Intelligent Design

“It’s Emergent!” and “It’s Magical!” Have Equivalent Scientific Explanatory Power for Consciousness

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Bruce Buff and Robert J. Spitzer write:

But when it comes to the mind, this idea [i.e., emergence] has its issues. First, all scientifically observed emergence is actually unanticipated behavior resulting from known physical properties, and not new properties that exceed what physics can explain. Some materialists suggest that consciousness might emerge from physical processes on the quantum level, but any emergence there would be disrupted by anything that has an effect on quantum physics — such as holding up a cell phone to your head or getting an MRI. Simply put, emergence depends on properties that already exist in the system’s constituent parts. It doesn’t matter how many Legos are assembled in incredibly complex arrangements, they will never generate a nuclear reaction. Just as radioactivity cannot emerge from the plastic used in the blocks, consciousness does not emerge from the physical parts of the brain.

Precisely.  Think about all of the usual examples of emergence:  hurricanes, schools of fish or flocks of birds acting in unison, the wetness of water.  Now think about what makes all of these examples absolutely irrelevant to discussions of consciousness.  In the former, as Buff and Spitzer observe, known physical properties act in unexpected ways.  For example, the atmosphere acts in unexpected ways to form a hurricane.  Yes, it is extremely complex, but we can see how, in principle, the strong winds, lowered barometric pressure, etc. can be reduced to physical causes.

Not so with mental activity.  While no one denies there is some connection between a person’s mental state and his brain, it is nevertheless absurd to suggest that subjective-self-awareness, intentionality, qualia and other features of consciousness can be reduced to the electro-chemical reactions in the brain.  “Mental” and “Physical” are self-evidently in different ontological categories.

It follows that a claim that the mental is somehow an emergent property of the physical is a non-starter as any sort of explanation.  It is, as has often been observed, a confession of profound ignorance masquerading as an explanation.  It is, nevertheless, a sufficient “explanation” for the already-convinced true believers of materialism.  Those of us of a more skeptical bent see a distinct lack of threads on that kingly body.

168 Replies to ““It’s Emergent!” and “It’s Magical!” Have Equivalent Scientific Explanatory Power for Consciousness

  1. 1
    john_a_designer says:

    However, it is an explanation. So, if one is left grasping at straws, as no doubt the materialist is left doing, it’s better than nothing. Otherwise, you may have to admit that you just don’t know and since you claim to know that consciousness is not– it is not something that is ontologically distinct from matter-energy. Of course that just kicks the can up another level epistemologically. How does he know that?

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    … emergence depends on properties that already exist in the system’s constituent parts …

    … and/or their interactions I would like to add. The volume of a gas, pressure, temperature and the number of molecules in the gas, are “emergent properties” because they are not properties of any individual molecule.

    Emergentism doesn’t get us to a rational agent who is in control of his thoughts and behavior. The ‘emergent’ mind is not independent from neuronal behavior, and cannot reach down, if you will, and cause neural change.

    If C is an emergent property of M, then C does not control M.

    In general, emergent properties fully depend on the properties of the underlying physical layer and are therefore thoroughly unhelpful if the naturalist attempts to ground control and freedom.
    Obviously the molecules that underlie the emergent properties are themselves determined by natural law. That determined state of the molecules transpires to the higher level of the (constrained) emergent properties.

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    Origenes,

    Correct. “Libertarian free will” should be added to the list of things that cannot, in principle, exist if materialism is true.

  4. 4
    J-Mac says:

    If consciousness did not emerge, quantum or other type, where was it before it became (quantum) entangled with the human brain?

    If it (consciousness, soul, some other type of non-materialistic existence) had existed before it became a part of a living human, where had it been residing and what proof is there that it had?

    BTW: For those who are curious, this is the perfect example where Philip Cunningham and I disagree on QM and the teaching of the afterlife…quantum soul that survives after death…

  5. 5
    bb says:

    If consciousness DID emerge, quantum or other type, how, if “emergence depends on properties that already exist in the system’s constituent parts”? How do we test such magic?

    Personally, I think the best inference is found in Biblical history, because consciousness “emerging” from a conscious being makes vastly more sense:

    “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
    -Genesis 2:7

    There you go…..”properties that already exist in the system’s constituent parts.” i.e. The creator’s constituent parts. Edit: like man endowing a computer system with artificial intelligence, only much more sophisticated.

    Edit:
    It’s amazing how some materialist preconceptions melt, not only with simple logic, but with “God did it.” I can’t tell anyone how He did it, but it’s the most reasonable. If you want to refer to him as the “magic man in the sky,” historically, things we don’t understand have appeared to be magical. To God…….it’s just something He can do, and we’re less than ants in our understanding by comparison.

  6. 6
    J-Mac says:

    @bb,

    You are kidding, right?

  7. 7
    bb says:

    @J-Mac

    I’m serious. Even if I were kidding, it’s still better than what you have. Answer my question. I answered yours. Once again:

    If consciousness DID emerge, quantum or other type, how, if “emergence depends on properties that already exist in the system’s constituent parts”?

  8. 8
    critical rationalist says:

    Think about all of the usual examples of emergence: hurricanes, schools of fish or flocks of birds acting in unison, the wetness of water.

    You forgot the universality of computation, which emerges from a specific repertoire of computations. Or the evolution of the universality of number systems, which started out as tallies and ended up being able to represent any possible number.

    Now think about what makes all of these examples absolutely irrelevant to discussions of consciousness.

    What’s relevant is that they represent leaps to universality that come from simple, individual and disproportional changes. Make one simple change to a number system and suddenly it makes the leap to represent any number. Add one computation, and suddenly it makes the leap to a universal Turing machine that can emulate any other UTC.

    In the former, as Buff and Spitzer observe, known physical properties act in unexpected ways. For example, the atmosphere acts in unexpected ways to form a hurricane. Yes, it is extremely complex, but we can see how, in principle, the strong winds, lowered barometric pressure, etc. can be reduced to physical causes.

    The examples of emergence I provided above represent abstractions, which are independent of the underlying physical system. A classical UTC made out of silicon transistors can be, in principe, emulated by a machine built with cogs. This is not something that can be “reduced to physical causes.” The explanation is found in the theory of computation, which is independent of transistors or cogs.

    In the case of quantum computation, any physical system can be emulated by any other physical system to arbitrary accuracy. This is why Artificial General Intelligence is possible.

    Not so with mental activity. While no one denies there is some connection between a person’s mental state and his brain, it is nevertheless absurd to suggest that subjective-self-awareness, intentionality, qualia and other features of consciousness can be reduced to the electro-chemical reactions in the brain. “Mental” and “Physical” are self-evidently in different ontological categories.

    And so is the universality of computation. No one denies that there is some connection between transistors and computation, it is nevertheless absurd to suggest that the ability to emulate any other UTC can be reduced to atoms of silicon in a transistor, or a cog. However, the existence of abstractions doesn’t require positing the existing of some inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that operates by inexplicable means.

    While we currently lack a emergent theory of mind, as we do with an emergent theory of the universality of computation, this doesn’t mean we will not or cannot have such an emergent theory.

    We simply do not know. And that is a perfectly reasonable answer.

    “That’s just what some design must have wanted”, or “God did it”, explains nothing.

  9. 9
    asauber says:

    “God did it”, explains nothing.

    CR,

    Of course it does, you just don’t like the explanation.

    If God is around, He likely does stuff. And it’s likely He does stuff beyond your comprehension.

    You just don’t want Him to be a possibility. It messes up your cherished worldview.

    Andrew

  10. 10
    FourFaces says:

    This is an old tradition in science. Physicists have been doing something similar for decades and see nothing wrong with it. If a particle’s energy cannot be accounted for, they declare that the particle is “virtual”, et voila: physics via labelling.

  11. 11
    bb says:

    CR,

    While we currently lack a emergent theory of mind, as we do with an emergent theory of the universality of computation, this doesn’t mean we will not or cannot have such an emergent theory.

    So you have no grounds to dismiss “God did it.” None of your examples are emergent because each depend on an existing intelligence purposefully arranging materials into a coherent whole. “Man did it” is the only explanation for an AI computer system, and “God did it” is the only viable one for humanity, individual consciousness and reason.

  12. 12
    critical rationalist says:

    @asauber

    Of course it does, you just don’t like the explanation.

    God is an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that operates via inexplicable means and methods.

    You’ll have to excuse me for not considering that a good explanation.

    @bb

    So you have no grounds to dismiss “God did it.”

    Sure I do. See above.

    None of your examples are emergent because each depend on an existing intelligence purposefully arranging materials into a coherent whole.

    You see to be confused about what is meant by the term “emergent”.

    “Thus there is a class of high-level phenomena – including the liquidity of water and the relationship between containers, heating elements, boiling and bubbles – that can be well explained in terms of each other alone, with no direct reference to anything at the atomic level or below. In other words, the behaviour of that whole class of high-level phenomena is quasi-autonomous – almost self-contained. This resolution into explicability at a higher, quasi-autonomous level is known as emergence.”

  13. 13
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    “You forgot the universality of computation . . .”

    Nonsense. No one has suggested that computation is an emergent property of physical components.

    You really don’t seem to understand the concept of “emergence,” because none of your examples are examples of that concept. You are, at best, equivocating. But that’s what you side does best, so I am not surprised.

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:
    “You’ll have to excuse me for not considering that a good explanation.”

    But that’s not what you said. You said it is no explanation at all, and Andrew called you on your error. Pretending you did not make the error in your response is unbecoming.

  15. 15

    asauber @ 9: True indeed.

  16. 16
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    “You forgot the universality of computation . . .”

    Nonsense. No one has suggested that computation is an emergent property of physical components.

    You might want to read that again. Apparently, you can’t even quote mine well?

    You forgot the universality of computation, which emerges from a specific repertoire of computations

    That’s not the same as mere “computation”.

    Furthermore, apparently Stanford University is “no one”. From this presentation

    Emergent Properties

    – An emergent property of a system is a property that arises out of smaller pieces that doesn’t seem to exist in any of the individual pieces.

    – Examples:

    — Individual neurons work by firing in response to particular combinations of inputs. Somehow, this leads to thought and consciousness.

    — Individual atoms obey the laws of quantum mechanics and just interact with other atoms. Somehow, it’s possible to combine them together to make iPhones.

    And…

    Emergent Properties of Computation

    – All computing systems equal to Turing machines exhibit several surprising emergent properties.

    – If we believe the Church-Turing thesis, these emergent properties are, in a sense, “inherent” to computation. You can’t have computation without these properties.

    – These emergent properties are what ultimately make computation so interesting and so powerful.

    As we’ll see, though, they’re also computation’s Achilles heel – they’re how we find concrete examples of impossible problems.

    And…

    Two Emergent Properties

    – There are two key emergent properties of computation that we will discuss:

    — Universality: There is a single computing device capable of performing any computation.

    — Self-Reference: Computing devices can ask questions about their own behavior.

    As you’ll see, the combination of these properties leads to simple examples of impossible problems and elegant proofs of impossibility.

  17. 17
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    CR:
    “You’ll have to excuse me for not considering that a good explanation.”

    But that’s not what you said. You said it is no explanation at all, and Andrew called you on your error. Pretending you did not make the error in your response is unbecoming.

    Yes, that isn’t what I said, as you quote mined me, yet again. I actually wrote…

    God is an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that operates via inexplicable means and methods.

    You’ll have to excuse me for not considering that a good explanation.

    A being that “just was” complete with consciousness, already present, doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that people were “just born” with consciousness already present.

    Using God’s consciousness as an “explanation” for consciousness in us just pushes the problem up a level, without solving it. It’s like pushing the food around on your plate, then claiming to have ate it. Yet, its still right there, staring you in the face.

    Or, did I get it wrong? Is God’s consciousness not the supposed explanation for consciousness in human beings? If not, what is?

  18. 18
    bb says:

    God is an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that operates via inexplicable means and methods.

    ….and without Him conscious is inexplicable. Life is inexplicable. Materialist efforts amount to a modern alchemy.

  19. 19
    J-Mac says:

    @bb

    No offence, you have no idea what you are talking about…You obviously know litter about QM…

    This may help…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSBaq3vAeY

    PC should do his next piece on this video… 😉

  20. 20
    asauber says:

    It’s like pushing the food around on your plate, then claiming to have ate it. Yet, its still right there, staring you in the face.

    CR,

    You are suffering from bad philosophy. You apparently want to insist any/every answer fit your materialist worldview. You don’t know that it can, but you keep insisting.

    Andrew

  21. 21
    john_a_designer says:

    According to David Chalmers, “My knowledge of consciousness… comes from my own case, not from any external observation. It is my first-person experience of consciousness that forces the problem on me.”

    That’s where I and everyone else needs to begin if we are going to have any kind of meaningful discussion. The burden of proof rests on those who want to explain consciousness on the basis of something else. In other words, if a materialist believes that consciousness can be reduced to, and therefore, emerges from matter-energy, he needs to provide step-by-step instructions exactly how that happens not just empty hand-waving assertions.

  22. 22
    critical rationalist says:

    @asauber

    You are suffering from bad philosophy.

    Actually, that’s been my argument all along. ID suffers from bad philosophy.

    You apparently want to insist any/every answer fit your materialist worldview. You don’t know that it can, but you keep insisting.

    No, I want good explanations. Supposedly non-material “explanations” are bad because they are easily varied without significantly impacting their ability to explain the phenomena in question. This is not unique to non-material “explanations”. That I supposedly have a bias against something merely because it is non-material is simply false.

    How can we find an error in an conjectured explanation when it can be easily varied without significantly reducing its ability to explain the phenomena in question ?

    From another thread…

    “An abstract designer did it” is a bad explanation because it is easily varied.

    For example, contrast our modern day explanation of seasons with the ancient Greek explanation for the seasons, which is shallow and easily varied.

    Persephone, the Goddess of spring, enters into a forced marriage contract with Hades, the God of the underworld. Persephone escapes, but is magically compelled to return to the underworld every year, which causes her mother Demeter, who is goddess of the harvest, to become sad, causing winter.

    If the ancient Greeks knew Australia was at it’s warmest, when they were at it’s coolest, thet could have easily varied their myth to account for this variation. This is because the cast of characters are only connected to seasons though the myth itself, and the roles they play could be varied without significantly reducing it’s ability to explain seasons. Any story of annual action would do. For example, It could just as well be that Demeter is sad when Persephone returns and pushes heat away from her vicinity, causing summer. So, even if they observed the seasons out of phase, they wouldn’t have got one jot closer because their explanation was bad (easy to vary)

    This is in contrast to our current explanation of the seasons, which represents a long chain of hard to vary, independently formed explanations across multiple fields.

    The earth’s rotation is titled in respect to it’s orbit around the sun. A spinning sphere retains it’s tilt. Surfaces titled away from radiant heat are headed less. Along, with out theories of photons, the origin of star light (nuclear fusion), etc. If the seasons were not observed out of phase, there is no easy way to vary this observation without significantly impacting it’s ability to explain the seasons. Its proponents would have no where go.

    So, our explanation for the seasons is good not only because it’s falsifiable, but because it’s hard to vary, which makes the key difference.

    Note that being easily varied is not limited to the supernatural. Natural explanations can be easily varied as well and would also be bad explanations.

    This is my argument as to why ID is bad philosophy.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    CR:

    ID suffers from bad philosophy.

    That is your opinion and unfortunately iot is based on your ignorance of ID.

    “An abstract designer did it” is a bad explanation because it is easily varied.

    Not really. The only way it can be varied is if someone demonstrated a designer is not required.

  24. 24
    ET says:

    CR:

    God is an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that operates via inexplicable means and methods.

    So what? ID is not about God. You lose.

  25. 25
    critical rationalist says:

    @John_a_designer

    The burden of proof rests on those who want to explain consciousness on the basis of something else. In other words, if a materialist believes that consciousness can be reduced to, and therefore, emerges from matter-energy, he needs to provide step-by-step instructions exactly how that happens not just empty hand-waving assertions.

    It’s unclear if you actually read my comment. Specifically…

    Emergent Properties

    – An emergent property of a system is a property that arises out of smaller pieces that doesn’t seem to exist in any of the individual pieces.

    and

    Two Emergent Properties

    – There are two key emergent properties of computation that we will discuss:

    — Universality: There is a single computing device capable of performing any computation.

    As such, “The basis of something else”, wouldn’t be those smaller pieces or reducible to them. That’s what it literally means for something to be emergent.

    Again, the universality of computation is one such example, where the ability to run any program that any other Turing machine can run doesn’t come from the smaller pieces, such a cogs, vacuum tubes or transistor, atoms, etc.

    IOW, we already have examples of emergence that you’re using right now.

    You don’t have one device that is a web browser, and another device for checking your mail, and another device to manage photos you’ve take, etc. You have a single device (Turing machine) that can, in principle, run any program that any other device (Turing machine) can run. My phone can do all of those things. And even things tomorrow that it currently can’t do today because it can run different algorithms than any other TM can run.

    That’s a concrete example of a leap to universality, which comes from a single, disproportional change in a physical system. And, as far as we know, it doesn’t require an kind of supernatural intervention when that disproportional physical change is made. (Well, I guess you could just as well claim that God makes computers universal when they are constructed, just as people claim God endows people consciousness when they are constructed from raw materials.)

    We do not currently have an explanation for consciousness, as we do with Turing machines. But any such explanation we do have will be emergent, just like our explanation for the universality of computation. It will be of that class of explanation, as opposed to some reductionist explanation about atoms, etc.

  26. 26
    critical rationalist says:

    BA: “You forgot the universality of computation . . .”

    Nonsense. No one has suggested that computation is an emergent property of physical components.

    Furthermore, apparently Stanford University is “no one”. From this presentation…

    Apparently, Barry has given up on this claim and, in doing so, implicitly admits he was wrong?

  27. 27
    critical rationalist says:

    To clarify, emergence is a level, class or category of explanation, not a specific concrete explanarion, such as the theory of computation, which is a emergent explanation for the universality of computation.

    As such, it’s unclear how emergence could be “magic” in that sense. The universality of computation is not “magic”, yet is is an unexpected result of a specific repertoire of computations. It meets the criteria of an emergent explanation.

  28. 28
    bb says:

    @J-Mac

    I watched the 1st 5 minutes of your video, and didn’t hear anything I didn’t already know. Before I waste an entire 40 minutes, please tell me what, precisely, in your link makes the material case for consciousness. I suspect it’s just a bluff. Give me a reason to think otherwise.

    CR is squirting ink like a squid and not really making his case, but rather is redefining “emergent” to suit what he wants to be reality, as opposed to describing what we all observe.

  29. 29
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR, I have time for a couple of drive-by snippets.

    “Barry has given up on this claim”

    But wait. There’s an alternative explanation, which would be: “Barry works for a living and does not have time to refute every claim made by every asshat troll on UD.”

    “To clarify, emergence is a level, class or category of explanation, not a specific concrete explanation”

    Again, blithering nonsense. “Emergence” has been advanced as the explanation of consciousness numerous times by materialists. This is common knowledge, which leads me to believe that your assertion is not a mere mistake. But I suppose if deflection and equivocation are all you’ve got then you have to go with it.

  30. 30
    J-Mac says:

    @bb 28

    The real purpose of the video is revealed at about 5 min mark and on…

    I don’t think you should be watching it though…
    It’s for those who have an open mind…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRSBaq3vAeY

  31. 31
    bb says:

    @J-Mac

    Have you ever questioned your Atheism?

  32. 32
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    CR: Apparently, Barry has given up on this claim [that “No one has suggested that computation is an emergent property of physical components.” and, in doing so, implicitly admits he was wrong?

    BA: But wait. There’s an alternative explanation, which would be: “Barry works for a living and does not have time to refute every claim made by every asshat troll on UD.”

    Or there is nothing to refute. After all, I’ve provided a reference to materials for a class at Stanford U and even quoted the relevant slides. It indicates that the universality of computation is classified as emergent property of computation, and is not “magic”.

    And that’s just what I found in a few minutes. I hope that when you’re “working for a living”, you do more research before making a claim.

    And, despite finding time to reply, you still havent addressed it. What other conclusion am I supposed to reach?

    Again, blithering nonsense.

    Exactly what is “blithering nonsense” about it? Are you saying that’s not a valid definition, and that Standford U is incorrect? Or are you suggesting that “materialists” are referring to something else when they say “emergent properties”? Again, in just a few minutes, I’ve found reference material from Standford U that describes emergence as just that.

    So, apparently, this is just more vague criticism.

    “Emergence” has been advanced as the explanation of consciousness numerous times by materialists.

    Numerous times? How many? Which materialists? Where are your quotes?

    It’s not even clear you know what emergence phenomena meant yourself when you wrote the OP. So how do we know you understood what “materialist” meant when used that term?

    Surely, you know this sort of thing wouldn’t fly at you “day job”, right? It’s unclear why you think it should fly here either.

    Who are these materialists? Where are examples of using emergence as an concrete explanation, as opposed to a class of explantion – which would be a mistaken usage of the term, not refutation that an explanation for consciousness would take the form of a “property that arises out of smaller pieces that doesn’t seem to exist in any of the individual pieces.” and not refer to magic any more than the universality of computation.

    Otherwise, this is just more vague criticism.

  33. 33
    J-Mac says:

    @bb,

    Have you ever questioned your Atheism?

    I had…or whatever doubts I had had about the existence of God…

    That’s why I became a believer… lol

    I might be a bit different than most believers in God, because I question every dogma there is…until proven beyond any reasonable doubt…

  34. 34
    J-Mac says:

    @critical rationalist,

    If you believe that mind/consciousness is emergent and computational, you must also believe that AI soon will be able to match the computational abilities of the human brain, right?

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    Now I have a little more time.

    Here is where we are so far:

    Barry’s argument: In all examples of emergence of physical systems that are well understood (hurricanes, etc.), we can understand how, in principle, the parts could result in the whole, even though it surprises us that they do. Consciousness is not like that. The physical and the mental are in different ontological categories. There is no way that we know of that could explain, in principle, how the physical could result in the mental.

    CR’s supposed refutation: What about computation? “You forgot the universality of computation, which emerges from a specific repertoire of computations.” First, we are talking about physical systems, not abstractions. So right off the bat, your counter example is not germane. Secondly, even if that were not the case, we can understand how, in principle, the changes in computation at one level can result in the emergence of changes at another level. Your example is thus doubly irrelevant.

    So, you have not even addressed the argument in the OP, far less refuted it.

    Here is what you did: Barry makes an argument about emergence. CR talks about emergence in a context that is totally unrelated to Barry’s argument. CR announces that he has refuted Barry’s argument. Not how it works CR old bean.

  36. 36
    Origenes says:

    CR

    Let’s consider the possibility that an abstract mind, instantiated on the computationally universal brain, decides to move an arm.

    If the mind is the brain, and is produced by neuronal behavior, then the whole path from intentionality to neural change is a purely physical affair. There is no gap between the ‘mental’ and the physical, so no need for a mechanism to close such a gap. I have no questions concerning this scenario — plain old self-referentially incoherent materialism.
    If, instead, the ‘emergent’ mind is independent from neuronal behavior, if it “can reach down”, by free will of its own, and cause neuronal change, I would like to know how this works.

    Put another way, if the mind is independent from neural behavior then there is by definition a gap between the mind and neurons. Again, if there is no such gap, no such independency, I have no questions. Assuming the gap exists, I would like to know how the hoovering consciousness reaches down causally effective and on what basis it chooses between various options.

  37. 37
    critical rationalist says:

    First, we are talking about physical systems, not abstractions. So right off the bat, your counter example is not germane.

    Huh? There are no non-material computers. So, you cannot have the universality of computation without a physical system. But the explanation for universality of computation is not present at a reductionist level. It is independent of atoms, transistors, vacuum tubes or cogs. That’s what it means for something to be an emergent property. Yet, it is not “magic”.

    Any such, explantion for consciousness would be of this same class. It would be independent of atoms or electrons. It would be just as unexpected and represent a disproportional leap to universality, just as the universality of computation. Yet, we still get comments like this….

    In other words, if a materialist believes that consciousness can be reduced to, and therefore, emerges from matter-energy, he needs to provide step-by-step instructions exactly how that happens not just empty hand-waving assertions.

    … which demands an reductionist explantion. Apparently, the best way to atack a theory you find objectionable is to present a false version of it, then point out it’s false or make unreasonable demands.

    At best, there might be some confused “materialists” that are using the term as concrete explantion, But you have yet to actually provide quotes or arguments to that effect. Even then, their being mistaken wouldn’t refute an accurate usage.

    Again, it’s not actually clear you understand what the term emergent meant in the context of consciousness when you wrote the OP or that you actually want to going forward.

    Secondly, even if that were not the case, we can understand how, in principle, the changes in computation at one level can result in the emergence of changes at another level. Your example is thus doubly irrelevant.

    And, there was a time when we lacked an explation for the universality of computation. We had computers long before we really understood algorithms and the implications of universality. And we’ve only recently developed the theory of quantum computation, which tells us that any physical system can simulate any other physical system to arbirary accuracy – which tells us we should expect things that we’ve never experienced before, such as Artificial General Intelligence.

    We don’t have an explantion for the latter yet. However, claiming we cannot have one unless we provide an reductionist explanation reavelis a gross misunderstanding of the different levels of explantion. And, apparently it’s willfully wrong, given the material I found in just a few minutes online and a number of comments that provide clarification.

  38. 38
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    Just realized I missed this….

    Consciousness is not like that. The physical and the mental are in different ontological categories. There is no way that we know of that could explain, in principle, how the physical could result in the mental.

    I’m not denying it would require a different level of explanation. In fact, that’s what I’ve been saying all along. Yet, that doesn’t require the addition of some inexplicable realm in which some inexplicable mind exists. Nor does it equate to magic.

  39. 39
    asauber says:

    “It’s Emergent!”

    Every time I read this I wanna do the Electric Slide.

    Exciting science. /sarc

    Andrew

  40. 40
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Let’s consider the possibility that an abstract mind, instantiated on the computationally universal brain, decides to move an arm.

    Again, you seem to have confused a level of explanation with a concrete explanation, Specially, you’re assuming an example of emergence is the explanation for consciousness, as I had not written my comment on quantum computation yet. Rather, I’m referring to emergence as a classification or type of explanation, not a specific concrete explanation.

    While it is true that many of our in-progress theories of artificial intelligence are based on the universality of computation, it’s not clear that a AGI at a human level would necessary need to be conscious in the sense that we are. It’s still relevantly early and there is still much we have to learn. But we are far along enough that any such explanation would not be reductionist in nature.

    For example, It could be that a genuine artificial general intelligence may become conscious, and we still wouldn’t have an explanation consciousness for it yet. This does’t change the fact that any expiation would be at the level of emergence.

    As for free will, it seems like you’re starting from the idea that divine revelation tells us we will be eternally greatly rewarded or horribly punished based on our choices. And, that same divine revelation has specific divinely revealed implications for epistemology, such as human beings must be designed for truth, that knowledge is justified true belief, God has preserved his word as it was handed down, morality is written on our hearts, knowledge comes from authoritative sources, such as God or experience, etc. Without all of these things, we wouldn’t have enough of a guarantee that we knew truth to the degree that we could be eternally judged. And that would mean the Bible was incorrect, etc.

    IOW, the theory of mind / consciousness, like the theory of evolution, is yet another theory that unfortunately intersects with supposedly divinely revealed beliefs of what God would do, would not do, did do, or did not do.

    But this would be true of almost anything. The claim that you actually wrote the comment I’m responding to implicitly denies that God did not create the universe we observe 30 seconds ago, complete with the appearance of age, false memories, etc., for some good reason we cannot comprehend.

  41. 41
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist (from the Stanford presentation):

    “— Individual atoms obey the laws of quantum mechanics and just interact with other atoms. Somehow, it’s possible to combine them together to make iPhones.”

    This is an example of “emergence”? Seriously? And you just accept such drivel because it is in a Stanford presentation?

    What does this mean that “somehow” it is possible to combine atoms to make iPhones? Of course it is. And how is it done? By an intelligent agent, carefully planning, organizing and creating.

    The concept of “emergence” is essentially useless. It is a placeholder for ignorance. Either we know what caused the thing to “emerge” (as in the iPhone) or we don’t (as in the case of consciousness). When we know what the cause was, we can fully and completely and accurately describe it without ever using the word “emergence.” That word doesn’t bring anything to the table and doesn’t add any light to the situation. I’m quite confident that Apple’s patents covering the iPhone don’t say that they took a bunch of atoms and then the iPhone “somehow emerged” from those atoms.

    What you’ve fallen into with the Stanford presentation is a bit of bait and switch: The presenter is using design (the iPhone) as a supposed example of non-design (emergence) and then trying to pretend that there is some kind of emergence going on because, hey, we all know the iPhone exists. This is then used to give credence to the idea of emergence in the presentation.

    This kind of rhetorical tactic (or blunder, rather, as it was probably unintentional) is quite reminiscent of the many times Darwinists try to put forward examples of the alleged power of random mutation and natural selection to create wonderful things, culminating in examples like Berra’s Blunder.

    If there really are good examples of random mutation and natural selection creating wonderful things, Darwinian proponents would just point to them and wouldn’t have to fall back on examples of design to try prove their point.

    If there really were good examples of “emergence” meaning something substantive and creating wonderful things, proponents wouldn’t have to fall back on examples of design, like the iPhone, to try to prove their point.

  42. 42
    ET says:

    An example of emergence is when a magnetic field emerges out of current flowing through a conductor that is wrapped around a nail. That was unexpected.

  43. 43
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    which demands an reductionist explanation

    Precisely CR. We are demanding that materialists provide a reductionist explanation for consciousness or admit that they cannot. After all, the whole basis of materialism is the assertion that every single effect in the universe can be reduced to a physical cause. You seem offended that when it comes to consciousness, we are saying put up or shut up. You seem to understand that consciousness cannot be reduced to material causes. Good for you; at least you are not denying the screamingly obvious. Yet you cannot give up your materialism, and this leads you to combine your materialism with an obscurantist mysticism. OK; good luck with that.

  44. 44
    asauber says:

    You are trying to be a materialist and a obscurantist mystic at the same time.

    BA,

    Phrase well-turned.

    Andrew

  45. 45
    Eric Anderson says:

    ET @42:

    It is well understood and completely expected by every electrical engineer. True, it may have been a surprise when first discovered. But once they understood what was going on it was a well-understood phenomenon.

    Also, whether something is expected or unexpected doesn’t make the word “emergence” meaningful. For example, how does saying a magnetic field “emerges from x” differ from saying that a magnetic field “is formed by x”? These are logically equivalent statements.

    So where the rubber meets the road is in whether we understand how the field is formed. If we do, we have an explanation for it. If not, we don’t.

    But just observing that a magnetic field “was formed” and then calling that an explanation would not fool anyone. Yet the emergentists like to pretend that if they call something an “emergence” that they have provided an explanation. They haven’t. Saying something emerged is equivalent to saying “it happened” or “it occurred” — as a result of some unknown, unspecified real cause.

  46. 46
    ET says:

    Yes, Eric, we now understand what causes the magnetic field to emerge.

    emergence:

    In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is a phenomenon whereby larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities such that the larger entities exhibit properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit.

    Materialists think that consciousness emerges out of the interactions of neurons that form the brain.

  47. 47
    Eric Anderson says:

    ET, I think we’re largely on the same page. If you’ll permit me just a couple of follow-up observations:

    Materialists think that consciousness emerges out of the interactions of neurons that form the brain.

    Well, they think it emerges out of something, somehow. But the details are so non-existent that it is impossible to tell what is being proposed. As soon as emergence is proposed, we can ask a very simple follow-up question: How? At that point the whole idea breaks down.

    —–

    The definition you cited is probably about as good as we are going to get. But it suffers from a couple of serious problems:

    1. “the larger entities exhibit properties the smaller/simpler entities do not exhibit” – this is so broad to as to almost encompass every phenomenon in existence. H combines with O and produces water. Water certainly exhibits properties that H and O don’t exhibit individually. So, what, now we should call water an “emergent phenomenon”?

    Sand is laid down over time and compressed to form sandstone. Now sandstone is an emergent phenomenon? I build a house from materials. The house certainly has properties that the materials themselves don’t. So my house is an example of emergence?

    The whole concept is so broad that it constitutes nothing more substantive than the trivial observation that “stuff happens.” It doesn’t add any value; it provides no explanation. At best, it is just a restatement of the fact that “we observed that X occurred.” At worst, when put forward as an explanation for something, it functions as anti-knowledge: giving us the false impression that we have explained something, when in fact we have not.

    2. “larger entities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities” – Even setting aside the formidable logical and definitional problems noted above, this is precisely where the rubber meets the road. How do we know that the larger entity arose through the “interactions among smaller or simpler entities”?

    If we know how the smaller or simpler entities give rise to the larger entity, then we can describe it perfectly well, thank you very much, without ever invoking this concept of “emergence”. That is why we talk about water forming from a certain number of molecules and through certain chemical bonds. We don’t talk of water “emerging” from hydrogen and oxygen.

    If we don’t know how smaller or simpler entities give rise to the larger entity, then we can’t really say that the larger entity emerged from the smaller entities; certainly we can’t say that the smaller entities were sufficient in and of themselves to produce the larger entity.

    The bottom line with emergence is this:

    Emergence functions as little more than a placeholder for ignorance. When we know what is going on we don’t need to invoke it. And when it is invoked, we can be quite sure that the person invoking it doesn’t know what is going on.

  48. 48
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    BA: Precisely CR. We are demanding that materialists provide a reductionist explanation for consciousness or admit that they cannot. After all, the whole basis of materialism is the assertion that every single effect in the universe can be reduced to a physical cause.

    Again, Huh?

    UD Editors: We are sorry you don’t understand that. We would try to make it simpler but, frankly, don’t know how.

    CR: There are no non-material computers. So, you cannot have the universality of computation without a physical system. But the explanation for universality of computation is not present at a reductionist level. It is independent of atoms, transistors, vacuum tubes or cogs. That’s what it means for something to be an emergent property. Yet, it is not “magic”.

    And …

    CR: [The universality of computation] is a concrete example of a leap to universality, which comes from a single, disproportional change in a physical system. And, as far as we know, it doesn’t require an kind of supernatural intervention when that disproportional physical change is made. (Well, I guess you could just as well claim that God makes computers universal when they are constructed, just as people claim God endows people consciousness when they are constructed from raw materials.)

    Is there something about the above that you do not understand? Are you saying that God endows computers with the universality of computation when they are constructed, because the explanation for that universality is emergent?

    What gives?

    UD Editors: We never said anything about God. We said that “emergence” as an explanation for consciousness does not explain anything. So far, you have wanted to talk about everything under the sun, including God, rather than address the argument of the OP. OK. Your avoidance of the argument is answer enough. You’ve got nothing. Why don’t you just admit that, and we can move on?

    Again, this seems to be an example of presenting a false view of a theory you find objectionable, then pointing it is false or making unreasonable demands. This is par for the course.

  49. 49
    ET says:

    Yes, Eric, water is an emergent property, as is salt from NaCl. A house is an intended property, it doesn’t just emerge.

    Emergence functions as little more than a placeholder for ignorance.

    In the case of consciousness, I agree.

    (That is also the case with the word “instinct”- it functions as a little more than a placeholder for ignorance.)

  50. 50
    critical rationalist says:

    @EA

    You still seem to be confused. Whether an explanation is a emergent or not has nothing to do with the object or outcome being designed.

    For example, Babbage stumbled upon the universality of computation while trying to automate the ability to enter data and reconfigure his second computer, the Analytical engine. Even then, he couldn’t convince enough people to actually fund its development.

    It was only when Turing rediscovered it trying to solve a different problem that we had a good grasp on the implications.

    If someone is surprised by an a outcome of their actions, does that mean they intentionally designed that outcome?

    Rather, emergence is a type or class of explanation.

  51. 51
    asauber says:

    There are no non-material computers

    CR,

    This is just an assertion. Computers (common term) store symbols meaningful to humans (bits and bytes). The computation comes from the human mind. The computer takes translated input and just rearranges data for output, based on written/coded human instruction.

    Andrew

  52. 52
    Eric Anderson says:

    ET: Couple of things:

    A house is an intended property, it doesn’t just emerge.

    Fair enough. So you would agree with me that the iPhone example CR cited from the Stanford presentation is nonsense.

    Yes, Eric, water is an emergent property, as is salt from NaCl.

    And how do we know that? Because we understand the chemistry behind these reactions.

    Now, hang on to that point for a moment while we consider the following:

    That is also the case with the word “instinct”- it functions as a little more than a placeholder for ignorance.

    Not quite. Instinct is describing a particular property. In our example of water, it would be equivalent to observing something like “wetness.”

    It is true that we can use words (like “instinct”) to describe things that are not well understood. It is also true that the word “emerge” is a perfectly legitimate word in the English language that can be used appropriately in many situations. This isn’t the problem.

    The problem is when the word emergence is used as an answer to how something came about or as a causal explanation.

    The only reason you know that water “emerges” from H and O is because you know that H and O will react to produce water. If you didn’t know the underlying cause, it would be illegitimate to claim that water emerges from them. You might suspect it. You might not know of another explanation. But you wouldn’t be able to say that H + O, on their own, produce water.

    (Further, as I’ve already mentioned, calling the process “emergence” doesn’t add anything to our knowledge or understanding. It is completely superfluous. If people want to run around using superfluous terminology, fine. But they shouldn’t expect anyone else to take them seriously.)

    Worse, when emergence itself is put forth as though it were a process or a cause, it is simply false. That is the problem with how the word is so often used, particularly in debates about evolution and consciousness.

    Consider the following examples:

    “A light emerged in the darkness.” or “A wolf emerged from the forest.”

    These are perfectly legitimate uses of the word “emerge”. In each case they tell us that something appeared that was not previously there – that we observed something new.

    Yet these statements are not attempting to be a causal explanation. No-one is claiming that the darkness somehow produced the light, or that the forest trees somehow produced the wolf.”

    So when we ask the question How?, it is a causal inquiry, and references to emergence are unhelpful, at best, and more often, misleading.

    If someone is claiming that a living organism emerged from the primordial soup or that consciousness emerged from electrical impulses between neurons, they are offering a causal explanation. And the idea of emergence doesn’t work in that capacity. It fails, both practically and logically.

  53. 53
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    I don’t have any more time for your antics. Here is the bottom line: Explain how consciousness can be reduced to nothing more than the electro-chemical reactions in the brain — i.e., tell us how, in principle, the mental is caused by the physical — and I will admit defeat.

    BTW: “It emerged” is not an answer. It is a non-answer, which which you appear to be content.

  54. 54

    CR @ 50: What exactly is emergence, and how does it defeat design arguments?

  55. 55
    ET says:

    Eric:

    Instinct is describing a particular property.

    What property is that?

  56. 56
    Eric Anderson says:

    ET, I’m sure we must be talking past each other a bit.

    If your point is that we don’t understand instinct very well, I agree.

    If your point is even that there are lots of other things in nature that we don’t understand very well, I agree. Such things are a dime a dozen.

    I am focused on the causal connection, which is precisely the issue on the table.

    I don’t mind if someone wants to use the word “emerge” to refer to the mere observation that x occurred. Fine. But when they attempt to explain what happened by saying that it emerged, they are just talking in circles and not providing any real explanation.

    —–

    If you are noting that we don’t have a good understanding of what causes instinctual behavior, then I’m happy to agree.

    And let us then take careful note that if someone were to come along and try to explain the instinctual behavior by saying that it emerged, it would not be a valid explanation. 🙂

  57. 57
    J-Mac says:

    The best evidence for consciousness comes from everyday anesthesiology used in surgical procedures…
    Gases used to put patients to sleep totally disable their consciousness…

    Interestingly, while patients’ under anesthetic are totally unconscious, their brain functions are normal with the exception that the patients are not aware of anything at all, don’t dream and can’t remember anything at all after surgery…

    It turns out that gases used in anesthetics disable microtubles in neurons where quantum vibrations have been identified by several experiments…These findings provide evidence that consciousness could be quantum. Quantum consciousness functioning via quantum entanglement would also explain why people who are missing the majority of their brains, as much as up 75%, are functioning fine, being fully conscious and having normal life experiences as people who have full brains…

  58. 58
    ET says:

    Eric, I was just trying to explain what “emergence” means. And yes we agree that just saying it is meaningless unless it can be backed up with evidence.

    As far as “instinct” goes, where ID is concerned I would think “instinct” is actually the organisms’ BIOS.

  59. 59
    Origenes says:

    CR: … it’s not clear that a AGI at a human level would necessary need to be conscious in the sense that we are.

    I can clear that up for you. AGI “at a human level” would mean that an agent is in control of his thoughts and actions.
    Maybe this time you can answer my question:
    What/who would be the agent that is in control in the context of “AGI at a human level?” And on what basis does this agent make decisions?

    CR: As for free will, it seems like you’re starting from the idea that divine revelation tells us we will be eternally greatly rewarded or horribly punished based on our choices.

    Balderdash. The subject is emergence and its explanatory power. I am extremely skeptical and, for starters, I would like to know who the agent is and how an emergent property controls the physical layer on which it sits.

  60. 60
    J-Mac says:

    If consciousness is quantum, as it appears to be, then “the emergence” of consciousness would be the rearrangement of sub-particles which boils down to quantum information…

    The question is; are most of us ready to accept that consciousness is nothing more than information? Under general anesthesia everything works fine in human body with one exception: the processing of quantum information…

  61. 61
    critical rationalist says:

    @UDE

    UD Editors: We never said anything about God. We said that “emergence” as an explanation for consciousness does not explain anything.

    And I said continually said the very idea of emergence as a concrete explanation would represent a category error that Barry keeps perpetuating, as if he does not understand the concept, despite having been presented multiple clarifications and examples.

    One such example is the universality of computation, which Barry omitted and apparently objects to for some reason I still cannot understand.

    Barry’s extremely vague claim of some of supposed mistaken use by some unknown number of yet to be identied or quoted “materialists” doesn’t negate the fact that we have concrete examples of emergent properties of matter. Where are these “materialists”? Where are the relivant quotes?

    Just as we do not think our emergent explation of the universality of computation is “magic”, nor would we consider a future emergent explantion for consciousness “magic” either, or any more impossible. Again, there are no non-physical computers, yet the explanation for that universality is not found at the level of atoms. Nor does it require the existence of some non-material sea that surrounds some material bubble.

    So, what gives?

    Any such future explanation for consciousness would be in the same class and level. Just as what was a future explanton for the universality of computation. Nor are we somehow guaranteed to develop such an explantion. But perpetuating this absurd category error is, well, disegneous at best, or represents significant ignorance on what emergent phenomena is.

  62. 62
    critical rationalist says:

    @BA

    CR: And I said continually said the very idea of emergence as a concrete explanation would represent a category error that Barry keeps perpetuating, as if he does not understand the concept, despite having been presented multiple clarifications and examples.

    What am I talking about?

    BA: BTW: “It emerged” is not an answer. It is a non-answer, which which you appear to be content.

    Yet, I keep objecting on the ground that you’re making a category error, which you yourself keep perpetuating, so it’s unclear how I’m content with it

    We don’t have an explanation for consoiuness. And we may never will. But the claim that there is this dichotomy by which any such explantion must be either reductionist in nature or “supernatural” doesn’t withstand criticism.

    One such criticism of that dichotomy is the universality of computation. There are no non-physical computers. Yet the explantion for that universality is not found anywhere in atoms, quarks, etc. Nor is that universality like atoms or quarks, either. And it represents a jump to universality that is disproptional to the physical change.

    Of course, this will change nothing as, apparently, the only response you have is to continue to perpetuating the same category error, as if that somehow addresses this criticism.

  63. 63
    Origenes says:

    CR: And I said continually said the very idea of emergence as a concrete explanation would represent a category error …

    Whatever. What matters is that emergence is not an explanation, not a concrete explanation and not any other kind of explanation.

  64. 64
    critical rationalist says:

    @origenes

    What matters is that emergence is not an explanation, not a concrete explanation and not any other kind of explanation.

    Can you wear a kind of footwear? No, you cannot. You can only wear a concrete example of a specific kind of footwear. But this in and of itself does not mean there are no kinds of footware, and that we cannot have concerete examples of those kinds that we can point to, which people are actually wearing.

    The claim that a specific kind of footwear is impossible can be met with the criticism of an example of someone actually wearing that kind of footwear. Right? Boots are impossible? Well, someone is wearing a pair right there!

    In the same sense, can a *kind* of explanation actually be an explanation? No, not in the sense you are implying. You can only explain things with concrete explations. But this in and of itself does not mean there are no kinds of explanations, including those at the level of emergence, and that we cannot have concrete examples of those kinds we can point to.

    One such examples we can point to is the universality of computation. There are no non-material computers. Yet the universality of computation is no were found in the atoms that it is constructed from.

    “[Emergence] is not any other kind of explanation”? But the explanation for the universality of computation is right there, and it’s emergent!

    So, the first part of your statement does not imply the second part of your statement is true.

  65. 65
    ET says:

    critical rationalist is lost. The point is just saying “emergence” is foolish. You have to know something about how it emerged in order for “emergence” to be an explanation.

  66. 66
    asauber says:

    critical rationalist is lost

    Yes. He’s the same old materialist stuck in a ditch.

    Andrew

  67. 67

    CR @ 64: You state: “Can you wear a kind of footwear? No, you cannot. You can only wear a concrete example of a specific kind of footwear. But this in and of itself does not mean there are no kinds of footware, and that we cannot have concerete examples of those kinds that we can point to, which people are actually wearing.”

    I get that you are trying to distinguish the IDEA of a thing from the MATERIAL thing itself; the conceptual from the tangible, but I don’t understand how that defeats design arguments. A specific shoe model arises first as an idea/concept in someone’s mind. We cannot wear the idea/concept for it is not yet materialized as a tangible object to fit of feet. So what? How does that defeat design arguments?

  68. 68
    Origenes says:

    CR @

    Consciousness is in control of thoughts and actions. That is one of the remarkable capabilities of consciousness; it is a prerequisite for rationality.

    CR: Can you wear a kind of footwear? No, you cannot. You can only wear a concrete example of a specific kind of footwear.

    Is the concept “footwear” in control of the concrete examples of footwear from which it emerges? I would say not, therefore this emergence of the concept footwear is not relevant to consciousness.
    IOWs it does not even begin explaining the control consciousness has.

    CR: One such examples we can point to is the universality of computation. There are no non-material computers. Yet the universality of computation is no were found in the atoms that it is constructed from.

    Whatever. What matters is that the concept “the universality of computation”, as an emergent property, does not control, does not “reach down” in any way in the direction of, the physical level on which it sits.
    So …. it is neither relevant nor explanatory WRT consciousness.

  69. 69
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    We don’t have an explanation for consoiuness. And we may never will.

    That is false. Materialists need to learn that “it does not convince me” is not equivalent to “it does not exist.” Otherwise, they will continue to sound stupid when they say things like “there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God” or “there is no explanation for consciousness.”

    But the claim that there is this dichotomy by which any such explanation must be either reductionist in nature or “supernatural” doesn’t withstand criticism.

    CR, “non-reductionist materialist explanation” is an oxymoron. All materialist explanations are, by definition, reductionist — they reduce to material causes. It is astounding that you don’t appear to be able to grasp this rather basic and obvious point. It follows that if materialists cannot provide a reductionist explanation of consciousness, they will not be able to provide any explanation at all.

  70. 70
    critical rationalist says:

    Materialists need to learn that “it does not convince me” is not equivalent to “it does not exist.” Otherwise, they will continue to sound stupid when they say things like “there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of God” or “there is no explanation for consciousness.”

    We do not have an explanation for consciousness that is emergent. Better? And we, as in those of us who think emergent explanations are possible and that universality of computation is one of them.

    Furthermore, when we discard all bad explanations, which are easily varied, we are left with none. This very specific criticism isn’t specific to the “supernatural” or God. See #22.

    CR, “non-reductionist materialist explanation” is an oxymoron. All materialist explanations are, by definition, reductionist — they reduce to material causes. It is astounding that you don’t appear to be able to grasp this rather basic and obvious point.

    This is the false dichotomy you are perpetuating. The emergent explanation for the universality of computation is one such criticism of that claim. Again, there are no nonmaterial computers, yet the explanation for the universality of computation is not present in atoms or any reductionist sense. Nor does it require some supernatural realm.

    Again, who are these materialists? Where are quotes to back up your claims?

    Surely, you realize this sort of thing wouldn’t fly in your “day job”, so why would you expect it to fly here?

  71. 71
    Origenes says:

    CR: Again, there are no nonmaterial computers, yet the explanation for the universality of computation is not present in atoms or any reductionist sense. Nor does it require some supernatural realm.

    Unfortunately for your position, a supernatural realm is required: the realm of specified functional information. According to our uniform experience, specified functional information arises from an intelligent source.

  72. 72
    Eric Anderson says:

    ET @58:

    Thanks. Fair points.

  73. 73
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    You’ve made numerous references to this universality of computation and how it is an example of emergence that is meaningful and real.

    Can you help us understand your point just a little bit better:

    1. Can you define universality of computation and give a concrete example of it arising?

    2. Does it arise from the physical characteristics of the system, or from the immaterial informational concepts programmed into the system?

    3. Do you have any other examples of emergence like this, other than the universality of computation?

    4. Finally, is the “emergence” of universality of computation just a descriptive observation of the result (without knowing the cause), or is “emergence” in this case referring to some kind of concrete, known cause?

  74. 74
    J-Mac says:

    @60

    Further to my comment @60:

    “Under general anesthesia everything works fine in human body with one exception: the processing of quantum information…” in microtubules of neurons.

    It is unknown whether other possible quantum processes in the brain are affected by anesthetic gases…

    I hope it is clearer now…

  75. 75
    Origenes says:

    J-Mac: If consciousness is quantum, as it appears to be, then “the emergence” of consciousness would be the rearrangement of sub-particles which boils down to quantum information…

    The question is; are most of us ready to accept that consciousness is nothing more than information?

    Information on its own is inert. It does not make decisions. It is not a person. So, how can conscious be “nothing more than information?”

    Further, I see no coherency in quantum effects, so that it can serve as an explanation for a unified rational mind.

  76. 76
    critical rationalist says:

    @EA

    See this video : https://youtu.be/PmZhFY3r_g8

  77. 77
    J-Mac says:

    Origenes,

    “Information on its own is inert. It does not make decisions. It is not a person. So, how can conscious be “nothing more than information?”

    This is exactly my point against ba77, who believes that quantum information can continue on after death as a quantum soul. I argue exactly what you just did. Quantum Info that can’t be destroyed needs a quantum processor; neurons with micro-tubule quantum entanglement processes in the human brain…

    Further, I see no coherency in quantum effects, so that it can serve as an explanation for a unified rational mind.

    But your opinion doesn’t make the laws of QM wrong, does it?

  78. 78
    critical rationalist says:

    @origines

    Unfortunately for your position, a supernatural realm is required: the realm of specified functional information. According to our uniform experience, specified functional information arises from an intelligent source.

    There is no non-physical information, just as there are no nonphysical computers. So, no, this isn’t part of our uniform experience.

    Furthermore, does the medical research community not consist of conscious, intelligent. agents? Have they not chosen to cure cancer? Are their actions and arrangements of matter not made with the intent to cure cancer? Are they not supposedly free in the sense that they are independent of physical laws? IOW, if what you’re saying is true, then why don’t we have a cure for cancer by now?

    Or to rephrase, why are the arrangements of some free, intelligent agents actually successful while the arrangements of other free intelligent agents are not? What’s the difference?

  79. 79
    FourFaces says:

    The funny thing about materialism is that we experience the supernatural all the time.

    Why We Have a Supernatural Soul

  80. 80
    Origenes says:

    CR: There is no non-physical information …

    Yes there is. In abundance, I would say, since information is non-physical. If only because there is no physical explanation for complex specified functional information.

    CR: Furthermore, does the medical research community not consist of conscious, intelligent. agents? Have they not chosen to cure cancer? Are their actions and arrangements of matter not made with the intent to cure cancer? Are they not supposedly free in the sense that they are independent of physical laws?
    They are free in their decision to attempt to cure cancer.
    IOW, if what you’re saying is true, then why don’t we have a cure for cancer by now?

    A silly old question which I have answered a couple of times already. Maybe there is no cure for cancer, maybe our current understanding of biology is insufficient, and or maybe they have not found it yet — and so forth. Why do you ask?

    CR: Or to rephrase, why are the arrangements of some free, intelligent agents actually successful while the arrangements of other free intelligent agents are not? What’s the difference?

    Why are we discussing the difference between good and bad design? Why is that relevant? As far as I can see, it has no bearing on the OP.

  81. 81
    critical rationalist says:

    The funny thing about “materialism” is that it’s an outdated term which represents a false dichotomy.

    For example, your entire argument at the referenced link assumes that depth, vision, etc. is not natural, yet makes no argument as such. IOW, “Supernatural” must assume that the aspects in question are somehow not natural. It’s unclear you’ve reached that conclusion other than asserting it.

    Abstraction is occurs in nature without conscious beings. So, it’s unclear how abstractions are not nature, even if we employ the outdated assumption that people are somehow distinct from nature.

  82. 82
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origines

    Yes there is. In abundance, I would say, since information is non-physical.

    That’s not an argument or an example of non-physical information. That’s precisely what is in question, so It’s an assertion which is not in “abundance”.

    If only because there is no physical explanation for complex specified functional information.

    Huh?

    I’m not sure what the latter sentence has to do with the former. What is it <b?supposedly having no physical explanation for, say DNA, has to with DNA not representing an example of physical information.

    In fact, that is the criticism I’ve been presenting all along.

    One task that must be possible for information is that there is a reversible computation that allows it to be copied from one storage medium to another.

    IOW, for external information to be copied into a cell, to the genome of a organism, that requires the same information to be present externally in physical form. It represent a reversible computation. That’s how copying works.

    So, I’d say that you are mistaken in that we do have and explanation that includes, at a minimum, physical information being present externally.

    Otherwise, what you seem to be describing is the spontaneous generation of information.

  83. 83
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    Thanks. As suspected, I figured you were referring to a Turing machine. Nice video about a universal Turing machine. Now, after having repeatedly brought up this “universality of computation” again and again on this thread, perhaps you will be so kind as to explain the following:

    1. What on Earth does the existence of a universal Turing machine have to do with emergence? In particular as it relates to the topic of this thread.

    I am very near to calling your bluff on this entire concept of “universality of computation” you keep bringing up, but I’ll give you one more chance here.

    Now, as to the other questions I posed, which you didn’t answer:

    2. Does this universality of computation arise from the physical characteristics of the system, or from the immaterial informational concepts programmed into the system?

    3. Do you have any other examples of emergence like this, other than the universality of computation?

    4. Finally, is the “emergence” of universality of computation just a descriptive observation of the result (without knowing the cause), or is “emergence” in this case referring to some kind of concrete, known cause?

  84. 84
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    There is no non-physical information . . .

    This is flatly, blatantly wrong. You need to do some serious review of the concept of information.

    The fact that information can be represented by a physical system does not make the information material. Information is, by definition, not reducible to a particular physical system.

  85. 85
    FourFaces says:

    critical rationalist @81,

    Strawman arguments are not just false. They are cowardly. This is why I try not to argue with materialists and Darwinists. See you around.

  86. 86
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    The fact that information can be represented by a physical system does not make the information material. Information is, by definition, not reducible to a particular physical system.

    Again, there are no nonphysical examples of information, just as there are no non-phyisical examples of computers.

    But, if I got it wrong, feel free to point to an example of nonphysical information.

    Information is, by definition, not reducible to a particular physical system.

    This is where the universality of computation comes into play. Any Turing machine can run the same algorithm as any other Turing machine. This is why we no longer need one physical system to perform different tasks, such as one physical device to browse facebook, and another physical device to read email. And another physical device to read UD, etc. Before this theory, that’s exactly what we had. Either we tasked an algorithm to a person, or we build custom hardware to execute that algorithm. However, in principle, Turing machines can run any algorithm that any other Turing machine can run, even if one is constructed with cogs, while the other is constructed with transistors.

    Furthermore, every step of the information in this thread as it made it’s way between us has taken represented a physical instantiation of that information. There were no nonphysical in-between steps.

    See this paper for details of what tasks must be possible, which defines information.

  87. 87
    critical rationalist says:

    Strawman arguments are not just false.

    Strangely enough, that’s what Barry has been presenting here.

    Emergence is not a concrete explanation, it is a kind or class of explanation.

    At best, he *might* yet be able to provide quotes from some yet to be identified “materialists” that are using the term incorrectly, (he hasn’t yet) but that wouldn’t somehow change the fact that we have concrete examples of explanations at the level of emergence, such as the universality of computation, which represent disproportionate leaps to universality. There are no nonphyisical computers. Just as there is no physical information.

    Again, surely Barry knows this wouldn’t fly at his “day job”, so I don’t know why he thinks it would fly here either.

  88. 88
    critical rationalist says:

    1. What on Earth does the existence of a universal Turing machine have to do with emergence? In particular as it relates to the topic of this thread.

    The universality of computation is an example of an emergent explanation, in that emergence is a type of explanation, not a concrete explanation. Specifically, see #16

    Sanford U: An emergent property of a system is a property that arises out of smaller pieces that doesn’t seem to exist in any of the individual pieces.

    This is opposed to being something that happened “without a designer” or something to that effect. That seems to be a significant point of confusion here.

    I am very near to calling your bluff on this entire concept of “universality of computation” you keep bringing up, but I’ll give you one more chance here.

    Huh? Again, do you use separate devices to browse facebook, another device to check email and another device to read and post on UD? Is that somehow a “bluff”?

    2. Does this universality of computation arise from the physical characteristics of the system, or from the immaterial informational concepts programmed into the system?

    Given that a Turing machine can run algorithms that have not been devised yet, it’s unclear how it can arise from algorithms themselves. Rather it’s ability to run any possible algorithm comes from a specific repertoire of computations. It’s a disproportional leap to universality.

    3. Do you have any other examples of emergence like this, other than the universality of computation?

    There are many more examples, a few of which I provided in #8. But I don’t see why more than one is necessary to successfully criticize the dichotomy presented in the OP.

    4. Finally, is the “emergence” of universality of computation just a descriptive observation of the result (without knowing the cause), or is “emergence” in this case referring to some kind of concrete, known cause?

    You’ll have to be more specific here, as it’s unclear how this is relevant. Again, emergence is a type of explanation, not a concrete explanation. It’s like a kind of footwear, not a specific instance, such as a boot, so to speak. You can’t wear a kind of footwear. Nor does it have anything to do with the phenomenon being designed or not.

    Babbage’s analytical machine was designed, but not designed to be able to run any algorithm because algorithms were not really flushed out until Turing came along. So, the universality of computation wasn’t an intentional outcome, despite the fact that it was actually Babbage that designed the first Turing machine.

  89. 89
    critical rationalist says:

    Correction for #87

    There are no nonphyisical computers. Just as there is no non-physical information.

  90. 90
    juwilker says:

    CR @ 89 “Just as there is no non-physical information.”

    I beg to differ. Right now I can “hear” the Pachelbel Canon in D playing in my mind in Spanish. I can choose whether a piano is playing or a violin or a bass. I I could choose a choir to “la la la” the notes/sound. I can even turn the volume up and down. And I can speed and slow the tempo. Go ahead, try it yourself. Its kinda cool.

    I’m sure this “experience/ability” I have is entirely due to non physical information. I”m reading no notes on a page, I’m hearing no sound waves. I’m not touching any vibrating surface.

  91. 91
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist @86:

    Again, there are no nonphysical examples of information, just as there are no non-phyisical examples of computers.

    Hello! Where did the message you intended to type come from? Certainly not from the machine you typed it on.

    What makes you think you can analogize a computer with information. A computer is a physical object — a machine built for a purpose. That is not what information is.

    Information can, by definition and by our regular and repeated real-world experience, be translated into different symbolic systems. Nothing like this can occur with a physical object. Through a representation in a physical medium, information can be stored, retrieved, deleted, re-created, copied numerous times, translated again, etc. Nothing at all close to this can happen with a physical object.

    You have no idea what you are talking about and need to do some serious study of information theory and related principles. You are still conflating the message with the medium.

  92. 92
    critical rationalist says:

    I I could choose a choir to “la la la” the notes/sound. I can even turn the volume up and down. And I can speed and slow the tempo. Go ahead, try it yourself. Its kinda cool.

    Except not everyone has a “minds eye” by which they can achieve this. This condition is known as Aphantasia. Some people have never had this ability. Some lost it after brain surgery. Aphantasia is similar to conditions such as face blindness, word blindness. etc.

    I’m sure this “experience/ability” I have is entirely due to non physical information. I”m reading no notes on a page, I’m hearing no sound waves. I’m not touching any vibrating surface.

    You’re sure?

    You do realize that our ears merely transmit electrical “crackles” to our brains. Just as our eyes only detect light. So we do not experience anything as it actually is. All of our experiences are theory laden.

    IOW, why can’t you be replaying the results of those electrical “crackles” in your mind? Why is this not another example of information instantiated in some physical form. Because you can trigger it on demand?

  93. 93
    Barry Arrington says:

    Eric,

    CR appears truly to believe that the information in a book is a property of the paper and ink. Upright Biped has been explaining why that is not the case for a long time now. Go ahead and explain it to him again. You will get insane denial.

  94. 94
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    Given that a Turing machine can run algorithms that have not been devised yet, it’s unclear how it can arise from algorithms themselves. Rather it’s ability to run any possible algorithm comes from a specific repertoire of computations. It’s a disproportional leap to universality.

    First of all, you may want to exercise caution in your claims and when throwing around fancy terms like “universality of computation”, considering that several people here have backgrounds in computer systems and programming.

    Second, you have failed to properly define what you are talking about — thus my questions.

    The particular statement above, for example, is highly confused, again highlighting your failure to distinguish between the message and the medium.

    Let’s parse it out:

    Given that a Turing machine can run algorithms that have not been devised yet,

    So far so good.

    . . . it’s unclear how it can arise from algorithms themselves.

    What can arise? The Turing machine? A Turing machine is designed. And a universal Turing machine is designed to run any possible computation or algorithm. Of course a computer doesn’t arise from the algorithms that run on it.*

    The Turing machine arises from an intentional design process — from a mind. The algorithms that run on the Turing machine also arise from an intentional design process — from a mind. It is design all the way down.

    Rather it’s ability to run any possible algorithm comes from a specific repertoire of computations.

    Almost. But you’re missing the real-world process that occurs. The reason a universal Turing machine is a universal Turing machine is because it is carefully designed to be such. The specific reportoire of computations is purposely designed and brought together to create the machine.

    It isn’t as though the computations just happened to be there and just happened to produce a universal Turing machine.

    It’s a disproportional leap to universality.

    The machine was specifically designed to that end.

    You speak as though there is some magical property (we should think back to the title of the OP) that arises — emerges — when these computations just happen to come together.

    There is no more “emergence” in the case of a universal Turing machine than there is in the case of a house built out of simpler parts by a contractor.

    And in neither case is there anything at all arising without purposeful, intentional, planned, carefully-orchestrated design.

    —–

    * Note, though, that an algorithm or extensive series of algorithms for production of a computer could potentially be written that would run on the computer.

  95. 95
    Eric Anderson says:

    BA @93:

    Thanks for the background. Yeah, I’m starting to get that sense.

    If he has an inability or unwillingness to understand what information is, then there probably isn’t much value continuing that part of the discussion. Maybe there is some genuine inability to understand there, I don’t know. I suppose that would be better than intentional refusal.

    The thing that caught my attention as potentially inappropriate from a debating standpoint was this “universality of computation” business he brought up and kept harping on over and over. With fancy terminology and claims about computations, it might be something that others aren’t quite comfortable addressing.

    I sensed that several other commenters weren’t quite buying it and that they smelled something fishy. But CR kept harping on, as no-one was challenging him directly on that point, so I thought it would be helpful for the lurkers at least to call his bluff and nip this nonsense in the bud.

    I’ll give him a couple more tries to say something more apropos of his screen name, and if that doesn’t work, will leave him to his own denials.

  96. 96
    kairosfocus says:

    EA, 91:

    Information can, by definition and by our regular and repeated real-world experience, be translated into different symbolic systems. Nothing like this can occur with a physical object. Through a representation in a physical medium, information can be stored, retrieved, deleted, re-created, copied numerous times, translated again, etc. Nothing at all close to this can happen with a physical object.

    Not only so, but the same info can be simultaneously present in multiple locations and coding schemes. For instance think of multiple computers with diverse architectures in a system using redundancy to enhance reliability.

    KF

  97. 97
    critical rationalist says:

    First of all, you may want to exercise caution in your claims and when throwing around fancy terms like “universality of computation”, considering that several people here have backgrounds in computer systems and programming.

    It’s always a good idea to exercise caution in ones claims, such as when throwing around “fancy” terms, like emergence, without having a good grasp on what they mean, while trying to make an argument.

    Furthermore, the papers I’m referencing were developed by the same person who developed the first quantum algorithm and founded the field of quantum computation. He’s the one being interviewed in the last video I referenced.

    So, It seems you should take your own advice.

    The machine was specifically designed to that end.

    You don’t seem to be exercising caution, as you keep making the same flawed argument despite being corrected.

    Strangely, KF keeps making arguments based on systems that are not universal, or keeps ignoring the universal aspects of those that are, despite having pointed out the differences several times. So, I haven’t seen much in the way of recognition of the field, at the level of computational theory. Some people here “use computers”, doesn’t really instill concern, except that they appear to be like people who drive cars, yet lack a deep understanding of the theory behind how they work.

    Second, you have failed to properly define what you are talking about — thus my questions.

    Again, your questions indicates that you don’t have a good grasp either. You keep confusing emergence as if it has something to do with whether something was designed, as opposed to being a type or level of explanation. For example…

    What can arise? The Turing machine? A Turing machine is designed. And a universal Turing machine is designed to run any possible computation or algorithm. Of course a computer doesn’t arise from the algorithms that run on it.*

    Again, Babbage didn’t set out to build a universal computer. Nor did Turing. They stumbled upon universality trying to solve a different problem. If you unexpectedly end up with something you didn’t intend, it’s unclear how you can say you intentionally “designed” it in the sense you’re implying. Yes, people design computers to be universal today, but that wasn’t the goal initially. Nor is the explanation for that universality found anywhere in atoms.

    It isn’t as though the computations just happened to be there and just happened to produce a universal Turing machine.

    Again, you still seem to be conflating emerge as if “it appeared unassisted”, with emergence as a level of explanation. If people here actually are versed in the universality of computation, they would be aware of this confusion and correct you as well. Where are these people?

    Another example of your confusion?

    You speak as though there is some magical property (we should think back to the title of the OP) that arises — emerges — when these computations just happen to come together.

    The author of the OP seems to share your confusion. This is the category error I keep referring to. It’s like complaining that a kind of footwear cannot be worn on your feet, therefore there are no examples of actual footwear, such as boots.

    Again, see the courseware from the Stanford U slides in comment #16.

    You seem to have had some objection to that definition and material, but didn’t present any actual criticism. Rather you merely expressed incredulity due to some yet to be explained basis.

  98. 98
    critical rationalist says:

    @Barry

    CR appears truly to believe that the information in a book is a property of the paper and ink. Upright Biped has been explaining why that is not the case for a long time now. Go ahead and explain it to him again. You will get insane denial.

    You might want to head Eric Anderson and exercise caution in your claims when throwing around fancy terms, like information.

    Upright Biped has yet to reconcile his “theory of information” with quantum mechanics. This has been pointed out to him multiple times, yet he continues to simply ignore it

    One example is here, in which he claims aspects of thermal dynamics somehow distinguish different kinds of information, yet they are not present in quantum mechanical systems. So, either quantum information is impossible, or his theory of information is woefully inadequate.

    Again, it’s as if he is trying to argue for Newton’s laws of physics from this comment….

    To use an analogy, it’s like you’re arguing for Newton’s laws of motion….

    UB: What does it take to launch rocket (Newton’s laws of motion)? You’re denying established knowledge!

    CR: Newton’s laws are an approximation that doesn’t hold at very high velocities. As such, you can’t use it to build, say, a global positioning system. Furthermore, Einstein’s explanation, the curvature of space time, is more fundamental. It assumes something completely different is happening, in reality, yet doesn’t require rebuilding bridges and buildings.

    UB: What does it take to launch rocket (Newton’s laws of motion)? You’re denying established knowledge!

    [repeat]

    Even then, Newton’s laws unified the motion of the planets and falling apples. That’s one of the goals in constructor theory, including and expressing certain apparently anthropocentric attributes such as knowledge in physical terms.

    From your website….

    The Information Tetrahedron is a visual aid for understanding translation. It is a model of the material conditions required to translate any form of recorded information, including the information recorded in DNA. The translation of an informational medium enables the production of effects that are not determined by the material properties of the medium being translated. Instead, those effects are determined elsewhere within the system of translation. This relational architecture – with one arrangement of matter evoking an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be – establishes a physical discontinuity in the system. This discontinuity enables prescriptive control of effects that are not limited by local dynamics. Such effects can only be derived from the contingent organization of the individual systems that translate information.

    Except, “any form of recorded information” would include quantum information mediums and this simply doesn’t apply. Is this not “accepted knowledge”?

    How can your argument hold when it only applies to classical information mediums? Or are you claiming it does apply beyond classical mediums to quantum mediums as well?

    Furthermore, those three things can be expressed as part of a network of tasks and subtasks in constructor theory. They represent knowledge.

    Apparently, you disagree with this despite having no concrete criticism of it. What gives?

  99. 99

    A couple of quick points:

    First, CR’s dissembling and deception continue, as does his war on empirical facts. The words he attributed to me in the quote above were not written by me, they were written by him. Let that act sink in.

    Secondly, he apparently believes that using quantum mechanical phenomena to perform computations on data somehow changes data and algorithms into the subject(s) of the computation, needing no interpretation.

    Thirdly, he uses quantum computation as a distraction in order to avoid having to relate his theories to real-world empirical observations in biology.

    Here are just two of the observations he has steadfastly refused to answer:

    In order to organize a heterogeneous living cell, there must first be the capacity to specify an object, and encode that specification in a heritable medium of information. I assume we agree on that premise.

    Nature is entirely unambiguous about how this is accomplished. For each object to be specified, the system uses one arrangement of matter to serve as a representation within the medium, and a second arrangement of matter as a constraint to establish what is being specified. These two objects are well documented inside the cell; the codon in DNA and the aaRS in the translation machinery.

    How many objects does it take to specify something from a medium of information?

    And…

    We know that aminoacyl synthetases are the finite set of complex proteins that establish the genetic code. Their tasks in the cell is to perform a double-recognition and bind a particular amino acid to a particular tRNA adapter prior to the act of translation. We can all conceive of their significance to the system.

    They are synthesized from nucleic memory, and it stands to reason that there was once a time in earth’s history that none of the set of aaRS had ever been synthesized from that memory. Here is my question: Regardless of what anyone thinks preceded that time, at the point in earth’s history that the first ever aaRS was successfully synthesized from memory, how many of the other aaRS had to be in place?

    The point of such question is to evaluate his original claim that Darwinian evolution is the source of the gene system. When it is pointed out to him that Darwinian evolution requires the gene system in order to exist (if A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B) he simply refuses to engage the observations, and proceeds to dissemble with irrelevant comments and claims about constructor theory, epistemology, and quantum computation, etc.

    After repeated (and repeated) attempts to get him to engage the well-documented and uncontroversial physical evidence of the gene system, I moved on.

  100. 100
    john_a_designer says:

    What is consciousness? That is the key question we are asking here. That is an ontological question not a scientific one. What is matter? What is energy? What is space… time? Etc. are also ontological questions.

    Take the claim that consciousness is reducible to or emerges from brain function. How do we know that until we answer the question, what is consciousness?

    Consider the following analogy. A portable AM/FM radio consists of a number of distinct specifically designed physical parts: speakers, switches, wires, transistors, resistors, capacitors etc. When organized in a specified way it able to function as a signal detector/ decoder that that is able to recreate encoded sound waves. That function is an emergent property. However, a radio does not create or explain music. Only a fool, or someone who is completely ignorant, with no understanding how a radio operates, would make such a claim.
    In a similar way unless you understand what consciousness is you cannot explain how the brain “creates” consciousness.

    It is logically possible that consciousness like music may have an explanation that’s independent of brain circuitry. The brain could be just a signal detector/ decoder of something that has an ontologically distinct explanation.

  101. 101
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: First, CR’s dissembling and deception continue, as does his war on empirical facts. The words he attributed to me in the quote above were not written by me, they were written by him. Let that act sink in.

    I prefaced the quote by stating “To use an analogy, it’s like you’re arguing for Newton’s laws of motion….”. If I quoted what you wrote, it wouldn’t be an analogy, right? Or do you think so little of the UD audience that they wouldn’t know any better?

    Furthermore, note that you have’t denied it was an accurate analogy. It’s as if you merely denied saying the shoe doesn’t fit, as opposed to denying that the shoe doesn’t fit. Let that inaction sink in.

    UB: Secondly, he apparently believes that using quantum mechanical phenomena to perform computations on data somehow changes data and algorithms into the subject(s) of the computation, needing no interpretation.

    You might want to heed Eric and exercise caution here as well. Or, to put it in terms you might find familiar, 28 words without touching anything?

    I’m referring to quantum storage mediums, which are smaller than molecules and do not fit your “theory of information”. It doesn’t scale.

    Furthermore, I would ask, what “interprets” the information which each of those aspects of the “arrangement” refers to, such as where to start translation? Is that information not be copied, such as when the cell is copied? Cannot you not describe that very same information in another storage medium in a computer or on a piece of paper?

    Thirdly, he uses quantum computation as a distraction in order to avoid having to relate his theories to real-world empirical observations in biology.

    See my analogy above. There are non-controversial real-world observations that we can launch rockets into space using Newton’s laws of motion. Yet Newton’s laws have been superseded by GR. And what non-controversial real-world observations brought about the adoption of GR? The Perihelion precession of Mercury, among others. You can’t build a GPS satellite using Newton’s laws. On the other hand, GR explains more phenomena, is deeper and suggests something completely different is happening in reality. Yet we do not need to redesign buildings and bridges.

    Just as the scope of Newton’s laws does not scale to very high velocities required to build GPS satellites, your “theory of information” does not scale to the level of quantum storage mediums. Or to rephrase, the Perihelion precession of Mercury is to Newton’s laws of motion, as to what quantum storage mediums are to your “theory of information”.

    Of course, you will simply continue to ask the same question, which is like asking “can we not use Newton’s laws of motion to launch rockets”? Of course we can. That doesn’t change the fact that we see Newton’s laws as having been superseded and representing an approximation which is very narrow in scope.

    UB: In order to organize a heterogeneous living cell, there must first be the capacity to specify an object, and encode that specification in a heritable medium of information. I assume we agree on that premise.

    Cells contain knowledge, which is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. In the case of cells, being retained refers to being copied into the next generation.

    UB: Nature is entirely unambiguous about how this is accomplished.

    Nature doesn’t “say things” about information, let alone “say things” in an unambiguous manner. Nor are explanations out there in nature for us to experience. For example, you can explain how to launch a rocket in terms of Newton’s laws. But that description doesn’t scale to very high velocities. However, you can use an different explanation, GR, which implies something completely different is going on, in reality, to describe both the launch of a rocket and the operation the GPS in your phone using GR. Correct?

    In the same sense, we can use one “theory” describe the storage of information in molecules. But that description doesn’t scale to quantum storage mediums. However, we can use a different theory, the constructor theory of information, which implies something completely different is going on, in reality, to describe both the storage of information in molecules and in quantum systems. And it does so in a more fundamental way. This is one of the motivations for constructor theory.

    A previous quote from a paper on constructor theory….

    Some principles of the theory are suggested and its potential for solving various problems and achieving various unifications is explored. These include providing a theory of information underlying classical and quantum information; generalizing the theory of computation to include all physical transformations; unifying formal statements of conservation laws with the stronger operational ones (such as the ruling-out of perpetual motion machines); expressing the principles of testability and of the computability of nature (currently deemed methodological and metaphysical respectively) as laws of physics; allowing exact statements of emergent laws (such as the second law of thermodynamics); and expressing certain apparently anthropocentric attributes such as knowledge in physical terms.

    No theory has presented a physical theory of information before constructor theory. Yet when you ask what is physically necessarily for information, it seems you don’t really want an answer. Be careful what you ask for?

    We can all conceive of [the] significance [of aminoacyl synthetases] to the system.

    Yes, I can. From the wikipedia article…

    By mutating aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, chemists have expanded the genetic codes of various organisms to include lab-synthesized amino acids with all kinds of useful properties: photoreactive, metal-chelating, xenon-chelating, crosslinking, spin-resonant, fluorescent, biotinylated, and redox-active amino acids.[6] Another use is introducing amino acids bearing reactive functional groups for chemically modifying the target protein.

    If aminoacyl tRNA synthetases can be mutated, it can be in different states. The details regarding those states represents knowledge. It can be instantiated in speech, stored on a flash drive, etc. IOW, it’s just more knowledge.

    UB: They are synthesized from nucleic memory, and it stands to reason that there was once a time in earth’s history that none of the set of aaRS had ever been synthesized from that memory. Here is my question: Regardless of what anyone thinks preceded that time, at the point in earth’s history that the first ever aaRS was successfully synthesized from memory, how many of the other aaRS had to be in place?

    A core aspect of Neo-Darwniwsn is that biological complexity grows via variation and criticism of some form, such as implied in natural selection. In the case of AARS, they would have evolved from an earlier precursor that performed a similar but different role. For example, we have already discovered that not all organisms exhibit the full complement of 20 AARS. The absence is possible because the role they play is not exclusive to AARS.

    From this paper.

    A common misconception is that the genome of almost every organism contains a complete set of 20 AARS, each being individually responsible for coding the enzyme that charges a cognate tRNA with one of the 20 naturally occurring aa. With the ever-increasing availability of complete genome sequences, it is becoming evident that gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, and gene loss are much more frequent events among the AARSs than originally thought.

    The absence of an AARS-encoding gene from a genome is possible because it does not necessarily correlate with the absence of the corresponding essential biochemical function. For example, the absence of glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase (GlnRS) is rescued by a non-discriminating glutamyl-tRNA synthetase (ND-GluRS) that can mis-acylate Glu to a tRNAGln, which is then modified to Gln-tRNAGln by a tRNA-dependent amidotransferase (3). Enzymatic modification of a mischarged aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) is documented for Asn, Gln, Cys, selenocysteine and formylmethionine (4–8). Therefore, cataloguing all those cases where classical AARS genes are missing is a necessary first step in identifying known alternative pathways that enable cognate charging of the tRNA species for which the cognate AARS is missing. Genetic code decoding is a much more variable step than originally thought and needs to be quantified (9).

    There are numerous reports of genomes with more than one gene for the same AARS enzyme or even paralogous fragments consisting of free-standing domains of AARSs (e.g. catalytic-, anticodon-binding- and editing domains). These paralogs and paralog fragments have been the focus of intense interest since their gene products exhibit diverse functions outside translation. These range from tRNA-dependent aa synthesis, tRNA posttranscriptional modification, editing of misactivated aa and antibiotic resistance in bacteria, to molecular hubs within essential signaling pathways that regulate tumorigenesis in humans (10–16). Evolutionary analyses have highlighted the importance of horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in the evolution of the AARS family (17) and it has been found that this is often linked to antibiotic resistance, especially in microbes (11,18–21). The fact that bacterial AARSs do not often (22) participate in complex protein-protein interactions and that they are frequently compatible with tRNAs from phylogenetically distant organisms suggests that they are frequently functional (and hence selectable) following HGT.

    Furthermore, I would again point out that the high-fidelity of replication in modern cells is not thought to have been present in the first primitive replicators. As such, mechanisms that are required for high fidelity are not required for those primitive replicators. Low-fidelity replicators would not exhibit the appearance of design and would not require the same kind of explanation as current day high-fidelity cells. And we have concrete examples of a gradient of fidelity nature. We’ve been over this before.

    UB: The point of such question is to evaluate his original claim that Darwinian evolution is the source of the gene system. When it is pointed out to him that Darwinian evolution requires the gene system in order to exist (if A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B) he simply refuses to engage the observations, and proceeds to dissemble with irrelevant comments and claims about constructor theory, epistemology, and quantum computation, etc.

    See above.

    Furthermore, well, go on. What are you waiting for? This is where you explain why constructor theory, epistemology, defining what it means for something to have the appearance of design, the existence of quantum storage mediums, etc. does’t represent engaging observations, and is therefore not relevant, as opposed to merely asserting it.

    Let me guess, you don’t find it “interesting?”

    I mean, apparently, you think von Neumann’s work is relevant, but a generalization that achieved what von Neumann himself did not isn’t? Seems rather arbitrary to me. I guess it’s only relevant if it suits your purpose?

    From this paper on constructor theory.

    2.4 Von Neumann’s approach
    Before the discovery of the structure of DNA, von Neumann (1948) wondered how organisms can possibly reproduce themselves faithfully and evolve complex adaptations for doing so. He realized that an organism must be a programmable constructor operating in two stages, namely copying its program and executing it to build another instance. He tried to model this using simplified laws of physics – thus founding the field of cellular automata – but without success: it was too complicated. He also introduced an important constructor-theoretic idea, namely that of a universal constructor (3.11 below), but he made no further progress in constructor theory because, by retreating to cellular automata, he had locked himself into the prevailing conception and also abstracted away all connections between his theory and physics.

    […]

    [If] the principles of constructor theory that I have proposed [are] false….
    Something else will provide an exact statement of the second law of thermodynamics, and a full statement of the content of conservation laws. A different approach will generalize the theory of computation and von Neumann’s constructor theory, and support laws about substrate-independent quantities such as information. And incorporate into fundamental physics the fact that the most significant quantity affecting whether physical transformations happen or not is knowledge.

    BTW, “[If] the principles of constructor theory that I have proposed [are] false” refers to the discovery that it is not actually possible to express the entirety of science in constructor theoretic terms: which tasks possible, which tasks are impossible tasks, and why. However, significant progress has already been made in nearly all of those cases. Being able to make exact statements about thermodynamics is just one example, which is relevant to your claims about information, which is actually incorrect.

    So, go ahead, UB. Put your money where your mouth is. Why are my criticisms irreverent? I would note that objections which implicitly assume a specific role for observations represents a specific idea about knowledge, which is just one reason why epistemology is relevant.

  102. 102
    critical rationalist says:

    What is consciousness? That is the key question we are asking here.

    The question asked in the OP is: is emergence equal to “magic”. But, it’s not even clear that the author of the OP understands what emergence refers to, because he keeps perpetuating a category error. Nor has he presented any concrete examples of “materialists” using the term incorrectly. Even if he did, this wouldn’t refute concrete examples of emergence he conveniently omitted, which fit this the definition and do not imply the existence of a supernatural realm.

  103. 103

    2000 more words.

    Still, no answer to either question.

  104. 104
    Barry Arrington says:

    UB at 103:

    CR is like a lot of materialists. They mistake the ability to type for the ability to make a cogent argument.

  105. 105
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist @97:

    You’ve written much and referred over and over and over to this universality of computation. Yet you still haven’t supported your original assertions.

    Let’s review:

    The OP suggested that referring to something as “emergent” isn’t helpful as an explanation for its existence.

    In your very first comment you stated: “You forgot the universality of computation, which emerged [emphasis added] from a specific repertoire of computations.”

    You seem very impressed that a universal Turing machine requires multiple parameters and if one of those is missing it isn’t a universal Turing machine. You write: “Add one computation, and suddenly it makes the leap to a universal Turing machine . . .” In other words, when all the parameters or parts are there it can perform a particular function (UTC in this case), and when one of the parts is missing, it doesn’t work.

    Congratulations. You’ve given an example of irreducible complexity. The need for all parts to be there for a system to work is true of essentially all functional, integrated, complex systems.

    What you haven’t given is any reason why the addition of the final part should make us refer to the system as “emergent”.

    What you haven’t given is any reason why the word “emergence” is of any value in this situation, why it brings anything to the table, why it should be considered as an explanation.

    Calling the creation of a universal Turing machine an example of “emergence” is just a semantic game. It doesn’t add one iota of value to the discussion and doesn’t actually explain what is going on.

    What is also unclear is why you are so insistent on defending this concept of “emergence”, which has proven to be so useless and, as the OP notes, little more than “a confession of profound ignorance masquerading as an explanation.”

    Your attempt to cite the universality of computation as an example of “emergence”, and your continued harping on that example in the face of very simple and rational follow-up questions — all the while continuing to hide behind “emergence” without actually analyzing the real underlying cause — has ironically become Exhibit A in underscoring, demonstrating, and confirming the whole point of the OP.

  106. 106
    Origenes says:

    CR: … the universality of computation wasn’t an intentional outcome …

    You keep repeating this claim over and over and over as if intention matters to emergence. As if a property *emerges* (poof) if it is not intended by a designer.
    This is nonsense. There is no definition of emergence that includes a role for intention.

  107. 107
    juwilker says:

    CR@92: “All of our experiences are theory laden”

    If so, then how can you be so sure that information always accompanies the physical?

    Heck “physical” is theory laden. We can’t even agree on what that word means. We’re bordering on solipsism. And your assertion “Just as there is no non-physical information.” is losing its force and meaning.

    I guess we could go there, but its of no value in my opinion. I think we can just agree to disagree. As I grow older and wiser (hopefully!), I am becoming more convinced that information is the primal stuff and it can exist with or without the physical. Dembski’s Being As Communion discusses this topic at length. I’ll leave you with a quote from chapter 9 The Medium and the Message p.95

    “We need information–we cannot do anything without it. Nonetheless, it is convenient to think of certain things as consisting of malleable material substrates that then get stamped with information. But completely malleable matter simply awaiting information but itself devoid of it doesn’t exist. Matter, if not an empty abstraction, always assumes definite forms. It is always informational. And however intently we study matter, we find not matter as such but further patterns of information.”

    juwilker

  108. 108
    critical rationalist says:

    The OP suggested that referring to something as “emergent” isn’t helpful as an explanation for its existence.

    And the very idea that it could have been helpful, but is not, is a category error. Of course if cannot be helpful because it’s not a concrete explanation. It’s like arguing a kind of footware isn’t a good way to keep your feet warm. Of course it’s not. You can’t wear a kind of footware. You can only wear concerete examples of footware, like an actual pair of slippers. This fact in no way means we do not have concrete examples of slippers.

    It’s a setup. Again, one way to attack an idea one finds objectionable is to present a false version of it, then point out how it is false. Of course, emergence isn’t an explantion, that’s a category error. This is an attempt to disqualify explanations at the level of emergence by assuming emergence is a concrete explation. It commits the fallacy of equivocation.

    Congratulations. You’ve given an example of irreducible complexity. The need for all parts to be there for a system to work is true of essentially all functional, integrated, complex systems.

    Huh? Computations are useful in and of themselves. You can build a device that lets you check your email. And another device that can calculate ballistic missile paths. So, it is indeed reducible in the sense because those computations have a function without universality.

    What you haven’t given is any reason why the addition of the final part should make us refer to the system as “emergent”.

    You seem to have confused having no explantion at all with and an explation that is not found at the level of atoms. See the Standford U material. Emergent explanations are higher level explantions that are not found at the level of atoms.

    A great majority of transformations of matter are currently untraceable. But the majority of problems that would prevent us from making progress due to this current untraceability are uninteresting to human beings. For example, I can solve the problem making tea despite the fact that the path of each water molecule will take when heated is currently untraceable. So, there is a class of phenomena that is quasi-antonomous, since they are nearly self-contained. The ability to explain things at this level isnt the same as not have one an explatnion at all, which you seem to imply.

    What you haven’t given is any reason why the word “emergence” is of any value in this situation, why it brings anything to the table, why it should be considered as an explanation.

    I just argued that the very idea of it being considered a concrete explanation is a category error! Emergent phenomena is a kind of phenomena, not an explanation. It is concidered emergent because our explanation for it isn’t found in any of its parts, not that it has no explanation at all.

    What is also unclear is why you are so insistent on defending this concept of “emergence”, which has proven to be so useless and, as the OP notes, little more than “a confession of profound ignorance masquerading as an explanation.”

    Huh? You’re the one perpetuating a category error! Why would I defend that?

    The point being, should we ever have an explantion for conscioness, it will never be at the level of atoms. This is because the explantion for phenomena need not be at that level. There are other levels of explanation which we have examples of, such as the univerality of computation, which is also not found at the level of atoms. Yet, there are no non-physical computers. So, this is a unreasonable expectation seemingly designed to disqualify the possibility of an explantion though equivocation.

    The question is, why do you keep “defending” this category error as a reasonable question?

  109. 109
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: Still, no answer to either question.

    Yet even more vague criticism.

    Why isn’t it an answer? Because it’s not relivant? And why isn’t it relivant? because it’s not an answer? Because you personally don’t find it interesting?

    I would again point out that you still haven’t denied or argued that the analogy of defending Newton’s laws of motion isn’t accurate. Rather all you’ve done is complained that you didn’t say what I quoted. Which isn’t saying much because it wouldn’t be an analogy if I quoted you exactly.

  110. 110
    critical rationalist says:

    @Barry

    CR is like a lot of materialists. They mistake the ability to type for the ability to make a cogent argument.

    Apparently, you don’t have any good critism either.

    I could just as well respond with. “ID proponents mistake the ablity to publish a blog with the ablity to make a cogent argument.” But that has no critical substance leveled against any particular aspect of an specific argument.

    If your response to an argument in court was “Opposing councel has mistaken the ablity to speak for the ablity to make a cogent argument.” and left it at that, do you think that would fly? Of course, not. So, why do you think it would fly here either?

    Do you think so little of your audience?

  111. 111
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR

    I could just as well respond with . . .

    And that would sting if I were the one running away from the questions Eric and UB raised. But I’m not. You are.

  112. 112
    Mung says:

    Apparently, you don’t have any good critism either.

    But I like jello.

  113. 113
    asauber says:

    Apparently, you don’t have any good critism either.

    Troll on, CR! Troll on!

    or

    Keep on Trollin’

    or

    A Trollin’ given is a Trollin’ earned.

    Andrew

  114. 114
    Origenes says:

    CR @

    CR: Of course if cannot be helpful because it’s not a concrete explanation.

    Let’s suppose that emergence is not a concrete explanation, however, in order to be relevant, emergence should be some kind of explanation. So, what kind of explanation is emergence?

    CR: Of course, emergence isn’t an explantion, that’s a category error.

    So, emergence is not an explanation for consciousness at all? Neither concrete nor abstract nor otherwise. Does it have anything to do with consciousness? If not, why are we discussing it?

  115. 115
    critical rationalist says:

    @Barry

    And that would sting if I were the one running away from the questions Eric and UB raised. But I’m not. You are.

    No, I wouldn’t. Because there is no specific criticism present there.

    For example, I were the one running away from the questions Eric and UB raised, then I would have said something just like that. But I didn’t. I responded with arguments.

    Again, where is the argument that the criticisms I’ve made are not relevant?

    UB asked about the necessary of AARS in translation. I pointed out that the entire complement of AARS are not actually present in all organisms. How can that be? Because there are other biological means of performing that function. And those means also play other roles. And UB’s response?

    He merely claimed I haven’t answered the question.

    If that’s the case, then what would answering the question look like? What does he expect?

  116. 116

    My criticisms of you are not vague at all: you don’t answer criticisms, you dissemble and distract instead.

    You refuse to truly engage any of a series of questions and observations that shed light on your original claim (that Darwinian evolution is the source of the genetic translation system).

    Would you like to hear the questions again?

    Question #1

    Darwinian evolution requires the genetic translation system in order to be able to specify objects among alternatives and place those specifications in a heritable memory. If A requires B for A to exist, then A cannot be the source of B. Right?

    . . .

    Question #2

    In order to organize a heterogeneous living cell, there must first be the capacity to specify an object, and encode that specification in a heritable medium of information. I assume we agree on that premise.

    Nature is entirely unambiguous about how this is accomplished. For each object to be specified, the system uses one arrangement of matter to serve as a representation within the medium, and a second arrangement of matter as a constraint to establish what is being specified. These two objects are well documented inside the cell; the codon in DNA and the aaRS in the translation machinery.

    How many objects does it take to specify something from a medium of information?

    . . .

    Question #3

    We know that aminoacyl synthetases are the finite set of complex proteins that establish the genetic code. Their tasks in the cell is to perform a double-recognition and bind a particular amino acid to a particular tRNA adapter prior to the act of translation. We can all conceive of their significance to the system.

    They are synthesized from nucleic memory, and it stands to reason that there was once a time in earth’s history that none of the set of aaRS had ever been synthesized from that memory. Here is my question: Regardless of what anyone thinks preceded that time, at the point in earth’s history that the first ever aaRS was successfully synthesized from memory, how many of the other aaRS had to be in place?

    You have run again and again from actually addressing these questions. Would you like to try a different one?

    Question #4

    Semiosis enables the capacity to specify objects from among alternatives, and place those objects under the control of heritable memory. Materialists want to remove semiosis from OoL research because the documented organizational requirements are too complex to come about by themselves. Instead, they see an origin of simple chemical ensembles in a continuum of unknown function, somehow resulting in the semiotic system we find today.

    Did the ensemble that preceded semiosis have to specify the semiotic system?

    Or, here’s another you are sure to enjoy:

    Question #5

    When you avoid the genetic information system by dissembling about quantum information, you say “I am referring to quantum storage mediums”.

    Okay.

    If a researcher uses quantum memory to store a simulation for, say a cure for cancer, he or she will (depending on the system) use various techniques to set the superposition state of the medium (i.e. the nuclei of a particular atom, for instance), thus encoding the qubits of memory.

    Is the state of a qubit of memory a cure for cancer, or is it about a cure for cancer, and thus, has to be interpreted?

    Let the anti-intellectual dissembling continue … I know you can’t stop. Facts don’t matter.

  117. 117
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist @108:

    Of course [referring to something as emergent] cannot be helpful because it’s not a concrete explanation.

    Hang on. So you agree that referring to something as emergent is not helpful? Excellent.

    Why didn’t you just agree with Barry and move on?

    You can’t wear a kind of footware. You can only wear concerete examples of footware, like an actual pair of slippers.

    Well, you offered a concrete example of emergence in the universality of computation.

    Yet you haven’t provided any reason to think that calling your concrete example “emergence” is helpful in understanding the origin of a universal Turing machine either. In fact, the only thing that “emergence” label has done is obscure the details of how it was actually invented.

    So you agree that emergence isn’t helpful as a general explanation. And you’ve provided us ample witness that it isn’t helpful as a concrete explanation either.

    Again, you’ve inadvertently demonstrated the whole point of the OP.

  118. 118
    Eric Anderson says:

    All, let’s circle back to the apparent source of the misunderstanding:

    critical rationalist @27:

    To clarify, emergence is a level, class or category of explanation, not a specific concrete explanarion, such as the theory of computation, which is a emergent explanation for the universality of computation.

    As such, it’s unclear how emergence could be “magic” in that sense. The universality of computation is not “magic”, yet is is an unexpected result of a specific repertoire of computations. It meets the criteria of an emergent explanation.

    Let’s see. If emergence is a class of explanations, then there must be examples of emergence that would fall into this “class or category”. One alleged example was discussed in the OP, namely the idea of the emergence of consciousness from physical properties and physical processes. CR gave another alleged example: the “universality of computation”.

    There are two fundamental problems with CR’s approach above:

    1. We have been discussing concrete examples. His ongoing assertion that there is some kind of category error between the class and the specific examples doesn’t make any sense. It is irrational to say that “emergence” is unhelpful as a class of explanations, but helpful as a concrete explanation. This is very confused. I can certainly say that “Bob drives a car”, and that could be useful information, even if I don’t give the concrete make, model, and year of the car. The issue in this whole situation is not whether we are referring to a class or a specific member of the class. The issue is that the concept of “emergence” as an explanatory attempt to explain the origin of something is useless. It doesn’t make any difference whether we are talking about specific examples or the whole class. CR seems to have mistakenly latched onto what he perceives as some kind of category error, all the while missing the more fundamental point.

    2. In none of the cases we have been discussing — consciousness or the universality of computation, for example — has the word “emergence” provided one iota of useful information. It has brought nothing to the table. Saying that it “emerged” doesn’t help us understand how it emerged or what physical characteristics caused it to emerge or even whether it did emerge. Contrary to CR’s claim, the fact that universality of computation resulsts from a specific repertoire of computations does not mean we have an “emergent explanation“. Putting that label on the results doesn’t explain anything. Thus, the OP is exactly correct to suggest that emergence really functions as “a confession of profound ignorance masquerading as an explanation.”

    —–

    As with so much in materialist thought, the explanations sound good as long as they remain vague and general. As soon as we start to ask about the details, the “explanation” crumbles.

    As I have often noted with evolutionary theory generally, the same principle can be applied to emergence:

    The perception of the explanatory power of emergence is inversely proportional to the specificity of the discussion.

  119. 119

    EA @ 118: Great points. From what I can tell, CR’s “emergence” is indistinguishable from magic.

  120. 120
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    I’m not following you. Are you suggesting that a class or kind of footwear would only relivant if it can be worn on your feet? That doesn’t make senes either.

    If it “explains” anything, it would be how it’s possible to have an explantion which is not at the level of atoms, yet doesn’t require an appeal to the supernatural. It explains how we could have an explanation for consciounsness, without it being reductonist in nature.

    This is not to be confused with representing an actual, current day explantion for consciounsness. We have many thoeries of consciounsness, but we’re just getting started. Rather, it explains how we could have such an explantion.

  121. 121
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR
    “We have many thoeries of consciounsness, but we’re just getting started.”

    Oh great. CR winds up the discussion by issuing yet another materialist promissory note.

  122. 122
    Origenes says:

    CR: I’m not following you. Are you suggesting that a class or kind of footwear would only relivant if it can be worn on your feet? That doesn’t make senes either.

    You seem to think that ‘footwear’ is too abstract to be an explanation. You are simply wrong. Footwear can explain many things, for instance why feet remain warm while being in a cold environment.

    CR: If it “explains” anything, it would be how it’s possible to have an explantion which is not at the level of atoms, yet doesn’t require an appeal to the supernatural.

    Now you are starting to make some sense. Of course the concept is an attempt of an explanation. Can we drop the nonsense?

    CR: It explains how we could have an explanation for consciounsness, without it being reductonist in nature.

    Okay. Well, unfortunately for your position that is not working. It does not explain consciousness conceptually, nor is it non-reductionistic — see #2, #59 and #68.

  123. 123

    CR @ 120: Help me understand this. In your analogy, a “kind of footwear” symbolizes what with respect to the emergence of consciousness?

  124. 124
    critical rationalist says:

    You refuse to truly engage any of a series of questions and observations that shed light on your original claim (that Darwinian evolution is the source of the genetic translation system).

    As I asked Barry, if I have not “truly engaged” with your questions, then what would actually engaging them look like?

    Again, it’s as if you’re trying to defend Newton’s Laws of Motion by pointing out we can use it to launch rockets into space. Of course we can. That observation is not in doubt. However, does that somehow mean that Newton’s laws have not been superseded by GR? Of course not. We know that Newton’s laws are an approximation that doesn’t scale.

    Note your only response to this is that the analogy I made was an analogy, in that you didn’t write the quote. Of course you didn’t. That’s what an analogy is! This is opposed to arguing that the analogy was not valid, which you did not do.

    How is this truly engaging my criticism?

    Question #3? We know that aminoacyl synthetases are the finite set of complex proteins that establish the genetic code. Their tasks in the cell is to perform a double-recognition and bind a particular amino acid to a particular tRNA adapter prior to the act of translation. We can all conceive of their significance to the system.
    They are synthesized from nucleic memory, and it stands to reason that there was once a time in earth’s history that none of the set of aaRS had ever been synthesized from that memory. Here is my question: Regardless of what anyone thinks preceded that time, at the point in earth’s history that the first ever aaRS was successfully synthesized from memory, how many of the other aaRS had to be in place?

    Again, I pointed out that the entire complement of AARS are not actually present in all organisms in comments #101. How can that be? Because there are other biological means of performing that function. And those means are thought to play other roles in the cell. I even quoted from the paper. Darwinism is part of the universal theory that knowledge grows via variation and criticism of some form. The function didn’t start out with that particular purpose in mind. It came about though a number of steps with intermediate functionality. And I provided examples of that in a quote from the referenced paper.

    And what has been your response? To ask the question again, claiming I haven’t addressed it. If that wasn’t truly engaging the question, what else do you expect?

    Another example? From question #2

    We know that aminoacyl synthetases are the finite set of complex proteins that establish the genetic code. Their tasks in the cell is to perform a double-recognition and bind a particular amino acid to a particular tRNA adapter prior to the act of translation. […] How many objects does it take to specify something from a medium of information?

    From the paper from the same comment…

    The absence of an AARS-encoding gene from a genome is possible because it does not necessarily correlate with the absence of the corresponding essential biochemical function. For example, the absence of glutaminyl-tRNA synthetase (GlnRS) is rescued by a non-discriminating glutamyl-tRNA synthetase (ND-GluRS) that can mis-acylate Glu to a tRNAGln, which is then modified to Gln-tRNAGln by a tRNA-dependent amidotransferase (3). Enzymatic modification of a mischarged aminoacyl-tRNA (aa-tRNA) is documented for Asn, Gln, Cys, selenocysteine and formylmethionine (4–8). Therefore, cataloguing all those cases where classical AARS genes are missing is a necessary first step in identifying known alternative pathways that enable cognate charging of the tRNA species for which the cognate AARS is missing. Genetic code decoding is a much more variable step than originally thought and needs to be quantified (9).

    IOW, there are alternate paths in translation that do not require AARS. Nor do all paths take the same number of steps with the same number of objects. Yet, somehow, the genome still represents a storage medium.

    So, it turns out, not only does your “theory of information” not scale to quantum storage mediums, but id doesn’t scale to biological storage mediums, either.

    How does this not reflect “engage any of a series of questions and observations”?

    As for question #1 and #4 I’ve pointed out this is addressed at length in the constructors theory of life.

    The quick summary is that, when expressed in constructor theoretic terms, we can define what it means for something to have the appearance of design. And when I say “exact” I mean a way scales across organisms, DNA, flash drives, etc. as opposed to something inexact and vague, like FSCI. And we can model evolution as approximate constructors at different levels and phases, including the phase before there was high-fidelity replication. This kind of unification is another example of the motivation for constructor theory.

    IOW, the paper indicates not only indicates which tasks are necessary for accurate replication, but what tasks are necessary for accurate replication to arise from raw materials only and the absence of design of organisms (and the transition system) already being present in the laws of physics.

    I don’t have time to do an entire breakdown of the quoted section at this point. Nor is it clear why it’s somehow necessary. Apparently, I have to spoon feed it to you?

    Question #5
    If a researcher uses quantum memory to store a simulation for, say a cure for cancer, he or she will (depending on the system) use various techniques to set the superposition state of the medium (i.e. the nuclei of a particular atom, for instance), thus encoding the qubits of memory.

    Is the state of a qubit of memory a cure for cancer, or is it about a cure for cancer, and thus, has to be interpreted?

    ?Perhaps we are finally getting somewhere? You’ve changed your tune from asking exactly how many objects are physically necessary to store information in a medium to asking if people who intentionally encode information in a quantum storage medium have intentionally encoded information in a quantum storage medium.

    I think the answer to that would be yes, as it is a tautology. So, maybe not.

    Is your entire argument that there are abstractions in nature, so it must have been designed? Is that really it?

  125. 125
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origines

    You seem to think that ‘footwear’ is too abstract to be an explanation. You are simply wrong. Footwear can explain many things, for instance why feet remain warm while being in a cold environment.

    You cannot wear a kind of footwear any more than you can eat a kind of ice cream. You can only eat concrete examples of a flavor of ice cream. Boots, as a kind of footwear, cannot keep anyone’s foot warm.

    Now you are starting to make some sense. Of course the concept is an attempt of an explanation. Can we drop the nonsense?

    That’s what I’ve been asking. Why on earth would the inability to wear a kind of footwear mean there are no concrete examples of footwear. That’s nonsense.

    Okay. Well, unfortunately for your position that is not working. It does not explain consciousness conceptually, nor is it non-reductionistic — see #2, #59 and #68.

    Again, the entire argument in the OP commits the fallacy of equitation. It tries to argue that if some yet to be disclosed people misuse the concept of emergence, then there can be no correct usage of the term to describe existing concrete examples of emergent explanations, and that the entire enterprise of emergent explanations is somehow illegitimate.

    if Barry tried this is a court of law, does he really think this sort of think would fly?

  126. 126
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric

    We have been discussing concrete examples. His ongoing assertion that there is some kind of category error between the class and the specific examples doesn’t make any sense. It is irrational to say that “emergence” is unhelpful as a class of explanations, but helpful as a concrete explanation.

    You’re still confused. See #125 above.

    Not being helpful as a concrete explanation doesn’t mean it’s not helpful at all as a means of describing kinds of explanations, setting expectations as to what an emergent explanation would consist of and the implications of it. The inability to use “emergent explanations in one context doesn’t mean there are no legitimate uses in another.

  127. 127
    critical rationalist says:

    I would point out this entire issue is yet another motivation for constructor theory. By moving from initial conditions and laws of motion to possible and impossible tasks, this unifies reductionist and emergent explanations. Neither of which are more fundamental.

    From this paper

    2.16 Emergent and scale-independent laws
    Almost all physical processes involving large numbers of elementary particles are intractably complex. But for a tiny but important minority, that complexity resolves itself into simplicity at a higher level – a phenomenon known as emergence. Specifically, certain sets of collective phenomena can be explained in terms of emergent laws relating them only to each other, without reference to the underlying particles and laws.

    Some forms of emergence are unproblematic under the prevailing conception because their laws follow logically from low-level laws, either as well-defined approximations (such as the gas laws) or exactly (such as the law of motion of a centre of mass). But in some cases an exact emergent law appears to exist, yet not to follow from lower-level laws. The principle of testability and the second law of thermodynamics are examples. These do conflict with the prevailing conception. It could be that they are exactly true at all scales but that, as with the laws of chemistry, that is only manifest if they are expressed in constructor-theoretic terms – the former as a principle of constructor theory and the latter within a subsidiary theory, thermodynamics, in a constructor-theoretic formulation.

  128. 128
    Barry Arrington says:

    CR:

    [The OP] tries to argue that if some yet to be disclosed people misuse the concept of emergence, then there can be no correct usage of the term to describe existing concrete examples of emergent explanations.

    Really? You know, don’t you, that the OP is right up there? And anyone can go check it out, and even a cursory glance will show that you are lying about what the OP says. Do you have no shame?

  129. 129
    critical rationalist says:

    @Barry,

    Of course, you haven’t come out and said that Barry. Rather, you’ve implied it.

    Why didn’t your OP come out, right from the start, claiming it’s a category error and be done with it? Why on earth has this thread gone on when I keep pointing out that emergence isn’t a concrete explanation for anything, let alone consciousness? Because that doesn’t suite your agenda.

    Again, where are these supposed “materialists” that supposedly confuse “emergence” the category of explanation, with emergence as some kind of “magic”. Even if you somehow managed to produced some, their confusion doesn’t some how make the entire enterprise of emergent explanations somehow illegitimate.

  130. 130
    Origenes says:

    CR: You cannot wear a kind of footwear any more than you can eat a kind of ice cream. You can only eat concrete examples of a flavor of ice cream. Boots, as a kind of footwear, cannot keep anyone’s foot warm.

    Arguing a straw man. Nowhere did I say that actual feet can wear the concept ‘footwear’. What I said was, instead, that ‘footwear’, as a concept, offers a conceptual explanation as to why feet remain warm while being in a cold environment. When we contemplate the concept ‘footwear’ we come to understand that the influence of a cold environment on feet is not necessarily unrestrained.

    By the same token, a conceptual explanation is asked from the concept emergence WRT consciousness. So, emergence, as a concept, should, for one thing, conceptually explain the control that consciousness has over thoughts and actions.

    That would not be a problem, if there are concrete examples of emergent properties, which reach down towards the physical layer on which they sit and start rearranging things. But that is neither what ‘footwear’ does, nor what ‘universality of computation’ does.

    So, at this point, emergence fails as a conceptual explanation of consciousness.

  131. 131
    critical rationalist says:

    Arguing a straw man. Nowhere did I say that actual feet can wear the concept ‘footwear’.

    A type of footwear isn’t the concept of footwear either.

    Let’s swich analogies. Can you read a genre of books? No, you cannot. Nor can you read the concept of books. Right? This is not to say that either are completely and absolutely useless. They are different things.

    Anyone who said they read a genre of books and said it had a bad plot was making a category error. It’s not even wrong.

    You can only read a concrete example of a specific genre of books. For example, you can read a copy of Consider Phlebas, which is a science fiction novel. (And a very good one at that.)

    By the same token, a conceptual explanation is asked from the concept emergence WRT consciousness

    Huh? The concept of an explanation isn’t the same as a concerete explanation, either.

    You could say that we can have explanations about how we develop explanatory theories. That would be a theory of how knowelge grows, which is far from irrelevant. See this video which is about this very subject.

    However, if anyone confused a kind of explanation with an explanation for explanations, that would be a category error as well.

    So, at this point, emergence fails as a conceptual explanation of consciousness.

    That’s not even wrong. It’s like trying to compare oranges and apples, then jumping up and down, waving your hands about how insightful or how meaningful it is than an apple fails to be an orange. It’s absurd.

  132. 132
    Origenes says:

    CR @

    Origenes: By the same token, a conceptual explanation is asked from the concept emergence WRT consciousness.

    CR: Huh? The concept of an explanation isn’t the same as a concerete explanation, either.

    That’s not what I wrote. ……..
    I know that a conceptual explanation is not a concrete explanation, that’s why I wrote that a conceptual explanation is required.

  133. 133

    CR, I am just now getting home to see your post. I’m not going to respond tonight. I’ll respond sometime tomorrow.

  134. 134

    Your response at #124 reminds me a bit of a conversation I had a couple of years ago in a different forum. There was an irrational atheist like yourself there, doing as you do, saying anything at all in order to avoid real-world empirical evidence. The subject of stop codons came up and I think I made an off-handed remark that gene expression would be in trouble if suddenly all the stop codons and termination sequences went away. He argued that this was not the case at all. His reasoning, incredibly, was that alternate stop sequences were known to exist. There is simply a point where there is no reason to continue.

    In order to deal with questions #2 and #3, (after about 9 months of avoiding the issue) you managed to produced a paper, and you say:

    I pointed out that the entire complement of AARS are not actually present in all organisms in comments #101. How can that be? Because there are other biological means of performing that function. And those means are thought to play other roles in the cell. I even quoted from the paper. Darwinism is part of the universal theory that knowledge grows via variation and criticism of some form. The function didn’t start out with that particular purpose in mind. It came about though a number of steps with intermediate functionality. And I provided examples of that in a quote from the referenced paper.

    So for this counter-argument of yours to have any relevance whatsoever to the discussion, you must believe that at the origin of life there were functioning cells, with proteins being synthesized and doing organized work, transcription mechanisms, genes to be transcribed into paralogs, energy being produced in usable forms, etc. It should be no wonder why your answers are not taken seriously.

    As for questions #1 and #4 you unsurprisingly rely on your prior dissembling about constructor theory — which doesn’t even mention the key issues involved, other than the requirement that a medium of information “be possible”. This is also the theory that claims for an information medium to exist, it must be rate-independent – which is patently false, as most informational mediums are not rate-independent at all.

    Lastly, your answer for question #5 is a final embarrassment; where your attempt to skirt the issue is so blatant and transparent it doesn’t even warrant a response.

  135. 135
    Corey Delvine says:

    “gene expression would be in trouble if suddenly all the stop codons and termination sequences went away.”

    Just curious, what do you think would happen to gene expression if this were to occur?

  136. 136
    Mung says:

    Genes wouldn’t be expressed.

  137. 137
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    There was an irrational atheist like yourself there, doing as you do, saying anything at all in order to avoid real-world empirical evidence

    For the umteenth time, I’m not avoiding real-world emperical evidence.

    I’m heading out of town to celebrate my anniversary. But I’ll leave you with these questions which makes first my criticism clear. I’ll follow up on the second point when in a day or so.

    Q: Despite the fact that that each of them suggest something completely different is happening, in reality, real-wold empirical evidence of a rocket launch into space is compatible with both Newton’s Laws of motion and General Relativlity. True or false?

    Q: Someone criticizing Newton’s laws of motion would need to avoid real-world emperical evidence of rocket launches into space. True or false?

  138. 138
    J-Mac says:

    This is what Dr. Hameroff-world expert in consciousness study, whose predictions (with R. Penrose) regarding quantum coherence in microtubules of the neurons in the brain have been recently verified by experiments–said about AI and its potential ability to match operations per second in the brain:

    Alex Tsakiris: Your understanding of the quantum mechanics of the neuron really stirs up a lot of angst among the AI singularity crowd. Tell us a little bit about that controversy.

    Dr. Stuart Hameroff:To look at our brain as 100 billion simple switches — to look at a neuron as a switch or gate — it’s an insult to neurons. It’s just not that simple. If you study biology you realize this. But a lot of biologists get bogged down with the details and lose the big picture. They see the information processing in the cell as a minestrone soup of chemicals when they’re ignoring the solid state system in the microtubules.
    The bit with the AI and the singularity, there’s actually a couple of points of friction here. As I said, I spent 20 years studying microtubule information processing. The AI approach would be, roughly speaking, that a neuron fires or it doesn’t. It’s roughly comparable to a bit, 1 or 0. It’s more complicated than that but roughly speaking. I was saying no, each neuron has roughly 10-8 tubulins switching at roughly 10-7 per second, getting 10-15 operations per second per neuron. If you multiply that by the number of neurons you get 10 to the 26th operations per second per brain. AI is looking at neurons firing or not firing, 1,000 per second, 1,000 synapses. Something like the 10 to the 15th operations per second per brain… and that’s without even bringing in the quantum business. So that alone was pushing the goalpost way, way downstream into the future.

    http://skeptiko.com/stuart-ham.....ngularity/

  139. 139
    J-Mac says:

    @138 Further to this…

    Even if AI ever matches the abilities of the human brain in the operation per second, (it is not likely, but let’s assume) will that make the computer self-aware?

  140. 140
    critical rationalist says:

    @J-Mac

    Even if AI ever matches the abilities of the human brain in the operation per second…

    What makes you think it has anything to do with the number of operations per second?

    Turing machines are universal. That means, regardless of the number of operations per second, they are still capable of emulating any other Turing machine, in principle. if one Turing machine was trying to emulate another faster Turing machine, it could still run the exact same software, but it would do so slower.

    For example the Commodore 64 was a very popular home computer in 1982. It had a 6510 1.023 Mhz microprocessor processor. it was so popular that a company bought the rights to the name and OS and built the Commodore64x, which could run the same software as the original. However, the 6510 microprocessor is no longer in production. Instead, they use an 1.80 GHz,, Intel Core i7 @ 2.2 GHz Sandy Bridge CPU.

    How is this possible, since they are different CPUs with different instruction sets?

    And since the Intel processor is 1,760 times faster than 6510, wouldn’t the games run so fast, they would be unplayable?

    Since the i7 and 6510 are both Turing machines, they can run any program the other can via emulation. This includes emulating the slower clock speed of the 6510. In fact if the 6510 had enough memory it could emulate the i7 much slower, only at mere fraction of its full speed. And if it had even more memory, a 6510 could emulate a i7 emulating a 6510, even more slowly, etc. So, any classical Turing machine can emulate any other classical Turing machine.

    The Deutsch-Church principle says that any physical object can emulate any other physical object via the process of quantum computation. This means that any quantum computer can simulate any classical computer, including a 6510 or an i7. This also has the implication that some other physical object could also simulate the physical object in our skulls – the brain – if it has enough memory.

    So, even if we could not meet the same number of operations per second, we could simulate a brain at some fraction of full speed, Just as the slower 6510 could emulate a significantly faster i7, at a fraction of full speed.

  141. 141
    critical rationalist says:

    since the Intel processor is 1,760 times faster than 6510

    That’s just in respect to clock speed, BTW. The I7 is actually exponentially faster than then 6510.

  142. 142
    J-Mac says:

    CR,

    What makes you think it has anything to do with the number of operations per second?

    I gotta start somewhere… If AI can’t match that, what else is there to be done?

    Human brain has been agreed upon to be the most marvelous and the most sophisticated object in the universe?

    Any ideas why it was voted as such?

    Don’t forget this statement by Hameroff:

    “…AI is looking at neurons firing or not firing, 1,000 per second, 1,000 synapses. Something like the 10 to the 15th operations per second per brain… and that’s without even bringing in the quantum business. So that alone was pushing the goalpost way, way downstream into the future.”

  143. 143
    critical rationalist says:

    CR: What makes you think it has anything to do with the number of operations per second?

    J-Mac: I gotta start somewhere… If AI can’t match that, what else is there to be done?

    I just described what else could be done.

    We could simulate it at a fraction on the speed of an actual brain – just like a slower Turing machine can simulate an exponentially faster Turing machine at a fraction of the speed given enough memory.

    IOW, it is the universality of computation, which is an emergent property of a specific set of computations, that makes that possible, not a particular number of operations per second.

    And when we can perform more operations per second than the human brain? We can run the simulation faster than real-time.

  144. 144
    Origenes says:

    Perhaps the most straightforward argument against the proposal that consciousness is an emergent property of matter is that a cause cannot give what it does not have. Mental properties have content, they are about stuff, and we do intuitively know that matter is not. Matter has no propositional content in the sense that it can be about anything. The problem for emergence is not merely that we do not see how a material object or group of objects could have content; it is that we do see that it could not have content — Leibniz’ mill comes to mind. It is a category mistake, as Plantinga points out:.

    It’s a little like trying to understand what it would be for the number seven, e.g., to weigh five pounds (or for an elephant to be a proposition). We can’t see how that could happen; more exactly, we can see that it couldn’t happen. A number just isn’t the sort of thing that can have weight; there is no way in which that number or any other number could weigh anything at all. (The same goes for elephants and propositions.) Similarly, we can see, I think, that physical activity among neurons can’t generate content. These neurons are clicking away, sending electrical impulses hither and yon. But what has this to do with content? How is content or aboutness supposed to arise from this neuronal activity? How can such a thing be a belief? You might as well say that thought arises from the activity of the wind or the waves.
    [Plantinga, “Against Naturalism,” p. 54]

  145. 145
    J-Mac says:

    CR,

    You are very optimistically confused…

    You can stimulate a fraction of speed of an actual brain provided its operations are computational and they create consciousnesses…

    Unfortunately, your optimism hasn’t reached the quantum level yet, where the possibility of consciousness has not been disproved yet .. Your optimism was crushed 20 years ago by Penrose in his book The Emperors Mind… Nobody in the right frame of mind has been able to challenge his and Hameroff’s claims that if consciousness is emergent, it has to be at quantum level or even beyond…
    You are childishly naive… science has moved forward and you need to catch up….

  146. 146
    critical rationalist says:

    @ J-Mac

    I’m not confused. I’ve taken the quantum level into account in a previous comment.

    The Deutsch-Church principle says that any physical object can emulate any other physical object via the process of quantum computation. This means that any quantum computer can simulate any classical computer, including a 6510 or an i7. This also has the implication that some other physical object could also simulate the physical object in our skulls – the brain – if it has enough memory.

    The idea that it’s possible to simulate neurons, despite them not being merely on and off switches, is based on this fundamental aspect of quantum physics. So, it’s unclear what you mean when you say my “optimism hasn’t reached the quantum level yet,” It’s literally based on the theory of quantum computation.

  147. 147
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Perhaps the most straightforward argument against the proposal that consciousness is an emergent property of matter is that a cause cannot give what it does not have. Mental properties have content, they are about stuff, and we do intuitively know that matter is not. Matter has no propositional content in the sense that it can be about anything.

    And how do you know what anything “has to give”? Is it by induction?

    Do atoms or AND gates have universality, in the ability to simulate any other Turing machine, “to give”? A Turing machine represents a disproportional leap to universality that occurs when the necessary repertoire of computations are present. Nor did anyone initially set out to bring about this university. We stumbled upon it while trying to solve different problems.

    Furthermore, transistors, vacuum tubes and even wooden cogs are just as equally capable of this same universality. It’s not clear that we would “intuitively know” that wooden cogs equally had universality “to give” in the absence of the theory of computation.

    The problem for emergence is not merely that we do not see how a material object or group of objects could have content; it is that we do see that it could not have content

    Again, this sounds like some kind of inductivism, in that the future will somehow resemble the past or that the unseen explanations we use to explain the seen must some how resemble the seen. But they do not.

    While we currently lack such a theory, it’s unclear how we can “see” such a theory isn’t possible. That’s because the contents of theories do not come from observations. A theory of consciousness wouldn’t be an exception.

  148. 148
    Origenes says:

    CR@

    CR: And how do you know what anything “has to give”? Is it by induction?

    Do you even know what induction means?

    CR: Do atoms or AND gates have universality, in the ability to simulate any other Turing machine, “to give”?

    Computer output can be understood in terms of their material components — e.g. as marks on a computer screen — or they can be understood in terms of their content, what they mean. Yet computer output only has content because it is assigned content by a mind. With regard to my argument in # 144, I am interested in original content.

  149. 149
    Corey Delvine says:

    “Genes wouldn’t be expressed.”
    And you’d be wrong little Mungy.

  150. 150
    critical rationalist says:

    Yes, Origenes, I know what induction means. It is in reference to the concept of inductivism. The problem is, no one has managed to formulate a principle of induction that works, in practice.

    So, I’ll ask again, how do you know what anything “has to give”?

    Computer output can be understood in terms of their material components — e.g. as marks on a computer screen — or they can be understood in terms of their content, what they mean.

    A Turing machine can be understood at multiple levels, which includes, but is not limited to, it’s material components. That universality is emergent because of that higher level of explanation.

    The limited aspect of “computers” you just described is equally present in a pocket calculator that does not exhibit universality. It completely ignores the very key aspect of the argument presented. The universality I’m referring to is exploited by people to manage content but it is not content itself.

  151. 151
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    I see. You ask concise, direct questions, and I respond.

    But when I ask concise, direct questions, you do not.

    Now who’s running away?

    Again, to your claim that I’m avoiding real-world empirical evidence…. I’ve asked you two questions. Or have you given up on that claim. What gives?

    For your connivence….

    Q: Despite the fact that each of them suggest something completely different is happening, in reality, real-wold empirical evidence of a rocket launch into space is compatible with both Newton’s Laws of motion and General Relativlity. True or false?

    Q: Someone criticizing Newton’s laws of motion [say, in favor of GR] would need to avoid real-world emperical evidence of rocket launches into space. True or false?

    Whether we consider something relevant or not depends on our understanding of the subject at hand. So, if you’re mistaken about the subject, you can be mistaken about what’s relevant to that subject.

  152. 152
    Mung says:

    Corey Devine @149:

    And you’d be wrong little Mungy.

    It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, and almost certainly not the last.

  153. 153
    ET says:

    It is a given that if the start and stop codons went awry then at least some existing genes would not be expressed. Most likely most if not all existing genes wouldn’t be expressed. It is hard to tell if anything coherent would be expressed.

    So what is Corey babbling about?

  154. 154
    Origenes says:

    CR @150

    Anyway, irrelevant to my argument against emergence #144.

  155. 155
    critical rationalist says:

    Anyway, irrelevant to my argument for emergence #147.

    (See how meaningless that response is?)

  156. 156
    Corey Delvine says:

    For lack of better judgement, I will respond ET.
    It was originally just an interesting hypothetical question about specifically the loss of termination sites.

    And I would argue that gene expression would increase, not decrease.

  157. 157
    J-Mac says:

    CR @146

    You just confirmed you are even more confused than I initially thought:

    “Orchestrated objective reduction (Orch-OR) is a hypothesis that consciousness in the brain originates from processes inside neurons, rather than from connections between neurons (the conventional view). The mechanism is held to be a quantum physics process called objective reduction that is orchestrated by molecular structures called microtubules.

    Objective reduction is proposed to be influenced by non-computable factors imbedded in spacetime geometry which thus may account for the Hard Problem of Consciousness.

    The hypothesis was put forward in the early 1990s by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose and anaesthesiologist and psychologist Stuart Hameroff.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orchestrated_objective_reduction

  158. 158
    critical rationalist says:

    From the article on Wikipedia…

    If correct, the Penrose–Lucas argument creates a need to understand the physical basis of non-computable behaviour in the brain.[citation needed] Most physical laws are computable, and thus algorithmic. However, Penrose determined that wave function collapse was a prime candidate for a non-computable process.

    In quantum mechanics, particles are treated differently from the objects of classical mechanics. Particles are described by wave functions that evolve according to the Schrödinger equation. Non-stationary wave functions are linear combinations of the eigenstates of the system, a phenomenon described by the superposition principle. When a quantum system interacts with a classical system—i.e. when an observable is measured—the system appears to collapse to a random eigenstate of that observable from a classical vantage point.

    If collapse is truly random, then no process or algorithm can deterministically predict its outcome. This provided Penrose with a candidate for the physical basis of the non-computable process that he hypothesized to exist in the brain. However, he disliked the random nature of environmentally-induced collapse, as randomness was not a promising basis for mathematical understanding. Penrose proposed that isolated systems may still undergo a new form of wave function collapse, which he called objective reduction (OR).[7]

    “If collapse is truly random” makes the assumption there is a collapse. However, that is not the only interpretation of happens. From this Wikipedia article on the many worlds theory of quantum mechanics…

    As with the other interpretations of quantum mechanics, the many-worlds interpretation is motivated by behavior that can be illustrated by the double-slit experiment. When particles of light (or anything else) are passed through the double slit, a calculation assuming wave-like behavior of light can be used to identify where the particles are likely to be observed. Yet when the particles are observed in this experiment, they appear as particles (i.e., at definite places) and not as non-localized waves.

    Some versions of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics proposed a process of “collapse” in which an indeterminate quantum system would probabilistically collapse down onto, or select, just one determinate outcome to “explain” this phenomenon of observation. Wavefunction collapse was widely regarded as artificial and ad hoc[citation needed], so an alternative interpretation in which the behavior of measurement could be understood from more fundamental physical principles was considered desirable.

    Everett’s Ph.D. work provided such an alternative interpretation. Everett stated that for a composite system – for example a subject (the “observer” or measuring apparatus) observing an object (the “observed” system, such as a particle) – the statement that either the observer or the observed has a well-defined state is meaningless; in modern parlance, the observer and the observed have become entangled; we can only specify the state of one relative to the other, i.e., the state of the observer and the observed are correlated after the observation is made. This led Everett to derive from the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone (i.e., without assuming wavefunction collapse) the notion of a relativity of states.

    Everett noticed that the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone decreed that after an observation is made each element of the quantum superposition of the combined subject–object wavefunction contains two “relative states”: a “collapsed” object state and an associated observer who has observed the same collapsed outcome; what the observer sees and the state of the object have become correlated by the act of measurement or observation. The subsequent evolution of each pair of relative subject–object states proceeds with complete indifference as to the presence or absence of the other elements, as if wavefunction collapse has occurred, which has the consequence that later observations are always consistent with the earlier observations. Thus the appearance of the object’s wavefunction’s collapse has emerged from the unitary, deterministic theory itself. (This answered Einstein’s early criticism of quantum theory, that the theory should define what is observed, not for the observables to define the theory).[25] Since the wavefunction merely appears to have collapsed then, Everett reasoned, there was no need to actually assume that it had collapsed. And so, invoking Occam’s razor, he removed the postulate of wavefunction collapse from the theory.

    Agan, the key implication of the Deutsch-Church principle is that any object can simulate any other object. This would include simulation of the brain.

  159. 159
    J-Mac says:

    CR,

    Since you don’t understand the basics of QM, I’m going to ask you this question

    Imagine you have 70% of your brain surgically removed and yet after that ordeal you are fully conscious and functional…

    If your brain/mind/consciousness a computational entity, what kind of loss would you normally expect?

    Now, what is the only known mechanism to explain this real phenomenon?

  160. 160
    ET says:

    Corey- Surprising you didn’t chide me for my obvious reading error. My bad- apologies.

    Moving on- comments 134/35:

    “gene expression would be in trouble if suddenly all the stop codons and termination sequences went away.”

    Just curious, what do you think would happen to gene expression if this were to occur?

    mRNA surveillance and other processing check mechanisms prevent mRNAs from being transported out of the nucleus if it is / they are missing the stop codon.

    In organisms without those mechanisms a very long polypeptide might be formed but it doesn’t produce a viable protein.

  161. 161
    Corey Delvine says:

    You’re not really worth the effort ET.

    Anyways, bottom line is, the gene will still be transcribed and translated.
    The mRNA will have a long tail of extra nucleotides and the protein will have a bunch of extra amino acids.
    All the functional parts will still be there and for most proteins will be fully functional.

    You claiming it will not produce a viable protein is wrong in just about every case.

    Just another shining example of the lack of knowledge when it comes to biology here at UD.

  162. 162
    ET says:

    That’s wrong Corey. In most cases the mRNA won’t get processed. That means it won’t get translated.

    What is your evidence that most proteins with those added tails will still be functional? Why doesn’t the tail cover the reactive substrate or stop it from connecting with other proteins to form the needed machine?

    Why do you just get to say stuff, not back it up with anything, and expect anyone to believe you? mRNA surveillance is an observed mechanism. mRNA processing is a real mechanism.

    Worth the effort? What effort? You haven’t refuted anything as you say-so is meaningless.

  163. 163
    Corey Delvine says:

    It’ll get spliced, and RNA pol will come off eventually, probably due to a collision with something else.
    That would probably be the biggest issue, as it could take a while in some cases to hit something.

    I know how proteins work and that issues arise when you end a protein early. But even ending it early doesn’t mean it will lose function. There are a number of factors at play there.

    The chances of the tail covering something important are slim as structure is highly dynamic and binding sites represent a very small portion of a protein typically.

    I can just say stuff because I know what I’m talking about and also don’t really care if you believe me.

    The bottom line is that genes will still be expressed. There’s plenty of annotated genes that are the product of transcription continuing beyond its normal end site and combining two different genes. There’s also a recently discovered phenomenon where genes transcribe well past their normal end sites and splicing occurs in unannotated downstream regions.

    What goes on in the cell is not in black and white like you see in your 2nd grade biology book.

  164. 164
    ET says:

    What an arrogant loser you are. You can’t even support what you say. And calling yourself an authority is beyond desperation. “Look at me! I’m an expert, I don’t have to support what I say and I don’t care if you believe me.” Were not hugged as a child?

    Only a desperate loser would think what I said means I think what goes on in a cell is black and white. And only a coward would say such a thing and not back it up.

    I said the genes would be expressed, jerk. I also said there are mechanisms in place that would prevent them from getting translated. That is all true. So clearly you are juts some arrogant and ignorant punk.

    And I also said the genes get expressed in the organisms that don’t have those mRNA check mechanisms and that most likely the resulting polypeptide would be useless, Also true. But there may be RARE exceptions to the rule. And your alleged expertise will never refute any of that with actual references.

    That binding sites are small means the chances of them getting covered are pretty good. And when a hand-in-glove fit is required the tail would definitely get in the way.

    Rare would be the case when all would be OK without STOP codons.

  165. 165
    ET says:

    There’s also a recently discovered phenomenon where genes transcribe well past their normal end sites and splicing occurs in unannotated downstream regions.

    As designed. No way we would expect to see that in a blind watchmaker world.

    I don’t know how you can say you are some sort of expert on proteins and still adhere to evolution by means of blind, mindless processes. Do you really think all of the molecular regulation and codes can be reduced to matter, energy and what emerges from their interactions? If so how do you expect us to take anything you say seriously?

  166. 166
    Corey Delvine says:

    ET at 153:
    “Most likely most if not all existing genes wouldn’t be expressed”

    Just 3 ET comments later at 164:
    “I said the genes would be expressed, jerk”

    It seems you not only have no idea what you are talking about,
    but you can’t even keep your own thoughts straight.

    I’m going to do us all a favor and go back to ignoring your clueless rants.
    Bye!

  167. 167
    critical rationalist says:

    Since you don’t understand the basics of QM, I’m going to ask you this question

    I just pointed out that you don’t know the basics of quantum mechanics. Namely that, at a minimum, there are multiple “basics” so your argument is parochial.

    Doubt this?

    Imagine you have 70% of your brain surgically removed and yet after that ordeal you are fully conscious and functional…

    If your brain/mind/consciousness a computational entity, what kind of loss would you normally expect?

    If it is a quantum computational entity…

    Deutsch is mainly interested in the building of a quantum computer for its implications for fundamental physics, including the Many Worlds Interpretation, which would be a victory for the argument that science can explain the world and that, consequently, reality is knowable. (“House cures people,” Deutsch said to me when discussing Hugh Laurie, “because he’s interested in solving problems, not because he’s interested in people.”) Shor’s algorithm excites Deutsch, but here is how his excitement comes through in his book “The Fabric of Reality”:

    To those who still cling to a single-universe world-view, I issue this challenge: explain how Shor’s algorithm works. I do not merely mean predict that it will work, which is merely a matter of solving a few uncontroversial equations. I mean provide an explanation. When Shor’s algorithm has factorized a number, using 10^500 or so times the computational resources than can be seen to be present, where was the number factorized? There are only about 10^80 atoms in the entire visible universe, an utterly minuscule number compared with 10^500. So if the visible universe were the extent of physical reality, physical reality would not even remotely contain the resources required to factorize such a large number. Who did factorize it, then? How, and where, was the computation performed?

    Deutsch believes that quantum computing and Many Worlds are inextricably bound. He is nearly alone in this conviction, though many (especially around Oxford) concede that the construction of a sizable and stable quantum computer might be evidence in favor of the Everett interpretation. “Once there are actual quantum computers,” Deutsch said to me, “and a journalist can go to the actual labs and ask how does that actual machine work, the physicists in question will then either talk some obfuscatory nonsense, or will explain it in terms of parallel universes. Which will be newsworthy. Many Worlds will then become part of our culture. Really, it has nothing to do with making the computers. But psychologically it has everything to do with making them.”

    The take away? Quantum computation is exponentially faster than classical computers because they harnesse the interference between a vast number of other quantum computers in other “classical” universes in the many worlds of theory of quantum mechanics. This interference occurs when there are only slight differences between universes.

    In your example, if brains are quantum computers, they would harness the remaining 25% of gray matter in every brain in every parallel universe that is nearly identical (the same surgery occurs to the same person to remove the same amount, etc.). Even after removing 75%, that brain would be utilizing more “processing power” than all the atoms in the visible universe.

    Now, what is the only known mechanism to explain this real phenomenon?

    There isn’t just only one. I’ve just provided an alternative that does just that.

  168. 168
    ET says:

    Yes, Corey, what I originally said meant they wouldn’t be expressed as proteins. They would be expressed as mRNAs. And making the protein is part of gene expression. However some people think that just getting a mRNA means the gene was expressed.

    What I said @ 153 was due to my misreading and included missing START codons.

    It isn’t my fault that you are too stupid to follow along.

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