Top-down causation: an integrating theme within and across the sciences?

George F. R. Ellis, Denis Noble and Timothy O'Connor discuss top-down causation.



This issue of the journal is focused on ‘top-down (downward) causation'. The words in this title, however, already raise or beg many questions. Causation can be of many kinds. They form our ways of ordering our scientific understanding of the world, all the way from the reductive concept of cause as elementary objects exerting forces on each other, through to the more holistic concept of attractors towards which whole systems move, and to adaptive selection taking place in the context of an ecosystem.

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