Intelligent Design

A Modest Thought Experiment

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Here’s a thought experiment for our materialist friends.

Suppose you have a table, and on that table you place three cylinders, one each of oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. Beside these cylinders you place a lump of carbon, a lump of calcium, and a jar of phosphorus. These chemicals make up over 98% of the human body by mass. Suppose further that you place on the table containers of each of the trace chemicals found in the human body so that at the end you have on your table all of the chemicals found in the human body in the same amount by mass and in the same proportion as those chemicals occur in the human body.

Now ask yourself some questions:

1. Do you owe any moral duty to any of the individual chemicals? I presume you will say the answer is “no.”

2. Does your answer change if instead of the individual chemicals, you consider all of them setting there on your table together? I presume the answer is still “no.”

3. Now suppose you mix all of the chemicals together? Does your answer change? I presume the answer is still “no.”

I presume by your answer to these three questions that you believe that there is nothing special about the chemicals in the human body – whether considered in isolation or in combination – that causes you to owe any moral duty to those chemicals. On materialist premises, a human being is nothing more than a somewhat sophisticated mixture of its constituent chemicals. I presume you will say that you owe moral duties to other human beings. So my final question is this:

4. What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?

201_Elements_of_the_Human_Body-01

Chart courtesy of Wikipedia.

138 Replies to “A Modest Thought Experiment

  1. 1
    ppolish says:

    I’m going to go with molybdenum. It’s the Mo in CroMo. Steel bicycles have soul:)

  2. 2
    Moose Dr says:

    “Now suppose you mix all of the chemicals together? Does your answer change?”

    Um, yup it does. Mix hydrogen and oxygen together and you have a very volatile mix. I would presume moral responsibility to make sure the boom doesn’t hurt anyone.

    Just sayin.

  3. 3
    Petrushka says:

    Same thing that makes a diamond worth more than the equivalent amount of carbon in the form of coal.

  4. 4
    Barry Arrington says:

    OK; ppolish, Moose Dr and Petrushka have got nothing. Anyone else care to answer?

  5. 5
    Petrushka says:

    There is something special. The arrangement.

  6. 6
    Graham2 says:

    This is what Intelligent Design has come to … dumb questions.

    UD Editors: Graham, no need to expose the poverty of your intellect like this. You can just not post if you’ve got nothing.

  7. 7
    rhampton7 says:

    A better thought experiment. On a table before you is a recently deceased person. What moral duty you owe the corpse? Please explain:

  8. 8
    goodusername says:

    I would say it’s the qualities that we associate with personhood – intelligence, feelings, sentience, etc.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    Petrushka:

    Same thing that makes a diamond worth more than the equivalent amount of carbon in the form of coal.

    Next time you’re freezing to death try tossing diamonds into your coal burning stove rather than coal.

  10. 10
    ppolish says:

    Rhamptwn7, your thought expirement is interesting, but why is it better than Barry’s? Barry’s was quite interesting.

  11. 11
    Petrushka says:

    The question was, what is about the mixture.
    And the answer is the arrangement or configuration.

  12. 12
    Petrushka says:

    SNIP

    UD Editors: Transparent attempt to derail a thread that obviously makes Petrushka uncomfortable deleted.

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    It is interesting to point out that the materialistic philosophy has an extremely difficult time assigning any proper value to humans in the first place, i.e. Just how do you derive value for a person from a philosophy that maintains transcendent values are illusory?:

    How much is my body worth?
    Excerpt: The U.S. Bureau of Chemistry and Soils invested many a hard-earned tax dollar in calculating the chemical and mineral composition of the human body,,,,Together, all of the above (chemicals and minerals) amounts to less than one dollar!
    http://www.coolquiz.com/trivia...../worth.asp

    I would like to think, despite the atrocities of Nazism and Communism, that most people intuitively know that they are worth far more value than a dollar?!? Yet, as pointed out, on materialism you have the ‘resale value’ of less than one dollar!

    Of course, in the marketplace some arrangements of matter carry much more value than other arrangements of matter because of the craftsmanship inherent within how the matter is arranged. But materialists deny that there is any true craftsmanship within humans. We are merely the happenstance product of a lucky series of accidents! Thus, why should any person’s particular arrangement of material carry any more value than any other particular arrangement of matter since any person’s arrangement of matter is just a happenstance accident and was not the work of a craftsman (i.e. was not fearfully and wonderfully made)?

    The Heretic – Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him? – March 25, 2013
    Excerpt: Nobody thinks his daughter is just molecules in motion and nothing but; nobody thinks the Holocaust was evil, but only in a relative, provisional sense. A materialist who lived his life according to his professed convictions—understanding himself to have no moral agency at all, seeing his friends and enemies and family as genetically determined robots—wouldn’t just be a materialist: He’d be a psychopath.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....tml?page=3

    Whereas in Theism, particularly in Christianity, there is no trouble whatsoever figuring out how much humans are really worth, since infinite Almighty God has shown us how much we mean to him, since he was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice so as to redeem us:

    1 Corinthians 6:20
    For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

    John 3:16
    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    MercyMe – Beautiful – music
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vh7-RSPuAA

    To try to answer Mr. Arrington’s question, I would say that we have our foundational moral rights and value because we have souls that are made in the image of God (i.e. endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights):

    Matthew 16:26
    And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

    “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
    George MacDonald – Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood – 1892
    empirical evidence to that effect:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-545518

    The supposed evidence for human evolution is far weaker than many people seem to realize:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-545788

    There is simply no way to derive any true meaning and value for human life without God, as Dr. Craig makes clear in the following video:

    The absurdity of life without God (1 of 3) by William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJqkpI1W75c

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    goodusername:

    I would say it’s the qualities that we associate with personhood – intelligence, feelings, sentience, etc.

    So it’s still nothing but a bag of chemicals, but certain qualities of the bag of chemicals makes it a repository of moral rights when the identical chemicals without those qualities would not? Sounds arbitrary to me. Says who? You’ve given me no reason that a bag of chemicals with those qualities is morally any different from a bag of chemicals without those qualities.

  15. 15
    Petrushka says:

    Why would you say it’s just a bag of chemicals? I would never say that.

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    Petrushka:

    And the answer is the arrangement or configuration.

    Non-answer trying to masquerade as an answer.

  17. 17
    Barry Arrington says:

    Petrushka

    Why would you say it’s just a bag of chemicals? I would never say that.

    Of course you wouldn’t. Because most materialist I find are scared to death to confront the logical conclusions compelled by their premises.

  18. 18
    skram says:

    Barry Arrington:

    On materialist premises, a human being is nothing more than a somewhat sophisticated mixture of its constituent chemicals.

    Let’s not pretend that this describes our position. However, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Barry, I will quote Nobel laureate Phil Anderson’s 1972 essay “More is different.”

    The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from those laws and reconstruct the universe. The constructionist hypothesis breaks down when confronted with the twin difficulties of scale and complexity. At each level of complexity entirely new properties appear. Psychology is not applied biology, nor is biology applied chemistry. We can now see that the whole becomes not merely more, but very different from the sum of its parts.

    The essay can be easily found on the web. Until Barry and his friends read it and at least try to understand the main points, there is no reason to engage them.

    UD Editors: Until skram and his friends admit that emergence (which is what is described in the quote) is nothing more than materialist mysticism trying to pass itself off as an intellectually respectable scientific account, there is no need to deal with them. Skram, you can run off and comfort yourself with your little stories. Do not expect those who demand plausible accounts to be impressed.

  19. 19
    Mung says:

    Sure, a coal burning stove is great at burning coal, but just think how much better it must be at burning diamonds!

    Or not.

  20. 20
  21. 21
    hrun0815 says:

    Because most materialist I find are scared to death to confront the logical conclusions compelled by their premises.

    Or, it could also be that you can’t really understand that (at least some) materialists are perfectly happy to give special treatment to some meatbags and not to others. Therefor, they are not actually scared to death about confronting anything. It just turns out that you are mistaken about what they are actually compelled to by their premises.

    Hahaha, just joshing. Barry can’t be wrong about this.

    UD Editors: Scoffing and scorn are sad and pathetic substitutes for argument. It seems, though, that is mainly what I get from materialists nowadays.

  22. 22
    bornagain77 says:

    as to,, “The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws,,,”

    The claim that everything can be reduced to laws is simply false:

    In fact, Kant’s empirical requirement for the moral argument for God to be verified, (influences arising from outside space-time), has now been met in quantum mechanics:

    God, Immanuel Kant, Richard Dawkins, and the Quantum – Antoine Suarez – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQOwMX4bCqk

    Antoine Suarez is the founding director of the Center for Quantum Philosophy in Zurich, based on philosophical questions raised in the 1970’s and 1980’s by John Bell.
    Suarez and Valerio Scarani, inspired by discussions with Bell, proposed in 1997 the “before-before” experiment (which confirmed quantum non-locality from another angle).,,,
    http://www.informationphilosop.....ts/suarez/

    What Does Quantum Physics Have to Do with Free Will? – By Antoine Suarez – July 22, 2013
    Excerpt: What is more, recent experiments are bringing to light that the experimenter’s free will and consciousness should be considered axioms (founding principles) of standard quantum physics theory. So for instance, in experiments involving “entanglement” (the phenomenon Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”), to conclude that quantum correlations of two particles are nonlocal (i.e. cannot be explained by signals traveling at velocity less than or equal to the speed of light), it is crucial to assume that the experimenter can make free choices, and is not constrained in what orientation he/she sets the measuring devices.
    To understand these implications it is crucial to be aware that quantum physics is not only a description of the material and visible world around us, but also speaks about non-material influences coming from outside the space-time.,,,
    https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/what-does-quantum-physics-have-do-free-will

    For a prime example of something that cannot be reduced to law (i.e. chance and necessity), we need look no further than the information generated by humans every time they write a single sentence of functional information or create an axiom in mathematics:

    Algorithmic Information Theory, Free Will and the Turing Test – Douglas S. Robertson
    Excerpt: For example, the famous “Turing test” for artificial intelligence could be defeated by simply asking for a new axiom in mathematics. Human mathematicians are able to create axioms, but a computer program cannot do this without violating information conservation. Creating new axioms and free will are shown to be different aspects of the same phenomena: the creation of new information.
    http://cires.colorado.edu/~dou...../info8.pdf

    Book Review – Meyer, Stephen C. Signature in the Cell. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
    Excerpt: As early as the 1960s, those who approached the problem of the origin of life from the standpoint of information theory and combinatorics observed that something was terribly amiss. Even if you grant the most generous assumptions: that every elementary particle in the observable universe is a chemical laboratory randomly splicing amino acids into proteins every Planck time for the entire history of the universe, there is a vanishingly small probability that even a single functionally folded protein of 150 amino acids would have been created. Now of course, elementary particles aren’t chemical laboratories, nor does peptide synthesis take place where most of the baryonic mass of the universe resides: in stars or interstellar and intergalactic clouds. If you look at the chemistry, it gets even worse—almost indescribably so: the precursor molecules of many of these macromolecular structures cannot form under the same prebiotic conditions—they must be catalysed by enzymes created only by preexisting living cells, and the reactions required to assemble them into the molecules of biology will only go when mediated by other enzymes, assembled in the cell by precisely specified information in the genome.
    So, it comes down to this: Where did that information come from? The simplest known free living organism (although you may quibble about this, given that it’s a parasite) has a genome of 582,970 base pairs, or about one megabit (assuming two bits of information for each nucleotide, of which there are four possibilities). Now, if you go back to the universe of elementary particle Planck time chemical labs and work the numbers, you find that in the finite time our universe has existed, you could have produced about 500 bits of structured, functional information by random search. Yet here we have a minimal information string which is (if you understand combinatorics) so indescribably improbable to have originated by chance that adjectives fail.
    http://www.fourmilab.ch/docume.....k_726.html

    Of related note:

    “The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God.”
    Charles Darwin to Doedes, N. D. – Letter – 2 Apr 1873
    http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/entry-8837

    Mind and Cosmos – Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False – Thomas Nagel
    Excerpt: If materialism cannot accommodate consciousness and other mind-related aspects of reality, then we must abandon a purely materialist understanding of nature in general, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. And the cosmological history that led to the origin of life and the coming into existence of the conditions for evolution cannot be a merely materialist history.

    David Chalmers is semi-famous for getting the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness across to lay people in a very easy to understand manner:

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    Here are a few more comments, from atheists, that agree with Chalmers on the insolubility of ‘hard problem’ of consciousness,,

    Darwinian Psychologist David Barash Admits the Seeming Insolubility of Science’s “Hardest Problem”
    Excerpt: ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    David Barash – Materialist/Atheist Darwinian Psychologist
    – per UD News

    “We have so much confidence in our materialist assumptions (which are assumptions, not facts) that something like free will is denied in principle. Maybe it doesn’t exist, but I don’t really know that. Either way, it doesn’t matter because if free will and consciousness are just an illusion, they are the most seamless illusions ever created. Film maker James Cameron wishes he had special effects that good.”
    Matthew D. Lieberman – neuroscientist – materialist – UCLA professor

    Here a Harvard neurosurgeon, a former atheist and who had a life changing Near Death Experience, comments on the ‘hard’ problem:

    The Science of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander – Nov. 18, 2012
    Can consciousness exist when the body fails? One neurosurgeon says he has seen it firsthand—and takes on critics who vehemently disagree.
    Excerpt: Many scientists who study consciousness would agree with me that, in fact, the hard problem of consciousness is probably the one question facing modern science that is arguably forever beyond our knowing, at least in terms of a physicalist model of how the brain might create consciousness. In fact, they would agree that the problem is so profound that we don’t even know how to phrase a scientific question addressing it. But if we must decide which produces which, modern physics is pushing us in precisely the opposite direction, suggesting that it is consciousness that is primary and matter secondary.
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/n.....eaven.html

  23. 23
    buffalo says:

    Does Richard Dawkins Exist? – Answers to “Scientific” Materialism – http://idvolution.blogspot.com.....rs-to.html

    By his own beliefs Richard Dawkins does not exist.

  24. 24
    Graham2 says:

    UD Editors: Another attempt to change the subject deleted. Graham, if you’ve got nothing, best to move along.

  25. 25
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Hey Dr. Torley made it on ID The Future

    podcast: “Vincent Torley: Can Science Point to the Existence of God?”
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....3_36-08_00
    Casey Luskin talks with Dr. Vincent Torley about his defense of Eric Metaxas’ recent WSJ op-ed, which argued that modern science points towards theism, rather than against it.

  26. 26
    goodusername says:

    Barry,

    So it’s still nothing but a bag of chemicals, but certain qualities of the bag of chemicals makes it a repository of moral rights when the identical chemicals without those qualities would not?

    Yes

    Sounds arbitrary to me. Says who? You’ve given me no reason that a bag of chemicals with those qualities is morally any different from a bag of chemicals without those qualities.

    Says me. Says everyone (well, maybe not some sociopaths). Because it’s those qualities that causes us to empathize with them, and such bags of chemicals are special to us.

    Says you too. There are many people whom I’m sure you care for deeply, and you still would even if somehow it were discovered they lacked a soul. And you still wouldn’t think the difference between them and a bag of chemicals was arbitrary.

  27. 27
    Barry Arrington says:

    goodusername @ 26:

    Thank you for at least trying to meet the substance of the OP. I’ve just deleted half a dozen thumb sucking, crybaby comments.

    To the substance of your post, you continue steadfastly to avert your eyes from the point. I understand. You are afraid. As Nietzsche said, “if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” And that is a frightening prospect. Better to avert your eyes.

  28. 28
    Radioaction says:

    So you delete our off-topic posts, but Ba77’s off-topic posts are just fine huh?

    UD Editors: No, I delete thumb sucking crybaby posts. If you don’t like our editorial policy, you are welcome to start your own blog. I have never yet seen BA77 whine like the average materialist does on these pages. Moreover, BA77’s posts are not off topic, and the fact that you think they are means you don’t really understand what the topic is.

  29. 29
    REC says:

    Might it be best to leave the “thumb sucking crybaby” comments as incriminating evidence against the comment-er?

    But I digress. A question for Barry: you have 2 parts elemental hydrogen and one part elemental oxygen in a flask? Drink it? I think not, until you set it alight with a spark, forming the compound water.

    Is watery-ness an “emergent property” of the reaction? Or is this what we call chemistry?

    I think the answer to question 3 is that if we could precisely synthesize all the bonds necessary in all the chemicals that make you or I up, then yes, I would owe ethical duties to that being (including not undertaking this experiment).

  30. 30
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC, why would you owe ethical duties to a bag of chemicals when the only difference between the chemicals on the table and the chemicals in the bag is that, well, they are now mixed together in a bag? Giving a plausible answer to that question is the point of the exercise. Perhaps you missed that.

  31. 31
    REC says:

    Barry,

    You seem to want to dismiss chemistry all together.

    So, I’ll ask again: Is watery-ness an “emergent property” of the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen? Or is this what we call chemistry?

    I’ll continue with a short answer. The difference between life and a pile of chemicals is that life is a precisely bonded arrangement of those chemicals, maintaining homeostasis, far from equilibrium.

  32. 32
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry

    Rec has answered your question rather well – we are not just any old mixture of those chemicals in a bag but a complex, more-or-less self sustaining, arrangement of those chemicals. I would like to add that the very complicated chemical system which is you and me also participates in a society and an ecosystem (i.e. complicated relationships with other such systems) and a lot of our moral duties to each other arise from that.

  33. 33
    Piotr says:

    Barry probably imagines that physics should always favour perfectly homogenised “mixtures of chemicals”, and that there’s no natural reason why any kind of order should develop in such mixtures spontaneously, without God’s personal intervention. It’s been almost forty years since Prigogine got a Nobel Prize for work on open system thermodynamics (including the formation and stability of dissipative structures), but news travel slowly in some circles.

  34. 34
    Me_Think says:

    While no one owes moral duty towards chemicals, they do owe moral duty when those chemicals are in a ‘bag’ of organs networked by neurons attached to a brain.

  35. 35
    nightlight says:

    The elemental matter-energy components interact differently in different mutual arrangements. That’s the most basic law of natural science (laws of matter-energy interactions in physics). A weight interacts differently with a set of metal atoms that are arranged into a spring than with the same set atoms arranged into a ball.

    Hence, there is no surprise or any breakdown or dissonance in the patterns of natural science in the observation that matter-energy arrangements we label “humans” interact differently with other chunks of matter-energy (humans, animals, or piles of chemicals) depending on their internal and mutual arrangements.

    If you fall back on a defense that piles of chemicals which interact differently with each other based on their internal arrangements (e.g. chemical bonds) don’t feel moral obligation to act differently, you’re stepping outside (i.e. invoking deus ex machina “solution”) of both the empirically demonstrable facts and theories of natural science, since you cannot objectively demonstrate or prove based on some axioms or equations of natural science that you have any idea what is it like to be some other arrangement of matter-energy interacting with the other matter-energy arrangements beyond yourself. In fact, you can’t even even objectively demonstrate anything about what is it like to be matter-energy arrangement that makes up “you”.

    Hence, you would be making assertions about matters you cannot demonstrate to have any clue about i.e. this fallback defense would be indistinguishable form any random gibberish.

    Of course, the present natural science is limited to what it can effectively/practically model, thus what it can explain in detail. For example, it is not presently possible to compute what a human or animal or cell, or even a set of complex molecules, will do in a given setup from the basic laws of physics and chemistry (plus the initial and boundary conditions).

    Furthermore, the present natural science lacks a scientific model for consciousness i.e. a way to model questions such as ‘what is it like to be’ such and such arrangement of matter-energy.

    But neither of the two forms of incompleteness above is an inconsistency or incoherence or break in the pattern of natural science.

    Note also that by Godel’s theorems any ‘non-trivial’ system of knowledge is either incomplete or inconsistent. Therefore, any logically coherent natural science, present or future is doomed to remain incomplete. This again is perfectly harmonious with the incompleteness patterns noted above about the state of present natural science. Hence, there is no surprise or break of the patterns in this aspect either.

  36. 36
    faded_Glory says:

    1. No

    2. No

    3. No

    4. Kinship

    fG

  37. 37
    bornagain77 says:

    Aurelio Smith, per your link on the soul, there is something fundamentally flawed in the belief that souls can be weighed. Neither energy, nor information ‘weigh’ anything. Only matter is able to be measured by weight. I touched on the fact that information is weightless in my response to you the other day about the soul:

    empirical evidence for the soul:
    Excerpt: Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqiXNxyoof8

    “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin?
    And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce.
    In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires.
    Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.”
    -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-545518

    Moreover, energy/light has no rest mass and cannot be put on a scale to be weighed. Thus, energy/light has no ‘weight’ that can be measured by a scale even though light, per e=mc2, has a mass equivalence:

    Energy has a mass equivalent. This is so small as to be negligible in most everyday processes on Earth,,,
    A good-sized nuclear power plant might put out 1000 megawatts of power. The total power output of such a plant for 25 hours amounts to 90,000,000,000,000 joules, which is the equivalent of about a gram of mass.
    per Yahoo answers

    Of related note to ‘measuring the soul’, humans emit ‘quantum light’:

    Photocount distribution of photons emitted from three sites of a human body – 2006
    Excerpt: Signals from three representative sites of low, intermediate and high intensities are selected for further analysis. Fluctuations in these signals are measured by the probabilities of detecting different numbers of photons in a bin. The probabilities have non-classical features and are well described by the signal in a quantum squeezed state of photons. Measurements with bins of three sizes yield same values of three parameters of the squeezed state.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16520060

    Humans Glow in (Emit) Visible Light – July 2009
    Excerpt: Past research has shown that the body emits visible light, 1,000 times less intense than the levels to which our naked eyes are sensitive. In fact, virtually all living creatures emit very weak light,
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32.....ble-light/

    Strange! Humans Glow in Visible Light – Charles Q. Choi – July 22, 2009
    Schematic illustration of experimental setup that found the human body, especially the face, emits visible light in small quantities that vary during the day. B is one of the test subjects. The other images show the weak emissions of visible light during totally dark conditions. The chart corresponds to the images and shows how the emissions varied during the day. The last image (I) is an infrared image of the subject showing heat emissions.
    http://i.livescience.com/image.....1296086873

    Quotes:

    “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
    George MacDonald – Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood – 1892

    Coast to Coast – Vicki’s Near Death Experience (Blind From Birth) part 1 of 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e65KhcCS5-Y

    Quote from preceding video: ‘I was in a body and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head. It had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And ‘it’ was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.’ –
    Vicky Noratuk

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    REC:

    The difference between life and a pile of chemicals is that life is a precisely bonded arrangement of those chemicals, maintaining homeostasis, far from equilibrium.

    Yes, we know your propaganda, however you don’t have any evidence to support it.

  39. 39
    Joe says:

    Me Think:

    While no one owes moral duty towards chemicals, they do owe moral duty when those chemicals are in a ‘bag’ of organs networked by neurons attached to a brain.

    Not if evolutionism is true. Also other animals fit your description and I am sure you would have them killed and eaten.

  40. 40
    Joe says:

    skram:

    Second, if you think that emergence is mysticism, please offer a straightforward, reductionist, no-emergence-involved account of the physical property called rigidity, i.e., the ability of solids to maintain shape.

    Emergence is mysticism because it is used as such. Just because emergence works in some cases doesn’t mean it is universally applicable.

  41. 41
    Piotr says:

    Barry,

    There is nothing mystical about “emergent properties”. Of course, calling something “emergent” is not a sufficient explanation, because “emergence” is not a particular schema for generating complexity. It’s a general term for a large variety of natural mechanisms. They have been studied and described formally in terms of thermodynamics and control theory. Some emergent phenomena are relatively simple and well understood (say, honeycomb-like convection cells in oil heated in a frying-pan); others are more complex and cannot be explained in minor detail, although we have a general idea how they work and can study them using computer simulations (weather phenomena such as tornadoes belong in this class). Still others remain intractable at least for the time being (especially if they involve multiple layers of complexity and numerous feedback loops). But we know at least that complexity does arise naturally.

  42. 42
    Joe says:

    skram, Listen to Joe- emergence isn’t a cure-all.

  43. 43
    Joe says:

    Piotr, There is plenty of mysticism behind emergence especially when people use the word as some sort of cure-all for the issues they face.

    Complexity does arise without an intelligent agency’s involvement. However mere complexity is not being debated.

  44. 44
    Petrushka says:

    UD Editors: Yet another attempt by Petrushka to change the subject deleted. Final warning P.

  45. 45
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: 1. Do you owe any moral duty to any of the individual chemicals?

    It depends. People form attachments to non-human, or even non-organic things.

    What on earth was wrong with her? she had wondered. Would she spend the rest of her days grieving for every loss equally — a daughter-in-law, a baby, a cat, a machine that dries the air out? Was this how it felt to grow old?” — Anne Tyler, Breathing Lessons

    Barry Arrington: 2. Does your answer change if instead of the individual chemicals, you consider all of them setting there on your table together? I presume the answer is still “no.”

    See #1.

    Barry Arrington: 3. Now suppose you mix all of the chemicals together? Does your answer change? I presume the answer is still “no.”

    You mean like in a bucket? Again, see #1.

    Why do people like the movie “Frozen” so much? It’s just an arrangement of light and sound.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU

    Barry Arrington: 4. What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?

    We just happen to have a certain fondness for the little apes, er, peculiar mixture of chemicals you call “human being”. Say it’s a peccadillo, if you like.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    It depends. People form attachments to non-human, or even non-organic things.

    That doesn’t even address the question let alone answer it.

    We just happen to have a certain fondness for the little apes, er, peculiar mixture of chemicals you call “human being”.

    So that is why we allow 1.2 million abortions a year in the USA alone? That is a strange way of displaying fondness…

  47. 47
    Barry Arrington says:

    Again, comments that exhibit whining, thumb sucking and crybaby tendencies instead of addressing the substantive issues are subject to being deleted from my threads and if the whiner refuses to desist, he will be shown the exit.

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    Wow!

    Astonishing . . .

    May I have permission to call to the witness stand a certain Plato in The Laws, Bk X, for the second time this morning?

    Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.

    [[ . . . .]

    Ath. If we were to see this power existing in any earthy, watery, or fiery substance, simple or compound-how should we describe it?

    Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?

    Ath. I do.

    Cle. Certainly we should.

    Ath. And when we see soul in anything, must we not do the same-must we not admit that this is life?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?

    Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?

    Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.

    Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?

    Cle. Exactly.

    Ath. Then we are right, and speak the most perfect and absolute truth, when we say that the soul is prior to the body, and that the body is second and comes afterwards, and is born to obey the soul, which is the ruler?

    [[ . . . . ]

    Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]

    When we set out in any direction, we meet Socrates, Plato and Aristotle . . . on the way back. [I forget who this is.]

    Some rethinking is called for, if we so struggle with the difference between piles of chemicals, mixtures, compounds and even bodies and a living breathing self-aware reflexively acting human being.

    KF

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    MT,

    That makes me ask why the difference between catching and roasting a fish for lunch and cannibalism.

    KF

  50. 50
    Me_Think says:

    KF,

    That makes me ask why the difference between catching and roasting a fish for lunch and cannibalism.

    We have enough food without restoring to cannibalism. I am sure you have heard desperate survivors resorting to cannibalism, and it was pretty common in early centuries.

  51. 51
    Joe says:

    Me Think:

    So you would eat humans?

    I don’t eat other land animals, so why would I eat humans?

  52. 52
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: That makes me ask why the difference between catching and roasting a fish for lunch and cannibalism.

    The latter might go well with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. With the former, try rice pilaf and a Sauvignon Blanc from the Adelaide Hills.

  53. 53
    Joe says:

    Also if evolutionism were true than humans eating other humans would be OK.

  54. 54
    Barry Arrington says:

    Me Think, I take it your answer to question 4 is “nothing.” Now that is a straightforward, honest and even courageous answer that I think Nietzsche would have applauded. Much better than your materialist friends.

  55. 55
    Barry Arrington says:

    REC @ 31

    Is watery-ness an “emergent property” of the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen? Or is this what we call chemistry?

    Yes, I ignored your reference to emergentism before. When it comes to the issues we are discussing here, I agree with atheist Thomas Nagel, who calls emergentism materialist “magic.” See my discussion here.

    But even if I grant for the sake of argument that the “emergent property” evasion somehow really is an answer that accounts for the data, you have not answered the question. As I stated in the post linked above I grant that many systems have emergent properties. But I am sure you will agree that the mere fact that a system exhibits emergent properties does not mean the system is a repository of moral rights implicating my and your moral duties. Flocks of birds; schools of fish and hurricanes exhibit emergent properties. I have no duty to refrain from murdering a flock of birds.

    I’ll continue with a short answer. The difference between life and a pile of chemicals is that life is a precisely bonded arrangement of those chemicals, maintaining homeostasis, far from equilibrium.

    You seem to think that because a bag of chemicals is arranged in a particular way, it all of a sudden becomes a repository of rights. You give no explanation for why this should be so. It certainly is not self-evident. So, again, your answer amounts to nothing more than an assertion. It is not an argument.

    AS @ 36:

    Your reference to MacDougall’s kooky experiment leads me to believe you are not being serious.

    Faded Glory @ 38.

    A single word does not an argument make.

    Piotr @ 33

    You are good at writing mocking dismissive irrelevancies while ignoring the 800 pound gorilla sitting next to you on the couch. As I said to GUN, I understand. You are afraid to look. As Nietzsche said, “if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” And that is a frightening prospect. Better to avert your eyes.

    Piotr @ 43

    There is nothing mystical about “emergent properties”

    It depends. Again, I agree with Thomas Nagel. In some contexts it is appropriate. In other contexts (especially the one we are talking about here), it is materialist “magic.”

    Your discussion of emergence is actually a fair summary. The issues, of course, are twofold. (1) the fact that emergence works as an explanation for hurricanes by no means implies that it works as an explanation for, say, subjective self-awareness. (2) more importantly, as I explained to REC above, it does not even begin to answer the question.

    Gentlemen, try to focus on the question. Here it is again.

    4. What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?

    The response “emergent properties are involved” does not address, much less answer, the question unless you can further explain why those emergent properties make a difference with respect to whether the system suddenly becomes a repository of moral rights. Surely you will agree that many systems that exhibit emergent properties are not repositories of moral rights (e.g., flocks, schools, hurricanes). It follows that “it has emergent properties” is not an explanation for why a system is the repository of moral rights.

    Zachriel @ 47. Your response is not worthy of notice. Go back. Think harder. Try again.

    KF @ 50. Indeed. There is nothing new under the sun.

  56. 56
    Barry Arrington says:

    I am gaveling the discussion of cannibalism. It has served its purpose of showing that Me Think is a nihilist. As I implied above, nihilism is an honest position even if I disagree with it. It is far better than the “cake and eat it too” materialists we get so often on these pages.

  57. 57
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    There is nothing mystical about “emergent properties”. Of course, calling something “emergent” is not a sufficient explanation, because “emergence” is not a particular schema for generating complexity. It’s a general term for a large variety of natural mechanisms. They have been studied and described formally in terms of thermodynamics and control theory. Some emergent phenomena are relatively simple and well understood (say, honeycomb-like convection cells in oil heated in a frying-pan); others are more complex and cannot be explained in minor detail, although we have a general idea how they work and can study them using computer simulations (weather phenomena such as tornadoes belong in this class). Still others remain intractable at least for the time being (especially if they involve multiple layers of complexity and numerous feedback loops). But we know at least that complexity does arise naturally.”

    The phenomenon of an emergent effect is possible when a proportional cause or the proportional causal conditions that could produce it are already in place. It can happen, for example, when physical causal conditions produce another physical effect, as in a thunderstorm. (A “proportional” cause is one that is sufficient for the task.)

    Materialistic emergence is different because it posits an effect without a proportional cause. There is nothing present in matter or in material conditions, for example, that could produce a non-material effect, such as information. There is no logical pathway from matter to non-matter or from non-intelligence to organization. Thus, emergence in that context, is irrational because it posits an effect without a proportional cause.

  58. 58
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB @ 59. Even some atheists understand this. The reasons you describe are precisely the reasons Nagel calls emergantism “magic” in this context.

  59. 59
    Joe says:

    4. What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?

    Human beings belong to a class of physical objects that are more than a mixture of chemicals and anything that emerges from that mixture. Meaning human beings and all other living organisms are emergent properties.

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    Materialistic emergence is different because it posits an effect without a proportional cause. There is nothing present in matter or in material conditions, for example, that could produce a non-material effect, such as information.

    This assumes that there are non-material effects. If you are a materialist then clearly you don’t believe such effects exist. In particular, in the context of this OP, the OP assumes that there is a property of an object “repository of moral rights” which then needs to be explained. If you realise that actually morals and ethics are defined by people’s reactions to the events and objects then the problem goes away.  The system of chemicals that is our body and its context in the broader environment cause other bodies to react to it in that distinctive way we call morality. 

  61. 61
    Joe says:

    Materialists cannot explain information, which is neither matter, energy or anything that emerges from their interactions. Materialism cannot explain the existence of living organisms.

  62. 62
    Zachriel says:

    Zachriel: People form attachments to non-human, or even non-organic things.

    Barry Arrington: Your response is not worthy of notice.

    Heh.

    Handwaving aside, it’s a fact. People will form attachments to other people, things, ideas, symbols, notions of themselves, a distant past that inhabits their thoughts. That’s what makes life what it is for most of humanity. Logic is all well and good, but rarefied morality has precious little currency with most people. It’s passion that drives people to act.

  63. 63
    Joe says:

    People will form attachments to other people, things, ideas, symbols, notions of themselves, a distant past that inhabits their thoughts. That’s what makes life what it is for most of humanity.

    And more handwaving. I thought it said “Handwaving aside.”?

  64. 64
    Piotr says:

    #59 StephenB

    Information is any pattern that contrasts with another pattern (and so “makes a difference”). Any binary contrast (like absence versus presence of anything is one bit of information by definition. No big deal. Information always has a physical representation and can only be transmitted using a physical medium. To say that it isn’t material is like claiming that two electrons can’t be material because in order to distinguish them from one or three electrons you have to determine their number, and numbers are not matter or energy.

  65. 65
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry Arringon:

    Faded Glory @ 38.

    A single word does not an argument make.

    You asked a modest question (What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?, I gave you my modest answer.

    I can elaborate if you wish.

    We observe that humans are conditioned to assign the most value to those who are closest to them. Closest family usually comes first, followed by more remote family and friends, then other people, and the more remote and/or different, the less we care. Perhaps not nice or fair, but it seems to be the way most people are wired.

    It goes down from there to animals, and again most people value animals that are closer to humans more than others. Whereas all of us would squat a fly, none of us would kill a dog off-hand except perhaps as an act of kindness to put is put of its misery.

    Nobody I ever heard of has any moral issues with weeding unwanted plants from our gardens.

    Valuing minerals for anything other than their usefulness, financial value or beauty is just weird.

    In other words, this is not a black and white issue but a gradational scale of how we feel connected and related to other living beings, and why we assign corresponding value to them.

    I think this may well have roots in our evolutional heritage and mankind’s particular background as social animals.

    Therefore my answer: kinship.

    fG

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    This assumes that there are non-material effects. If you are a materialist then clearly you don’t believe such effects exist.

    I presented two examples of materialist claims of effects that occur without proportional causes. That should have been a clue that the proposed transition from matter to non-matter is not the only example. Materialism posits many such unaccounted for effects, such as the transformation from non-life to life, which would be an effect without a proportional cause.

    Second, it is a fact that information is non material. The arrangement (not the existence) of nucleotides exists as a non-material reality. So it is with a process, or a disposition, or an order of events or objects. In that context, then, it hardly matters that you have beliefs at odds with those facts.

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Information always has a physical representation and can only be transmitted using a physical medium. To say that it isn’t material is like claiming that two electrons can’t be material because in order to distinguish them from one or three electrons you have to determine their number, and numbers are not matter or energy.

    Information is an arrangement of matter. Arrangements are not material. How it is represented or transmitted is not a description of what it is.

  68. 68
    rhampton7 says:

    ppolish,

    The obvious difference between a corpse and a living person narrows the focus of the question to its essential because only one variable changes. What is the difference in our moral duty to life versus non-life?

    In addition, this framing of the question still touches the issue of objective morality. Looking at human cultures over history, there are many differing answers. So, what is the objectively correct moral duty owed to a recently deceased person, and why?

  69. 69
    Piotr says:

    Information is an arrangement of matter. Arrangements are not material.

    Glad to note you agree that information doesn’t exist without something that can be arranged into a pattern (in space/time). That excludes disembodied information as something that could be encoded or transmitted.

  70. 70
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Glad to note you agree that information doesn’t exist without something that can be arranged into a pattern (in space/time). That excludes disembodied information as something that could be encoded or transmitted.

    Whatever the necessary conditions for its coding or transmission may be, information is still non-material? We know this both through logic and empirical science:

    Logic:

    Information is an arrangement of matter. An arrangement cannot be material.

    Science:

    Information can be destroyed. Matter cannot be destroyed. Therefore, information cannot be material.

  71. 71
    Piotr says:

    StephenB,

    I have a problem with vague terems like “matter” and “material” (not to mention “materialist”). Matter can’t be destroyed, you say? Is it another way of saying that mass-energy is conserved? Then why paraphrase a conservation law if the original formulation is more precise? Ah, but mass and energy are properties, not objects. Linear momentum is also conserved (“can’t be destroyed”): does it mean that momentum is material? Is electric charge (also conserved) material?

    If two protons collide in the LHC and disintegrate into a shower of miscellaneous particles, their energy and momentum are conserved, but aren’t the protons themselves “destroyed”? Are protons material?

  72. 72
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    I have a problem with vague terems like “matter” and “material” (not to mention “materialist”).

    I am addressing the claims of commentators like Mark Frank (and just about every other critic on this site), who characterize themselves as materialists and who know what they mean when they use that word. They think information can be reduced to matter. I am persuaded that I have refuted their claim.

    Accordingly, I have stated that information is an arrangement of matter. Arrangements are non material. You say that information is a pattern. Very well, information is a pattern.—-of what? If the word matter is too “vague” or has no meaning for you, then feel free to plug in your own word.

  73. 73
    Piotr says:

    What I’m driving at is that the dualism “matter vs. information” looks artificial to me — an anachronistic distinction from the time when elementary particles were visualised as tiny billiard balls. What is matter? You seem to identify it with mass/energy, but it would be equally legitimate to treat mass as information. The mass of the electron, for example, is what distinguishes it from the muon and the tauon (their charges and spins are the same). Ditto for the sign of electric charge (the only difference between the electron and the positron), ditto for the orientation of the spin, etc.

    Today, the proton is not even regarded as an elementary particle but as a pretty complex dynamic system consisting of three valence quarks surrounded by a cloud of virtual gluons and virtual quark-antiquark pairs. Just a tiny proportion of its mass is accounted for by the masses of the valence quarks; the rest is — yes — an emergent effect of the gluon field. Where’s the “matter” of the proton? Why should we regard it as indestructible?

  74. 74
    Barry Arrington says:

    but it would be equally legitimate to treat mass as information.

    No it would not. To say that mass is information is literally nonsensical on the order of saying green is square. Let us say the mass of particle X is 1. That the mass of particle X is 1 is a property of particle X. The mass itself is not information. The fact that the mass of particle X is 1 (and not 2 or 3 or any other value) is information. Information is, fundamentally, the elimination of possibilities.

  75. 75
    kairosfocus says:

    Piotr, modern information theory was formulated in the 1940’s long after Quantum theory prevailed. And, in by far and away most cases, the level of matter at which information is stored in arrangements, is in fact well above that where such is material. The prong heights in a Yale lock type key are informational, and the prong height pattern of mRNA in a ribosome works in much the same key-lock fit fashion to control protein synthesis. The sequence of coded punched holes in a paper tape and the prong height coded sequence in the same mRNA in the ribosome are both sequential storage tapes. SB is right. KF

    PS: and the 1/2 life of an electron is? (as opposed to a muon)

  76. 76
    Piotr says:

    #77 Barry Arrington,

    I know. It’s equally nonsensical as saying a particle has the properties of a wave, or vice versa.

  77. 77
    rhampton7 says:

    I don’t see information as vital in this thought experiment. The difference between the recently deceased person and the living twin is not one of information.

  78. 78
    Box says:

    StephenB: Information is an arrangement of matter. An arrangement cannot be material.

    I fully agree with the latter. However I’m not sure that information *is* an arrangement of matter. If the exact same information can be stored in several media – distinct arrangements of matter – does it not follow that information is something other than a specific arrangement of matter? And if we state that distinct arrangements of matter *are* the same information, what are we saying?

    It is one thing to say that information is usually presented (or expressed or even symbolized) in an arrangement of matter, it something else to say that information *is* an arrangement of matter.

  79. 79
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    What I’m driving at is that the dualism “matter vs. information” looks artificial to me — an anachronistic distinction from the time when elementary particles were visualised as tiny billiard balls. What is matter?

    Perhaps, I can make this easier with a classic example. If I use chalk to write a message on the blackboard, and if I then erase the blackboard, the information is destroyed but the chalk remains. Do you understand that the information is not, nor can be, the chalk? Under the circumstances, do you also understand that the distinction between the chalk and the information is not “artificial” or “anachronistic.”

  80. 80

    Barry Arrington:

    What is it about the mixture of chemicals we call “human being” that makes it the repository of moral rights (i.e., the converse of the moral duty you owe it)?

    To begin with is this that you probably did not study either:
    https://sites.google.com/site/theoryofid/home/TheoryOfIntelligentDesign.pdf

    Conclusion

    This theory has explained why we are a product of intelligent design that contains a trinity of emergent levels of biological intelligence, as follows:

    (1) Molecular Intelligence: Behavior of matter is a self-assembling behavioral cause of molecular intelligence, where RNA and DNA genome-based biological systems learn over time by replication of their accumulated genetic knowledge through a lineage of successive offspring. This intelligence level controls basic growth and division of our cells, is a primary source of our instinctual behaviors, and causes molecular level social differentiation (i.e. speciation).

    (2) Cellular Intelligence: Molecular intelligence is the intelligent cause of cellular intelligence. This intelligence level controls moment to moment cellular responses such as locomotion/migration and cellular level social differentiation (i.e. neural plasticity).

    (3) Multicellular Intelligence: Cellular intelligence is the intelligent cause of multicellular intelligence. In this case a multicellular body is controlled by an intelligent neural brain expressing all three intelligence levels at once, resulting in our complex and powerful paternal (fatherly), maternal (motherly) and other behaviors. This intelligence level controls our moment to moment multicellular responses, locomotion/migration and multicellular level social differentiation (i.e. occupation).

    The combined knowledge of all three of these intelligence levels guides spawning salmon of both sexes on long perilous migrations to where they were born and may stay to defend their nests “till death do they part”. Otherwise merciless alligators fiercely protect their well-cared-for offspring who are taught how to lure nest building birds into range by putting sticks on their head and will scurry into her mouth when in danger. For humans this instinctual and learned knowledge has through time guided us towards marriage ceremonies to ask for “blessing” from an eternal conscious loving “spirit” existing at another level our multicellular intelligence level cannot directly experience. It is of course possible that one or both of the parents will later lose interest in the partnership, or they may have more offspring than they can possibly take care of, or none at all, but “for better or for worse” for such intelligence anywhere in the universe, there will nonetheless be the strong love we still need and cherish to guide us, forever through generations of time…

  81. 81
    Tim says:

    I applaud Barry for the early attempts to keep the thread on point, and although the voiced concern over not letting everyone see the other posts was heard, as he said, if you don’t like it get your own blog. The vast majority of lame divergent posts are allowed in most threads, so just trying to get “our materialist friends” to bust out a straightforward answer to question number four this time is fine by me.

    Somewhere, somewhere deep in the lengths and “twinings” of the thread, our friends managed to say something, some thing, about being alive, (homeostasis and ff.) and interaction and kinship. The only “qualities” found in being “human beings” so far on materialism seems to be 1)there is an emergent quality that we call being “alive” and 2) we all seem to be in a similar boat, hence kinship, and in turn lessening levels of kinship with those with whom we have less similarity.

    Of course, these “emergent qualities” explain nothing. Even being self-consciously alive, on materialism, is an arbitrary descriptor of our condition which does nothing to fundamentally cause moral right to obtain. I know Mark Frank, in particular, pushes the idea that moral rights do obtain “because we are human” out of what I can surmise is a limited “emergent” desire for our species (again, with other types and forms of “Rights” for other life forms), but the “what is it” in question number four remains: our materialist friends are faced with their only honest answer, “the ‘what is it’ is an arbitrary construct both found in and explained by itself — “human being.” And that, of course, must be both the beginning and end of the discussion.

    For if we look too closely at what a human being is, on materialism, it is hard to find what separates humans from their constituent elements, even if when those elements “are really jamming,” we can read the International Herald Tribune and clip our toenails. A pile of our elements can “do” things, too: be blown away in the wind, slump over in a sack, stiffen, harden, etc. That we “initiate” or even “reflect” on our actions, again on materialism, makes such interesting descriptors like “initiate” and “reflect” moot.

    I’ll end (eventually) with this quote from goodusername:

    There are many people whom I’m sure you care for deeply, and you still would even if somehow it were discovered they lacked a soul.

    I am deeply troubled by this statement; I hope it is because it is nonsense. Assuming that being endowed with a soul is universal for humans (either we all have souls, or none of us do), goodusername has got it exactly backward and quite wrong. Were it found that I have no soul I would NOT care for people deeply; look around you, goodusername, at all the life that is soul-less. Does the salmon care for the salmon next to it? Deeply? What is in fact happening is that people access and are moved by their souls to care for others, deeply, even as they deny the existence of souls. It can be no other way, nor can there be any other explanation. As Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, “We talk of wild animals but man is the only wild animal. It is man that has broken out. All other animals are tame animals; following the rugged respectability of the tribe or type”

    “What is it” that frees humans from the “rugged respectability” that orders tribe and type; “what is it” that gives us “should” and “ought” and “virtue”?

    No, it is not being human on a great continuum of life. Among numerous singularities, here is another: “Man is the only wild animal.”

  82. 82
    Barry Arrington says:

    Tim, excellent summary. Maybe there is a materialist answer to question 4 that makes sense. I don’t know what it would be. Apparently, neither do any of the materialists who post on this site.

  83. 83
    goodusername says:

    Tim,

    Were it found that I have no soul I would NOT care for people deeply; look around you, goodusername, at all the life that is soul-less. Does the salmon care for the salmon next to it? Deeply?

    No, I don’t think salmon are capable of such feelings. If salmon were sentient, intelligent creatures endowed with empathy, then I believe they would.

    What is in fact happening is that people access and are moved by their souls to care for others, deeply, even as they deny the existence of souls.

    Well, if you define the soul as that part of us that moves us to care about others, than I can see why you would think we wouldn’t care for each other without souls. But as the statement of mine that you quoted said, “if somehow it were discovered” that you, and others, lacked a soul, would you then stop caring for others? Obviously not. You would then merely conclude that the soul was not responsible for such feelings. But the point of my statement was that the notion of a soul is not why we care about others.

  84. 84
    c hand says:

    I myself,from within an animated bag of chemicals, perceive a moral duty toward others. Living bags of chemicals have no moral duties without an “I” within.
    It’s just you
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-iQldPiH64

  85. 85
    faded_Glory says:

    I would again like to draw attention to the studies that show how certain higher mammals display behaviours that for all the world look like they care about each other.

    Does this mean that those animals also have souls? Or does it mean that caring for one another is not proof that one has a soul?

    fG

  86. 86
    Mark Frank says:

    #84 Tim
     

    Of course, these “emergent qualities” explain nothing. Even being self-consciously alive, on materialism, is an arbitrary descriptor of our condition which does nothing to fundamentally cause moral right to obtain. I know Mark Frank, in particular, pushes the idea that moral rights do obtain “because we are human” out of what I can surmise is a limited “emergent” desire for our species (again, with other types and forms of “Rights” for other life forms), but the “what is it” in question number four remains: our materialist friends are faced with their only honest answer, “the ‘what is it’ is an arbitrary construct both found in and explained by itself — “human being.” And that, of course, must be both the beginning and end of the discussion.

    I deliberately avoided talking about emergent qualities as I agree calling them emergent doesn’t add much. All I am saying is that as a matter of fact we respond differently to chemicals when they are arranged as a living human body and placed in a social environment. This is an obvious fact of psychology. It is clearly not dependent on the belief that there is some immaterial aspect to being human as we make similar responses to animals and even machines when they are sufficiently life-like. So really question 4 comes to the same old debate that we are having all over UD – is being “a repository of moral rights” an immaterial attribute of a human being or a function of how that human being takes part in the social activity which is morality. As you say that is the end of the discussion – in the sense that Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying. The thought experiment adds nothing to it.

  87. 87
    Piotr says:

    #75 StephenB

    Now you are confusing meaning with information. A message on a blackboard, if written in a language someone understands, is meaningful to the users of that language. It has little to do with information as a formal concept, except that information transfer is necessary to transmit a meaningful message. If you claim that by erasing the chalk marks from the blackboard you destroy information, let me ask: how much information do you destroy? How do you measure it? If the message says F&T$v4PRLO!;NmSA*+3, or looks like this, how do you decide whether it contains some “immaterial information” or not?

  88. 88
    Joe says:

    Now you are confusing meaning with information.

    Without meaning what is the information?

    A message on a blackboard, if written in a language someone understands, is meaningful to the users of that language.

    Could be. So what?

    Information is neither matter nor energy. That is just a fact. True matter and energy are required as media for information but that is the only relationship they have.

    But I do disagree with Stephen B- information cannot be destroyed. The media it resides can be but that is it.

  89. 89
    Joe says:

    Just because Shannon didn’t care about meaning doesn’t mean information is not about meaning. Shannon didn’t care about meaning because the transmitting and receiving equipment doesn’t care about meaning. The equipment just needs to transmit what it is told to transmit and the receiver receives whatever is transmitted. Shannon cared about the fidelity of the transmission, reception and storage of a signal, regardless of what that signal was.

  90. 90
    Piotr says:

    Joe,

    Meaning is the role (or set of roles) of a sign in a given communicative context. One and the same physical sign may be interpreted completely differently by different people in different situations. The sign-meaning association is in principle arbitrary, so you can’t say that the meaning of a sign somehow resides in it; it’s only triggered by the sign. The amount of information carried by a message is not a function of its meaning but of the total number of possible messages of the same length (no matter if they are meaningful or meaningless) that can be sen via the same medium.

  91. 91
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    Meaning is the role (or set of roles) of a sign in a given communicative context.

    Without meaning what is information?

    One and the same physical sign may be interpreted completely differently by different people in different situations.

    Yes, so what?

    The sign-meaning association is in principle arbitrary, so you can’t say that the meaning of a sign somehow resides in it;

    I didn’t say that. The meaning is obviously immaterial, Piotr.

    The amount of information carried by a message is not a function of its meaning but of the total number of possible messages of the same length (no matter if they are meaningful or meaningless) that can be sen via the same medium.

    So you won’t get the meaning if you don’t know the other possible messages of the same length? What’s your point?

    My point is it isn’t information if it doesn’t have any meaning.

  92. 92
    Levan says:

    The argument that the mix of chemicals has nothing to do with morality will be smack down by atheists and materialists. Their ideological basis is that this mix can produce the mind and ergo our morality.
    They will argue that in one case in trillions and trillions, and especially by the “multiverse manufacturer” some mixes of chemicals are clever enough to think that mind arises without a punch by ultimate Intelligent Designer.

  93. 93
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Now you are confusing meaning with information. A message on a blackboard, if written in a language someone understands, is meaningful to the users of that language. It has little to do with information as a formal concept, except that information transfer is necessary to transmit a meaningful message.

    I am afraid that you are the one who is confused. With respect to the message on the blackboard, I was referring to information only. I said nothing at all about its “meaning.” I used the word meaning only in the context of your claim to the effect that you don’t know what “matter” means.

    If you don’t think that a written message with purposefully organized characters contains information, then I don’t think I can carry the discussion any further. No refutation that I could muster would ever be as devastating as your own self refutation.

  94. 94
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank @ 89. I would not put it as “has no further recourse.” I would put it as “stating an obvious fact.” When you say you believe torturing an infant for personal pleasure might be an affirmatively good thing depending on the circumstances, you are lying. I know you do not believe that. And when you start telling obvious lies to support your argument, it is no use arguing with you.

  95. 95
    Barry Arrington says:

    On the discussion of information:

    Here is Dembski:

    What then is information? The fundamental intuition underlying information is not, as is sometimes thought, the transmission of signals across a communication channel, but rather, the actualization of one possibility to the exclusion of others. As Fred Dretske (1981, p. 4) puts it, “Information theory identifies the amount of information associated with, or generated by, the occurrence of an event (or the realization of a state of affairs) with the reduction in uncertainty, the elimination of possibilities, represented by that event or state of affairs.” To be sure, whenever signals are transmitted across a communication channel, one possibility is actualized to the exclusion of others, namely, the signal that was transmitted to the exclusion of those that weren’t. But this is only a special case. Information in the first instance presupposes not some medium of communication, but contingency. Robert Stalnaker (1984, p. 85) makes this point clearly: “Content requires contingency. To learn something, to acquire information, is to rule out possibilities. To understand the information conveyed in a communication is to know what possibilities would be excluded by its truth.” For there to be information, there must be a multiplicity of distinct possibilities any one of which might happen. When one of these possibilities does happen and the others are ruled out, information becomes actualized. Indeed, information in its most general sense can be defined as the actualization of one possibility to the exclusion of others (observe that this definition encompasses both syntactic and semantic information).

  96. 96
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry #97

    OK. So you have resorted to saying “what I believe is an obvious fact and you are liar”. Curiously I am not even clear what the obvious fact is! As I tried to explain in the other thread there are two statements that are easily confused:

    A) Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong under all circumstances.

    I agree with this – I cannot conceive of a convincing counter-example.

    B) Everyone under all circumstances believes it is wrong to torture infants for pleasure.

    This is very likely false.

    It seems to me our disagreement is not over (A ) or (B ) but this third statement:

    C) “Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong” is an self-evident objective fact.

    I certainly disagree with this. If you think I am lying when I assert (C ) then you are presumably accusing all those philosophers who hold similar views to myself of deliberate falsehood.

  97. 97
    Piotr says:

    StephenB

    If you don’t think that a written message with purposefully organized characters contains information…

    Anything that can occur in two or more distinct states “contains information”. It doesn’t have to be purposeful or to make sense. A purposefully written message is additionally meaningful (provided that the sender and the receiver agree how to interpret the information it carries).

  98. 98
    c hand says:

    Mark Frank

    C) “Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong” is a correctly held subjective belief that all people should hold.

    Do you agree?

  99. 99
    Mark Frank says:

    c hand

    C) “Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong” is a correctly held subjectve belief that all people should hold.

    Not sure what you mean by “correctly held”. The word correct kind of implies it is objective. I would accept:

    Everyone should believe that torturing infants for pleasure is wrong.

    I suspect you are trying to lay some kind of trap. I wouldn’t bother. I have conducting this argument for about 10 years and know most of the twists and turns. It usually ends up with Barry declaring he is obviously or self-evidently right and therefore I am wrong.

  100. 100
    Joe says:

    Piotr:

    Anything that can occur in two or more distinct states “contains information”.

    What information does it contain? My bet is it contains the information that makes it what it is and that has meaning and purpose.

    It doesn’t have to be purposeful or to make sense.

    Reference please.

  101. 101
    Joe says:

    Everyone should believe that torturing infants for pleasure is wrong.

    Not if we live in a Darwinian world.

  102. 102
    c hand says:

    Mark Frank

    No tricks or traps, just looking for common ground.

    What is the PRACTICAL difference in perceiving (rightly or wrongly) as an objective self-evident truth something that “Everyone should believe”?

    How would you classify subjective beliefs that should be universally held?

  103. 103
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    Anything that can occur in two or more distinct states “contains information”. It doesn’t have to be purposeful or to make sense. A purposefully written message is additionally meaningful (provided that the sender and the receiver agree how to interpret the information it carries).

    So you are saying that an organized message written on a blackboard contains information only if the sender and receiver agree on how to interpret its meaning?

  104. 104
    Mark Frank says:

    # 105 c hand

    What is the PRACTICAL difference in perceiving (rightly or wrongly) as an objective self-evident truth something that “Everyone should believe”?

    I am a bit confused by this question – difference between what things precisely?

    How would you classify subjective beliefs that should be universally held?

    I have no particular classification for such beliefs. I really wouldn’t make too much of it. It just seems reasonable to suppose that if I think X is morally good then “everyone else thinking X is morally good” would itself be a morally good thing.

  105. 105
    Piotr says:

    #106 StephenB

    No. Only then does it become a meaningul message. What do you mean by “organised”, by the way? Is RAPLPYBCNRQVN organised?

  106. 106
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    I have conducting this argument for about 10 years and know most of the twists and turns. It usually ends up with Barry declaring he is obviously or self-evidently right and therefore I am wrong.

    Actually, what happens Mark, is this: You end up misusing the language in an attempt to have it both ways. According to your philosophy of subjectivism, nothing can be objectively wrong, or wrong, in fact; it can only be wrong “for you.” That is what subjectivism means. Yet when you are confronted with the poverty of that world view, you temporarily reverse course and express your views using the common-sense terminology of objective morality, saying, “Yes, “it is ‘wrong,’ period,” which is at variance with your subjective morality.

    As an evasion, you claim that such phrases as “should not do” or “It is wrong” or “it is wrong for everyone” are not necessarily objective formulations, even though everyone knows that they are. It is hard to believe that you do not know it, especially when you try to compare them with subjective terms like, “it is tasty,” or “it is malodorous.” That is why Barry comes on so strong. You are misusing the language to create the illusion that you accept the conclusions of objective morality even as you argue for the opposite world view.

  107. 107
    c hand says:

    Mark Frank
    I think we agree that the proposition that “Everyone should believe that torturing infants for pleasure is wrong,” should be perceived by all people.

    What is the practical difference between “should be universally perceived” (MF’s position )and “self-evidently true”

    Either formulation is agreeable from my perspective.

  108. 108
    Mark Frank says:

    me:

    It usually ends up with Barry declaring he is obviously or self-evidently right and therefore I am wrong.

    SB:

    you claim that such phrases as “should not do” or “It is wrong” or “it is wrong for everyone” are not necessarily objective formulations, even though everyone knows that they are.

    I should have included StephenB along with Barry.

    We are debating whether such phrases as “should not do” or “It is wrong” or “it is wrong for everyone” are objective. There have been many debates among philosophers about this over the centuries.

  109. 109
    StephenB says:

    piotr

    No.

    I write this sentence on a blackboard: “All men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Some readers do not understand its meaning. Under the circumstances, does that sentence contain information?

  110. 110
    StephenB says:

    Mark Frank

    We are debating whether such phrases as “should not do” or “It is wrong” or “it is wrong for everyone” are objective. There have been many debates among philosophers about this over the centuries.

    Which philosophers have argued that such formulations as, “it is wrong” or “should not do” or “this is wrong for everyone” are subjective terms?

  111. 111
    Mark Frank says:

    #113 SB

    Hume, AJ Ayer and all the verificationists, RM Hare and other linguistic philosophers – that will do for a start. As I said before read RM Hare The Language of Morals if you are interested in hearing a different point of view.

  112. 112
    Barry Arrington says:

    The most amusing thing about Mark Frank’s polemics is that he invariably resorts to an appeal to emotion instead of logic. This is how he does it:

    Barry @ comment 162 to moral intervention thread: You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil.

    Mark Frank @ comment 181 to moral intervention thread: By taking an extreme example you hide issues under a cloud of emotion and make anyone who disagrees with the precise wording appear to condone the act. Nevertheless I disagree.

    Barry @ comment 202 to moral intervention thread: if you are going to deny a self evident moral truth, there is no use arguing with you. By definition self evident truths cannot be demonstrated. And when you lie, as you have here, and say a self evident truth is false the discussion must necessarily come to an end.

    Mark Frank @ comment 89 to the modest experiment thread: Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying.

    Notice the implicit appeal to emotions here. “Intolerance” is the unpardonable sin of our time. Mark is clearly playing to that along the lines of, “That Barry. He’s just so close minded and intolerant. It’s my way or the highway for him.”

    This is an appeal to an emotional aversion to the unpardonable sin of our time. It is an implied insult disguised as an argument. It is not logic.

    Suppose I were to say 2+2=4 and Mark were to say “I disagree.” Here we have another self evident truth. There is no way to demonstrate that 2+2=4. It is either accepted as a self evident truth or not. And anyone who denies it is true is lying (granted; they could be insane, but let’s set that aside). If I called Mark on this lie, I am certain he would not say “Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying.”

    Yet, he does say that for purposes of a self evident moral truth. What is the difference? The difference is that we live in a time when you can get away with denying self evident moral truth. Indeed, it is fashionable among a certain class to do so.

    The point is that I am not “intolerant” when I call someone a liar for denying that 2+2=4. I am merely pointing out an obvious fact. Nor am I intolerant when I say Mark Frank is lying when he says he disagrees with the following statement: “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil.” Again, I am merely pointing out an obvious fact.

  113. 113
    groovamos says:

    Mark Frank: There have been many debates among philosophers about this over the centuries.

    Thank you for that. In past centuries philosophers were revered.

    Now we have materialists as the self-appointed priesthood. Professional philosophers are held in some kind of deprecated esteem by the new priesthood of material – including Neil deGrass Tyson, Richard Dawkins, and Jerry Coyne. Philosophical history is a “waste” in light of the new philosophy ‘knowledge’. What the world has been obliviously awaiting all these millennia is this new knowledge of materialism for to make sense of it all.

  114. 114
    groovamos says:

    Petrushka @ 11: The question was, what is about the mixture.
    And the answer is the arrangement or configuration.

    Yes I see. The chemical arrangement on the table is what is intelligently designed obviously.

    It is the human being that is the randomly concocted jumbled mess, the result of stochastic indeterminism and chaos. And obviously purposeless. Obviously.

  115. 115
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry

    Mark Frank @ comment 89 to the modest experiment thread: Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying.

    Notice the implicit appeal to emotions here. “Intolerance” is the unpardonable sin of our time. Mark is clearly playing to that along the lines of, “That Barry. He’s just so close minded and intolerant. It’s my way or the highway for him.”

    This would appear to be another thing that is clear to you that is not clear to me. All I said was that you had no further recourse. I said nothing about intolerance. I try to think only in terms of the debate not personalities (although I admit I have sometimes said that you appear to be more interested in winning an argument than discovering the truth).

    This is an appeal to an emotional aversion to the unpardonable sin of our time. It is an implied insult disguised as an argument. It is not logic.

    How about discussing whether it is true i.e. do you have any arguments to support your case other than saying you are right and I am lying?

    Suppose I were to say 2+2=4 and Mark were to say “I disagree.” Here we have another self evident truth. There is no way to demonstrate that 2+2=4. It is either accepted as a self evident truth or not. And anyone who denies it is true is lying (granted; they could be insane, but let’s set that aside). If I called Mark on this lie, I am certain he would not say “Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying.”

    It is not strictly true that there is no way to demonstrate 2+2=4 and there are people (in fact everyone at some stage in their life) who do not find it obvious. However, leaving that aside, we were debating a highly controversial topic which as I pointed above has been disputed since Hume at least. To announce that you are self-evidently right and I am lying in this case seems like no argument at all.

    Yet, he does say that for purposes of a self evident moral truth. What is the difference? The difference is that we live in a time when you can get away with denying self evident moral truth. Indeed, it is fashionable among a certain class to do so.

    The point is that I am not “intolerant” when I call someone a liar for denying that 2+2=4. I am merely pointing out an obvious fact. Nor am I intolerant when I say Mark Frank is lying when he says he disagrees with the following statement: “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil.” Again, I am merely pointing out an obvious fact.

    Please read #99. I agree that  “torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.” That is not our disagreement. Our disagreement is whether this an objective fact or a subjective assessment – something which has been the subject of debate for centuries.

  116. 116
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark, I never said you did not personally agree with the statement. I simply quoted you when you said you disagreed with the following proposition:

    You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. It is literally impossible to imagine any circumstance under which that act would be other than evil.

  117. 117
    Barry Arrington says:

    It is not strictly true that there is no way to demonstrate 2+2=4 and there are people (in fact everyone at some stage in their life) who do not find it obvious.

    When you resort to invoking babies’ inability to understand even simple math to make your case, there really is no sense in continuing to discourse with you.

  118. 118
    skram says:

    Barry Arrington:

    There is no way to demonstrate that 2+2=4. It is either accepted as a self evident truth or not.

    Is 5+5=10 also a self-evident truth? How about 135+334=469? Also self-evident? Where do self-evident truths end and provable propositions begin?

    These are serious questions.

  119. 119
    Barry Arrington says:

    skram at 121. There is an extensive literature on the subject. You should check it out.

  120. 120
    skram says:

    I’ll check out the literature, Barry. Give me a short answer.

    Pretty please.

  121. 121
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry
     
    When I disagreed with your comment:

    You know for a certain fact that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people.

    I stressed that it was the because I don’t regard moral judgements as facts. This after all is the essence of the subjective/objective debate. I think they are opinions not facts. In the very same comment I said:

    All of us (here and now) would agree without hesitation that torturing an infant for personal pleasure is evil at all places, at all times, for all people. I think that is broadly true.

    So we both agree it is evil at all times and all places for all people. It is just we disagree on whether it is a fact or an opinion. So when you announce that I am lying – what exactly am I saying that is intentionally false?

    Edited addition:

    I don’t understand your introductory sentence which appears to say you never said I didn’t personally agree but only that I didn’t agree! A subtle difference!

  122. 122
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry #120

    When you resort to invoking babies’ inability to understand even simple math to make your case, there really is no sense in continuing to discourse with you.

    It was hardly central to my case. The fact remains there are plenty of ways of demonstrating 2 + 2 = 4. You can prove it from Peano’s axioms. You can learn it the way a child does by taking two pairs of things,putting them together and then counting how many you have etc. In the event that someone disputed it you could do better than to saying it is self-evident and they were lying.

  123. 123
    Piotr says:

    #120 Barry Arrington,

    Maths is the field of learning where you can prove a proposition (not every one, to be sure), rather than test it, by tracing it back to axioms. 2+2=4 (i.e., S(S(0)) + S(S(0)) = S(S(S(S(0)))) ) easily follows from the Peano axioms for the natural numbers and the definition of “+”. Of course in order to prove it you start with the assumption that the Peano axioms are “self-evident”, but that’s a different story.

    (Addition can be extended to domains other than N, for example to modular arithmetics: 2+2=1 (mod 3), where “=” stands for a congruence relation.)

  124. 124
    Barry Arrington says:

    No, Mark and Piotr, you cannot demonstrate that 2+2=4. Yes, you could illustrate it with synonyms, like || and || is the same as ||||. But that is not a demonstration. A demonstration requires one to reason from prior principles to subsequent principles. There is no prior principle to the idea that when I have two of something and add two more I have four. That is why it is self evident. To understand the proposition is to know that it must be true, not because some prior principles are true and one can deduce its truth from those prior principles. Sheesh. Is there no truth so basic you people won’t dispute it? What am I saying? I know the answer to that question is “no.” You sadden me and disgust me in equal measure.

  125. 125
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark, certainly a person can have a different opinion. And it is self evidently true that such person’s opinion would be wrong, just as it is self evidently true that if that person had a different opinion about the sum of 2 and 2, they would be wrong. Thus, stating the matter in terms of opinion is self defeating. You cannot have a correct opinion that a self evident truth is false. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

  126. 126
    Barry Arrington says:

    Piotr, if you are suggesting that in math there are no self evident fundamental propositions for which further demonstration is impossible, then you do not understand math. Demonstration must at some point come to an end.

  127. 127
    Piotr says:

    There is no prior principle to the idea that when I have two of something and add two more I have four. That is why it is self evident.

    Tell it to speakers of languages which have no numeral systems (Pirahã is an example). Speakers of Pirahã simply lack the concept of “4” as a specific number, nor do they do addition. 2+2=4 is no more self-evident to them than 5896329+999985741=1005882070 is to you. Their general intelligence is normal, in case you wonder, it’s just a question of their language lacking some concepts that we (well, some of us) take for granted.

    Have you ever wondered what the Peano axioms are really about? Even to understand the expression 2+2=4 you need to grasp the concepts of equation, addition, and the idea that there are many different natural numbers.

    UD Editors: *sigh*

    You sadden me and disgust me in equal measure.

    You are such a wonderful host. The sentiment is reciprocal.

    UD Editors: And thanks for coming onto this blog and demonstrating everything that is wrong with this postmodern hell you people are busy building. As I’ve said before, don’t worry. I realize I am fighting a rearguard retreat. The center cannot hold. Your side will surely win (at least in the short to medium term), and you can come and mock me at whatever camp they put me after the round up all of the undesirables (assuming I live long enough to see the inside of a camp).

  128. 128
    Piotr says:

    #129

    Yes, such fundamental propositions have their place in maths; we call them axioms. 2+2=4 is not one of them. Even axioms, however, are not supposed to be statements about the real world. To a mathematician, a small arithmetical “universe” (mod 3) with just three natural numbers {0, 1, 2} in which 1+1=2, but 2+1=0 and 2+2=1, is thinkable, well-defined, and logically consistent (and, in case you shrug it off as a meaningless abstract game, such systems have important real-world applications).

    UD Editors: *sigh* You can demonstrate anything you want when you change the meaning of terms. But when you have two sticks and then add two more sticks you will always have four sticks. You are a fool.

  129. 129
    kairosfocus says:

    MF (& Piotr), that one may prove a self evident truth through some process does not change its self-evidence. And in the case of things like 2 + 2 = 4, the proof relative to axiomatic systems is far more abstruse than the recognition that based on what is meant this must be so. (I have seen for example establishment of natural numbers based on successive power sets of transfinite character . . . I much prefer to start with the set that collects nothing. But I have had quite a debate with an intelligent youngster on how complicated and counter-intuitive that notion is.) KF

    PS: Self-evidence does NOT mean axiomatic.

  130. 130
    Tim says:

    Mark Frank at 89, thanks for this:

    So really question 4 comes to the same old debate that we are having all over UD – is being “a repository of moral rights” an immaterial attribute of a human being or a function of how that human being takes part in the social activity which is morality. As you say that is the end of the discussion – in the sense that Barry has no further recourse but to say he is self-evidently right and I am lying. The thought experiment adds nothing to it.

    If, as you say, morality is nothing more than a social activity that humans take part in, I see exactly why you would subscribe at least in part to Hare’s preference utilitarianism. You are correct in the sense that it is somewhat of a discussion stopper; however, you have laid the “blame” with Barry and his claim that he is right and you are lying. This is not accurate, though. The conversation ended with your claim that moral judgments can only be subjectively held.

    Please consider:
    1) Such a claim is consonant with strict materialism, but that also implies that all moral judgments are only subjectively held, and what’s worse . .
    2) The weight of moral judgment in terms of “right and wrong” action is, indeed must be, completely arbitrary (in both senses of the word!), you wrote:

    A) Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong under all circumstances.

    I agree with this – I cannot conceive of a convincing counter-example.

    B) Everyone under all circumstances believes it is wrong to torture infants for pleasure.

    This is very likely false.

    It seems to me our disagreement is not over (A ) or (B ) but this third statement:

    C) “Torturing infants for pleasure is wrong” is an self-evident objective fact.

    I certainly disagree with this. If you think I am lying when I assert (C ) then you are presumably accusing all those philosophers who hold similar views to myself of deliberate falsehood.

    I would suggest that your inability to conceive of a counter-example in “A” is due only to a lack of imagination — a pitbull (or wild tiger) mauling a child comes quickly to mind. On strict materialism, certainly the pitbull (or wild tiger) experiences pleasure and the terrorized infant, torture. Your (anticipated) response may well be (and please correct me if I am wrong), “But the pitbull (or wild tiger) is not a moral agent!”, but my response is just as straightforward, “What’s the difference between the pitbull (or wild tiger) and the human sociopath who would do something similar given the chance?”

    It does no good to say that the sociopath is more like us because clearly in this case, it is not true.

    Numerous problems arise for you when you deny “C”, for such a denial is inhumane. We must say that the mauling, while tragic and not preferred, cannot be considered wrong because it was in the pitbull’s nature. But, what then do we say to the sociopath? Moreover, what do we do with such a person? On materialism and preference utilitarianism, the answer is easy. Easy, as long as you are willing to treat the sociopath like a dog.

    Oops.

  131. 131
    Popperian says:

    Barry: Here’s a thought experiment for our materialist friends.

    It seems Barry has set up his materialist “friends” to fail, which doesn’t seem very friendly.

    Specifically the experiment proposed is loaded in that it implicitly assumes the existence of moral “duties” based on a specific epistemological view. I can’t explain what it is about the “mixture of chemicals” that endows it something which I don’t subscribe to in the first place.

    The best explanation for the growth of moral knowledge is that, like all knowledge, moral knowledge grows when we conjecture solutions to specific problems we encounter. This is in contrast to assuming moral knowledge takes the form of moral “duties” divinely revealed to us via holy text or though pre-programming. The latter is assume that knowledge has “just aways existed” in an authoritative source without explanation, while the former is part of our universal explanation for the growth of knowledge.

    “God wanted it that” way doesn’t solve the problem. It just pushes it up a level without actually improving it.

    For example, there are the moral problems of unwanted or dangerous pregnancies and being attracted to individuals of the same sex. This is in contrast to framing the issue as if killing unborn children is “good” we should kill all unborn children, or if homosexuality “good”, we shouldn’t conceive children in the first place. There are no problems, but merely rules – some of which if followed would result in the extinction of the human race.

    IOW, I’m suggesting the latter approach is mistaken from the start and smuggled in as part of the experiment.

  132. 132
    Popperian says:

    The biggest criticism I have with the idea that we have moral duties in the objective sense implied is that they would have to be immune to any new knowledge that we could create that actually allows us to actually solve these, or other problems we will face in the future.

    Surely, if this knowledge has always existed and is unchanging then it must have taken any other knowledge into account. We’re simply stuck with the options at hand and cannot make any progress regardless of what knowledge we might create. The problem of unwanted pregnancies is assumed to always be a problem because the whole process of reproduction, as it is now, is assumed to be designed that way in the first place.

    However, unless something is prohibited by the laws of physics, the only thing that would prevent us from accomplishing it is knowing how. This includes creating solutions to the problem, such as creating an artificial womb or even transferring an unwanted pregnancy to a woman who cannot conceive on her own but wants a child. We can an will solve these problems by creating new knowledge.

    Should these options be inexpensive and safe (which would be the result of even more more knowledge) will everything be perfect? Of course not. But this will result in different, even better set of moral problems to solve that *we* couldn’t even conceive of two thousand years ago. And when we solve those as well, we’ll have an even better set of problems.

    We, as finite beings, cannot predict the effect of the growth of genuinely new knowledge.

    More importantly, it’s unclear how the supposed divinely revealed set of moral duties we have today will be sufficient for such a set of future moral problems, while remaining unchangingly objective in the sense implied.

    So, it seems to me that something has to give for the implicit ideas in this though experiment to be tenable.

    For example, does someone here assume there must be something beyond the laws of physics that would make these moral problems unsolvable, and therefore prevent a whole new set of moral problems? Does someone here assume we only gain this knowledge because God reveals it to us, which implies the epistemology that knowledge comes from authoritative sources? If neither of the above, how could the existing set of moral duties be sufficient for future moral problems, yet be objective in the sense implied?

  133. 133
    Popperian says:

    Barry:

    So it’s still nothing but a bag of chemicals, but certain qualities of the bag of chemicals makes it a repository of moral rights when the identical chemicals without those qualities would not? Sounds arbitrary to me. Says who? You’ve given me no reason that a bag of chemicals with those qualities is morally any different from a bag of chemicals without those qualities.

    “Says who” implies there must be a rights-giver in an authoritative sense. But this represents a specific theory about moral knowledge that is foundationalist in nature and ignores other epistemological positions. I can’t give you a reason why I hold a position I do not hold.

    One key criticism of foundationalism is that it assumes some ideas are not subject to criticism and the point of which criticism ends appears arbitrary. See the Müller-Lyer illusion for example of how we can criticize experience, etc.

    Barry:

    Of course you wouldn’t. Because most materialist I find are scared to death to confront the logical conclusions compelled by their premises.

    I am? But that assumes I’m a disappointed justificationist. But this simply isn’t the case. From this paper on the abuse of reason.

    Relativists tend to be disappointed justificationists who realise that positive justification cannot be achieved. From this premise they proceed to the conclusion that all positions are pretty much the same and none can really claim to be better than any other. There is no such thing as the truth, no way to get nearer to the truth and there is no such thing as a rational position.

    True believers embrace justificationism. They insist that some positions are better than others though they accept that there is no logical way to establish a positive justification for an belief. They accept that we make our choice regardless of reason: “Here I stand!”. Most forms of rationalism up to date have, at rock bottom, shared this attitude with the irrationalists and other dogmatists because they share the theory of justificationism.

    According to the critical rationalists, the exponents of critical preference, no position can be positively justified but it is quite likely that one (or more) will turn out to be better than others in the light of critical discussion and tests. This type of rationality holds all its positions and propositions open to criticism and a standard objection to this stance is that it is empty; just holding our positions open to criticism provides no guidance as to what position we should adopt in any particular situation. This criticism misses its mark for two reasons. First, critical rationalism is not a position. It is not directed at solving the kind of problems that are solved by fixing on a position. It is concerned with the way that such positions are adopted, criticised, defended and relinquished. Second, Bartley did provide guidance on adopting positions; we may adopt the position that to this moment has stood up to criticism most effectively. Of course this is no help for people who seek stronger reasons for belief, but that is a problem for them, and it does not undermine the logic of critical preference.

    Just as there is no logical methodology that demands we seek truth over falsehood or criticize our conjectures in an attempt to reduce errors, there is no logical methodology that demands we seek human flourishing or any other moral goal. But this doesn’t mean that solutions we propose to moral problems cannot be criticized and improved by discarding errors. There are objectively better or worse solutions to goals we choose. We can be mistaken…

    So, I’d suggest we both think there are objective moral choices. However, in my case, it is objective in a specific problem space.

    For example, If you want to build a car, but actually receive plans to build, say, a helicopter, you will not end up with a car merely because you expected otherwise. The result is independent of your belief. So, it’s in this sense that it’s objective.

    I’d also suggest that our moral goals are, in part, based on our preferences. And what happens when our preferences change? We adopt new ideas about how the world works.

    For example, if one thinks it’s better to chop off one’s hands because their actions would result in eternal damnation in the afterlife, that’s a sort of “explanation” about how the world works. And it would shape one’s preferences. However, like all ideas, I’m suggesting those explanations start out as conjectures. As such, they can and should be criticized, errors can be found and they can be discarded. Again, we can be mistaken. If an afterlife exists, such an act could be construed as grounds for eternal damnation instead, or there could be no afterlife.

    In fact, the idea that knowledge comes from authoritative sources that have always existed is a sort of “explanation” about how the world works, which one’s preferences would be based on. So I’d suggest we both share the same goals but we think the world works differently and our preferences diverge accordingly.

    I don’t claim to know that God doesn’t exist. Nor do I harbor some fear or anger at God. Rather, when I actually try to take classical theism seriously, it does not withstand rational criticism. It’s epistemologically at odds with our based explanation for the universal growth of knowledge. As such, I discard it.

  134. 134
    faded_Glory says:

    Barry,

    You may have missed my post on another thread in answer to something you said about self-evident truths:

    ——————

    Barry Arrington:

    Again, whether the Inca perceives the objective reality of the moral truth is beside the point. Being wrong about an objective truth does not make it false.

    At any rate, if you are going to deny a self evident moral truth, there is no use arguing with you. By definition self evident truths cannot be demonstrated.

    This is incoherent. How can the Inca wrongly perceive a self-evident truth? It wouldn’t be all that self-evident then after all.

    Furthermore, even if it is possible to be wrong about a self evident truth, as you just said, how do you know that yours, and not the Inca’s, particular concept of it is the correct one?

    ——————–

    I think this is a valid criticism of how you apply the idea of self-evident truth in this discussion. Care to respond?

    fG

  135. 135
    Mark Frank says:

    BA  #128
     

    Mark, certainly a person can have a different opinion. And it is self evidently true that such person’s opinion would be wrong, just as it is self evidently true that if that person had a different opinion about the sum of 2 and 2, they would be wrong. Thus, stating the matter in terms of opinion is self defeating. You cannot have a correct opinion that a self evident truth is false. Why is that so hard for you to understand?

     
    Which comment are you responding to? I never said that I agreed that it was self-evident that child torture is wrong – only that I strongly agree it is evil at all times in all places for all people. I also agree that you cannot have a correct opinion that a self evident truth is false.

  136. 136
    Hangonasec says:

    The term ‘self-evident truth’ is inextricably linked to that resonant paragraph in the Declaration of Independence. If the objectivists here mean something different, they could do with coining a different expression.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    This was 1776. It took nearly 100 years to come to a constitutional agreement that Africans should be included in the set of ‘all men’. Surely that was ‘self-evident’?

  137. 137
    Mark Frank says:

    Tim #133
    Thank you for a calm and polite response.

    You are correct in the sense that it is somewhat of a discussion stopper; however, you have laid the “blame” with Barry and his claim that he is right and you are lying. This is not accurate, though. The conversation ended with your claim that moral judgments can only be subjectively held.

    With all these threads it is very hard to tell where the conversation ends!  I have given several arguments to support my case and I am prepared to continue to defend it (time permitting). I will do this by presenting arguments and examples – not by declaring myself obviously or self-evidently right. The fact remains that at that time Barry was arguing that he is self-evidently right and I am lying and really that was about it – although curiously he has never made it clear what the actual lie is (i.e. what I have said that is intentionally false). Since then he has written a passionate  OP which seems to amount to adding that not only is he right but it is immoral to disagree with him – but I confess I find the OP rather hard to understand and I may be interpreting it wrongly.

    1) Such a claim is consonant with strict materialism, but that also implies that all moral judgments are only subjectively held, and what’s worse . .

    I have slightly simplified my position to avoid writing an essay each time I respond. I am convinced that moral judgements are essentially subjective but I also recognise that some objective facts are so universally accepted as reasons for judging something right or wrong that they effectively entail a moral judgement. For example, it is so universally accepted that inflicting human suffering is wrong that to say “this causes immense suffering” almost entails this is morally wrong.

    2) The weight of moral judgment in terms of “right and wrong” action is, indeed must be, completely arbitrary (in both senses of the word!),

    I strongly disagree. Arbitrary means based on random choice or personal whim. I have argued countless times that subjective judgements are frequently based on extensive reasoning – often appealing to commonly accepted principles

    “What’s the difference between the pitbull (or wild tiger) and the human sociopath who would do something similar given the chance?”

    That’s a very interesting debate but objectivism doesn’t solve it. For me it is a subjective decision as to what counts as being a moral agent for you it appears to be an objective decision – but it involves much the same arguments and quandries.

    On materialism and preference utilitarianism, the answer is easy. Easy, as long as you are willing to treat the sociopath like a dog.

    For preference utilitarianism maybe – for materialism in general it is no easier than it is for you.  Although I have great respect for R.M. Hare this is mainly based on his  insight into the prescriptive nature of moral language – I am not a preference utilitarian. 

  138. 138
    Zachriel says:

    Barry Arrington: There is no prior principle to the idea that when I have two of something and add two more I have four. That is why it is self evident.

    In fact, the prior principles were determined over a century ago.

    Barry Arrington: if you are suggesting that in math there are no self evident fundamental propositions for which further demonstration is impossible, then you do not understand math.

    Mathematical propositions have to be adopted, but they don’t have to be self-evident.

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