Emergents

An essential feature of a pattern is that it has emergent properties, often called 'emergents'. An emergent can be observed only at its own systems level. It cannot be discerned from any lower systems level. This can be put another way by saying that an emergent has 'novelty'. That is, as one progresses to higher and higher systems levels, each emergent is new in the sense that it does not occur at any lower systems level. An emergent is often described by saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The whole includes both the sum of all the parts of the system, as well as the emergents, which are additional to the sum of all those parts.

In a living system, any behaviour, at any systems level, is an emergent property of that system. Life itself is an emergent. In the past, various characteristics that are unique to living organisms were often described as 'vital forces', and these too are emergents. So too are the various human intangibles, such as creativity, generosity, and sociability, that are generally considered 'unscientific', simply because they cannot be easily measured.

In this general context of behaviour being an emergent, it is possible to speak of 'plant behaviour', at any systems level. Obviously, plants do not walk and talk, but they exhibit behaviour in the sense of growth, sexual recombination, reproduction, and death. Indeed, Fisher & Hollingdale (1987) have shown that plants with sun-tracking leaves have both a primitive sight, and a daily movement. They also have a primitive memory that enables them to turn their leaves, during the night, to face the rising sun.

At the higher systems levels, we can speak of 'ecosystem behaviour', and 'pathosystem behaviour'. In terms of the present book, the most prominent example of a pathosystem emergent is the system of locking that emanates from the gene-for-gene relationship (see 4.14 & 4.15). This emergent cannot be seen from any lower systems level and it has been scientifically ignored for this reason. Such blindness is called suboptimisation (see 1.11), and it is a consequence of reductionism (see 1.10). This topic is discussed in greater detail below (see 2.3).

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