Intelligent Design

Gobsmackingly Stupid Things Atheists Say, Example 8,264

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Jason Rosenhouse writes:

We certainly do not know a priori that piles of bricks do not form images of imaginary unicorns, and it is not logically impossible that they do.

UPDATE:

I decided I could not resist adding Example 8,265 from the some post:

I do not know how the chemical reactions and electrical firings inside my head lead to mental images, but there is copious evidence that they do and zero evidence that anything non-physical is involved

Wow.  How does Rosenhouse deal with all of the evidence contrary to his position?  Easy peasy.  Fiat.  Just declare that it does not exist.

Turns out the hard problem of consciousness is not so hard after all.  All David Chalmers needed to do was call up Jason Rosenhouse and the conversation would have gone something like this

Dave:  Hey, Jason, I have all of these observations that I cannot fit into monist categories.  The observations are so puzzling that I have coined a term, the “hard problem of consciousness.”

Jason:  Do tell.

David:  Yep.  I have all of this evidence.  How do I deal with it Jason?

Jason:  Easy.  The evidence does not exist.

David: I’m pretty sure it does.

Jason:  Nope.  You are wrong.  It does not exist.

David.  Well, OK then. I’m glad we talked.  That’s a load off my mind.

In all seriousness, this is a persistent problem that materialists don’t seem to be able to understand, far less overcome.  They genuinely seem to believe that evidence that does not persuade them is “non-evidence” instead of “unpersuasive-to-me-evidence.”  See here where I discussed this in depth.  Especially amusing is the smug certitude with which Rosenhouse and his ilk dismiss all evidence contrary to their position as if it does not exist.  It must be nice to live in a bubble of incurious certitude where one’s beliefs are never challenged because anything that could possibly challenge them does not, by fiat, exist.  Nice, but boring.

109 Replies to “Gobsmackingly Stupid Things Atheists Say, Example 8,264

  1. 1

    When your argument requires you to take refuge in whatever is not absolutely logically impossible, it’s best to abandon that argument.

  2. 2
    JDH says:

    Please can somebody who is an atheist answer these honest questions from me?

    1. Doesn’t atheism require materialism. To refuse materialism means there exists at least one entity that does not obey methodological naturalism. That means there exists at least one moral agent that is able to take actions based on transcendent moral ideas. This would seem to me to define that there is at least one god.

    2. Nothing seems more self contradictory to me than to have someone consider whether or not they have free will. If they are considering the question, they are admitting they have it. What’s wrong with this statement?

    3. If materialism is false, and you have to allow for the supernatural, isn’t the creation of the world by God the simplest answer for the apparent design observed in nature?

    4. Doesn’t the belief that Darwinism is a superior answer to the observed design of nature depend upon the believer’s evaluation of abstract ideas and the believer’s choosing of a theory of materialism that negates his ability to choose?

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    JDH:

    2. Nothing seems more self contradictory to me than to have someone consider whether or not they have free will. If they are considering the question, they are admitting they have it. What’s wrong with this statement?

    This is very interesting. A subject (you) is considering an object (in this case a proposition). Certainly this implicates subject-object duality. It also implicates “intentionality,” the idea that our thoughts have an “aboutness.” Subject-object duality and intentionality certainly have implications for free will, but I have never considered whether they are the same thing. Readers, thoughts?

  4. 4
    mike1962 says:

    Same old sophomoric regurgitations.

    This guy needs to stick to his specialty.

    And his toadies are even more ridiculous.

    If they only knew.

  5. 5
    john_a_designer says:

    Barry @ 3,

    I think intentionality defined narrowly as “aboutness,” or thinking of or about something, sometimes may not be same as freewill. For example, when a thought just “pops in your head.” For example, just now I started thinking of Karen Carpenter dressed in green satin sitting by a fireplace singing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Where did that come from? I wasn’t listening to the Carpenters or any music and it’s not close to Christmas, yet for some reason that’s what I began to think about. It definitely was not something I deliberately (or intentionally, using the other definition) chose to think about. It’s weird, but I’m sure it happens to other people. (At least I hope it does.) I guess you might call thoughts like that “unintentional intentions.”

  6. 6
    StephenB says:

    Barry: [T]he physical chemicals in the brain are incapable of producing the mental images in the mind. There is a vast, unbridgeable ontological gulf between physical things and mental things. Therefore, we can rule out, in principle and a priori “chemicals” as a cause of “thoughts.”

    Jason:

    Skeptical readers might want some justification for that “vast, unbridgeable, ontological gulf” remark.

    That’s easy, Jason. A cause cannot give what it does not have to give. Material nature does not have the juice to produce non-material abstractions. If it isn’t in the cause, then it will not be found in the effect.

    .

    We certainly do not know a priori that piles of bricks do not form images of imaginary unicorns, and it is not logically impossible that they do. It is instead an empirical fact that they do not, one we feel confident about precisely because we thoroughly understand their physical and chemical structure.

    What the ????. Jason, this is even more insane than your first comment. If you don’t know, logically, that bricks CANNOT form abstract images, how do you propose to show that they DO NOT form abstract images by considering their physical and chemical structure? How large is your sample size of formed bricks? What form does your sample take? How do you establish causation between the formation of bricks and the emergent abstract image?

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    JDH

    Nothing seems more self contradictory to me than to have someone consider whether or not they have free will. If they are considering the question, they are admitting they have it. What’s wrong with this statement?

    JDH, your statemenet seems reasonable to me. The intellect provides the target (moral truth) and the will shoots the arrow (the decision to follow or not follow). What would be the point of a target if you had no arrow to shoot?

  8. 8
    mw says:

    Another statement by Jason Rosenhouse concerning ID:
    —————————————————
    “What I care about is whether its defenders have a reasonable argument to make. If they do, then any worries about demarcation criteria, religious implications, or political agendas are beside the point. Since they do not, we can just end the discussion right here.” http://scienceblogs.com/evolut.....-problems/
    —————————————————–

    All together now; chant; while bowing the knee to the golden whale-calf of Darwin.

    Design is not design.
    Design is not design.
    Darwin’s common sense told him,
    there’s no intelligence in life’s design.’

    Darwin purposefully designed a theological straw God to keep the Judaeo-Christian God out of his “Origin.”

    Christian disciples of Darwin help keep an idol by feeding it shredded scripture.

    Thus, atheists have little to fear.

    No matter how many ‘stupid’ comments atheists may make; they cannot be more ‘stupid’ than the actions of such fellow Christians.

  9. 9
    jdk says:

    JDH writes,

    Please can somebody who is an atheist answer these honest questions from me?

    1. Doesn’t atheism require materialism

    The answer is no. I would be glad to discuss this further at http://jdkdiscussion.blogspot.com/.

  10. 10
    mahuna says:

    I would generally err on the side of doubt.

    If it is simple to prove that bricks (I’d want a specification for what “brick” means here) do not naturally assemble themselves into “images” (do you mean “statues”?) of “imaginary” unicorns (as opposed to the real ones?), then it must surely be simple to either cite a source for this fact or go through a simple but competent proof the assertion is true.

    You can get DEEPLY into illogic and falsehoods by asserting a commonly held belief as the foundation for your specific argument.

    This can of course be ignored if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and you’re just arguing with a guy in a bar. But then I assume from all of the other attacks on Atheism that you intend a more formal disproof.

  11. 11
    Seversky says:

    JDH @ 2

    Please can somebody who is an atheist answer these honest questions from me?

    I can give you my thoughts but bear in mind other atheists may take a different view.

    1. Doesn’t atheism require materialism. To refuse materialism means there exists at least one entity that does not obey methodological naturalism. That means there exists at least one moral agent that is able to take actions based on transcendent moral ideas. This would seem to me to define that there is at least one god.

    As I understand it, “materialism” is considered an obsolete concept in philosophy, the preferred term now being “physicalism”. Apparently, the reason is that “materialism”, very simply put, referred to a concept of everything being made up of little lumps of hard stuff. “Physicalism” refers to our current understanding of the nature of physical reality as developed by physics. It means understanding that matter and energy are the same “stuff” in different forms, that time and space are elastic in relativity theory and there is a whole lot of weirdness going on at the quantum level.

    What science deals with is what we can observe, using “observe” in its broadest sense, assuming that it’s not all a Matrix-like simulation. We started with what was in front of us and have been working our way outward ever since.

    If there is no deity or some other intelligent agency behind it all then what we think of as material reality is all there is, so in that sense atheism entails “materialism”. If you want to argue that there is a deity behind it then you need to provide good reasons and ideally, evidence, for why we should believe that.

    None of this denies that the origins of the Universe, why there is something rather than nothing, why the Big Bang went “bang” when it did, the source of the “laws” that make an ordered universe possible at all are all profound mysteries. Offering God as an explanation doesn’t help in the scientific sense because, although it suggests a “who”, it still doesn’t tell us anything about “how”, which is what interests science.

    2. Nothing seems more self contradictory to me than to have someone consider whether or not they have free will. If they are considering the question, they are admitting they have it. What’s wrong with this statement?

    There is no doubt that we all experience the feeling that we are exercising free will throughout our lives.

    On the other hand, it would be irrational to deny that we are the products of history. We inherited our genes which shape us physically and perhaps in other ways from our parents. There were familial, social and cultural influences which bore on us from the moment we were born. All this happened long before we were aware of it. To that extent you could say were are determined so perhaps the question should be how much free will do we have?

    The other problem is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will. When Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him thrice before the cock crowed, He didn’t say “There’s a pretty good chance you will…” or “There’s a 95.24% probability that you will…”. He said “You will”. And he did. Peter had no choice in the matter, no free will.

    3. If materialism is false, and you have to allow for the supernatural, isn’t the creation of the world by God the simplest answer for the apparent design observed in nature?

    For me, the “supernatural” is an empty concept. If, for example, ghosts exist in some form in our universe then they are a natural, albeit very elusive, phenomenon. They would have a “nature” which could be studied, at least in principle. Science could observe and try to explain them. The same would be true of a deity that interacted with our universe in some way. Even if these phenomena reside in some domain outside our Universe, it would just mean that the natural world is more than just our observable Universe.

    4. Doesn’t the belief that Darwinism is a superior answer to the observed design of nature depend upon the believer’s evaluation of abstract ideas and the believer’s choosing of a theory of materialism that negates his ability to choose?

    To me, “Darwinism” is used as a pejorative epithet for evolutionary theory in biology or evolutionary thinking in other fields to which someone objects, usually – although not always – on religious grounds.

    The current theory of evolution has moved some way beyond Darwin’s original. It’s considered the best available explanation as far as it goes but it’s still being developed, still a work-in-progress. It’s not some Eternal Truth handed down from on high, inscribed on tablets of stone.

    And, yes, there is still the problem of reconciling our experience of free will with the deterministic nature of the observable Universe or the Christian concept of God.

  12. 12
    Barry Arrington says:

    Seversky, consider this statement from Rosenhouse

    I do not know how the chemical reactions and electrical firings inside my head lead to mental images, but there is copious evidence that they do and zero evidence that anything non-physical is involved

    Agree or disagree that there is zero evidence?

  13. 13
    JDH says:

    Seversky –

    Please bear with me while I try to explain something to you.

    You said

    The other problem is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will.

    Let me try to explain with all humility what I think the problems are with your statement.

    I will of course use my favorite example – the book “Flatland”. In Flatland a 3-d sphere injects himself into the 2-d world of Flatland whose occupants are 2-d polygons and circles. Of course, the sphere is quite aware that in reality he is a sphere occupying a small amount of the 2-d world of Flatland. The Flatlanders themselves however see him differently. They would describe him as a circle who can contract and expand up to a maximum size at will. He can also completely disappear and then reappear in a completely different place. He also has the ability to view what happens in walled off areas without being there.

    There is no way that the sphere could describe what “up” means to a flatlander and no way he could explain “how” he was able to do all that he could do, he would only be able to demonstrate it.

    You as a time bound object which can only live in one time declare that the presence of an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will.

    I agree that to a TimeLander like yourself, such a statement seems perfectly airtight. There is no way that a God can move “up” to see what is on the other side of time’s wall.

    You should know that one of God’s attributes is that He inhabits Eternity. We have no idea what that means and no way of understanding what direction we move in to see the future. He inhabits that world. It is not there is an inherent contradiction between God knowing the future and free will, it is just that he already lives able to observe both places. The fact that you can’t see this does not mean that it is not objectively possible in eternity for God to “tell the future”, it does mean that you as a TimeLander will have to take it by faith.

    I feel sorry for you if this small-mindedness which causes you to believe that the omniscience of God and free will are contradictory concepts. It will keep you from gaining entrance to that great day when our faith will be made sight and we will be brought into the realm of the eternal. “we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

    I feel sorry because if you continue to accept the untruths you have been taught and the corollaries you have deduced, you will miss it.

  14. 14
    reductio says:

    JDH @2 “nothing seems more self contradictory to me…”
    I wish this site had an up-voting mechanism because I would up-vote that point 1000 times. Much (if not all) hangs on whether we truly have free will; without it there is no morality (nor need for any) and nihilism is the ultimate end of a mind that believes that free will is an illusion.

    I have always felt that the concept of a conscious mind trying to “decide” if it has free will or not is the height of insanity. What is determining the next word(s) that I will type? Materialism? Really? To quote St. Paul in Romans: “professing themselves wise, they became fools”.
    I used my free will to select that particular verse…

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, try the Smith two tier controller model as a first approach. Further understand that a mechanism driven and controlled by mechanical necessity and blind chance indeed cannot have rational responsible freedom of action. But then consider that the implied premise of all our arguing above is that such is real. Where, to reject such freedom at once lands us in grand delusion and utter incoherence as a result. So, we have reason to believe that brain and cns facts do not exhaust all the material facts. KF

  16. 16

    @seversky

    In essence what you write is very plainly a systematic rejection of the validity of subjectivity.

    Subjectivity you entertain as a questionmark, what is it? Objectivity you accept without question, as axiomatic. Fact is allowed, opinion maybe.

    We pretty well know what subjectivity is, because we talk in subjective terms in common discourse, and broadly we use the logic of free will with those subjective terms.

    So it means you are saying everybody is wrong to say “I love you” and such, because they use the sceintifically “wrong” logic of free will with those words.

    Words like: “I love you”, “the painting is beautiful”, “I believe in God”, on a fundamental level they all use one and the same logic of subjectivity.

    And obviously you have no “sincerity?” or “honesty?” in dealing with your “responsibility?” on this issue of how you regard subjectivity, because you disregard subjectivity, and only deal with the tools for facts, like accuracy and evidence.

  17. 17
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @11:

    Thank you for taking time to answer the questions in a thoughtful and rather complete way. I’ll leave most of this conversation to others, but just a couple of quick drive-by things that jumped out at me:

    If there is no deity or some other intelligent agency behind it all then what we think of as material reality is all there is, so in that sense atheism entails “materialism”.

    Let me make sure I understand. If by “no deity or some other intelligent agency” you mean nothing other than the physical and the material, then your statement is definitely true. However, it is also tautologically true, by definition: If there is nothing but the material, then everything is material.

    I think there are some atheists, at least in the sense of denying the existence of deity, who nevertheless hold that there is something beyond the physical and the material. Do you feel that this is a rational position an atheist could take? Does it mean they are more properly agnostic, rather than atheist?

    The other problem is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will.

    No. This is definitely not true. See my comments here, where this very issue has been discussed in detail (ironically, not because of the proposition from atheists, but by theistic evolutionists) – let me repeat, I truly hope some readers here will appreciate the irony of this claim being brought up both by atheist materialists and some theistic evolutionists:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....dr-hunter/

    For me, the “supernatural” is an empty concept. If, for example, ghosts exist in some form in our universe then they are a natural, albeit very elusive, phenomenon. They would have a “nature” which could be studied, at least in principle. Science could observe and try to explain them. The same would be true of a deity that interacted with our universe in some way. Even if these phenomena reside in some domain outside our Universe, it would just mean that the natural world is more than just our observable Universe.

    I think this is a reasonable point, and I largely agree.

    As long as we are careful not to equate “non-material” with “supernatural.” Like you, I personally don’t like the latter term and find it rather unhelpful.

  18. 18
    Mung says:

    It actually is logically impossible that matter should form anything at all. That’s why we have the two different terms matter and form. When Rosenhouse speaks of piles of bricks he’s already speaking of matter that is informed. IOW, he’s question-begging. And that, my friends, is illogical.

  19. 19
    rvb8 says:

    I won’t say my atheism is identical to Seversky’s but it is pretty bloody close; well put sir!
    Barry I agree there is zero evidence for anything else being involved. I agree because any other evidence would be, by default, physical evidence, it would leave a physical finger print.
    Here’s my question: How do you detect or determine non-physical evidence, which by defintion is not there?

  20. 20
    mike1962 says:

    If you think molecules banging against each other created the DNA/ribosome replicator, and the first cells, you’re an idiot, and there’s no reason to listen to you. Period.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    rvb8,

    Do you believe as follows, a clip from Alex Rosenberg as he begins Ch 9 of his The Atheist’s Guide to Reality:

    FOR SOLID EVOLUTIONARY REASONS, WE’VE BEEN tricked into looking at life from the inside. Without scientism, we look at life from the inside, from the first-person POV (OMG, you don’t know what a POV is?—a “point of view”). The first person is the subject, the audience, the viewer of subjective experience, the self in the mind.

    Scientism shows that the first-person POV is an illusion. Even after scientism convinces us, we’ll continue to stick with the first person. But at least we’ll know that it’s another illusion of introspection and we’ll stop taking it seriously. We’ll give up all the answers to the persistent questions about free will, the self, the soul, and the meaning of life that the illusion generates.

    The physical facts fix all the facts. The mind is the brain. It has to be physical and it can’t be anything else, since thinking, feeling, and perceiving are physical process—in particular, input/output processes—going on in the brain. We can be sure of a great deal about how the brain works because the physical facts fix all the facts about the brain. The fact that the mind is the brain guarantees that there is no free will. It rules out any purposes or designs organizing our actions or our lives. It excludes the very possibility of enduring persons, selves, or souls that exist after death or for that matter while we live. [W W Norton, 2011]

    If so, you face utter incoherence as there is then no basis for the responsible rational freedom you presume by entering argument at all on the assumption that you hold that you seek to reason with us.

    If not, then you are looking at the first evidence that there is a lot more to reality than the physical-temporal observed cosmos. (Namely, our experience of responsible, rational consciousness. [As a first step consider the Eng Derek Smith 2-tier controller cybernetic loop model here, with brain as i/o interface and info store.])

    From which, much else follows as we are patently contingent beings and so cannot be self-explanatory.

    So, as fair comment, the issue is not your rhetorical “there is no evidence” but instead that you need to re-evaluate the evidence that is there staring you in the face.

    KF

    PS: M62 is also right to point to the existence of functionally specific, complex organisation and/or information beyond 500 – 1,000 bits of complexity, FSCO/I as a strong sign of design in life from its root on up. There is literally a trillion member observation base of FSCO/I, starting with the Internet and a world of technology all around. In no case is there an observed causation of such by blind chance and mechanical necessity. Instead, in every case, its observed origin is by design. Something, that is readily explained by inability of the resources of the observed cosmos to scan any more than an all but vanishing fraction of the config space of possibilities for 1,000 bits, 1.07 * 10^301.

  22. 22
    rvb8 says:

    “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone on cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
    Use, “breathed” however you will, if you need it to mean God, I’m fine with that, of course it doesn’t, but let that pass.
    I have the whole of Rosenberg’s book and am pleased you quoted so honestly. Not here generally, but at other sites quote mining is rife; thank you?Yes! I do accept that description in its entirety, and just to show you how completely at odds we are, the quote gives me amazing satisfaction, and a strong feeling of well being. That is because it seems to convey a level of human equality religion aspires to but never achieves.

  23. 23
    evnfrdrcksn says:

    rvb8

    I’ve always love that line. It’s beautiful. Thank you for quoting that. I agree. The things people miss for the trees. There is nothing in any religion that even comes close to being that concise about our existence.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    rvb8

    I do accept that description in its entirety, and just to show you how completely at odds we are, the quote gives me amazing satisfaction, and a strong feeling of well being.

    The cite in question is a classic of self referential incoherence and self-falsification.

    KF

  25. 25
    john_a_designer says:

    Indeed, it’s like when a skeptic makes the claim “there is no truth”, he is making a universal truth claim about truth… On what basis are limited finite humans in a position to make such a claim? Wouldn’t a better default position be, “I don’t know?”

    This is one of the reasons I think that most internet atheists are either deluded, dishonest or daft (or some combination of the three.)

  26. 26

    @rvb8

    You are obviously drilled into thinking in terms of cause and effect only. Freedom has another set of rules, which is possibility and decision.

    If X can turn out A or B, and the decision turns out B, then the question “what was it that made the decision turn out B in stead of A?”, can only be answered with a decision.

    This procedure then results in an opinion.

    So that is a totally different procedure from the logic of facts. Facts use a logic of cause and effect. A fact is a 1 to 1 corresponding model of something. The fact that 70 percent of the earth is covered by water, is forced by the evidence of it coming from the earth itself. The surface of the earth is the cause, the fact is the effect forced by that cause.

    But obviously when we talk about agency, we are talking about what is free. Agency by definition does the job of deciding. So it is impossible to apply the logic of cause and effect to it, which is the logic that facts require.

    In stead of objectivity, we have subjectivity to deal with agency. We simply express our emotion about the issue what the agency of a decision was, and expression of emotion operates by free will, thus choosing the answer as to what it was.

    So the question “what is it that made the decision turn out B in stead of A?”, is answered by for instance choosing between love and hate, choosing love. Then the opinion is that love made the decision turn out B in stead of A.

    So there is 0 evidence for love and hate in the objective sense of it. There is evidence that decisions have been made. But that does not mean that love and hate are not real. In stead it means that subjectivity is a proper and valid tool to define the reality of agency of decisions. Just as much as objectivity is a proper and valid tool to deal with the reality of the resulting decisions.

  27. 27
    mw says:

    rvb8 # 22:
    ————————————————————
    “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one;”

    And expanded by evnfrdrcksn # 23:

    “I’ve always love that line. It’s beautiful. Thank you for quoting that. I agree. The things people miss for the trees. There is nothing in any religion that even comes close to being that concise about our existence.”
    ————————————————————

    Of course, agnostic Darwin said the first line: “There is Grandeur….” He later regretted making reference to the Judaeo-Christian scripture in a seemingly endorsing manner.

    Ah the ‘beauty’ of Darwin’s imagination. In “Origin,” he said: ‘let there be transitional forms in abundance.’ But darkness dwelt in the land of Origin and he found not one.

    Then Darwin also lamented, ‘why do life forms appear suddenly in the layers of fossils? And darkness dwelt in the land of Origin.

    Finally, Darwin said, ‘let there be light, so by imperceptible steps, natural selection produces recapitulation in embryology, so everybody can see evolution happen.’

    Then dawned Professor Ernst Haeckel, who perverted the course of law. And more darkness was added to the land of Origin. Yet, true scientific light was shed on human embryology; they are nothing else but human.

    A theory that intellectually crushes the human validity of the unborn, in no way is beautiful, it is rather the destroyer of great beauty in potential.

    Common descent has never been observed, whereas, Moses and the emerging house of Israelites observed the miraculous, and as true witnesses, recorded the truth.

    Darwin held a BA from Cambridge, he was to be the Rev Charlie Darwin. Then darkness visible arose; the degrading, ugly theory, that humans are nothing but animals.

  28. 28
    Seversky says:

    Barry Arrington @ 12

    Seversky, consider this statement from Rosenhouse

    I do not know how the chemical reactions and electrical firings inside my head lead to mental images, but there is copious evidence that they do and zero evidence that anything non-physical is involved

    Agree or disagree that there is zero evidence?

    I would agree.

  29. 29
    Seversky says:

    JDH @ 13

    Seversky –

    Please bear with me while I try to explain something to you.

    You said

    The other problem is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will.

    Let me try to explain with all humility what I think the problems are with your statement.

    I will of course use my favorite example – the book “Flatland”. In Flatland a 3-d sphere injects himself into the 2-d world of Flatland whose occupants are 2-d polygons and circles. Of course, the sphere is quite aware that in reality he is a sphere occupying a small amount of the 2-d world of Flatland. The Flatlanders themselves however see him differently. They would describe him as a circle who can contract and expand up to a maximum size at will. He can also completely disappear and then reappear in a completely different place

    I have read similar analogies that try to explain how additional dimensions might appear in our universe and I’m quite willing to entertain the possibility that such exist. I suspect that there I still a great deal we have yet to learn about this universe.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see that this helps your case. An omniscient God knows all that exists to be known, regardless of dimensional properties. If He knows what is, to us, the future then it exists and will come to pass whatever we might decide. How can we then have free will?

    You should know that one of God’s attributes is that He inhabits Eternity.

    That may be. He may exist outside our four-dimensional spacetime continuum. That may also mean that He sees our past, present and future as all one, laid out before Him as we might see the whole landscape of the United States laid out before us, viewed from the International Space Station. Back in the days when the first explorers moved out into the uncharted interior of the continent, they had no idea what was out there, what they were going to see. But God would have. He would have known exactly what lay ahead of them in three-dimensional space, just as He would have known exactly what lay ahead of them in four-dimensional spacetime. God’s existence in Eternity makes no difference to His knowledge of the future of our spacetime and its implications for our free will.

    I feel sorry because if you continue to accept the untruths you have been taught and the corollaries you have deduced, you will miss it

    I may well be wrong about a lot of things. I am just human like you and everyone else. If there is a difference between us it is that you appear to accept the ultimate truth of Christian theology without question. That is more important than any perceived inconsistencies and contradictions. I can’t get around the inconsistencies and contradictions.

  30. 30
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky/rvb8:

    Is information physical or non-physical? How does it arise?

  31. 31
    Seversky says:

    Eric Anderson @ 17

    Let me make sure I understand. If by “no deity or some other intelligent agency” you mean nothing other than the physical and the material, then your statement is definitely true. However, it is also tautologically true, by definition: If there is nothing but the material, then everything is material.

    With the caveat that by “material” we are referring to the current understanding of physical reality in physics, then, yes.

    I think there are some atheists, at least in the sense of denying the existence of deity, who nevertheless hold that there is something beyond the physical and the material. Do you feel that this is a rational position an atheist could take? Does it mean they are more properly agnostic, rather than atheist?

    I think there are some atheists who believe as you say. Personally, I don’t hold “that there is something beyond the physical and the material” because I’m not sure what that might mean but I can’t rule it out for the same reason.

    I think those atheists are still atheist with respect to the existence of God or gods but they are agnostic about what might lie beyond.

    The other problem is that an omniscient God with demonstrated foreknowledge of the future completely undermines the concept of free will.

    No. This is definitely not true. See my comments here, where this very issue has been discussed in detail (ironically, not because of the proposition from atheists, but by theistic evolutionists) – let me repeat, I truly hope some readers here will appreciate the irony of this claim being brought up both by atheist materialists and some theistic evolutionists:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com…..dr-hunter/

    I think it is true on the assumption of an omniscient God who exists outside our spacetime continuum but has full access to all of it from start to finish.

  32. 32

    @seversky

    Again, it is totally obvious your view is geared towards facts only.

    If we purposefully set out to devise a view in which subjectivity is completely disregarded, then we would come close to your view.

    These muslims, christians, and “beauticians”. They cannot evidence any beauty, so then if there is no evidence of beauty, than it is wrong to accept beauty as a reality.

  33. 33
    mw says:

    Hi Seversky, # 29:
    ————————————————–
    “An omniscient God knows all that exists to be known, regardless of dimensional properties. If He knows what is, to us, the future then it exists and will come to pass whatever we might decide. How can we then have free will?”
    ————————————————–

    Do you think you or I have enough free will or not?

    Are we captive to the thoughts and will, of say for example, the Judaeo-Christian God? That is, divine law?

    In Darwinian terms, is our free will not the result of human thought, behaviour, atmospherics and past animals grunts, with a great deal of mutated destructive free will and chance?

    (I include mutated free will in relation to the Judaeo-Christian belief, that ‘we’ were created in the divine will).

    Who therefore, even in some type of collective consenting Darwinian free will, is to be chief amongst us animals that is morally or amorally certain and reliable?

    I believe God knows which way everyone will go. In our own free we have chosen.

  34. 34
    Barry Arrington says:

    Seversky @ 28:

    “I would agree.”

    This statement entails that you believe the hard problem of consciousness is not hard after all. In fact, if must be positively easy.

    So, do tell us your positively easy solution to the formerly hard problem Sev.

  35. 35
    mw says:

    Seversky, # 28, agrees:

    ____________________________________________________________
    “I do not know how the chemical reactions and electrical firings inside my head lead to mental images, but there is copious evidence that they do and zero evidence that anything non-physical is involved.”
    ____________________________________________________________

    Produce any 2D motion picture by none intelligent design, let alone animate it or energise the system in order for it to become alive or active in some 3D manner?

    If we let the tools of materialism do the searching for the non-physical, how do we really know we are not simply using the ‘wrong’ tool to search for the immaterial or spirit?

    Faith, may be such an instrument, and which may lead to hidden dimensions.

    Some using occult magic spells, may also produce or experience phenomena. And it seems, magic mushrooms or mediums, may do similar in order to contact – though forbidden to search it out in Judaeo-Christian terms – the spirit world.

    Jesus said, it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing. That is, matter left to itself.

    Zero evidence of such? There is recorded truthful eye witnessed evidence, ready to die after seeing beyond the physical boundaries of the flesh; the unbelievable.

  36. 36
    JDH says:

    Seversky –

    First a little background —

    It is obviously possible for a mind to create a system of beliefs which has axioms that constrain the possible, so that some simple statements become impossible.

    For example if I choose my mathematical world to exist ONLY of the non-negative integers ( 0,1,2,3….) and use as addition the usual form of addition we are familiar with, it is impossible to believe that M + N is less than M for any M,N that belong to the given world. M + N is less than M becomes a statement which can not possibly be true. Therefore, it would be foolish to believe that somehow, I have found an M and an N which make the statement true.

    Now onto the argument…

    I would much rather believe what is hard to believe than choose to believe what can not possibly be true.

    IMHO the difference between you and me on the issue of free will is that I believe something that is hard to believe, you believe something which is impossible to believe.

    Your axiom is materialism. You accept nothing inside of your worldview that can make a conscious choice to disobey the physical laws. So choice does not exist in your world view.

    Therefore the statement, “I have correctly chosen to believe I have free will” ( which I assert your life as a whole shows you believe to be true) is in your proposed world an impossible statement. Not just hard to believe, impossible. It is hopelessly impossible inside of the constraints of your chosen axioms.

    My axiom is an omniscient God who knows the future. Does this forbid the statement “I have correctly chosen to believe that I have free will”? My belief in an All Powerful God gives me several options which His future knowledge, does not constrain my ability to make a free choice. I admit it is hard to believe these things, but it is not impossible.

    You comment that you can not accept Christianity because of the insistences and contradictions.

    My comment is that I would much rather believe what is hard to believe, then to believe something that is impossible.

    I honestly hope you understand this and it helps you to find God.

  37. 37
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @31:

    Personally, I don’t hold “that there is something beyond the physical and the material” because I’m not sure what that might mean but I can’t rule it out for the same reason.

    Well, that is part of the reason I asked the question I did about information @30. Just trying to see if you are willing to consider that anything could be non-reducible to the purely physical and material. Set aside God for a minute. Is something that you experience every day in your life – information – reducible to the purely physical and material?

    I think those atheists are still atheist with respect to the existence of God or gods but they are agnostic about what might lie beyond.

    You’re probably right. Seems a little strange to proclaim the absence of something if at the same time they don’t have an opinion about what might exist. But anyway.

    I think it is true on the assumption of an omniscient God who exists outside our spacetime continuum but has full access to all of it from start to finish.

    What does God being omniscient or existing outside our continuum have to do with our free will? It simply doesn’t follow that if God knows the future that we don’t have free will. That is a red herring, so I would suggest not trying to use that argument against the existence of God or against your conception of Christianity (or any other religious persuasion).

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    Pardon an analogy. Economic and statistical predictions are a commonplace, and are often accurate based on insight and well warranted claims.

    A second. I often visit a shop here owned by relatives. They have an electronic monitoring system used for overwatch. I have every reason to believe the accuracy of what I see, but that I see and know what is going on does not constrain those in the vids. Though, knowing there is overwatch may constrain behaviour.

    Now, consider how every line of longitude converges to the N pole, so it is due north of a full cycle of hours at any given time.

    Now, consider the possibility of an entanglement of everywhere and every-when in the world that converges to a metaphorical north pole of reality. That pole would be present to everywhere, at every time.

    Further consider, a two-way interface that allows intervention not just awareness.

    Now, let us consider what ethical theists in the Judaeo-Christian tradition understand God to be: the inherently good, just, holy, loving, redemptive Creator-God, maker and sustainer of all worlds, in whom we live and move and have our being, upholding all things by the word of his power, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accordance with our evident nature . . . thus, manifestly evident, conscience attested core principles of moral governance.

    That such a God would be all-knowing would mean that he is aware of every where and all times, plus what might have been but is not.

    Obviously, as at the polar entangled node, he can act into the world at strategically judged times and in ways that would bring to awareness signs of his presence.

    But such does not automatically entail a forcing of the world to any given path, or of individuals to some rigid script not truly open to freedom.

    Recall, he is ALSO aware of what might have been but is not.

    Choice can be real, consequences involving responsibility can be real, without imposing fatalism or determinism. However the power of overwatch will allow general direction as opposed to specific arbitrary control undermining responsible, rational freedom.

    JDH is right, “It simply doesn’t follow that if God knows the future that we don’t have free will.”

    Nor, does it follow from there being a general, lawlike course of events, that miracles are impossible. God’s involvement is an enabling condition and he may have good reason for interventions of diverse degrees that go beyond the mundane. Where also, empirically grounded generalisations are always in principle subject to rare exception for good reason.

    We can rely on the general lawlike course of the world without being forced into some stereotypical dilemma of mechanistic determinism (perhaps modified by stochastic process) vs arbitrary and capricious interventionism.

    It may seem hard to accept but ethical theism is dynamically as well as logically coherent.

    Going further, evolutionary materialist belief that brain-cns facts fix all “mental” facts in a physicalistic cosmos is patently self referentially incoherent, leading inter alia to the hard problem of consciousness. For, mechanical and/or chance interactions in processors, precisely, are blindly mechanical processes as opposed to genuinely rational ones. GIGO obtains, and there is want of freedom to be rational. So even participation in a discussion implying freedom and responsibility to choose, is an indicator that we are not the mechanisms being suggested.

    Instead, and as I have done here at UD for years, I suggest the Smith model, two tier controller cybernetic loop model. The brain-cns serves as an in the loop i/o controller indeed, but it is not the whole story. A supervisory level allows freedom and responsible, rational choice that interfaces with the i/o level, perhaps through quantum level influences.

    So, we can take the neorological facts seriously without becoming locked into blind mechanical determinism or chance or both.

    KF

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    pardon typo, neurological

  40. 40
    kairosfocus says:

    BA:

    this is a persistent problem that materialists don’t seem to be able to understand, far less overcome. They genuinely seem to believe that evidence that does not persuade them is “non-evidence” instead of “unpersuasive-to-me-evidence.”

    The problem, of course is that the latter opens the issue that perhaps the problem is “me” not what is objectively warranted by the evidence.

    Ooooooooooopsie, how dare I point to objective reasoning and warrant, tut tut tut.

    (Esp on matters moral: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-610585 )

    Selective hyperskepticism rides again.

    KF

  41. 41
    Barry Arrington says:

    Barry @ 34:

    So, do tell us your positively easy solution to the formerly hard problem Sev.

    Sev: [crickets]

    That’s the second time this week Sev has made an outrageous claim and then slunk off when challenged. Starting to see a pattern here.

  42. 42
    Barry Arrington says:

    KF at 40. Indeed.

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    MW, that’s right — we are dealing with those willing to find any excuse to dismiss eyewitnesses who so often paid in their blood for speaking the truth; and of the core 500 not one was broken, not in the face of dungeon, fire, sword and worse. Testimony put on record and passed down to us at equally fearsome cost. In choosing between those witnesses and today’s so often supercilious and snidely dismissive skeptics, the contest isn’t even close just on character. And we have not touched the millions transformed through encounter with the living God in the face of the prophesied, crucified, risen, glorified Christ. For those who want to think about it, I suggest here on. KF

  44. 44
    mw says:

    KF, thanks for the link; a good read. The graffiti from 200 AD, of a man with the head of a donkey, crucified and bruised on a tau cross, says enough. Your ref, http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....l#u1_grnds

    I believe this life is the backdrop to spiritual warfare played out in unseen realms. The repercussions are experienced one way or another.

    Satan is not bothered whether we are atheist or not. The perfection of evil wills to destroy, including atheists. His target is to rob Christ.

    More so, the crucifiction; the fulfilment of the Hebrew Scriptures.

  45. 45
    Gordon Cunningham says:

    KF: “MW, that’s right — we are dealing with those willing to find any excuse to dismiss eyewitnesses who so often paid in their blood for speaking the truth; and of the core 500 not one was broken…”

    With respect, but the fallacy of this statement has been pointed out many times. We are not talking about 500 eyewitness accounts. A document, or several, that claims that there were 500 witnesses does not carry anywhere near the same veracity as 500 individually documented witness accounts would. They are both evidence, but one form is far less reliable than the other.

    I am a materialist but I don’t say that there is no evidence for ID, or God, or objective morality, etc. But I do not believe that any of the evidence that has been presented by proponents is very convincing.

  46. 46
    StephenB says:

    Gordon Cunningham

    I am a materialist but I don’t say that there is no evidence for ID, or God, or objective morality, etc. But I do not believe that any of the evidence that has been presented by proponents is very convincing.

    Which of the arguments for God’s existence do you not find convincing?

  47. 47
    Gordon Cunningham says:

    StephenB: “Which of the arguments for God’s existence do you not find convincing?”

    I’ve already admitted that I have never felt compelled to get deep into the God/no god debate. Frankly, I think it is a pointless argument as there is no way to prove that he exists and no way to prove that he doesn’t.

    This being said, I think that KF’s claim about the 500 eye witnesses to the resurrection is not convincing. To the best of my knowledge, there is not 500 individual claims by 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrection. There is a claim by others that there were 500 eyewitnesses. As I said, this is still evidence, but IMHO, not very convincing. There are numerous people alive today who claim to have been abducted by alienate. And their descriptions are remarkably similar. I find their eye witness testimony to be unconvincing as well.

  48. 48
    mw says:

    Hello, Gordon Cunningham, # 45:
    ___________________________________________________________
    “I am a materialist but I don’t say that there is no evidence for ID, or God, or objective morality, etc. But I do not believe that any of the evidence that has been presented by proponents is very convincing.”
    ___________________________________________________________

    Ultimately, it is not my job to convince in such matters.

    Clearly, the miraculous evidence that God presented to Moses, and the developing nation, was enough to convince them to worship every week; an unbroken chain, from Sinai to the present. That is, to remember He created in six days.

    Yes, that does seem a ‘howler’ in this day and age: that is, at first glance under beguiling Darwinism and the Big Bang theories.

    However, the intermittent shows of power by Yahweh, was enough to convince a good number of people; that is, within the limits of faith, either by fear or love – to listen.

    Still, people faded away, again and again, as reliable recorders of the truth stated.

    Then we arrive at Jesus. No human can prove that God is Jesus; God in part, and God in whole, in the flesh. However, faith is a conviction in the unseen, on scriptural evidence. A seemingly almost insignificant means to convay truth of upmost importance.

    As for conviction;

    Letters running through our bones, “Made by God,” what would that do?

    Letters in the sky, “beware, I Am the Lord Almighty,” what would result?

    Eventually, in terms of that belief, due to inherent flaws, we would come up with some excuse to ridicule and disbelieve.

    Jesus knew, even if someone would generate Himself from the dead, some would not believe.

    In terms of that belief, if the word of the Judaeo-Christian God will not do, nothing will. Free choice must be respected, and the consequences therein.

    KF was reporting a single event. Throughout those scriptures, God intervened in a consistent manner to thousands at a time.

    In this day and age, people in droves have witnessed mystical phenomenon, and of differing persuasions.

    As a side issue, in terms of evolutionist Christians; what would be the point of such a theoretical evolutionist God using chance, minus His intelligence, and mutations; then for Him to come along and use for humans, super- intelligent guidance, and with miraculous instant alterations to matter?

    Gordon; what would convince us of such a God?

    It appears, some do not need convincing, having believed they have convinced themselves, as in the case of the (almost) Rev Charlie Darwin, BA in theology; who wrote, the Judaeo-Christian God is “erroneous” and Christianity is not a religion divinley revealed.

    Where did such ‘expertise,’ such conviction come from? Surely a substitute God; belief in natural selection.

    Best of wishes.

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    GC, all you tell me by your continued talking points is that you do not wish to address the trove of documents we do have [and an underlying formalised oral report dating to 5 or so years after the event], the context of an appeal in a controversy 25 years after the event pointing to the still living witnesses, and the broader context of up to a dozen minimal facts that force a serious comparative difficulties challenge. Those who do wish to address that evidence may find it useful to start here on. KF

  50. 50

    GC said:

    there is no way to prove that he exists and no way to prove that he doesn’t.

    Quite an assertion for someone that admits:

    I have never felt compelled to get deep into the God/no god debate.

    Let me guess – you’re probably not all that interested in philosophy or logic, either?

  51. 51
    StephenB says:

    Gordon Cunningham:

    I’ve already admitted that I have never felt compelled to get deep into the God/no god debate.

    First, you say you are not convinced by the arguments for God’s existence, then you admit that you know nothing about those same arguments. How do you suppose that you could be convinced by arguments that you have never heard of?

    Frankly, I think it is a pointless argument as there is no way to prove that he exists and no way to prove that he doesn’t.

    You have already admitted that you have no grounds for thinking what you think. In a way, you are very unusual. Not many people would want to admit that they are ignorant about a subject and would prefer to remain that way—even as they presume to tell everyone else what they think about that subject.

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: And, I should add that the point of mentioning the 500 in the discussion was to say, go to them to settle the points in debate here and now c 55 Ad after first preaching to them c 50 – 52 Ad and sustaining an onward troubled relationship . . . this was a church that tended to significant moral problems in a city with so bad a reputation it was a byword among the pagans . . . that went on to crop up in Clement of Rome’s epistles c 95 AD. If Paul’s core but challenged claims — they cut clean across Greek philosophical views and Non-Christian Jewish skepticism alike — were false to fact, he would have been readily refuted c 50 – 55 AD and we would never have had the belt of churches he founded which were the pivot on which the long term thriving of the Christian faith turned. Nor the NT documents tracing to him and his travelling companion, Luke. Remember, his case was sufficiently credible that he could appeal to the local king when on trial then to Nero’s seat (most likely Burris); not the mark of a conman or deluded ignoramus despite Festus’ outcry that his learning had taken him round the bend — all of this in front of the leading men of Israel who wanted his head. So, GC has strawmannised what I said, then set up a false target of effectively demanding 500 separate written documents (in an ORAL culture!) then suggests or invites that we dismiss the force of what we do have as he can make up something we don’t and impose it as a hyperskeptical demand.

  53. 53
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Notice how far we have drifted from the unanswered challenge that physicalism is unable to give an account of conscious mindedness and associated responsible, rational freedom required to provide a basis for reasoned argument?

    PPPS: On the secondary issue, “proof” of the reality of God, the first issue is what does proof mean in a context like this? I would suggest that sufficient warrant for a responsible reasonable person to acknowledge the reality of God, and in regards to the Judaeo-Christian view, enough for such a view to be reasonable and responsible for an informed person.

    That is, moral certainty.

    And, I am quite confident that:

    1: generic ethical theism easily passes the moral certainty threshold:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_bld_wvu

    2: Christian theism, also:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....l#u1_grnds

  54. 54
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Notice Greenleaf on evidence and warrant as he opens his classic, Evidence:

    Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [–> Greenleaf wrote almost 100 years before Godel], and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction.

    Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration. In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd.

    The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them.

    The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to be proved.

    By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt.

    The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest concern and importance to his own interest. [A Treatise on Evidence, Vol I, 11th edn. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1888) ch 1., sections 1 and 2. Shorter paragraphs added. (NB: Greenleaf was a founder of the modern Harvard Law School and is regarded as a founding father of the modern Anglophone school of thought on evidence, in large part on the strength of this classic work.)]

    This remark is also relevant:

    “[E]vidence includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact is established or disproved, and is further defined as any species of proof legally presented at trial through the medium of witnesses, records, documents, exhibits, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or jury.” People v. Victors, 353 Ill. App. 3d 801, 811-812; 819 N.E.2d 311 (2004).

    Greenleaf in Testimony of the Evangelists:

    Every event which actually transpires has its appropriate relation and place in the vast complication of circumstances, of which the affairs of men consist; it owes its origin to the events which have preceded it, it is intimately connected with all others which occur at the same time and place, and often with those of remote regions, and in its turn gives birth to numberless others which succeed. In all this almost inconceivable contexture, and seeming discord, there is perfect harmony; and while the fact, which really happened, tallies exactly with every other contemporaneous incident, related to it in the remotest degree, it is not possible for the wit of man to invent a story, which, if closely compared with the actual occurrences of the same time and place, may not be shown to be false. [p. 39.]

    a false witness will not willingly detail any circumstances in which his testimony will be open to contradiction, nor multiply them where there is a danger of his being detected by a comparison of them with other accounts, equally circumstantial . . . Therefore, it is, that variety and minuteness of detail are usually regarded as certain test[s] of sincerity, if the story, in the circumstances related, is of a nature capable of easy refutation, if it were false . . . . [False witnesses] are often copious and even profuse in their statements, as far as these may have been previously fabricated, and in relation to the principal matter; but beyond this, all will be reserved and meagre, from fear of detection . . . in the testimony of the true witness there is a visible and striking naturalness of manner, and an unaffected readiness and copiousness in the detail of circumstances, as well in one part of the narrative as another, and evidently without the least regard to the facility or difficulty of verification or detection . . . the increased number of witnesses to circumstances, and the increased number of circumstances themselves, all tend to increase the probability of detection if the witnesses are false . . . Thus the force of circumstantial evidence is found to depend on the number of particulars involved in the narrative; the difficulty of fabricating them all, if false, and the great facility of detection; the nature of the circumstances to be compared, and from which the dates and other facts to are be collected; the intricacy of the comparison; the number of intermediate steps in the process of deduction; and the circuity of the investigation. The more largely the narrative partake[s] of these characteristics, the further it will be found removed from all suspicion of contrivance or design, and the more profoundly the mind will rest in the conviction of its truth. [pp. 39 – 40.]

    KF

    PS: Post “Elevatorgate” the new atheists and the like need to ponder very carefully the extent to which they have fallen into the rhetorically very convenient but self-refuting position of selective hyperskepticism. Grand, self-serving question begging dressed up in an intellectual pose that refuses to assess the reasonable degree of evidence likely to be available or actually available and what a responsible, consistent, prudent person would conclude from it with serious issues on the table.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Connected to the main point, I have always found Reppert’s argument something to take a few moments to digest:

    . . . 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 . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. 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.

    I would suggest that when evolutionary materialist atheism and the like views can cogently answer as to how the responsible, rational freedom of mind required to seriously discuss this and other matters is accounted for on their views, then we can proceed to take their views seriously on other matters.

    Failing such, we are looking at self falsifying self referential incoherence.

    KF

  56. 56
    Seversky says:

    Eric Anderson @ 30

    Seversky/rvb8:

    Is information physical or non-physical? How does it arise?

    As an a/nat/mat v2.0 (physicalist) I would have to say physical but its origin is a mystery.

  57. 57
    Seversky says:

    mw @ 33

    Do you think you or I have enough free will or not?

    Enough for what?

    Are we captive to the thoughts and will, of say for example, the Judaeo-Christian God? That is, divine law?

    Since I don’t believe in a god I have to say no. If your “Judaeo-Christian God” actually exists as described then you don’t have free will.

    In Darwinian terms, is our free will not the result of human thought, behaviour, atmospherics and past animals grunts, with a great deal of mutated destructive free will and chance?

    Such free will as we have must have a naturalistic origin if there is no other source.

    Who therefore, even in some type of collective consenting Darwinian free will, is to be chief amongst us animals that is morally or amorally certain and reliable?

    Certainty and absolute reliability are ideals. We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world. We make the best of it and accept that we might always be wrong.

    I could be wrong about God but I could live with that. In fact, if I found compelling evidence that there is such a being, I would not be upset at all. I would be fascinated and want to know more. Could you say the same? If you were faced with evidence that there is no God, could you live with that or would it be intolerable?

  58. 58
    Seversky says:

    Barry Arrington @ 34

    Seversky @ 28:

    “I would agree.”

    This statement entails that you believe the hard problem of consciousness is not hard after all. In fact, if must be positively easy.

    I don’t see that believing that it has a physical basis entails making the hard problem of consciousness any easier. It’s still a hard nut to crack. I also don’t see how assuming a non-physical component makes it any easier either

    So, do tell us your positively easy solution to the formerly hard problem Sev.

    I wish I had one. I could make a fortune.

  59. 59
    Seversky says:

    mw @ 35

    Jesus said, it is the spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing. That is, matter left to itself.

    What is “spirit”? The same as “soul”? Is it conscious? Is it personality?

    Zero evidence of such? There is recorded truthful eye witnessed evidence, ready to die after seeing beyond the physical boundaries of the flesh; the unbelievable.

    I remember a dream where I entered the office building where I had worked for many years at the beginning of another day. I made my way to an upper floor where my office was, saying “good morning” to my co-workers on the way, some of whom I had known for many years. Just as I was about to settle at my desk, I woke up and was very confused. The reason was that I realized I had never worked in such a building and I had never known any of the people from the dream in real life. Yet in the dream the sense of recognition was absolute. I had no doubt whatsoever it was all true. Yet it wasn’t.

    I’m not saying faith is bad but unverifiable eyewitness accounts may only be evidence of the witnesses imagination and nothing else.

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky:

    unverifiable eyewitness accounts may only be evidence of the witnesses imagination and nothing else.

    You are not dealing with unverifiable eyewitness accounts, and as noted in 54 above, there are effective, longstanding means of verification: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-610647

    The sum of the matter is there are up to a dozen minimal facts that have to be coherently and cogently explained, which leads to just two serious options. A, collective mass hallucinations or “visions” utterly inexplicable on the relevant psychology and circumstances; B, the historic Christian faith stands on a substantially and astonishingly true foundation. (Cf here: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....l#u1_grnds )

    Back on the focal topic, you run perilously close to proposing a Plato’s cave world of general delusion. Any view which would invite the conclusion that our senses and common sense of living in a real world as responsibly and rationally free individuals in community is delusional may be set aside as undermining the very base and frame for rationality.

    Yes, error may be widespread but if we cannot reasonably access the truth of our world, all collapses.

    In this context, evolutionary materialist schemes face a challenge identified by Reppert, and as was already put on the table at 55:

    . . . 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 . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. 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.

    KF

    PS: I have repeatedly drawn attention to the Smith model of a two tier controller cybernetic loop. In this view the upper controller would use the in the loop one as an i/o front end unit. In which context we can face the fundamentally blindly mechanical nature of computing substrates — cf Reppert — and find a means to transcend them. Our challenge is not to climb up from the computing substrate, but to recognise that we ourselves are cybernetic loops where our brains as computing substrates of some form are not enough to explain the responsible rational freedom that is a condition of being able to have a reasoned discussion. In short there is a revealing explanatory gap relative to the first fact of our experience: intelligent, reasoning, responsible consciousness.

  61. 61
    mw says:

    Dreams: Seversky, @ 59: and spirit.
    _____________________________________________________________
    “What is “spirit”? The same as “soul”? Is it conscious? Is it personality?”

    Also:

    “I remember a dream where I entered the office building where I had worked for many years at the beginning of another day. I made my way to an upper floor where my office was, saying “good morning” to my co-workers on the way, some of whom I had known for many years. Just as I was about to settle at my desk, I woke up and was very confused. The reason was that I realized I had never worked in such a building and I had never known any of the people from the dream in real life. Yet in the dream the sense of recognition was absolute. I had no doubt whatsoever it was all true. Yet it wasn’t.”

    And @ 57:

    “If you were faced with evidence that there is no God, could you live with that or would it be intolerable?”
    ________________________________________________________________

    In my undertraining, the spirit is the higher part of the soul in humans. Animals have a soul, but no spirit, in the context that God breathed a particle of himself into the first humans. Our divine spirit is no longer active as such. The whole point of salvation is that we will be eventually like Christ, in our case, re divinized.

    Still, as God does not evolve in essence, that particle of God in us, is immortal. Meaning, our true ancestor is God.

    As an aside, the immortal spirit in us needed no evolving, say from one spirit into another spirit: why then should God wait billions of year to evolve a body to suit the immortal and perfect spirit?

    Jesus said he was spirit, in that he came from heaven. He said he is God, by equating himself to “I am.” The Jew knew full well what that meant. Hence, attempts at stoning and to through him over a cliff. Finally, renting their clothes at his trial when they heard he would not deny whom he said he is.

    Thank you Seversky, for sharing a dream.

    Jung considered dreams the royal road to the unconscious. Having myself worked with deaf patients having a mental illness; dream or art interpretation was part of therapy. I have kept a dream diary for over 40 years.

    From my own experiences, I would say, even saints can be a part of your dreams in the disguise of other humans. Guidance, that is, in accordance with free will, and the state of the psyche, plays a part in dreams.

    Indeed, God, warned Joseph in a dream to save God/Jesus from being killed.

    However, a thought from your dream comes to my mind: did you really and truly know those whom you worked with; their soul, their spirit, and the reasons for their belief? Was the dream actually pointing out a truth to you?

    Finally, could I live without believing in God? Well, God, by giving us free will, must also give us space and strength to live without God, and in accordance to our own free will. Some may call this the states of heaven and hell. Yes, we could survive—just.

    Therefore, my question to you Serversky, is this. If people are happy to live for all eternity in such a manner, so be it. However, In Judaeo-Christian terms, such must be prepared to live with a mix of people each doing their own will, and in all destructive perversion, and that includes Satan.

    In heaven, there is only one will—God’s.

    However, I agree; as you say: “We are imperfect beings in an imperfect world.” Still, does not such “imperfection” lead to greater evolutionary fitness? Or, is “imperfection” the result of the Fall, as such scripture claims.

  62. 62
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @56:

    As an a/nat/mat v2.0 (physicalist) I would have to say [information is] physical but its origin is a mystery.

    Excellent. So given that you think information is physical, we should be able to apply some of our standard investigative tools to examining and measuring information.

    As you no doubt are aware, there are 7 units of measure that form the basis of all physical measurements. Scientists the world over recognize that these 7 basic units (together with their derivations), can measure and describe anything physical.

    The units measure the following quantities: length, mass, time, electric current, temperature, amount of substance (mole), and luminous intensity.

    If information is physical, please tell us which of these 7 measures we should use to describe and quantify information.

  63. 63
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric Anderson: “If information is physical, please tell us which of these 7 measures we should use to describe and quantify information.”

    All information is embodied in the physical arrangement of matter. The measures necessary to describe and quantify the information depend on the type of matter and how it is arranged.

    For instance, if the information is embodied by changing the voltage on a pin in an RS-232 port, you’ll need to measure the voltage at different times. If it’s embodied by turning a laser beam on and off, you’ll need to measure the amplitude of the beam at various times.

    In something like a marble statue, the information is embodied in the types of atoms in the marble and their physical arrangement. You can make a perfect copy of a statue by measuring the location and type of every atom in the statue and putting an identical atom in the same position in the copy.

    The information in a heart is embodied in the type and location of its atoms the same way and can be copied in the same way. Ditto for a kidney, liver, eye or any other organ.

    You can compress some information. DNA makes an organ by providing a recipe that can be followed to grow one. It says things like “You brain cells, move in that direction for thirty days and then connect to the nearest cell.” This takes a lot less DNA than giving millions of cells an individual location to move to and a specific cell to connect to.

    If you doubt that all information is embodied in the arrangement of matter, please give an example of any information which exists without matter.

  64. 64
    bornagain77 says:

    In quantum mechanics, information is its own distinct entity that is shown to be independent of matter and energy.

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.
    http://www.freerepublic.com/fo.....1769/posts

    In fact, in quantum mechanics, as opposed to classical mechanics, its is information, not matter and energy that is primarily conserved.

    Black holes don’t erase information, scientists say – April 2, 2015
    Excerpt: The “information loss paradox” in black holes—a problem that has plagued physics for nearly 40 years—may not exist.,,,
    The research marks a significant step toward solving the “information loss paradox,” a problem that has plagued physics for almost 40 years, since Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes could radiate energy and evaporate over time. This posed a huge problem for the field of physics because it meant that information inside a black hole could be permanently lost when the black hole disappeared—a violation of quantum mechanics, which states that information must be conserved.
    http://phys.org/news/2015-04-b.....sts.html+/

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....tally.html

    Quantum no-deleting theorem
    Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q.....onsequence

    As well, ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, quantum entanglement, which cannot be reduced to any material explanation, can be used as a ‘quantum information channel’ to performs feats that are impossible in classical mechanics

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Quantum entanglement is a physical resource, like energy, associated with the peculiar nonclassical correlations that are possible between separated quantum systems. Entanglement can be measured, transformed, and purified. A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems. The general study of the information-processing capabilities of quantum systems is the subject of quantum information theory.
    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-entangle/

    Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory – 29 October 2012
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,”
    http://www.quantumlah.org/high.....uences.php

  65. 65
    MatSpirit says:

    And how do you measure the newly transferred information? By measuring the state of the “receive” atom. If the state doesn’t change, the information transfer failed.

    There’s no such thing as an “Infoscope” that detects information directly. You measure the physical state of the atom to see what information it now contains.

  66. 66
    Mung says:

    All information is embodied in the physical arrangement of matter. The measures necessary to describe and quantify the information depend on the type of matter and how it is arranged.

    I think that was his point. The medium is not the message.

    There are many individual apples, all physically embodied. Apples are physical objects. But how would you measure “apple” or “appleness,” something shared by all apples that is not itself any particular physical apple?

    If you cannot quantify it, then it is not physical.

  67. 67
    bornagain77 says:

    Since information tells matter exactly what state to be in, in quantum teleportation, then information is real and is more primary to reality than matter and energy are.

    “The most fundamental definition of reality is not matter or energy, but information–and it is the processing of information that lies at the root of all physical, biological, economic, and social phenomena.”
    Vlatko Vedral – Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford, and CQT (Centre for Quantum Technologies) at the National University of Singapore, and a Fellow of Wolfson College – a recognized leader in the field of quantum mechanics.

    The important point to realize is that information is fundamentally different than matter and energy are. Thus, contrary to what Darwinists may claim, Information, by its very nature, can not possibly be ’emergent’ from a material basis.

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

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

  68. 68
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit:

    Mung has already answered, but I’ll add a bit.

    Information can be represented by physical media. That is of course true. We can represent information with stones, sticks, letters, toothpicks, whatever. And that physical medium allows us to convey information from a sender to receiver. And we can measure that physical medium using a combination of the 7 universally-recognized units of measure.

    And that is all irrelevant to the question at hand.

    It is a well established principle in information theory that the information is separate from the medium. They are not one and the same. That is precisely why we can transmit it, why we can translate it, why it can be represented by many different kinds of media. The information is not the same as the physical medium used to represent it.

    So the question remains, how do you measure information, if it is physical, as claimed? What are the physical properties of information and which of the 7 universally-recognized units of measure can be used to measure it?

  69. 69
    MatSpirit says:

    Mung @ 66: “But how would you measure “apple” or “appleness,” something shared by all apples that is not itself any particular physical apple?”

    You decide what characteristics all apples have (shape, taste, colors, DNA, what kind of tree it grows on, etc, and see if the candidate apple shares them.

  70. 70
    MatSpirit says:

    BornAgain77 @ 67: “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity.”

    This is a prime example of why ID doesn’t get any respect. Meyer is easily one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in ID, and writing in one of the most heavily promoted ID books in the last ten years and yet he either doesn’t know how a floppy disk works or … I can’t think of any good alternative here.

    A floppy disk is covered on both sides with a film of magnetic material. The atoms in the film act as microscopic magnets, each with a north and south pole. On a blank disk, the magnetic poles of the atoms point in random directions and their fields cancel each other out.

    When you write to a floppy disk, atoms are not added or subtracted from the film, so the mass remains the same. Data is stored by rotating all of the atoms in a small area so they point in the same direction. Now the magnetic fields of the atoms reinforce each other and that spot has either a north or south pole. These magnetic poles are used to encode the data on the disk.

    Or, in other words, “information is embodied in the physical arrangement of matter” as I said in my first message.

  71. 71
    bornagain77 says:

    I guess Weiner, Penrose and Ellis are idiots in your book too?

    “The mechanical brain does not secrete thought “as the liver does bile,” as the earlier materialists claimed, nor does it put it out in the form of energy, as the muscle puts out its activity. Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day. “
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician – (Cybernetics, 2nd edition, p.132)

    “Those devices (computers) can yield only approximations to a structure (of information) that has a deep and “computer independent” existence of its own.” –
    Roger Penrose – The Emperor’s New Mind – Pg 147

    Recognising Top-Down Causation – George Ellis
    Excerpt: page 5: A:
    Causal Efficacy of Non Physical entities:
    Both the program and the data are non-physical entities, indeed so is all software. A program is not a physical thing you can point to, but by Definition 2 it certainly exists. You can point to a CD or flashdrive where it is stored, but that is not the thing in itself: it is a medium in which it is stored.
    The program itself is an abstract entity, shaped by abstract logic. Is the software “nothing but” its realisation through a specific set of stored electronic states in the computer memory banks? No it is not because it is the precise pattern in those states that matters: a higher level relation that is not apparent at the scale of the electrons themselves. It’s a relational thing (and if you get the relations between the symbols wrong, so you have a syntax error, it will all come to a grinding halt). This abstract nature of software is realised in the concept of virtual machines, which occur at every level in the computer hierarchy except the bottom one [17]. But this tower of virtual machines causes physical effects in the real world, for example when a computer controls a robot in an assembly line to create physical artefacts.
    Excerpt page 7: The assumption that causation is bottom up only is wrong in biology, in computers, and even in many cases in physics, for example state vector preparation, where top-down constraints allow non-unitary behaviour at the lower levels. It may well play a key role in the quantum measurement problem (the dual of state vector preparation) [5]. One can bear in mind here that wherever equivalence classes of entities play a key role, such as in Crutchfield’s computational mechanics [29], this is an indication that top-down causation is at play.
    http://fqxi.org/data/essay-con.....s_2012.pdf

    also of note:

    It should be noted that Rolf Landauer himself maintained that the information in a computer was merely ‘physical’. i.e. He held that information in a computer was merely an ‘emergent’ property of a material basis, and thus he held that the information programmed into a computer was not really it’s own independent entity. Landauer held this ‘materialistic’ position in spite of objections from people like Penrose and Weiner who held that information is indeed real and has its own independent existence separate from matter-energy. Landauer held this ‘materialistic’ position since he thought that ‘it ALWAYS took energy to erase information from a computer and therefore the information in the computer must be ‘merely physical’ (merely emergent). Yet the validity of that fairly narrowly focused objection from Landauer, to the reality of ‘transcendent ‘information’ encoded within the computer, has now been overturned, because information is now known to erasable from a computer without consuming energy.

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy.
    Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134300.htm

    Scientists show how to erase information without using energy – January 2011
    Excerpt: Until now, scientists have thought that the process of erasing information requires energy. But a new study shows that, theoretically, information can be erased without using any energy at all. Instead, the cost of erasure can be paid in terms of another conserved quantity, such as spin angular momentum.,,, “Landauer said that information is physical because it takes energy to erase it. We are saying that the reason it (information) is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....nergy.html

    New Scientist astounds: Information is physical – May 13, 2016
    Excerpt: Recently came the most startling demonstration yet: a tiny machine powered purely by information, which chilled metal through the power of its knowledge. This seemingly magical device could put us on the road to new, more efficient nanoscale machines, a better understanding of the workings of life, and a more complete picture of perhaps our most fundamental theory of the physical world.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-physical/

  72. 72
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric in 68: Information is separate from the medium, but you have to have some kind of medium or you have no information. What is the information content of empty space? Zero. If you want to add information to empty space, you have to add some material to it, whether atoms, radio waves, photons of light or what have you. No material = nothing to measure = no information.

    There are also times when you can’t substitute mediums, either. Think of the statue of Venus de Milo, the one in the Louvre. If you wanted to duplicate it, you could do a 3-D scan and convert the shape of the statue into a string of numbers which could be fed into a 3-D carving machine which would then carve a block of marble into a second statue.

    Those numbers could be encoded into any medium that the scanner and carver could both handle. (They could also be stored on a floppy disk whose mass would not change.)

    But would the copy be identical to the original? No, you’ve just measured the statue’s outside shape. You didn’t measure any of the internal structure of the statue. Your 3-D carver could carve a block of lead into the same shape as the original, but the insides would be totally different from the original. To make a perfect copy, you’d have to observe the type and placement of every atom in the statue and place a duplicate atom in the same position in the copy.

    Now go back to 1800. The Venus de Milo has not been discovered yet. It’s hidden inside a buried niche within the ancient ruins of Milos. No living person has ever seen it, there are no sketches or paintings of it, let alone 3-D scans. The people who buried it are all long dead. All we have is the original. ALL information about the statue is imbedded in the atoms of the statue – the types of atoms and their physical properties, especially their placement. The information is intrinsic to the statue, embodied in the medium of those atoms, their placement and any other physical properties.

    In this case, you cannot change the medium without also changing the information. If you substitute an oxygen atom for a silicon atom, the statue will be different from the original.

    This is important because all of the molecular machines in our cells embody information in their atoms type and location. If you change the type of an atom or move it to a different location, the molecular machine will be different from the original, the intrinsic information it contains will be different from the original and it may work differently or not at all.

    Our cells also contain information in their DNA which will cause our cell to manufacture a new copy of a molecular machine. This non-intrinsic data can have its format changed without affecting the information it contains. For instance, Craig Venter read lengths of DNA and converted the information in it to digital signals which could be stored on a floppy disk (without changing the disk’s mass) then transmitted as photons of light to a DNA factory which then manufactured vials containing large quantities of copies of the DNA and bacteria with copies of the DNA embedded in them aND physically shopped them to Craig.

    Venter then removed the original DNA from his test bacteria and physically replaced it with the newly manufactured DNA. That new DNA then directed the manufacture of molecular machinery that was identical to the ones manufactured originally. The intrinsic information in the new machinery was identical to that in the originals, but if one single atom was a different type from the original or placed in a different position, the new machine would have been different and the information intrinsic to it would also be different.

    I hope this clears up some of the confusion about information that permeates the religio/ID world.

  73. 73
    Mung says:

    MatSpirit: You decide what characteristics all apples have (shape, taste, colors, DNA, what kind of tree it grows on, etc, and see if the candidate apple shares them.

    How do you decide which characteristics all apples ought to share? Do you test every single potential apple? How do you derive ought from is?

    How do you decide which characters define appleness? They grow on trees? They are green or red? They taste good?

  74. 74
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @70:

    When you write to a floppy disk, atoms are not added or subtracted from the film, so the mass remains the same.

    Part of Meyer’s point. Glad you agree.

  75. 75
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @72:

    Information is separate from the medium . . .

    Correct.

    . . . but you have to have some kind of medium or you have no information.

    What you presumably mean is that the information has not yet been encoded in the medium.

    Indeed, in the very act of preparing your comment, the information you were going to write existed prior to the time you typed on the keys. Or are you telling us you were surprised by what you wrote? 🙂 Something meaningful became encoded and then at that point you realized you had information? Nope. That is precisely the opposite of how it works.

    You are getting confused because your are conflating the existence of information with its communication. These are very different things.

    I hope this clears up some of the confusion about information that permeates the religio/ID world.

    No. But it does demonstrate your confusion.

    Let’s get back to the central question that you are very carefully, very studiously avoiding answering:

    What physical properties does information have? Which of the 7 international units of measure do you think we should use to measure it?

    —–

    Incidentally, your examples of discovery bring up an interesting issue, but the correct conclusion is precisely the opposite of what you are claiming.

    We, as intelligent beings, can clearly produce information as a result of our intellectual activity and using our tools of discovery and research. That is what happens in the investigative process. We can then encode that information in an agreed-upon encoding system. And once encoded, we can use the encoded medium to transmit and communicate the information.

    But the information is always separable from the medium.

  76. 76
    MatSpirit says:

    Mung, have you ever in your life made a serious post that added to the conversation?

  77. 77
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric Anderson

    MatSpirit @70:

    When you write to a floppy disk, atoms are not added or subtracted from the film, so the mass remains the same.

    Part of Meyer’s point. Glad you agree.

    My statement in context. Please respond to the last line:

    “When you write to a floppy disk, atoms are not added or subtracted from the film, so the mass remains the same. Data is stored by rotating all of the atoms in a small area so they point in the same direction. Now the magnetic fields of the atoms reinforce each other and that spot has either a north or south pole. These magnetic poles are used to encode the data on the disk.

    Or, in other words, “information is embodied in the physical arrangement of matter” as I said in my first message.”

  78. 78
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric: “But the information is always separable from the medium.”

    Not in the case of intrinsic information. See my example of the Venus de Milo before it was discovered.

    If you copy information from the newly discovered statue, you will transmit or store it by re-arranging a medium.

  79. 79
    MatSpirit says:

    Matspirit @63:

    “If you doubt that all information is embodied in the arrangement of matter, please give an example of any information which exists without matter.”

    Still waiting.

  80. 80
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit:

    With all due respect, you need to dig down another level and think more deeply about this.

    Yes, information can be encoded in physical media. Everyone knows this. We encode information in order to store it, transmit it, communicate it. Everyone knows this too. But the information does not start with the physical medium, it does not necessarily end with it, and it is always separable from the physical medium.

    Regarding your example of Venus de Milo, was there a sculptor who had information he wanted to represent in a physical medium? Of course. Once represented in that physical medium could someone else, using their own faculties, their own intelligence, and their own tools of investigation, receive some information that was communicated through that physical medium? Of course.

    But the medium is not the information itself. It is a storage or transmittal device. The information did not start with the block of marble. It began with an intelligent being, the sculptor, who then, already having the information, chose to embody it in a medium. Surely we are not suggesting that the sculptor was surprised when his random tappings with the hammer and chisel resulted in this wonderful sculpture? Of course not. The plan, the idea, the formative thought, the information he wanted to convey, was already in existence before the marble had experienced the first blow from the chisel.

    If you doubt that all information is embodied in the arrangement of matter, please give an example of any information which exists without matter.

    Virtually all substantive information can be divorced from the medium in which it is embodied. Information by its nature is non-physical, and every example you have given focuses not on the information but on the storage or transmission of information. It doesn’t matter how physical the storage or transmittal device is. For purposes of the present issue at hand, we can assume that the storage and transmittal devices are physical objects — objects that can be measured using the fundamental units of measure I referred to.

    Again, you keep focusing on storage and transmission and communication. But you keep avoiding the central issue:

    If information is physical, as claimed, which of the physical measures can we use to measure it? Please answer the question.

    —–

    Materialists may want everything in the universe, including love and longing and thoughts and free will and, as we are discussing here, information, to be all reducible to the physical and the material. They may desire that everything be fully explainable in terms of particles and energy.

    But that does not make it so.

  81. 81
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric, from here on this conversation is going to be difficult for two reasons.

    The first reason is that ID has such a terrible time getting a handle on what information really is. This is not just your personal problem. The belief that information is immaterial is nearly universally held by IDists and it goes right up to the top.

    For instance, William Dembski, the self-styled “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”, has such a poor grasp of the subject that he can’t write a coherent book on it. Nothing he’s written about information has made any impression at all on the outside world except that the co-author of the “no free lunch” theory, which DembskI misunderstood, wrote that Dembski’s book on the subject was “written in jello”. That’s the very last thing a mathematician wants to hear about a book on a mathematical subject! And he’s the smartest guy in the ID room.

    His inability to write anything revolutionary about information has hurt him, too. If he’d actually written something of Newtonian (or Shannon) quality, he could have written nasty memos to the entire Baylor faculty, published the private names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of the Baylor Board of Regents and still kept his job. You don’t fire Newton! But in fact, he’s been fired by Baylor (a Baptist affiliated university), a fundamentalist seminary and the Discovery Institute. I can see where the seminary and maybe the DI might have fired Newton, but not Baylor! And again, this is your best man.

    Additionally, it seems to be an article of ID faith that information is not material. The way it’s constantly brought up and defended, and the way all evidence to the contrary is resisted, it seems to be a hugely emotional subject to IDists and we know how feeble facts and persuasion are in the face of a strongly held emotional belief.

    Add to those problems the bizare belief that the human intellect is not the product of the human brain and I rate the chances of changing any IDist’s mind about information being immaterial at very close to nill. But I like a challenge so I’ll keep trying in the next message.

  82. 82
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric @ 80: “We encode information in order to store it, transmit it, communicate it. Everyone knows this too. But the information does not start with the physical medium, it does not necessarily end with it, and it is always separable from the physical medium.”

    But what IS the information that you store or transmit in a physical medium and HOW do you “encode” it? The information is the PATTERN you impose on the medium. You store it by changing the medium so it encodes the pattern. If you transfer the information to another medium, you do it by changing the second medium so it incorporates the same (or an equivalent) pattern.

    I’ve asked a couple of times for anybody to provide an example of information that is not associated with a medium. If anybody can do that, (and not just claim that information is immaterial) it will instantly refute my claim.

    While you’re looking, examine a source of real, undisputed information. I’d suggest a floppy disk, but Steven Meyer might not be able to follow along, so I’ll suggest a very simple e-ink screen such as is found on Kindles and other e-books.

    Each dot on the screen is a tiny sphere that is white on one side and black on the other. Each sphere can be individually rotated so either the black side is up and you see a black dot or the white side is up and you see a white dot.

    If you turn all the spheres so their white sides are up, you’ll see a white screen. If you turn selected spheres around so their black sides are up, you can form black patterns on the screen.

    Suppose you turn certain dots around so that there’s a single capital letter D in the middle of the screen. Wow! Your screen now contains information! It has a bunch of black dots in the middle of the screen. The dots even happen to form an English capital D in this case, but they could be other patterns too. This is undoubtedly Information and it is also undoubtedly material. The black dots are material. You can see them! You don’t even need instruments.

    Now how did we put that information there? We manipulated the physical medium. The material medium. We rotated some of the physical, material spheres to make them produce black dots.

    But where exactly is the information? Is it in the black dots? Not exactly. Look at the black dot that forms the upper left most corner of the D. Is the information in that black dot? Not quite. If you put the letter B on the screen, the same dot would be black.

    Instead, the information is in the PATTERN of ALL the dots. Those black dots, in that pattern and no other pattern of black dots, will make that particular figure in the center of the white screen when they are physically manipulated to show their dark sides.

    How do you change that information? By changing the physical pattern of the dots and such a change is material. How do you store it? By changing the dots on a second screen so they have the same pattern. Or you can use a lot of external knowl edge incorporated in external electronics and mechanics to read the states of the dots and write their coordinates to a disk file. You can then use more information incorporated in to hardware and software to read the coordinates off the disk and turn the specified balls on a second screen black, thus duplicating the pattern that is the information.

    What if you turn all of the balls white? You now have a blank screen. There is no D or H there and you have no way of telling, from looking at the screan, what letters used to be there. Unless you have a copy of that information somewhere else, it’s lost forever.

    (Physicists say that information cannot be destroyed, and have done experiments to prove it. However we live in the macro world. Theoretically, you could explode a hand grenade and then merely reverse the trajectory of every one of the gazillion atoms that fly out of it and the hand grenade would “unerase” itself. This turns out to be impractical and we lose a lot of information on the grenades original state.)

    If you’re literate in English you will have a huge amount of additional information encoded in your brain (in the firing potentials of synapses, apparently, and probably in other ways) that enables you to recognize the patterns as English upper case “D” and “H”. This lets the patterns index into your knowledge of English (stored as patterns of synapse potentials) and activate / interact with that immense store of information.

    Gotta stop now and continue later.

    Eric repeated: “But the information does not start with the physical medium, it does not necessarily end with it, and it is always separable from the physical medium.”

    I think information is totally dependant on a physical medium, whether an e-ink screen, the synapses in a brain, magnetic fields on a disk, pulsating electromagnetic waves or, ultimately and originally the types and positions of every physical entity in the universe.

    If you take every atom of in the universe, you’ll have a bunch of atoms. But the atoms in our universe, in all their types, are actually located such that they are galaxies, stars, planets, various pretty things flying through space and, at least here on earth, living creatures, some of which have brains of such complexity and with such information encoded in their synapses that they can read and write messages like this.

    The types and locations of every particle and field in the universe are information.

  83. 83
    Eric Anderson says:

    The types and locations of every particle and field in the universe are information.

    What information do you imagine is in something like, say, the particles making up the rings of Saturn?

    And, if there is information in those particles, is it any different from the digitally-coded sequence information found in something like DNA?

  84. 84
    MatSpirit says:

    Sorry for the delay. As you can probably imagine, PaV’s discovery that some genes are lost and that evolution has therefore lost the war has knocked us all for a loop. My sides are still aching, in fact.

    However, just in the remote chance that PaV might be wrong, (some are pointing out that we gain genes too, for instance, and that gene loss is natural [see “Consider the opossum: the evidence for common descent” by vjtorley]) I’ll continue explaining information. I just hope I and my fellow mammals can survive a little longer without our genes for making egg yolks.

    ——–

    The particles would have lots of intrinsic information – what types of atom they are plus their positions, for instance. A lot of the particles are frozen water. One third of the atoms of that water would contain the information that they are oxygen atoms. The other two thirds would contain the information that they are hydrogen atoms. In addition, each oxygen-hydrogen-hydrogen triplet would have the information that the hydrogen atoms are exchanging electrons with the oxygen atom and that the triplet are now a single molecule of H2O, which has very different properties than oxygen or hydrogen.

    The particles would also contain information on their location. They are orbiting Saturn in rings, not orbiting the sun as a cloud of gas or a comet.

    DNA also contains intrinsic information – which atoms compose it and their locations, for instance. But the pattern of the base pairs in DNA has a different kind of information. It contains extrinsic information that represents some other information, in this case the pattern of amino acids in a protein.

    Intrinsic information refers to the medium itself and can be “read” directly. You can measure the location of a hydrogen atom and you know where it is – orbiting Saturn or imbedded in a comet, for instance.

    You can’t do that with extrinsic information. You can measure the base pairs in DNA and tell, for instance that three of them have the pattern uracil, cytosine and adenine or UCA. However, you can’t tell that this pattern refers to an amino acid or which amino acid it refers to without more information.

    That extra information is carried in the cell’s transfer RNA or tRNA. One type of tRNA molecule has an end that matches the UCA pattern perfectly and it carries a serine amino acid on the other. Theach ribosome tacks that serine onto the end of the protein it’s building and that’s when you discover that the UCA pattern in DNA specifies the amino acid serine.

    (Actually, there’s a lot of monkeying around with copying the DNA to RNA and then editing the RNA before finally getting to serine, but I left that out for simplicity.)

    Most likely, the first self-reproducing thing contained only intrinsic information. Atoms joined into a molecule which was able to reproduce itself directly. The extrinsic information system of reproduction evolved later, but unfortunately we have no fossils (so far) to tell us how that happened

  85. 85
    Eric Anderson says:

    Thanks, MatSpirit, for your detailed response. We are getting a little closer to the heart of the matter, so let me drill down one more level deeper in our analysis.

    The particles would have lots of intrinsic information – what types of atom they are plus their positions, for instance . . .

    What you mean to say is that the particles “have lots of physical characteristics”. That is certainly true. And if a physical object had different physical characteristics then it would be a different physical object. Which is to say that each physical object (a) exists, and (b) has certain physical characteristics. Meaning: it is what it is. There is nothing more profound or substantive than that basic observation: physical objects exist and have certain physical characteristics.

    Now we could, through an unfortunate abuse of the English language, refer to each physical characteristic of an object as “information.” But notwithstanding the fact that some people have done just that, such a semantic play does not add any meaning or substance to the discussion.

    Furthermore, if we step back and look at the kinds of characteristics true information has, we realize that the physical characteristics of a physical object don’t quite seem to fit. For example, some of the essentially universal characteristics of information are that it can be represented or encoded, it can be stored, it can be transmitted, and it can be translated. I can take any piece of information (in the normal sense of that word) and I can encode it in a language or other symbolic system, I can then translate it into another language (for example, into Spanish), I can also store it by using a symbolic system, and I can freely transmit it to a receiver.

    So when we look at a physical object, such as your atoms, we might do well to promptly ask, “How can we translate an oxygen atom into Spanish?” “How can we translate a ring of Saturn into Russian?” The very articulation of the question clashes with our grammatical and logical sensibilities. And it does so precisely because we are asking a nonsensical question, like the old example, “What number is the color yellow?” The disconnect arises because we are asking a question about something that can be done with information (translation) with respect to something that is not information (a physical object).

    This is not yet a full argument, but this disconnect between the kinds of things we can do with information and the kinds of things we can do with a physical object should give the thoughtful person pause.

    Let us now answer the source of that intellectual unease by going back to the start and explaining what you really mean when you say that a physical object has intrinsic information. Let us consider how the information you think is intrinsically in the object really comes about. Here is what happens:

    (a) Someone – an astronomer, a scientist, some other intelligent agent – using intellectual capacity and tools of discovery, discovers a physical object. The intelligent agent now has some information that he did not previously have. The information arose from his intellectual capacity and his use of tools of discovery.

    (b) The intelligent agent, using intellectual capacity and tools of measurement, measures the physical object. The intelligent agent now has some additional information that he did not previously have. The information resulted from his intellectual capacity and his use of tools of measurement. In science, we often call this information “data.”

    (c) The intelligent agent, using intellectual capacity and an agreed-upon system of weights and measures, together with an agreed-upon symbolic language, encodes the results of those measurements in some encoding system – a prose language, mathematical formulae, digital images, etc. This is now encoded information, and like any encoded information, is now available for storage, transmission, and translation. The particular media used to store or transmit the information is substantively irrelevant to the information itself, and is a matter of convenience and convention. The information is not tied to the medium.

    Now, if we are careful in our analysis, there are a couple of additional instructive observations we can take from the above process.

    First, at each stage of the process, the intelligent agent could halt the process and choose not to proceed further. For example, after discovering the mere existence of the physical object, the intelligent agent may well stop there, never doing any further measurements. After measuring, he might never proceed to encode, store, or transmit the information to anyone else. After encoding, storing, or transmitting the information, the recipient may not retrieve or understand or properly translate the information; or there may not even be a recipient. At each stage, the question of whether we obtain more or less information or whether that information is stored, transmitted, translated or used, is dependent on the intellectual activity and the choice of an intelligent agent, not on the object itself.

    Second, the information that is gleaned from the above exercise was not in the physical object. Rather, it is information about the physical object, produced by the intelligent agent through his intellectual activity. And that information can continue to exist, and can exist in multiple forms, in multiple languages, stored in various places, even if the physical object ceases to exist. In that sense, yet again, the information about the physical object is separate from the object itself.

    This distinction between a physical object containing information and an observer producing information about a physical object is critical.

    As you rightly note, in addition to an observer being able to produce information about a physical object, it is possible for a physical object to also contain information or to represent information about something outside of itself. That is true information and is the way information essentially always works: representing something beyond its mere physical characteristics.

    —–

    The above is the rational way to think about physical characteristics of physical objects as they relate to information. Nevertheless, I fully expect some people will continue to claim that every particle in the universe contains “information” by its mere existence. That is a misnomer and an abuse of the word “information,” but so be it. It is a non-substantive semantic exercise, so it does not impact the substance of the issue at hand.

    Even if we passionately argue that every particle in the universe contains some kind of “intrinsic” information about itself, we then need to just as forcefully acknowledge that this “intrinsic” information (a) only becomes usable or available or unlocked by the activity of an intelligent agent; and, more to the point for the present discussion, (b) is essentially useless in understanding what we are talking about when we refer to information in a practical sense, and, specifically, is irrelevant to the questions we are interested in for purposes of biology.

    But the pattern of the base pairs in DNA has a different kind of information. It contains extrinsic information that represents some other information, in this case the pattern of amino acids in a protein.
    . . . You can measure the location of a hydrogen atom and you know where it is – orbiting Saturn or imbedded in a comet, for instance.
    You can’t do that with extrinsic information. You can measure the base pairs in DNA and tell, for instance that three of them have the pattern uracil, cytosine and adenine or UCA. However, you can’t tell that this pattern refers to an amino acid or which amino acid it refers to without more information.

    I absolutely agree with the portion quoted above. What you are calling “extrinsic” information is not in the medium itself. This is because information is referential to something outside of itself. This is much of the point we have been making all along. Welcome aboard – you sound like an ID proponent! 🙂 So I’m not sure where your dispute is?

    Most likely, the first self-reproducing thing contained only intrinsic information. Atoms joined into a molecule which was able to reproduce itself directly. The extrinsic information system of reproduction evolved later, but unfortunately we have no fossils (so far) to tell us how that happened.

    Well, that is quite a story – from the alleged, hypothetical, never-before-seen self-replicating molecule, to the claim that extrinsic information would just “evolve” naturally.

    Unfortunately, even if we think every particle in the universe contains “instrinsic” information, it is quite clear, both from our understanding of cause and effect in the world and based on billions of examples all around us, that the kind of information we are interested in: real, bona-fide, encodable, storable, transmittable, translatable information – “extrinsic” information, if you prefer to call it that – always and only arises from a mind, from the mental activity of an intelligent agent.

    —–

    Thus we come full circle, back to the heart of the issue:

    We know that information can be encoded, stored, transmitted and translated. As such, it is necessarily separable from any specific medium or storage device or symbolic system.

    The idea that physical objects contain information is based on a semantic definitional game and a confusion about how the information actually arises in practice. Physical objects do not contain information in any meaningful sense by their mere existence.

    However, even if we argue that there is some kind of “instrinsic” information in all physical objects, we then need to immediately recognize that this intrinsic information is not relevant to the issues at hand. What we are interested in, generally in our lives, in technology, in biology, certainly for purposes of debating design and evolution, is real information: encodable, storable, transmittable, translatable, “extrinsic” information.

    This extrinsic information, as you have noted, is not tied to the medium. It is separable from any particular medium or storage device or symbolic system. I also point out that it is not amenable to measurement by any of the units of measure used for physical objects.

    I realize that this concept of information being more foundational and beyond the physical medium – “transcending” the physical medium, for lack of a better word – is uncomfortable for those who are committed to a materialist view of reality. But it is the only rational conclusion to be drawn and is far more consonant with the evidence.

  86. 86

    Hello Eric.

    Matt, you’re conflating “physical information” (which is a wholly anthropocentric misconception) with actual semantic information. It’s causing you to misunderstand the core issues. When done intentionally it amounts to self-deception.

    Listen to what Eric is telling you.

    Here also are the words of a physicist. He is probably the world’s leading researcher on the physics of information. He is also an atheist, and a “soft” reductionist. You have no reason to believe he is misleading you:

    It is important to emphasize this epistemic necessity of the complementarity of laws and measurements since it is often ignored. Reductionists try to avoid the epistemic cut and take an entirely objective, unified, or reified view of information as if it exists in the structures of the physical world independent of an organism or observer. Such a view is possible only because formal or structural information measures can, in fact, be applied to any physical structure without regard to its epistemic function in construction, measurement, prediction, or control. That is, structural information measures need have no relation to fitness, function, or meaning. This gratuitous use of structural information measures, while it may be made formally consistent with physical theory, simply has no significance for the naturally selected semantic information in biological systems and for predictive information used in control systems.

    HH Pattee – The physics of symbols and the evolution of semiotic controls
    Department of Systems Science
    State University of New York at Binghamton

    You can find this paper, and others, on the Bibliography of my website.

    Biosemiosis.org

    .

  87. 87
    Eric Anderson says:

    UB @86:

    Thanks for the comments and for the interesting quote.

    I’m gratified to see Dr. Pattee’s statement and I’ll have to check out his paper. I tend to base my position and conclusions on my own research and analysis, rather than the views of “experts”. But it is always nice to run across an expert in the field who agrees! 🙂

  88. 88
    Origenes says:

    Information is about stuff — surely the ‘semantic information’ which Upright and Pattee are talking about. There is A which is about B. However this simple concept of ‘aboutness’ cannot be accommodated by naturalism, at least not according to philosopher Alex Rosenberg:

    There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter.
    ….
    Physics and neuroscience both tell us, for different reasons, that one clump of matter can’t be about another clump of matter. Computer science combines both to show that human brain states can’t really be about stuff for exactly the same reason that the internal workings of your laptop can’t really be about anything at all.

    I wonder what Pattee’s thoughts are on this.

  89. 89
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric @85: “So when we look at a physical object, such as your atoms, we might do well to promptly ask, ‘How can we translate an oxygen atom into Spanish?’ ‘How can we translate a ring of Saturn into Russian?’ The very articulation of the question clashes with our grammatical and logical sensibilities. And it does so precisely because we are asking a nonsensical question, like the old example, ‘What number is the color yellow?’” 

    If you remember your Shannon, one of the things information does is answer questions. Every bit should reduce the uncertainty of your answer by half. How do we distinguish an oxygen atom from a hydrogen atom? Primarily by the number of protons in the atom’s nucleus. The hydrogen atom has one and the oxygen atom has eight. That’s information. You’ve got two atoms. How do you tell which is hydrogen and which is oxygen? Count the protons.

    The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is part of the atom’s intrinsic information and it most certainly exists. If you’re building a molecule and you need a hydrogen atom to put at a certain place, you can count protons in the two camdidate atoms and unerringly select the hydrogen atom and put it in place and the molecule will work. (Like, for instance, joinIng amino acids to make a protein.) You don’t even have to see the hydrogen atom. Just knowing that it has one electron will tell you that.

    Shannon was a communications engineer working for Ma Bell. He was concerned with transmitting data over a noisy communications channel, so the only kind of information he dealt with was the extrinsic information you can modulate an electrical current or radio wave with. That’s what most people think of when they they think of information, but there’s another whole world of information imbedded in physical objects such as atoms and statues. Think of it as the information that Shannon’s extrinsic information is about. Intrinsic information didn’t concern Shannon because you can’t transmit atoms or statues through an information channel.

    If you wanted to translate an oxygen atom to Russian, you couldn’t, just like you can’t send one through a communications channel. But you could count the protons and translate that extrinsic information (eight) into Russian (?????? if Google translation is correct.)

    Continued next message.

  90. 90
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric: (a) “Someone – an astronomer, a scientist, some other intelligent agent – using intellectual capacity and tools of discovery,discovers a physical object. The intelligent agent now has some information that he did not previously have. The information arose from his intellectual capacity and his use of tools of discovery.”

    Somewhere a praying mantis, using his basically nonexistant intellectual capacity and his eyes, discovers a physical object. He now has some information he did not have, the object’s bug-like size and shape and 3-D location. He lunges towards that location and some unlucky bug becomes his lunch. No intelligence involved. Lots of pattern recognition, though. And patterns are information, so the unintelligent mantis is doing lots of information processing. Quit worrying about intelligence. It’s all material.

    Now what else can we do with 3-D information? Well, if we take several thousand atoms of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and others and move each atom to one specific place, compared to all the others, we get a ribosome and we can make proteins with it.

    Here’s something to think about. Every year, just about every atom in your body is changed. Yet you continue to exist. How can this be? Because you are the pattern your atoms are arranged in. The atoms are switched out with identical replacements in the same positions. The overall pattern does not change, so life goes on.

    Every atom in your body is (literally) as dead as a door nail. Yet the pattern of those atoms – their type and 3-D placement – make up your living body, busily staying alive while replacing itself every year. And patterns are information. If those atoms were replaced with different types of atoms or deposited in random places, the pattern would be changed and you would die.

    Eric: “Well, that is quite a story – from the alleged, hypothetical, never-before-seen self-replicating molecule, to the claim that extrinsic information would just “evolve” naturally.”

    If I understand correctly, the ID story is that some unidentified, undetectable supernatural agent acting at a time and place unknown arranged matter into patterns that are living creatures. For some reason, He made an inordinately large percentage of the animals that are big enough to be seen with the naked eye beetles. Every organism he originally made is extinct now, but new ones (also made by Him) have replaced them. About half of the organisms He made, including the malaria organism which preys mainly on children, make their living by killing and eating the other half of the organisms He made. Most curious of all, this supernatural being did His work in such a way as to make it look like evolution did it.

    That’s quite a story.

    On the other hand, every cell in your body is stuffed full of molecules that replicate themselves and every other protein in your body. They’re called ribosomes. Please forgive us if we think that your unidentified-undetectable-cosmically-unlikely-supernatural-designer-builder-that-mimics-evolution doesn’t exist and that instead of that a few atoms being jostled around by the elements got put into a small 3-D configuration that managed to reproduce itself faster than it was destroyed, thus unleashing the information generating power of evolution.

    I think it’s way more likely.

  91. 91
    MatSpirit says:

    Uptight Biped @83:

    “How, therefore, we must ask, is it possible for us to distinguish the living from the lifeless if we can describe both conceptually by the motion of inorganic corpuscles?”

    Karl Pearson The Grammar of Science

    I found that at the beginning of Pattee’s paper.

    My answer: The inorganic atoms that are arranged so they reproduce themselves while making a living from the world around them are the living.

  92. 92
    MatSpirit says:

    Origenes @88:

    Alex Rosenburg:

    “There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter.
    ….
    Physics and neuroscience both tell us, for different reasons, that one clump of matter can’t be about another clump of matter. Computer science combines both to show that human brain states can’t really be about stuff for exactly the same reason that the internal workings of your laptop can’t really be about anything at all.”

    ———————————–
    >
    I’ve read Rosenburg’s book and statements like the above made me toss it aside half way through. The man should know better. The human brain, and every other brain big enough to see without a microscope, spends a lot of time and energy surveying the world, sorting the sense impressions, and storing data in memory about what it sees. Evolution has stored more data in memory during gestation.

    You’ve probably seen some of the videos that have been circulating around the intertubes showing cats that have had sticks stealthily placed behind them. When the cats see them out of the corner of their eye, the poor animals just about jump out of their skins.

    Yet Rosenburg apparently doesn’t believe that a “lump of matter” called neuronal synapses, probably in the cats amydiglia, are not about snakes and what to do if one sneaks up on you.

    He’s a philosopher who doesn’t know his science.

  93. 93
    MatSpirit says:

    I probably won’t post tomorrow. It’s Field Day for amateur radio operators and then there’s a very big municipal fireworks display at dusk.

  94. 94
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @89:

    Shannon was a communications engineer working for Ma Bell. He was concerned with transmitting data over a noisy communications channel, so the only kind of information he dealt with was the extrinsic information you can modulate an electrical current or radio wave with. That’s what most people think of when they they think of information . . .

    Actually he wasn’t so much concerned with information at all, rather the communication channel. But I understand your point. In any case, Shannon has little relevance for the issues we are discussing.

    . . . but there’s another whole world of information imbedded in physical objects such as atoms and statues.

    Again, you can call a physical characteristic of a physical object “information,” but that does not make it so. A physical characteristic of an object is just that: a physical characteristic, and whatever the characteristic is, is what it is — there is nothing more profound or substantive to it than that.

    You are ignoring the exercise I laid out in detail about the observer, who is the real source of any information we have about a physical object. We can’t just blithely skip over that step of the analysis. Even in all the examples you have provided of physical characteristics, the information you are conveying is itself “extrinsic” information — it is about something.

    Furthermore, it is meaningless to call every physical characteristic of every object “information.” All that would mean is that information is everywhere, in everything, all around us. Which might seem like a fun idea, but it is utterly useless as a scientific exercise. It is no more helpful than saying “what exists, exists.”

    Critically, that so-called “intrinsic” information throughout the universe would just lie there in all those physical objects dormant, hidden from sight, never available, utterly useless for any rational or scientific inquiry . . . until, as I laid out in detail, an observer comes along, studies the object in question and produces information about the object in question: Real information — encodable, transmittable, translatable, usable information — the stuff we deal with in the real world, not in some hypothetical semantic exercise.

    Additionally, as stated previously, even if we took the view that “intrinsic” information is everywhere in everything, then it would not help one iota in answering the issues we are interested in for purposes of biology.

    Finally, it would not demonstrate that all information is “physical,” as some materialists claim. You have already acknowledged some of the characteristics of “extrinsic” information (encodable, transmittable, translatable), which is good. So we can ask again, the key questions that continue to be avoided:

    1. Is “extrinsic” information physical or non-physical?

    2. If physical, which of the seven fundamental units of measure can be used to measure it?

    Alternatively, please go ahead and acknowledge that extrinsic information is non-physical and is not amenable to measurement by the fundamental units of physical measure. That would go a long way toward underscoring your objectivity in the discussion.

    —–

    . . . you can’t transmit atoms or statues through an information channel.

    Definitely agree.

  95. 95
    bill cole says:

    MatSpirit

    On the other hand, every cell in your body is stuffed full of molecules that replicate themselves and every other protein in your body. They’re called ribosomes. Please forgive us if we think that your unidentified-undetectable-cosmically-unlikely-supernatural-designer-builder-that-mimics-evolution doesn’t exist and that instead of that a few atoms being jostled around by the elements got put into a small 3-D configuration that managed to reproduce itself faster than it was destroyed, thus unleashing the information generating power of evolution.

    What do you think the mechanism is that Is “the information generating power of evolution” ? What type of information is it generating? Complex DNA sequences? Reproducing something faster than it is destroyed creates information?

    If you take your cell phone and reproduce the contents on 100 new I phones. These phone numbers are information as you described. Will this process create new information? If we define a subset of information as sequences, or purposeful arrangement of objects like the 0 thru 9 numbers stored as electronic bits on your cell phone, will it create new sequences or phone numbers?

  96. 96
    Eric Anderson says:

    If I understand correctly, the ID story is that some unidentified, undetectable supernatural agent acting at a time and place unknown arranged matter into patterns that are living creatures.

    The intelligent design inference only relates to whether something was designed. Yes, it is an inference – an inference made on the basis of how we understand the world works, as well as literally billions of examples of designed systems.

    Furthermore, we know for a fact that an intelligent being can create information. And we know for a fact that an intelligent being can create complex, integrated, functioning machines. And we know for a fact that an intelligent being has the ability to choose much of the details of that design process: the when, the why, often the how. As a result, there is much that ID does not seek to explain. It is not a theory of everything. It is not intended to be. Opponents may be disappointed that ID does not seek to answer all questions, but that is a failing of their expectations, not a failing of ID.

    In contrast, the materialist creation story is, by definition, a mechanistic story. If there is no concrete, identifiable mechanism to produce the artifact in question the theory must fail. Furthermore, in stark contrast to the experience we have with intelligent design all around us, there is not a single example in all the world of molecules coming together by themselves to form life, or even a self-replicating molecule. There is not a single example of a materialistic process forming a complex, functional, information-rich system.

    The weight of evidence between intelligent design and the materialist creation story is very much on the intelligent design side. Not even close. Not even in the same ballpark.

    On the other hand, every cell in your body is stuffed full of molecules that replicate themselves and every other protein in your body.

    No. There is no self-replicating molecule. That is part of the failure of the materialist creation myth right out of the gate. It posits an entity that has never been seen and that we have good reason to think probably does not, and very likely cannot, exist in the real world. The problem isn’t just that the specific, particular self-replicating molecule that started the evolutionary story hasn’t been identified. The problem is that nothing of its kind has even been identified. Nothing in the class of objects that it claims to be from has been found. It is a pure hypothetical. And one that flies in the face of what we understand of chemistry and physics.

    Please forgive us if we think that your unidentified-undetectable-cosmically-unlikely-supernatural-designer-builder-that-mimics-evolution doesn’t exist and that instead of that a few atoms being jostled around by the elements got put into a small 3-D configuration that managed to reproduce itself faster than it was destroyed, thus unleashing the information generating power of evolution.

    You are forgiven, but your alternative is quite a joke. A few atoms got jostled around and became a molecule that reproduces itself? Seriously? And then it unleashed the “information generating power of evolution!?” What in the world is that? Please do tell us how this evolution you propose generates vast quantities of information. Is it just another string of accidents, a sequence of more atoms “being jostled around?” Inquiring minds want to know.

    A long string of accidental particle collisions. That’s it. That’s the materialist creation story. There is nothing more substantive to it than that.

    —–

    BTW, can you please get back to the questions that started this discussion and which you have so studiously avoided:

    1. Is “extrinsic” information physical or non-physical?
    2. If physical, which of the seven fundamental units of measure can be used to measure it?

  97. 97
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @92:

    Your comment was for Origines, but I couldn’t help notice the logical issue at stake:

    Are you at least able to see, able to grasp, that the reason you have the position you do about how the mind and memory and intelligence works is because you assume a priori that the physical is all there is?

    —–

    Yes, if we assume there is nothing but the physical and the materials, we might draw some of the conclusions you do. But if you are willing to question your assumption, which some others are willing to do, it turns out the evidence for a purely materialistic viewpoint is not nearly so strong.

    I don’t expect you to toss out your worldview based on a single discussion online. But, please, at least allow yourself to honestly and sincerely consider the possibility that your assumption is incorrect. Let it percolate. Allow yourself to view the world for a few weeks without the assumption in place, and see how it goes.

  98. 98
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric, I’m going to reply to @97 first. I don’t assume a priori that the physical world is all there is. I don’t know anybody who does. My CONCLUSION is that evidence for the material is strong and pretty much self consistent while the evidence for the supernatural is very weak and conflicts with itself.

    Most of the “evidence” amounts to just someone’s word, usually someone who’s been dead for over a thousand years. It usually contradicts someone else’s thousand year old testimony. People who believe one man’s ancient testimony usually disagree with some other thousand year old testimony. One part of one thousand year old testimony often conflicts with other parts of the same testimony. Much of the testimony is palpable wrong.

    The rest of the “evidence” is usually “philisophical” “reasoning” so poor it goes by the name of theology.

    I don’t expect you to toss out your worldview based on a single discussion online. But, please, at least allow yourself to honestly and sincerely consider the possibility that your assumption is incorrect. Let it percolate. I won’t ask you to view the world for a few weeks without the assumption in place, because religeous assumptions normally grab their victim at at an emotional level where rationaliry has little influence, but try as best you can and see how it goes.

  99. 99

    It is obvious that if you rely solely on evidence, you are only ever come up with facts, and not opinions.

    Besides facts, opinions also define the reality of a situation very much. A woman, a beautiful woman, these are very different situations.

    One cannot break down beauty into a factual matter, which means the existence of the love for the way the woman looks cannot be a fact, it must be a matter of opinion.

  100. 100
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit:

    What in the world are you talking about? Why do you keep bringing religion into the discussion?

    We’re addressing a couple of straightforward evidentiary issues — issues that you, again and again, have studiously avoided.

    1. First, is everything material?

    I have given good reasons for thinking that something we deal with every day in our own lives and in the real world — information — cannot be reduced to the physical and the material. We haven’t even started to deal with hard problems like consciousness. In the meantime, you have provided no evidence that everything is material, other than a semantic word game relating to the physical characteristics of physical objects, coupled with some unsupported assertions about memory and mind being fully material.

    2. Second, if information is material, what units of measure can we use to measure it?

    Again, you have completely avoided the issue and, therefore, have failed to support your position. Worse, your failure to seriously grapple with the issue suggests that you likely are either unable or unwilling to address it. That is alright. We knew the answer to the question when we asked it, so your refusal to engage the question doesn’t detract from our understanding and instead only speaks to your unwillingness to address the central issues and to question your preconceptions.

    —–

    It is ironic that you jumped in here with guns blazing, hoping to teach those foolish ID proponents about information. Now that you have been schooled, I hope you will be more cautious in the future. More importantly, I hope you will take some time to actually think through the issues, rather than just throwing out general materialist claims, coupled with irrelevant religious aspersions.

  101. 101

    bits and bytes are measurement units of information?

  102. 102
    Eric Anderson says:

    mohammad @101:

    Technically, no. Bits and bytes relate to a measurement of channel capacity, not information, in any substantive sense of the word.

    But more to the point, the question at issue relates to whether information is purely physical. If it is physical, then, by definition, it must be measurable by one or more of the universally-recognized units of physical measurement, not just by some statistical construct.

    See my comment #62 for the units we are dealing with.

  103. 103

    The fundamental distinction must be between fact and opinion. Information is a matter of fact issue, therefore information is material.

    Also, objects can be described in terms of consisting of the laws of nature, rather than that objects follow the laws of nature. Then objects compute information.

    Mathematics is the obvious theory of everything.

  104. 104
    Phinehas says:

    The moment you talk about information being “embodied” you’ve pretty much conceded that the information and the “body” it is embodied in are two different things, haven’t you?

  105. 105
    Phinehas says:

    EA @ 100:

    It’s funny how often the arguments seem to come back to the insistence that there must not be a God even when that wasn’t even the subject. That insistence is like the black hole around which the Atheist’s thinking revolves. It’s gravitational pull is ever-present and cannot be denied. Everything is about God not existing. It’s a bit embarrassing to be honest.

  106. 106
    MatSpirit says:

    Eric,

    I’m back for a few days. I thought of a good example of how information is imbedded in all matter.

    Let’s start with a simple blueprint for an aluminum cylinder 5cm in diameter and 10cm long. Does everybody agree that a good blueprint provides enough information to make a cylinder? You’ll find the diameter and length on the blueprint along with any other needed information such as the alloy to make it from.

    Now suppose someone hands you a cylinder, but doesn’t tell you its dimensions except to say it’s not 5x10cm. Is it possible to measure the cylinder and make a blueprint from it?

    Sure. You use your trusty calipers to measure the diameter, which turns out to be 7cm and you write that down on the blueprint. Then you measure the length and it turns out to be 15cm and you write that down on the blueprint. You give the cylinder to a metallurgist and he tells you it’s pure aluminum and you write that down on the blueprint.

    The blueprint now contains enough information so you can hand it to a machinist and he can make a duplicate cylinder.

    So where did the information come from? Not from your mind. You didn’t know the dimensions until you measured them. From the calipers? It was right on the dial, after all. But how did those numbers get on the dial?

    To measure the cylinder’s length, you moved the caliper’s jaws until one jaw was just touching one end and the other jaw was just touching the opposite end and read the length from the dial.

    But what are the jaws touching? THE ATOMS of the ends of the cylinder. You are reading the information encoded in the 3-D positions of the atoms of the cylinder! The metallurgist examined the atoms to find out what type they were and you wrote the results down on the blueprint. That information was encoded in the atom’s make-up.

    All the information on your new blueprint was originally in the atoms of that cylinder. You used whatever tools were appropriate for the material aND the in formation you were measuring.

    I hope that clarifies things for you.

  107. 107
    MatSpirit says:

    Phinehas @ 104

    The moment you talk about information being “embodied” you’ve pretty much conceded that the information and the “body” it is embodied in are two different things, haven’t you?

    That’s been my point all along. All information is embodied in the arrangement of matter. In the example above, it’s in the 3-D positions of the atoms in the cylinders.

    The information is definitely not in the atoms. You could remove every atom from the cylinder and replace it with a different aluminum atom and as long as the new atoms were in the same 3-d locations as the originals, you would read the same information on your caliper dial and write the same numbers on your blueprint.

    The information is encoded in the material, but it is not the material. The material is necessary, however. If you removed every atom from the cylinder and replaced it with nothing, there would be nothing for your calipers to measure.

    The information is the pattern, not in the matter.

    If anybody doubts this, the best way to refute it is to show us some information that exists without matter.

  108. 108
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @106:

    Your example is no different from the ones I discussed previously to show why the information is not in the matter itself. Any example you can ever come up with will suffer from the same issues.

    Now suppose someone hands you a cylinder, but doesn’t tell you its dimensions except to say it’s not 5x10cm. Is it possible to measure the cylinder and make a blueprint from it?

    Sure. You use your trusty calipers to measure the diameter, which turns out to be 7cm and you write that down on the blueprint. Then you measure the length and it turns out to be 15cm and you write that down on the blueprint. You give the cylinder to a metallurgist and he tells you it’s pure aluminum and you write that down on the blueprint.

    The blueprint now contains enough information so you can hand it to a machinist and he can make a duplicate cylinder.

    Yep. A great example of an intelligent agent using the tools of investigation and discovery to generate information about the cylinder. That newly-generated information can now be encoded in a symbolic, language-based system (such as the blueprint) and can be translated, transmitted, conveyed, and so forth, just like any other piece of information.

    So where did the information come from? Not from your mind. You didn’t know the dimensions until you measured them. From the calipers? It was right on the dial, after all. But how did those numbers get on the dial?

    To measure the cylinder’s length, you moved the caliper’s jaws until one jaw was just touching one end and the other jaw was just touching the opposite end and read the length from the dial.

    Of course the information came from your mind. It came as the result of an intelligent agent performing an investigative task and then producing information about the cylinder. Calipers don’t exist in a vacuum, the units of measurement don’t exist in a vacuum, the resulting blueprint doesn’t poof into existence from the cylinder itself.

    The entire exercise is one of an intelligent agent producing information about a physical object.

    If you doubt this, remove the intelligent agent from the process and see what you get. Erase the units of measurement on the calipers; eliminate the ability of the agent to read and understand the measurements; get rid of the symbolic, coded language in which the blueprint is created. The entire exercise of producing information is one of intelligent activity – activity driven by the mind of the investigator, the mind of the intelligent agents who use an agreed-upon symbolic language to represent the information, the mind of the intelligent agent who produced the calipers and set forth the units of measure. Not a single step of the process leads to information without a mind.

    Imagine a windstorm or a dog accidentally bumped the caliper points up against the ends of the cylinder. What information do you imagine would be produced as a result? Nothing at all. Not until an intelligent agent comes along who knows how to utilize calipers, understands the units of measure, and has the intent to produce information about the cylinder.

    Again, you are conflating the process of producing information about something with the idea that the physical object somehow contains the information in the first place. It doesn’t. This is in stark contrast to something like DNA, or a book, or a computer program, in which the string itself contains information or represents something outside of itself. The cylinder does no such thing. It doesn’t contain any information and doesn’t represent anything beyond itself. If, engraved on the side of the cylinder were a message about the length, diameter, makeup and so-on of the cylinder, then, yes, the cylinder would contain information about itself. Information that could be read, translated, encoded, transmitted. But with your blank cylinder, no such information exists unless and until the intelligent agent produces it.

    But what are the jaws touching? THE ATOMS of the ends of the cylinder. You are reading the information encoded in the 3-D positions of the atoms of the cylinder!

    You are playing word games here. You cannot just assert, as a matter of definitional fiat, that every characteristic of a physical object constitutes information. No. It constitutes a physical characteristic. Nothing more or less.

    You are also playing games with the concept of information encoding. By measuring a physical object I am certainly not “reading information encoded” in the object. I am simply measuring a physical characteristic of the object. Then I am producing information about that physical object, using my tools of investigation and my intellectual ability. That is the way information arises.

    That is the way it always works.

  109. 109
    Eric Anderson says:

    MatSpirit @107:

    That’s been my point all along. All information is embodied in the arrangement of matter.

    Well, that is precisely the opposite of what Phineas is pointing out.

    If all you mean is that information can be stored or transmitted using matter, then sure. That is well known.

    The information is encoded in the material, but it is not the material.

    If you mean that a physical medium can store and transmit information, then yes.

    However, you seem to be arguing that there is information contained in a physical object itself, by its mere existence. That is incorrect, and is based on a misunderstanding of how information arises, coupled with poor definitions.

    The material is necessary, however. If you removed every atom from the cylinder and replaced it with nothing, there would be nothing for your calipers to measure.

    All this means is that if there weren’t any atoms making up a cylinder then there wouldn’t be a physical object called a “cylinder” to measure. It has nothing to do with the concept of information. It is just a restatement of the pedestrian observation that what exists, exists.

    If anybody doubts this, the best way to refute it is to show us some information that exists without matter.

    Information always precedes the physical medium in which it is stored or transmitted. The only way the physical medium can ever contain information is if that information existed prior to being encoded in a particular symbolic language, and prior to that encoded language being represented in the physical medium.

    And the information is always translatable, transmittable, and able to continue existing even if the original physical medium is lost or destroyed. It was not, and is not, reducible to the physical medium or inextricably tied to the physical medium. They are fundamentally separate from each other.

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