LIVE from South Africa, Prof. George Ellis will explain "The interactions of Physics, Environmental, and Developmental Issues: Taking complexity Seriously"
Thursday December 14, 2023
16:00 CET (10:00 ET)
Prof. George Ellis, University of Cape Town (SA)
George Ellis, FRS, is Professor Emeritus of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. He obtained his PhD at the University of Cambridge, where he worked on general relativity theory and cosmology. He has been based at the University of Cape Town since 1974, but has been visiting Professor at Texas, Chicago, Hamburg, Boston, Edmonton, London, and Oxford, and for a while, was Professor of Cosmic Physics at the International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA), Trieste, Italy. In recent years he has been working on the philosophy of cosmology and the emergence of complexity, the nature of causation, and aspects of neuroscience. His books include The Large Scale Structure of Space Time written with Stephen Hawking, The Moral Nature of the Universe: Cosmology, Theology, and Ethics (with Nancy Murphy), Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will (Ed, with N Murphy and T O’Connor),How Can Physics Underlie the Mind, and Beyond Evolutionary Psychology (written with Mark Solms).
Physics underlies all that emerges, including ecosystems and societies, and some issues to do with energy usage and global warming have direct relations to physics, as pointed out by Vaclav Smil. However it is not true that one can take simple physics concepts such as some form of thermodynamics or network theory and make policy recommendations on this basis alone. The ecological/social/economic environment is a truly complex system, and any holistic view of physics for sustainable development must take this into account, in particular noting the interacting adaptive modular hierarchical structures one is dealing with and the way that both bottom up emergence and downward causation take place in them via non-linear contextual mechanisms. Relating to the public must present solid scientific evidence, but take emotional motivation seriously too.