Enjoyed the post and brain fodder. The examples you have provided of "emergent phenomena" certainly are interesting. Yet the more I think about them, the more ambiguous they seem to become. Take the water molecule and "wetness" property for example. How are we to define "wetness"? Is this a property that is determined by our particular nervous system? Can it be physically determined e.g. 2 to the x molecules is wet; 2 to the (x-1) is dry? Is it some point, rather like the transition between water vapor and water, or water and ice? Yet even with such transitions, if one could slow time down to a creep, it might be possible to watch a "slowly" unfolding natural and understandable process.
: "So the evaporation of perfume is something that has a definite arrow of time - it is practically irreversible. But any individual perfume molecule just gets knocked this way and that at random and has no temporal directionality. It's only when you look at the way the whole assemblage of molecules behaves that the arrow emerges. Thus the arrow of time is an emergent phenomenon." ----
I won't begin to discuss the "arrow of time" (let alone quantum weirdness) except to suggest a fuzziness when space itself becomes a dependent part of the equation (which it must - no space-no time), thus permitting us to step back as it were and view the phenomena. It "emerges" in the sense of our ability to gain a perspective. In this sense it is more a description of a process rather like the resolution of a star through a telescope than the emergence of something (self)created.
Well anyway, judging by the quotations you provide, Paul Davies seems extraordinarily anxious to "prove" the significance of homosapiens. He of course is not alone, but I wonder just what is meant by "significant". Presumably a carbon atom has less significance than a squirrel and so on. I suspect there is an emotional context here. Do we have some (built in?) need to feel special or be of importance to some/body? To contemplate a vast and indifferent universe (at 3 degrees Celsius) triggers metaphors of ice/olation.
bill (dropping by again)