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How to falsify reductionism with complex specified information

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 A philosopher claims that neuroscience has proven thoughts do not exist. Eric Holloway looks at the neuroscience and examines the claim:

There is a problem with this sort of reasoning. One could make the same argument about computer code, as follows:

There is no code. It’s all just assembly language.

Or, there is no assembly, it’s all just machine code.

Or, there is no machine code, there are just voltage levels on transistors.

One could continue following this chain of reasoning to the point where the transistors don’t exist. It’s just a bunch of electrons doing their thing.

Of course, the electrons don’t really exist either. They’re just a bunch of quarks and leptons.

In which case, the program your computer requires in order that you can read this article doesn’t exist.

Have we taken a wrong turn somewhere…?

I think we’ve all seen this sort of argument before in many other guises. It is commonly called “reductionism.” The reductionist claims that, because an object can be construed as made up of parts, the object is just the parts. It is like saying that because an article like this one is constructed from letters of the alphabet, the article is only rows of letters and any meaning we get from it is our own subjective interpretation.

Eric Holloway, “Has Neuroscience Disproved Thinking?” at Mind Matters

See also: Human Intelligence as a Halting Oracle Eric Holloway

Does information theory support design in nature? Eric Holloway


Do quasars provide evidence for free will? Possibly. They certainly rule out experimenter interference. The universe would seem much neater if everything were determined. One result is that objections to randomness and to free will have become more sophisticated. But have they succeeded?


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