Human evolution Intelligent Design Mind

Michael Egnor: Is consciousness the sort of thing that could have evolved?

Spread the love

Researchers Simona Ginsberg and Eva Jablonka have written a book attempting to trace the evolution of consciousness. Neurosurgeon Michael Egnor responds:

In addition to the problem of intentionality, the capacity of human beings to reason and use intellect and will is an insurmountable obstacle for Darwinian theories of the evolution of consciousness. As Aristotle and scientists and philosophers who have followed his thinking have noted for millennia, the human capacity for abstract reasoning is inherently immaterial. No material explanation for the human capacity of reason is even conceivable.

For example, how can human beings contemplate “infinity” using physiological (material) processes in the brain? All material processes are finite and could not thereby account for thoughts about infinity. Nor can material processes explain the perfection inherent in certain mathematical concepts, such as triangularity. All material instantiations of triangularity are imperfect — lines aren’t perfectly straight and angles in actual (material) triangles don’t add up to exactly 180 degrees. Yet our abstract understanding of triangularity is perfect, in the sense that we understand triangularity as involving straight sides and 180 degree sums of angles.

Michael Egnor, “Is consciousness the sort of thing that could have evolved?” at Mind Matters News (June 28, 2022)

The book is Picturing the Mind (MIT Press, 2022). Here’s a free excerpt.

Takehome: Material processes cannot, for example, account for the power to grasp infinity or perfection — which are not material ideas.

Note: A common response among naturalists is to claim that such abstractions, like consciousness itself, are an illusion. Egnor would respond, “If your hypothesis is that your mind is an illusion, then you do not have a hypothesis.” That’s one reason that panpsychism is better tolerated in science than it used to be. The reality is, slowly but surely, sinking in.

You may also wish to read: Did minimal consciousness drive the Cambrian Explosion? Eva Jablonka’s team makes the daring case, repurposing Hungarian chemist Tibor Gánti’s origin of life studies. The researchers point out that life forms that show minimal consciousness have very different brains from each other. Behavior, not brain anatomy, is the signal to look for.

79 Replies to “Michael Egnor: Is consciousness the sort of thing that could have evolved?

  1. 1
    jerry says:

    Consciousness is actually an argument against natural Evolution.

    If it evolved in humans as opposed to being created, there would be some gradations of it existing in the natural world. But we don’t see this. Yes, we do see some animals smarter than others but there is such a huge gulf between humans and chimps, one would have expected many more species closer to humans.

    But they don’t exist. Hence, another nail in the naturalistic argument.

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    As humans were made in the image of God, and as God is Spirit, then his image is spiritual, and that is what makes us human. We have spirits that set us apart from other animals. God breathed a spirit into Adam and he became a living (human) being. Here is some Biblical speculation on the subject:
    https://thopid.blogspot.com/2019/06/thoughts-on-genesis-1-4.html

  3. 3
    dogdoc says:

    I don’t understand what is meant by “material” in these discussions. Are quantum fields “material”? Is spacetime “material”? These things certainly aren’t made of matter in the way 19th century physicists imagined, when “materialism” meant that nothing existed except particles bouncing around in the void. Egnor says that abstract concepts like “infinity” or “perfection” are “not material”. How about more concrete concepts like “chair” or “dog”? What does it mean for ideas to exist but not be “material”? Computers are “material” I assume, but what about the paragraph margin settings in my word processor? Are those material or immaterial? Why?

  4. 4
    chuckdarwin says:

    Egnor states, apparently in all seriousness:

    No material explanation for the human capacity of reason is even conceivable.

    Never say never, doc. Just when you’ve convinced everyone you can that man will never fly, a couple of clever bicycle builders from Dayton will come along and manage to fly a plane over the beach in North Carolina…..

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    So ChuckyD, let’s get this straight. The Wright Brothers infuse immaterial information,,,

    Wright Flyer – Airplane Blueprint.
    https://pixels.com/featured/3-wright-flyer-restored-patent-drawing-for-the-1906-orville-wilbur-wright-brothers-flying-machine-jose-elias-sofia-pereira.html

    ,, infuse immaterial information into the proper material substrates in order to, via their immaterial minds, intelligently design an airplane, and in your twisted Darwinian reasoning you somehow think that their invention of the airplane provides ‘proof of principle’ that a material explanation for the human capacity to reason will be forthcoming?

    Well ChuckyD I hate to inform you, but, if anything, the Wright Brother’s invention of the airplane, via the infusion of immaterial information into the proper material substrates, directly undermines your claim, and instead provides solid support for Dr. Egnor’s contention that there never will be a material explanation for the human capacity to reason.

  6. 6
    hnorman42 says:

    BA77 @ 5 –
    Agreed.
    I am very concerned though that science will eventually simply posit “emergence” as the explanation. It appears that the practice of just asserting the most empty concepts as true is gaining legitimacy.
    Your points, though, are all correct.

  7. 7
    Pater Kimbridge says:

    @DogDoc #3

    That’s a good question. From reading the posts here over several years, it is pretty obvious that when someone calls you a “materialist”, what they really mean is “atheist”.

  8. 8
    relatd says:

    PK at 7,

    Uh, the material is all there is? God? Show me God. If you can show me God I might believe in him. So, the conclusion is pretty obvious.

    Nothing personal.

  9. 9
    jerry says:

    material/materialist

    Like a lot of words, it can have several definitions/connotations.

    From Genevieve Sugrue daughter of Michael Sugrue.

    When I was 4 years old, my dad decided that it was time for my intro to philosophy. So he told me, “Did you know that I get all my ideas at the idea store?”. This didn’t sit well with me and I kept insisting “No you don’t!”. For the next two years, many car rides were spent talking about the idea store. It baffled my little mind but I kept trying to reason with him the best I could. At age 6 I found the solution. “You can’t see and touch ideas. You can only buy things you can see and touch. Ideas are different”. My dad was ecstatic. He had just taught his daughter the basics of metaphysics.

  10. 10
    doubter says:

    Dogdoc @3

    Obfuscation in response to solid points of argument. Are you saying that thoughts, perceptions, intellectual insights and subjective conscious experience in general (qualia) are somehow material in some sense or other, simply because “material” is differently or ambiguously defined depending on scientific context? Or because from a metaphysical standpoint the ultimate nature or essence of materiality is totally unknown?

    OK then, cite the length, width, breadth, mass, energy, field strength, velocity etc. etc. of any thought or perception (including the mental concept of “metaphysical”), or simply of the pain experience of a toothache, or how qualia and thought can be partly material and partly immaterial in some form of continuum between extremes. Like, subjective pain experience being partly heavy (in grams) and fast (in meters per second) and lengthy (in centimeters), and partly immaterial.

  11. 11
    dogdoc says:

    PK @7: I agree, it does appear that for many here the words “materialist”, “atheist”, and “evolutionist” are somehow thought to be synonymous, or thought to all fully entail each other. While they certainly covary in many people, the concepts are nearly orthogonal.

  12. 12
    dogdoc says:

    Doubter@10,

    Obfuscation in response to solid points of argument.

    If you read my post, you’ll see I was actually asking questions to clarify the term “material”, hardly an obfuscation. LOL!

    Are you saying…

    Um, I was asking a question.

    …that thoughts, perceptions, intellectual insights and subjective conscious experience in general (qualia) are somehow material in some sense or other, simply because “material” is differently or ambiguously defined depending on scientific context?

    I was trying to understand what the word “material” (or “immaterial”) is supposed to mean in the context of the OP. I asked a number of questions to try and clarify the concept. It seems you are unable to answer any of my questions. That’s OK!

    Or because from a metaphysical standpoint the ultimate nature or essence of materiality is totally unknown?

    I think what you mean here is that we cannot intuitively understand the fundamental nature of the perceived world, and that science has arrived at a point where we can explain and predict experimental results mathematically, but not conceptually. If that is what you mean, I agree completely.

    OK then, cite the length, width, breadth, mass, energy, field strength, velocity etc. etc. of any thought or perception (including the mental concept of “metaphysical”), or simply of the pain experience of a toothache, or how qualia and thought can be partly material and partly immaterial in some form of continuum between extremes. Like, subjective pain experience being partly heavy (in grams) and fast (in meters per second) and lengthy (in centimeters), and partly immaterial.

    Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re getting at here. Can you cite the length, width, etc. of the margin settings of my word processor? How about of the Bank of America? Can you measure the weight of Texas, or the speed of income tax? If not, does this mean these things don’t exist? Or that they are composed of a different sort of immaterial substance – res cogitans – or something?

    I’m not making claims here, or trying to obfuscate; I’m actually trying to clarify what people mean.

  13. 13
    chuckdarwin says:

    Pater Kimbridge/7

    You hit that nail on the head. There’s a subset of those folks that take it one more step over the rainbow and will tell you that as a materialist, you don’t exist…..

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    Some may find the following of interest to the fairly sharp divide that is found between the material realm and the realm of the mind

    “We wish to measure a temperature.,,,
    But in any case, no matter how far we calculate — to the mercury vessel, to the scale of the thermometer, to the retina, or into the brain, at some time we must say: and this is perceived by the observer. That is, we must always divide the world into two parts, the one being the observed system, the other the observer.”
    – John von Neumann – 1903-1957 – The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, pp.418-21 – 1955

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? Stephen M. Barr – July 10, 2012
    Excerpt: Couldn’t an inanimate physical device (say, a Geiger counter) carry out a “measurement”? That would run into the very problem pointed out by von Neumann: If the “observer” were just a purely physical entity, such as a Geiger counter, one could in principle write down a bigger wavefunction that described not only the thing being measured but also the observer. And, when calculated with the Schrödinger equation, that bigger wave function would not jump! Again: as long as only purely physical entities are involved, they are governed by an equation that says that the probabilities don’t jump.
    That’s why, when Peierls was asked whether a machine could be an “observer,” he said no, explaining that “the quantum mechanical description is in terms of knowledge, and knowledge requires somebody who knows.” Not a purely physical thing, but a mind.
    https://books.google.com/books?id=jP0lDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA89#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Of note: Wigner’s friend thought experiment made its first appearance in this paper where Wigner provocatively stated, “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality”

    Remarks on the mind-body question – E.P. Wigner (1961),
    Excerpt: “It will remain remarkable, in whatever way our future concepts may develop, that the very study of the external world led to the scientific conclusion that the content of the consciousness is the ultimate universal reality”
    https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-78374-6_20?noAccess=true

    And now Wigner’s Friend thought experiment has, 60 years hence, finally been experimentally realized, albeit with the caveat, it was realized using photons as proxies for the humans.

    More Than One Reality Exists (in Quantum Physics)
    By Mindy Weisberger – March 20, 2019
    Excerpt: “measurement results,, must be understood relative to the observer who performed the measurement”.
    https://www.livescience.com/65029-dueling-reality-photons.html

    Quantum paradox points to shaky foundations of reality – 17 Aug 2020
    Excerpt: Nearly 60 years ago, the Nobel Prize–winning physicist Eugene Wigner captured one of the many oddities of quantum mechanics in a thought experiment. He imagined a friend of his, sealed in a lab, measuring a particle such as an atom while Wigner stood outside. Quantum mechanics famously allows particles to occupy many locations at once—a so-called superposition—but the friend’s observation “collapses” the particle to just one spot. Yet for Wigner, the superposition remains: The collapse occurs only when he makes a measurement sometime later. Worse, Wigner also sees the friend in a superposition. Their experiences directly conflict.
    Now, researchers in Australia and Taiwan offer perhaps the sharpest demonstration that Wigner’s paradox is real. In a study published this week in Nature Physics, they transform the thought experiment into a mathematical theorem that confirms the irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of the scenario. The team also tests the theorem with an experiment, using photons as proxies for the humans.
    https://www.science.org/content/article/quantum-paradox-points-shaky-foundations-reality

    Quote;

    “It was not possible to formulate the laws (of quantum theory) in a fully consistent way without reference to consciousness.”
    Eugene Wigner (1902 -1995) from his collection of essays “Symmetries and Reflections – Scientific Essays” – 1970;

    Of note: Eugene Wigner laid the foundation for the theory of symmetries in quantum mechanics, (i.e. quantum symmetries), for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963.

    No less than Anton Zeilinger paid homage to Wigner for fostering a “Second Quantum Revolution”

    Eugene Wigner – A Gedanken Pioneer of the Second Quantum Revolution – Anton Zeilinger – Sept. 2014
    Conclusion
    It would be fascinating to know Eugene Wigner’s reaction to the fact that the gedanken experiments he discussed (in 1963 and 1970) have not only become reality, but building on his gedanken experiments, new ideas have developed which on the one hand probe the foundations of quantum mechanics even deeper, and which on the other hand also provide the foundations to the new field of quantum information technology. All these experiments pay homage to the great insight Wigner expressed in developing these gedanken experiments and in his analyses of the foundations of quantum mechanics,
    http://epjwoc.epj.org/articles....._01010.pdf

  15. 15
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DogDoc

    Can you cite the length, width, etc. of the margin settings of my word processor? How about of the Bank of America? Can you measure the weight of Texas, or the speed of income tax? If not, does this mean these things don’t exist?

    We can apply physical measures to those things. We can measure the circumference of Texas. We can measure the quantity and physical location of the code that goes into your margin settings. At the same time, we might say that Bank of America is an immaterial entity since it may not be fully comprehended by physical measures. In the same way, we can’t physically measure your thoughts. That’s the point. To then say “since we can’t provide weight, length, etc. of one’s thoughts means they do not exist” – is to misread the comment. The fact is, they do exist but they’re not material/physically/empirically accessible. They’re immaterial entities.

    I’m not making claims here, or trying to obfuscate; I’m actually trying to clarify what people mean.

    The clarification is appreciated but it still may come across as an attack of some kind or an attempt to obfuscate and use sophistry if you don’t also give your own views on the question.

  16. 16
    relatd says:

    CD at 13,

    Was that a joke? Of course materialists exist. What is it with this “exist” nonsense?

  17. 17
    dogdoc says:

    SA @15,

    We can apply physical measures to those things. We can measure the circumference of Texas.

    First, I asked how much it weighed. Second, Texas is not a circle :-). Third, Texas is a complex, abstract concept that cannot be captured by any physical measurement of the land or anything else.

    We can measure the quantity and physical location of the code that goes into your margin settings.

    I asked about the margin settings, not “the code that goes into your margin settings”. And it would be practically impossible to distinguish the physical locations of all bits involved in storing “margin settings” and where those bits “reside” in the machine, just as it would be practically impossible to distinguish all the physical changes in the brain related to “perceiving a dog”.

    At the same time, we might say that Bank of America is an immaterial entity since it may not be fully comprehended by physical measures.

    Like Texas and margin settings, the BofA is a complex, abstract concept, not ammenable to describing with concepts about physical objects.

    In the same way, we can’t physically measure your thoughts. That’s the point.

    I agree of course. Not because they exist in a mysterious spiritual or immaterial realm of existence, but because a “thought” is not something that can be described in terms of things we perceive that are ammenable to physical description.

    To then say “since we can’t provide weight, length, etc. of one’s thoughts means they do not exist” – is to misread the comment.

    Sorry, I don’t see that anyone here has said anything to that effect. I certainly have not. Where did you get that from?

    The fact is, they do exist but they’re not material/physically/empirically accessible.

    I’m fine with that. Monetary inflation, civil unrest, the Republican Party, summer vacation… most people would say all of these things exist, but none have locations, heights, weights, and so on. They are conceptual abstractions.

    They’re immaterial entities.

    And this brings me back to the question I started with. What does it mean to say something is an “immaterial entity”? Is a vacation an immaterial entity?

    The clarification is appreciated but it still may come across as an attack of some kind or an attempt to obfuscate and use sophistry if you don’t also give your own views on the question.

    Wow, I guess folks here are primed to fight. Too bad! Anyway, sorry, but I actually don’t have the answers to these questions. I think it’s very difficult to understand in what sense these things exist. Even something like the color “red” – does that color exist? In what sense?

  18. 18
    relatd says:

    When a company makes a plastic toy and specifies a particular shade of red, they gives its frequency which can be measured and confirmed.

  19. 19
    dogdoc says:

    Relatd@18,
    You can measure the frequency of reflected light, yes. If you defined color as merely “the frequency of light” then sure, that’s that. But by “color” most people mean what they see, not the frequency of light measured by instruments. And the color we see is a function of all sorts of things, including our expectations and assumptions. (For example, remember the dress that was seen in different colors by different people? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_dress#Scientific_explanations )

  20. 20
    relatd says:

    Dd at 19,

    I have an arts and graphic design background. The example given makes no sense in the real world. I am involved in judging colors for print. Time and again, selecting a red has become quite obvious in terms of how people respond. I suggest getting a copy of Color Image Scale by Shigenobu Kobayashi for examples of color and people’s perceptions.

  21. 21
    dogdoc says:

    Relatd@20,

    The example given makes no sense in the real world.

    Well, we’re in the real world, and so is that image, and we really see those colors differently, and that really does say something powerful about how our perceptions are not simple measurements of physical properties. Of course this particular example is just a terrific illustration; the subjective aspects of color perception have been discussed for a long time.

    I am involved in judging colors for print. Time and again, selecting a red has become quite obvious in terms of how people respond. I suggest getting a copy of Color Image Scale by Shigenobu Kobayashi for examples of color and people’s perceptions.

    Again, color perception has been studied (by cognitive psychologists and philosophers) for a very long time and debates about how it all works continue. I would recommend to you the classic “Color for Philosophers: Unweaving the Rainbow” by C.L. Hardin, who gives a fascinating analysis of the phenomenology of color perception – both the objective (physical) and subjective (mental) components.

    Anyway, I brought up color as just one of innumerable things we say are real but are not (entirely) objectively measurable. Things like the Bank of America, or Texas, or income tax -I think we’d all agree these things exist, but they don’t have physical properties. But my question remains: Would that mean they are “immaterial entities”? And does “immaterial” mean “abstract”, or if not, what does it mean?

  22. 22
    relatd says:

    Dd at 21,

    I read a lot of professional writing and it includes actual psychology and actual perception. So immaterial just means something that you can’t hold in your hand – that’s all. No debate needed as far as I’m concerned. To put it another way – I know for a fact that what I read for publication WILL be perceived a certain way by most people. I’ve been doing this for years.

  23. 23
    chuckdarwin says:

    BA77/5
    Wright Bros. example simply demonstrates that something that what was once claimed “inconceivable” came to fruition. Without appealing to the supernatural…….
    No more complicated than that……

  24. 24
    dogdoc says:

    Relatd@22,

    I read a lot of professional writing and it includes actual psychology and actual perception.

    Are there other sorts of psychology and perception besides those that are “actual”? I don’t mean to be snarky, I really don’t know if you’re trying to say that my comments or sources are somehow not bona-fide or something else.

    So immaterial just means something that you can’t hold in your hand – that’s all.

    You don’t mean that literally, though. If you did, then we would have to say the Pacific Ocean is immaterial, and elephants are immaterial, and so on, which I don’t think you would agree to.

    Moreover, modern physics has shown that even the things we can literally hold in our hand, like a rock, is composed of things that do not exist in time and space the way we consider that rocks do. I’m referring to, for example, particle-wave duality and non-locality in quantum physics, where an electron is said to exist but it doesn’t exist in a particular place at a particular time. And no, this is not a limit of our ability to measure things (epistemic uncertainty), but rather a feature of the reality of things like electrons (ontological uncertainty).

    No debate needed as far as I’m concerned.

    Well then it’s all settled! (for you at least :-))

    To put it another way – I know for a fact that what I read for publication WILL be perceived a certain way by most people. I’ve been doing this for years.

    I’m sure you’re very expert at your job, but I don’t see how your ability to predict what colors will be reported by your customers resolves any of these complex, long-standing questions regarding how color perception works.

    If you’re not interested in reading a book, here’s a great reference to introduce you to the issues: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/color/

    ADDED:
    Here is the introduction to that page on Stanford Philosophy:

    Colors are of philosophical interest for a number of reasons. One of the most important reasons is that color raises serious metaphysical issues, concerning the nature both of physical reality and of the mind. Among these issues are questions concerning whether color is part of a mind-independent reality, and what account we can give of experiences of color. These issues have been, and continue to be, inextricably linked with important epistemological and semantic issues.

  25. 25
    relatd says:

    CD at 23,

    Before Darwin, a lot of important scientists gave credit to God for their discoveries. As far as powered aircraft, a lot of people had seen powered aircraft in the form of living birds. Thanks to Henry Ford, internal combustion engines were applied to the Wright Brothers’ glider.

    You’re talking fiction if you think powered aircraft falls under the inconceivable category. Man-carrying gliders proved the concept before the gas engine was added.

    What designers often do is look to nature to try to figure how certain things are possible for living things. Bats and sonar, for example. The human brain, for example.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    ChuckyD: “Wright Bros. example simply demonstrates that something that what was once claimed “inconceivable” came to fruition. Without appealing to the supernatural…….”

    Well ChuckyD, hate to inform you once again, but there was certainly nothing ‘natural’ about the Wright Brothers invention of the airplane.

    Again, only when the Wright brothers infused immaterial information into the proper material substrates, via their immaterial minds, in order to ‘intelligently design’ an airplane was the airplane brought into existence.

    Wright Flyer – Airplane Blueprint.
    https://pixels.com/featured/3-wright-flyer-restored-patent-drawing-for-the-1906-orville-wilbur-wright-brothers-flying-machine-jose-elias-sofia-pereira.html

    The airplane simply would not exist otherwise, unless it was first ‘supernaturally’ intelligently designed by the immaterial minds of the Wright Brothers when they, via their free wills, infused the proper immaterial Information into the proper material substrates. Again there was certainly nothing ‘natural’ about the Wright Brothers inventing the airplane.

    Moreover, even the computer sitting right in front of your face proves the existence of the immaterial mind.

    As George Ellis explained, “The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.”

    Recognising Top-Down Causation – George Ellis
    Excerpt: Causation: The nature of causation is highly contested territory, and I will take a pragmatic view:
    Definition 1: Causal Effect
    If making a change in a quantity X results in a reliable demonstrable change in a quantity Y in a given context, then X has a causal effect on Y.
    Example: I press the key labelled “A” on my computer keyboard; the letter “A” appears on my computer screen.,,,
    Definition 2: Existence
    If Y is a physical entity made up of ordinary matter, and X is some kind of entity that has a demonstrable causal effect on Y as per Definition 1, then we must acknowledge that X also exists (even if it is not made up of such matter).
    This is clearly a sensible and testable criterion; in the example above, it leads to the conclusion that both the data and the relevant software exist. If we do not adopt this definition, we will have instances of uncaused changes in the world; I presume we wish to avoid that situation.,,,
    Excerpt: page 5: A:
    Both the program and the data are non-physical entities, indeed so is all software. A program is not a physical thing you can point to, but by Definition 2 it certainly exists. You can point to a CD or flashdrive where it is stored, but that is not the thing in itself: it is a medium in which it is stored.
    The program itself is an abstract entity, shaped by abstract logic. Is the software “nothing but” its realisation through a specific set of stored electronic states in the computer memory banks? No it is not because it is the precise pattern in those states that matters: a higher level relation that is not apparent at the scale of the electrons themselves. It’s a relational thing (and if you get the relations between the symbols wrong, so you have a syntax error, it will all come to a grinding halt). This abstract nature of software is realised in the concept of virtual machines, which occur at every level in the computer hierarchy except the bottom one [17]. But this tower of virtual machines causes physical effects in the real world, for example when a computer controls a robot in an assembly line to create physical artefacts.
    Excerpt page 7:
    The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/1212.2275.pdf

    How Does The World Work: Top-Down or Bottom-Up? – September 29, 2013
    Excerpt: To get an handle on how top-down causation works, Ellis focuses on what’s in front of all us so much of the time: the computer. Computers are structured systems. They are built as a hierarchy of layers, extending from the wires in the transistors all the way up to the fully assembled machine, gleaming metal case and all.
    Because of this layering, what happens at the uppermost levels — like you hitting the escape key — flows downward. This action determines the behavior of the lowest levels — like the flow of electrons through the wires — in ways that simply could not be predicted by just knowing the laws of electrons. As Ellis puts it:
    “Structured systems such as a computer constrain lower level interactions, and thereby paradoxically create new possibilities of complex behavior.”
    Ellis likes to emphasize how the hierarchy of structure — from fully assembled machine through logic gates, down to transistors — changes everything for the lowly electrons. In particular, it “breaks the symmetry” of their possible behavior since their movements in the computer hardware are very different from what would occur if they were just floating around in a plasma blob in space.
    But the hardware, of course, is just one piece of the puzzle. This is where things get interesting. As Ellis explains:
    “Hardware is only causally effective because of the software which animates it: by itself hardware can do nothing. Both hardware and software are hierarchically structured with the higher level logic driving the lower level events.”
    In other words, it’s software at the top level of structure that determines how the electrons at the bottom level flow. Hitting escape while running Word moves the electrons in the wires in different ways than hitting escape does when running Photoshop. This is causation flowing from top to bottom.
    For Ellis, anything producing causes is real in the most basic sense of the word. Thus the software, which is not physical like the electrons, is just as real as those electrons. As Ellis puts it:
    “Hence, although they are the ultimate in algorithmic causation as characterized so precisely by Turing, digital computers embody and demonstrate the causal efficacy of non-physical entities. The physics allows this; it does not control what takes place. Computers exemplify the emergence of new kinds of causation out of the underlying physics, not implied by physics but rather by the logic of higher-level possibilities. … A combination of bottom-up causation and contextual affects (top-down influences) enables their complex functioning.”
    The consequences of this perspective for our view of the mind are straightforward and radical:
    “The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.”
    http://www.npr.org/sections/13.....-bottom-up

    To deny the obvious immateriality of the human intellect in the process of inventing airplanes, computers, and etc.., etc.., is to be “deep in the mire of folly”. As Adam Sedgwick scolded Charles Darwin, “There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly.”

    From Adam Sedgwick – 24 November 1859
    Cambridge
    My dear Darwin,
    Excerpt: I have read your book with more pain than pleasure. Parts of it I admired greatly; parts I laughed at till my sides were almost sore; other parts I read with absolute sorrow; because I think them utterly false & grievously mischievous. You have deserted—after a start in that tram-road of all solid physical truth—the true method of induction—& started up a machinery as wild I think as Bishop Wilkin’s locomotive that was to sail with us to the Moon. Many of your wide conclusions are based upon assumptions which can neither be proved nor disproved. Why then express them in the language & arrangements of philosophical induction?
    As to your grand principle—natural selection—what is it but a secondary consequence of supposed, or known, primary facts. Development is a better word because more close to the cause of the fact.,,,
    You write of “natural selection” as if it were done consciously by the selecting agent.,,,
    We all admit development as a fact of history; but how came it about?,,,
    There is a moral or metaphysical part of nature as well as a physical. A man who denies this is deep in the mire of folly. Tis the crown & glory of organic science that it does thro’ final cause , link material to moral; & yet does not allow us to mingle them in our first conception of laws, & our classification of such laws whether we consider one side of nature or the other— You have ignored this link; &, if I do not mistake your meaning, you have done your best in one or two pregnant cases to break it. Were it possible (which thank God it is not) to break it, humanity in my mind, would suffer a damage that might brutalize it—& sink the human race into a lower grade of degradation than any into which it has fallen since its written records tell us of its history.,,,
    in speculating upon organic descent, you over state the evidence of geology; & that you under state it while you are talking of the broken links of your natural pedigree:,,,
    Lastly then, I greatly dislike the concluding chapter—not as a summary—for in that light it appears good—but I dislike it from the tone of triumphant confidence in which you appeal to the rising generation (in a tone I condemned in the author of the Vestiges),7 & prophesy of things not yet in the womb of time; nor, (if we are to trust the accumulated experience of human sense & the inferences of its logic) ever likely to be found any where but in the fertile womb of man’s imagination.—
    https://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/letter/DCP-LETT-2548.xml

    Of supplemental note, the Wright Brothers just so happened to be sons of a Christian Bishop

    Milton Wright (November 17, 1828 – April 3, 1917) was the father of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, and a bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.
    – per wikipedia

  27. 27
    dogdoc says:

    Hi BornAgain,

    You seem comfortable with the concepts of “immaterial” and “material”. Maybe you could chime in and help clarify their meaning. Is there some particular criterion you apply to decide if something is “material” or not? (I assume there is). Can you show how to apply that criterion to a list of entities to determine which class they fall into?

    1) a rock
    2) an electron
    3) the Bank of America
    4) the Pacific Ocean

    By the way, I’m not trying to trick or attack anyone here as some have suspected – I’m a curious person and I genuinely don’t understand what these terms mean to those who use them. Likewise I have trouble with “natural” vs. “supernatural”.

  28. 28
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DogDoc

    Anyway, sorry, but I actually don’t have the answers to these questions. I think it’s very difficult to understand in what sense these things exist. Even something like the color “red” – does that color exist? In what sense?

    That’s a start anyway. You’re giving some kind of standard by which you evaluate things and definitions of things. You don’t know if the color red exists. You don’t have the answer to what a material thing is or if Texas exists, etc. I’ll suggest that this is hyper-skepticism but even if not, it will make it very difficult to communicate if you’ll reject definitions of things but at the same time take no position on what things are.
    That is, it’s fine to say that you don’t know if anything exists, but that has very big consequences in all of your thinking and all of your attempts to explain reality and various truths.
    We have these kinds of discussions often with one or more idealist (mind-only) proponents and we end up talking in circles and wasting a lot of time and not learning very much.
    With that, again, I’d suggest and prefer that you lay out your views beyond merely that you don’t know. This is not being primed for a fight, but just being wary of conversations that end up in needless conflicts that could be avoided.
    Why not seek some mutual understanding from everyone?

  29. 29
    dogdoc says:

    SA@28,

    You’re giving some kind of standard by which you evaluate things and definitions of things.

    Sorry but no, I have not really offered standards by which I “evaluate things and definitions of things”.

    You don’t know if the color red exists.

    As I just finished explaining to Relatd, there is a long history of study of color perception. Obviously we experience the qualia of red, but there is great uncertainty about what the relationship is between our perception and the physical properties of things that we perceive as red. Here’s the reference I gave to Relatd which will give you a good idea of what the issues are:
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/color/

    You don’t have the answer to what a material thing is…

    Well, apparently I’m not the only one! Nobody here has suggested any criteria for deciding if something is material or immaterial despite my repeated questions. And that includes you!

    …or if Texas exists…

    You mistate my position here, badly. I actually said of course we would all agree that Texas (or the Bank of America or income tax or electrons etc) exists even though these things cannot be characterized in terms of the physical properties that “material” things are supposed to have (location, size, weight, etc). And then I ask if these existing things can’t be described in terms of physical properties, would they be considered as “immaterial entities”. Anyway, if you can’t make your point without mischaracterizing what I’ve said maybe you shouldn’t be so sure of yourself?

    I’ll suggest that this is hyper-skepticism but even if not, it will make it very difficult to communicate if you’ll reject definitions of things but at the same time take no position on what things are.

    What definitions have I rejected? I agree that it is possible to be hyper-skeptical, but I don’t think I’ve said anything along those lines. I am asking about one particular concept – that of “material” vs. “immaterial” entities – and what is meant by that delineation. If you think that is somehow “difficult” to discuss that then perhaps you might want to just skip this discussion.

    That is, it’s fine to say that you don’t know if anything exists,

    Wow, again you completely misstate what I’ve said here! Read the entire page, I have never said or implied anything like “I don’t know if anything exists”! I’m not the one who is being difficult to communicate with, that’s for sure. Read what I’ve said and stop making things up and pretending I’ve said them.

    We have these kinds of discussions often with one or more idealist (mind-only) proponents and we end up talking in circles and wasting a lot of time and not learning very much.

    Either give it a try or don’t, but it doesn’t help to complain before you’ve even tried. Once again: I do not understand the distinction that the OP and others here make regarding material vs. immaterial entities. I am asking for someone who uses these concepts to explain it to me. If you can offer some explanation then do so!

    With that, again, I’d suggest and prefer that you lay out your views beyond merely that you don’t know.

    Are you joking? Should I pretend that I know what you mean by these terms even though I don’t?

    Why not seek some mutual understanding from everyone?

    I can’t think of a better way of seeking mutual understanding with everyone than trying to understand what they are saying.

  30. 30
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    And then I ask if these existing things can’t be described in terms of physical properties, would they be considered as “immaterial entities”.

    Yes, in general they would be. If they cannot be reduced to material qualities then we call them immaterial entities. Like universals – a triangle. That’s an immaterial entity.

  31. 31
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    I genuinely don’t understand what these terms mean to those who use them.

    You don’t know what people mean by “a rock”, “the Pacific Ocean” or “Bank of America”?

    It sounds like you want to re-write every dictionary – or perhaps just get rid of them all (and Wikipedia as well)?

  32. 32
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Ed Feser analyzes James Ross’ argument for the immateriality of thought:

    James Ross developed a simple and powerful argument for the immate-
    riality of the intellect, an argument rooted in the Aristotelian-Scholastic tradition
    while drawing on ideas from analytic philosophers Saul Kripke, W. V. Quine, and
    Nelson Goodman. This paper provides a detailed exposition and defense of the
    argument, filling out aspects that Ross left sketchy.
    Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought
    https://www.newdualism.org/papers/E.Feser/Feser-acpq_2013.pdf

    Summarizing the argument:

    1. Everything physical is particular.
    2. However, some thoughts are universal.
    3. Therefore, some thoughts are not physical.

    First premise: Every physical thing is restricted to this or that particular instantiation, There is, for example, this triangle drawn on this chalkboard and there is that triangle drawn on that chalkboard, but never do we encounter in the physical realm triangularity as such.
    Second premise: Triangularity or “a triangle” is a universal concept.

  33. 33
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    Very funny that some people are hyperskeptical with their own senses with things they actually see ,taste and touch but in the same time they are anti-skeptical with their own intelligence and accept whatever insanity fly through their mind…”because they are special”.
    If you want to be hyperskeptical start with your intelligence that tell you in the first place to be hyperskeptical . 😆

  34. 34
    TimR says:

    SA @31, its pretty clear that he was saying he doesn’t know what the terms material and immaterial mean to the people who are using them here. He has never said he doesn’t know what a rock is. It reads like you are being deliberately disingenuous.

  35. 35
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    Yes, in general they would be [considered to be “immaterial entities”]. If they cannot be reduced to material qualities then we call them immaterial entities. Like universals – a triangle. That’s an immaterial entity.

    (my emphasis) Okay, thanks for your answer. In order for something to be material, they must be reducible to material qualities.

    The first thing I’d say is, as I mentioned above, physics no longer describes material qualities in terms of anything that we generally think of as being material. Subatomic particles don’t doesn’t exist at a single location in space and time until they are observed. They are not bits of material stuff. Quantum field theory – the most successful physical theory ever – reduce the physical world to things (quantum fields) that exist in a state with no specific location, length, height, or weight as we think of those qualities.

    Some would say in the light of modern physics, then, it’s not all that clear what “reducible to material qualities” means. But in the spirit of generously attempting to come to a common understanding, let me hazard a good-faith guess as to what you might mean by “material qualities”: Those qualities currently used by physics to explain the nature of physical reality.

    Hopefully that captures your meaning. But even so, this is not an ontological distinction – it only represents (current) limits of reductionist physics, not some law that prevents grounding these phenomena in physics in principle. Even chemistry and physiology are not fully reducible to physics!

    All of this makes your distinction between “reducible to physics” vs. “not reducible to physics” a weak one. In other words, when you base your distinction between “material” and “immaterial” on what is reducible to physics, it no longer reflects the ontological distinction that I believe you’re hoping for (correct me if I’m wrong).

    You don’t know what people mean by “a rock”, “the Pacific Ocean” or “Bank of America”?

    No, those were my examples of things that exist but cannot be characterized purely in terms of physical properties like location, height, weight, and so on. I said I didn’t understand what people meant by “material” or “immaterial”.

    As for the definition of a triangle being immaterial: I’m sure you’re aware that the reality of geometric forms, or mathematics in general, has been a topic of debate for millennia. Are numbers real, as Plato thought? Or are they purely mental constructs? I’m not asking to bait you – I truly have no opinion on the matter. All I know is that brilliant people have argued both sides of that since before Plato and it’s all a lot more complicated than many assume 🙂

    It sounds like you want to re-write every dictionary – or perhaps just get rid of them all (and Wikipedia as well)?

    You are trying very, very hard to pretend that I am arguing things that are not at all what I am arguing. Aren’t you tired of that yet?

    Ed Feser analyzes James Ross’ argument for the immateriality of thought:

    Here you are promoting the idea that thought is immaterial. Given your definition of that word, I would agree: We cannot currently reduce thought to physics. Calling thought “immaterial” under your definition ought to be uncontroversial.

    1. Everything physical is particular.

    I don’t think this is true according to physics. In physics, bosons and fermions are known as indiscernible particles. They are identical in every respect and cannot be distinguished from one another, even in principle. (Remember, “particles” in subatomic physics are not little bits of matter – they are something else). (look up “identical particles in quantum physics”)

    So when you talk about electrons, they are not particular, they are universal, because every electron is exactly like every other electron and they cannot be distinguished by any means at all, even in principle. But let’s set that aside and look at the rest of the argument:

    1. Everything physical is particular.
    2. However, some thoughts are universal.
    3. Therefore, some thoughts are not physical.

    This doesn’t seem to map at all to your distinction between material and immaterial. In your view, immaterial things are those irreducible to physics. But Feser is saying that “physical” (material) things are “particular” things, while “not physical” (immaterial) things are “universal” things.

  36. 36
    Upright BiPed says:

    .

    So when you talk about electrons, they are not particular, they are universal, because every electron is exactly like every other electron and they cannot be distinguished by any means at all, even in principle.

    I am not following this conversation at all, but this sentence caught my eye.

    Perhaps they should just be called “electron” then, in the singular.

    On the other hand, if we have good reason to call them “electrons” as a reliable product of measurement, then apparently they are discernible, despite their anonymity. Perhaps a rule about universals might turn out to be an anthropic imposition.

    Or, I could be completely out of context. 🙂

  37. 37
    bornagain77 says:

    A few related note:

    ,,,Plato valued abstract ideas more than the physical world and rejected the notion that attributes such as goodness and beauty were “mechanical manifestations of material atoms.” Where Democritus believed that matter could not move through space without a vacuum and that light was the rapid movement of particles through a void,
    https://www.britannica.com/science/atom/Development-of-atomic-theory

    “I think that modern physics has definitely decided in favor of Plato, (and against Democritus). In fact the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense; they are forms, ideas which can be expressed unambiguously only in mathematical language.”
    – Werner Heisenberg – Das Naturgesetz und die Struktur der Materie (1967), as translated in Natural Law and the Structure of Matter (1981), p. 34

    “[while a number of philosophical ideas] may be logically consistent with present quantum mechanics, …materialism is not.”
    – Eugene Wigner
    – Concluding sentence after a review of the experimental evidence from quantum mechanics: “Science has not buried God, it has revealed Him and with it buried materialism.” –
    https://drewtestblogblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/test-post/

    Quantum Physics Debunks Materialism (v2)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM0IKLv7KrE

    Why Quantum Theory Does Not Support Materialism – By Bruce L Gordon:
    Excerpt: Because quantum theory is thought to provide the bedrock for our scientific understanding of physical reality, it is to this theory that the materialist inevitably appeals in support of his worldview. But having fled to science in search of a safe haven for his doctrines, the materialist instead finds that quantum theory in fact dissolves and defeats his materialist understanding of the world.,,
    The underlying problem is this: there are correlations in nature that require a causal explanation but for which no physical explanation is in principle possible. Furthermore, the nonlocalizability of field quanta entails that these entities, whatever they are, fail the criterion of material individuality. So, paradoxically and ironically, the most fundamental constituents and relations of the material world cannot, in principle, be understood in terms of material substances. Since there must be some explanation for these things, the correct explanation will have to be one which is non-physical – and this is plainly incompatible with any and all varieties of materialism.
    https://www.namb.net/apologetics/resource/why-quantum-theory-does-not-support-materialism/

    Physics Is Pointing Inexorably to Mind
    So-called “information realism” has some surprising implications
    By Bernardo Kastrup – March 25, 2019
    Excerpt: according to the Greek atomists, if we kept on dividing things into ever-smaller bits, at the end there would remain solid, indivisible particles called atoms, imagined to be so concrete as to have even particular shapes. Yet, as our understanding of physics progressed, we’ve realized that atoms themselves can be further divided into smaller bits, and those into yet smaller ones, and so on, until what is left lacks shape and solidity altogether. At the bottom of the chain of physical reduction there are only elusive, phantasmal entities we label as “energy” and “fields”—abstract conceptual tools for describing nature, which themselves seem to lack any real, concrete essence.,,,
    To make sense of this conundrum, we don’t need the word games of information realism. Instead, we must stick to what is most immediately present to us: solidity and concreteness are qualities of our experience. The world measured, modeled and ultimately predicted by physics is the world of perceptions, a category of mentation. The phantasms and abstractions reside merely in our descriptions of the behavior of that world, not in the world itself.
    Where we get lost and confused is in imagining that what we are describing is a non-mental reality underlying our perceptions, as opposed to the perceptions themselves. We then try to find the solidity and concreteness of the perceived world in that postulated underlying reality. However, a non-mental world is inevitably abstract. And since solidity and concreteness are felt qualities of experience—what else?—we cannot find them there. The problem we face is thus merely an artifact of thought, something we conjure up out of thin air because of our theoretical habits and prejudices.
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/physics-is-pointing-inexorably-to-mind/

    Also of note:

    The Representation Problem and the Immateriality of the Mind
    Michael Egnor – February 5, 2018
    Excerpt: Thoughts may be divided into thoughts about particulars and thoughts about universals. Thoughts about particulars are thoughts, including perceptions, imagination, memory, etc., about particular objects in our environments. Thoughts about my coffee, or my car, or my family would be thoughts about particulars.
    Thoughts about universals are abstract thoughts, and are thoughts about concepts. Justice, mercy, logic, mathematics, etc., are abstract thoughts.,,
    https://evolutionnews.org/2018/02/the-representation-problem-and-the-immateriality-of-the-mind/

  38. 38
    chuckdarwin says:

    BA77/26
    I suppose it is “inconceivable” that you could focus on my point rather than digressing to a cut and paste olio of nonsense:

    The airplane simply would not exist otherwise, unless it was first ‘supernaturally’ intelligently designed by the immaterial minds of the Wright Brothers when they, via their free wills, infused the proper immaterial Information into the proper material substrates. Again there was certainly nothing ‘natural’ about the Wright Brothers inventing the airplane.

    The mere fact that you have to put supernaturally in parenthesis demonstrates my point. You and Egnor have assigned supernatural status to human thought. You have taken behavior as natural as breathing and a priori cordoned it off by fiat from scientific study. It shows lack of imagination. Yes, indeed, ID is a science stopper…….

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    ChuckyD, “I suppose it is “inconceivable” that you could focus on my point rather than digressing to a cut and paste olio of nonsense”

    FYI, you are not the only one commenting on this thread, and thank God we do not exist in ChuckyD’s solipsist world where only his thoughts and beliefs matter.

    As for you discounting the agent causality of the Wright Brothers as truly being ‘supernatural’, well atheistic materialists brought this upon themselves, and made agent causality ‘miraculous’, and/or ‘supernatural’, when they denied the reality of the free will of the immaterial mind. (which is something we all experience first hand)

    The Illusion of Free Will – Sam Harris – 2012
    Excerpt: “Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.,,,”
    – Jerry Coyne
    https://samharris.org/the-illusion-of-free-will/

    And indeed, since atheists deny the reality of their own free will, and thus deny the reality of their own agent causality, then demonstrating a miracle becomes something as easy as falling off a log:

    In fact, Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, (for an audience full of academics at a college), a ‘miracle’ simply by, via his free will, raising his arm,,

    The Intersection of Science and Religion – Craig Hazen, PhD – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....qlE#t=746s

    Supplemental note:

    A Professor’s Journey out of Nihilism: Why I am not an Atheist – University of Wyoming – J. Budziszewski
    Excerpt page12: “There were two great holes in the argument about the irrelevance of God. The first is that in order to attack free will, I supposed that I understood cause and effect; I supposed causation to be less mysterious than volition.
    If anything, it is the other way around. I can perceive a logical connection between premises and valid conclusions. I can perceive at least a rational connection between my willing to do something and my doing it. But between the apple and the earth, I can perceive no connection at all. Why does the apple fall? We don’t know. “But there is gravity,” you say. No, “gravity” is merely the name of the phenomenon, not its explanation. “But there are laws of gravity,” you say. No, the “laws” are not its explanation either; they are merely a more precise description of the thing to be explained, which remains as mysterious as before. For just this reason, philosophers of science are shy of the term “laws”; they prefer “lawlike regularities.” To call the equations of gravity “laws” and speak of the apple as “obeying” them is to speak as though, like the traffic laws, the “laws” of gravity are addressed to rational agents capable of conforming their wills to the command. This is cheating, because it makes mechanical causality (the more opaque of the two phenomena) seem like volition (the less). In my own way of thinking the cheating was even graver, because I attacked the less opaque in the name of the more.
    The other hole in my reasoning was cruder. If my imprisonment in a blind causality made my reasoning so unreliable that I couldn’t trust my beliefs, then by the same token I shouldn’t have trusted my beliefs about imprisonment in a blind causality. But in that case I had no business denying free will in the first place.”
    https://www.reddit.com/r/exatheist/comments/nvknoy/atheism_to_catholicism_a_professors_journey_out/

  40. 40
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    So when you talk about electrons, they are not particular, they are universal, because every electron is exactly like every other electron and they cannot be distinguished by any means at all, even in principle.

    Just following UD’s response on this – electrons must be particular for purposes of analysis and measurement. “This electron” is contrasted with “that one”. You can’t do that with universals.
    “Triangularity” is a universal, non-localized, non-particular. You can’t measure the concept of a triangle. We observe electrons and measure their movements.

  41. 41
    relatd says:

    CD at 38,

    Do you like propaganda? Because that’s all I’m seeing. The supernatural exists. God exists. Human thought and creativity come from God. Animals do not have human creativity.

  42. 42
    doubter says:

    Lieutenant Commander Data@33

    You hit the nail on the head.

  43. 43
    dogdoc says:

    SA, UB,

    The way that particles are identical in quantum physics has specific experimental consequences. The weirdest is the Bose-Einstein condensate, predicted because of particle indistinguishability and observed in the lab. In these supercooled boson gases the particles become a single entity, actually sharing a single quantum state.

    But take a step back. Even if we accept Feser’s argument, it seems superfluous. It isn’t just universal concepts like triangles that defy physical characterization; we’ve already agreed that things like corporations are real but immaterial, even though they are not universal.

    In other words, we are able to think abstractly, something we should all agree on. We conceive of all sorts of things, at all sorts of levels of abstraction. The concept of “chair” is actually highly abstract! Before neural networks (in symbolic AI) it was very difficult for a computer to categorize objects as chairs or not chairs, because it was hard for programmers to specify a set of rules that captured what people meant.

    Now of course computers learn to recognize chairs without programmers figuring out what distinguishes them. Does this mean that something about neural network computer systems is “immaterial”? In the sense of being reducible to physics, I’d say no, but they do come up with abstract representations (in the hidden layers) of things they are exposed to.

    Anyway, the main point I made remains: calling abstract things “immaterial”, and saying this means “irreducible to physics”, doesn’t seem to get you any distance toward the sort of dualism that I imagine you’re really after.

  44. 44
    Seversky says:

    Relatd/41

    Do you like propaganda? Because that’s all I’m seeing.

    All I’m seeing is a statement of your religious beliefs.

    The supernatural exists.

    It depends on how you define it but in my view, no, it doesn’t.

    God exists.

    Which god? There’s no compelling evidence for any of them.

    Human thought and creativity come from God.

    If there’s no god, it’s all down to us, both the good and the bad.

    Animals do not have human creativity.

    Not human creativity, no, but some of them are still pretty smart.

  45. 45
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    Now of course computers learn to recognize chairs without programmers figuring out what distinguishes them. Does this mean that something about neural network computer systems is “immaterial”?

    Yes, “chair” would be a universal as an abstract concept – like triangle or song. They’re not “a particular chair” or “this triangle” or “that song” but rather the concept of a chair, triangle or song.
    The fact that a computer can model these concepts does not mean they are reducible to material components. The computer knows what a triangle is and can display a triangle or give analytic descriptions of a triangle, but describing what something is or being able to choose a particular item based on its universal aspect is not the same as having “the concept of triangle as a material object”.
    The concept is an abstraction, as you stated. The abstraction exists as something we can understand and refer to but it is not instantiated as a physical object.
    But that’s just realist-philosophy and idealists and others will disagree. Beginning with Abelard through Descartes there was the idea that universals do not exist as real things, but they’re only names that we give them from our own mind.
    There’s a lot of debate on that, but I can’t accept that we created the concept of a triangle, for example. That seems to be a universal that transcends what the human mind produces by itself. It’s a concept that we discovered.
    But in either case, the concept of a triangle is not something instantiated in physical reality. It’s different from a triangle we can observe empirically. That would be a particular triangle.

  46. 46
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    Yes, “chair” would be a universal as an abstract concept – like triangle or song. They’re not “a particular chair” or “this triangle” or “that song” but rather the concept of a chair, triangle or song.

    Let’s agree that all concepts are abstract, in the sense that we don’t comprehend any sort of absolute, fundamental ground for physical objects. (Certainly the physical notion of a quantum particle is very highly abstract).

    If we think of a chair in the abstract, we are not thinking of any particular chair, but rather we are thinking of what distinguishes a chair from things that are not chairs. And if we think of a particular chair, we are taking a bundle of sensory data and deciding that it meets the abstract criteria we have for “chair”. OK?

    But that’s just realist-philosophy and idealists and others will disagree. Beginning with Abelard through Descartes there was the idea that universals do not exist as real things, but they’re only names that we give them from our own mind.

    I’m glad to hear you say that there is legitimate debate on these metaphysical topics!

    There’s a lot of debate on that, but I can’t accept that we created the concept of a triangle, for example. That seems to be a universal that transcends what the human mind produces by itself. It’s a concept that we discovered.

    Sure, I mentioned this too regarding mathematical Platonism. But I’ve tried to make the point it’s not just mathematical – it’s every concept we have.

    But in either case, the concept of a triangle is not something instantiated in physical reality. It’s different from a triangle we can observe empirically. That would be a particular triangle.

    OK, we seem to agree on everything here, actually. What I do not understand still, though, is how all this has any significance vis-a-vis metaphysical ontology.

    To me, the fact that we can have a description in our heads of what a chair is, even though we are not thinking of a perceived instance that matches that description, says nothing at all about whether human thought is ontologically distinct from the rest of the world. There is no connection to libertarian free will, to the possibility of conscious experience without physical embodiment, or any other aspect of mind/body dualism that people are typically motivated to defend.

  47. 47
    chuckdarwin says:

    BA77/39

    In fact, Dr. Craig Hazen, in the following video at the 12:26 minute mark, relates how he performed, (for an audience full of academics at a college), a ‘miracle’ simply by, via his free will, raising his arm.

    I must have missed the miracle; I was too busy trying to follow his excessive gesticulation……

  48. 48
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    computers learn to recognize chairs

    Yep, and a scarecrow “learn” to scare crows. I guess hollywood sci-fi movies damaged many minds. Computers are scrap metal and metal have no awareness or conscience.

  49. 49
    dogdoc says:

    LCD@48,

    You objected to SA writing that computers can learn to recognize chairs.

    The fact is, I can take open source software, make a big training set of pictures of chairs and other things, and feed the images to the learning software. Afterwards, I can take any picture, input it, and the system will tell me if it is a picture of chair or not, agreeing with my judgement just as closely as another person would.

    Please tell me why you think it is erroneous to say that this computer system has learned to recognize chairs.

  50. 50
    asauber says:

    “Please tell me why you think it is erroneous to say that this computer system has learned to recognize chairs.”

    Because it doesn’t recognize anything. It matches patterns. You could tell it chairs are tables and it would match chair input to table patterns.

    Andrew

  51. 51
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    To me, the fact that we can have a description in our heads of what a chair is, even though we are not thinking of a perceived instance that matches that description, says nothing at all about whether human thought is ontologically distinct from the rest of the world.

    Agreed. It’s just one component in a larger argument.

    There is no connection to libertarian free will, to the possibility of conscious experience without physical embodiment, or any other aspect of mind/body dualism that people are typically motivated to defend.

    There’s an indirect connection to those aspects. It’s really just establishing a pathway of thought. It’s an attempt to move from a monism of whatever kind, to an acceptance of duality in nature. You mentioned mind/body dualism but there are other necessary parts to that.
    If we have universals (abstract concepts) that are distinct from particular. We have a basis for material/immaterial dualism. This refutes monism.
    We can start with the Law of Identity. Already, our rational process requires a dualism: “This thing is one thing which is not all other things”. That’s the dualistic nature of rational thought. Monism would have to deny that.
    Additionally, people deny the dualism of truth vs falsehood. However, we align truth with “what is real”. That’s how we validate the idea. So, we have reality vs illusion – or truth vs falsehood. All of these are dualisms. Again, this is just breaking down monism – either “all mind” monism or “all material” it doesn’t matter. In an absolute monist system, you can’t make distinctions. Everything is one. But that violates the Law of Identity and is thus irrational.
    A person could argue for absurdity by saying that logic does not correspond to reality and truth and falsehood are equal, and that the Law of Non-Contradiction does not hold.
    If we said “but you’re contradicting yourself” they can say “so what?”
    All of that’s fine except nobody can communicate with that person and the person has affirmed (which is a statement of truth) that rational thought has no value, etc.
    Basically that’s just insanity.
    So instead, we affirm that rational distinctions are based on reality. Therefore there really are two apples, and when we have two more, we count them to be four apples. They are real.

    I can accept that a person may reject this (as one IDist here does very strongly) and insist that all is mind and there is no physical reality (given quantum indeterminacy, etc).
    The biggest logical problem I’ve found with that, however, is why all of humanity has intuitively felt that there is an external, material reality and even the science we’ve used to discover quantum effects is based on that same ontology.
    In other words, there does not seem to be a good reason to reject our intuition about life and reality especially considering that even if we thought that everything-is-mind, we’d still have to live and think and speak as if there is a reality outside of us and that physical objects really exist.

  52. 52
    Silver Asiatic says:

    When we say the “computer has learned” – the verb ‘to learn’ is different for a computer than for a human. We speak of “machine learning” but that’s a statistical process. There’s no intuition and no creativity – all necessary for true (as human) learning – in a computer.

  53. 53
    dogdoc says:

    Andrew@50,

    You are correct that if you labelled the chairs as “tables” the computer would label a new chair as a table. (If I was teaching a human being a new language and told them that chairs were called “tables” they would also call chairs “tables” of course.)

    You are also correct that the system I described would have no conception of how chairs are used, etc. Nor would there be any reason at all to suspect the computer was conscious of what it was doing – or anything else!

    Still, it seems to me that the ability to distinguish chairs from non-chairs is rightly called “the ability to recognize chairs”. And while you refer to this as “pattern matching”, it is actually much more involved when modern deep learning systems learn to recognize abstract things like chairs (or dogs or apartment buildings or anything else). No programmer is able to describe the “pattern” that these systems use to recognize these objects; rather, the system learns by itself to create intermediate level abstractions (various shapes and relationships between forms) that enable it to categorize these abstract things accurately.

  54. 54
    Silver Asiatic says:

    LCD

    Yep, and a scarecrow “learn” to scare crows.

    It’s a good comparison because we imagine that a computer is “thinking” but a computer is the same sort of thing as a stick with some straw and some old clothes on it. It’s just non-living matter.

  55. 55
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I think it’s more than the computer calling chairs tables. We could program the computer to accept false statements and violate logic. But we can’t consistently do that with humans, no matter how much we may try to brainwash them. We have an aptitude and orientation to the truth and we always know it. Even if we’re miseducated.
    Not so with computers. They can never know that they’re illogical and false.

  56. 56
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    When we say the “computer has learned” – the verb ‘to learn’ is different for a computer than for a human.

    You would need to provide the different specific definitions for these different senses of the verb “to learn” in order to make this point.

    We speak of “machine learning” but that’s a statistical process. There’s no intuition and no creativity – all necessary for true (as human) learning – in a computer.

    Please tell me the salient, empirically distinguishable difference between a computer learning to recognize an apartment building and a computer doing the same thing.

  57. 57
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    We could program the computer to accept false statements and violate logic.

    Again, I’ve been talking about learning systems rather than symbolic programming systems to make things a bit more clear. And obviously, learning systems that have trained on huge portions of the internet have learned to make all sorts of false and illogical conclusions (without being programmed to do so) – that’s actually a big problem! But just as obviously, people who have read illogical, false conspiracy theories on the internet have had the exact same problem!

    Not so with computers. They can never know that they’re illogical and false.

    Actually, in formal systems (like math and formal logic), computers (symbolically programmed ones) are quite excellent at detecting logic errors! They never make mistakes!

  58. 58
    asauber says:

    “We could program the computer to accept false statements and violate logic. But we can’t consistently do that with humans, no matter how much we may try to brainwash them.”

    SA,

    I was headed here also. There would be a problem with convincing a human person that a table is suddenly now a chair. That’s where real recognition would happen. No such recognition in a computer.

    Andrew

  59. 59
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Andrew

    There would be a problem with convincing a human person that a table is suddenly now a chair. That’s where real recognition would happen. No such recognition in a computer.

    Yes, exactly. Even a 6 year old child would realize the problem with that.

  60. 60
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    Please tell me the salient, empirically distinguishable difference between a computer learning to recognize an apartment building and a computer doing the same thing.

    I think you meant “human” in there for one of the computers.
    But you can give a simple example, that doesn’t say much at all.
    What difference is there with a computer learning that 2+2=4 and with a human? If none, then they have the same kind mind?
    Computers do not know what truth or falsehood is. They actually don’t know anything. They are mindless. It’s like saying that a DVD player knows the works of Shakespeare because I can see them on my screen.

  61. 61
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Please tell me the salient, empirically distinguishable difference between a computer learning to recognize an apartment building and a computer doing the same thing.

    Perhaps a better example is the difference between a computer learning how to drive a car and a 16 year old kid. Driving requires so much intuition and creativity – which is innate in human beings and not transferable to computers that many say that self-driving cars are actually impossible.

  62. 62
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    the learning software

    Except don’t exist such a thing like learning software. To add to a database more words/pictures /patterns doesn’t mean that a database learns something.

  63. 63
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    Yes, exactly. Even a 6 year old child would realize the problem with that.

    A computer system can be trained to recognize chairs. Or tables, or apartment houses, or tumors, or stress fractures, or… You don’t seem to be articulating what you’re actually trying to get at here.

    ME: Please tell me the salient, empirically distinguishable difference between a computer learning to recognize an apartment building and a computer doing the same thing.
    SA: I think you meant “human” in there for one of the computers.

    Oops yes, sorry, thanks.

    But you can give a simple example, that doesn’t say much at all.

    You mean the example of recognizing chairs? I can absolutely give much, much more complex examples of the recognition abilities of deep learning systems, but I’m not sure that is what you’re asking for.

    What difference is there with a computer learning that 2+2=4 and with a human?

    The answer will vary depending on what level of abstraction you are interested in. At the level of physical implementation, VSLI chips are completely different than brains. At the level of mathematical logic, the answer is actually a bit complicated. Calculators have circuits that are specially designed to perform mathematical operations; the hardware directly supports binary logic, which is all that is needed to build up more complex math functions. But the edge of AI research right now is trying to get learning systems to learn formal logic and math using the same basic methods that enable computers to recognize classes of objects.

    But let me answer a bit differently: We know exactly how a calculator computes 2+2. We know generally (but not exactly) how deep learning systems learn to recognize chairs and – recently – compute 2+2. But we do not know how humans learn and perform mathematical operations.

    If none, then they have the same kind mind?

    Oh, no – I would not say that computers and humans have the same kind of mind! That question may arise if and when we ever manage to build a machine with AGI, but in my view (as opposed to that guy who got fired from Google for saying its AI computer was sentient) we are not close to that at all!

    Computers do not know what truth or falsehood is.

    I don’t think this is a very meaningful thing to say. You’re probably packing a lot into the word “know” here that you haven’t made explicit. It is trivial for a computer to be trained to accurately tell you whether your statements (“This is a chair. This is a table”. etc) are true or false. But that isn’t what you mean.

    They actually don’t know anything.

    This statement is provocative but meaningless until you lay out exactly what you mean by “know”. I suspect you mean “are consciously aware of” or something like that. Clearly computer systems represent, retrieve, manipulate, and output knowledge. It makes perfect sense to say things like “The autopilot doesn’t know how to adjust the trim flaps in a crosswind” or “The question answering system knew all the president’s names in order” and so on.

    These discussions deteriorate into nonsense unless you start making your definitions explicit!

    They are mindless.

    Definitions please! Again I suspect you mean they are not conscious, and probably other things too, but we can’t discuss them unless you carefully explicate what you are talking about.

    It’s like saying that a DVD player knows the works of Shakespeare because I can see them on my screen.

    Nope, nothing like that.

    ME: Please tell me the salient, empirically distinguishable difference between a computer learning to recognize an apartment building and a computer doing the same thing.
    SA:
    Perhaps a better example is the difference between a computer learning how to drive a car and a 16 year old kid.

    Okay.

    Driving requires so much intuition and creativity – which is innate in human beings and not transferable to computers that many say that self-driving cars are actually impossible.

    Please describe an empirical test that reveals whether or not something has intuition, or creativity.

    It [a scarecrow] is a good comparison because we imagine that a computer is “thinking” but a computer is the same sort of thing as a stick with some straw and some old clothes on it. It’s just non-living matter.

    Here you seem to be saying that anything that thinks must be comprised of biological tissues. Care to provide an argument that shows that is true? And don’t you believe that things with no body at all are capable of thinking (e.g. gods, angels, dead people’s souls, etc)?

  64. 64
    dogdoc says:

    LCD@62,

    the learning software

    Except don’t exist such a thing like learning software. To add to a database more words/pictures /patterns doesn’t mean that a database learns something.

    You may want to update your understanding of computer science 🙂

  65. 65
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    A computer system can be trained to recognize chairs.

    Nope, a computer can’t be trained, can’t learn, can’t think, can’t “choose” .A computer only execute instructions. AI stories are sci-fi stories for idiots. But you can debunk this on the spot. Please do it. 😆

  66. 66
    dogdoc says:

    LCD@65,
    Well, you’ve put up quite a good argument, I must admit. You’ve made a lot of cogent points and supported them with an abundance of clear evidence. Still, after a great deal of thought, I believe I’ve come up with a rebuttal that may convince you my position is correct:

    Yup, a computer can be trained, can learn, can think, can “choose”. A computer not only execute instructions. AI stories are not sci-fi stories for idiots.

    If I haven’t convinced you, let’s just agree to disagree, shall we?

  67. 67
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    Computers had an early life as tape-recorders. That is, they captured data and stored it on magnetic tape. Then they played it back. There’s no thinking here, it’s just a storage and retrieval mechanism. It’s completely mindless and lifeless.

    Here you seem to be saying that anything that thinks must be comprised of biological tissues. Care to provide an argument that shows that is true? And don’t you believe that things with no body at all are capable of thinking (e.g. gods, angels, dead people’s souls, etc)?

    Only living beings can think. Angels and rational souls are living beings. Non-living beings like computers cannot think.

    Computers are just storage and retrieval. It’s like saying a wooden chair learns to fit my body better over time. It takes in the data (my body’s impression on the seat) and retains it each time, adjusting itself. Over time, the seat has conformed itself to my body better. That’s a learning process.
    That’s what software does. It takes in data, makes adjustments and gives an output. Then it takes in more data, based on that, adjusts again, and outputs.
    There’s no thinking, no real learning. The computer can be programmed to do anything and it doesn’t know or care. It does not even have a real memory.

    As far as designing a test to show that creativity exists – the design of the test itself is proof of that. It’s creating something for a purpose, in order to show the power of creativity. Then there is the interpretation of the test – again, an example of creativity. The goals and purposes of the test are not something the computer can come up with on its own.
    Humans, however, can do that.

  68. 68
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    Oh, no – I would not say that computers and humans have the same kind of mind! That question may arise if and when we ever manage to build a machine with AGI, but in my view (as opposed to that guy who got fired from Google for saying its AI computer was sentient) we are not close to that at all!

    You’re very emphatic here and say that we’re not close at all.
    Doesn’t that make you pause for a moment?
    We’re not close to creating something that supposedly occurred through some DNA copy errors from an already existing brain-plan? All of the accumulated power and knowledge of human engineering and technology in our labs are not even close to creating a human mind.
    Will you insist that there is no evidence of intelligent design present in the origin of the human mind in spite of this fact?

  69. 69
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    If a computer only execute an instruction(or chain of instructions) set by somebody else how in the world can learn ?

    You may want to update your understanding of computer science

    You sound like you have a lot of understanding of computer science but somehow you hide it, right ? I wonder why? Can’t be too difficult to explain the internal processes that happen into computer “mind” that make you to say that a computer “learn”.

  70. 70
    bornagain77 says:

    “Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich. ”

    “YOUR COMPUTER DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING” AT EVOLUTION NEWS AND VIEWS (JANUARY 23, 2015). . JAN 25 . 2015
    Your computer doesn’t know a binary string from a ham sandwich. Your math book doesn’t know algebra. Your Rolodex doesn’t know your cousin’s address. Your watch doesn’t know what time it is. Your car doesn’t know where you’re driving. Your television doesn’t know who won the football game last night. Your cell phone doesn’t know what you said to your girlfriend this morning. ¶ People know things. Devices like computers and books and Rolodexes and watches and cars and televisions and cell phones don’t know anything. They don’t have minds. They are artifacts — paper and plastic and silicon things designed and manufactured by people — and they provide people with the means to leverage their human knowledge. ¶ Computers (and books and watches and the like) are the means by which people leverage and express knowledge. Computers store and process representations of knowledge. But computers have no knowledge themselves.
    https://afterall.net/quotes/michael-egnor-on-what-your-computer-doesnt-know/

  71. 71
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    I believe your understanding of the fundamental operation and components of digital computers is lacking, as is your understanding of how machine learning and AI works. But I’m not going to belabor that; I don’t think that is the important part of our discussion. Let me instead respond to this:

    You’re very emphatic here and say that we’re not close at all.

    Yes, absolutely. There are two aspects to the attempt to create an artificial mind. The first is to achieve sapience in the machine, what I would call thinking, and that includes perception, classifying, inference, logic, planning, applying world knowledge, goal setting, and other things. Again, I don’t want to debate which aspects of thinking have been (or can be) implemented, but let me emphatically say that much remains to be done in order to approach general human intelligence, and those in AI who believe it’s just a matter of scaling up the amount of processing power and the size of the datasets are mistaken.

    The second aspect of creating an artificial mind is to acheive sentience, or conscious awareness. It is my opinion that consciousness is deeply mysterious. We don’t understand it, we can’t say what the necessary or sufficient conditions are for consciousness to be experienced, and we don’t know if it is causal or perceptual. Nobody knows even how to begin to create something that experiences sentience.

    Doesn’t that make you pause for a moment?

    I’ve been thinking about and studying this question for a very, very long time.

    We’re not close to creating something that supposedly occurred through some DNA copy errors from an already existing brain-plan?

    I don’t understand how human brains came to exist.

    All of the accumulated power and knowledge of human engineering and technology in our labs are not even close to creating a human mind.

    True! Not even close!

    Will you insist that there is no evidence of intelligent design present in the origin of the human mind in spite of this fact?

    I have never argued that there is no evidence of intelligent design. Whatever caused things like human brains – and life itself – to exist may be called “intelligent”, depending on what you mean by “intelligent”. But just as computers can perform tasks that we would call “intelligent” if a human did it, but do not have minds anything like human minds, whatever caused human brains to exist did something that we would call intelligent if a human did it, but it may not have a mind anything like a human mind either.

  72. 72
    dogdoc says:

    LCD@69,

    Can’t be too difficult to explain the internal processes that happen into computer “mind” that make you to say that a computer “learn”.

    One of the very first programs I ever wrote was one that played tic-tac-toe. It is a very simple game with an optimum strategy that can be programmed explicitly. There are only eight rules I had to program, and the program could never lose – it could only win or tie.

    Then I built another program that played tic-tac-toe – a different kind of program. I didn’t program any rules into this one about what moves to make. It started off just taking any open square at random when it was its turn, so it was a terrible tic-tac-toe player, and frequently lost.

    Then I changed that program, so that for each (random) turn the computer took, it recorded the state of the board (where the Xs and Os were) along with which square it took. When the game was over, if the computer won, it went through all of these recorded moves and incremented a counter for each one. If the computer lost, it would decrement a counter associated with each move. That’s all I programmed it to do. I let the program play itself for many thousands of times (it only took a minute or so), recording all of the possible board states and the scores for each move made. I never told it where to move in any situation.

    At that point, I changed the program again: Instead of picking each move at random, it looked up all the moves in its database matching the current state of the board, and picked the move with the highest score. It began playing perfect tic-tac-toe, never losing, only winning or tying.

    This is the simplest example of machine learning I could think of. It bears no similarity to the state-of-the-art deep-learning neural networks being used all over the world, but it would be much too difficult to explain to you how those work.

    But even in this trivially simple example, you can see that even though the computer was just following a set of (very simple) instructions, it learned all by itself how to win at tic-tac-toe.

    QED.

  73. 73
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    I have never argued that there is no evidence of intelligent design. Whatever caused things like human brains – and life itself – to exist may be called “intelligent”, depending on what you mean by “intelligent”. But just as computers can perform tasks that we would call “intelligent” if a human did it, but do not have minds anything like human minds, whatever caused human brains to exist did something that we would call intelligent if a human did it, but it may not have a mind anything like a human mind either.

    For the purposes of this blog and for ID in general, what you said there meets the criterion. ID doesn’t go into the kind of intelligence or source of it (although Stephen Meyer is saying something more about that lately and I don’t necessarily agree with him on an ID basis).
    I mean at least you are willing to accept that there is evidence and that there is some way you can accept an ID inference. All the other questions regarding who the designer is, etc are for a different debate beyond here.

  74. 74
    Silver Asiatic says:

    DD

    But even in this trivially simple example, you can see that even though the computer was just following a set of (very simple) instructions, it learned all by itself how to win at tic-tac-toe.

    You’re making it sound like magic but it’s not. It’s actually just a very basic and simple set of instructions. There’s no learning, there’s no thought, there’s no decision-making.
    It’s all just simple IF THEN statements.

    IF you WIN – then keep that. IF you LOSE, get rid of it.
    For each WIN, record the score. Rank the Scores.
    For each Game, assign highest score pattern.

    There is nothing to it. It’s all just giving simple instructions to the computer.
    It seems like magic because of the magic of electricity – which enables processors to run through those basic logic commands many thousands of times and record results.

    The most advanced machine learning is doing nothing more than that when you break it down.
    Perhaps the only more advanced thing it does is “CHOOSE EVENT WITH HIGHEST CORRELATION” – so it does some statistics.
    This is not real learning – it’s just a set of instructions that a machine carries out.

  75. 75
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    I let the program play itself

    🙂 When you think that a program “decides” to do something you didn’t program/code to do maybe it’s time for you to stop using dope or combinations of dope with alcohol .

  76. 76
    dogdoc says:

    SA,

    For the purposes of this blog and for ID in general, what you said there meets the criterion.

    No, nothing I said should be taken to mean I agreed with “Intelligent Design” as it is portrayed on this site. I don’t at all.

    ID doesn’t go into the kind of intelligence…

    That is true, and that is quite the problem. There is an active effort to avoid specifying what the word “intelligence” is even supposed to mean.

    In AI, the working definition for “intelligent system” has traditionally been this: A system is artificially intelligent if is able to perform tasks that, if a human were to perform them, we would consider to require intelligence.” By that definition, saying that “whatever caused the human brain to exist” was intelligent simply means that if a human figured out how to do that we would say they were intelligent. It means nothing else. Not one, single thing. You can’t assume what else this thing could do, or couldn’t do, besides somehow causing biological systems. You couldn’t assume it could understand general purpose natural language, or had conscious experiences, or could solve a crossword puzzle. The label intelligence, applied in this context, means absolutely nothing beyond “was able to produce the phenomena in question”.

    ME: But even in this trivially simple example, you can see that even though the computer was just following a set of (very simple) instructions, it learned all by itself how to win at tic-tac-toe.
    SA: You’re making it sound like magic but it’s not.

    Seriously? I made it sound like magic? I explained exactly how I built the program! Nothing but a few lines of code, so simple that just about anyone could understand how it works.

    It’s actually just a very basic and simple set of instructions.

    Well yes, that is just what I have been saying, over and over again, isn’t it?!

    There’s no learning,…

    Of course there is learning!!!! When it began the system was not able to win at tic-tac-toe. But without further human intervention, it demonstrably had learned to win. If not “learn”, what would you call it? “Developed the ability”? That just means the same thing.

    there’s no thought, there’s no decision-making.

    I’ve told you three or four times now, unless you define your terms these discussions are useless. Yet you persist, proclaiming that “there’s no thought” again without bothering to even try to explain what that word entails in your view.

    Sorry, this is a waste of time.

  77. 77
    Lieutenant Commander Data says:

    But without further human intervention, it demonstrably had learned to win.

    😆 Yep, demonstrably you have no clue about programming.

  78. 78
    doubter says:

    He says it better than I could: from an article about a new book by Robert J. Marks, The Non-Computable Human (https://evolutionnews.org/2022/06/the-no…ble-human/):

    “Or consider another example (regarding qualia). I broke my wrist a few years ago, and the physician in the emergency room had to set the broken bones. I’d heard beforehand that bone-setting really hurts. But hearing about pain and experiencing pain are quite different.

    To set my broken wrist, the emergency physician grabbed my hand and arm, pulled, and there was an audible crunching sound as the bones around my wrist realigned. It hurt. A lot. I envied my preteen grandson, who had been anesthetized when his broken leg was set. He slept through his pain.

    Is it possible to write a computer program to duplicate — not describe, but duplicate — my pain? No. Qualia are not computable. They’re non-algorithmic.

    By definition and in practice, computers function using algorithms. Logically speaking, then, the existence of the non-algorithmic suggests there are limits to what computers and therefore AI can do.”

    Qualia are the essense of sentient subjective conscious awareness, which as in the above can easily be shown to be non-computable, non-algorithmic. The same reasoning applies to thought, another essential but non-algorithmic property of consciousness related to qualia.

  79. 79
    Fred Hickson says:

    @ dogdoc

    I feel your frustration. I might suggest another word than materialism. Physicalism includes anything that impinges on observable reality, particles,fields, gravity, energy. But this is Uncommon Descent. Folks have other agendas besides understanding differing views.

    Other words to avoid are “qualia” and “consciousness”. Both are philosophical conceits (not a typo) with not even a useful definition to argue about.

Leave a Reply