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Michael Egnor: Jeffrey Shallit, a computer scientist, doesn’t know how computers work

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Patterns in computers, Egnor tells us, only have meaning when they are caused by humans programming and using them:

Materialist computer scientist Jeffrey Shallit, who believes that computers think, takes issue with a recent post in which I point out that computation is not thinking because computation inherently lacks meaning and meaning is the hallmark of thinking…

Patterns in nature never have meaning unless caused by a mind. Patterns in computers only have meaning when they are caused by humans programming and using them. Computational patterns in themselves, discounting humans, have no intrinsic meaning. Computation is not thought…

It’s remarkable that Dr. Shallit—a professor of computer science—doesn’t understand computation. Materialism is a kind of intellectual disability that afflicts even the well-educated. To put it simply, machines don’t and can’t think. Dr. Shallit’s wristwatch doesn’t know what time it is. Dr. Shallit’s iPod doesn’t enjoy the music it plays or listen to his phone calls. His television doesn’t like or dislike movies. And his computer doesn’t, and can’t, think.

Michael Egnor, “Jeffrey Shallit, a computer scientist, doesn’t know how computers work” at Mind Matters News

7 Replies to “Michael Egnor: Jeffrey Shallit, a computer scientist, doesn’t know how computers work

  1. 1
    ET says:

    Jeff said that it is foolish to say that information requires a mind because computer programs can produce information and they don’t have minds. I stepped in and told him that the mind is that of the programmer. That is because computers do what we program them to do. Computers just take the place of humans. This is all basic knowledge and yet Jeffrey steadfastly refuses to get it.

    Then he brought up dead programmers.

    Jeffrey Shallit is unable to understand that everything a computer does traces back to the programmer who wrote the program(s). And yes that means it does so even if the programmer is dead and the program continues to gather data.

  2. 2
    Jim Thibodeau says:

    Interesting tweet by @AstroKatie today. I don’t know her personally, but we know about a dozen people in common. She’s friends with my undergrad advisor, and the guy I did some biophysics FRET experiments with on protein folding:

    Having a great deal of expertise in one field does not prevent you from being a crackpot or menace in another. Let your studies teach you humility and an appreciation for hard-won knowledge, not intellectual vanity.

    Wise words.

  3. 3
    ET says:

    Shallit doesn’t seem to have any expertise in his own field.

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    Shallit doesn’t understand what egnor means by “meaning” it perplexed me when I read Shallit’s response. His examples only have meaning to the user using it.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Shallit states,

    As far as we know, abstract thought is no different from any kind of brain activity, carried out by our neurons and synapses. And if it does not “arise from the brain”, what could it possibly arise from?

    And therein lies the source of Shalitt’s profound confusion. Shalitt, because of his religion of Atheistic Materialism, thinks that the brain simply must generate consciousness. For him, there simply is no other option. John C. Eccles, who won a Nobel prize for his work on synapses, disagrees with Shalitt’s materialistic religion.

    “We regard promissory materialism as superstition without a rational foundation. The more we discover about the brain, the more clearly do we distinguish between the brain events and the mental phenomena, and the more wonderful do both the brain events and mental phenomena become. Promissory materialism is simply a religious belief held by dogmatic materialists who often confuse their religion with their science.”
    – John C. Eccles, The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind – 1984 – won the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the synapse.

    Shalitt, despite his unwavering faith in his religion of atheistic materialism, simply has no scientific evidence that anything material will ever be capable of generating consciousness. As Rutgers University philosopher Jerry Fodor says,

    “Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness.”
    – Jerry Fodor – Rutgers University philosopher
    [2] Fodor, J. A., Can there be a science of mind? Times Literary Supplement. July 3, 1992, pp5-7.

    Here are a few more quotes along the same line:

    “Every day we recall the past, perceive the present and imagine the future. How do our brains accomplish these feats? It’s safe to say that nobody really knows.”
    Sebastian Seung – Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist – “Connectome”:

    “Those centermost processes of the brain with which consciousness is presumably associated are simply not understood. They are so far beyond our comprehension at present that no one I know of has been able even to imagine their nature.”
    Roger Wolcott Sperry – Nobel neurophysiologist
    As quoted in Genius Talk : Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries (1995) by Denis Brian

    “We have at present not even the vaguest idea how to connect the physio-chemical processes with the state of mind.”
    – Eugene Wigner – Nobel prize-winner – Quantum Symmetries

    “Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all we know about consciousness is that it has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.”
    Nick Herbert – Contemporary physicist

    “No experiment has ever demonstrated the genesis of consciousness from matter. One might as well believe that rabbits emerge from magicians’ hats. Yet this vaporous possibility, this neuro-mythology, has enchanted generations of gullible scientists, in spite of the fact that there is not a shred of direct evidence to support it.”
    – Larry Dossey – Physician and author

    If Shallit really believes that consciousness is no big deal, perhaps he would like to be the first to solve the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ and therefore win himself a Nobel Prize?

    David Chalmers on Consciousness (Descartes, Philosophical Zombies and the Hard Problem of Consciousness) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NK1Yo6VbRoo

    As Professor of Psychology David Barash states in the following article, an article which happens to be entitled “the hardest problem in science?”, “But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.”

    The Hardest Problem in Science? October 28, 2011
    Excerpt: ‘But the hard problem of consciousness is so hard that I can’t even imagine what kind of empirical findings would satisfactorily solve it. In fact, I don’t even know what kind of discovery would get us to first base, not to mention a home run.’
    – David Barash – Professor of Psychology emeritus at the University of Washington.
    https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/the-hardest-problem-in-science/40845

    The reason that Shalitt, and other atheistic materialists, are so confused about consciousness is, of course, because they have everything backwards with their atheistic materialism. In atheistic materialism it is held that material precedes mind. Whereas in Theism it is held that mind, specifically the Mind of God, precedes material.

    And unlike Shalitt, I can produce scientific evidence for my belief the mind, specifically the Mind of God, precedes material reality.

    Here are eight intersecting lines of experimental evidence from quantum mechanics that shows that consciousness must precede material reality (Double Slit experiment, Wigner’s Quantum Symmetries, as well as the recent confirmation of the Wigner’s friend thought experiment, Wheeler’s Delayed Choice, Leggett’s Inequalities, Quantum Zeno effect, Quantum Information theory, and the recent closing of the Free Will loophole.)

    Putting all the lines of evidence from quantum mechanics together, the argument for God from consciousness can now be framed like this:

    1. Consciousness either preceded all of material reality or is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality (Jerry Coyne). or is an intrinsic property of material reality, (panpsychism, Philip Goff)
    2. If consciousness is a ‘epi-phenomena’ of material reality (Jerry Coyne). or is an intrinsic property of material reality, (panpsychism, Philip Goff), then consciousness will be found to have no special position within material reality. Whereas conversely, if consciousness precedes material reality then consciousness will be found to have a special position within material reality.
    3. Consciousness is found to have a special, even central, position within material reality.
    4. Therefore, consciousness is found to precede material reality.

    Here are a couple of examples from that list of eight.

    First, via Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment, ““It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: Some particles, such as photons or electrons, can behave both as particles and as waves. Here comes a question of what exactly makes a photon or an electron act either as a particle or a wave. This is what Wheeler’s experiment asks: at what point does an object ‘decide’?
    The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    and secondly, via Leggett’s inequality, “Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it.”

    Quantum physics says goodbye to reality – Apr 20, 2007
    Excerpt: Many realizations of the thought experiment have indeed verified the violation of Bell’s inequality. These have ruled out all hidden-variables theories based on joint assumptions of realism, meaning that reality exists when we are not observing it; and locality, meaning that separated events cannot influence one another instantaneously. But a violation of Bell’s inequality does not tell specifically which assumption – realism, locality or both – is discordant with quantum mechanics.
    Markus Aspelmeyer, Anton Zeilinger and colleagues from the University of Vienna, however, have now shown that realism is more of a problem than locality in the quantum world. They devised an experiment that violates a different inequality proposed by physicist Anthony Leggett in 2003 that relies only on realism, and relaxes the reliance on locality. To do this, rather than taking measurements along just one plane of polarization, the Austrian team took measurements in additional, perpendicular planes to check for elliptical polarization.
    They found that, just as in the realizations of Bell’s thought experiment, Leggett’s inequality is violated – thus stressing the quantum-mechanical assertion that reality does not exist when we’re not observing it. “Our study shows that ‘just’ giving up the concept of locality would not be enough to obtain a more complete description of quantum mechanics,” Aspelmeyer told Physics Web. “You would also have to give up certain intuitive features of realism.”
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/27640

    Verse:

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

    Supplemental notes:

    December 2019 – Although each of those (eight) experiments are very interesting in their own right as to proving that the Mind of God must precede material reality, my favorite evidences out of that group, for proving that the Mind of God must be behind the creation of the universe itself, is the Quantum Zeno effect and Quantum Information theory. This is because the Quantum Zeno effect and Quantum Information theory deal directly with entropy. And, entropy is, by a VERY wide margin, the most finely tuned of the initial conditions of the Big Bang. Finely tuned to an almost incomprehensible degree of precision, 1 part in 10 to the 10 to the 123rd power. As Roger Penrose himself stated that, “This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.”
    https://uncommondescent.com/big-bang/sabine-hossenfelder-physicists-theories-of-how-the-universe-began-arent-any-better-than-traditional-tales-of-creation/#comment-690210

    How Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness Correlate – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f0hL3Nrdas

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – Part II – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSig2CsjKbg

    The implication of finding ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, and ‘conserved’, quantum information in molecular biology on such a massive scale, in every important biomolecule in our bodies, is fairly, and pleasantly, obvious.
    That pleasant implication, of course, being the fact that we now have very strong empirical evidence suggesting that we do indeed have an eternal soul that is capable of living beyond the death of our material bodies. As Stuart Hameroff states in the following article, the quantum information,,, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed.,,, it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”

    Leading Scientists Say Consciousness Cannot Die It Goes Back To The Universe – Oct. 19, 2017 – Spiritual
    Excerpt: “Let’s say the heart stops beating. The blood stops flowing. The microtubules lose their quantum state. But the quantum information, which is in the microtubules, isn’t destroyed. It can’t be destroyed. It just distributes and dissipates to the universe at large. If a patient is resuscitated, revived, this quantum information can go back into the microtubules and the patient says, “I had a near death experience. I saw a white light. I saw a tunnel. I saw my dead relatives.,,” Now if they’re not revived and the patient dies, then it’s possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body. Perhaps indefinitely as a soul.”
    – Stuart Hameroff – Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – video (5:00 minute mark)
    https://www.disclose.tv/leading-scientists-say-consciousness-cannot-die-it-goes-back-to-the-universe-315604

    Verse:

    Mark 8:37
    Is anything worth more than your soul?

  6. 6
    Truthfreedom says:

    @2 Jim Thibodeau

    and the guy I did some biophysics FRET experiments with on protein folding:

    You are scientifically illiterate. It is patently clear. 🙂
    And philosophically too.

  7. 7
    Truthfreedom says:

    “Materialism is a kind of intellectual disability”. That is an accurate description.

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