with the objective, as the true representation of the observed reality out there. Then, we can dwell on understanding the intricacies of how the physical and nonphysical realms interact so harmoniously.

All agencies owe their existence to the observed regularity in the universe. Sciences are simply the compilations of the general rules behind this regularity. Scientific inquiry is the quest for the discovery and description of these general rules, and expressing them in the mathematical language, with the ability to make predictions. The rules and the accompanying influences are made apparent by the repeatability of the observed occurrences in the natural world. These rules and influences constitute the set of the laws and forces of nature, which constitute the agencies of nature. Then, the enterprise of science can be described as the pursuit of the discovery, description, and formulation of these invisible agencies working behind the scenes.

It is recognized that we do not fully understand the natures of emergent qualities, mental constructs, and agencies, and making the physical and nonphysical realms that work together cohesively presents challenges. However, the inability to understand the nature of something is not a valid reason to deny its existence. Not understanding, the invisible dark matter and dark energy did not keep the scientific community from accepting their existence since the observed phenomena of universal gravitation and the accelerated expansion of galaxies cannot be explained by the visible realm. Science and philosophy exist to unearth the mysteries of such apparently insurmountable challenges using observations and logic-based inductive reasoning. In the end, our picture of reality must coincide with the observed external world.

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