Intelligent Design

David Berlinksi on Physics and Metaphysics

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The discussions on multiverses and string theory bring to mind the following comments of David Berlinski (in “Was There a Big Bang?”):

“Standing at the gate of modern time, Isaac Newton forged the curious social pact by which rational men and women have lived ever since. The description of the physical world would be vouchsafed to a particular institution, that of modern physics; and it was to the physicists and not the priests, soothsayers, poets, politicians,…that society would look for judgments about the nature of the physical world…In exchange for their privilege, the physicists were to provide an account of the physical world at once penetrating, general, persuasive, and true.

Until recently, the great physicists have been scrupulous about honoring the terms of their contract. They have attempted with dignity to respect the distinction between what is known and what is not…

This scrupulousness has lately been compromised. The result has been the calculated or careless erasure of the line separating disciplined physical inquiry from speculative metaphysics. Contemporary cosmologists feel free to say anything that pops into their heads. Unhappy examples are everywhere: absurd schemes to model time on the basis of the complex numbers, as in Steven Hawkin’s ‘A Brief History of Time’; bizarre and ugly contraptions for cosmic inflation; universes multiplying beyond the reach of observations…theories of every stripe and variety, all of them uncorrected by any criticism beyond the trivial.”

31 Replies to “David Berlinksi on Physics and Metaphysics

  1. 1
    Douglas Moran says:

    Yes, that’s an interesting quote. But what do you make of it?

  2. 2
    Upright BiPed says:

    Yes, that’s an interesting quote. But what do you make of it?

    …that I am happy eternal skeptics like David Berlinski, in fact David himself, are alive and well.

  3. 3
    russ says:

    Yes, that’s an interesting quote. But what do you make of it?

    Could it be that physicists, like everyone else in western civilization are individually less and less beholden to any ultimate source of truth and ethics? If we are the product of a mindless process with no goal in mind, then we are accountable to no one and we have no assurance that anything exists or that it matters what we do. If the Internal Revenue Service disappeared tomorrow, a great many Americans would no longer pay their taxes. Why should scientists play by the rules if there is no rule maker? Isaac Newton is not going to slap their wrists.

  4. 4
    Mapou says:

    Interesting. Physics is the only field of science where the experts routinely come up with the most outrageous conclusions, conclusions that would be considered crackpottery in any other discipline. For example, famous physicists (e.g., Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne, Carl Sagan, David Deutsch) feel free to claim, without any fear of criticism, that Einstein’s general theory of relativity does not forbid time travel (sources: Nova Online and hawking.org.uk). The hard undeniable reality is that nothing can move in spacetime, by definition!! This is the reason that Sir Karl Popper wrote in Conjectures and Refutations that spacetime is “Einstein’s block universe (in which, too, nothing ever happens, since everything is, four-dimensionally speaking, determined and laid down from the beginning).”

    The fact that nothing can move in spacetime is known to many physicists but it is rarely discussed in universities and physics circles because it refutes the claim repeatedly made in the last century by relativists (including Einstein himself) that gravity is due to the curvature of spacetime and to bodies following their geodesics in curved spacetime. In the words of Wolfgang Pauli, this stuff is not even wrong.

    The above only scratches the surface of the deep crackpottery that permeates the physics community. It seems that the overriding concern of physicists is to deny the possibility that the universe was designed and created. In so doing, they have built an absurd paradigm that can only be described as a type of voodoo science. Star-trek physics at its worst!

  5. 5
    Domoman says:

    Mapou,

    Are you saying that Einstein’s general theory of relativity suggests that time is not linear? Or am I misinterpreting?

  6. 6
    Mapou says:

    Domoman,

    No. I am simply saying that a physical time dimension makes motion impossible because movement in time is self-referential. Thus time is abstract. This is the reason that nothing can move/change in spacetime. And this is the reason that any physicist (Hawking, etc.) who claims that GR does not forbid time travel is a crackpot in my book. Heck, if we were living in an honest world, he/she would be a crackpot in everybody’s book.

    That such claims are routinely made by world-famous physicists without any outcry from the physics community is a sad commentary on the state of physics as a science.

  7. 7
    WeaselSpotting says:

    To me, Berlinski is one of the foremost ID thinkers, up there with Behe and Dembski. He has demolished evolution many times over.

    One particularly devastating argument was his calculation that it would take more than 50,000 genetic changes (at a minimum!) to evolve from a cow to a whale…more than the number of genes in a cow or a whale! It’s this sort of mathematical rigor and common sense that is utterly lacking amongst our university biologists.

  8. 8
    Frost122585 says:

    The deal with multiverse is simply to avoid the ultimate question that troubles the entirty of all things from philosophy, to physics, to theology, to life experiences of all kinds; what is it that determines form?

    As Johannes Keplar use put it in his seminal writing on the movement of Heavenly Bodies “why do things happen one way as opposed to another?”

    In physics we call this the “first cause“. materialist physicists like Stephen Hawkins will have you believe that asking what “caused the first cause” is an incoherent question. Hawking has likened it to the question “what is north of north?“ He says this I meaningless and he is right – but we are not asking what is north of north- no we are asking “why should their be a north at all?” Why is it a north and not say simply a 3 directional world of only south, east and west? There is no way to answer this question except to point to the moment of paradox- that is the point of physical question can be measured. We can set up the real scenario and put it o0t the physicists to explain.

    How can a cause happen uncaused and what determined the nature- shape- form of that first cause?

    They answer:

    Nothing.

    So to the physicist the only thing that exists- that even can exist- is matter, that is physical objects- yet all thing owe their existence to nothing.

    It is hard to argue with this interpretation because the speculation is observational and empirically based – yet it sounds like creationism. That is the problem for the materialists. If an entire universe can just pop out of nowhere why cant a person or a miracle? Quantum physics actually says miracles (or what you and I would consider one, such as a person jumping out of a plane and living) to be not only possible but probable – that is all events have a certain probability attached to them. This is not the universe that the dogmatic materialist wants to live in- it is not the truth that he wants to bow down to.

    So they come up with “ideas” like multiverse. That is given enough universe every kind is not only possible, not only probable, but MUST exist. So therefore ours is just one of many and that is why it is as it is.

    This however only defers the question of the origin of form to “probabilities”- that is, this is a stupid mind trick- because now we not only have one universe to deal with but we need to explain the origin of an infinite number of universe. The question them becomes why are there infinite universes and not simply one? This seems to go against Occam’s raze… don’t you think! This is actually the ultimate insult to Occam’s razor- not only does it fail to describe the mechanism whereby the universe can appear out of nothing- but it inflates the problem by infinite resources-

    Well perhaps “infinite” as all evidence seem to point to a finite universe- that is if our universe is finite then you wouldn’t need an infinite amount just a huge number bigger than we an comprehend.

    Also there is no possible evidence of multiple universes – so therefore this theory is not testable or empirically based- not to mention no falsifiable- so I guess in the words of the holly Darwinists

    ITS NOT SCIENCE!

    Happy holidays yall.

  9. 9
    Joseph says:

    Mr Berlinski said something quite funny in an email pertaining to the academic freedom petition.

    He said that there aren’t any physicists who would say that “Gravity is as well-defined as the theory of evolution.”

    You will NEVER hear that.

  10. 10
    Domoman says:

    Joseph, I got that e-mail too. It’s a funny comment, and one that is very true! Of course those who believe in gravity don’t need to say that it is as well-defined as another theory, because, unlike neo-Darwinism, we actually witness gravity and don’t have extreme odds mounted against it!

  11. 11
    KRiS says:

    Frost122585

    Hawking and other scientists mean that asking how it all began is scientifically meaningless because it is unanswerable from a scientific point of view. You are exactly right that the multiverse hypothesis simply pushes back that question further, in the same way that saying that everything was intelligently designed merely pushes back the question of design to “Who designed the designer?”

    Physics as we know it is concerned with how the universe has behaved since it began. We can speculate about how it began, but until a given hypothesis (like the multiverse) is able to be tested it’s still just speculation. I don’t think that any scientist is claiming that the multiverse is a fact, but is rather presenting it as a hypothesis and trying to find ways to test the hypothesis.

    Part of the problem is that in popular literature, as opposed to peer reviewed scientific literature, you can present such an idea as though it were fact. Actually it is encouraged because it makes for a more entertaining read as you explore the implications of the idea from a starting point of credulity. Too often people read the popularized versions of the ideas and assume that the author actually believes that what is presented in the book is the tested theory rather than only a potentially testable hypothesis.

  12. 12
    KRiS says:

    Quick edit:

    “…only a potentially testable hypothesis.”

    should really be more like

    “…only a potentially, though not necessarily testable hypothesis.”

    I don’t want to give the impression that I believe that testability is only a matter of time, because any hypothesis may eventually turn out to be untestable.

  13. 13
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    You say:

    “You are exactly right that the multiverse hypothesis simply pushes back that question further, in the same way that saying that everything was intelligently designed merely pushes back the question of design to “Who designed the designer?””

    No, it’s not the same, for two important reasons:

    a) The multiverse hypothesis is nopt supported by empirical data, while the design hypothesis is (we daily observe the design process and can analyze its characteristics).

    b) There is no reason in the world that the designer must necessarily be a designed being. We affirm that biological information is designed because it exhibits CSI. We have no reason to assume that the designer of biological information must similarly exhibit CSI. As I have repeatedly affirmed, in the hypothesis that the designer may be a god, or simply an intelligent conscious force, that can certainly not be true.

    You say:

    “We can speculate about how it began, but until a given hypothesis (like the multiverse) is able to be tested it’s still just speculation. I don’t think that any scientist is claiming that the multiverse is a fact, but is rather presenting it as a hypothesis and trying to find ways to test the hypothesis.”

    I agree with the general concept, but I am afraid you express some epistemological confusion here (like many):

    a) the multiverse theory is just speculation not because it is a theory (it can “only” be a theory, like all scientific theories), but because it is an “unsupported theory”. Especially in its “super-infinite” form, the only one which can be used as an argument against design.

    b) Theories are always speculative, but good theories are supported by facts, either because they explain known facts, or because they make predictions about new ones. I have often argued that there is often too much emphasis on the second point. But the first point is often enough to make a good theory. Einstein’s relativity was already a good theory even before it was confirmed by newly observed and predicted facts, because it already explained known facts better than other existing hypotheses.
    But the multiverse hypothesis does neither one nor the other thing.

    c) I am rather tired of repeating the concept, but it is true that theories never become facts. Facts are observables, theories are constructions of the human mind. The newtonian theory of gravitation remains a theory, while a falling body remains a fact. I would appreciate darwinists stopped that bad habit of using the word “fact” as though it were some kind of “promotion” for a theory.

  14. 14
    gpuccio says:

    Joseph:

    “He said that there aren’t any physicists who would say that “Gravity is as well-defined as the theory of evolution.””

    But physicists are notoriously inaccurate people: gravity is only a theory; darwinian evolution, as everybody knows, is a fact! 🙂

  15. 15
    KRiS says:

    “We have no reason to assume that the designer of biological information must similarly exhibit CSI.”

    Is there some link to an explanation of this idea? I cannot personally think of a way that a creator of CSI would not necessarily exhibit CSI itself, but that may be a limitation of my own imagination.

  16. 16
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    We have debated this issue many times. It’s simple: in a materialist model, consciousness and its properties (intelligence, free will, feeling, etc.) are considered products of the algorithmic activity of the brain, according to the only materialist theory of consciousness I am aware of, strong AI theory. So, for a materialist it is “natural” to think that the products of consciousness, including CSI, are the product of the CSI inherent in the brain.

    For many reasons, which I have many times debated here, I don’t accept that model, and so many others here. Indeed, I do believe that such a model is completely false. I just sum up here the main points of my reasonings, without arguing them in detail. But if you are interested in that discussion, we can deepen any aspect of it:

    1) Material machines, like a computer or the physical brain, cannot generate new CSI, but only reshuffle the existing CSI which is in them or is inputtes into them.

    2) Conscious intelligent beings, on the contrary, continuously generate new CSI. That is due essentially to their being conscious and intelligent (and, I would add, free).

    3) Consciousness is in essence a simple entity: it is not the product of any complexity, but rather the existence of a transcendental “I” which can perceive and act and refer all those complex activities about complex things to its essential simplicity and oneness.

    4) Therefore, new CSI does not come form existing CSI, but form the perception and activity of a simple transcendental I on existing things (either they already exhibit CSI or not).

    5) The above points are true both for human designers (a transcendental I perceiving and acting through a material body and brain) and, for those who believe so, for a spiritual designer like a God, (a transcendent I perceiving and acting directly on His creation), whatever the general scenario which one chooses for such a designer.

    That, in brief. But obviously there is much more to that. I am open to discuss any aspect of it, if you are interested.

  17. 17
    KRiS says:

    gpuccio:

    There are so many questions that I would like to ask, that I think I’ll skip most of them and come to what I think is the most relevant one: What testable prediction(s) can be made about the hypotheses that you have just laid out? The main hypothesis that I am curious about is the the one that says that intelligence exists without CSI. In what way can we test that hypothesis?

  18. 18
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    Simple answers to simple questions:

    A few testable predictions:

    a) Non conscious machines (like computers) will never be able to generate new CSI.

    b) Deterministic machines will never become conscious, or free, and therefore will never generate CSI.

    c) Consciousness can exist without brain activity (see growing studies about NDEs, and all future possible experimental models of a non materialist neuroscience).

    d) The “I” can always separate itself from the objects it observes, including any complex inner object (that could be verified through objective investigation of the subjective experience). In other words, no subject of consciousness will ever be shown to derive form complexity, and the “I” will always be shown to be a transcendental simple point of perception, which can detach itself from any complexity by just observing it in a “meta” perspective.

    e) The design process (with generation of true CSI) will never be realized by machines.

    f) Human behaviour will always demonstrate a free component: in other words, it will never be fully explained by deterministic and random models.

    e) It is possible in theory, through correctly developed models, to show that human designers are really sources of new CSI. That is rather intuitive, but I think it will be possible to show in the future, with an appropriate theoretical and experimental model, that human consciousness can easily generate information which could not be present in the system in advance, or be generated through deterministic or random models.

    All the above points will be dealt with in the future, but can already be the object of reflections. After all, you were asking for predictions, weren’t you?

    I would like to remind here that all those points can be tested in principle, and that all of them can be instruments for the falsification of ID. In the same way, they can be instruments for the falsification of strong AI and of darwinian theory. Indeed, all of the above points are very practical, although certainly not easy to model, with the partial exception of point d), which has deeper epistemological implications, but which I have included just the same for its conceptual importance.

    In other words, I have always believed, and still believe, that both ID and darwinian theory (and strong AI) are perfectly falsifiable: they are indeed scientific theories, all of them, in a Popperian sense, however good or bad they may be. Affirming that one or the other is not falsifiable, and therefore is not a scientific theory, is only an “ad hoc” strategy, but it is not true.

    The main reason why a scientific theory cannot usually be falsified is the dogmatism of its supporters. And dogmatism cannot live forever.

  19. 19
    KRiS says:

    gpuccio:

    It appears to me that each of these “tests” are falsifiable in the same way that the hypothesis “a pink unicorn doesn’t exist” is falsifiable. It’s not a test that can be performed, but must simply be accepted as valid until some vague later date which may never come. After all, to falsify the pink unicorn hypothesis, all I have to do is show you a pink unicorn. Until then, I must simply accept the hypothesis as valid.

    In other words the tests that you propose require proof of a negative. Each of your tests essentially begins with the phrase “You will never see…” which, again, is a hypothesis that we can only accept without test until some vague later date that may never come. The single exception is (e), which is not a test of the intelligence without CSI hypothesis, since human designers do in fact exhibit CSI.

  20. 20
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    I don’t agree. If the materialist assumptions and models are true, there “must” come a time when the power and complexity of a software become comparable with those of the brain. I am not suggesting a vague negative proof which could never be found, but rather a positive verification or falsification of a definite model.

    Even if the power and structure of a software are still not the same as those of the human brain, it is all too legitimate to expect that the properties which are at presented attributed to the functioning of the brain in the materialist model (consciousness, intelligence, generation of CSI) should anyway gradually emerge. In other words, we should soon (or we should already) be observing) partially conscious software, generating CSI with some difficulty compared to the brain, but generating it just the same.

    Therefore, if our experience will go on showing consistently that machines are never conscious, or never can generate new CSI, I am afraid that it is materialists then who are sticking to a vague and unsupported hope that, sooner or later, they could find some support for their model. But that’s not science.

  21. 21
    KRiS says:

    gpuccio:

    The problem with the kinds of tests that you are proposing are that they are considered confirmed by default. This is because any result of these tests can only disagree or not disagree with the predicted result. No result, even in theory, can agree with the prediction because no positive prediction is made in the first place. Any result of any kind that is not the excluded result is automatically considered confirmation.

    It is possible that our current method of computation is fundamentally flawed if the goal is a conscious machine that can create CSI. If that is the case, a paradigm shift may be necessary before we even begin to approach such a thing, and for all we know the necessary shift may not occur for generations. In this case your hypothesis may be completely wrong, and yet our current method of computation would be unable to demonstrate that in any way precisely because no result of a test can ever agree with your prediction…only disagree or not disagree. Not disagreeing is not the same as agreeing.

  22. 22
    Mark Frank says:

    gpuccio

    I wrote this small entry in my own blog which you might be interested in:

    http://mark_frank.blogspot.com.....alism.html

    Mark

  23. 23
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    You comment makes some sense, but it is just another way of “sticking to a vague and unsupported hope that, sooner or later, you could find some support for your model”.

    The materialistic model is that consciousness and CSI can be generated by algorithmic methods. If no known algorithmic method can do that, then the model, for the moment, is unsupported.

    I agree with you that, in that case, “a paradigm shift may be necessary”. Well, acknowledging the independent existence of consciousness, and the reality of design, is indeed a paradigm shift. You may not like it, but it is a kind of paradigm which is very ancient and has been shared by most thinkers in human history. And which explains very well what we observe.

    Just a couple further notes:

    1) Not all the “tests” I proposed are “negative”. Point c), for instance, is positive and empirical, and can certainly be understood more deeply as our knowledge of those kind of phenomena increses. Point d)
    is positive too, and open to empirical investigation, although our scientific approach to subjective experience is still rudimental. Point f) is empirical too, although probably more difficult to model. Finally, the last point (which should have been g), I realize, but was labeled e) again for a mistake) is again empirical and positive, and your objection that it would not demonstrate the “intelligence without CSI” hypothesis is not wholly correct, because the purpose of the test would be that intelligence, even if operating through existing CSI, can generate “new” CSI, which is exactly what machines cannot do.

    So, while we wait for machines which are conscious, or which can produce genuine new meaning and language and intelligence, the failure of the materialist model is the only empirical clue we have. Any new model is welcome. In the meantime, independent existence of a simple consciousness and design remain the “best explanation”, also in the light of the above positive points, which must certainly be actively pursued in further investigations.

    2) I have complied with your requests for predictions and tests, because that is certainly a valid aspect of the discussion. But I would like to remind you that predictions and tests are in no way the only criterion of science. The main properties of a scientific theory remain:

    a) to be able to explain as well as possible known data

    b) to be internally consistent (logically and mathemathically)

    There are a lot of reasons why the theory of an independent transcendental and simple I explains the phenomena of consciousness and of subjective experience much better than any materialistic theory: we have discussed them extensively in other threads, and they are pertinent to the adequacy and consistency of the models.

    Another property, if we accept the Popperian view, is falsifiability. Well, I must emphasize again that all the “negative” tests I have suggested are potential ways to falsify my view: in other words, if and when you will produce a machine which freely generates consciousness and CSI as the human brain is supposed to do, you will have falsified my assumption that machines cannot do that, and that a transcendental I is necessary to have that result.

    On the contrary, your assumption that machines can accomplish that becomes really unfalsifiable, as long as you stick to your position that:

    “It is possible that our current method of computation is fundamentally flawed if the goal is a conscious machine that can create CSI. If that is the case, a paradigm shift may be necessary before we even begin to approach such a thing, and for all we know the necessary shift may not occur for generations.”

    That invocation of a vague possibility of a future knowledge, about which we have no idea or clue, and which could realize what our present knowledge cannot do, is exactly the kind of position which becomes unfalsifiable, and therefore, according to Popper, non scientific.

  24. 24
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    thank you for your note. It is late here now, but I will certainly read your piece, and hopefully give some feedback, tomorrow.

  25. 25
    KRiS says:

    gpuccio:

    “You comment makes some sense, but it is just another way of “sticking to a vague and unsupported hope that, sooner or later, you could find some support for your model”.”

    Allow me to restate test (a) more precisely so as to highlight exactly why I think that this is the only valid stance: “Given the set of all possible algorithms usable by non conscious machines, no particular algorithm will be found among them which is capable of generating new CSI.” Stated in this way it should be obvious that the test is necessarily incomplete until all possible algorithms have been tested for CSI generation, or until one has been found which does, in fact, generate new CSI. What this means in practice is that each attempt to generate new CSI using a non conscious machine is not an independent test itself, but is in fact only a single step in the larger test. In the meantime, we are asked to assume that the hypothesis is valid by default while the test is being run.

    In the interest of time and space I will address other points in future posts.

  26. 26
    KRiS says:

    Oh yeah…I forgot to point out that similar logic applies to all of the tests that we have labeled “negative”.

  27. 27
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    I don’t understand: isn’t “the set of all possible algorithms usable by non conscious machines” an infinite set?

    So, affirming that “the test is necessarily incomplete until all possible algorithms have been tested for CSI generation” is the same as saying that the test will always be incomplete (unless we find a positive solution). Should we therefore believe by faith for an infinite time that non conscious machines can generate CSI , while we wait for a test which cannot be completed to be completed?

    Shouldn’t you check your logic? Or just your epistemology?

    By the way, for those interested, some discussion is going on between me and Mark at his blog (link at #22).

  28. 28
    KRiS says:

    gpuccio:

    “isn’t “the set of all possible algorithms usable by non conscious machines” an infinite set?” “So, affirming that “the test is necessarily incomplete until all possible algorithms have been tested for CSI generation” is the same as saying that the test will always be incomplete (unless we find a positive solution)”

    You make my point for me. Basically I’ve only restated your test case in different words, and the problem that you highlighted for my statement applies equally to yours. After all, if you say that “Non conscious machines (like computers) will never be able to generate new CSI,” you must necessarily consider all possible non conscious machines to be able to say “never”. If you limit your considerations to anything less than all possible non conscious machines, then you cannot say “never”, but only “not for those machines being considered”. In that case, I think you would need a very good logical reason for excluding any given non conscious machine from consideration.

    “Should we therefore believe by faith for an infinite time that non conscious machines can generate CSI , while we wait for a test which cannot be completed to be completed?”

    The hypothesis being considered is not that non conscious machines can generate CSI but that they cannot do so. We need not assume that they can just because we cannot prove that they cannot.

  29. 29
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    I think I understand what you are saying better now. But still I cannot agree.

    Let’s try to make some order.

    In #16, answering your question about my affirmation that

    ““We have no reason to assume that the designer of biological information must similarly exhibit CSI.”

    I gave a somewhat more detailed model of why I affirmed that.

    In #17 you, without debating my model in any way, asked for testable predictions. Wel, I gave you a few of them in #18, and we have been debating a little about those.

    I think there are still some misunderstandings, so I will clarify better my position.

    First of all, I am discussing empirical science, and not a mathematical theorem. You should understand the basic difference. In empirical science, and especially in biology, we are looking for “best explanations”, not for absolute demonstrations.

    So, I repeat again: let’s start from the facts:

    Fact 1: Human beings easily generate CSI

    Fact 2: Human beings are conscious

    Fact 3: Machines and computers known to us cannot generate CSI and, notwithstanding the incredible increase of power and complexity in our computers and software, we are in no way near to accomplish that.

    Fact 4: Machines and computers known to us are not conscious.

    Fact 5: Humans include CSI in their structure.

    Fact 6: Machines and computers known to us include CSI in their structures.

    Now, you can interpret those facts according to different explanatory models. Your model, if I am right, is that both consciousness and the capacity to generate CSI are in some way dependent on the existing CSI, on its quality and quantity. If you find the right algorithm, then consciousness will arise, and new CSI will come out of the existing one.

    What can I say about that? I believe that model is both inconsistent and unsupported.

    It is inconsistent because there is no explanation of how some special algorithm, still to be found, should be capable of generating CSI, while all the others known cannot do that. After all, algorithms are base on the same logical principles. If, as I believe, the impossibility to generate new CSI is soundly based on mathematical and statistical reasons (see Dembski), then no mathematical tool, no algorithm, can do that.

    But the main point is that your theory is empirically unsupported: there is no evidence that any existing algorithm can generate consciousness or CSI, so why should we believe that?

    So, no convincing rationale, plus no supporting evidence = no credible empirical theory.

    And is your theory falsifiable? No, because, as you said, you can always appeal to the remote possibility that some unknown algorithm could one day succeed. That’s exactly what makes of your theory not a scientific theory in a Popperian sense.

    But if you accept that your theory could be falsified in a empirical sense, in other words if you accept that your theory must be supported in a reasonable time by results in the field of AI which must show some relationship between existing CSI, consciousness and the ability to generate new CSI, and if you rnounce the appeal to extreme logical unproved possibilities, then your theory becomes a true scientific theory, although not a credible one (for the reasons expounded before).

    Now, let’s go to my model: my model assumes that two of the observed facts (consciousness and the capacity of generating CSI) are necessarily connected, in the sense that consciousness is necessary to generate new CSI.

    Is that model consistent? You bet. It is a very simple causal connection between two events which are always observed together: each time we observe a design process (generation of new CSI) there is a conscious being behind it. You could object that biological information exhibits CSI, but we are not sure if a conscious being is behind that or not. I agree, but that’s exactly the core of the ID – darwinism question, so I think we have to leave that alone for now, and suppose we just don’t know. But any time we can observe the real process of CSI generation, a conscious being is behind it.

    Is my model supported by facts? You bet. If you believe that humans are conscious intelligent beings, you can observe that they can very easily output CSI in almost any condition. And no contrary evidence, of CSI coming into existence by itself, or just by previous non conscious CSI, has ever been observed.

    So, my model is consistent with known facts, logically consistent, explains very well what we daily observe, is a good potential explanation for biological information, and is supporte by known facts.

    Is it falsifiable? You bet. We can certainly agree that the deminstration of new CSI being generated by a non conscious machine would falsify it. So, I am perfectly at ease with Popper.

    And the predictions? I insist that all my negative predictions are very significant empirically, in the real scientific world, where we are looking for best explanations according to the facts we have or we can reasonably gather. In the real world, any new failed attempt to generate consciousness and/or CSI by a machine is a further argument in favor of my model and against yours. But if you want to stick to extreme and unwarranted logical possibilities, that’s your choice.

    In that case, I would just leave you alone, or remind you one last time that anyway some of my predictions are not negative at all. I paste here my argument about that from my post #23 just to show that I am always sticking to the same arguments, and on those arguments I would like to get a response from you.

    From my post #23:

    1) Not all the “tests” I proposed are “negative”. Point c), for instance, is positive and empirical, and can certainly be understood more deeply as our knowledge of those kind of phenomena increses. Point d)
    is positive too, and open to empirical investigation, although our scientific approach to subjective experience is still rudimental. Point f) is empirical too, although probably more difficult to model. Finally, the last point (which should have been g), I realize, but was labeled e) again for a mistake) is again empirical and positive, and your objection that it would not demonstrate the “intelligence without CSI” hypothesis is not wholly correct, because the purpose of the test would be that intelligence, even if operating through existing CSI, can generate “new” CSI, which is exactly what machines cannot do.

    So, while we wait for machines which are conscious, or which can produce genuine new meaning and language and intelligence, the failure of the materialist model is the only empirical clue we have. Any new model is welcome. In the meantime, independent existence of a simple consciousness and design remain the “best explanation”, also in the light of the above positive points, which must certainly be actively pursued in further investigations.

  30. 30
    KRiS says:

    I want to begin by saying that this has been one of the most enjoyable debates I’ve had in awhile. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity.

    Now, I freely admit that there are many points that you brought up throughout this debate that were simply ignored by me, not the least of which is the fact that not all of your tests are “negative”, which I will go ahead and acknowledge now. I ended up ignoring so many points because the time involved with addressing all of them would be immense. Entire books have been written addressing those points, both for and against. I could not hope to address them all in this forum, so I chose instead to focus on one point that I thought could be made particularly clear in the relatively small amount of time that I have for this kind of exchange.

    Having said all of that, I don’t think that I will continue our debate on any of those points, nor will I debate you in the future. “Why?” you ask. Because in the process of this exchange it was clearly demonstrated why negative tests are not, in fact, logically valid tests of a hypothesis. I am quite certain that you fully understand this, whether you admit it or not, because it was you who pointed out so clearly exactly what the logical flaws are. In part I think it was because for a brief moment you forgot that we were analyzing a statement made by you rather than one made by me. The result was that you did not pass it through your “it must be right, so how can I interpret it that way” filter, but actually looked at it critically. The filter was obviously reinstated in your very next post, when you suddenly reject your own stated conclusion as an “extreme and unwarranted logical possibility,” reverting instead to your previous stance as though the point had never been made. This indicates a level of intellectual dishonesty that I simply cannot accept and will not implicitly condone by continuing to pretend that you are taking an honest look at ID and CSI.

    Please feel free to interpret this as “I’m afraid to debate with you on those other points,” if it helps.

  31. 31
    gpuccio says:

    KRiS:

    I am very sorry that you think that I am practicing “intellectual dishonesty”, but you are free to think as you like. It is perfectly true that I had not understood well the context of your point in my post #27 (maybe because I often write in a hurry). I understood it better after your post #28 (as I have explicitly said in my post #29), and in that same post I tried to “make some order”. What is there of intellectually dishonest in that?

    You may believe that I pass everything under a ““it must be right, so how can I interpret it that way” filter”, but luckily you are not my epistemology teacher, nor my analyst. I can only say that I believe very much in a sincere search for truth, that I take very seriously the criticism of others, and that I would never consciously support something which I believe is not true, exatly at the level where I am debating it.

    What I tried to express in my post #29 is simply that I had not understood what you meant because I had not understood that you had shifted to a purely logic discussion, while I was focused on an empirical onr. For me, that is a very important distinction. Again, I am perfectly aware that you acnnot prove an hypothesis logically false by a negative test of the kind we were discussing, but that was never my purpose. I quote from my post #29:

    “I think there are still some misunderstandings, so I will clarify better my position.

    First of all, I am discussing empirical science, and not a mathematical theorem. You should understand the basic difference. In empirical science, and especially in biology, we are looking for “best explanations”, not for absolute demonstrations.”

    Does that make sense? Is that intellectually dishonest? I mean simply that, while to prove something false in mathemathics you would need an infinite set of tests (and that’s why mathematicains try to demonstrate theorems logically, and not empirically), a series of repeated failure in trying to support a theory empirically in empirical sciences has great importance for the credibility of the theory. In other words, empirical theories need empirical support. If they cannot find it, that’s not a good sign, even if one can always hope that sometime, somewhere, that support will be found.

    Why do you object to that concept? I find it simple enough. Again, I am in no way denying your point that “negative tests are not, in fact, logically valid tests of a hypothesis”. I fully understand this, and I admit it. As you correctly point out, I am so convinced of that that I “pointed out so clearly exactly what the logical flaws are”. And that was not because I “forgot that we were analyzing a statement made by you rather than one made by me”. It was just because I believe that true. But I had not realized what you implied about those conclusions, and I have tried to clarify why we were arguing different things from a similar conclusion. Again, I don’t think there is anything intellectually dishonest in that. The key is in your word “logically”. If you have read something of what I have written here at UD in the last months, you should know that I always make clear distinctions of the level of the discussion, strictly separating logical arguments from empirical ones.

    Moreover, I was frank just from the beginning, affirming that some of my tests were positive and other were negative. For some reason, you have stuck to the “logical” (and IMO non relevant) problem with the negative ones, and never discussed the positive ones. I could suspect you of intellectual dishonesty for that, but I don’t, and I accept your explanation that you had not time.

    Finally, I have tried many times to point out that predicitons are not the “basis” of a hypothesis. Explanation of known facts and internal consistency are the true basis of a scientific hypothesis. Good predictions are a “support” for a hypothesis. I can’t understand why you don’t want to recognize that a negative prediction, if repeatedly verified, is an empirical support for the predicting hypothesis, a potential falsification of the same, and an empirical lack of support for the alternative hypothesis, which would require the negative test to become, sometime somewhere, positive.

    My best wishes to you.

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