From consciousness to free will, and even life itself, it has become fashionable to explain some of the most puzzling phenomena in the universe as being being 'emergent'. Some even make the claim that nothing in science makes sense without emergence, the idea that the characteristics and behaviour of the whole is different from, and in addition to, its parts. But critics argue there is a danger emergence gives the impression of understanding when in reality it explains nothing at all and we would be better to say 'mysteriously appears'.

Can we explain emergence and provide an account of how an overall property appears when it is not present in the elemental parts? Might a new science of emergence pave the way for breakthroughs in our understanding of life, consciousness and physical properties like superconductivity? Or is emergence a mere rhetorical device to give the impression that materialism and a reductive approach to the world is capable of explaining its deepest mysteries?

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