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CR and the question of knowledge, with his championed “constructor theory” in play

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CR is a frequent objector here at UD, and it seems again necessary to headline a corrective response given some of his remarks in the thread on UB’s discussion of information systems in cells:

____________________

KF, 62: >>CR:

constructor theory formalizes the view that, in science, justification isn’t possible or even desirable and brings emergent phenomena, such as information, into fundamental physics

First, no-one has discussed justification as a component for knowledge, as post Gettier, to be justified in holding a belief that turns out to be true is understood for cause as not equal to knowledge. The matter of warrant has long since been brought to your attention repeatedly but insistently ignored. Thus, you have shamelessly played the strawman tactic.

And, as the discussion of knowledge has played out on other threads, I simply note that scientific knowledge claims fall under a weak, fallibilist, inductively grounded sense of knowledge, warranted, credibly true (and empirically reliable) belief.

I add: note, the very name, “Science,” is derived from a Latin word denoting knowledge. Dictionaries are useful points of reference:

sci·ence (sī′əns) n.

1. a. The observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena: new advances in science and technology.

b. Such activities restricted to a class of natural phenomena: the science of astronomy.
2. A systematic method or body of knowledge in a given area: the science of marketing.
3. ArchaicKnowledge, especially that gained through experience.

[Middle English,knowledge, learning, from Old French, from Latin scientia, from sciēns, scient-, present participle of scīre, to know; seeskei- in Indo-European roots.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

science (ˈsaɪəns)n

1. the systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms
2. the knowledge so obtained or the practice of obtaining it
3. any particular branch of this knowledge: the pure and applied sciences.
4. any body of knowledge organized in a systematic manner
5. skill or technique
6. archaicknowledge
[C14:via Old French from Latin scientia knowledge, from scīre to know]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

Thus, we need to reckon with the provisional, incremental, inductive sense of knowledge so derived. A point well understood since Newton, here, I clip Opticks, Query 31:

As in Mathematicks, so in Natural Philosophy, the Investigation of difficult Things by the Method of Analysis, ought ever to precede the Method of Composition. This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

Of course, our understanding of inductive reasoning has been updated to denote arguments where premises (often, empirically derived) provide support for the credible truth of conclusions, as opposed to entailing them. Where, a key aspect of this is that if something has a stable distinct identity, it can be expected to behave in a consistent, reasonably predictable pattern. Kusha bushes produce thorns reliably (so that a donkey I heard of would deliberately brush its rider against these bushes, if it was displeased with him). Manchineel trees produce sweet tasting but caustic, toxic beach or death apples. Mango trees produce thousands of varieties of that luscious fruit. Unsupported objects near earth tend to fall under a force of 9.8 N/kg or thereabouts. The earth, due to angular momentum being conserved, rotates once every 23 hrs 56 minutes relative to the “fixed” stars. And so forth.

So, there are good common-sense grounds to expect orderly, coherent patterns in the world. But common sense can be a suspect commodity when there is a dominant ideology to the contrary.

But, we must go on. Knowledge, itself, is from a Greek term, gnosis, so let’s use Wikipedia on that term as a handy reference:

Gnosis

Gnosis is a feminine Greek noun which means “knowledge”.[4] It is often used for personal knowledge compared with intellectual knowledge (εἶδειν eídein), as with the Frenchconnaitre compared with savoir, the Spanishconocer compared with saber, or the Germankennen rather than wissen.[5]

Latin dropped the initial g (which was preserved in Greek) so gno- becomes no- as in noscō meaning “I know”, noscentia meaning “knowledge” and notus meaning “known”. The g remains in the Latin co-gni-tio meaning “knowledge” and i-gno-tus and i-gna-rus meaning “unknown” and from which comes the word i-gno-rant, and a-gno-stic which means “not knowing” and once again this reflects the Sanskrit jna which means “to know”, “to perceive” or “to understand”.[citation needed]

Gnostikos

A related term is the adjective gnostikos, “cognitive”,[6] a reasonably common adjective in Classical Greek.[7]Plato uses the plural adjective γνωστικοί – gnostikoi and the singular feminine adjective γνωστικὴ ἐπιστήμη – gnostike episteme in his Politikos where Gnostike episteme was also used to indicate one’s aptitude.[citation needed] The terms do not appear to indicate any mystic, esoteric or hidden meaning in the works of Plato, but instead expressed a sort of higher intelligence and ability analogous to talent.[8]

Plato The Statesman 258e

— Stranger: In this way, then, divide all science into two arts, calling the one practical (praktikos), and the other purely intellectual (gnostikos). Younger Socrates: Let us assume that all science is one and that these are its two forms.[9]

In the Hellenistic era the term became associated with the mystery cults.

Gnosis is used throughout Greek philosophy as a technical term for experience knowledge (see gnosiology) in contrast to theoretical knowledge or epistemology.[citation needed] The term is also related to the study of knowledge retention or memory (see also cognition), in relation to ontic or ontological, which is how something actually is rather than how something is captured (abstraction) and stored (memory) in the mind.[citation needed]

Gnosticism

Irenaeus used the phrase “knowledge falsely so-called” (pseudonymos gnosis, from 1 Timothy 6:20)[10] for the title of his book On the Detection and Overthrow of False Knowledge, that contains the adjective gnostikos, which is the source for the 17th-century English term “Gnosticism“.

Such words refer to a common, important phenomenon, which we have to reckon with in philosophising about it, i.e. in epistemology.

First, without a knowing subject willing to accept and act on a claim, we are not dealing with knowing or knowledge. Without reasonable and responsible grounds, one is not warranted to accept a claim or perception etc as credibly true (and reliable), but that warrant needs not be wholly held by a given subject; we all routinely accept warrant per credible authority and/or perhaps simplified explanation or examples.

Likewise, warrant chains as A as B, B as C etc. Thus, there is a regress, where infinite chain is impossible, question-begging circularity is futile, so we face finitely remote first plausibles taken as a credible start-point or foundation or root of one’s worldview.

Yes, there is a positive hatred for the suggestions that we have a finitely remote foundation involving trust in first plausibles but that is actually patent.

Let’s add, turtles all the way down:

. . . vs, the last turtle has to stand somewhere:

. . . so that:

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}

 

And, worldviews need not be question-begging once held i/l/o comparative difficulties across factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power (elegantly simple not simplistic or an ad hoc patchwork).

In such, key self-evident elements starting with the point that distinct identity (A vs ~ A) leads directly to the triple first principles of right reason, LOI, LNC, LEM:

Laws of logic in action as glorified common-sense first principles of right reason

. . . as well as to the set of natural numbers thence the logic of structure and quantity, AKA Mathematics. [Where, we may picture the scheme of numbers great and small — the surreals (cf here and here as well as here at UD) — as successive steps in a branching tree with an endless chain of successive stepwise branching stages:]

Self-evident truths are examples, in turn, of strong-form knowledge, warranted as certainly true and thus accepted as undeniable on pain of [instant, patent] absurdity on the attempted denial.

Thus, warrant is an integral component of knowledge, which is a function of knowing subjects. And, science is a weak form, with facts of observation being far better warranted than integrative theoretical constructs, which are best understood as explanatory, abductively warranted models which are generally speaking possibly true as opposed to credibly true.

Thus, while information can and does play a role in fundamental physics — e.g. the position-momentum and energy-time versions of the Heisenberg-Einstein uncertainty principle — that is not where it is primarily founded. Information theory is an extension of physics indeed, but that in the end is about distinct identity leading to designation of entities by labels tracing to y/n chains in structured description languages, or to analogues that then face issues of storage, processing, modulation, transmission etc. Information is not knowledge but is involved in the process. And, the reality of phenomena in the world is not reducible to information without residue. That is, there is a real world.

Let’s add a clip from UB’s Biosemiosis, for reference on information as translated:

Noting, how such information plays a role in communication networks that require framing so that a message can be read and transmitted as a signal:

A communication system

. . . or, more elaborately:

. . . with the underlying challenges as highlighted by Gitt:

Gitt’s Layer-cake communications model

 

Where, to facilitate discussion [as, a good general definition that does not “bake-in” information being a near-synonym to knowledge is hard to find . . . ] we may roughly identify information as

1: facets of reality that may capture and so frame — give meaningful FORM to

2: representations of elements of reality — such representations being items of data — that

3: by accumulation of such structured items . . .

4: [NB: which accumulation is in principle quantifiable, e.g. by defining a description language that chains successive y/n questions to specify a unique/particular description or statement, thence I = – log p in the Shannon case, etc],

5: meaningful complex messages may then be created, modulated, encoded, decoded, conveyed, stored, processed and otherwise made amenable to use by a system, entity or agent interacting with the wider world. E.g. consider the ASCII code:

The ASCII code takes seven y/n q’s per character to specify text in English, yielding text size  7 bits per character of FSCO/I for such text

or, the genetic code (notice, the structural patterns set by the first two letters):

 

The Genetic code uses three-letter codons to specify the sequence of AA’s in proteins and specifying start/stop, and using six bits per AA

or, mRNA . . . notice, U not T:

Genetic code (RNA form), courtesy Wiki

or, a cybernetic entity using informational signals to guide its actions:

The Derek Smith two-tier controller cybernetic model

. . . or, a von Neumann kinematic self-replicator:

(Of course, such representations may be more or less accurate or inaccurate, or even deceitful. Thus, knowledge requires information but has to address warrant as credibly truthful. Wisdom, goes beyond knowledge to imply sound insight into fundamental aspects of reality that guide sound, prudent, ethical action.)

Now, let’s pick up and do some inline commenting on your un-sourced text gobbet. Of course on track record you will studiously ignore or find some tangent to divert, but record is needed:

>>2.5 What is the initial state?
The prevailing conception regards the initial state of the physical world as a fundamental part of its constitution, and we therefore hope and expect that state to be specified by some fundamental, elegant law of physics.>>

1 –> Cosmology, and the hoping for some super-law to lock up the initial condition simply points onward to the source of such fine-tuning to set up a world habitable by C-chem, aqueous medium, cell based life.

2 –> This materialistic focus neglects that just to do physical cosmology we need responsible, rationally free morally governed creatures accountable before truth and logic, ethics etc.

3 –> This moves us beyond physics and shows that physics is inherently not the root of a rational understanding of our world and its inhabitants. It studies an important cross-section: matter-energy, space-time and interactions thereof, in a fundamental manner involving mathematics and logic as well as observation and measurement.

4 –> Where Mathematics is NOT an empirical discipline but a logical one rooted in distinct identity, first principles of right reason and the endless set of the naturals, duly extended into other structures of interest and where possible axiomatised. Computing is an applied branch.

5 –> So, we correct in brief an impoverished, factually grossly inadequate worldview.

>> But at present there are no exact theories of what the initial state was. Thermodynamics suggests that it was a ‘zero-entropy state’, but as I said, we have no exact theory of what that means. Cosmology suggests that it was homogeneous and isotropic, but whether the observed inhomogeneities (such as galaxies) could have evolved from quantum fluctuations in a homogeneous initial state is controversial.>>

6 –> Physics, including physical cosmology is incomplete.

>> In the constructor-theoretic conception, the initial state is not fundamental. It is an emergent consequence of the fundamental truths that laws of physics specify, namely which tasks are or are not possible.>>

7 –> fundamentals-phobia, or more precisely, an irrational fear of recognising worldview structures, warrant chains i/l/o our finitude and proneness to error.

8 –> Fundamental, warranted credible truth is a way to describe knowledge in the relevant weak form without admitting that this is what one is doing.

9 –> Fundamental, of course is precisely the much despised metaphor of foundations in another guise, as would be basics. You can run but you cannot hide.

>> For example, given a set of laws of motion, what exactly is implied about the initial state by the practical feasibility of building (good approximations to) a universal computer several billion years later may be inelegant and intractably complex to state explicitly,>>

10 –> Sneaking in by the back-door the idea that the cosmos is something like a Turing universal computational device.

11 –> Computing the states of a cosmos is so far beyond the complexity of its physical instantiation as to be implausible. Indeed, as computation is envisioned on a material substrate, we have here an emerging regress of computing the computing entity that computes the physical cosmos.

12 –> But perhaps, what is meant is, the existing cosmos is computational in the sense of obeying a coherent set of physical laws that in effect can be compressed into a description in some language and called “physics.”

13 –> This then becomes little more than a pretentious way of saying that we live in an orderly, organised cosmos that unfolds across time per initial constituents, conditions and laws that can be empirically, inductively identified.

14 –> What is valid, then, is not new, and what is novel is either unnecessary or plain wrong and confusing as it obfuscates what should be plainly said.

>> yet may follow logically from elegant constructor-theoretic laws about information and computation (see Sections 2.6 and 2.8 below).>>

15 –> More of the same mish-mash.

>>The intuitive appeal of the prevailing conception may be nothing more than a legacy from an earlier era of philosophy: First, the idea that the initial state is fundamental corresponds to the ancient idea of divine creation happening at the beginning of time.>>

16 –> Dismissiveness towards the concept that that which begins is contingent and has a cause.

17 –> Similar dismissiveness towards the point that an initial framework that triggers onward unfolding is patently of fundamental character.

>> And second, the idea that the initial state might be a logical consequence of anything deeper raises a spectre of teleological explanation, which is anathema because it resembles explanation through divine intentions.>>

18 –> Little more than anti-theism surfacing by way of reassurance to a presumed atheistical audience.

19 –> If a cosmos has a beginning and is shaped by coherent, fine tuned laws and circumstances conducive to C-Chem, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet, cell based life, that points to intelligent design at the hands of a designer of awesome power.

20 –> So, we come to motive: anti-theism, leading to unwillingness to objectively examine the evidence of cosmological fine tuning and that of a cosmos that credibly had a beginning at a finitely removed time.

21 –> Where, refusal to engage the phenomenon of physics being done by creatures who are physically embodied but responsibly and rationally free and morally governed in reasoning towards the truth about our world allows evasion of the IS-OUGHT gap and the gap between mechanical computation on blind cause-effect mechanisms and ground-consequent, consciously insightful reasoning.

22 –> Those two gaps point beyond the world of matter, energy, space and time shaped by mechanical necessity and stochastic processes to yet deeper issues tied to world-roots.

23 –> Post Hume, the only level where IS and OUGHT can be bridged coherently is the root of reality.

24 –> This points to the only serious candidate, after centuries of philosophical debates, given the nature of being:

the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty and of the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our evident nature.

25 –> If you doubt this, simply provide a coherent alternative: _____ . Predictably, objectors will not do so, as they will find it an insuperable task.

26 –> That mind transcends computing is also pivotal, as we have forgotten that computers of various architectures are mindless mechanical, GIGO limited products of minds, that may well mechanise aspects of reasoning to solve problems, but which are in the end not capable of insightful, responsible, reasonable inference on ground and consequent. Such machines have to be set up right to work, by those capable of reasoning.

27 –> So, the great evasion has failed on all counts.

>> But neither of those (somewhat contradictory) considerations>>

28 –> Projection, not well founded. The contradictions perceived are patently little more than reflections of the inner incoherence of the scheme of thought being propounded, and likely of an underlying commitment to a priori evolutionary materialism or one of its fellow travellers that by accommodating that, pick up its incoherence.

>> could be a substantive objection to a fruitful constructor theory, if one could be developed. >>

29 –> In short, there is no such established theory, just a cluster of incoherent ideas as in part corrected in this note.

For record.>>

_____________________

If this issue keeps up like this, we may well need to add to the weak arguments corrective page. At any rate, food for thought. END

16 Replies to “CR and the question of knowledge, with his championed “constructor theory” in play

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    On knowledge again, with information and CR’s championed constructor theory concerns.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    Fortified with a few diagrams.

  3. 3
    Origenes says:

    KF: The prevailing conception regards the initial state of the physical world as a fundamental part of its constitution …

    Assuming a material deterministic world, all ensuing events are potentially determined by the initial state. All that follows from the initial state is merely putting into reality (actualizing) the scheme of things as determined by the initial state.

    IOWs the initial state contains the data for a playbook for all the events which (necessarily) ensue.

    Think about it … Every word you think or write appears in accordance with what the “Initial State” prescribes. Every scientific investigation, follows to the letter, every detailed instruction determined, not by scientists, but, instead, by the Initial State.

    Every “constructor” (CR, are you reading this?) follows the path set out by whatever that is responsible for the Initial State.

    Question: how can one be a determinist and not be a theist?

  4. 4
    Seversky says:

    Origenes @ 3

    Question: how can one be a determinist and not be a theist?

    or how can one be a theist without being a determinist? More specifically, how can a Christian, who believes in the multi-Omni God of their faith, deny that such a being precludes the possibility of free will?

  5. 5
    Origenes says:

    Seversky @4

    I’ll answer your question, if you answer my question first 🙂

  6. 6
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    First, no-one has discussed justification as a component for knowledge, as post Gettier, to be justified in holding a belief that turns out to be true is understood for cause as not equal to knowledge. The matter of warrant has long since been brought to your attention repeatedly but insistently ignored. Thus, you have shamelessly played the strawman tactic.

    And, as I pointed out in another thread…

    Definitions are only useful in that they allow us to communicate ideas that they represent. The criticism of “that doesn’t fit the classic definition of X” is a fallacy.

    One could just as well argued that the ability to split an atom didn’t fit the classic definition of “atom” at the time. After all, the origin of the word is French…

    late 15th century: from Old French atome, via Latin from Greek atomos ‘indivisible,’ based on a- ‘not’ + temnein ‘to cut.’

    Yet, atoms can be split.

    Yet, what you provided was a laundry list of definitions.

  7. 7
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    From another thread….

    The distinction in my position can be made clear by asking the following question….

    Do you think there can be knowledge with out God having made our faculties of choice reasonably effective?

    The claim that naturalism is incoherent because it needs to be grounded in something is to say that that ground acts as an authority that cannot be found in error. Our faculties must be effective (authoritative) to at least some sufficient degree that we can know things. This minimum must be infallibly met.

    The same must be claimed regarding the idea that our faculties of choice must be reasonably effective enough that we be held responsible in some eternal sense for our choices. That we can be punished for eternity. Otherwise, how could your theological commitments hold?

    But this doesn’t seem to add up.

    To use an example, if people in the past knew with enough certainty that slavery was just as wrong as we do today, yet were willing to keep slaves anyway, then why don’t the same number of people keep slaves today? Why does slavery exist in very specific cultures that have yet to morally evolve?

    Surely, the fact that people held slaves must have known that it was wrong with enough certainty that they could be judged and pushed for it, right? So, how do you explain the difference today?

    IOW, the entire idea that God somehow is the reason why we exhibit enough certainty makes him an authoritative source of knowledge. That is the idea that there must be some infallible source that cannot lead us into error [at some minimum level].

    But this is not my position. Again, I’m suggesting there is no sources that are guaranteed not to lead us into error. However the fact that there is such a thing as error means there is such a thing as being wrong and such a thing as the truth. So, if we are lucky, we might be able to find some of it.

  8. 8
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    Also, incase you missed it, this is why theories do not have probabilities…

    Isn’t there at least an implicit claim of that somewhere in your OP?

    https://smbc-comics.com/index.php?id=4127

    [Speaker]
    According to Bayesianism, every theory, no matter how ridiculous, has some probability of being true.

    But the sum of all theories multiplied by their probability must still be one.

    Therefore, I’ve created a new device: the Bayesian overloader.

    Start with some very probable theory that nobody likes. For example, “I will die someday”

    Now, we set the overloader to generate opposing theories, like “everyone living will not die” or “only pumpkins die” or “nobody has as ever died – theyre all just sleeping”

    Because all of these theories get some slice of the probability pie, so long as we generate theories fast enough, the undesirable theory becomes less and less true.

    The overloader creates hundreds of-trillions of theories every second.

    We wait about thirty seconds, then BAM! The initial theory is now vanishingly unlikely!

    And thus I am immortal!

    [Speaker stabs himself]

    [Dies]

    [Audience member]
    See, that’s why I’m a frequentist.

  9. 9
    Origenes says:

    CR @7

    CR: Do you think there can be knowledge with out God having made our faculties of choice reasonably effective?

    Yes, of course, since it requires knowledge to create our rational faculties, the existence of knowledge precedes our rational faculties.

    CR: The claim that naturalism is incoherent because it needs to be grounded in something is to say that that ground acts as an authority that cannot be found in error.

    Correct. Given naturalistic determinism, the initial state of the universe determines the current and future states of the world. The initial state, therefore, authoritatively grounds the world — including every word ‘you’ think and all scientific research. Libraries packed with science books, all written by the Initial State.

    CR: Our faculties must be effective (authoritative) to at least some sufficient degree that we can know things. This minimum must be infallibly met.

    Yes, but naturalism cannot do it, which is why you complain about it.

    CR: The same must be claimed regarding the idea that our faculties of choice must be reasonably effective enough that we be held responsible in some eternal sense for our choices. That we can be punished for eternity. Otherwise, how could your theological commitments hold?

    I don’t believe that to be the case. And that fact does not pose a problem for my theistic belief.

    CR: IOW, the entire idea that God somehow is the reason why we exhibit enough certainty makes him an authoritative source of knowledge. That is the idea that there must be some infallible source that cannot lead us into error [even if fallibly].

    There is an alternative: we are free responsible rational agents. Yes, God is an authority, but he does not instruct us on every move.

    CR: I’m suggesting there is no sources that are guaranteed not to lead us into error.

    In your world view, if the initial state of the universe determines us towards finding truth, then all is fine. But, if you are correct and there is no such ‘truth-loving’ initial state, then we are fated to never find the truth.

    CR: So, if we are lucky, we might be able to find some of it.

    Given materialistic determinism, we can only hope to be lucky, there is nothing we can do to change our destiny, as determined by the Initial State.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, in the other thread, I pointed out the authority you seem to have a problem with: the self-evident first principles of right reason; thus, with rationality. If you care to scroll up here, you will see from a diagram how those principles come about as direct corollaries of distinct identity. And, they are indeed the basis on which you have been able to make a distinct message. Such principles are inescapable. KF

    PS: For there to be knowledge, there have to be knowers capable of freely and responsibly accepting as true on grounds of reasonable warrant. In a mechanically deterministic world, or even one with a blend of cause-effect mechanism and stochastic chance, there is no room for reasoned, responsible, free, morally governed choice. Thus, rational discourse and knowledge collapse. Thence, self-referential incoherence of evolutionary materialistic scientism and its fellow travellers. Which, specifically includes the idea-roots of constructor theory per Deutsch et al. For instance, let us glance at an Aeon essay:

    Life without design

    Constructor theory is a new vision of physics, but it helps to answer a very old question: why is life possible at all?

    . . . . A merlin falcon hunting its prey, a hummingbird suspended in the air beside a flower, the self-reproduction of a bacterial cell: all are instances of stunning control and precision. How could anything so complex have originated from inert matter?

    For millennia, some of the most brilliant thinkers have attempted to answer this question. Most of them concluded that living things must have been produced by an intentional design process. They were wrong, of course: the theory of evolution by variation and natural selection – Charles Darwin’s momentous leap – shows how those stupendously intricate mechanisms can come about without one. Yet the task of showing how life itself can arise without design is surprisingly vexed.

    The very problem Darwin’s theory addresses is ultimately rooted in physics: living things have certain properties that seem to set them apart from other aggregations of inert matter. They have many different subparts – instantiating biological adaptations – all coordinating to some function. That’s the key property: they closely resemble objects that have literally been designed, such as factories and robots . . . .

    Here’s where the puzzle arises. Biological replication and self?reproduction are in fact such stupendously well?orchestrated physical transformations that one must explain how they are possible under the simple, no?design laws of physics such as ours. This additional explanation, which was not included in the theory of evolution, is essential for that theory to properly explain how living things arise without intentional design – to close the explanatory gap.

    the conclusion that the laws of physics must be tailored to produce biological adaptations is amazingly erroneous

    Now, it turns out that an explanation of this sort is peculiarly difficult to formulate using the prevailing methods of physics. The latter can predict only what a physical system will do (or will probably do) at a later time, given certain initial conditions and laws of motion. But applying laws of motion to particles is an intractably laborious way to express the appearance of design, replication, self?reproduction and natural selection. Those processes are highly emergent, involving the collective motion of countless interacting particles.

    There is more. Even if one could predict that – given certain dynamical laws and initial conditions – particles would aggregate so as to form a goat at a certain time, this would not at all explain whether a goat could have come about without design. The design of the goat, for all we know, could be encoded in the initial conditions or in the laws of motion. In general, one must explain whether and how a goat is possible (ie, permitted) under no?design laws of physics; not just predict that it will (or will probably) happen, given some version of the actual laws and initial conditions.

    In short, yet another form of Lewontin’s a priori evolutionary materialism, leading to ducking the challenge of accounting for functionally specific, coherent, complex organisation and associated information. Here, involving cells which are von Neumann kinematic self-replicators closely coupled to metabolic automata.

    The dodge’em information, organisation, coded algorithm as a free lunch game becomes particularly obvious later on:

    The early history of evolution is, in constructor-theoretic terms, a lengthy, highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction that eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things containing none. These elementary things are simple chemicals such as short RNA strands, which can perform only low-fidelity replication, and so do not bear the appearance of design, and are therefore allowed to exist in a pre-biotic environment governed by no-design laws.

    Thus the constructor theory of life shows explicitly that natural selection does not need to assume the existence of any initial recipe, containing knowledge, to get started. It shows that, whatever recipes we might find in living things, they do not require ad?hoc, biocentric or mysterious laws of physics in order to come into existence from elementary initial components. They need only the laws of physics to permit the existence of digital information, plus sufficient time and energy, which are non-specific to life.

    This is of course quite acceptable to the evolutionary materialistic eye of faith, for precisely the reason Philip Johnson pointed out: they are materialists doing physics etc including biology, so any slightest hint or suggestion becomes a stunning, headline-grabbing proof. Only, what really needs to be explained, FSCO/I i/l/o the search challenge of large configuration spaces given the 10^17 or so s and 10^57 atoms for our sol system or the 10^80 for the observed cosmos is passed by as though it isn’t there. And as the evolutionary materialists rule the roost, fellow travellers go along for the ride.

    Fail.

  11. 11
    Origenes says:

    KF: In a mechanically deterministic world, or even one with a blend of cause-effect mechanism and stochastic chance, there is no room for reasoned, responsible, free, morally governed choice.

    Exactly right. Well said: “there is no room”. Indeed, the whole fated universe is stacked with blindly obeying entities.

    Deutsch: They need only the laws of physics to permit the existence of digital information, plus sufficient time and energy …

    So, this parades as a “more foundational explanation”. We do not have to show how laws cause life, but, instead, all we need to show is that life is “permitted” by laws.
    Brilliant!
    The laws permit a semiotic system, so they explain a semiotic system, given sufficient time and energy …

  12. 12
    critical rationalist says:

    @originies.

    CR: Do you think there can be knowledge [without] God having made our faculties of choice reasonably effective?

    O: Yes, of course, since it requires knowledge to create our rational faculties, the existence of knowledge precedes our rational faculties.

    So, if this knowledge isn’t grounded in God, and the singularity at which we think time and space started, at least as we can currently know, was a nearly a completely homogenous state, then what authoritative knowledge are you referring to?

    What storage medium was there to retain it?

    Correct. Given naturalistic determinism, the initial state of the universe determines the current and future states of the world. The initial state, therefore, authoritatively grounds the world — including every word ‘you’ think and all scientific research. Libraries packed with science books, all written by the Initial State.

    Even if if the universe acts in a deterministic fashion, the contents of the universe did not exhibit the appearance of design.

    Furthermore, as argued, the design of high-fidelity replication isn’t already preset in the laws of physics. Wouldn’t that be necessarily so if that knowledge already existed in some deterministic sense? (This is yet another example of misrepresenting constructor theory as just saying something is possible.)

    Yes, but naturalism cannot do it, which is why you complain about it.

    Then naturalism isn’t a authoritative source. God is.

    CR: The same must be claimed regarding the idea that our faculties of choice must be reasonably effective enough that we be held responsible in some eternal sense for our choices. That we can be punished for eternity. Otherwise, how could your theological commitments hold?

    O: I don’t believe that to be the case. And that fact does not pose a problem for my theistic belief.

    If there isn’t some infallible authority that infallibly gives us some minimal ability to reason and know things, then how can we be held responsible for the choices we make based on our knowledge?

    Romans 1:19-20 “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

    How can I be without excuse unless I have clear perception? Some authority must have give me perception that is clear.

    In your world view, if the initial state of the universe determines us towards finding truth, then all is fine. But, if you are correct and there is no such ‘truth-loving’ initial state, then we are fated to never find the truth.

    Except, constructor theory is specially not a about initial states. It’s about what specific transformations are possible with specific transformations are impossible and why. You’re referring to the current conception of physics, which is about the initial conditions and laws of motion.

    I’d again ask, Is there no one willing to actually address the arguments actually being presented, as opposed to a straw man?

    <blockquoteYes, God is an authority, but he does not instruct us on every move.

    That’s not what I suggested. I said, that there must be some source that will not lead us into error, to some minimal degree. This is not the same as instructing our every move.

    Given materialistic determinism, we can only hope to be lucky, there is nothing we can do to change our destiny, as determined by the Initial State.

    We cannot predict the effect of the growth of knowledge, because it hasn’t been created yet. So, despite being compatible with determinism, we’re not stuck with a particular destiny. It cannot be predicted in that sense.

  13. 13
    Origenes says:

    CR @12

    O: Given naturalistic determinism, the initial state of the universe determines the current and future states of the world. The initial state, therefore, authoritatively grounds the world — including every word ‘you’ think and all scientific research. Libraries packed with science books, all written by the Initial State.
    CR: Even if if the universe acts in a deterministic fashion, the contents of the universe did not exhibit the appearance of design.
    Furthermore …

    Hold on. “Libraries packed with science books” is a content of the universe, but, no, the contents of the universe do not give the impression of design at all ….
    May I ask what it takes to “exhibit the appearance of design”?

    O: Given materialistic determinism, we can only hope to be lucky, there is nothing we can do to change our destiny, as determined by the Initial State.
    CR: We cannot predict the effect of the growth of knowledge, because it hasn’t been created yet.

    Given determinism, the fact that we are unable to predict the future of knowledge, doesn’t preclude that it hasn’t been determined already.

    CR: So, despite being compatible with determinism, we’re not stuck with a particular destiny.

    Given determinism, of course we are.

    CR: It cannot be predicted in that sense.

    Irrelevant. The fact, that we are unable to predict our particular destiny, doesn’t preclude that it hasn’t been already determined — after all that is what determinism means.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, you have again set up and knocked over a strawman in 8 above. I have just a moment, but it caught my eye on opening the page. If you had cared to be truthful and fair in representing your interlocutors, you would have noted that at no point have I ever suggested that theories are true to some probability, save by a passing reference to some statistical cases which would be a very restricted example. I have spoken to possible or credible truth in the context of knowledge, and to plausibility; including in the above. to get in your strawman, you spoke of in effect an emanation of a penumbra. FYI: It ‘ent dere, suh. Of course, where there is a self-referential incoherence in the core of a theory or an argument that is therefore necessary to its identity, such a theory etc is refuted by self-falsification; the probability of truth of a falsehood [such as evolutionary materialistic scientism], I presume, is nil, but that is not the primary indicator — that which is self-refuting is necessarily false. You have been exceedingly careless and self-serving at best, outright speaking with disregard to truth at worst. I suggest, you need to take time out to ponder and do better. KF

    PS: I add courtesy dictionaries on both sides of the Atlantic (as in the OP):

    cred·i·bil·i·ty (kr?d??-b?l??-t?)
    n.
    1. The quality, capability, or power to elicit belief: “The scandals posed a crisis of credibility for collegiate athletics” (Taylor Branch).
    2. A capacity for belief: a story that strained our credibility.
    American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

    credibility (?kr?d??b?l?t?)
    n
    the quality of being believed or trusted
    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

    That is, I am echoing the classical concept, pistis, speaking in the sense of a general context of soundly based conviction and trustworthiness as reliable or true.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    O, of course, there is also the issue of stochastics, which may feed the sort of wild nonlinearity and/or butterfly effect I have spoken to; if one walks the trend line to a crumbling cliff, the projected smooth path may not be the actual if it collapses underfoot . . . and this ties directly to issues of islands of function and rough fitness landscapes in configuration spaces. But such is still utterly non-rational. We are seeing how a non-rational world that reduces mindedness to GIGO-driven computation on material substrates and dismisses responsible rational freedom and ground-consequent inference on insight, ends up in blind mechanical cause effect chains and radically undermines even the rationality required to render such a notion plausible. It is self-referentially incoherent, self-falsifying and necessarily false. But there are many motives to cling to the false or even the outright absurd in the teeth of all correction. BA is right to point out the difference between reasoned argument and keeping up on typing regardless of the actual position on the merits. KF

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let me observe that degree of warrant is not a synonym for degree of probability of truth. That seems to be an error in Popper or the Popperian Critical Rationalists. Instead, it seems reasonable to hold that degree of warrant is an index of degree of credibility of a truth-claim per a rational and responsible discussion. Such a discussion and its evaluation would be so caught up with human decision-making, that assigning a probability metric becomes futile, even as we distinguish between probability of diverse branches due to contingent states of nature and circumstances due to human decisions in decision analysis. We can likely assign a nominal scale or even an ordinal one that assesses subjective plausibilities, at least roughly — say for instance:

    (utter undeniable certainty [per, self-evidence and or necessary truth more generally] > moral certainty > reasonably credible on balance of merits > possible > uncertain but remotely possible > implausible > very implausible > utterly implausible > maximally implausible > practically impossible > utterly impossible)

    . . . and one might then perhaps assign a plausibility scale using perhaps some form of an extension to a Likert-like or even a Rasch-like polytomous scale involving ranked ordinal number assignment [note, I would doubt the idea of “even intervals” there . . . ], like so:

    (1st: utter undeniable certainty [per, self-evidence and or necessary truth more generally] > 2nd: moral certainty > 3rd: reasonably credible on balance of merits > 4th: possible > 5th: uncertain but remotely possible > 6th: implausible > 7th: very implausible >8th: utterly implausible > 9th: maximally implausible > 10th: practically impossible > 11th: utterly impossible)

    . . . but that is a very different thing from the ratio scale spanning the continuous interval [0,1] required for probability assessments. This is beginning to sound like the tendency to force grading into a quasi-smooth scale of “marks” or “percent” which is common but of questionable validity. Though, of good pragmatic sense given institutional and cultural pressures. KF

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