# “Unpredictable” Does Not Equal “Contingent”

In a previous post JT believes he has crushed the entire ID project by pointing out that: “A process determined entire[ly] by law can have EXTREMELY complex behavior and extremely difficult to predict behavior.”

No one disputes JT’s point, but it is beside the point as far as ID is concerned.  JT is making a common error – he is confusing “unpredictable” with “contingent.”  They are very different things.

When a bomb explodes the pieces of the bombshell are scattered willy nilly, and it is impossible to predict where any piece will land.  Nevertheless, where each and every piece lands is utterly determined by law.  In other words, where each piece lands is a function of nothing but the various physical forces acting upon it, which could, in principle, be modeled by a mathematical formula.  This is an example of the complex unpredictable behavior resulting from law to which JT alludes.

Contrast the complex unpredictable – but nevertheless determined – behavior of the bombshell with the contingent behavior of an intelligent agent.  This sentence that I am writing is an example of contingent behavior.  My choice of typing out a certain combination of letters and spaces and not another cannot be accounted for on the basis of any known law.  The only way to account for the sentence is as the contingent act of an intelligent agent.  I had a choice, and I wrote that sentence instead of another.

Now JT might counter that I only believe I had a choice in writing that sentence, that my consciousness is an illusion, and that my actions were governed by law as surely as the flight of the pieces of bombshell.  Well that’s the question isn’t it.  JT – and other materialists – do not know that my consciousness (and theirs) is an illusion.  They merely assert it, and until they can provide evidence (and by “evidence” I do not mean the recitation of their metaphysical tropes), that the seemingly self evident fact that I am conscious is not after all a fact, I will go on believing it.  What is more (and this is very amusing) so will they.  In other words, materialists struggle to prove that which they do not really believe.  Every one of them knows he is a conscious agent, and why they attempt to prove that which they know for a certain fact not to be the case is a mystery.

Later JT wrote:  “And for the record, I generally put ‘mind’ in quotes when referring to the ID concept of it and don’t use the term much at all, because of the potential for confusion.”

One wonders what JT meant by “I,” in that sentence, because if, as he says, the mind does not exist, the concept of “I” has no meaning, so it seems to me that it would make more sense for him to put irony quotes around “I” and not “mind.”  This, of course, is just another example of how the materialist is forced to affirm the non-materialist case in the very act of attempting to refute it.

## 117 Replies to ““Unpredictable” Does Not Equal “Contingent””

1. 1
bFast says:

Barry, I wholeheartedly agree with you.

That said, I consider “by law” to be a perfectly valid ID position. If God created a set of laws which, by their design, obligates nature to produce humanity (or something seriously like it) then we are still the product of design — the design of the law-maker.

This, of course, is the natural extension of the strong anthropic principle.

I personally believe that designed “laws” are a fundimental, and major, tool in the designer’s toolbox. I, however, don’t believe that law explains it all. I would extend that if law does explain it all, we have not yet discovered some very important laws.

I would venture to explain the issue to JT with a term I learned here on ID — FSCI, function specifying complex information, or functionality specifying complex information. I like this term better than Dembski’s CSI because it is more narrow, it is a subset of CSI. The number pi seems to me to meet the definition of CSI, but it does not specify something that functions, so it is not FSCI.

Within biology are all manner of functional things. These functional things are the product of a specification in DNA. This is a vastly different thing than the mathematical description that explains the pattern of a bomb blast. It is a vastly different thing than the “by law” coelescing of planets from stardust.

Even the formulae that describe the flow of planets, while describing something that functions, do not provide the specification that the function used to do its functioning.

Just my way of sayin’ what you have said.

2. 2
Norman Doering says:

Barry Arrington wrote:

One wonders what JT meant by “I,” in that sentence, because if, as he says, the mind does not exist, the concept of “I” has no meaning, so it seems to me that it would make more sense for him to put irony quotes around “I” and not “mind.” This, of course, is just another example of how the materialist is forced to affirm the non-materialist case in the very act of attempting to refute it.

JT obviously doesn’t mean there is no such thing as a “mind” but rather that what we call minds are not what you think they are.

What do think “minds” are? Magical supernatural souls that float about in the aether without any material substrate?

JT, I suspect, would consider himself to have a “brain” rather than a “mind.”

And where is JT’s post? Why did you not link to that thread so people could better judge your interpretation of his comments?

3. 3
mynym says:

What do think “minds” are? Magical supernatural souls that float about in the aether without any material substrate?

Of course not, they’re obviously bits of matter that have causal links to another universe in the multiverse, naturally!

It would almost be magical if it wasn’t so natural. By the way, is it okay with naturalists if people call one of the universes in the multiverse hell and another heaven or is that too supernatural?

What does “natural” mean to you as opposed to magical and supernatural, anyway?

4. 4
Barry Arrington says:

Norman, re [2], I take it you are asserting, as does JT, that all human behavior can be reduced to physical law. As I challenged in my post, do you care to actually produce evidence for your assertion? Or are you content merely to recite more slogans like the ones in your comment. If the latter, please move along to another site. Slogans are so boring.

5. 5
JT says:

This sentence that I am writing is an example of contingent behavior. My choice of typing out a certain combination of letters and spaces and not another cannot be accounted for on the basis of any known law. The only way to account for the sentence is as the contingent act of an intelligent agent

It wouldn’t be a single law determining this. But a whole constellation of factors that resulted in the action you took. First of all, you were obliged to write in English because this is not a foreign language forum. Even if you knew another language, you were obliged to write English here. Also you were obliged to follow the rules of English grammar which you did not invent. You did not invent english vocabulary either, not to mention the terminology unique to Intelligent Design. If one day you were to start righting meaningless jibberish in this forum because you had “free will” you would soon be gone. The other moderators would get together and enquire of you regarding this unaccepted behavior and if it continued you would be gone. You couldn’t post an article that was merely a question about photography either. There is an acceptable range of subject matter.

To go back much further – You didn’t decide to be born, you didn’t decide where you were born. Your vocabulary, world view, interests and so on are ultimately tied to factors which you do not control.

You mention a bomb blowing up as an example of determinstic behavior, but that’s not what I had in mind.

What about a chess program? Can you predict what a chess program will do next? Not generally – if you could you could beat it and it is very hard to beat a chess program. And a chess program’s behavior is determined strictly by laws – very complex laws, but laws nonetheless.

A bomb blowing is random and chaotic – I would say a chess playing program falls under the category of what I.D terms “directed contigency”. You can reply, “Ahh, but a human being wrote the chess program and we KNOW a human is not merely machine but has FREE WILL.” The elementary logic errors would be blatant in such a statement and I suppose I can elaborate further if needed.

Furthermore, my project is not to “crush” anybody, nor is it necessarily to convert everyone here to my point of view – that is certainly a hopeless endeavor. I would say I got dragged into an extended exchange with kairosfocus (which isn’t that difficult) But generally, my tendency isn’t too browbeat people to accepting my point of view.

Incidentally, my point of view is greatly influenced by my interpretation of the Bible, which may not be hugely relevant to everyone in this forum. But I am definitely not a secular humanist or darwinist seeking to corrupt impressionable minds here.

6. 6
Norman Doering says:

Barry Arrington wrote:

Norman, re [2], I take it you are asserting, as does JT, that all human behavior can be reduced to physical law.

Yea, sort of, I think that’s where the evidence points. Nothing magical needs to be asserted to explain human behavior.

And it’s not scientific to propose magic and the supernatural. As David Brooks once said: “To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy.”

A lot of evidence for the theory that the mind is what the brain does comes from what happens to brain damaged people. If the mind is some supernatural stuff floating in the aether then how is it damaged when the brain is damaged?

How is it changed when drugs are ingested?

For example, consider Capgras delusion. It’s a rare disorder in which someone believes that a loved one, or close family member, has been replaced by an identical-looking impostor. They think this because they just don’t feel the same feelings for that person any more and can’t explain why. Related to that is “prosopagnosia,” where brain-injury removes only the ability to recognize faces, but nothing else.

All these damages to the brain, thousands of different syndromes, that result in weird cognitive deficits certainly point to the fact that the brain is the mechanism that produce the cognitive abilities in the first place.

7. 7
Peter says:

JT says:

What about a chess program? Can you predict what a chess program will do next? Not generally…

In fact you can quite easily. If you are the programmer who wrote the code you can use a debugger to step through the code and observe the value of the variables. At any particular place in the program you can calculate exactly what the program will do. To my knowledge no one has claimed that they have reduced the human brain to a set of equations and code. There is a vaste difference between a computer program and a mind. There are examples of people with severe brain damage that function surprisingly well. I am thinking of a case involving a French civil servant that was in the news a while back. There are limits to what science can tell us. We are taught the many benefits of science. They are all around us. However, it is also important to know the limitations of science. Just because we have the technology to observe sub-atomic particles does not mean that we have the understanding to create even the simplest of life.

8. 8
Norman Doering says:

Peter wrote:

There are limits to what science can tell us.

Are there limits to science forever, or just to the science we have today?

… it is also important to know the limitations of science.

What do you think those limits are?

Just because we have the technology to observe sub-atomic particles does not mean that we have the understanding to create even the simplest of life.

Researchers creating life from scratch:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9005023/

http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....0438/posts

http://www.fastol.com/~renkwit.....ter%20Life

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci.....251910.stm

http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....rrer=yahoo

9. 9
CJYman says:

Hello again JT,

you state:
“And a chess program’s behavior is determined strictly by laws – very complex laws, but laws nonetheless.”

Again you are forgetting something here. A chess program is not “strictly” law, but a highly improbable and contingent set of laws, not defined by mere regularity or by any laws as emergent physical properties of the materials/units/bits used. So, it is absolutely incorrect to imply that a chess program is “nothing but laws.” Again, you are forgetting that a type of information (or a specific type of organization) of those laws is also involved.

Moreover, as I have already explained in another thread to you, and have briefly repeated here, the organization which results in that very specific set of laws which result in a highly improbable function is not defined or caused by any laws of the units utilized. Again, the material used is not as important as how they are organized. Logic gates can in theory be created from any material. I have seen and designed my own mechanical logic gates, and I have seen examples of “water flow” logic gates. These logic gates, as well as those employed in electronic circuits are not a result of any laws or emergent properties of the physical or material properties of any of the material used.

This has nothing to do with magical minds floating around. This has to do with intelligence (as the ability to model the future and then organize law and chance to arrive at a future specified goal at better than chance, which does exist as per our experience) being fundamentally either alongside matter and law or preceding matter and law as we presently understand it. The “material” properties of this intelligence is inconsequential for the purposes of this debate, however that would be an interesting subject to explore.

I personally have no problem with conscious intelligence being the result of processes in the brain, however, this does in no way mean that it is the result of “just law.” Information and ultimately previous intelligence is needed. Intelligence is the result of previous intelligence somewhere down the causal chain. Intelligence unfolding within our universe only points to intelligence preceding our universe. Intelligence causes intelligence.

Furthermore, this has nothing to do with free will, IMO. Foresight (conscious modelling of future goals which do not yet exist) does exist as per our experience of envisioning an end goal and then manipulating law and chance to produce that end product. We can do this whether we are “free” to do it or not. IMO, this issue of foresight is one of the fundamentals of this debate.

10. 10
RoyK says:

I’m curious: which materialists say that consciousness is an illusion? Can you provide citations to that claim? Is is really the case that all materialists think this?

11. 11
Barry Arrington says:

Norman Doering asks: “Are there limits to science forever, or just to the science we have today?”

Of course, the answer is there will forever be limits to what science can tell us, because, by its very nature, the scientific method never makes any absolute assertion. Popper put the same proposition this way:

“The empirical basis of objective science has thus nothing ‘absolute’ about it. Science does not rest on solid bedrock. The bold structure of its theories rises, as it were, above a swamp. It is like a building erected on piles. The piles are driven down from above into the swamp, but not down to any natural or ‘given’ base; and if we stop driving the piles deeper, it is not because we have reached firm ground. We simply stop when we are satisfied that the piles are firm enough to carry the structure, at least for the time being.” Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, (New York, Routledge Classics, 1959, reprint of first English edition, 2002), 94

Surely you do not disagree with Popper, which prompts me to ask why you posed the question.

12. 12
Jack Golightly says:

Norman, I just finished “The Spiritual Brain” by Mario Beauregard and our very own Denyse O’Leary. I think you should read it. Of course it supports the idea of “magic” (to use your terminology) that you are opposed to. It (more than once) points out that “science” has no obligation to materialism.

13. 13
Collin says:

I think that Barry is wrong to link intelligence detection and mind. I think that design detection can be used to see if a robot committed a crime or the crime was an accident. Regardless of where you fall on the free will/determinism debate, you can always acknowledge that the traffic lights were design (albeit poorly perhaps) in your city. Was it designed by a computer? A mindless person? A god? Doesn’t matter, it was designed and that is detectable. Although the traffic lights system evolved, it did so via beings that could take in data, evaluate and make purposeful modifications to improve it.

14. 14
mynym says:

I’m curious: which materialists say that consciousness is an illusion? Can you provide citations to that claim?

E.g.

Consider this account of an RNA phage, a replicating virus: […]
Love it or hate it, phenomena like this exhibit the heart and power of the Darwinian idea. An impersonal, unreflective, robotic, mindless little scrap of molecular machinery is the ultimate basis of all the agency, and hence meaning, and hence consciousness, in the universe. (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea by Daniel Dennett :203)

Consequently:

somehow we have to get personalities-consciousness, intelligence, agency-back in the driver’s seat. If we can just have contigency-radical contingency-this will give the mind some elbow room, so it can act, and be responsible for its own destiny, instead of being the mere effect of a mindless cascade of mechanical processes! (Ib. :300)

Is is really the case that all materialists think this?

Feel free to cite one that does not think that mind is an effect or illusion of mindless processes.

15. 15
Barry Arrington says:

Norman Doering next asserts that studies of brain injured persons refute the existence of the mind as something that transcends brain function.

As Patrick Lee & Robert P. George point out here, Doering’s assertion “rests on what is manifestly a non sequitur. Shutting off action X prevents action Y: this shows either that X is identical with Y, or that, though X and Y are distinct, Y depends on X to occur.”

Think of it in terms of a radio. If the radio is damaged the sounds it produces are impaired or cease altogether. Does this mean that the radio is the source of the sounds? Under Doering’s reasoning it must be. The radio is damaged; the sounds cease; therefore the radio is the source of the sounds. Well, maybe, but not necessarily. There is an alternative explanation. The radio transmits sounds that it receives from another source; the radio is damaged; therefore it is unable to transmit the sounds it receives from an independent source. Nevertheless, the independence source does not depend on the function of the radio for its function, much less its independent existence.

Materialists are so blinded by their prejudices that they have convinced themselves the “brain damage” argument is a knock down show stopper, when in fact it is refuted easily.

Perhaps Doering believes the transmission source for the radio program is “magic” too. One almost hates to tell him there is no little man inside “music box” who begins to sing every time he turns the “on” knob.

16. 16
Barry Arrington says:

Here’s the link that did not show up in my lat post:
http://www.firstthings.com/art.....rticle=152

17. 17
StephenB says:

—–JT: “It wouldn’t be a single law determining this. But a whole constellation of factors that resulted in the action you took.”

Your argument seems to be that since we cannot determine the cards that we are dealt, we cannot in any way decide how we will play them. That point refutes itself. Every person that visits this site, materialists included, hope to persuade onlookers. In other words, they believe that they can influence public perception of these matters and make a difference in the way others use their free will.

Everyone who cares knows that “free will” is understood to be both real and contextual. That means that our choices must be made within the context of pre-established constraints. To say that free will is not absolute, or even that it exists in very small proportions, does not, in any way, change the fact that it exists. Clearly, Barry A cannot write a written paragraph unless a whole series of preliminary conditions are met, but that does not eliminate contingency, it merely puts it in context and dramatizes its limits. In other words, both the concepts of absolute free will and no free will are illusions. Contingency and free will are two sides of the same coin, which is the capacity to do something in more than one way or even in an almost infinite number of ways. Any artist knows that.

Put another way, materialists don’t believe their own argument, at least not in a consistent way. As Chesterton wrote, the materialist cannot even say “thank you” for passing the mustard without violating his own logic. He was right, of course. While our human nature, our parents, and our place of birth determine the major problems (and opportunities) in our lives, none of these things can fully dictate exactly how we will respond to them. To say that pre-established constraints prevent us from choosing is like saying the laws of music stop Mozart from composing.

—–“Furthermore, my project is not to “crush” anybody, nor is it necessarily to convert everyone here to my point of view – that is certainly a hopeless endeavor.”

Yes, but you hope to persuade onlookers, which, again, refutes your own position. If they have no free will, they cannot persuaded any more than we ID proponents can be persuaded. Frankly, it is humorous to watch people attempt to influence others and change minds even though they don’t believe that influence is possible or that there is any such thing as a mind to change.

18. 18
Barry Arrington says:

RoyK says: “I’m curious: which materialists say that consciousness is an illusion?

How about “all of them.” If the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, then it necessarily follows that consciousness is an illusion. All materialists say that the mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain, because all other explanations of the mind are non-materialist in nature.

RoyK, your question suggests one of two things: (1) you are deeply ignorant; or (2) you are just throwing rocks into the gears to see what happens.

Either way, you are on probation

19. 19
RoyK says:

Barry, it’s a serious question, but “all of them” is not a serious answer. Among prominent contemporary people in the cognitive sciences, I can think of several off the top of my head who are materialists but accept that consciousness exists: John Searle, Gerald Edelman, Owen Flanagan, even Colin McGinn (in some versions of his work he’s a materialist). To say that consciousness derives from the brain is different than saying it’s an illusion.

Is this what it takes to be on probation? Asking for examples?

20. 20
MikeKratch says:

Barry

all other explanations of the mind are non-materialist in nature.

Do you have a resource/link, I’d be very very interested to read more about the non-materialist explanations of the mind you allude to here.
Are you including Buddhism etc in this list of explanations or have I missed your point completly?

21. 21
RoyK says:

mynm [14], you quote Dennett. But let me quote you from Searle’s “The Mystery of Consciousness,” a review of a number of books in the field including Dennett’s “Consciousness Explained”:

The most important problem in the biological sciences is one that until quite recently many scientists did not regard as a suitable subject for scientific investigation at all. It is this: How exactly do neurobiological processes in the brain cause consciousness? The enormous variety of stimuli that affect us—for example, when we taste wine, look at the sky, smell a rose, listen to a concert—trigger sequences of neuro-biological processes that eventually cause unified, well-ordered, coherent, inner, subjective states of awareness or sentience. Now what exactly happens between the assault of the stimuli on our receptors and the experience of consciousness, and how exactly do the intermediate processes cause the conscious states?

Now Barry may say this is a denial of consciousness, but I take Searle at his word: to explain something is not to deny it. (Not that we have an adequate explanation; but Searle’s point is that a biological explanation would have to be, um, biological.)

22. 22
ribczynski says:

This topic was discussed at length in an earlier thread. If you’re interested in the subject, take a look.

In that thread, DaveScot brought up the radio metaphor, and I pointed out its flaws:

DaveScot wrote:

Think of a brain like a radio with tuner fixed at one frequency so that it can only receive one radio station. Turn off the radio (death or near death) and, although the broadcast station is still “on the air” it can no longer be heard but otherwise remains the same. Turn the radio back on and it’s back the same as always.

Dave,

There are some serious problems with that metaphor.

The most obvious is that in reality, information flows both ways between body and mind. The broadcast station/radio receiver metaphor represents the information as flowing only one way.

We can correct the flaw in the metaphor by stipulating that the receiver is really a two-way radio that can transmit as well as receive, and that the broadcast station is really a base station with two-way capability.

If we adopt the modified metaphor, another question arises: which functions are performed by the base station (soul), and which by the radio (brain and body)?

The naive view (held by a surprising number of people who are unfamiliar with the findings of modern neuroscience) is that all of the “interesting” stuff — thinking, feeling, remembering, deciding — is carried out by the soul, and that the body (including the brain) has only two main functions: passing information to the soul, and carrying out the commands issued by the soul.

Naive though it is, many people cling to this idea because it allows them to believe in a soul that survives death while retaining all of a person’s essential characteristics: memories, temperament, cognitive abilities, etc.

In reality, of course, the brain isn’t nearly as passive as the radio metaphor would suggest. Evidence shows that the brain is intimately involved with (and possibly fully responsible for) all of the characteristics mentioned above.

For example, the temperament, personality, cognitive abilities and memories of an Alzheimer’s patient may be damaged to the point that the person bears no resemblance to his former self. To a materialist, this makes sense. Alzheimer’s damages the brain, and when the brain is damaged, the person is damaged.

The naive dualist has a much harder time explaining how these faculties can be so seriously damaged if they are wholly (or even primarily) carried out by the soul and not the brain.

23. 23
StephenB says:

—–“I’m curious: which materialists say that consciousness is an illusion? Can you provide citations to that claim? Is is really the case that all materialists think this?

There are two ways to deny the mind or consciousness. One way is to simply deny them outright. The other way is to use the language and rhetoric of non-material consciousness while defining and describing it solely in materialistic terms. The second strategy is calculated to argue for “brains only” while maintaining plausible deniability. It’s called “epiphenominalism.”

24. 24
Barry Arrington says:

I see you are trying to drag us into another semantics squabble. I am gaveling it right now.

Consciousness is by definition a subject-object proposition. In other words, to accept consciousness, one must accept that there is a subject (i.e, a mind) that has a particular relation to an object (i.e., is conscious of it). Thus, consciousness is inherently dualistic, and therefore “consciousness-affirming materialist” is an oxymoron. Or maybe the people you cite (if they, in fact, say the things you say they do) are simply run of the mill morons who deny the conclusions that are inexorably compelled by their own premises. Either way, they do not interest me.

25. 25
smordecai says:

I am surprised to not see The Mind and the Brain by Jeffery M. Swartz cited in this debate. He makes a very strong argument for the reality of human “volition” as William James called “free will”. He also indicates that materialists are still thinking in terms of Newtonian physics rather than Quantum physics. Some brains can’t seem to get their minds around that most difficult reality.

26. 26
MikeKratch says:

smordecai,
What insight do you think Quantum physics can offer with regard to this?

27. 27
Barry Arrington says:

RoyK is no longer with us.

28. 28
Barry Arrington says:

Norman Doering is no longer with us.

29. 29
mynym says:

Now Barry may say this is a denial of consciousness, but I take Searle at his word: to explain something is not to deny it.

I take him as it his word as well but you have to remember what words actually mean. Materialists are constantly borrowing the language of “dualism” to argue for materialism, then insisting that their language is not what they really meant in some way. As the philosopher David Stove noted they often deny sentience and intelligence to man and yet attribute it to inanimate objects, natural “selection” or even genes. E.g.

A person is certainly a believer in some religion if he thinks, for example, that there are on earth millions of invisible and immortal non-human beings which are far more intelligent and capable than we are.
But that is exactly what sociobiologists do think, about genes. Sociobiology, then, is a religion: one which has genes as its gods. [….]
…consider the following representative statements made by leading sociobiologists. Richard Dawkins, easily the best-known spokesman for this movement, writes that ‘we are…robot-vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes,’ and again that we are ‘manipulated in order to assure the survival of our genes.’ The same writer also says that ‘the fundamental truth [is] that an organism is a tool of DNA.’ (That is, of the DNA molecules which are the organism’s genes.) Again, Dawkins says that ‘living organisms exist for the benefit of DNA.’ Similarly, E.O. Wilson, an equal or higher sociobiological authority, says that ‘the individual organism is only the vehicle [of genes], part of an elaborate device to preserve and spread them….The organism is only DNA’s way of making more DNA.’
I will mention in a moment some other passages in which sociobiologists imply that genes are beings of more than human intelligence and power, but that implication should be clear enough already from the passages just quoted. According to the Christian religion, human beings and all other created things exist for the greater glory of God; according to sociobiology, human beings and all other living things exist for the benefit of their genes.
[…]
It must be admitted that sociobiologists sometimes say other things which are inconsistent with statements like the ones I have just quoted. Dawkins, for example, sometimes protests that he does not at all believe that genes are ‘conscious, purposeful agents.’ But these disclaimers are in vain. Of course genes are not conscious purposeful agents: everyone will agree with that. Where sociobiologists differ from other people is just that they also say, over and over again, things which imply that genes are conscious purposeful agents; and agents, at that, of so much intelligence and power that human beings are merely among the tools they make and use.
(Darwinian Fairytales: Selfish Genes, Errors of Heredity and Other Fables of Evolution by David Stove: 248-249)

Similarly if one says that neurobiological processes in the brain “cause” consciousness while insisting that we must be blind to intelligently designed events unfolding in biology then all you’ve really done is reiterate the ignorant materialist view of “blind processes” again. Note that it’s based on a pseudo-Newtonian view of the world that Newton himself wouldn’t agree with and which quantum mechanics may undermine. If you blindly insist that things are “explained” by a causal history of blind processes then you may be being willfully blind to the possibility of the causal impact of mind or language or information on matter now. (Despite what some seem to think this is not something that can be settled by the simple-minded use of stigma words like “magic” and so on.)

30. 30
Barry Arrington says:

As these two persons have just learned, the fastest way to get yourself booted off this site is to make personal attacks against the moderators.

31. 31
notedscholar says:

Dear IDists,

It’s possibly JT was using the word “I” simply in a functional sense. It’s a common piece of rhetoric.

Anyway, I think that the problems with Intelligent Design have much more to do with it’s failure to count as science than anything else. I’ve discussed some of these problems here:
http://sciencedefeated.wordpre.....nt-design/

Feel free to read and comment!

NS

32. 32
smordecai says:

MikeKratch – The Mind as the observer influences probabilities. But this is not the forum for a discourse in Quantum Physics, I would encourage reading Swartz to catch the relevance.

33. 33
MikeKratch says:

smordecai,
Perhaps, however from what I understand experments designed to see this effect (random events being influenced by an observer being present or not, or attempting to change the results, or not) have been inconclusive, or negative.

There are even many “test your PSI abilities” websites out there, that claim to test your ability to influence a random number generator or similar mechanism.

I’ve taken this tack as you said

the observer influences probabilities

If I have got the wrong end of the stick please correct me if so. What probabilities?

34. 34
TCS says:

smodercia @25 wrote:

I am surprised to not see The Mind and the Brain by Jeffery M. Swartz cited in this debate. He makes a very strong argument for the reality of human “volition” as William James called “free will”. He also indicates that materialists are still thinking in terms of Newtonian physics rather than Quantum physics. Some brains can’t seem to get their minds around that most difficult reality.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Schwartz’s book, but it certainly is a fascinating read. If I remember correctly, he makes more of a case for “free won’t”–the mind’s ability to veto the outcome of deterministic processes in the brain. He cited research to back up his assertions on this point.

I think you really ought to consider the case of hemispherectomies in this argument. The hemispherectomy was a procedure performed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s which was performed to help relieve epilepsy. In this procedure, an entire hemisphere of brain (half of the brain) was removed. While there were often some long-term effects on controlling movement in one side of the body, studies showed that these individuals retained their personalities, cognitive and intellectual abilities. Of course this depends on the age of the patient at the time that the surgery is performed. Apparently, the unaffected hemisphere is able to adapt and take over the functions of the hemisphere that has been removed.

So, half of the brain is removed, and the individual maintains their personality and intellectual abilities. To me, this supports an ID perspective, because from a naturalistic evolutionary perspective, there would be no need to maintain the personality and intellect. Furthermore, you would need to have a population of severely brain damaged individuals for many, many, generations in order to result in this capacity. All that’s needed from a Darwinian perspective is simply the ability to procreate. There is no need to maintain the personality and the intellect.

Try taking your CPU out of your computer, cutting it in half, and putting half of it back in. The complexity of the mind and the brain points to design at a level that is beyond human technological sophistication.

35. 35
SteveB says:

JT:
Nide yise bu mingbai le.

Oops, sorry. For just a second I forgot that I was “obliged to write in English.”

😉

36. 36
MikeKratch says:

TCS,
Then it follows from what you say that there must be a two way relationship between the radio and the source of the signal? So more like CB radio then?

Try taking your CPU out of your computer, cutting it in half, and putting half of it back in.

As it happens, the CPU in my PC is quad core. In fact, it’s two dual core CPU’s pasted together (q6600). So cutting it in half (if done carefully!) would not noticably affect it’s performance in most everyday tasks! 🙂

37. 37
TCS says:

Mike @35,

Go ahead and try to do that as carefully as you can. I am eagerly awaiting the results.

I don’t have a problem with a 2-way relationship.

38. 38
MikeKratch says:

TCS,
I imagine if it was done with the same level of preperation and understanding as when the operation is performed on human brains it would be fine.

After all, I don’t expect you to perform a hemispherectomie before you can use it in a argument!

39. 39
MikeKratch says:

As to the “two way” then,

If we adopt the modified metaphor, another question arises: which functions are performed by the base station (soul), and which by the radio (brain and body)?

I’m interested in your opinion there in that case. It’s an interesting point rib brings up.
Allow me to start:

soul – good/evil
brain and body – creates specific plans to do good/evil

40. 40
TCS says:

Mike, I doubt you truly are interested here. Also, those issues are beyond the scope of ID. Those are theological issues, which ID does not speak to.

As to your processor, find the best computer/electrical engineer you can to cut it in half for you. I’ll be awaiting the results.

41. 41
ribczynski says:

TCS,

I’m glad you mentioned hemispherectomies, because there is another procedure, the corpus callosotomy, that disconnects the two hemispheres so that epileptic seizures cannot spread from one to the other. The hemispheres are only disconnected; neither is removed. Unlike the hemispherectomy, this procedure can be performed on adults as well as on children.

The results are fascinating, and they provide strong evidence against the idea of an immaterial mind:

1. In experiments, it’s possible to pass information to one hemisphere but not the other. The left hemisphere literally doesn’t know what the right hemisphere knows, and vice-versa.

If there were a single, immaterial mind, it would know what both hemispheres know. Clearly, this doesn’t happen. Do dualists want us to believe that the immaterial mind happened to split in two at the moment the corpus callosum was cut?

This fascinating video of a split-brain patient demonstrates the phenomenon.

2. The left hemisphere controls the right half of the body, and vice-versa. When the connection between the two is cut, this results in bizarre behaviors indicating the presence of two “wills” in the same skull.

One patient was seen to pick up a cigarette with her right hand and place it in her mouth. Her left hand plucked it out and threw it away before the right hand could light it.

In another case, a man attacked his wife with one arm while defending her with the other.

If a single, immaterial mind were running the show, this would not happen.

42. 42
MikeKratch says:

TCS,
Well it would appear to be on-topic for the thread, but if you’d rather not share that’s fine by me.

I’m not sure what your point is regarding the processor.

You say “cut in half” but in your example a brain was “cut in half” but nobody says that a simple “cut” was all that was required. In both cases there would have to be substantial preperation.

And I was really pointing out that if the processor was dual or quad core it could lose half it’s capacity and still function.

You should also know that “cutting chips in half” is done to reverse engineer them, in fact modern secure chips have features that prevent this happening.

So forgive me for over egging the point. Are you saying that it is beyond the capacity of human technology to take a chip such as the Q6600, with 4 cores, remove 2 cores and still retain a functioning chip? If the same level of effort, time and money was applied as is to chopping peoples brains in half it could not be done?

AMD sell failed quad core chips as tri-core chips you know if only one core is dead. Sure, they don’t cut it out, they just turn it of. Same with multicore graphics cards.

43. 43
MikeKratch says:

TCS,
do you have an opinion on corpus callosotomy? That would appear to speak to the exact issues you raise in your post regarding issues of personality and intellect. Does the transmitter also “split in two” as in some cases each hemisphere does not have knowledge of what the other does.

It’s a very interesting subject.

44. 44
MikeKratch says:

There is an excellent video demonstration here

You won’t be able to believe what you see!

45. 45
ribczynski says:

Another excellent video on Joe, the split-brain patient, this time hosted by Alan Alda for Scientific American Frontiers:

46. 46
Domoman says:

Notedscholar,

You said:

Anyway, I think that the problems with Intelligent Design have much more to do with it’s failure to count as science than anything else.

I think ID is science. I don’t understand how it isn’t. Archeologists cite intelligence as the source of languages and codes within ancient artifacts. This is considered scientific. They’d be laughed at if they suggested it was the result of wind, rain and erosion. What’s different with ID? Scientists have found complex molecular machines and highly complex coding (far more advanced than man’s current computer coding). If archeology is scientific, it seems to me, that ID follows logically as scientific.

Plus, ID even uses the scientific method. Go here for a page on it:

Keep it cool man,
Domoman

47. 47
TCS says:

Mike,

It is very interesting. It is also interesting to note that these effects are virtually undetectable after a short period of time. As the Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry notes:

Given six months to a year for recovery, and in the absence of other major brain pathology, a person with complete section of the forebrain commissures would go undetected as a rule in a casual first meeting or conversation or even through an entire routine medical exam.

You are also citing design principles of chips that are vastly inferior to the design principles of the brain. If you can’t see that, then I can’t help you.

48. 48
JT says:

Well, I’ve been gone for awhile. Maybe I should have stuck around since I was the topic.

bFast wrote [1]:

I would venture to explain the issue to JT with a term I learned here on ID — FSCI, function specifying complex information, or functionality specifying complex information. I like this term better than Dembski’s CSI because it is more narrow, it is a subset of CSI. The number pi seems to me to meet the definition of CSI, but it does not specify something that functions, so it is not FSCI.

Heres’ the problem as I see it – CSI is a very exclusive set as it is. As WmAD explains, the set of compressible strings is incredibly minute. Compressibility seems like sort of a nondescript unspecial attribute, but find a string like that and supposedly its a very very rare attribute indeed. So how does using FSCI solve any inherent problems at least in the Design Inference if there are already inherent problems with it using CSI, (which is an extremely small set as it is).
Actually the only problem with the Design Inference maybe how its misinterpreted. All it can do is rule out a kind of metaphysical randomness (I believe I’ve seen someone else use that term before.) You don’t get an automatic free pass from this to conclude “design”. And this doesn’t change by alluding to FSCI instead (whatever FSCI is precisely – all we know is that its a somewhat smaller set of CSI what was already an extremely small set.)

49. 49
William J. Murray says:

The “prime mover” is the “uncaused cause” concept. Free will, to be meaningful, must also be a prime mover, an uncaused cause. If not, it is simply machine-like behavior programmed by cause, manufacturing effect. Even if it is unpredictable and complex, without the uncaused cause, prime-mover aspect, “free will” is simply a phrase and set of equivocations meant to hide the inevitable conclusion that humans are programmed machines.

Unfortunately for the materialist, any argument against a prime-mover free will begins with an a priori assumption that a prime-mover free will exists, is listening to the argument, and can make a free-will decision and choice to accept the conclusion or not and formulate a meaningful rebuttal. All such arguments are essentially hypocritical and self-refuting.

50. 50
jerry says:

FCSI is something that is complex, is information, and this information specifies something else that has a function. The only place it exists in nature is in life and it readily exists in the world as a result of intelligent activity.

Within life, there has never been any proven demonstration of the amount of FCSI increasing by any amount other than for trivial increases. Or in other words there has never been any proven examples of increased functionality except for very small increases. No novel complex functional increases in capability have ever been attributed to natural processes. If anyone disagrees then they should put forward their examples because that is what the debate is all about. We can see how many of the examples meet the criteria of increased functional novel systems through natural means.

There have been hypothesized examples of some things happening with single celled organisms in the past such as the formation of eukaryotes and hgt but is there any pattern of anything happening in terms of novel complex functionality arising with multi-celled organisms due to natural reasons. And if there is a pattern what was this natural mechanism?

FCSI and its creation is at the heart of the debate and if one does not understand that, then they really cannot participate in the debate.

51. 51
JT says:

CJYMan:
In response to what I’m reading now in your post [6] I want to give the following example I was think about earlier today. Its application to what you’re saying is obvious to me – though I can spell it out if necessary.

I don’t know how the weather works exactly – I know its very complex. And I know its highly sensitive to condition external itself, so that it is influenced by ocean currents and other distinct attributes of the planet. I would suspect that the visible contours of the land masses of this planet, the continents that is, have a very specific impact on the weather of this planet. So that for example, say the Island of Cuba disappeared – that would dramatically effect weather systems in the Gulf of Mexico. So, what I’m thinking is that the land mass contours of earth, are in effect a DNA for a major subset of the functionality of the weather systems of this planet. In other words this contour of the earth’s land masses encodes functionality external to itself. With enough knowledge, you could talk about what slight changes to the coastline of Maine would do to the Earth’s weather. And at this point we probably know as much about DNA as we do about the effect of land mass contours on the weather.

This would be in response to your idea that the laws of a computer program are categorically distinct from the laws of nature because the former encode symbolic information:

Moreover, as I have already explained in another thread to you, and have briefly repeated here, the organization which results in that very specific set of laws which result in a highly improbable function is not defined or caused by any laws of the units utilized. Again, the material used is not as important as how they are organized. Logic gates can in theory be created from any material. I have seen and designed my own mechanical logic gates, and I have seen examples of “water flow” logic gates. These logic gates, as well as those employed in electronic circuits are not a result of any laws or emergent properties of the physical or material properties of any of the material used.

Rereading the above however, I am thinking about the “highly improbable function” aspect of it, so maybe you would object to my analogy above on that basis. So here’s my response, as I read the design inference (not the book – the theory) nowhere is there a formal method to detect “intelligent design”. The only formal method there is rules out pure randomness as a cause for something. So by identifying a “highly improbable function” it mean “highly improbable to occur by pure randomness.” It does not rule out necessity or mechanism as a cause.

52. 52
vjtorley says:

ribczynski:

You make a valid point when you criticize the “radio tuner” model of the mind-brain relationship. However, all this shows is that Cartesian dualism is false. There is an alternative non-dualistic Aristotelian account of the mind, which does justice to Barry’s insistence that human agency is real and irreducible to brain processes.

According to this account:

(i) the term “mind” does not refer to a thing of any kind, let alone a thing interacting with the brain;

(ii) nor does the term “mind” refer to some set of capacities which distinguish humans from other animals;

(iii) still less does “mind” refer to some nebulous state such as “consciousness,” whatever that means;

(iv) rather, “mind” is synonymous with “intellect” or “rationality”;

(v) this “intellect” is not a power “tacked on” to our animal nature – rather, it is part of the very “warp and woof” of being a human animal, since to be a human animal is to be an animal whose form of life is rational, and human intellectual acts are indeed animal acts;

(vi) the apparent duality in the definition “rational animal” does not correspond to a duality in human beings – rather, it shows precisely how our human form of life is completely and indivisibly one. Indeed, the unity of a human being’s actions is actually deeper and stronger than that underlying the acts of a non-rational animal: rationality allows us to bring together our past, present and future acts, when we formulate plans;

(vii) materialists are right to insist on the absolute unity of human life and its essentially animal nature, but they go wrong in assuming that every act of an animal is necessarily a BODILY act;

(viii) When Aristotle (and later, Aquinas) argue that the act of intellect is not the act of a bodily organ, they do not mean that there is a NON-ANIMAL act engaged in by human beings. Rather, they mean that not every act of an animal is a bodily act;

(ix) acts of the human intellect are acts of the WHOLE person, which cannot be ascribed to a bodily organ such as the brain, so there is no way in which they could be determined by some set of physical laws governing interactions between bodies, as determinists contend.

Curious readers might like to peruse John O’Callaghan’s article at
http://www2.nd.edu/Departments.....allagh.htm , which is a far more lucid exposition of the Aristotelian account than what I have attempted here in this brief sketch.

Incidentally, one of the many philosophical grounds for rejecting the view that intellectual acts could possibly be bodily acts is that intellectual acts are capable of being self-reflexive. You can kick a ball; but you cannot kick “kicking.” Nor can you see “seeing”; vision, like kicking, is a bodily act. However, you can easily think about the act of thinking about something, which is what I hope I have stimulated contributors who hold to a deterministic position – whether “hard” or “soft” – to do.

Finally, the fact that human reasoning depends on the occurrence of events in the brain presents no difficulty for Aristotle’s and Aquinas’ hylomorphism, as the dependence is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. Show me that the very act of reasoning is by its very nature bound up with brain states, just as the act of seeing is essentially bound up with having an eye which is sensitive to color, and then I’ll accept that some version of determinism must be true. Until then, I remain skeptical.

53. 53
JT says:

CJYMan wrote[9]:

This has nothing to do with magical minds floating around. This has to do with intelligence (as the ability to model the future and then organize law and chance to arrive at a future specified goal at better than chance, which does exist as per our experience) being fundamentally either alongside matter and law or preceding matter and law as we presently understand it. The “material” properties of this intelligence is inconsequential for the purposes of this debate, however that would be an interesting subject to explore

So you seem to be clearly implying that it would be possible for a computer to be intelligent in precisely the same sense as a human being because you say the material properties of intelligence are inconseqential. You also say it has nothing to do with magical minds floating around.

You also you are not demanding free will. You say it has to do with foresight, and I would agree with that.

Speaking of foresight I almost posted an article her the other day (from Drudge) about Japanese researchers being able to view the actual visual images in a person’s dreams because they understand now how visual data is stored in the brain. This is not science fiction, it is real exactly as described above. Furthermore, my personal conviction is that there is a concerted attempt at upper echelons of power in society to downplay the actual ability that has long existed in this area until the public can be gradually acclimated to accepted what can be done here, and what the ultimate uses are that are planned for such technology. That’s another topic obviously, but the point is visual images are stored in the brain in a precise phyisical way such that they can be retrieved using a physical process. Should we really be surprised at this?

Also, you allude to ultimate causes in that you say that mind had to precede matter, presumably with the idea of tracing mechanistic causes back to a point where nothing preceded them but say the big bang.

At that point all you have is randomness or “something else” as an explanation and if it can’t be randomness (because of the Design Inference) then it must be “something else”. But what information do we glean by replacing the phrase “something else” with “Intelligent Agent?” Answer: None.

You could just say the information in question always existed and thus no “intelligent agent” was needed to generate it. Maybe that’s what you and others in ID already think and I just missed it.

But anyway, I think you’ve already admitted that computers can potentially be intelligent in the same sense as a human as far we know, and that’s good enough for me.

54. 54
JT says:

At that point all you have is randomness or “something else” as an explanation and if it can’t be randomness (because of the Design Inference) then it must be “something else”. But what information do we glean by replacing the phrase “something else” with “Intelligent Agent?” Answer: None.

What I meant was that if Intelligent Agency is distinct from law, which it is for most in ID, it is meaningless to invoke Intelligent Agency as a cause. If you cannot potentially identify a pattern characterizing how an entity functions in at least some known set of circumstances, then that entity’s behavior is completely random. Contrarily, to be able to identify such a pattern is equivalent to identifying laws that govern how that entity operates in those circumstances. If you cannot characterize the behavior of some entity via some set of laws (potentially a large and complex set of laws) then the behavior of that entity is random. So an intelligent agent not determined by laws is meaningless and equivalent to randomness amd invoking it as a cause for something explains NOTHING.

55. 55
sparc says:

Please correct me if I am wrong but I am not aware that either Dr. Dembski or Prof. Behe ever used the term FCSI. IIRC it was KF who braught up the term at UD. Despite his enthusiams in spreading it I wonder what professional ID theorists would have to say about FCSI.

56. 56
StephenB says:

—–mynym: “According to the Christian religion, human beings and all other created things exist for the greater glory of God; according to sociobiology, human beings and all other living things exist for the benefit of their genes.”

Very nice!

57. 57
Trebics says:

Barry A., Remind me, please, why are we doing this so-called discussion with the dark side? The quasiscientific Darwinist-materialist lumpenproletariat sure as hell will not contribute anything worthwhile to serious scientific discussions. They have invested their life and work in the fairytales, so absent divine intervention it is unlikely they will change.

There are undoubtedly mistakes and errors in the chain of arguments comprising Intelligent Design, the bulk of which is part of mathematical information theory; but those errors will be detected and corrected by US, not them.

We all believe what we WANT to believe, that is why we should not “dialogue”. The purpose and intentions of the materialist side is NOT the discovery of truth. There is no basis for communication with those who are outside the
accumulated knowledge of four thousand years of human history. We don’t even speak a common language!

The Explanatory Filter, CSI, and William Dembski will be remembered to the end of our western civilization, while the other side will sink into well deserved obscurity! We seek the truth, we are not asked to be successful, only to be faithful to the truth!

What if we are unpopular among the loosers? They are the majority, you say? I say with the Bard: We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!

Let us converse only with those of good will!

58. 58
Upright BiPed says:

Excuse me if someone has already covered this…..and I am sure they have….but, the code is conventional.
Transcription/translation is a bridge that cannot be crossed without volition. Chance and Law both are dead – even if they are yet to be buried.

59. 59

vjtorley,

(i) the term “mind” does not refer to a thing of any kind, let alone a thing interacting with the brain

Would it not, at least, refer to the substantial form of an individual person (on the Thomistic account)? If not, how am I mistaken?

The reason I’m inclined to substance dualism is that no form of material substance (coherently conceived) is identical to the essentially subjective person.

Also, I’m not quite sure what you mean by “bodily act” as opposed to an act of the “whole person.” Could you explain further?

(Forgive me if I’ve not read through all of your work. References thereto will be quite sufficient. Thanks!)

60. 60
JT says:

Barry Arrington [OP]:

One wonders what JT meant by “I,” in that sentence, because if, as he says, the mind does not exist, the concept of “I” has no meaning, so it seems to me that it would make more sense for him to put irony quotes around “I” and not “mind.” This, of course, is just another example of how the materialist is forced to affirm the non-materialist case in the very act of attempting to refute it.

noted scholar [31]:

It’s possibly JT was using the word “I” simply in a functional sense. It’s a common piece of rhetoric.

The reason I didn’t address BarryA’s point previously is I didn’t understand it. The arguments in ID are often highly esoteric. Why should I be prohibited from using a particular pronoun because I believe the mind is essentially a physical thing? Why no prohibit me from using “We” as well, The plural “I”. When I use a pronoun it is for the purpose of alluding or referring to an object in an abbreviated way. “Him” “Her” “This” “That”. Maybe you should demand I use “it” when referring to people because I think on some level they really are just complex mechanisms.

Maybe you should demand that French or other European dualists not use pronouns reflecting gender when referring to inanimate objects: “De boat – she no go.” That’s an affront to the dignity of humanity. How is a beer inherently feminine – answer me that Mexico.

Maybe I only mock what I do not understand.

61. 61
MikeKratch says:

TCS

It is also interesting to note that these effects are virtually undetectable after a short period of time.

So, let me get this straight, the human brain was designed to have chunks removed with little to no ill effect?
Is that what you are saying?

This is a new one on me. One would have thought if that was the case then a more useful “design” would be to ensure the spine does not degenerate, or a better knee, those things would help everybody wherease a design feature of the brain that allowed chunks to go missing would only affect a tiny percentage of all people who ever lived.

You are also citing design principles of chips that are vastly inferior to the design principles of the brain. If you can’t see that, then I can’t help you.

You used a “brain vs chip” analogy. In years past CPU’s only had 1 core and your analogy would have worked. Cutting that single core in half would have resulted in a unusuable CPU. However, as I keep noting, modern CPU’s are more like the brain in that they have two (or more) hemispheres and so can afford to “lose” one and still be able to function.

I don’t believe I’ve cited any “design principles” and neither have you. We’re simply talking about analogies.

And yes, no doubt CPU design is “vastly ingerior” to the design of the brain but, er, CPUs have only been around for a few decades whereas the brain has been around for substantially longer. Give it a few tens of thousands of years and we’ll see what happens!

I don’t understand why you have such an issue with my counter analogy. You seem to be saying that unless I go out and perform a CPU into two operation I can’t speak about it? Have you performed many brain operations then? I doubt it.

And, regarding the “mind as 2 way radio issue” do you have an opinion on how the corpus callosotomy prodecure affects the “transmitter” as it obviously has effects on the “radio”?

62. 62
kairosfocus says:

Okay

JT, the same challenge has come up in the earlier thread.

Why don’t you start from the falling pile of rocks by chance plus necessity only spells out “Welcome to Wales” example here; as per Upright’s challenge.

GEM of TKI

63. 63
Michael Haanel says:

As a mechanistic determinist I have come to believe that consciousness is a product of language. What our brains do… or one of the unique thing that human brains do is to process memes. The spontaneous emergence of Nicaraguan Sign Language is a fine example of how our brains are constantly sorting and looking for memes.

Language is a gigantic meme that is growing independently in the nether. What we experience is words.

ID subscribers push the notion that the overall picture implies a “greater consciousness.” Any consciousness must have words. What fantastic language meme did the Intelligent Designer absorb?

Feral people never get words, and because of this lack of names for things and experiences, they never become consciousness of our verbal universe. Helen Keller lived in darkness until she got words, and began naming her experiences.

If there is no voice, no constant stream of words in your mind, then you are unconscious.

64. 64
JT says:

CJYMan wrote [9]:
This has nothing to do with magical minds floating around. This has to do with intelligence (as the ability to model the future and then organize law and chance to arrive at a future specified goal at better than chance, which does exist as per our experience) being fundamentally either alongside matter and law or preceding matter and law as we presently understand it. The “material” properties of this intelligence is inconsequential for the purposes of this debate
JT:But anyway, I think you’ve already admitted that computers can potentially be intelligent in the same sense as a human as far we know, and that’s good enough for me.

That was a stupid comment on my part. A desktop computer could never be intelligent like a human being. Obviously it could never be conscious. A computer would have to be rendered with a near identical physical-chemical makeup of a human being to be conscious like a human being. Material properties seem definitely consequential at least in that regard.

65. 65
ribczynski says:

vjtorley wrote:

You make a valid point when you criticize the “radio tuner” model of the mind-brain relationship. However, all this shows is that Cartesian dualism is false.

Which is a significant problem for the many people here at UD and elsewhere who are Cartesian dualists, whether they know it or not. That would include those who

1) think that they will go to heaven when they die, leaving their bodies behind but retaining their intellects, personalities, memories and emotions;

2) think that dear, departed Grandma is looking down on them and maybe even communicating with them from time to time;

3) think that NDEs and OBEs are true accounts of what happens when the soul leaves the body;

4) believe in ghosts; etc.

Those people will not be happy when you tell them that no, Grandma is really just dead after all.

(ix) acts of the human intellect are acts of the WHOLE person, which cannot be ascribed to a bodily organ such as the brain, so there is no way in which they could be determined by some set of physical laws governing interactions between bodies, as determinists contend.

Evidence for this?

Incidentally, one of the many philosophical grounds for rejecting the view that intellectual acts could possibly be bodily acts is that intellectual acts are capable of being self-reflexive. You can kick a ball; but you cannot kick “kicking.” Nor can you see “seeing”; vision, like kicking, is a bodily act. However, you can easily think about the act of thinking about something…

Why would you think that physically instantiated thoughts cannot be about other thoughts?

66. 66
JT says:

KF [57]:

Is this what you were talking about:

You are sitting in a railway carriage and seeing stones you believe to have been randomly arranged, spelling out: “WELCOME TO WALES.” Would you believe the apparent message? Why or why not?

Let me restate that:

You are sitting in a railway carriage and seeing stones you believe to have been randomly arranged, spelling out a valid and comprehensible proof for some math theorem Would you believe the apparent message? Why or why not?

Yes, I would believe it because even though it was randomly generated, the proof was comprehensible and self-evidently valid.

67. 67
Upright BiPed says:

68. 68
JT says:

What if an intelligent agent says “Welcome to Wales”. How likely is it for an intelligent agent to lie?

If he’s a government agent pretty likely.

69. 69
vjtorley says:

In response to my earlier claim (49, (i)) that “the term ‘mind’ does not refer to a thing of any kind, let alone a thing interacting with the brain,” you write:

“Would it not, at least, refer to the substantial form of an individual person (on the Thomistic account)? If not, how am I mistaken?”

Good question. What you are assuming here is that the terms “mind” and “soul” are synonymous. The article by John O’Callaghan at http://www2.nd.edu/Departments.....allagh.htm , which I cited in my last post makes a strong case that for Aquinas, as for Aristotle, the term “mind” refers not to the essence or substance of the soul, but to a specific power of the soul: namely, the intellect.

Augustine seems to have equated “mind” with the highest part of the soul, and in particular with will, memory and intellect. O’Callaghan demonstrates that in his later works, Aquinas came to reject this view in favor of Aristotle’s position. Why? The problem with Augustine’s view (and also with Descartes’ later view) is that it implies that each of us leads a double life: the life of an animal animated by its animal soul, and a distinct mental life, animated by its mental soul, thereby separating or “setting off” rational life from animal life.

O’Callaghan argues that Aquinas, following Aristotle, views human life as a unity:

“On the contrary, for Aquinas we live but one life, the life of a rational animal. Aquinas argues that the principle of rational life just is identically the principle of animal life in the human being. Thus the life of the mind or intellect just is identically the life of the animal. He takes this position explicitly in order to preserve the integrity and unity of human life.”

On this point, materialists are correct. Where they err is in equating the exercise of rationality with the act of a bodily organ.

In short: the soul (as substantial form of the body) can be called a thing of sorts – or more precisely, the substantial form of a thing. The mind or intellect, as a mere power of the soul, cannot be called a thing.

Even for the soul, it would be misleading to speak of it as interacting with the brain. Rather, what we should say is that because we are animals, there are some things (such as seeing) which we do with our brains and sensory organs; and there are other things (such as reasoning) which we do without any bodily organ. In the former case, the action of ascribed to the relevant parts of a living (and hence ensouled) body; in the latter case, the action [reasoning] cannot be ascribed to the body at all. Nevertheless, reasoning is still an act of the person as a rational individual, so it must be ascribed to that person’s substantial form or soul.

In response to your query, then, a bodily act [such as seeing] is the act of a living body or some physical part thereof; whereas an act of the whole person is an act [such as reasoning] which cannot be ascribed to any part(s) of the body.

Finally, you write:

“The reason I’m inclined to substance dualism is that no form of material substance (coherently conceived) is identical to the essentially subjective person.”

I’d be a little careful of this argument if I were you. It sounds like Thomas Nagel’s “What is it like to be a bat?” (see http://www.clarku.edu/students...../nagel.pdf ). John Searle is a philosopher for whom I have the greatest respect, and he has some things to say about this argument in his book, “Mind, Language and Society” (Basic Books, paperback, 1999; ISBN 0-465-04521-9; available at http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Lan.....0465045219 ). Unlike materialists, Searle acknowledges the existence of “inner, qualitative, subjective mental states” (p. 50) which cannot be reduced to “third-person phenomena, phenomena that are neither inner, qualitative nor subjective” (p. 50). However, unlike dualists, Searle denies the Cartesian claim that material things cannot have a first-person properties. He writes:

“Grant me that consciousness, with all its subjectivity, is caused by processes in the brain, and grant me that conscious states are themsleves higher-level features of the brain. Once you have granted these two propositions, there is no metaphysical mind-body problem left” (p. 52).

Searle admits that there is a huge mystery about how brain processes COULD cause consciousness, and an even bigger mystery about how they DO IN FACT do so. Nevertheless, the fact THAT they do so seems unarguable to Searle.

In other words, the implicit claim of substance dualists that material substances cannot possess subjective first-person properties is questionable. There might well be laws of nature, to the effect that, when suitably configured, they just do.

By contrast, the Aristotelian claim that intellectual acts cannot be bodily acts does not construe these acts as acts of a separate substance interacting with a body; rather, they are acts by the same substance (a person who is thinking), but simply acting as a whole, without employing a bodily organ. This is a more defensible claim, as it avoids the problem of spooky souls pushing around bodies, which bedevilled Descartes’ philosophy of mind.

Finally, I would like to say that it seems safer to build an argument for the reality of human freedom and agency on the bedrock of the essential immaterial nature of understanding, rather than on the philosophical quicksands of the ineluctibility of first-person consciousness. That’s my own opinion; however, if someone wishes to argue otherwise, then I am open to suggestion.

70. 70
CJYman says:

JT:
“I don’t know how the weather works exactly – I know its very complex. And I know its highly sensitive to condition external itself, so that it is influenced by ocean currents and other distinct attributes of the planet. I would suspect that the visible contours of the land masses of this planet, the continents that is, have a very specific impact on the weather of this planet. So that for example, say the Island of Cuba disappeared – that would dramatically effect weather systems in the Gulf of Mexico. So, what I’m thinking is that the land mass contours of earth, are in effect a DNA for a major subset of the functionality of the weather systems of this planet. In other words this contour of the earth’s land masses encodes functionality external to itself. With enough knowledge, you could talk about what slight changes to the coastline of Maine would do to the Earth’s weather. And at this point we probably know as much about DNA as we do about the effect of land mass contours on the weather.”

Ah, yes, you are discussing a chaotic system here. The huge difference between a chaotic weather system which is the result of random elements and DNA is that one is specified and the other is not. Any collection of “weather elements” will produce some type of weather, so a calculation will never produce CSI. Of course you also suggest, later on in your comment, that you understand the difference between a highly improbable functional system and a random and chaotic system.

Furthermore, the organization inherent in DNA is not defined by any laws of the physical properties of the nucleotides used, which places it in the same non-lawful category of organization as an essay. However, no matter how complex and chaotic a weather system is, it is the result of laws of attraction and repulsion between air molecules, etc.

JT:
“Rereading the above however, I am thinking about the “highly improbable function” aspect of it, so maybe you would object to my analogy above on that basis. So here’s my response, as I read the design inference (not the book – the theory) nowhere is there a formal method to detect “intelligent design”. The only formal method there is rules out pure randomness as a cause for something. So by identifying a “highly improbable function” it mean “highly improbable to occur by pure randomness.” It does not rule out necessity or mechanism as a cause.”

I agree that it doesn’t rule out mechanism. I have no problem with intelligence being “mechanistic” in that there is cause and effect involved. As to necessity, it can only play a part in the sense that an evolutionary algorithm will necessarily unfold CSI. However, there is no necessary law, as emergent effect of the physical properties of units involved which will produce an EA. Again, the specified organization involved is not defined as a necessary by-product of any material.

This is how law absent foresight can be ruled out. Law is usually understood as mathematical description of regularities, or emergent effects of the physical properties of material. Through empirical investigation, we can discover if the pattern in question is the result of the aforementioned definition of law. The pattern of nucleotides in DNA can’t be a result of the physical properties of the nucleotides or they would merely form a periodic chain, without the ability to carry information to the RNA which is then converted to function. Read Hubert Yockey on the subject for some key insight into the code of life.

Of course “law” can simply mean that a mechanism and causal chain is involved, such that the statement “intelligence is always caused by previous intelligence” can be seen as a “law of intelligence.”

Then, once chance is ruled out by detecting highly improbable specificity, we may arrive at CSI.

But, that is not where the reasoning stops. We also observe that intelligence routinely produces CSI through use of foresight, as I have explained earlier. In fact, that is basically how we label something as intelligent. Does it produce improbable, specified results at better than chance performance? If so, then there is most likely some type of foresight (modelling of future conditions to reach a goal) either artificially or consciously.

71. 71
CJYman says:

JT:
“What I meant was that if Intelligent Agency is distinct from law, which it is for most in ID, it is meaningless to invoke Intelligent Agency as a cause. If you cannot potentially identify a pattern characterizing how an entity functions in at least some known set of circumstances, then that entity’s behavior is completely random.”

Or true free will is involved, however I don’t think that free will is necessary for what we are discussing. However, I won’t rule it out as a possibility.

JT:
“Contrarily, to be able to identify such a pattern is equivalent to identifying laws that govern how that entity operates in those circumstances. If you cannot characterize the behavior of some entity via some set of laws (potentially a large and complex set of laws) then the behavior of that entity is random. So an intelligent agent not determined by laws is meaningless and equivalent to randomness amd invoking it as a cause for something explains NOTHING.”

I’ve already stated that I have no problem with law being involved, however that’s not the complete story. You do bring up a descent point, assuming free will does not exist. If there is no free will, then extremely complex interactions do govern the actions of intelligence. However, this would occur in a chaotic way which is in principle still unpredictable as per chaos theory. So as it relates to predictability, invoking “law” doesn’t help. Further, invoking “law” still doesn’t help us understand highly improbable, contingent, specified patterns since you need the same type of non-lawful pattern being acted on by law to produce those patterns. Invoking *only* law and chance thus also becomes meaningless.

So, we are at a place where we can observe CSI coming from intelligent agents. We also have sufficient reason to believe that CSI just won’t result from only law and chance. So, baring infinite regress, either the foundation of our universe is an eternal set of active information or intelligence. As I have explained eariler, because of the existence of consciousness and because of the implications of Conservation of Information, it seems quite obvious to myself that intelligence is a better explanation than an eternal set of laws that “just happen to be describable in terms of active information” — enough active information, mind you, to produce foresight without foresight. Oh really ?!?!?

72. 72
Peter says:

Norman Doering,

There are permanent limits discovered by established science: knowing what happened before time began, verifying the existance of universes outside our own; going back in time, and going faster than the speed of light. Other impossibilites are being suggested by experimentation and other research: the origin of first life, the origin of all life including humans, the origin of the anthropic principle

None of the researchers you linked to has accomplished the creation of life from scratch. Most are just tweeking the parts. The rest is hyperbole to get press, and therefore grants.

73. 73
JT says:

to vjtorley

was wondering whether aquinas, augustine or aristototle actually new about the function of the brain at all. If they did their conviction regarding souls, intellect and so forth might be more compelling. Will make an effort to read that paper on aquinas and arisotle you discussed, but was curious as to the nature of aquinas’ conclusions – was it experimental knowledge he obtained, was it armchair philosophizing, how you would you characterize it.

Also, would you consider doing arithmetic a function of the soul?

Recent science has shown the fruitfulness of taking the brain to be the seat of all those mental faculties medieval thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, had attributed to the soul. Therefore, we consider here a variety of results from neuroscience which make it appear that the various human capacities once attributed to the soul are better understood as capacities of the human brain.

I don’t present this with a lot of glee, because it seems that there’s a lot of playing God and Orwellian scenarios on the horizon with what they’re doing in brain research these days.

74. 74
JT says:

CJYMan [63,64]:

JT: So by identifying a “highly improbable function” it mean “highly improbable to occur by pure randomness.” It does not rule out necessity or mechanism as a cause.”

CJYMan: I agree that it doesn’t rule out mechanism. I have no problem with intelligence being “mechanistic” in that there is cause and effect involved. As to necessity, it can only play a part in the sense that an evolutionary algorithm will necessarily unfold CSI.

I consider ‘necessity’ and ‘mechanism’ to be synonymous.

Law is usually understood as mathematical description of regularities, or emergent effects of the physical properties of material.

You can’t impose some stringent and yet simultaneously vague restrictions on what natural laws can be like, in my judgement.

The informal observation, “In our everyday experience we general attribute the cause of some event to one of three alternatives, “chance, law-like regularity, or intelligent agency.” – that’s not something to build an entire world view on. Sure, an average schmo, with what he happens to remember from high-school physics, laws are pretty thread-bare and simplistic concepts. And in his mind, “intelligent agency is OBVIOUSLY something entirely different from law.

But when I use the term law (or equivalently mechanism or necessity) I am also thinking of it as being equivalent to a scientific theory, one that characterizes in a systematic and thorough way (but also as compactly as possible) how some natural phenomenon has been reliably observed to function, i.e. a theory that has been used to successfully predict subsequent behavior of some phenomenon as well.

I also have in mind the contention of Gregory Chaitin, one of the fathers of Algorithmic Information Theory who repeatedly asserted that every valid scientific theory equates to a program. (i.e. a computer program). As far as systematic description, nothing we know of exceeds the expressive power of a computer program.

So whether its a set of laws, a computer program, a scientific theory, or a mechanism, these are all referring to a systematic and reliable description of how some aspect of nature has been observed to operate.

So obviously everything is governed by laws – the movement of the planets, human behavior, you name it. If you say, “its just not possible to derive a accurate reliable description of how such and such phenomena functions, or equivalently, that laws do not govern its behavior, what you’re saying is that its behavior is random.

Then, once chance is ruled out by detecting highly improbable specificity, we may arrive at CSI.
But, that is not where the reasoning stops. We also observe that intelligence routinely produces CSI through use of foresight, as I have explained earlier. In fact, that is basically how we label something as intelligent.

There is an argument from ignorance going on here, where you look at attributes of some known causes of CSI, and say “I’m justified in assuming any cause of CSI will have these attributes.”

As I’ve alluded to before and will again here briefly, here is a different take on the general subject of design inferences (though not spefically utilizing design as a concept): If f(x) causes y then f(x) equates to y. If some process f acted on x and the result was y then f(x) equates to y, in terms of probability as well. So to explain anything, it is necessary to point out some process f(x) that preceded it that equates to it. And the analogy I used previously is, a computer image: before it is on your screen it is stored in memory. The image is in a different form in memory but actually equates to what is on the screen. Now considering biological origins, if f is natural laws and x is some mutations and the output is y, f(x) still equates to y, and thus you’re still requiring something equating to y (f(x)) come into existence by chance to account for y. (So the bind that darwinists are in for example should be apparent.)

If there is no free will, then extremely complex interactions do govern the actions of intelligence. However, this would occur in a chaotic way which is in principle still unpredictable as per chaos theory

Not following you. Do the laws governing a chess program interact in a chaotic way? If a set of laws (i.e. a theory, mechanism, etc.), perhaps a large complex set of laws, has been observed to reliably characterize or govern an observed phenomenon, must that set of laws operate chaotically?

We also have sufficient reason to believe that CSI just won’t result from only law and chance.

What reason is that?

So, baring infinite regress, either the foundation of our universe is an eternal set of active information or intelligence

That eternal set of active information would be law.

75. 75
gpuccio says:

JT (#74):

I apologize for entering the discussion only now (I have been very busy), and I admit that I have not read the whole thread. But the subject is very interesting, so I will try to catch up on your last post.

You say:

“I consider ‘necessity’ and ‘mechanism’ to be synonymous.”

You can obviously do as you like, but there is a simple reason why we use two different words. Necessity refers to a specific kind of causation (completely deterministic). Mechanism, and especially “causal mechanism” are broader terms. But, if you prefer, we can speak of “causal process”, without implying that the process is completely deterministic.

You cannot hide behind words. You can believe that only necessity exists, but that’s your personal philosophy. I don’t agree. I believe, like many, that non completely deterministic processes exist in reality: the actions of conscious agents are an example, and so are quantum probabilistic events. Please note that those “non completely deterministic” events, in my view, can obviously be cause of other events. In that sense, you can have a “causal mechanism” (for instance design) which acts as a deterministic cause (of the designed object), but is not in itself completely deterministic.

You say:

“You can’t impose some stringent and yet simultaneously vague restrictions on what natural laws can be like, in my judgement.”

I really have to object to your use of the concept of “law”. A scientific law is made by humans, and is not in nature. Beware, I am not denying that there is some reality in nature which justifies our laws, I am just affirming that scientific laws, as we know them, are part of human scientific theories. That’s why we can really impose restrictions in scientific laws: they are the product of human reasoning, and therefore they have the same restrictions of human reasoning. I don’t wnat in any way to give a final answer to what those restrictions are, but I think that as a preliminary assumption we could well agree that human scientific laws seem to be always based on some form of logico-mathematical formulation.

You say:

“But when I use the term law (or equivalently mechanism or necessity) I am also thinking of it as being equivalent to a scientific theory, one that characterizes in a systematic and thorough way (but also as compactly as possible) how some natural phenomenon has been reliably observed to function,”

I agree on that. That’s exactly my point. Therefore, laws are logico-mathemathical structures. They are essentially deductive, and are an expression of necessity. And they are man made.

“I also have in mind the contention of Gregory Chaitin, one of the fathers of Algorithmic Information Theory who repeatedly asserted that every valid scientific theory equates to a program. (i.e. a computer program).”

That’s only a way of stating the obvious: that any algorithmic process is a process of necessity, and therefore can be expressed as a program. That is true for scientific laws, because they are logico-mathematical structures. But it’s not true of scientific knowledge in general. Scientific knowledge is much more than scientific laws. And the word “theory” is just too vague to be useful. There is a lot in science which cannot be expressed as a computer program.

“As far as systematic description, nothing we know of exceeds the expressive power of a computer program.”

That’s complete nonsense! There are a lot of things which we can very well describe, and which are beyond the power of a computer program. Consciousness is the best example. Meaning too. Free will. Perception. Pleasure. Pain. Purpose. Intuition. Human language. Beauty. Harmony. And so on.

According to Penrose, even some non algorithmic parts of mathemathics.

You say:

“So obviously everything is governed by laws – the movement of the planets, human behavior, you name it.”

It’s not obvious at all. What about consciousness and free will? They are certainly “influenced” by laws, but who says that they are “governed” by them? The usual view has always been the contrary. Again, you are entitled to your own dogmas, but you cannot make us share them by raw force.

You say:

“If you say, “its just not possible to derive a accurate reliable description of how such and such phenomena functions, or equivalently, that laws do not govern its behavior, what you’re saying is that its behavior is random.”

Absolutely not. Intelligence and will are not random, and are not “governed” by laws (although certainly “influenced” by them.

Randomnes is another thing, and not an easy one to define. I will give you ny take on randomness.

I think we have two different kinds of randomness:

1) Randomness in deterministic events. Even if a set of events can be completely deterministic, still it can express randomness at a higher level of organization. Let’s make a simple example: the tossing of a fair coin. We have no doubt that how a coin falls depends on the laws of mechanics, which are deterministic. So, the tossing of a fair coin is in a sense a deterministic, necessary event. But the causal variables are so many, and so difficult to control, that we can never know in advance if H ot T will be the result of any single toss. And we know that, in the long run, the probability of each event is 0.5. So, in games, which after all are the origin of our theories of probability, randomness is a level supreimposed to necessary events. I think all maxcroscopic randomness can be interpreted that way.

2) True randomness: I mean the randomness at the quantum level, which is expressed in the collapse of the wave function. As far as we know, that randomness seems to be intrinsic to reality itself, and not superimposed to necessary events.

Anyway, no kind of randomness explains free will, exactly as no kind of necessity explains consciousness. Unless one accepts the irrational theory of strong AI, most serious theories of consiousness do use quntum randomness, but only as an interface where consciousness can interact with matter without violating known laws of necessity (see for instance John Eccles and his school). That’s very interesting, because that’s exactly the concept at the base of CSI: consciousness and intelligence can impart a higher level of order to events which are “flexible” enough because of their random nature.

76. 76
Clive Hayden says:

Yes, the mind is magical, but so is the brain. Everything is magical, and a scientific description of the parts doesn’t persuade us that the magic is gone or that it never existed in the first place. Something out of nothing is magical, and that is exactly what modern cosmology would have us believe. This is no different than the rabbit from the hat. The fact that the cosmos exists at all is magical.

“It might be stated this way. There are certain sequences or developments (cases of one thing following another), which are, in the true sense of the word, reasonable. They are, in the true sense of the word, necessary. Such are mathematical and merely logical sequences. We in fairyland (who are the most reasonable of all creatures) admit that reason and that necessity. For instance, if the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) NECESSARY that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters. There is no getting out of it. Haeckel may talk as much fatalism about that fact as he pleases: it really must be. If Jack is the son of a miller, a miller is the father of Jack. Cold reason decrees it from her awful throne: and we in fairyland submit. If the three brothers all ride horses, there are six animals and eighteen legs involved: that is
true rationalism, and fairyland is full of it. But as I put my head over the hedge of the elves and began to take notice of the natural world, I observed an extraordinary thing. I observed that learned men in spectacles were talking of the actual things that happened–dawn and death and so on–as if THEY were
rational and inevitable. They talked as if the fact that trees bear fruit were just as NECESSARY as the fact that two and one
trees make three. But it is not. There is an enormous difference
by the test of fairyland; which is the test of the imagination. You cannot IMAGINE two and one not making three. But you can easily imagine trees not growing fruit; you can imagine them growing golden candlesticks or tigers hanging on by the tail.

These men in spectacles spoke much of a man named Newton, who was hit by an apple, and who discovered a law. But they could not be got to see the distinction between a true law, a law of reason, and the mere fact of apples falling. If the
apple hit Newton’s nose, Newton’s nose hit the apple. That is a true necessity: because we cannot conceive the one occurring without the other. But we can quite well conceive the apple not falling on his nose; we can fancy it flying ardently through the air to hit some other nose, of which it had a more definite dislike.

We have always in our fairy tales kept this sharp distinction between the science of mental relations, in which there really are laws, and the science of physical facts, in which there are no laws, but only weird repetitions. We believe in bodily miracles, but not in mental impossibilities. We believe that a Bean-stalk climbed up to Heaven; but that does not at all confuse our
convictions on the philosophical question of how many beans make five.

Here is the peculiar perfection of tone and truth in the nursery tales. The man of science says, “Cut the stalk, and the apple will fall”; but he says it calmly, as if the one idea really led up to the other….the scientific men do muddle their heads, until they imagine a necessary mental connection between an apple leaving the tree and an apple reaching the ground. They do really talk as if
they had found not only a set of marvellous facts, but a truth
connecting those facts. They do talk as if the connection of two strange things physically connected them philosophically. They feel that because one incomprehensible thing constantly follows another incomprehensible thing the two together somehow make up a comprehensible thing. Two black riddles make a white answer.

A law implies that we know the
nature of the generalisation and enactment; not merely that we have noticed some of the effects. If there is a law that pick-pockets
shall go to prison, it implies that there is an imaginable mental connection between the idea of prison and the idea of picking pockets. And we know what the idea is. We can say why we take liberty from a man who takes liberties. But we cannot say why an egg can turn into a chicken any more than we can say why a bear could turn into a fairy prince. As IDEAS, the egg
and the chicken are further off from each other than the bear and the prince; for no egg in itself suggests a chicken, whereas some princes do suggest bears. Granted, then, that certain transformations do happen, it is essential that we
should regard them in the philosophic manner of fairy tales,
not in the unphilosophic manner of science and the “Laws of Nature.”
When we are asked why eggs turn to birds or fruits fall in autumn,
we must answer exactly as the fairy godmother would answer if Cinderella asked her why mice turned to horses or her clothes fell from her at twelve o’clock. We must answer that it is MAGIC. It is not a “law,” for we do not understand its general formula. It is not a necessity, for though we can count on it happening practically, we have no right to say that it must always happen. It is no argument for unalterable law (as Huxley fancied) that we count
on the ordinary course of things. We do not count on it; we bet on it. We risk the remote possibility of a miracle as we do that of a poisoned pancake or a world destroying comet. We leave it out of account, not because it is a miracle, and therefore an impossibility, but because it is a miracle, and therefore an exception. All the terms used in the science books, “law,” “necessity,” “order,” “tendency,” and so on, are really unintellectual, because they assume an inner synthesis, which we do not possess. The only words that ever satisfied me as describing Nature are the terms used in the fairy books, “charm,” “spell,” “enchantment.” They express the arbitrariness of the fact and its mystery.

I deny altogether that this is fantastic or even mystical. We may have some mysticism later on; but this fairy-tale language about things is simply rational and agnostic. It is the only way I can express in words my clear and definite perception that one thing is quite distinct from another; that there is no logical connection between flying and laying eggs. It is the man who talks about “a law” that he has never seen who is the mystic. Nay, the ordinary scientific man is strictly a sentimentalist. He is a sentimentalist in this essential sense, that he is soaked and swept away by mere associations. He has
so often seen birds fly and lay eggs that he feels as if there
must be some dreamy, tender connection between the two ideas,
whereas there is none.

This elementary wonder, however, is not a mere fancy derived from the fairy tales; on the contrary, all the fire of the fairy tales is derived from this. Just as we all like love tales because there is an instinct of sex, we all like
astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient
instinct of astonishment…These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water… All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.

I have remarked that the materialist, like the madman, is in prison;
in the prison of one thought. These people seemed to think it
singularly inspiring to keep on saying that the prison was very large.
The size of this scientific universe gave one no novelty, no relief. The cosmos went on for ever, but not in its wildest constellation could there be anything really interesting; anything, for instance, such as forgiveness or free will. The grandeur or infinity of the secret of its cosmos added nothing to it. It was like telling a prisoner in Reading gaol that he would be glad to hear that the gaol now covered half the county. The warder would have nothing to show the man except more and more long corridors of stone lit by ghastly lights and empty of all that is human. So these expanders of the universe had nothing to show us except more and more infinite corridors of space lit by ghastly suns and empty of all that is divine.

In fairyland there had been a real law; a law that could be broken, for the definition of a law is something that can be broken. But the machinery of this cosmic prison was something that could not be broken; for we ourselves were only a part of its machinery. We were either unable to do things or we were destined to do them. The idea of the mystical condition quite disappeared; one can neither have the firmness of keeping laws nor the fun of breaking them. The largeness of this universe had nothing of that freshness and airy outbreak which we have praised in the universe of the poet. This modern universe is literally an empire; that is, it was vast, but it is not free. One went into larger and larger windowless rooms,
rooms big with Babylonian perspective; but one never found the
smallest window or a whisper of outer air.”

G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy”

http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mwar.....rtho14.txt

77. 77

vjtorley,

Thank you for the lengthy reply. That does clarify things.

I, too, have a great deal of respect for Searle’s work. He seems to be generally on the right track (which I can’t say for all of his colleagues in philosophy of mind), but he also seems to want to reap all the benefits of dualism on the one hand while adamantly denying it on the other.

As to the quote you provide,

“Grant me that consciousness, with all its subjectivity, is caused by processes in the brain, and grant me that conscious states are themsleves higher-level features of the brain. Once you have granted these two propositions, there is no metaphysical mind-body problem left” (p. 52).

I’ll happily grant that consciousness is caused by the brain. Indeed, in this modern age of neuroscience, we can hardly deny it.

The second point, however, is worlds removed from being quite as obvious. The ontological schism (that Searle, himself, recognizes) between being a brain state and being a conscious experience seems to wreak havoc on the prospect of achieving an identity. Yet if we are to avoid dualism (of the property variety, at least) this is precisely what we require.

78. 78
vjtorley says:

In response to JT and crandaddy:

JT

You write: “[I] was wondering whether Aquinas, Augustine or Aristototle actually knew about the function of the brain at all. If they did their conviction regarding souls, intellect and so forth might be more compelling.”

In answer to your question, Aristotle (the world’s first biologist) didn’t know much about the role of the brain, but Avicenna certainly did, as the foremost physician of his day, and Aquinas would have been familiar with his work.

There is a book you can google on the Internet called “Thomas Aquinas and Human Nature” by Robert Pasnau. (You can order it at http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-A.....0521001897) In chapter 9, Pasnau discusses Aquinas’ insistence that corporeal images (phantasms) derived from the senses are essential for the intellectual act of understanding to take place. Aquinas seems to be well aware that imagination and memory are dependent on the brain. I’ll quote from page 285:

“Aquinas knows little about the varieties of brain damage and mental dis-function (sic), and their correlations to mental activity. Still, he offers two fairly specific examples:

‘We see that when the power for imagination has its action impeded by damage to the organ [i.e. the brain – V.T.] (as happens to the phrenetic) and likewise when the power for memory has its action impeded (as happens to the lethargic) the person is impeded from actually cognizing through intellect even the things he has already acquired knowledge about ([Summa Theologica I, question] 84.7c).’

“Here Aquinas is making rather definite and psychological claims: he associates damage in two different parts of the brain with two specific kinds of mental disorders.”

In other words, Aquinas was certainly not guilty of armchair theorizing.

Next, you quote from an article by Dr. Nancey Murphy, entitled “Neuroscience and Thomas Aquinas”:

“Recent science has shown the fruitfulness of taking the brain to be the seat of all those mental faculties medieval thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, had attributed to the soul. Therefore, we consider here a variety of results from neuroscience which make it appear that the various human capacities once attributed to the soul are better understood as capacities of the human brain.”

Murphy is setting up a straw man here: she ascribes to Aquinas the demonstrably erroneous belief that human capacities are capacities purely of the soul. As the foregoing quote from Aquinas shows, this is nonsense. Aquinas was well aware of the important role of the body in growth, sensation, imagination and memory. (Aristotle was aware of most of these things too, although he mistakenly ascribed some capacities to the heart wheich we would ascribe to the brain.) Murphy is guilty is an elementary mis-reading of Aquinas. To ascribe these capacities to the soul (as Aristotle and Aquinas sometimes do) is NOT to deny them to the body; all it means is that an animal has to be alive to exercise these capacities.

The ONLY human capacities which, according to Aquinas, are in no way bodily capacities are the rational faculties of intellect and will – precisely the areas where Murphy is vaguest about the underlying neuroscience. She writes:

“These higher mental faculties Aquinas attributed to the rational soul are further from being understood. However, all of them involve language. Even if we do not understand how these mental faculties depend on brain functioning, we know that they do because of the close association of linguistic abilities with specific brain areas, especially Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area.”

This is what the late neurologist John C. Eccles would have called “promissory materialism”: we don’t understand the intellect yet, but we will. As for the neurological findings regarding the role of the brain in language, all this shows is that language presupposes memory for words and the ability to associate words and images – in other words, damage to the brain can impair imagaination and memory, without which we cannot exercise our reason. But as I have already shown, Aquinas was well aware of that.

You write:

“The ontological schism (that Searle, himself, recognizes) between being a brain state and being a conscious experience seems to wreak havoc on the prospect of achieving an identity. Yet if we are to avoid dualism (of the property variety, at least) this is precisely what we require.”

As I read him, the schism which Searle recognizes is between the third-person properties of brain states (and other material entities), and the irreducibly first-person properties of mentl states. Nevertheless, what Searle wants to say is that there are some material entities (e.g. brains) which can have both first-person and third-person properties. Searle finds this fact mysterious; however, he seems to treat it as a brute fact. His position on the mind-body question seems close to Russell’s neutral monism, in this regard, or possibly property dualism. However, property dualism is a different kind of thing from substance dualism.

I have to say I find Searle7s position on consciousness to be a tenable one. If I were attacking materialism, I wouldn’t focus on the mystery of consciousness, but rather on the impossibility of a bodily organ doing the kinds of things which a normal human being does with his/her intellect every day: self-reflexive activity (thinking of thinking); storage of a potentially infinite number of concepts; and forming concepts of abstract and immaterial entities. (Those who think computers can do these things had better read Searle.)

79. 79
kairosfocus says:

Following up:

Re JT in 66, trying to answer the “lucky noise makes an apparent message — ‘Welcome to Wales’ . . . ” challenge in 57 (with onward link to the main discussion here):

Let me restate that:

You are sitting in a railway carriage and seeing stones you believe to have been randomly arranged, spelling out a valid and comprehensible proof for some math theorem Would you believe the apparent message? Why or why not?

Yes, I would believe it because even though it was randomly generated, the proof was comprehensible and self-evidently valid.

This is ever so revealing!

1 –> “Let me restate . . .” is — coming out the starting gate — an open admission of resort to trying to knock over a distractive strawman. (This is a sure sign that the argument in the main is a serious challenge to the evo mat view that seeks to explain mind on chance plus necessity. [Of course, if you follow up the link you will see that in the end the evo mat view disintegrates into self-referential absurdity, which is precisely what happens with JT’s rebuttal . . .])

2 –> JT then resorts to an attempted counter- example where a rockfall — which is of course a paradigm for chance + necessity in action — piling up in the shape of a series of alphanumerical glyphs that lo and behold just happens to state in mathematical language a proof that per his judgement is valid.

3 –> You will note the key difference between [a] rocks falling into arbitrary shapes (and in principle such rocks can take up any shape under the laws of physics prevailing . . . just that the odds of the suggested case happening are very long indeed, tantamount to zero, but we are talking Gedankenexperiment here . . .) that are then [b] read by an onlooker as a valid mathematical proof.

4 –> This underscores the key difference between physical events and forces, and mental actions carried out by the sort of conscious, intelligent creature that we are.

5 –> For, the rocks — remember Ari’s point that “nothing is what rocks dream of” — don’t care what shape they take up, nor do the forces of chance plus necessity. they make no distinction between rocks falling into one pattern or another. Similarly, noise in the Internet and your PC could in principle produce a pattern of bits that physically causes the dots of light, dark and colour on your screen that seem to be a comment post, just by chance.)

6 –> But, the onlooking eye — backed up by the intelligent mind — sees SYMBOLS, and interprets MEANINGS, then makes LOGICAL judgements. In short, acts of mind are radically different from acts of chance plus necessity, and take up a radically different scope of significance.

7 –> And, when evo mat speculations on origins try to deduce the latter from the former; on long observation, they invariably founder on the crucial gap, and the implicit self reference involved.

8 –> As the linked appendix sums up:

. . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . .

JT, that is the case you and your fallow evo mat advocates need to cogently and clearly address squarely on the merits.

The ball is back in your court.

G’day

GEM of TKI

PS: GP, great comments as usual.

PPS: CranDaddy, may I quietly note that “cause” may relate to logical necessity as opposed to sufficiency. [AS GP points out, ability to influence is not the same as sufficiently being able to determine. A full causal account is both necessary and sufficient. I daresay that materialists have not produced such a necessary and sufficient account of the mind, its origins and its degree of credibility that we need to operate as thinkers. They may think; they may even think they have accounted for the mind; but their explanations to date here at UD have invariably ended in self-referential absurdity..)

80. 80
JDH says:

I want to take this argument back to experimental observation.

1. I believe with all my being that I have the ability to make independent decisions. i.e. that my choices am not just the sum of all the stimuli around me.

2. But that is only my subjective experience. How can I be sure that others have that opinion?

3. Well, if JT and others are busy coming to this sight trying to convince me of their opinions, it appears that they also believe that I can make independent decision. They are presenting arguments in words that want to convince me to do what — to make a decision to agree with them. So my experience is that they believe I have an independent will.

4. As an inverse to this, I believe that anyone who truly did not think I was capable of independent decisions would not bother arguing. It would be pointless.

In other words, I find that by the mere exercise of arguing with me that free will is just and illusion, and that the mind is just bodily function, the net effect is to ring up more field observation, that convinces me that I do indeed have an ability to make independent decisions.

81. 81
gpuccio says:

Clive Hayden:

Thank you for the wonderful Chesterton quote. I really enjoyed it.

82. 82
DaveScot says:

Barry

As a materialist most of the time I feel qualified to point out that what materialists generally think is an illusion is consciousness that is independent of a brain. I suspect few if any would agree that consciousness itself is an illusion. The previous poster, now banned, made a legitimate point.

In the article you say:

My choice of typing out a certain combination of letters and spaces and not another cannot be accounted for on the basis of any known law.

I’ll agree with the caveat that the lack of accounting may be because the interaction of law and matter becomes so complex as to defy an accounting with our limited ability to analyze it. Consult the articles that Granville Sewell has written here where he describes how the Schrodenger Equation of Quantum Mechanics becomes intractible when more than a couple of elementary particles are involved. There are trillions of trillions of elementary particles in a human brain.

The statement I quoted from you is essentially a denial of material determinism. The question of whether, as Einstein put it, God plays at dice with the universe is not a settled question. Einstein went to his grave believing God does not play dice with the universe.

Free will may be an illusion and not all materialists will agree on whether it is or it isn’t. The most well informed materialiists IMO will tell you it’s an unsettled question.

For another commenter here who asked how QM relates to all this is how – quantum uncertainty – effects without causes – absolute unpredictability. Personally I think quantum uncertainty is just as likely an artifact of incomplete understanding of the quantum universe, a view which is often referred to as “the missing variable” hypothesis.

As to you believing you could have chosen to write something other than what you did? How do you know that when in fact you did not write something different? In hindsight you think you had a choice but is that hindsight an illusion? Presumably you used some chain of reason and logic in your choice of words and the reason and logic itself has a chain of causation traceable to your education, experience, instant frame of mind, and perhaps genetic predispositions (instincts) as well. If I look outside I might say it’s partly cloudy or partly sunny. Is it really my choice or are the words dictated by a state machine whose instant state and operation are too complex to analyze?

83. 83
Barry Arrington says:

DaveScot, I appeal to Occam’s Razor. Set aside philosophical gobbledy gook like Cartesian demons and Boltzmann brains and stipulate with me that my subjective experience really is my subjective experience and not an illusion. If the materialist gives me that, they give away the entire store.

I perceive there is an “I” that perceives. I experience qualia, which defy explanation by any reductionist account of the mind. The most parsimonious explanation of these two phenomena is that I have subjective experience, which leads inexorably to the conclusion that the mind, while it is certainly affected by brain function, is not reducible to it.

Your response can be boiled down to: A thoroughly materialist account of consciousness, which probably must take into account quantum mechanics, is too complicated for us to express now, and will probably always be too complicated for us to express. This is the typical “promissory materialism” that we have seen so often with a twist. Here the twist is that in the very act of making the promissory note, the maker of the note admits that he may never be able to pay it. Not very satisfying to say the least.

84. 84
JackInhofe says:

Barry – I have to side with DaveScot on this one, and “not very satisfying to say the least”, doesn’t mean it is not the way things are.

I learned that when I didn’t get that damn pony for Christmas when I was 10.

85. 85
DaveScot says:

Barry,

I won’t agree that there is more than a brain required for self-consciousness. Occam’s Razor seems to be cutting in my favor as you’re the one who is adding something unnecessary (IMO) to what’s needed to explain self-awareness. What has satisfying got to do with anything? The truth is often disappointing.

86. 86
bornagain77 says:

This may spark things up:

The Day I Died – A Closer Look At Near Death Experiences 4/6

http://www.godtube.com/view_vi.....8ddfddddb4

Miracle Of The Mind/Brain in Recovering from Hemispherectomy

http://www.godtube.com/view_vi.....22500a3172

87. 87
Lutepisc says:

What has satisfying got to do with anything? The truth is often disappointing.

Dave, I think Barry meant that the promissory materialism in this case, being blatant, is not very satisfying intellectually (rather than “not very satisfying” emotionally, which you seem to have read).

There appears to be plenty of evidence for the integrity of the mind (cf. The Spiritual Brain), which influences the brain and therefore cannot be reduced to a material substrate. Granted, this raises scientific and philosophical problems…but not as striking as those which arise from trying to maintain a rigid materialist perspective.

88. 88
DaveScot says:

Lutepisc

Excuse me but a narrative about an immortal soul seems to be aimed at something extremely emotional – the fear of death. It’s certainly not more intellectually satisfying because near as I can tell it’s pure fantasy.

89. 89

vjtorley,

I understand that Searle rejects property dualism, as well; this is why I brought it up. Maybe I’m mistaken.

I suppose we could expand the definition of ‘physical’ to include entities of both third-person and first-person ontologies, but then it seems we’re just taking liberties with the definition of ‘physical.’

Furthermore, both a person (as an ontologically unified conscious experiencer) and her experiences are fundamentally different things from her body, as I think zombies show very nicely. If she and her body were one and the same thing, then they would share all the same properties, which they clearly don’t. Or if they do, I’m at pains greater than any other philosophical problem I’ve ever considered to see how they do.

kairosfocus,

Point duely noted.

I see how that might be misleading. All I’m saying is that brain states are causally efficacious on mental states such that if, say, a certain part of my brain is damaged then a certain and predictable aspect of my conscious experience will be altered or deleted. I don’t mean that mental states are full causal determinants of brain states.

90. 90
nullasalus says:

Davescot,

Where did ‘immortal’ come into play here? I doubt David Chalmers believes in an ‘immortal soul’ despite him being one of the most well-known proponents of the idea that materialism/physicalism can’t completely account for the mind. I’m pretty sure Bertrand Russell, being a neutral monist, didn’t have much fondness for immortal souls either. Meanwhile Anthony Flew, despite becoming a deist, has expressed hope that there’s no life after death – he’s not the only person for whom the possibility is distasteful. Even Aquinas, who did believe in an immortal soul, did not believe that what survived after death (and sans resurrection of the body) could do all that much sans body.

If you really think that the only people who suggest materialism/physicalism can’t deliver a complete and satisfying account of the universe, then you’ve got some reading to do.

91. 91
nullasalus says:

Typo. That should read, ‘If you really think that the only people who suggest materialism/physicalism can’t deliver a complete and satisfying account of the universe are christians or believe in an immortal soul, then you’ve got some reading to do.’

92. 92
kairosfocus says:

Footnote:

Since the issues connected thereto are central to the original focus of this thread, I take time to remark in re sparc @ 55:

. . . I am not aware that either Dr. Dembski or Prof. Behe ever used the term FCSI. IIRC it was KF who braught up the term at UD. Despite his enthusiams in spreading it I wonder what professional ID theorists would have to say about FCSI.

As has been pointed out in previous threads, and as I discuss in more details here, the abbreviation FSCI is a summary, descriptive term for observations and concepts that arose in OOL studies from the 1970’s to 80’s. (Dr Dembski’s main involvement with ID dates to the 1990’s and 2000’s.)

Indeed, these ideas thus actually predate the ID movement, and helped trigger it:

Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [Source: L.E. Orgel, 1973. The Origins of Life. New York: John Wiley, p. 189. Cited, Thaxton et al TMLO, ch 8.]

[ . . . . ]

Yockey [7] and Wickens [5] develop the same distinction [as Orgel], explaining that “order” is a statistical concept referring to regularity such as might characterize a series of digits in a number, or the ions of an inorganic crystal. On the other hand, “organization” refers to physical systems and the specific set of spatio-temporal and functional relationships among their parts. Yockey and Wickens note that informational macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of specified complexity. In short, the redundant order of crystals cannot give rise to specified complexity of the kind or magnitude found in biological organization; attempts to relate the two have little future. [Thaxton et al, TMLO, (Dallas, TX: Lewis and Stanley reprint), 1992, erratum insert, p. 130. Emphases added.]

FSCI emerges as a descriptive summary of an existing and important concept; not a novelty.

Furthermore, FSCI is familiar far beyond OOL studies and molecular biological/ pre-biological issues. For, in general, engineering designs seek to stipulate functionally specific, complex information that leads to successful and efficient performance. Indeed, FSCI is a hallmark of such engineering.

So, when we see function-specifying complex information in DNA molecules and how that serves as a digitally coded blueprint for proteins that have to fold and function as parts in a complex, autonomous, self-directing, self-replicating nanotech based system, we have good reason to infer that such a system’s origin is best explained as the product of intentional design.

That that system so happens to be in the biological entity we call the cell makes no difference on these issues.

Further to this, we must observe that simply by routinely accepting that apparent messages in this and other threads are real messages, objectors tot he design inference reveal that they themselves routinely make precisely the same sort of inference on seeing complex, specifically functional digital information.

So, we have reason to comment that the objections seem to be self-referentially inconsistent and are by and large in the end based on objecting to empirically based inferences that cut across a worldview preference.

Similarly, when we see that those who would reduce mind to chance plus necessity acting on matter act as though minds are based on reasoning not physical forces, that too seems very self referentially incoherent. (Cf 79 above.)

GEM of TKI

93. 93
kairosfocus says:

PS: TMLO of course was originally published in 1984. It is the technical level book that launched modern design theory.

94. 94
JT says:

kairosfocus wrote [79]:

–> JT then resorts to an attempted counter- example where a rockfall — which is of course a paradigm for chance + necessity in action — piling up in the shape of a series of alphanumerical glyphs that lo and behold just happens to state in mathematical language a proof that per his judgement is valid.

3 –> You will note the key difference between [a] rocks falling into arbitrary shapes (and in principle such rocks can take up any shape under the laws of physics prevailing . . . just that the odds of the suggested case happening are very long indeed, tantamount to zero

The odds of them spelling out “Welcome to Wales” by pure chance would also be tantamount to 0.

Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity.

This is just not a valid argument at all. You need to dispense with it, seriously. The example I gave (and someone else originated I think) amptly demonstrates that this an invalid notion. The honorable thing for you to do would be to admit your mistake and take the whole “Welcome to Wales” thing out of your paper. (But actually, I didn’t realize till recently that that it was intended to illustrate the above argument. You bring up this illustration repeatedly in your paper, but your discourse on it seems to address other aspects of it.) But let me continue:

AI hasn’t made the sort of progress yet that everyone thought it would (at least as far as the general public knows). But certainly programs can be written to reliably determine the truth or falsity of propositions in some limited domain. Its not as if an “intelligent agent” of the human variety has some unlimited ability to determine the truth of things either.

But just imagine a program that has some knowledge base and can pose a series of questions and then on that basis make a diagnosis with some degree of accuracy (Is that less than what any human can do?) So the computer can say, “That’s a square and not a circle”. Or “the patient probably has cirhossis of the liver”, etc. Now if that program had fallen into place “purely by chance” that would not have any impact on its ability to determine the truth in the area where it had this capability. And furthermore, your argument evidently doesn’t concern probabilities because “Welcome to Wales” couldn’t happen by chance either, and yet in your scenario you told us to suppose that it did.

You also did not address my follow-up illustration [68]:

“What if an intelligent agent says ‘Welcome to Wales’. How likely is it for an intelligent agent to lie?”

There is no way to answer this question. Does “intelligent agent” = “omniscience” or “truthfulness”? What if its a five year old running up and down the aisles and every time the train stops he yells out, “Welcome to Wales!”. Here’s an example of an intelligent agent but his information in this regard is as good as randomness. Will you say, “In my general experience intelligent agents generally tell the truth.” That’s fallacious reasoning as any statistician will tell you.

But its the way “intelligent agency” is concieved that is this real source of the problem. With a program or a proof or something that can actually be specified you can actual examine it and say, “Ahh, here is faulty premise” or “Here is a faulty rule its employing in its analysis.” But the fact that “intelligent agent” in the ID conception transcends law or specification itself means that we could never examine it in this way. And in my judgment, “intelligent agency” defined this way actually eqautes to randomness anyway.

But also the idea that natural selection (not to advocate it unconditionally here) has nothing to do with truth is also wrong. If an eye has some limited ability and through some fortuitious circumstances its accuracy increases, that is going to increase the fitness of the organism. That’s obvious right? So the organism has a more accurate and thus a more truthful understanding of his environment, and thus the random change that bestowed this to him is preserved.

As far as the rest of your paper, you cite lots and lots of material which it seems apparent you’ve read yourself. So at the very least as a reference source, your paper is far from worthless. Its just that the emphatic polemic nature of a lot of the accompanying commentary by you makes it irritating to read sometimes. Maybe you didn’t ask for my opinion but there it is.

Also there is at least one other glaring oversight in your paper. A quick search on the term “weasel” that returned nothing immediately reveals what this oversight is. Darwinists (Darwinians? Evolutionists?) emphatically and repeatedly deny that evolution equates to randomness, a clear indication that they understand perfectly well along with everyone else that randomness is not a tenable explanation at all. Dawkins “methinks it looks like a weasel” illustration, which has been around for decades and decades is the stereotypical response to “evolution equates to randomness”. And yet you do not address it at all. So, all that detailed discourse of yours on the futility of randomness is somewhat futile itself. There is a sleight-of-hand in the simplest RMNS formulations that deftly eludes the moniker of randomness. So that’s where the challenge is it seems – showing to what extent the mechanism they’ve proposed really does equate to randomness.

95. 95
JT says:

JDH 80 wrote:

3. Well, if JT and others are busy coming to this sight trying to convince me of their opinions, it appears that they also believe that I can make independent decision. They are presenting arguments in words that want to convince me to do what — to make a decision to agree with them. So my experience is that they believe I have an independent will.

JDH, if I really was all that busy trying to convince people, I would keep repeating the same obvious answer to your argument over and over again (which I’m not doing), because despite how obvious the answer is, the argument keeps being made. Also the fact is if I really felt such a close affinity with the Darwinist crowd maybe I would be hanging out in their forums.

But anyway, the argument is “Free will exists – otherwise why bother trying to persuade?” The last time I responded to this was roughly a year and a half ago. I would suggest in that time your question has been posed probably 100 times in this forum. So it should be obvious I’m not wasting my time trying to browbeat people into comprehending the obvious truth.

If a computer doesn’t have free will, why bother entering the correct password?

And in case that’s too terse, then let me elaborate:

A program goes through a quite detailed and systematic deliberative process, applying the complex rules of which it is comprised to whatever novel circumstances are imposed upon it. This characterization would be applicable from the simplest application to the most complex robot currently in existence (which I couldn’t claim to know what that is). But you could imagine having some understanding of such a robot or program, through first hand-knowledge from having examined or written the code, what the nature of its deliberative process was, or you could have information about it gleaned thorugh repeated interaction with it. But you can imagine some sort of domestic robot that understands simple commands, and trying to get it do what you want it to do, and trying to come up with the correct sequence of commands.

As far as humans, there are emotional appeals sometimes involving “freedom” or “patriotisim” or honor or shame etc. and although admittedly tricky to contrive a relevant scenario in robotic terms, the fact is that such emotional appeals are really made in an attempt to trigger well-known hot-points in human psychology, where the hope is that a knee-jerk and predictable and unconsidered response will be elicited.

The most serious types of persusasion, e.g. scientific persuasion, is really the most mechanical, e.g. if A–>B and B–>C then A–>C although much more involved than this in terms of quantiity admittedly. But it is this type of programmatic reasoning involving strict logical necessity that is directly akin to what computer programs do.

I don’t know how else to get you to understand that your argument is without merit. Nor do I have a mission in life to correct this elementary flaw of reasoinng you’ve just exhibited and will no doubt be repeated over and over and over again and will quite literally never quit being made by someone at sometime in this forum. But that’s OK.

96. 96
JT says:

DaveScot [82]:

Just 2/3 of the way through it, but great post. You’ll probably end up saying something I disagree with, but great post nonetheless.

97. 97
kairosfocus says:

All:

I see I have been rather directly addressed by JT in 94, with a call to “do the honorable thing” and surrender what I have put up previously and in the appendix 7, my always linked.

Of course, I would immediately do so if I were convinced that the argument is an error. So, what is the case on the merits that shows I indeed am in error?

Let’s see what JT argues:

1] The odds of them [a randomly avalanching pile of rocks on a hillside] spelling out “Welcome to Wales” by pure chance would also be tantamount to 0.

Now of course I have asserted just that, but stipulated that we are looking at the bare fact and possibility here, as chance + necessity can make such a rock fall end up in any arbitrary shape. But the odds of that in reality are very small. [JT, why do you think that in my linked, I spoke about packing for Vegas and having a little conversation on the subject, before the hot streak runs out?]

More to the point, let’s scroll up to 79, where I commented:

2 –> JT then resorts to an attempted counter- example where a rockfall — which is of course a paradigm for chance + necessity in action — piling up in the shape of a series of alphanumerical glyphs that lo and behold just happens to state in mathematical language a proof that per his judgement is valid.

3 –> You will note the key difference between [a] rocks falling into arbitrary shapes (and in principle such rocks can take up any shape under the laws of physics prevailing . . . just that the odds of the suggested case happening are very long indeed, tantamount to zero, but we are talking Gedankenexperiment here . . .) that are then [b] read by an onlooker as a valid mathematical proof.

4 –> This underscores the key difference between physical events and forces, and mental actions carried out by the sort of conscious, intelligent creature that we are.

5 –> For, the rocks — remember Ari’s point that “nothing is what rocks dream of” — don’t care what shape they take up, nor do the forces of chance plus necessity. they make no distinction between rocks falling into one pattern or another. Similarly, noise in the Internet and your PC could in principle produce a pattern of bits that physically causes the dots of light, dark and colour on your screen that seem to be a comment post, just by chance.)

6 –> But, the onlooking eye — backed up by the intelligent mind — sees SYMBOLS, and interprets MEANINGS, then makes LOGICAL judgements. In short, acts of mind are radically different from acts of chance plus necessity, and take up a radically different scope of significance.

7 –> And, when evo mat speculations on origins try to deduce the latter from the former; on long observation, they invariably founder on the crucial gap, and the implicit self reference involved.

In short, JT has a gain set up and knocke3d over a distractive strawman. The real challenge lies yet unaddressed.

2] The example I gave (and someone else originated I think) amptly demonstrates that this [referenced excerpt from my remarks at the end of 79 follows] an invalid notion. The honorable thing for you to do would be to admit your mistake and take the whole “Welcome to Wales” thing out of your paper.

This is regarding my conclusive summary of the impact of chance + necessity on the origin of mind, under evo mat assumptions: Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity.

Now, what was that “there” for? ANS:

. . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of “science”] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance [“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

Given that I also gave actual cases in point of how this absurdity plays out, could JT kindly show me why the above summary is irrelevant and/or specious? Namely:

For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

Since that was first written on the order of 20 years ago, it does not include the even more telling case of Sir Francis Crick’s 1994 idea that “”You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules . . .”

but, Sir Francis, does that not include you? And, would it not include our attempts to test the LOGIC of your case?

Or, as Reppert sums up:

. . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts. . . . In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

In short, the case is not just abstractly so, but is exemplified by some very prominent materialists and their views across the past century and more, multiplied by the unbridged gap between physical cause-effect bonds and logical ground-consequent ones, or worse yet comparative inference to best explanation.

JT’s counter-example, in short, is little more than a strawman distractor.

3] just imagine a program that has some knowledge base and can pose a series of questions and then on that basis make a diagnosis with some degree of accuracy . . . Now if that program had fallen into place “purely by chance” that would not have any impact on its ability to determine the truth in the area where it had this capability.

Of course, the program would be the “Welcome to Wales” rockfall on the grand scale (as I mentioned above under the term “lucky noise”). That it by chance puts out glyphs on the screen that WE read as telling us something truthful of or false is simply illustrative that it is WE who are working with meaningfulness and truth and reason, not the machine which per lucky noise has simply taken an input and produced an output by blind causal chains. In short, wee again see just how radically different the mental and the material are, and that to bridge from blind forces to cogent reason per mere material forces of chance + necessity is a task that has brought the materialist scientists to despair.

That is the precise point I made in my appendix, when I noted:

1 –> We know, immediately, that chance + necessity, acting on a pile of rocks on a hillside, can make them roll down the hillside and take up an arbitrary conformation. There thus is no in-principle reason to reject them taking up the shape: “WELCOME TO WALES” any more than any other configuration. Especially if, say, by extremely good luck we have seen the rocks fall and take up this shape for ourselves. [If that ever happens to you, though, change your travel plans and head straight for Las Vegas before your “hot streak” runs out!]

2 –> Now, while you are packing for Vegas, let’s think a bit: [a] the result of the for- the- sake- of- argument stroke of good luck is an apparent message, which was [b] formed by chance + necessity only acting on matter and energy across space and time. That is, [c] it would be lucky noise at work. Let us observe, also: [d] the shape taken on by the cluster of rocks as they fall and settle is arbitrary, but [e] the meaning assigned to the apparent message is as a result of the imposition of symbolic meaning on certain glyphs that take up particular alphanumerical shapes under certain conventions. That is, it is a mental (and even social) act. One pregnant with the points that [f] language at its best refers accurately to reality, so that [g] we often trust its deliverances once we hold the source credible. [Indeed, in the original form of the example, if one believes that s/he is entering Wales on the strength of seeing such a rock arrangement, s/he would be inconsistent to also believe the arrangement of rocks to have been accidental.]

3 –> But, this brings up the key issue of credibility: should we believe the substantial contents of such an apparent message sourced in lucky noise rather than a purposeful arrangement? That is, would it be well-warranted to accept it as — here, echoing Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b — “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not”? (That is, is such an apparent message credibly a true message?)

I then proceeded to answer . . .

[ . . . ]

98. 98
JT says:

gpuccio[76]:

“As far as systematic description, nothing we know of exceeds the expressive power of a computer program.”
That’s complete nonsense! There are a lot of things which we can very well describe, and which are beyond the power of a computer program. Consciousness is the best example. Meaning too. Free will. Perception. Pleasure. Pain. Purpose. Intuition. Human language. Beauty. Harmony. And so on.

I admit it now – the beauty of a rose, a laughing child playing with a puppy sillouhetted against the setting sun, how could a computer capture such beauty…Oh wait – someone probably has such images stored on their computer right now.

2) True randomness: I mean the randomness at the quantum level, which is expressed in the collapse of the wave function. As far as we know, that randomness seems to be intrinsic to reality itself, and not superimposed to necessary events.[emphasis added]

Unless one accepts the irrational theory of strong AI, most serious theories of consiousness do use quntum randomness, but only as an interface where consciousness can interact with matter without violating known laws of necessity

DaveScot wrote [82]:

For another commenter here who asked how QM relates to all this is how – quantum uncertainty – effects without causes – absolute unpredictability. Personally I think quantum uncertainty is just as likely an artifact of incomplete understanding of the quantum universe, a view which is often referred to as “the missing variable” hypothesis.

99. 99
kairosfocus says:

That answer appears in the immediately following point 4, app 7 my always linked:

4 –> The answer is obvious: no. For, the adjusted example [Taylor’s original form is a bit different] aptly illustrates how cause-effect chains tracing to mechanical necessity and chance circumstances acting on matter and energy are utterly unconnected to the issue of making logically and empirically well-warranted assertions about states of affairs in the world. For a crude but illuminating further instance, neuronal impulses are in volts and are in specific locations in the body; but meaningfulness, codes, algorithms, truth and falsehood, propositions and their entailments simply are not like that. That is, mental concepts and constructs are radically different from physical entities, interactions and signals. So, it is highly questionable (thus needs to be shown not merely assumed or asserted) that such radical differences could or do credibly arise from mere interaction of physical components under only the forces of chance and blind mechanical necessity. For this demonstration, however, we seek in vain: the matter is routinely assumed or asserted away, often by claiming (contrary to the relevant history and philosophical considerations) that science can only properly explain by reference in the end to such ultimately physical-material forces. Anything less is “science-stopping.” But in fact, in say a typical real-world cybernetic system, the physical cause-effect chains around a control loop are set up by intelligent, highly skilled designers who take advantage of and manipulate a wide range of natural regularities. As a result, the sensors, feedback, comparator, and feedforward signals, codes and linkages between elements in the system are intelligently organised to cause the desired interactions and outcomes of moving observed plant behaviour closer to the targetted path in the teeth of disturbances, drift in component parameters, and noise. And, that intelligent input is not simply reducible to physical forces and materials.

In short, I actually did provide a cybernetic case in point, one that in context links to Eng Derek Smith’s very interesting work.

And, we may note that we still have yet to see a cogent answer.

4] You also did not address my follow-up illustration [68]: “What if an intelligent agent says ‘Welcome to Wales’. How likely is it for an intelligent agent to lie?”

Again, a distractive strawman. Yes agents lie or simply make errors, i.e. willfully or inadvertently say what is not so. We test that — cf my discussion of Greenleaf on assessing evidence here — by looking at correspondence with many known facts, logical coherence and explanatory power relative to other competing stories. ALL OF WHICH ARE MENTAL ACTIONS THAT ENGAGE THE LINK BETWEEN THE WORLD OF FACT AND THAT OF REASONING.

In short, JT has again improperly leaped the divide between the world of cause-effect forces and mechanical chains of events, and chains of reasoning.

5] the fact that “intelligent agent” in the ID conception transcends law or specification itself means that we could never examine it in this way. And in my judgment, “intelligent agency” defined this way actually eqautes to randomness anyway.

First and foremost, we must note that we personally exemplify and routinely interact with intelligent agents. We know per experience and observation, that intelligence does not equate to random search, and that it’s performance is utterly different from such chance + necessity driven causal chains. For instance, a workteam could put up our welcome to wales sign in a day; the search resources of the observable cosmos, providing the sign is sufficiently intricate, per vast improbability, would be severely challenged to do so by repeated avalanches, across its lifespan — much less, doing so on the actual border of Wales.

So, JT is blatantly — and insistently — wrong to infer that on such a view as we are taking, intelligent agency “actually eqautes to randomness anyway.”

6] the idea that natural selection (not to advocate it unconditionally here) has nothing to do with truth is also wrong. If an eye has some limited ability and through some fortuitious circumstances its accuracy increases, that is going to increase the fitness of the organism. That’s obvious right? So the organism has a more accurate and thus a more truthful understanding of his environment, and thus the random change that bestowed this to him is preserved.

First, observe the improper conflation of sensation and perception, with cognition and reasoning. Again, once one has an eye — and BTW, the search resources of the observed cosmos are inadequate to credibly make that body plan innovation per chance variation culled through differential reproductive success in environments — then the cause-effect chains in the nerves will trigger images of the environment, and even possibly instinctual threat-avoidance responses. But, that has nothing to do with thinking through an argument, using reasoning.

I therefore think Plantinga has aptly responded to this — actually, he anticipated it — over a decade ago:

. . . evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations . . . But then the fact that we have evolved guarantees at most that we behave in certain ways–ways that contribute to our (or our ancestors’) surviving and reproducing in the environment in which we have developed . . . . there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false.

In short, appeal to naturtal selection does not perform the required magic of transforming mater into reasoning and sometimes truthful mind.

I have looked at a few attempted rebuttals, but I find that as a rule, just as JT did, they knock over strawman substitutes, not the real argument.

7] Dawkins “methinks it looks like a weasel” illustration, which has been around for decades and decades is the stereotypical response to “evolution equates to randomness”.

Weasel is an apt example of a search algorithm that undertakes DIRECTED search, in an environment that is designed; and based on active, foresighted information fed in at the beginning. (I do refer to this sort of thing in the paper, but only briefly.)

In short, Dawkins’ example is specious, and blatantly obviously so. Why did you raise it?

I must repeat: natural selection is a probabilistically based culler of those sufficiently unfit to be wiped out across time. IT IS NOT AN INNOVATOR OF INFORMATION.

To get the information in the quantities required for body-plan innovation, you have to cross the threshold of the UPB, many times over. And, the only mechanisms proposed for that ORIGIN of information, boils down to one form or more of chance variation.

___________

In short, the case still stands.

As to the complaint on tone [note, not an effective response on substance], I could simply point to the level of the Darwinists and their fellow travellers, not just on words but deeds, across decades.

But in fact, given the “do the honorable thing” above [but not backed up by cogent arguments], it is plain that the real objection on “tone” is that I have showed, with grounds and evidence, why I think evolutionary materialists are self-referentially incoherent and irrational, not to mention, across time, historically dangerous and too often destructive.

Sir, I have been plain-spoken, but have given reasons and evidence for that, reasons and ecvidence that a hundred million ghosts will join with me in moaning out.

The ball, I am afraid, is still in your court.

Thank you for your time and attention. but, you will see why I am afraid that on the substantial case in hand to date, I cannot agree with your plain implication that I have been dishonourable; nor that I have even been fundamentally unsound on the material points.

Until you can show me in error, the appendix therefore stands. As does the rest of the note.

On the grounds of the right of fair and responsible comment on a matter of great moment in our time.

G’day,

GEM of TKI

100. 100
kairosfocus says:

PS: On randomness and quantum effects.

JT, subject to that provisionality that attaches to all matters of fact and scientific explanation as a member of that class, quantum and quantum based effects stand as the paradigmatic example of randomness. Indeed, such is now routinely used as a source of truly random numbers. One way to do it is to use a Zener noise circuit to feed A/D conversion, thence seed a a pseudorandom number digital circuit, generation of scaled random numbers,which can be tabulated. The linked page observes:

The ADC of the MAX765x can be set to read all sorts of things: scales AC power line voltage, some sensor position or even amplified Johnson noise from a Zener diode (a common practice in cryptography).

Here is a patent, and here is a case in point. Even so humble and materalism-leaning a source as Wiki has a useful discussion here. It begins:

In computing, a hardware random number generator is an apparatus that generates random numbers from a physical process. Such devices are often based on microscopic phenomena such as thermal noise or the photoelectric effect or other quantum phenomena. These processes are, in theory, completely unpredictable, and the theory’s assertions of unpredictability are subject to experimental test. A quantum-based hardware random number generator typically contains an amplifier to bring the output of the physical process into the macroscopic realm, and a transducer to convert the output into a digital signal . . .

As the Orion RNG ad says, “The Random Number Generator port dongle (Mac/Win, for a male serial 25 pins com port) is the first true RNG to pass Marsaglia’s famous DIEHARD randomness test. It produces completely independent series of numbers and can be used for randomization of numbers, encryption purposes, virtual casinos or for scientific research.”

In short, GP is completely vindicated. (One is tempted to add, on long track record, “as usual . . . “)

101. 101
MikeKratch says:

KariosFocus

to bridge from blind forces to cogent reason per mere material forces of chance + necessity is a task that has brought the materialist scientists to despair.

Really? Care to cite an example of such a “despairing materialist scientist”? I think you are just making that up to pat yourself on the back.

You constant references to “lucky noise” appear to ignore the fact that the search spaces you mention as being impossible to traverse are not being traversed from the start. Living organisms alreay occupy a postion in those search spaces to begin with. And yes, there are very large search spaces that “lucky noise” would not be able to search in under the lifetime of the universe, but you have to realise that the entire search space is irrelevent, the only relevant parts of the landscape are the parts immediatly adjacent to where you start from. The rest of the landscape might as well not exist because it’s irrelevant to the task at hand, i.e. incrementally searching the adjacent areas, which is a mathmatical tried and tested safe conjecture.

Yes, the chances of a given protein coming into existence fully formed via “lucky noise” are outside of the realm of “probable in this universe” but you disregard the incremental when you do that. You are using the “tornado in a junkyard” example to claim that 747’s do not exist. They do, and they were not built in a tornado.

I believe you know this but refuse to consider the consequences for the rest of your “theories” as they would not be good for your belief.

102. 102
JT says:

KF: If I honestly missed your point it wasn’t intentional (although that statement was a tautology).

CJYMan wrote:
Then, once chance is ruled out by detecting highly improbable specificity, we may arrive at CSI. But, that is not where the reasoning stops. We also observe that intelligence routinely produces CSI through use of foresight, as I have explained earlier. In fact, that is basically how we label something as intelligent

Just a quick acknowledgement. You mentioned foresight repeatedly in your previous post, and I agree on the general concept of foresight. A human being can store a detailed model of the world in his mind and perform what if scenarios much more readily than if he had to try everything out literally. But also, foresight can refer to a previous state of affairs that correlates to a subsequent state, without benefit certainly of any abstract transcendent capabilities. That’s to me where the foresight concept is relevant (i.e. the last statement I made). The only way some state of affairs y can materialize is if there is foresight inherent in the mere fact of some previous state of affairs that directly correlates to it. i.e. f(x)=y.

But anyway foresight – I’m with you on that.

103. 103
MikeKratch says:

KF

Weasel is an apt example of a search algorithm that undertakes DIRECTED search, in an environment that is designed; and based on active, foresighted information fed in at the beginning. (I do refer to this sort of thing in the paper, but only briefly.)

Weasel is a trivial toy exampled used to illustrate a teaching point.

The fact that you claim to have “defeated” it in a “paper” no less speaks volumes as to your real adjenda.

Why don’t you publish this “paper” in a peer reviewed journal then if you are confident you have refuted this trival example?

Until you can show me in error, the appendix therefore stands. As does the rest of the note.

You are in error if you think that “Weasel” is representiative of the state of the art in this area.

You need to read more in this field to become familiar with more then then toy examples used to explain to the general public the concepts Dawkins was trying to comminucate.

It’s like claming that a “Learn to read ABC” book aimed at 5 year olds has little literary merit. Quite right, it does not, but it fulfills the purpose admirably.

104. 104
MikeKratch says:

kairosfocus,

I would like to test your understanding of “Weasel” if I may.

Once a correct letter has been achieved, does that letter become “fixated” or is it still free to mutate away from the “correct” letter in the next round?

105. 105
tribune7 says:

JT, here is something to ponder:

You set up a video camera to tape a rocky desert & leave. It records an earthquake after which the rocks spell out the phrase “ID is true. Repent now!”
Do you:

A. take it to mean ID has been disproved?

B. Repent?

106. 106
tribune7 says:

Once a correct letter has been achieved, does that letter become “fixated” or is it still free to mutate away from the “correct” letter in the next round?

In Dawkins’ exercise, the letter if fixed.

For grins visit: The Richard Dawkins Mutation Challenge

107. 107
kairosfocus says:

MK (and JK):

I have to go just now, so will be far more brief; but I first observe that there is a reason why there is a discussion on the “hard problem” of consciousness, for just one instance.

Second if you will actually look at what I have done in the always linked, you will see that I start from information and noise and inference to design, then address origin of life [with amn appendix on the thermodynamics involved], then body-plan level innovation. In each of the three cases, the search space hurdle has yet to be cogently and soundly addressed by the evo mat advocates.

Putting that simply, the problem with the fitness landscape is that it is flooded by a vast sea of non-function, and the islands of function are far separated one from the other. So far in fact — as I discuss in the linked in enough details to show why I say that — that searches on the order of the quantum state capacity of our observed universe are hopelessly inadequate. Once you get to the shores of an island, you can climb away all you want using RV + NS as a hill climber or whatever model suits your fancy.

But you have to get TO the shores first. THAT is the real, and too often utterly unaddressed or brushed aside, challenge.

And, I repeat, that starts with both the metabolism first and the D/RNA first schools of thought on OOL. As indeed Shapiro and Orgel recently showed, as I cite.

So your assertion that I am evading unwelcome facts is simply unworthy and unwarranted by the facts, MK.

As for Weasel, you will note that I hardly bothered to take note of it once it was raised by JK, as it is so trivially irrelevant as a plainly DIRECTED, foresighted tartgetted search.

It instantiates intelligent design, not the power of RV + NS. Even going up to Avida and the like, similar issues come up, as is highlighted under the issue of active information by Dembski and Marks.

So, there is no issue of my response to Weasel above needing to be validated though peer reviewed publications. (And note this is in a post-Sternberg world. Do you think that pares that fails to toe the PC evo mat line are likely to ever see the light of day in MOST current journals? If you do so, I got some prime real estate in Plymouth, Montserrat that I can sell you.)

This is a simple issue. So simple that I send you to the much despised creationists to take a 101 level look at it.

Nor did I ever claim that Weasel was the state of the art; that is putting words in my mouth to make up a convenient strawman. What I did say was that “Weasel is an apt example of a search algorithm that undertakes DIRECTED search, in an environment that is designed; and based on active, foresighted information fed in at the beginning.”

That last is a reference to much more current analyses, which you should be aware of, e.g. this and this. In short, I was not at all putting up toy examples, but responding to a claim that was based on just such an example put up by another; pointing out its blatant flaws in brief before passing on to other points and things.

Okay, enough as follow up for now.

G’day again

GEM of TKI

108. 108
MikeKratch says:

kairosfocus,

I would like to test your understanding of “Weasel” if I may.

Once a correct letter has been achieved, does that letter become “fixated” or is it still free to mutate away from the “correct” letter in the next round?

109. 109
JT says:

KF [Plantinga]:

. . evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations . . . But then the fact that we have evolved guarantees at most that we behave in certain ways–ways that contribute to our (or our ancestors’) surviving and reproducing in the environment in which we have developed . . . . there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false. (Link. Emphases added. Cf. blog exchange contributions here, here, here, and here.)

Natural Selection does care what you believe. What you believe determines what you do. What you believe is determined by the accuracy of the information you’re getting about the world.

I stand by all my original comments. You use the Wales example for a launching point for a much broader discussion, but I addressed the central point of the Wales example.

It isn’t just the “tone” I object to in your paper. I didn’t successfully articulate the nature of my objection. Assuming what you’re trying to prove, simplistic unproven assumptions about the nature of laws, invocation of 18th century patrician armchair philosophers as relevant authoritive sources, devoting excessive verbiage to refuting each and every objection to your position even when some of those objections are self-evidently meritless. I could go on and on and on. And yet, the sheer volumne is certainly impressive, you’ve done a lot of work there, you’ve also read a lot I don’t think any actual work that anyone has done should be maligned. I would hope your work has proven to be a blessing to some people.

The fact is, I suspect that ultimately we do believe the same things.

The tone of this is overly personal maybe, but I have devoted the last 6-7 hours of my life to your writing.

Anyway, take care.

110. 110
Upright BiPed says:

Mike,

You seem to be harboring an inordinate desire for chance to write a conventional code – which happens to be brimming with specificity.

Chance cannot coordinate option at the nucleic (information) level. This is essential for functionality in otherwise disassociated systems (without mechanical ties) such as transciption and translation.

Can you provide any data that suggest it can?

111. 111
kairosfocus says:

MK

Pardon a frank word or two: kindly stop wasting our time by refusing to address cogent responses and reiterating already adequately rebutted claims.

I have already given you a link to Royal Trueman’s more than adequate discussion of Weasel and its errors of irrelevance and of misdirection, from 1998. That is after I have already stated in summary why Weasel — and for that matter Avida — fails.

Weasel sets a target sentence then once a letter is guessed it preserves it for future iterations of trials until the full target is met. That means it rewards partial but non-functional success, and is foresighted. Targetted search, not a proper RV + NS model.

A more relevant exercise than Weasel (or Avida etc; cf the Dembski-Marks papers also linked above), would be to first generate an 8 bit PC and its OS and its associated execution machinery by chance plus functionality based survival — say by a version of Hoyle’s tornado in a junkyard, this time in Round Rock Texas.

That mimics the OOL challenge.

Next,see if further storms can get you to go from 8 to 16 to 32 and onward to 64 bit PCs. Or to a cell phone or some other novel technology.

What are the odds of getting to the first PC within the lifetime of he universe?

Then, of transforming it into the new forms?

Once you get a functioning PC you can make the OS software evolve by zener noise on a hard drive plus tests for initial functionality all you want. Then make the zener noise evolve new software for a genetic algorithm, testing for functionality but not rewarding non-functional approaches to success.

And so on.

If tha sort of test has notbeen done, al you are doing is showing that intelligent design usingconstrained random search algors is capable of hill climbing. Useful but not relevant to the issues on OOL and macroevolution.

I think DS might be able to get you access to Dell’s junkyard, and Iam sure there is a great deal on tornadoes in tornado alley.

Have fun.

Back to my client.

GEM of TKI

112. 112
kairosfocus says:

JT

NS rewards successful behaviour in an environment especially on the so-called four Fs, not truthfulness of belief.

Indeed, if you had to have accurate beliefs to survive or thrive, primitive life forms that have no brains would die off.

At higher level, even the path of science should tell us that reliable world models are not necessarily true ones. Even Newtonian Gravitation and Mechanics are empirically demonstrably not right!

GEM of TKI

113. 113
bFast says:

Kirosfocus, “Weasel sets a target sentence then once a letter is guessed it preserves it for future iterations of trials until the full target is met.”

My biggest complaint with weasel is that it is way too short. However, this is an interesting statment. I shall write a sim that is just like weasel, except that it only preserves entire words that are found in the weasel sentance. That sounds like fun — impossible.

114. 114
gpuccio says:

JT (98):

I hoped you would answer and discuss, but you seem to only be able to state trivialities and nonsense. No problem, I am accustomed to that.

You say:

“I admit it now – the beauty of a rose, a laughing child playing with a puppy sillouhetted against the setting sun, how could a computer capture such beauty…Oh wait – someone probably has such images stored on their computer right now.”

Is that irony? Is that sarcasm? Is that just silliness? Just explain how consciousness and subjective experience are within “the expressive power of a computer program”, which was my point. Show me a conscious computer program. Then we will see if it can appreciate your “jokes” about beauty and digital images.

As an “answer” to one other of my points, you just quote from DaveScot (maybe having finished your “arguments” in the first point):

“For another commenter here who asked how QM relates to all this is how – quantum uncertainty – effects without causes – absolute unpredictability. Personally I think quantum uncertainty is just as likely an artifact of incomplete understanding of the quantum universe, a view which is often referred to as “the missing variable” hypothesis.”

Well, so you are on the side of Einstein and DaveScot about the interpretation of QM according to the “missing variable” hypothesis. Good for you! It’s really a very restricted company, but in a sense not a bad one (I am referring to Einstein and Davescot here).

What a pity that almost everybody who deals with QM today has completely abandoned the “missing variable” hypothesis… Well, Einstein will be happy that he still has some followers.

115. 115
Atom says:

In regards to the “Weasel” computer program:

The biggest problem with Weasel is the use of a Hamming Oracle that provides a “target” and information about how close a string is to that target. Having a target alone isn’t much of a problem, as long as the oracle only answered “yes/no” when asked if the string matches the target.

But instead weasel answers something like “closer” or “worse”, acting similar to “hotter/colder” and allowing the program to hone in on the target quickly. This is main source of active information in the program.

Whether or not the “correct” letters are fixed or free to mutate is an order of magnitude less important. Sure, fixing the correct letters will allow for quicker convergence on the target, but this difference is minor compared to using a “needle in haystack” (yes/no) oracle versus using a Hamming (hotter/colder) Oracle.

BTW, EvoInfo.org has a cool javascript simulation of a flavor of Weasel in its Resources section, coded by yours truly. It fixes the correct letters (not truly Weasel ala Dawkins, but a similar algorithm using the same Hamming Oracle.)

Also, someone wrote me throwing a fit over the “fixing” of letter in the EvoInfo sim. After I asked him to read the paper the sim is based on and the relevance of the oracles, I never heard back from him.

116. 116
kairosfocus says:

Okay . . .

An interesting silence on the part of evo mat advocates (i.e. esp. JT and MK) once I responded on the merits a few days back; especially after demands to “do the honorable thing” [cf # 94, by JT] and assertions about “[dishonest] a[g]endas.” [cf. 103 by MK, in light of 101 by same.]

Not to mention, the pretty direct implication that I would not know or understand basic aspects of cases such as Dawkins’ Weasel. [Cf MK at 101, 103, 104, 108].

It seems to me that there is a need for pretty serious substantiation on the part of JT and MK, or else — to turn about JT’s rhetoric in 94 above — the decent thing to do would be to acknowledge and express regret for gross misjudgement and unwarranted accusation.

JT and MK: over to you . . .

GEM of TKI

PS: Atom, nice work in 115.

117. 117
kairosfocus says:

Bfast

I restrained myself from responding for a day or two.

Your adjusted Weasel boils down to specifying islands of reasonable functionality in a sea of non-function:

1 –> Let’s give the target a reasonable length, say 1,000 bits worth, i.e about 120 words. [That puts it at the threshold of the “islands of function” version of the UPB I have set up as a rule of thumb.]

2 –> Let’s specify that it needs to find target words whole, and until it finds the first 7-letter word, it may not do any hill-climbing, and hill climbing is by finding neighbouring words in increment.

3 –> Then, it must show ability to sort the found words at random to produce a meaningful sequence: subject, predicate, modifiers, words. (Sounds like co-optation to me, the proposed workaround for IC.)
______________

4 –> then through horizontal transfer between islands of function with different sentences, it should show ability to create the whole statement of about 120 words, in correct order, or another similarly meaningful sequence of sentences.

Methinks a slice of this post would work as a reasonable target. (The horizontal rule at the end of 3 is at the point where Word says I have 140 words.)

Want to take this up, MK and JT? Do you think a few dozen iterations — as Dawkins presented ever so triumphalistically in his 1980’s work — will be likely to produce good results? Why or why not?

Would you be willing to argue that by the mid 1980’s, the realistic complexity of DNA and proteins etc was not well understood?

MK, what, then does that tell us about Mr Dawkins’ “real adjenda”?

[Onlookers: cf MK at 103]

GEM of TKI

PS: MK, “Find” in a browser would have shown that I speak to genetic algorithms here and here in my online briefing note, i.e. in successive sections, outlining why I think the GA approach misses the mark: the need to get TO islands of function before hill-climbing can be addressed. [Re my use of “paper,” which you evidently strongly object to, kindly cf meanings 3b and 4 here. ]

Here is my in-brief remark at one of the hits:

. . . life function is observed to be based on algorithms and codes; which constitute functional, specific, complex information. Such algorithms and codes are observed to have but one empirically observed source: intelligent agents. (And, this is apparently for the excellent reason that chance processes run into the same isolated islands of function in a sea of non-functional configurations challenge.) Genetic algorithms and the like are not counter-examples, as they are in effect rather constrained hill-climbing searches, within a wider program that is already intelligently designed and functional. Often, the target is pre-specified and closeness of approach to the desired target is rewarded; i.e. they are premised on exactly the sort of foresighted purposiveness that Darwinian evolutionary processes, on pain of transformation into intelligently designed processes, cannot have.

Care to respond?