Intelligent Design

New Atheism: Not a cult, but a religion

Spread the love

Over at Heather’s Homilies, Heather Hastie has written a post titled, Is New Atheism a Cult?, in which she argues convincingly for the negative position. Cults tend to share certain characteristics which, by and large, don’t apply to New Atheism:

  • The group members display an excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment to an individual.
  • The group members are preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amount of time to the group.
  • Members are preoccupied with making money.
  • Members’ subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give personal goals and activities that were of interest to the group.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

The definition used by Hastie is borrowed from the American Family Foundation, a Christian charity whose activities include rescuing people from cults. While Hastie acknowledges that “there are certainly some people who show excessive admiration towards the leaders of New Atheism,” she counters this by citing a remark by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, that trying to organize atheists is like trying to herd cats. I don’t think this is a very good response, as the vast majority of atheists are not New Atheists: most of them are closer to Alain de Botton than Richard Dawkins in their outlook on religion. The same point applies to the survey cited by Hastie and conducted by sociologist Dr. Phil Zuckerman, which found that atheists and secularists are “markedly less nationalistic, less prejudiced, less anti-Semitic, less racist, less dogmatic, less ethnocentric, less close-minded, and less authoritarian” than religious people. I have critiqued Dr. Zuckerman’s shoddy statistics in a previous post, but again, even if he were correct, his survey proves nothing about New Atheists.

A better response would have been to point out that the New Atheist movement has not one but several leaders, and that none of these leaders can command blind, unquestioning obedience in the way that the leader of a cult can do. The other characteristics of cults don’t really apply to the New Atheists either. Their main aim is not so much to win converts as to destroy belief in the supernatural. While some of them may spend a lot of time advocating atheism, none of them have given up their day-time jobs for the sake of devoting themselves to the cause. Nor do I know of any New Atheists who are actively involved in soliciting money from donors. And I have never heard of a New Atheist cutting ties with family members and friends, or living apart from society. In short: the term “cult” simply does not describe the New Atheists well.

I might add that a recent book purporting to show that New Atheism is a cult has been convincingly rebutted here and here.

But a cult is one thing, and a religion is quite another. In today’s post, I’m going to explain why I think that New Atheism can be fairly described as a religion.

Why a religion doesn’t have to involve belief in the supernatural

Let’s get two obvious objections out of the way immediately. First, many people would argue that since atheism is defined in purely negative terms, it cannot be legitimately referred to as a religion. Heather Hastie articulates this point very effectively in her post, Is New Atheism a cult?:

The important thing to note however, is that being an atheist does not bring with it any belief system whatsoever. There are dozens of analogies for this out there. Here are a few:

  • Saying atheism is a religion is like saying “off” is a TV channel.
  • Saying atheism is a religion is like saying bald is a hair colour.
  • Saying atheism is a religion is like saying not playing golf is a sport.
  • Sating atheism is a religion is like saying not collecting stamps is a hobby.

In response: while the foregoing analogies successfully rebut the notion that atheism is a religion, what they overlook is that there’s more to New Atheism than just atheism. New Atheism doesn’t just deny the existence of God; it also provides its adherents with a coherent philosophy of where we came from, where we’re going, what’s real and what’s not, and how we can know the difference. Insofar as it supplies a systematic set of answers to life’s big questions, New Atheism has quite a lot in common with religions such as Christianity and Buddhism. The question I will attempt to answer in this post is whether New Atheism deserves to be placed in the same category as these faiths.

Second, it is argued that since New Atheism rejects belief in the supernatural, it cannot possibly be called a religion. The problem with this argument is that by the same token, you’d have to say that Jainism (which views karma as acting in a purely mechanistic fashion and which utterly rejects the notion of a supernatural Creator) is not a religion. Confucianism and Taoism, which believe in a supreme cosmic order (called Tian or Tao) but not a supernatural Deity, would also fail to qualify as religions. And what about Gautama Buddha, who rejected the idea of a Creator God and a Cosmic Self, and who taught that even the Vedic spirit-beings (devas) are not important and need not be worshiped, because they have not yet attained enlightenment? If belief in supernatural deities is what defines a religion, then the Buddha cannot be called the founder of a religion.

I might add that according to the article on “Religion” in West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd edition (2008 The Gale Group, Inc.), belief in the supernatural is not a part of the legal definition of religion in American law, either:

The Supreme Court has interpreted religion to mean a sincere and meaningful belief that occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to the place held by God in the lives of other persons. The religion or religious concept need not include belief in the existence of God or a supreme being to be within the scope of the First Amendment…

In addition, a belief does not need to be stated in traditional terms to fall within First Amendment protection. For example, Scientology — a system of beliefs that a human being is essentially a free and immortal spirit who merely inhabits a body — does not propound the existence of a supreme being, but it qualifies as a religion under the broad definition propounded by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has deliberately avoided establishing an exact or a narrow definition of religion because freedom of religion is a dynamic guarantee that was written in a manner to ensure flexibility and responsiveness to the passage of time and the development of the United States. Thus, religion is not limited to traditional denominations. (Emphases mine – VJT.)

A religion does, however, need to have an object of ultimate concern – something that its members care deeply about. For New Atheists, the object of ultimate concern is simply the flourishing of society itself: they believe that the world would be a much better place if society was entirely regulated by reason, and not faith. And this is something that the New Atheists care passionately about. The sheer volume of books that they have written in support of their cause in recent years attests to that fact.

Other distinguishing features of a religion

I would also argue that a religion has several other distinguishing features, which (as I’ll argue below) apply to New Atheism:

(a) a single, unifying explanation of what we are, where we came from and where we are going (Gauguin’s “big questions”);

(b) a set of prescriptions for members, which must not be deviated from (i.e. a “straight and narrow path”);

(c) a tendency for even minor alterations to either the religion’s factual claims or its prescriptions to yield conclusions which diverge radically from those taught by the religion;

(d) an epistemic theory describing how the claims made by the religion can be known to be true, by believers;

(e) some unresolved epistemic issues, relating to what we know and how we know it;

(f) the possibility of multiple and conflicting strategies for the advancement of the movement (i.e. evangelization); and

(g) a tendency to split into sects, due to (c), (e) and (f).

I imagine that readers will regard features (a) and (b) as fairly uncontroversial, although I should point out that some religions (such as Confucianism and to a lesser extent, Buddhism) are heavily pragmatic, and tend to discourage speculation about where we came from and where we are going. However, the contrast between speculative and pragmatic religions should not be overstated. Confucianism, for instance, attaches great importance to ancestor worship, and although it rejects belief in a personal Deity, its adherents often refer to the “Mandate of Heaven” (see also here). For its part, Buddhism has a very detailed cosmology, with multiple realms of existence, each inhabited by its own special kinds of beings, and there are also sects of Buddhism which offer vivid descriptions of the afterlife.

The other conditions which I have listed will probably raise some eyebrows. In short, what I’m claiming is that one of the defining characteristics of any religion is its built-in tendency to split into sects. (Even Confucianism, which is not an organized religion, has no less than eight different schools, while centuries ago, Buddhism split into as many as twenty sects.) Why is this so? What makes religions so prone to schism?

The impossibility of building a complete, epistemically closed system of thought

In 1931, the mathematician Kurt Godel demonstrated that the quest to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for all mathematics is an impossible one. The same, I would suggest, applies to religion. Since every religion propounds a set of truths, it needs to offer believers a set of epistemic principles which tell them how they can be sure that the beliefs they espouse are actually true. However, I would argue that any attempt to find an account of reality whose epistemic postulates (regarding what we can know and how we know it) are both self-justifying and capable of telling us how to answer any question we may want to ask about the world, is a vain one. With any system of thought, there will always be some unresolved issues about what we know and how we know it.

How minor changes in premises can yield radically divergent conclusions

Students of economics will be aware of the phenomenon of unstable equilibrium, where a model or system does not gravitate back to equilibrium after it is shocked. Consider the case of a marble sitting on top of an upside-down bowl. If the marble is nudged even slightly, it will roll off the bowl, without returning to its original position. In real life, markets with an unstable equilibrium are rare, although business-cycle contractions and stock market crashes are two probable cases in point. But if we look at systems of thought, unstable equilibrium is not the exception: it is the rule. I first became aware of this about a decade ago, when I was writing my Ph.D. thesis on animal minds. I had originally planned to include two chapters on our ethical obligations to animals and other living creatures, although in the end, I decided to cut them out and focus entirely on animal minds, in order to stay within my word limit. While writing these chapters on ethics, however, I was astonished to find that even minor changes in the ethical premises yielded drastically different conclusions, with regard to the extent of our obligations towards animals and other living things. I tried tightening them slightly or loosening them slightly, but all I did was see-saw back and forth, between extremes that were obviously either too burdensome on humanity (rendering even agriculture a morally dubious enterprise) or so permissive that they could be used to justify killing of animals and other creatures for practically any reason. Finding a sensible happy medium was very difficult, and in the end, I’m not sure if I really succeeded or not.

All religions enjoin their adherents to follow a “straight and narrow” path of some sort. What the foregoing considerations suggest to me is that religions, which attempt to codify our moral duties, might be susceptible to the same problem that beset me when I was trying to draw up a set of ethical principles that would govern our interactions with other living things. Minor changes in these principles can have drastic results, tending towards either a harsh moral rigorism or a self-satisfied laxism. And if we look at contemporary Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Judaism), it is striking to observe how differing attitudes towards the ultimate source of authority in religion have recently triggered rifts within Christian denominations (e.g. Anglicanism) over ethical issues (e.g. abortion, homosexuality and premarital sex) which dwarf the traditional divisions between denominations, so that an evangelical (low-church) Anglican will probably have more in common with a Baptist (say) than with a broad-church Anglican.

The “see-saw effect” that I noticed while writing on our duties towards animals isn’t limited to ethical matters. I would suggest that any kind of injunction – whether it concerns how we should think, what we should believe, what we should say or how we should act – is vulnerable to the same distortions, if modified. If we look at the history of Christianity between the fourth and seventh centuries, we may be puzzled that the controversies about the Trinity and about the person and natures of Jesus Christ were so heated, but there was a very good reason for that. The Arians who insisted that “The Son was made from nothing” might have revered God’s Son as the first and greatest of creatures, but a creature cannot save you. Only God can do that. Obviously, too, if you believe in a Trinitarian God, then the way you pray to such a Being will be very different from the way you would pray to a Unitarian God: the latter Being sounds more remote and less personal, so you won’t confide in it with your hopes, dreams and worries, as you would do if you believed you were talking to a community of persons. Finally, with regard to Jesus Christ, you cannot view Him as “one of us” if you believe His humanity was absorbed into His Divinity like a piece of burning iron is absorbed into the fire (as Monophysites and Coptic Christians do). Nor can you celebrate the Annunciation as the moment in history when God became man, if you believe that there was only a moral union between Christ’s Divinity and His humanity (as Nestorians do). In short: the theological controversies of the fourth to seventh centuries mattered, because they had powerful implications for the way in which people related to their God.

How new issues can trigger religious splits

Religions are dynamic entities, and they continually have to deal with new issues which their founders (or founding texts) didn’t explicitly address. It’s simply not possible to define a set of principles (be they credal or ethical) which can answer every new question that arises, because all statements are to some degree ambiguous. Take, for instance, the Christian affirmation that there are three Persons in one God. By itself, this statement cannot tell us whether we should think of God as having three Minds (one for each Person) or one Divine Mind, which each person realizes in His own unique way. We need a “living voice” to address questions like that. And as you can imagine, when new pronouncements are made – be they on the nature of God or the afterlife or how we should treat others – there is always the potential for a division of opinion, and a schism.

A further source of division: strategies for evangelization

So far we have talked about religious beliefs and injunctions as sources of potential divisions. But strategies for evangelization can prove to be sources of division as well. The best modern example of this phenomenon comes from the Soviet Union, whose dominant religion was that of Communism. (Communism, being a materialistic faith, could be described as an “earth religion,” but what makes it unusual was its linear view of time, and its promise of a bright and glorious future. As a rule, earth religions tend to be cyclic; Communion was a Utopian earth religion.) As readers of George Orwell’s Animal Farm will recall, the period of the 1920s was characterized by a brutal internal struggle between internationalists such as Leon Trotsky who wanted to advance the cause of Communism by fomenting revolutions abroad, and nationalists like Joseph Stalin, who advocated “socialism in one country.”

Religions, then, are inherently divisive for three reasons: their tenets and guiding principles are exquisitely sensitive to even minor changes in wording; their creeds and dogmas, by themselves, are incapable of resolving new questions, or matters where differing interpretations might arise; and their leaders may fiercely disagree on strategies for evangelization.

So how does the New Atheism stack up? Does it qualify as a religion?

Is New Atheism a religion?

Answering Gauguin’s “big questions”

There can be no doubt that New Atheism endeavors to answer the “big questions” of what we are, where we came from and where we are going. On the New Atheist account, everything we see around us, including ourselves, is the product of unguided processes, which can be described by mathematical equations (laws of Nature), acting on the matter and energy in our universe, whose original state can be modeled by a set of initial conditions. Books such as Alex Rosenberg’s The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions, Richard Dawkins’s The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True and Lawrence Krauss’s A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing are all examples of attempts by leading New Atheists (and fellow-travelers) to offer a coherent world-view that answers all of Gauguin’s “big questions.”

A straight and narrow path

In his book, The Moral Landscape, published in 2010, New Atheist Sam Harris contends that science can answer moral questions and that it can promote human well-being. According to Harris, the only rational moral framework is one where the term “morally good” means: whatever tends to increase the “well-being of conscious creatures.” Contrary to the widely accepted notion that you cannot derive an “ought” from an “is,” Harris maintains that science can determine human values, insofar as it can tell us which values are conducive to the flourishing of the human species. Harris’s approach to morality is a utilitarian one, which means that for him, the object of ultimate concern is the flourishing of the species as a whole. Indeed, he is famous for contending that it would be morally justifiable to push an innocent fat man into the path of an oncoming train, to prevent the train from running over five people further down the track. Harris’s book on morality has been highly praised by atheist luminaries such as Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Lawrence Krauss.

The prescriptions of most religions are explicitly ethical (e.g. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself”), but they need not be: Buddhism, for instance, tells its followers to free themselves from craving by following the Eightfold Path, in order to avoid suffering. In the case of New Atheism, the underlying prescription is that you should embrace skepticism and use the scientific method, if you want to know anything at all about the world. The ethical principles are secondary: they arise from the application of this scientific principle to the study of human nature.

The potential for radically divergent conclusions arising from minor alterations to the religion’s tenets

As we saw, religions are distinguished by the interesting property that even minor variations in their founding principles (both factual and prescriptive) yield drastically different conclusions. When we examine New Atheism, we find that it possesses the same property, regardless of whether we look at its metaphysical statements about reality or its prescriptions about how we should think and act.

New Atheism is a materialistic world-view which denies the existence of libertarian free-will – a notion that its adherents regard as mystical mumbo jumbo. Mental states are said to supervene on underlying physical states: in other words, it is not possible that two individuals with the same physical arrangement of atoms in their bodies could have different mental states. The implicit assumption here is that there is no such thing as “top-down” causation within the material realm, and that causation is invariably “bottom-up.” But if higher-level holistic states of the brain and central nervous system can influence micro-states at the neuronal level, then it no longer follows that each of us is the product of our genes plus our environment. Again, New Atheists consider the universe to be a causally closed system. But if we allow the possibility of a multiverse, then it seems to me that we cannot guarantee causal closure. If we grant that a scientist in some other universe may have created our own universe, then how can we be sure that there has been no interaction between external intelligent agents and our universe, during its entire 13.8-billion-year history?

The “Science works” comic that was indirectly alluded to by Professor Richard Dawkins, in a talk at Oxford’s Sheldonian Theater on 15 February 2013. Image courtesy of xkcd comics. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.

The New Atheist injunction that science is the only road to knowledge is no less fragile. The problem with this view, as I have pointed out previously, is that it leaves us with no way of justifying the scientific enterprise, which rests on a host of metaphysical assumptions about reality. (By the way, Richard Dawkins’s “Science works” is not an adequate justification, for it gives us absolutely no reason to believe that science will continue to work in the future. In other words, it fails to solve the problem of induction.) But if we allow even one of these metaphysical assumptions to stand alongside the foundational principles of science as a basis for knowledge, then we have violated our claim that all knowledge is based on science alone, and we can no longer call ourselves empiricists. What’s more, if there are some metaphysical truths that we are capable of knowing, then we have to provide some account of how we come to know these metaphysical truths. Are they intuitions which we “just know,” or do we infer them as presuppositions of science? We also have to confront the question: why should a mind which evolved for survival on the African savanna be capable of addressing metaphysical questions? (See also my article, Faith vs. Fact: Jerry Coyne’s flawed epistemology.)

When we look at the ethical principles of the New Atheism, we find still more fragility. Take Sam Harris’s assertion that we should strive to increase the “well-being of conscious creatures.” If we strive instead for the well-being of all self-conscious creatures, then sentient non-human animals won’t matter at all, and if we strive for the welfare of all living creatures, then even the humble bacterium will matter, and conceivably, the interests of bacteria (which are very numerous) could dwarf those of sentient animals (which comprise but a tiny twig on the tree of life). Again, is it creatures themselves which matter, or the species they belong to? What’s good for a species might turn out to be bad for the majority of individuals belonging to that species. And if it’s individuals that matter, then is it the greatest happiness of the greatest number of individuals that we should be trying to maximize, or are there certain kinds of harm which we should never allow even one individual to suffer? Supposing (as utilitarians do) that our duty is to maximize overall happiness, are we supposed to maximize the average happiness of all conscious individuals, or the total amount of happiness experienced by individuals? For instance, is a world with a few very happy individuals better or worse than a world with lots of slightly happy ones?

An epistemic theory of how we know the religion’s claims to be true

Any religion has to provide some sort of account as to how its factual and ethical claims can be known to be true, for the benefit of its adherents (who may be subject to doubts from time to time). Supernatural religions commonly cite evidence of miracles: for instance, the kuzari principle (which basically says that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time) is very popular with Jews (who use it to support their claim that God worked public miracles that were witnessed by all of the Israelites), and for their part, Christian apologists (such as Drs. Tim and Lydia McGrew) appeal to the strength of testimony by multiple eyewitnesses to build a cumulative case for the resurrection of Jesus. Hindus argue that the law of karma and the notion of reincarnation make more sense than the belief that we all go to Heaven or Hell when we die (see also here). Muslims are somewhat unusual in that they eschew appeals to miracles; instead, they argue that the Quran is self-authenticating because of its singular literary qualities.

When we look at less supernatural religions, such as Confucianism and Buddhism, we find that the method by which they justify their claims and injunctions is a pragmatic one. Thus Buddhists hold that anyone can verify the Four Noble Truths on the basis of their own personal experience, without having to go to some higher authority. Confucianism’s chief apologist (if you can call him that) was Mencius, who argued that human nature is inherently good, and that both experience and reason attest to the fact that we all have a built-in knowledge of good and evil, and of the will of Heaven.

New Atheism resembles these latter religions in that it appeals to pragmatic criteria, in order to back up its epistemic claims – the main difference being that New Atheists do not regard introspection as a valid source of knowledge (even self-knowledge), whereas Buddhists and Confucians do. The arguments for New Atheism can be summed up in five words: “Science works; nothing else does.” The distinctive claim of New Atheism, as a religion, is its cocksure assertion that the scientific method offers the only reliable way of knowing anything about our world, and that any claims which cannot be tested using this method can be regarded as nonsense. The scientific method assumes that we can perform (and replicate) experiments: for that to happen, we need entities that behave in accordance with scientific laws. Since there is no scientific way of verifying the existence of lawless entities, such as pixies or spirits, we can set them aside. Finally, we can apply the scientific method to human nature itself, and investigate what makes people tick and what is conducive to their flourishing, and to the flourishing of society in general. Indeed, we can do the same for all sentient beings. What New Atheism claims to offer its adherents, then, is a way of understanding our world and of answering any meaningful question that we can ask about it. In this respect, it functions very like a religion.

Unresolved epistemic issues

Many critics of New Atheism have argued that it is unable to justify its materialistic claim that the only things that exist are entities which are subject to physical laws of some sort, its bold epistemic claim that the scientific method offers us the only route to knowledge, and its ethical claim that we should strive to increase the well-being of conscious creatures. For the most part, New Atheists have responded by shifting the burden of proof: if there exists immaterial entities such as spirits, then the onus is on people who believe in them to supply proof (or at least, very strong evidence) of their existence; if there are non-scientific ways of knowing, then the onus is on people who defend these ways of knowing so explain how they work and we we should regard them as reliable; and if we have any other duties besides increasing the well-being of conscious creatures, then the onus is on people who claim that we have these additional duties to explain what they are and why we have them.

While this strategy of shifting the burden of proof has been a very effective tactic against other religious believers, it fails to address the arguments of those who are skeptical of skepticism itself. We are told that the only entities which are real are ones which obey physical laws, but we are not told what a physical law is, or what it means for something to obey a law, or why we should believe that these laws will continue to hold in the future. We are not told why the scientific way of knowing is reliable for all times and places – or even why it works for any time and place. Lastly, we are not told why we have any moral duties towards others. Indeed, Professor Jerry Coyne, who is himself a leading New Atheist, has criticized Sam Harris’s claim that we can deduce an “ought” from an “is” (see here and here). Unlike most New Atheists, Coyne holds that ethical norms arise from shared subjective preferences (which have been shaped by our evolutionary past): most of us happen to like living in a society which promotes people’s happiness and strives to reduce suffering, but there’s no objective reason why we should promote other people’s happiness or reduce their suffering.

In short: New Atheism faces a real epistemic crisis, which it has so far failed to confront. So why do its adherents seem so unperturbed by this crisis? The real reason, I would argue, is that it doesn’t have to address all these unresolved epistemic issues in order to secure adherents; all it has to do is out-perform its leading competitors in the market for ideas. So long as New Atheism can poke fun at Christians and Muslims and make their epistemic claims look foolish, then it will have accomplished its objective of looking like a better and more rational alternative. New Atheism faces no real competition from die-hard skeptics who claim that we cannot know anything, for the very simple reason that few people find such a philosophy attractive – and even if they did, nobody can live in accordance with such a world-view on a day-to-day basis.

Arguments about strategies for evangelization

At the present time, the key point of division within the New Atheist movement is: should New Atheism be a moral movement?

In recent years, the New Atheist movement has fragmented, largely because of the extremely crude sexist behavior of certain online atheists, which skeptical blogger and Skepchick founder Rebecca Watson (pictured above, courtesy of Wikipedia) first drew attention to in her December 2011 post, Reddit makes me hate atheists. In August 2012, after penning an explosive article titled, How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism, atheist blogger and scientist Jen McCreight launched a new movement called Atheism+, whose ideals she defined as follows:

We are…
Atheists plus we care about social justice,
Atheists plus we support women’s rights,
Atheists plus we protest racism,
Atheists plus we fight homophobia and transphobia,
Atheists plus we use critical thinking and skepticism

The feminist and atheist blogger Greta Christina lent her support to the fledgling movement, with her post, Atheism Plus: The New Wave of Atheism, and leading atheist Richard Carrier shortly afterwards followed suit, in his post, The New Atheism +.

Atheism Plus has turned out to be even more intolerant than the New Atheism from which it split off. One comment made by Carrier on his blog is chilling in its strident advocacy of publicly denouncing anyone who doesn’t toe the line and espouse the principles of Atheism Plus:

If you mean “rational people will be making mental notes of who is irrational, then documenting it, and publicly informing their colleagues of it,” then yes. There is no other way to promote a rational society than to call out those who are irrational and denounce and marginalize them as such. No longer will we treat them as one of us. Because they are not.

There won’t be any central committee for this. Just the internet and the evidence.

Accept it or GTFO.

But the real problem with Atheism Plus, as I see it, is that by adding certain ethical tenets to New Atheism, it implicitly concedes that the epistemic principles espoused by New Atheists (i.e. universal skepticism and the use of the scientific method to assess truth claims) are incapable, by themselves, of yielding those tenets. Such an admission constitutes a striking lack of confidence in New Atheism as a philosophy – for if it cannot tell us what is right and wrong, then it is ethically deficient.

Atheist blogger P.Z. Myers concedes as much in an August 2012 post titled, Following up on last night’s Atheism+ discussion, where he quotes from an article he previously wrote in Free Inquiry, titled, Atheism’s Third Wave:

Science is neutral on moral concerns; it only describes what is, now how it ought to be. And this is true; science is a tool that can be used equally well for curing diseases or building bombs. But scientists are not and should not be morally neutral, nor should scientific organizations or culture be excluded from defining the appropriate uses of science…

Similarly, atheism may be value-neutral, but atheists and atheist organizations should not be…

… Because I’m an atheist and share common cause with every other human being on the planet in desiring to live my one life with equal opportunity, I suggest that atheists ought to fight for equality for all, economic security for all, and universally available health and education services… Ours should be a movement that welcomes all sexes, races, ages, and abilities and encourages an appreciation of human richness. Atheism ought to be a progressive social movement in addition to being a philosophical and scientific position, because living in a godless universe means something to humanity.

Commenting on his article, Myers added:

And if you don’t agree with any of that — and this is the only ‘divisive’ part — then you’re an asshole. I suggest you form your own label, “Asshole Atheists” and own it, proudly. I promise not to resent it or cry about joining it.

Several points are apparent from the foregoing extract. First, there is indeed a major ethical rift between New Atheists and Atheists plus, over whether science can establish moral truths. Myers evidently regards science as value-neutral, while New Atheist Sam Harris is convinced that science can tell us what is right and wrong.

Second, Myers fails to address the metaphysical issue of who qualifies as a person. He claims to welcome people of all ages and abilities: well then, what about newborn babies who lack both language and self-consciousness, or for that matter, first-trimester fetuses, who are not yet sentient but whose bodies are running a genetic program which will enable them to develop into sentient and (ultimately) rational beings, when placed in a suitable environment (i.e. the womb)? There is a very good reason why Myers does not mention these issues in his blog post: as I pointed out four years ago in an article I wrote on Uncommon Descent, Myers doesn’t believe that newborn babies are persons, or that they are fully human. “I’ve had a few. They weren’t,” he writes.

Third, Myers’ goals seem unobjectionable… until you read the fine print. “Universally available health and education services” sounds lovely, but does that mean that health care and education ought to be free for everyone who cannot pay, regardless of cost? How far would Myers like the welfare state to extend? And how much would he tax the rich?

Fourth, even if you agree with Myers’ goals, you might reasonably disagree with the means he proposes for attaining them.

Fifth, it never seems to occur to Myers that inclusiveness might not always be a good thing, and that some forms of discrimination might be rational. Welcoming people of all races and sexes is one thing; welcoming people of all fetishes and paraphilias is quite another. Additionally, an honest skeptic would not prejudge the issue of whether homosexuality or transgenderism is normal, but would instead keep an open mind. Myers’ mind strikes me as firmly closed shut on these issues.

Advocates of Atheism plus also faced some flak from critics who asked why they didn’t simply call themselves humanists. In response, atheist blogger Ashley Miller penned a thoughtful reply titled, The difference between “atheism +” and humanism, in which she wrote:

The desire to hold on to “atheism” rather than use the term “humanism” isn’t from a fundamental difference of goals and beliefs, but from a difference of self-definition. I personally like “atheism +” because it’s more confrontational, embraces a minority position that is loathed by many, and it is more transparent about the belief that religion is one of the root causes of many social injustices. My humanism is more than just secular, it is anti-religion.

Meanwhile, there appears to be no sign of a rapprochement between the New Atheist Old Guard and the younger leaders of the Atheism Plus movement, many of whom think that the leading spokesmen for the New Atheist movement have outlived their usefulness. In a recent article in the Guardian, (Richard Dawkins has lost it: ignorant sexism gives atheists a bad name, September 18, 2014), journalist Adam Lee reported on the widespread disillusionment among atheists with Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion:

He may have convinced himself that he’s the Most Rational Man Alive, but if his goal is to persuade everyone else that atheism is a welcoming and attractive option, Richard Dawkins is doing a terrible job. Blogger and author Greta Christina told me, “I can’t tell you how many women, people of color, other marginalized people I’ve talked with who’ve told me, ‘I’m an atheist, but I don’t want anything to do with organized atheism if these guys are the leaders.’”

It’s not just women who are outraged by Dawkins these days: author and blogger PZ Myers told me, “At a time when our movement needs to expand its reach, it’s a tragedy that our most eminent spokesman has so enthusiastically expressed such a regressive attitude.”

Following the publication of Lee’s article, New Atheists sprang to Dawkins’s defense. Jerry Coyne swiftly responded in a post titled, Adam Lee has lost it:

…[L]et me say this: I am friends with both Richard [Dawkins] and Sam [Harris], have interacted with them a great deal, and have never heard a sexist word pass their lips. (You may discount that if you wish since I have a Y chromosome, but I speak the truth.) Both have seemed to me seriously concerned with women’s rights, particularly as they’re abrogated by religion, and both have written about that. But does that count? No, it’s all effaced by a few remarks that can be twisted into accusations of sexism and, yes, misogyny, which is “hatred of women.”

These men do not hate women, and their opponents are ideologues. Michael Nugent, head of Atheist Ireland and one of the most conciliatory atheists I know, has tried reaching out to those who denigrate Richard and Sam, asking for dialogue and requesting that the hounders behave like civilized human beings — as Nugent himself always has. No dice. For trying to be conciliatory, Nugent has been, and is being, vilified. It’s disgusting. I feel sorry for the man, who is learning the hard way that good intentions are not enough to stay a pack of baying hounds.

Reading these exchanges, I get the impression that the divide between New Atheists and members of Atheist Plus is no longer just about strategy or even about feminism; it’s widened into a debate about how we identify social wrongs that need to be righted.

A tendency to split into sects

Back in 2009, the New Atheist movement was still in its infancy. At that time, NPR reporter Barbara Bradley Haggerty wrote an online article titled, A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists, in which she cited the concerns of Center for Inquiry founder Paul Kurtz, that New Atheism would set the atheist movement back:

“I consider them atheist fundamentalists,” he says. “They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately. Now, they’re very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good.”

He hopes this new approach will fizzle.

“Merely to critically attack religious beliefs is not sufficient. It leaves a vacuum. What are you for? We know what you’re against, but what do you want to defend?”

Six years have passed since then, and as we have seen, Kurtz’s question, “What are you for?” has now split the New Atheist movement itself down the middle, with the emergence of a vocal splinter group called Atheism plus.

However, it would be grossly simplistic to think that New Atheism is divided into only two factions, as Jack Vance points out in a 2013 post on his blog, Atheist Revolution:

You see, I reject the perspective that this rift represents an open conflict between two well-defined sides (i.e., the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ side vs. the Slymepit side). I understand the appeal of simplifying this by pretending that there are only two sides and that these are those sides. It is very difficult to talk about a conflict involving more than two sides, and simplification is damned tempting. Unfortunately, this is a case where simplifying things to two sides does not reflect reality.

In the meantime, the rift between New Atheism and other atheists has, if anything, intensified. New Atheist Jerry Coyne recently authored a post titled, Why do many atheists hate the New Atheists? The title says it all, really. Coyne sums up his own gloomy thoughts on the subject:

The critique of New Atheists by other atheists seems to consist largely of ad hominem accusations, distortions of what they’ve said (Sam Harris is particularly subject to this), and, most of all, complaints that they dare criticize religion publicly…

Now I’m perfectly happy accepting that it’s not the style of some nonbelievers to openly declare their atheism, much less to publicly criticize religion. But why go after the ones who do, especially when they’re simply articulating the reasons why the non-vociferous atheists have rejected religion? …

These are just some tentative thoughts, but the rancor of atheist criticism about New Atheists repeatedly surprises and saddens me. And I don’t fully understand it.

Finally, back in January 2013, neurologist and skeptic Stephen Novella, who identifies as a scientific skeptic rather than a New Atheist, wrote a thoughtful and conciliatory post, in which he argued that skepticism is not defined by the positions it takes on various issues, but by the methods it uses to assess claims. Novella also offered some reflections on the tendency of the skeptical movement to fragment over time:

All movements have internal divisions, and these divisions grow as the movement grows. There is a natural tendency for movements to splinter over time into sub-groups based upon these divisions. I think that would be disastrous for us, given that we are still a relatively small movement with a monumental task before us, including highly motivated (and often well-funded) opponents who wish our failure.

The upshot of all this is that the atheist movement – and especially the New Atheist movement – is increasingly looking like a house divided. Sectarianism, which is a defining feature of religion, appears to apply equally to New Atheism.

Conclusion

There is a common saying: “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” We have seen that New Atheism bears a number of striking resemblances to religion, on seven points: it attempts to answer the “big questions”; it prescribes a straight and narrow path for its followers; minor alterations to its tenets yield radically divergent conclusions; it attempts to provide an answer as to how its adherents can know how that its claims to be true; it has unresolved epistemic issues relating to what we know and how we can know it; its leaders argue about strategies for evangelization; and it has a tendency to splinter into sects. In view of these many points of similarity, I think it is fair to conclude that New Atheism belongs in the same category as the creeds it criticizes. While it is definitely not a cult, it can legitimately be called a religion.

What do readers think?

477 Replies to “New Atheism: Not a cult, but a religion

  1. 1
    Andre says:

    Praise Darwin!!!!

    Amen

  2. 2
    Andre says:

    On a serious note we have atheist churches springing up everywhere so it can be said with confidence that atheism is a bona fide religion. Time and chance is their God and Darwin is their prophet and Origin of the species is their bible. All hail prophet Darwin. If you attack him you are partaking in blasphemy! If you doubt time and chance you are a denier of that wich is good and saying anything that opposes it’s disciples, Harris, Dawkins, et Al will have you branded a heretic.

  3. 3
    Andre says:

    It takes far more faith to be an atheist than to be a theist. Somehow you have to override your logic and force yourself to conclude, nay dogmatically believe that matter not only made itself but also conspired against all possible odds to become conscious. Now that takes faith!!!!!! Blind faith.

  4. 4
    mike1962 says:

    Perhaps New Atheism is more aptly described as an ideology, like Marxism or Objectivism.

  5. 5
    Axel says:

    ‘Professor Doug MacFarlane, head of the research team, is sure there’s nothing more perfect than nature and that applies to the process of photosynthesis as well.’

    In making that statement, it seems to me that Professor MacFarlane has epitomized in a particularly concise and forceful way the utter folly of imputing the most sublimely subtle, complex and sophisticated designs of living things to random chance.

    How could random chance possibly have made nature, its designs and processes, so PERFECT that they make the finest brains working in science today, though perhaps with greater distinction in the last century, appear to be too inchoate for a kindergarten?

    Even when atheists claim to be able to improve on what they perceive as a defective design in nature, they manage to end up sorely discomfited!

    ————-

    Mike, Marxism and Objectivism could be designated as religions on the same basis as the New Atheism. Though with its risibly callow and specious, philosophical pretentions, Objectivism is really nothing more than ‘the law of the jungle’ as processed by the fourth-rate brain of a psychopath with a taste for intellectual self-aggrandisement.

  6. 6
    groovamos says:

    WoW – Dr. Torley – terrific essay, gonna link on FB.

  7. 7
    ppolish says:

    Atheism just a figment of Homo imagination says this study:

    http://www.science20.com/write.....oke-139982

    Did not study bonobos though. Maybe there are atheist bonobos.

  8. 8
    OldArmy94 says:

    New Atheism and Atheism+ are really amazing worldviews. Whatever anyone may say about Christians, Jews or Muslims, no one can say their principles of morality aren’t rooted in a rational response to their worldview. NA and A+, however, are strident, fervent and intolerant, all of which deny the very central foundation of their philosophy. I know this has been discussed ad nauseum here, but it still bewilders me whenever I see such absurd contradictions between belief and action.

  9. 9
    vjtorley says:

    Hi groovamos,

    I’m glad you liked my essay. You’re welcome to link to it.

  10. 10
    vjtorley says:

    Hi ppolish,

    Interesting study. I loved your line: “Maybe there are atheist bonobos.”

  11. 11
    EvilSnack says:

    If atheism is not a religion, then it’s not protected by the First Amendment, is it?

  12. 12
    RDFish says:

    If atheism is not a religion, then it’s not protected by the First Amendment, is it? – EvilSnack

    Here’s one for my scrapbook of “incredibly ignorant, inane, and frightening posts at UD”.

  13. 13
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJTorley,

    The upshot of all this is that the atheist movement – and especially the New Atheist movement – is increasingly looking like a house divided. Sectarianism, which is a defining feature of religion, appears to apply equally to New Atheism.

    Wow, you went to a great deal of trouble to make a very misguided argument. You are comparing organized religions, which are subject to sectarianism, with a completely unorganized collection of all people who happen to all lack beliefs that are theistic. The fact that you identify certain authors’s beliefs in origins, etc. with characteristics of religion does not mean that there is some institution that has been established to which all atheists (or New Atheists) belong.

    There is no canon of atheism, nor New Atheism. The latter is a nothing but a set of generalizations over some books and articles and internet posts by some contemporary authors, not a tradition of belief.

    I am an atheist (technically a theological non-cognitivist) who does not believe in any creation myth at all. I don’t believe anyone knows the answer to the “big questions”, I have no idea what the “straight and narrow path” ought to be for atheists, and I believe epistemology to be generally unsolved. That doesn’t make me a sectarian atheist – just somebody who thinks for himself and doesn’t go along with herd. To call me an adherent to any religion is as wrong as wrong can be.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish:

    I am an atheist . . who does not believe in any creation myth at all.

    Oh, I thought you believed in Darwinism. Good to get that cleared up. Thanks.

    To call me an adherent to any religion is as wrong as wrong can be.

    But if the monist obscurantists were to ever start a church, I expect you would be the Supreme Pontiff.

  15. 15
    Andre says:

    Like I said to be an atheist you have to override logic thank you for the demonstration RDfish

  16. 16
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RD Fish,

    Thank you for your comments. First of all, my post was about New Atheism, not atheism. I would agree with you that atheism is not a religion – indeed, I said so in my post. New Atheism is a different kettle of fish. So when you write:

    You are comparing organized religions, which are subject to sectarianism, with a completely unorganized collection of all people who happen to all lack beliefs that are theistic…

    you are missing the point. I’m comparing a particular group of militant atheists (the New Atheists) with religious adherents. I might add that not all religions are organized: I’d hardly call Confucianism organized, and I doubt that Taoism is, either. And as for Voodoo or Santeria, forget it. (Yes, they’re religions too: they’re called folk religions.) New Atheists, on the other hand, strike me as very well-organized.

    Second, you’re clearly an atheist of some sort, but I don’t think you’re a New Atheist. You yourself don’t identify as one. That being the case, you can’t offer an insider’s perspective on what New Atheists believe.

    Third, you claim that there’s no canon of New Atheism. OK. What about this?

    The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens (2007).

    Or how about this?

    The Five-Book Atheist Canon by Greta Christina (2009).

    See? “Canon.” They use the word, themselves.

  17. 17
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry Arrington,

    Oh, I thought you believed in Darwinism. Good to get that cleared up. Thanks.

    I have been quite clear about this since I started posting on ID/Evo forums at least ten years ago. Glad you finally caught on.

    But if the monist obscurantists were to ever start a church, I expect you would be the Supreme Pontiff.

    If I thought you would engage in a serious debate about metaphysics, I would surely accomodate you. Let it suffice to say the only reason you believe I am “obscurantist” is because in my view there is insufficient warrant to justify belief in any set of answers to the “big questions” which VJT mentions. There is nothing obscure about that; you simply don’t like it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  18. 18
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJTorley,

    I’m comparing a particular group of militant atheists (the New Atheists) with religious adherents. I might add that not all religions are organized: I’d hardly call Confucianism organized, and I doubt that Taoism is, either. And as for Voodoo or Santeria, forget it. (Yes, they’re religions too: they’re called folk religions.) New Atheists, on the other hand, strike me as very well-organized.

    Well, fine. You can tweak definitions to your liking, but to call a few authors of popular books and the relatively small and very diverse readership who believe their message in toto a religion is still a semantic stretch.

    Anyway, the fact is, I’m sympathetic to the point you’re really trying to make: Folks like Dawkins are wildly hypocritical, blind to the fact that they bring the same fideism to their beliefs about the Big Questions as do religious folks.

    The Five-Book Atheist Canon by Greta Christina (2009).
    See? “Canon.” They use the word, themselves.

    Yes, you got me there. 🙂

    Still and yet, most religious people don’t think atheists are religious, and virtually no atheists think they are religious, so you’re clearly stretching the term to make a point.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  19. 19
    Bob O'H says:

    I’m comparing a particular group of militant atheists (the New Atheists) with religious adherents.

    I think you’re actually doing more: you’re comparing the New Atheist movement to a religion. The difference is one of going from individuals to organisations. I agree that some New Atheists act like religious adherents, but at the organisational level there are big differences. For a start, religions have a literature(*) that tells adherents how to behave and what to believe (even Taoism has one in the Tao Te Ching, although the first verse translates – roughly – as “this book is bullshit”). I think New Atheism has – at best – exegeses. There are no canonical NA texts: what texts there are can be vehemently disagreed with by adherents.

    (*) I’m sure there’s a better word than literature, but off-hand I can’t think what it is. I’m viewing myths told around the fire as literature, in this sense.

  20. 20
    Andre says:

    RDFISH. …

    Then why did you not just state you’re a believer of Darwinism? Everybody believes something. I believe God (intellect) created matter and gave it intellect. YOU believe matter made itself and gave itself intellect.

    Do you really think my position needs more faith than yours?

  21. 21
    Virgil Cain says:

    Bob O’H @ 19 just told us why ID is not a religion. Thank you, Bob.

  22. 22
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Here’s one for my scrapbook of “incredibly ignorant, inane, and frightening posts at UD”.

    It must be filled with your own posts. 😛

  23. 23
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    Then why did you not just state you’re a believer of Darwinism?

    Because I am not a believer in Darwinism.

    Everybody believes something.

    That is a ridiculous thing to say.

    I believe God (intellect) created matter and gave it intellect.

    Well, good for you.

    YOU believe matter made itself and gave itself intellect.

    No, this is not what I believe. As I posted in this very thread, “in my view there is insufficient warrant to justify belief in any set of answers to the ‘big questions’ which VJT mentions”.

    Like most people here, you like to tell people what they believe instead of asking them what they believe. You can’t learn anything that way, and it’s silly.

    Do you really think my position needs more faith than yours?

    Yes indeed – you might say it requires an infinite amount more faith than mine.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    “evolution is the greatest engine of atheism”,
    William Provine – (February 19, 1942 – September 1, 2015)

    Atheist William B Provine from the movie Expelled – video clip
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wy43bFoLk6M

    “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint, and Mr. Gish is but one of many to make it, the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.”
    Ruse, M., How evolution became a religion: creationists correct? Darwinians wrongly mix science with morality, politics, National Post, pp. B1, B3, B7 (May 13, 2000)

    The funny thing about Darwinism leading to atheism is that Darwinism is absolutely reliant on, not science but, (faulty) theological presuppositions to try to make its case against God. i.e. Darwinism, instead of having its foundation set on experimental evidence, sets up a ‘straw man’ version of God and knocks that straw man down.

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 2011
    Excerpt: The Origin supplies abundant evidence of theology in action; as Dilley observes:
    I have argued that, in the first edition of the Origin, Darwin drew upon at least the following positiva theological claims in his case for descent with modification (and against special creation):
    1. Human beings are not justified in believing that God creates in ways analogous to the intellectual powers of the human mind.
    2. A God who is free to create as He wishes would create new biological limbs de novo rather than from a common pattern.
    3. A respectable deity would create biological structures in accord with a human conception of the ‘simplest mode’ to accomplish the functions of these structures.
    4. God would only create the minimum structure required for a given part’s function.
    5. God does not provide false empirical information about the origins of organisms.
    6. God impressed the laws of nature on matter.
    7. God directly created the first ‘primordial’ life.
    8. God did not perform miracles within organic history subsequent to the creation of the first life.
    9. A ‘distant’ God is not morally culpable for natural pain and suffering.
    10. The God of special creation, who allegedly performed miracles in organic history, is not plausible given the presence of natural pain and suffering.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    Charles Darwin’s use of theology in the Origin of Species – STEPHEN DILLEY
    Abstract
    This essay examines Darwin’s positiva (or positive) use of theology in the first edition of the Origin of Species in three steps. First, the essay analyses the Origin’s theological language about God’s accessibility, honesty, methods of creating, relationship to natural laws and lack of responsibility for natural suffering; the essay contends that Darwin utilized positiva theology in order to help justify (and inform) descent with modification and to attack special creation. Second, the essay offers critical analysis of this theology, drawing in part on Darwin’s mature ruminations to suggest that, from an epistemic point of view, the Origin’s positiva theology manifests several internal tensions. Finally, the essay reflects on the relative epistemic importance of positiva theology in the Origin’s overall case for evolution. The essay concludes that this theology served as a handmaiden and accomplice to Darwin’s science.
    http://journals.cambridge.org/.....741100032X

    The Descent of Darwin (The Theodicy of Darwinism) – Pastor Joe Boot – video – 16:30 minute mark
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKzUSWU7c2s&feature=player_detailpage#t=996

    Methodological Naturalism: A Rule That No One Needs or Obeys – Paul Nelson – September 22, 2014
    Excerpt: It is a little-remarked but nonetheless deeply significant irony that evolutionary biology is the most theologically entangled science going. Open a book like Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True (2009) or John Avise’s Inside the Human Genome (2010), and the theology leaps off the page. A wise creator, say Coyne, Avise, and many other evolutionary biologists, would not have made this or that structure; therefore, the structure evolved by undirected processes. Coyne and Avise, like many other evolutionary theorists going back to Darwin himself, make numerous “God-wouldn’t-have-done-it-that-way” arguments, thus predicating their arguments for the creative power of natural selection and random mutation on implicit theological assumptions about the character of God and what such an agent (if He existed) would or would not be likely to do.,,,
    ,,,with respect to one of the most famous texts in 20th-century biology, Theodosius Dobzhansky’s essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1973).
    Although its title is widely cited as an aphorism, the text of Dobzhansky’s essay is rarely read. It is, in fact, a theological treatise. As Dilley (2013, p. 774) observes:
    “Strikingly, all seven of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. In fact, without God-talk, the geneticist’s arguments for evolution are logically invalid. In short, theology is essential to Dobzhansky’s arguments.”,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89971.html

    Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of theology? – Dilley S. – 2013
    Abstract
    This essay analyzes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous article, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” in which he presents some of his best arguments for evolution. I contend that all of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon sectarian claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. Moreover, Dobzhansky’s theology manifests several tensions, both in the epistemic justification of his theological claims and in their collective coherence. I note that other prominent biologists–such as Mayr, Dawkins, Eldredge, Ayala, de Beer, Futuyma, and Gould–also use theology-laden arguments. I recommend increased analysis of the justification, complexity, and coherence of this theology.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890740

    Perhaps neo-Darwinists would be much more convincing in their case against God if they actually used science to try to make their case instead of using bad Theology?
    But then again, since it is impossible to do science without first presupposing there is a rhyme and reason to be discovered behind nature, and yet atheism presupposes that there is no real rhyme or reason for why nature exists, then that would, of course, preclude them from ever having a coherent scientific case against God.

    The Atheist’s Guide to Intellectual Suicide – James N. Anderson PhD. – video
    https://vimeo.com/75897668

    “Hawking’s entire argument is built upon theism. He is, as Cornelius Van Til put it, like the child who must climb up onto his father’s lap into order to slap his face.
    Take that part about the “human mind” for example. Under atheism there is no such thing as a mind. There is no such thing as understanding and no such thing as truth. All Hawking is left with is a box, called a skull, which contains a bunch of molecules. Hawking needs God In order to deny Him.”
    – Cornelius Hunter

    Photo – an atheist contemplating his mind
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-H-kj.....0/rob4.jpg

  25. 25
    Andre says:

    So you believe that you don’t believe then? OK got you.

  26. 26
    HeKS says:

    Andre,

    I believe RDFish is simply saying that he doesn’t believe in or accept evolutionary accounts of the origin and development of life (or any other ‘Big Question’) any more than he does either ID accounts or theistic/religious ones. In other words, he seems to be saying that on all these Big Question, he is simply neutral. In itself, I agree with him that this does not constitute a belief, if I’m correct in my understanding of his claims.

    Of course, whether or not maintaining such absolute neutrality on these issues is warranted is another matter.

  27. 27
    computerist says:

    RDFish says he doesn’t know, not enough info.
    That’s fine, but ultimately it comes down to two choices: design or not. The question is a binary one and it will remain that way regardless of what new data or whatever else comes in on the queue.

  28. 28
    Andre says:

    SUrely RDFISH believes his convictions that he does not believe?

  29. 29
    RDFish says:

    Hi HeKS,

    Of course, whether or not maintaining such absolute neutrality on these issues is warranted is another matter.

    It’s not a matter of neutrality. Rather, I simply acknowledge that science currently is unable to explain a number of phenomena. Consciousness, our ability to think, the origin and characteristics of the universe, the origin of life and biological complexity – we have no empirically supported theories to account for any of these things, and so the correct answer regarding these Big Questions is currently “we do not know”.

    I do have opinions regarding some aspects of the big questions, however. In particular, we have a tremendous amount of evidence that consciousness in human beings depends upon brain function. That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary. Thus, any theory that posits a mind without a brain is a priori unlikely to be true. ID is coy about this, but in the end this is one of several fatal problems for ID – one that can only be overcome by presenting a posteriori evidence that mind can exist without a physical body. Such evidence is thus critical to ID, although mainstream ID authors neglect to even address it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  30. 30
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    RDFish says he doesn’t know, not enough info.
    That’s fine, but ultimately it comes down to two choices: design or not.

    That is a terrible confusion that infects these discussion. Imagine I say, “You have two choices to explain 3D protein folding: Either tiny invisible elves that live inside our cells, or not”. Failing to provide a comprehensive explanation that does not refer to tiny elves, would you then conclude that “tiny elves” was an empirically justified theory? I would not.

    Likewise, failing to come up with a good explanation for origin of life, etc, simply means we have no good explanation. There is no “default” explanation that we are justified in accepting.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  31. 31
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    SUrely RDFISH believes his convictions that he does not believe?

    These silly games are truly tiresome. Nobody said they had no beliefs, Andre.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  32. 32
    Andre says:

    RDFISH

    Let us take a very simple example;

    DNA is a code. Yes/No?
    By itself it is quite easy to assume that such a code could over time through some trial and error build itself…. Yes/No?

    But ID and here I’m talking about biological ID observes a few things.

    1. DNA has multiple integrity checkers
    2. DNA has multiple repair mechanisms
    3. DNA has self destruct mechanisms

    What does this tell us? It tells us there is foresight applied to the system. There is redundancy applied to the system.

    You can ponder on its literal meaning and.implications.

  33. 33
    computerist says:

    RDFish said:

    That is a terrible confusion that infects these discussion. Imagine I say, “You have two choices to explain 3D protein folding: Either tiny invisible elves that live inside our cells, or not”. Failing to provide a comprehensive explanation that does not refer to tiny elves, would you then conclude that “tiny elves” was an empirically justified theory? I would not.

    The question, while a binary one, is still a matter of probability relative to the context and current understanding.
    Is it probable that “invisible elves live inside cells”? The answer based on our current understanding is no, could it become more probable once we gain understanding of how cells work? probably not.
    In addition “invisible elves living inside cells” is a fairly specific claim while the question of design or not is a general one.
    So by no means is it an analogous question (or a valid counter-argument for that matter) nor a reasonable one.

  34. 34
    J-Mac says:

    “Religion-a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance”; Consumerism is the new religion for example…

    According to this definition, new, old or any atheism, fits this definition.

    But here is the kicker. None of the new or old atheists are actually true atheists. They are all agnostics, at least according to the definition of atheism.

  35. 35
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    DNA is a code. Yes/No?

    Yes.

    By itself it is quite easy to assume that such a code could over time through some trial and error build itself…. Yes/No?

    No (I don’t even know what that would mean).

    What does this tell us?

    It tells us we don’t know how DNA and the functional apparatus of living cells came to exist.

    It tells us there is foresight applied to the system.

    No, there is no way of knowing that something has “foresight” unless (1) It is known that whatever it is is sufficiently similar to a human being that the inference is warranted, or (2) It is possible to interact with it to see if it can solve novel problems. Neither of these conditions hold for the cause of living systems obviously.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  36. 36
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    The question, while a binary one, is still a matter of probability relative to the context and current understanding.

    No, it isn’t a binary one – you’ve simply posed it as a binary by offering “not” as one of the alternative explanations. “Not design” is not an explanation.

    Is it probable that “invisible elves live inside cells”? The answer based on our current understanding is no, could it become more probable once we gain understanding of how cells work? probably not.

    I agree.

    In addition “invisible elves living inside cells” is a fairly specific claim while the question of design or not is a general one.

    The “question of design” is not an explanation either. If a scientific hypothesis is not specific then it is not a scientific hypothesis. “Design” lacks a technical definition, and means absolutely nothing that can be tested or assessed against empirical evidence.

    For example, name one single thing that “design” would not explain? The typical answer I get is that “design” isn’t an explanation if there is any other explanation available. We’ve just seen the problem with that approach. So invoking “design” or “intelligence” simply is not a scientific hypothesis unless one makes specific claims regarding what “design” or “intelligence” entails and does not entail.

    Evolutionary theory is disproven when we find that complex form and function cannot arise by RM&NS in the few billion years available. Now, we don’t typically think of “intelligent agents” taking billions of years to design something, but somehow that doesn’t count against ID folks invoking “design” for living systems. “Design” can produce eyeballs and flagella in an instant or in a billion years. “Design” can produce a universe and set the physical constants. “Design” can arrange planets to make the Sun and the Moon subtend the same angle in the Earth’s sky. And so on and so on.

    Until somebody actually says what “design” entails and does not entail, then the term means nothing whatsoever as a scientific explanation. And please, don’t pretend that anthropologists or forensic investigators ever conclude “design” in the abstract.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    Barry to RD

    But if the monist obscurantists were to ever start a church, I expect you would be the Supreme Pontiff.

    Barry, here is the bottom line: RD holds that the act of creating the material universe would violate the Law of Conservation. I have explained to him many times why his position is illogical.

  38. 38
    computerist says:

    RDFish said:

    The “question of design” is not an explanation either.

    The question of design or not is not meant to be a detailed explanation, it’s simply a question based on a reasonable assessment of collective knowledge, observation and logic.

    “Design” lacks a technical definition, and means absolutely nothing that can be tested or assessed against empirical evidence.

    There are a multitude of ways to go about the design process and a multitude of distinct/unique paths the “not design” (aka: blindwatchmaker) can take.
    x can have the appearance of being designed, and be not designed.
    x can also have the appearance of being not designed, and be designed.
    some sub-processes may even overlap between the two.
    but we start with the initial default position until it can be shown with higher probability otherwise.
    What is certain is that the two are diametrically opposite in its conclusions. And that’s all that the design or not question really concerns itself with.
    I will add that merely one instance of design within the process hierarchy supersedes/overrides the case for non-design, even if non-design is the majority. Doesn’t work the same way in reverse though until all possibilities are covered.

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    RDFish is right. The New Atheists are a cult.

  40. 40
    Box says:

    StephenB:

    (…) here is the bottom line: RD holds that the act of creating the material universe would violate the Law of Conservation. I have explained to him many times why his position is illogical.

    Yes, I remember! RDFish holds that the Law of Conservation can be violated before it comes into existence.
    This brings into perspective his remark: “I am an atheist . . who does not believe in any creation myth at all”.

  41. 41
    Mapou says:

    StephenB:

    RD holds that the act of creating the material universe would violate the Law of Conservation. I have explained to him many times why his position is illogical.

    I have my own simple explanation of how things can be created without violating the Law of Conservation but I would like to hear your version.

  42. 42
    EvilSnack says:

    RDFish @ 12:

    If you want to appear to be logical, you have to post more than your emotional response.

  43. 43
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    No, there is no way of knowing that something has “foresight” unless (1) It is known that whatever it is is sufficiently similar to a human being that the inference is warranted, or (2) It is possible to interact with it to see if it can solve novel problems. Neither of these conditions hold for the cause of living systems obviously.

    So you are holding onto the idea that intelligence is different everywhere? I can agree that there are different levels of intelligence, funny excuse that, RDFish thinks Intelligence is not universal and that is enough of an excuse for him to not want to go any further in his thought process of how we came to be. He’ll just happily tell himself….. “I know that I don’t know”……

    Well how do you know that you don’t know?

  44. 44
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    No (I don’t even know what that would mean).

    Never heard of “descent with modification” before? It is a widely held believe all over the world as an absolute fact. Never heard of it before or know what it means?

  45. 45
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    It tells us we don’t know how DNA and the functional apparatus of living cells came to exist.

    We do, its either unguided (can’t be tested) or it is guided can be tested and has).

  46. 46
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    I want to hone in on this;

    No, there is no way of knowing that something has “foresight”

    Really? Then how did I know you where going to say it?

  47. 47
    Virgil Cain says:

    Too funny, RDFish doesn’t understand how science works- big no surprise there.

    The genetic code is real. Mother nature cannot produce codes and codes only come from intelligent agencies. Science 101 would have us inferring the genetic code arose from some intelligent agency.

    If RDFish was an archaeologist he would say that Stonehenge wasn’t designed and the mortise and tenon joints don’t help us.

  48. 48
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    “Design” lacks a technical definition, and means absolutely nothing that can be tested or assessed against empirical evidence.

    Strange that we have said exactly what the technical definition of design is and how it can be assessed and tested against empirical evidence.

    For example, name one single thing that “design” would not explain?

    Anything that mother nature is capable of producing by herself. Just as you have been told for years.

    The typical answer I get is that “design” isn’t an explanation if there is any other explanation available.

    Methinks you are lying.

    So invoking “design” or “intelligence” simply is not a scientific hypothesis unless one makes specific claims regarding what “design” or “intelligence” entails and does not entail.

    And we have done that so what is your real problem?

  49. 49
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    No, it isn’t a binary one – you’ve simply posed it as a binary by offering “not” as one of the alternative explanations. “Not design” is not an explanation.

    Of course “not design” is an explanation. For one it tells us no intelligent agency was required. It eliminates an entire class of causes.

    Thankfully RDFish isn’t a scientist nor investigator.

  50. 50
    HeKS says:

    @RDFish #29

    Thanks for the response.

    I don’t have much time but there’s something here I’d like to address. You said:

    I do have opinions regarding some aspects of the big questions, however. In particular, we have a tremendous amount of evidence that consciousness in human beings depends upon brain function. That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary. Thus, any theory that posits a mind without a brain is a priori unlikely to be true.

    You seem to have dropped a qualifier from your argument as you proceeded from one step to the next.

    You started by saying:

    [W]e have a tremendous amount of evidence that consciousness in human beings depends upon brain function.

    Then you continued:

    That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary.

    Presumably you are still talking about human beings here, though you don’t specifically repeat the qualifier. Assuming you are, then I don’t really have any issue with your point. I tend to think most people around here would accept that a functioning brain is necessary to human consciousness, even if they think it is not sufficient to explain human consciousness. I don’t think too many consider the brain to be an irrelevant part of the equation of human consciousness.

    But then you conclude:

    Thus, any theory that posits a mind without a brain is a priori unlikely to be true.

    I don’t see how this follows logically as a general conclusion. If, instead, you were to say…

    Thus, any theory that posits a human mind without a brain is a priori unlikely to be true.

    …then I’d be right there with you. That would follow from your initial claim that “we have a tremendous amount of evidence that consciousness in human beings depends upon brain function.” But it’s not clear why this conclusion should be considered capable of being generalized to all possible beings.

    For example, are you prepared to say that there is no possible world (i.e. no possible description of how reality in our universe might be) in which there are non-human beings (like some undiscovered alien species) that have minds in the absence of something we’d recognize as “a brain”?

    And what if we were to expand the scope of that question and allow that there exists a level II multiverse consisting of an infinite number of universes, each with different physical laws and constants, such that all possible laws of physics and possible states of affairs are instantiated an infinite number of times? Would you still be prepared to say that it is “a priori unlikely” that there would exist minds without physical brains anywhere in the infinite multiverse?

    And if so, what would be your basis for making that claim beyond your incredibly limited inductive survey of human minds in a physical universe governed by our particular rules of physics and chemistry?

    Furthermore, I wonder how equitably you’re willing to apply your argument to matters within our own universe. For example, what if I were to use the same form of your argument, without suddenly dropping any qualifiers, to argue the following?

    We have a tremendous amount of evidence that digital code, functionally-specified information and complex machinery only results in our universe from the purposeful application of intelligent design. That is not to say that just any old level of intelligence is sufficient to produce highly complex digital codes and machinery like we find in the study of biology, but it does appear that intelligence is necessary to the origin of things of this nature within our universe. Thus, any theory that posits the origin of highly advanced digital codes, functionally-specified information, and incredibly complex molecular machinery within our universe in the absence of any guiding intelligence is a priori unlikely to be true.

    Do you agree with this argument?

    It is based on the totality of our experience as a species, excluding (appropriately) only the very thing that is to be explained (codes, functional information and machines in biology). However, unlike your original argument that applied to and attempted to make conclusions about the general possibility of a mind without a brain, this argument is limited to the scope of our physical universe, governed by our own laws of physics and chemistry.

    So do you accept the argument? And if not, is it only because you assume that the design must be theistic, requiring a mind without a physical brain, which is a possibility you’ve already ruled out a priori based on an inductive survey of human minds in our physical universe governed by our particular laws of physics?

    ID is coy about this, but in the end this is one of several fatal problems for ID – one that can only be overcome by presenting a posteriori evidence that mind can exist without a physical body. Such evidence is thus critical to ID, although mainstream ID authors neglect to even address it.

    Your characterization of ID as being “coy” on this subject seems a bit odd. ID, as a scientific endeavor, doesn’t tend to specifically address the issue of mind in the absence of a brain because ID is not committed to an immaterial designer, as it is not inherently theistic, even if its conclusions happen to be friendly to theism (as Neo-Darwinism’s conclusions are friendly to atheism). As such, you’re more likely to find the issue of mind apart from brain – and arguments for the necessary existence of such a thing – considered by theistic philosophers.

    Take care,
    HeKS

  51. 51
    RDFish says:

    Hi HeKS,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and clear debating points!

    I tend to think most people around here would accept that a functioning brain is necessary to human consciousness, even if they think it is not sufficient to explain human consciousness.

    I think most folks here believe in an afterlife where our conscious selves – what many believe makes us human, including our memories and sentience and personality – survives the destruction of our brain.

    I don’t see how this follows logically as a general conclusion. If, instead, you were to say…
    Thus, any theory that posits a human mind without a brain is a priori unlikely to be true.
    …then I’d be right there with you.

    Consciousness, as we know it, invariably and critically depends upon brain function. One might hypothesize that consciousness might occur somehow without brain function; for example, perhaps a computer of a certain type may experience consciousness (although I don’t think so), or perhaps some other sort of complex organ similar to a brain may experience consciousness. To the extent we believe consciousness is tied to information (which I think is obvious), since information is invariably stored in physical states, it is likely that anything that experiences consciousness would require some complex set of physical states.

    That would follow from your initial claim that “we have a tremendous amount of evidence that consciousness in human beings depends upon brain function.” But it’s not clear why this conclusion should be considered capable of being generalized to all possible beings.

    I’m not making an induction, and certainly not to “all possible beings”. Rather I’m saying this: A being that has conscious mental function without the benefit of a physical body is outside of our uniform and repeated experience, and also contradicts what we know of information storage and processing. That doesn’t make it impossible; it does make it a priori unlikely.

    Good evidence, then, would be required in order to support the claim that a disembodied mind is possible (or existing). Many here believe that paranormal psychology, including ESP and NDEs, provides this empirical support. I strongly disagree, but in any event it is telling that mainstream ID authors fail to even mention the issue!

    And what if we were to expand the scope of that question and allow that there exists a level II multiverse consisting of an infinite number of universes, each with different physical laws and constants, such that all possible laws of physics and possible states of affairs are instantiated an infinite number of times? Would you still be prepared to say that it is “a priori unlikely” that there would exist minds without physical brains anywhere in the infinite multiverse?

    I’m really not interested in this sort of metaphysics at all. My point always relates to ID considered as a scientific theory. Obviously an “infinite multiverse” is not a scientific proposition.

    And if so, what would be your basis for making that claim beyond your incredibly limited inductive survey of human minds in a physical universe governed by our particular rules of physics and chemistry?

    Are you serious? You could establish the possibility or liklihood of any coherent proposition you can imagine this way. What is your point here? Do you believe that we have evidence of an “infinite multiverse”?

    We have a tremendous amount of evidence that digital code, functionally-specified information and complex machinery only results in our universe from the purposeful application of intelligent design.

    That’s right of course (where “intelligent design” means “human engineering”).

    …but it does appear that intelligence is necessary to the origin of things of this nature within our universe.

    Yes, I completely agree. On the basis of our uniform and repeated experience, mind is required for mechanism, and mechanism is required for mind. It’s a conundrum. 🙂

    So do you accept the argument?

    Absolutely – I have been making that exact argument for many years to whomever will take the time to listen.

    And if not, is it only because you assume that the design must be theistic, requiring a mind without a physical brain, which is a possibility you’ve already ruled out a priori based on an inductive survey of human minds in our physical universe governed by our particular laws of physics?

    Again – I already accept that in our experience, mechanism requires mind. I have not ruled anything out a priori; I merely point out that certain things (including disembodied minds) are improbable a priori, which means we need good a posteriori evidence in order to justify belief in them.

    Your characterization of ID as being “coy” on this subject seems a bit odd. ID, as a scientific endeavor, doesn’t tend to specifically address the issue of mind in the absence of a brain because ID is not committed to an immaterial designer, as it is not inherently theistic, even if its conclusions happen to be friendly to theism (as Neo-Darwinism’s conclusions are friendly to atheism).

    No, I think my characterisation is spot-on. Either the Designer of ID is supposed to be “life as we know it” (some complex physical organism with a brain or something much like one) or it isn’t. I’ve just discussed the challenge for positing a disembodied mind. There are other problems associated with positing an embodied mind – an alien life form (including the fact that SETI has failed to find any evidence of such things, and even more problematic is the fact that if such ET life forms existed, the simpler hypothesis would be that we are simply descendents of those life forms!).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  52. 52
    Box says:

    RDFish: A being that has conscious mental function without the benefit of a physical body is outside of our uniform and repeated experience, and also contradicts what we know of information storage and processing. That doesn’t make it impossible; it does make it a priori unlikely.

    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ — e.g. find the shortest path through a maze? Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary?

  53. 53
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ — e.g. find the shortest path through a maze? Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary?

    First, if you read what I wrote, I never claim that a brain is sufficient for consciousness or even for general intelligence. I point out that it appears to be necessary.

    Second, it is obvious that nothing similar to a brain or nervous system is required to solve most maze tasks, since it’s simple to build a machine with enough intelligence to do such things. Perhaps you are aware that one such problem – that of finding a minimum Steiner Tree – is NP complete, yet can be solved by various microorganisms such as slime mold (and often by mere soap film!).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  54. 54
    RDFish says:

    Here’s an interesting point regarding the maze tasks that Box brought up. If you hammer a set of nails into a board at positions corresponding to the nodes of a network, and dip the board into a bowl of soapy water, the soap film will (usually) stretch to connect the nodes in a manner corresponding to the minimum Steiner Tree.

    People have a hard time coming up with that solution, but soap film can do it quite rapidly. Is the soap film intelligent? Why or why not?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI6rAOWu-Og

  55. 55
    Box says:

    RDFish,
    State of minimum energy of soap film forms Steiner minimal tree.

  56. 56
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,
    Yes of course. But you failed to answer my question!
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  57. 57
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Let me be more clear:

    If a human being solves the Steiner problems, is the person using their intelligence to do so?

    If soap film solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?

    Imagine we approach a room where we hand a Steiner Tree problem through a slot in the door, and in a few seconds the answer comes out. Would we have to withhold judgement regarding whether or not there was an intelligent entity inside the room until we looked inside?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  58. 58
    Box says:

    RDFish: First, if you read what I wrote, I never claim that a brain is sufficient for consciousness or even for general intelligence. I point out that it appears to be necessary.

    Well, I asked if something similar to a brain is “necessary”.

    RDFish:
    Second, it is obvious that nothing similar to a brain or nervous system is required to solve most maze tasks, since it’s simple to build a machine with enough intelligence to do such things.

    Without a programmer (with a brain) we cannot explain such a machine.

    Let me rephrase my question:
    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient support for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ in biological creatures — e.g. find the shortest path through a maze? Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary?

  59. 59
    Box says:

    RDFish: If soap film solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?

    Next you will develop a belief in disembodied intelligence.
    Is it soap film that solves the problems or is it done by the laws of nature?

  60. 60
    Mung says:

    RDFish can’t seem to distinguish a problem from not a problem.

    Soap film does not have problems. Soap film does not solve problems. This hypothesis is testable.

    If you hammer a set of nails into a board at positions corresponding to the nodes of a network…

    You mean if someone intelligent does this?

  61. 61
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Either the Designer of ID is supposed to be “life as we know it” (some complex physical organism with a brain or something much like one) or it isn’t.

    So what? We have to follow the evidence.

    I’ve just discussed the challenge for positing a disembodied mind.

    Your naive opinions don’t really amount to anything.

    There are other problems associated with positing an embodied mind – an alien life form (including the fact that SETI has failed to find any evidence of such things,

    Many say there is plenty of evidence for ETs

    …and even more problematic is the fact that if such ET life forms existed, the simpler hypothesis would be that we are simply descendents of those life forms!).

    And THAT is OK with ID! Life on earth would be the result of intelligent agencies- period, end of story.

    But you have been told this several times and you still persist with your spewage. That is a sign of insanity.

  62. 62
    ppolish says:

    “If soap film solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?”

    Why yes, RDFish, in fact it is. In scientific fact. You don’t appreciate Nature nearly as much as you should. “Where does Nature get it’s awesomeness?” you should ask. You really should. Really.

  63. 63
    Mung says:

    “Life as we know it” is funny. No one knows what life is. No one.

  64. 64
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDF: Second, it is obvious that nothing similar to a brain or nervous system is required to solve most maze tasks, since it’s simple to build a machine with enough intelligence to do such things.
    BOX: Without a programmer (with a brain) we cannot explain such a machine.

    We’re not talking about how the intelligent entity came to exist; rather, we are talking about what sort of thing could be intelligent enough to solve the maze.

    Your question was “Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary [to solve the maze]?” I pointed out that machines like computers (which are in some ways like brains but in other ways very different) can solve mazes. It doesn’t matter what the origin of the maze-solving machine is, any more than it matters to you “who designed the designer?” when you claim ID infers a designer of life.

    You believe that you have been designed by some intelligent agent. Does that mean you are not, yourself, intelligent? Of course you don’t think that follows. Well, neither does it follow that just because a maze-running robot is designed by some intelligent agent that it is not itself intelligent.

    Let me rephrase my question:
    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient support for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ in biological creatures

    I’ve already answered this quite completely @53. You are using the word “sufficient” here, while what I have pointed out is that physical brains appear to be necessary for mental functioning – both “high” and “low” mental functions.

    — e.g. find the shortest path through a maze? Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary?

    I have already answered this. Robots can solve mazes without brains. Slime mold can solve network problems without brains. Soap film can find minimum Steiner Trees without brains.

    RDFish: If soap film solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?
    BOX: Next you will develop a belief in disembodied intelligence.

    Why won’t you simply answer the question? The reason you won’t answer the question is because it challenges your position of course.

    Is it soap film that solves the problems or is it done by the laws of nature?

    Huh? By your way of thinking, nothing in the physical world does anything at all! Hydrogen does not fuse in the Sun and release light and heat, rain does not precipitate from clouds, rivers do not carve canyons, germs do not cause disease…. No, according to you, none of these things happen. It’s just “done by the laws of nature”!

    Both slime mold and soap film solve network problems. It’s not “the laws of nature” that is doing it – it is slime mold, or soap film.

    So, one more time, try to answer my questions, this time without dodging:

    1) If a human being solves the Steiner Tree problems, is the person using their intelligence to do so?

    2) If slime mold solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?

    3) If soap film solves the problems, is it using its intelligence to do so?

    4) Imagine we approach a room where we hand a Steiner Tree problem through a slot in the door, and in a few seconds the answer comes out. Would we have to withhold judgement regarding whether or not there was an intelligent entity inside the room until we looked inside?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  65. 65
    Box says:

    RDFish #64,

    1) yes. 2) yes. 3.) no, there is no agent “soap film”, “who” is using “its” intelligence. 4) Depends on several things; e.g. how does the answer come out the room?

    Question:
    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient support for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ in biological creatures — e.g. find the shortest path through a maze? Or do you hold that something similar to a brain,a nervous system, a machine or a computer is necessary?

  66. 66
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Well thank you for taking a crack at the answers!

    1) yes.
    Ok, so when a human solves the Steiner tree s/he is using intelligence.

    2) yes.
    Ok, so when a glob of slime mold solves the same problem, the slime mold is also using its intelligence.

    3) no.
    So when the soap film solves the very same problem, it is not using any intelligence to do it. The reason you give is because soap film is not an “agent” while slime mold is an “agent”. Unfortunately you fail to disclose why slime mold – an aggregate of eukaryotic cells – is an agent while soap film is not an agent! What makes something an “agent”? Does an agent have to be alive – something biological?

    4) Depends on several things; e.g. how does the answer come out the room?
    Why does that matter?

    In any event, the question goes in as a set of nodes represented by pins stuck into a board, and the problem is to find the minimum Steiner tree for those nodes. The answer comes out as a set of lines that connect the pins.

    So – do you have to look inside the room to determine if there is something intelligent inside or not? Given your answers, then you do indeed! You can’t know if it’s a human or soap film that is figuring out the answer, but you only consider the solutions to be a sign of intelligence when the human figures them out, and not when the slime mold does it!

    Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient support for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ in biological creatures

    I really don’t know what you mean here – I’ve answered repeatedly but you don’t seem to think I’ve responded. Neither I nor anyone else knows if physical bodies are “sufficient support” for mental functions or not.

    Or do you hold that something similar to a brain,a nervous system, a machine or a computer is necessary?

    As I’ve explained many times, information is invariably stored as physical state, so anything capable of storing and processing information in order to navigate a maze appears to require complex physical states (that is, CSI).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  67. 67
    Box says:

    RDFish:

    Box: Is in your opinion “a physical body” sufficient support for higher mental functions like ‘overview’ in biological creatures

    I really don’t know what you mean here (…)

    From this:

    RDFish: That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary.

    I gather that you hold that brain function is necessary for mental function. What I have been trying to get is some conformation, but so far it isn’t working.

    Let me give it another try. One step at a time. Question:

    Do you hold that finding one’s way through complex mazes — without taking a wrong turn — implies the involvement of a (higher) mental function such as “overview”?
    You claim that computers can do this is as well, which I will accept arguendo — I don’t quite understand how they can possibly avoid taking wrong turns in the maze if they don’t know where to go; if they don’t have “overview” —, but in the case of computers there is the involvement of the mental function of the programmer.

    RDFish: What makes something an “agent”? Does an agent have to be alive – something biological?

    An agent can be understood as a relationship between parts and a whole, in which the parts are functionally subservient to the whole. Second, an agent is self-organizing.
    I don’t assume that there can be no agents outside the material realm.

    RDFish: In any event, the question goes in as a set of nodes represented by pins stuck into a board, and the problem is to find the minimum Steiner tree for those nodes. The answer comes out as a set of lines that connect the pins.
    So – do you have to look inside the room to determine if there is something intelligent inside or not?

    Inside the room? Maybe there is just a remote controlled unintelligent thing inside the room. Or do you intend to ask the more general question: “Would we have to withhold judgement regarding whether or not there is intelligence involved somehow”?
    However, as a test for intelligence I propose to exclude all questions that natural law can solve in a direct manner. For instance, “can you show us what a wave pattern looks like?” is the wrong kind of intelligence test for a vibrating stretched slinky.

  68. 68
    Dr JDD says:

    RDFish :

    Can you entertain the possibility that science cannot ever (or may not ever be able to) explain elements or a large proportion of design?

    In other words, if design as a hypothesis is correct, there is a good chance it cannot be scientifically verified? Thus if seeking a scientific explanation for some ting, you might exclude the very thing that is truth itself?

  69. 69
    Mung says:

    Poor RDFish.

    Doesn’t know what differentiates soap scum from slime mold.

    Doesn’t know what a problem is or isn’t.

    Doesn’t know what it means to solve a problem.

  70. 70
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    …and even more problematic is the fact that if such ET life forms existed, the simpler hypothesis would be that we are simply descendents of those life forms!).

    And THAT is OK with ID! Life on earth would be the result of intelligent agencies- period, end of story.

    I can’t believe that is OK with any other IDist here.

    Your parents, i.e your ancestors, were not designers of life.

    Before you were born, there is a good chance they did not even know what your gender was going to be, never mind any other attributes.

  71. 71
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    I can’t believe that is OK with any other IDist here.

    No one cares what you believe.

    Your parents, i.e your ancestors, were not designers of life.

    You obviously are too stupid to understand what I posted. Typical.

    Before you were born, there is a good chance they did not even know what your gender was going to be, never mind any other attributes.

    As I said, obviously you are too stupid to understand what I posted.

    Again, if we are descendents of ETs then we do not share a common ancestry with chimps and life on earth did not evolve from simpler lifeforms- let alone by natural selection.

    Life on the earth would be the direct result of intelligent agencies.

  72. 72
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Again, if we are descendents of ETs then we do not share a common ancestry with chimps and life on earth did not evolve from simpler lifeforms- let alone by natural selection.

    Every single life-form on Earth could have come from the ETs’ home planet(s).

    That we are not related to apes and other life on Earth, is not supported by the DNA evidence.

    The idea that the ETs are not themselves a product of evolution is not backed by any evidence.

    There is also no evidence to suggest that ETs are in any way responsible for life on Earth.

    There is also no evidence pointing to a possible “biological ID” designer.

  73. 73
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian Spearshake:

    Every single life-form on Earth could have come from the ETs’ home planet(s).

    And it would still be ID.

    That we are not related to apes and other life on Earth, is not supported by the DNA evidence.

    How would you know? You can’t assess the evidence.

    The idea that the ETs are not themselves a product of evolution is not backed by any evidence.

    We don’t know about the ETs.

    There is also no evidence to suggest that ETs are in any way responsible for life on Earth.

    There is plenty of evidence that life on earth was designed. There isn’t any evidence that life can arise from non-life via materialistic processes.

    here is also no evidence pointing to a possible “biological ID” designer.

    The genetic code is such evidence. But you are just too dim to grasp it.

  74. 74
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian Spearshake:

    What do you mean by this?

  75. 75
    Virgil Cain says:

    It means I mixed and matched your socks. They go well with your garanimals.

  76. 76
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I gather that you hold that brain function is necessary for mental function.

    I think it’s clear this is the case for human beings and other other animals with the ability to learn and solve novel problems, yes.

    Do you hold that finding one’s way through complex mazes — without taking a wrong turn — implies the involvement of a (higher) mental function such as “overview”?

    I have no idea what you mean by “overview” – is this supposed to be a technical term? Slime mold can solve a maze problem, but I wouldn’t say slime mold exhibits “higher” mental functions such as the ability to generalize from experience or solve novel types of problems.

    You claim that computers can do this is as well, which I will accept arguendo — I don’t quite understand how they can possibly avoid taking wrong turns in the maze if they don’t know where to go;

    Yes computers can obviously be programmed to use whatever strategy rats or ants or human beings use to solve mazes. But nothing avoids wrong turns unless they already have the solution!

    …if they don’t have “overview” —,

    Again, what is “overview”? And why do you put the term in scare quotes?

    …but in the case of computers there is the involvement of the mental function of the programmer.

    Why did you not respond to this when I explained it to you before? Did you not read what I wrote? Here is the explanation again:

    We’re not talking about how the intelligent entity came to exist; rather, we are talking about what sort of thing could be intelligent enough to solve the maze.

    Your question was “Or do you hold that something similar to a brain and/or a nervous system is necessary [to solve the maze]?” I pointed out that machines like computers (which are in some ways like brains but in other ways very different) can solve mazes. It doesn’t matter what the origin of the maze-solving machine is, any more than it matters to you “who designed the designer?” when you claim ID infers a designer of life.

    You believe that you have been designed by some intelligent agent. Does that mean you are not, yourself, intelligent? Of course you don’t think that follows. Well, neither does it follow that just because a maze-running robot is designed by some intelligent agent that it is not itself intelligent.

    RDFish: What makes something an “agent”? Does an agent have to be alive – something biological?

    BOX: An agent can be understood as a relationship between parts and a whole, in which the parts are functionally subservient to the whole.

    So a slime mold is composed of cells, so that makes it an agent? And a soap film, which is composed of molecules, is not an agent? That seems pretty arbitrary to me.

    And what about an immaterial intelligence like a god? If those existed, do you think they would be composed of parts that are functionally subservient to the whole?

    Second, an agent is self-organizing.

    Soap film self-organizes itself into a solution for a Steiner Tree problem. Why doesn’t that make soap film an agent?

    I don’t assume that there can be no agents outside the material realm.

    Well neither do I so that’s not an issue here.

    Inside the room? Maybe there is just a remote controlled unintelligent thing inside the room.

    Right- no way of telling. The proximate cause of the solution of the problem may be intelligent or not. Just like in ID (which people here tell me is all about the proximate, rather than the ultimate, cause of life on Earth) – there is no way of telling if it involved general mental abilities like a human being, or special-purpose abilities like soap film or slime mold, or some other sort of problem-solving that is completely different from slime mold, soap film, ants, humans, and everything else we know of. Maybe it would be conscious; maybe not. Maybe it would have general linguistic abilities; maybe it could only produce that sorts of mappings/codes we see in biological mechanisms. And so on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  77. 77
    Virgil Cain says:

    Umm soap was produced by humans, ie intelligent agencies. And soap film can’t solve any problems, regardless of what RDFish says. Soap film can’t do anything without us.

  78. 78
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    Well, neither does it follow that just because a maze-running robot is designed by some intelligent agent that it is not itself intelligent.

    We have shown robots are not themselves intelligent. Alan Turing provided us with a test. Computers solve mazes because they were programmed to do so. Programmed by someone with a brain.

    When robots achieve free will the we can say they have achieved intelligence.

  79. 79
    Mung says:

    Carpathian: I can’t believe that is OK with any other IDist here.

    And I can’t believe you fail at basic logic. But you do.

    So…

  80. 80
    Mung says:

    RDFish, in what sense of “solve” and in what sense of “problem” can soap scum be said to solve a problem?

    It doesn’t matter what the origin of the maze-solving machine is, any more than it matters to you “who designed the designer?” when you claim ID infers a designer of life.

    No one but you seems to think we’re talking about machines.

  81. 81
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    I have read a couple of your comments in this thread and I think they are sensible.

    However, regarding the soap film: it does not solve problems. It has no capability of solving anything. To state a problem you need to establish communication, hence semiosis, which is a hallmark of intelligence (and which is built-in in a living thing). Inanimate matter (including soap films) forms redundant, minimal-energy structures. These inanimate structures have very low information carrying capacity.

    Of course, to me the laws of nature themselves are a sign of intelligence behind creation. But to the best of my knowledge I don’t think we can scientifically demonstrate it (perhaps because for science the laws of nature are a given).

    Life is drastically different even though at the physical level, it utilizes the same laws of nature (consider e.g. fractals ubiquitous in the living kingdom). And yet, there’s more than fractals to a star fish or a human hand. Life is different in that it uses symbolic representations to function.

  82. 82
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    I have read a couple of your comments in this thread and I think they are sensible.

    Good I’m glad!

    However, regarding the soap film: it does not solve problems. It has no capability of solving anything. To state a problem you need to establish communication, hence semiosis, which is a hallmark of intelligence (and which is built-in in a living thing). Inanimate matter (including soap films) forms redundant, minimal-energy structures. These inanimate structures have very low information carrying capacity.

    I don’t understand why you think people solve the Steiner Tree problem, but soap film doesn’t. First let me ask: What about yet another type of thing that solves the problem, which is slime mold? When slime mold builds up between nodes of the minimum Steiner Tree, does that constitute a solution or not?

    Anyway, the soap film forms sheets between nodes of the minimum tree, and a human being might use a pen to draw those same lines. Why do you say one represents a solution but the other one doesn’t? As far as I can tell, finding the minimum tree is the problem, and both people and soap film (and slime mold too) find the solutions.

    Of course, to me the laws of nature themselves are a sign of intelligence behind creation. But to the best of my knowledge I don’t think we can scientifically demonstrate it (perhaps because for science the laws of nature are a given).

    I would agree and say that would be an untestable claim, in the realm of religion rather than science. But it’s not because laws of nature are “a given” – science actually seeks to discover those laws, not assume them.

    Life is drastically different even though at the physical level, it utilizes the same laws of nature (consider e.g. fractals ubiquitous in the living kingdom). And yet, there’s more than fractals to a star fish or a human hand.

    It’s been very difficult to formalize (i.e. make objective) what it is about living things that makes them different from non-living things. It is likewise difficult to formalize what differentiates intelligent from non-intelligent things. I would say in our experience, everything that is alive is intelligent and everything that is intelligent is alive, but again it’s hard to pin down scientifically because we lack objective definitions for these terms.

    Life is different in that it uses symbolic representations to function.

    Computers use symbolic representations to function, but they aren’t usually considered to be alive.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  83. 83
    mike1962 says:

    RDFish: I don’t understand why you think people solve the Steiner Tree problem, but soap film doesn’t.

    This is ridiculous. People solve problems because they have foresight and can mentally run scenarios and reason logically. Soap doesn’t. It is simply a matter of the properties of the materials involved doing what they do, the same way, every time, in relational to one another. The result is implicit in the relationship of the chemicals. It’s no different than dropping a ball from the roof. The result is implicit and deterministic. Soap cannot not do what it does in that situation. It must do what it does, and nothing different.

  84. 84
    Mung says:

    RDFish: I don’t understand why you think people solve the Steiner Tree problem, but soap film doesn’t.

    We don’t understand why you think soap scum solves any problem. But we do understand why you decline to answer when asked.

  85. 85
    computerist says:

    Why do you say one represents a solution but the other one doesn’t? As far as I can tell, finding the minimum tree is the problem, and both people and soap film (and slime mold too) find the solutions.

    I would guess it’s because people identify problem/s and figure out the solution/s.
    that’s how solving problems work, one first has to identify that there is a problem before designing/implementing a solution.
    soap film doesn’t identify/acknowledge the problem.
    that intelligence (person) knows about soap film “solving” the steiner problem, makes soap film merely a tool/extension of that intelligence, not intelligent in and of itself.

  86. 86
    RDFish says:

    Hi mike1962

    This is ridiculous.

    No it isn’t.

    People solve problems because they have foresight and can mentally run scenarios and reason logically. Soap doesn’t.

    And noone here has argued otherwise of course. So, soap uses a different method than a person to solve these problems. What’s your point?

    It is simply a matter of the properties of the materials involved doing what they do, the same way, every time, in relational to one another. The result is implicit in the relationship of the chemicals. It’s no different than dropping a ball from the roof. The result is implicit and deterministic.

    Your position (that intelligence transcends physical determinism) is called metaphysical libertarianism by philosophers. Some defend this position, others don’t, and still others think it is fundamentally incoherent. In any event, there presently is no scientific test with which to decide if libertarianism is true or false.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  87. 87
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    I would guess it’s because people identify problem/s and figure out the solution/s.
    that’s how solving problems work, one first has to identify that there is a problem before designing/implementing a solution.

    Well, do you agree with Box here, who held that slime mold is displaying intelligence when it solves a maze or tree spanning problem? In that case, you must think that slime mold identifies problems before solving them, while soap film just solves them without “identifying” them. In what way does slime mold “identify” a problem, and then go about designing and implementing a solution?

    Or perhaps you disagree with Box, and you don’t think that slime mold is intelligent after all. In that case, how about a rat – is it intelligent when it solves a maze? What about a flatworm? Do you think that somewhere between slime mold and a human being is some demarcation where lower organisms do not “identify” problems but rather just solve them?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  88. 88
    Box says:

    I recant my statement that slime mold uses intelligence to solve a maze. The way it solves a maze isn’t intelligent. First it covers the entire maze area. Next it retracts its branches from dead-end corridors. That’s how the maze is “solved”.
    In my defense I can say that I was led astray by James A. Barham, who wrongly suggests that something intelligent is going on.

  89. 89
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    Good we are actually moving towards an understanding of each other’s point. This is so rare on internet blogs. Thank you.

    I think that an algorithm that gives a solution to a formulated problem such that this solution is identical to an effect of the principle of minimum energy, is a bona fide solution. However, the same configuration generated by non-living matter (complying with the same principle of minimum energy) is not a solution in the strict sense.

    I cannot agree with you here because I think that life solves many problems to which it finds solutions that, while satisfying the minimum energy principle, are also characterized by something else. I think that you are making a mistake of analogy here. And this is why I think so.

    An algorithm already presupposes the existence of a processor, i.e. of something that will actually execute its instructions! An algorithm can model the behaviour of non-living matter but it is altogether different because it cannot appear other than by intelligence, and it can do more than non-living nature.

    There are no algorithms in non-living world as such. There’s only (self)-ordering phenomena, chaotic states and phase transitions between order (min energy states) and chaos. Non-living nature could not care less about pragmatic utility. All it does with regard to it, is allow states with varying pragmatic utility. Intelligence acting within the realm of non-living nature, seeks to maximize it.

    Life has built-in routines (or can even develop new routines) to find Pareto-optimal bona fide solutions seeking, among other things, to maximize pragmatic utility (while satisfying the basic physical principles).

    I totally agree with you that it is extremely hard (and perhaps will always be) to scientifically pin down what exactly constitutes life or intelligence. And I agree with your characterization of their equivalence. But one particular property, a sign of life or intelligence at work, is semiosis, i.e. the use of representations to disambiguate between physically equivalent equilibrium states such that some form of generalized utility is maximized. It does not mean though that life cannot produce non-semiotic effects.

    On the laws of nature, true, we are discovering new laws, however, I believe that for the most part this discovery is progressive, not reciprocal. We add new knowledge on top of the already laid foundation, which is the essential laws of logic.

    The question is, why can an intelligent mind at all construct a scientific prediction of physical effects occurring in this world? Is it simply because we are a unique product of the material world in some sense isomorphic to it, or is it because the physics of this world is also a product of Intelligence? I believe the latter is the case but I suspect that the answer is beyond science.

  90. 90
    Virgil Cain says:

    Slime molds are living organisms and as such are intelligent agencies.

  91. 91
    mike1962 says:

    RDFish: soap uses a different method than a person to solve these problems.

    Soap doesn’t “solve” any problems.

    RDFish Your position (that intelligence transcends physical determinism) is called metaphysical libertarianism by philosophers.

    I didn’t say anything of the sort. I’m talking about what “solving a problem” is. What humans do when solving problems is nothing like what soap does when it obviously and deterministically follows its course. Solving a problem is a different sort of activity. Whether humans do it deterministically is matter of discussion, but that’s a different question.

    Soap does not “think”. It does not reason logically, process symbols, or run alternative scenarios about the future as humans do when they solve problems. That’s what “solving problems” is by definition. Soap has no “problem” to “solve.”

    For some reason you think re-defining “solving problems” to suite your view is an argument. It is not.

  92. 92
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish:

    So, soap uses a different method than a person to solve

    Soap is not an agent. It does not “use.” It does not “solve.”

    Descending into such idiotic misuse of terms is a sure sign of a bankrupt position. Elizabeth Liddle does something similar when she says a screen “chooses” between large rocks and small rocks.

  93. 93
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I recant my statement that slime mold uses intelligence to solve a maze. The way it solves a maze isn’t intelligent. First it covers the entire maze area. Next it retracts its branches from dead-end corridors. That’s how the maze is “solved”.

    Ok, but it’s telling that there is not even a consensus regarding what things on planet Earth ought to be considered intelligent or not! We can study slime mold in a lab, and understand its behavior in terms of biochemical reactions, but there is uncertainty regarding whether or not its activity consitutes “intelligence”! Clearly the uncertainty is not about what slime mold does, but rather the uncertainty is about what this word “intelligent” is actually supposed to mean!

    Anyway, here you explain how the slime mold solves the problem, and then you simply declare that this method does not qualify as “intelligent”. Can you say why not? Is it because it is explainable, whereas we can’t explain how our own problem-solving works?

    In my defense I can say that I was led astray by James A. Barham, who wrongly suggests that something intelligent is going on.

    So even though there is something that solves this problem (that really is difficult for people to solve), you declare that it isn’t intelligent because… why?

    And once you explain that, think about this: The same problem can be solved by something you do consider intelligent (a human being) and by something you do not consider intelligent (slime mold, or soap film). This is my point about ID: If you really understood what produced biological systems, it may turn out to be something without the characteristics that you consider to be defining of “intelligence” (whatever those characteristics are).

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  94. 94
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    Good we are actually moving towards an understanding of each other’s point. This is so rare on internet blogs. Thank you.

    Great, and thank you too! There are always a few folks on these forums that really do want to – and are able to – debate in good faith.

    An algorithm already presupposes the existence of a processor, i.e. of something that will actually execute its instructions!

    Well, an algorithm doesn’t literally “presuppose” anything, right? An algorithm is just a description of some process. Evolution via RM&NS happens in the world; we can describe that as an algorithm, but that doesn’t mean that it is an algorithm.

    An algorithm can model the behaviour of non-living matter but it is altogether different because it cannot appear other than by intelligence, and it can do more than non-living nature.

    Sorry I don’t understand what you mean here. This is not going to become clear until you come up with specific working definitions for both “living” and “intelligent”. They are both very vague concepts, and in order to be useful in science, they require precise definitions in terms of empirical observables.

    In any event, algorithms can model both non-living processes (like an inorganic chemical process) and living processes (like the behavior of swarms or colonies of insects).

    I totally agree with you that it is extremely hard (and perhaps will always be) to scientifically pin down what exactly constitutes life or intelligence. And I agree with your characterization of their equivalence.

    Right. So when ID tries to explain the origin of life by invoking “intelligence”, it is similar to saying “the origin of life is explained by … life”. “Intelligence” is the sole explanatory concept of all of ID theory, yet no precise definition for the term is ever offered, resulting in a theory that is impossible to evaluate scientifically.

    The question is, why can an intelligent mind at all construct a scientific prediction of physical effects occurring in this world? Is it simply because we are a unique product of the material world in some sense isomorphic to it, or is it because the physics of this world is also a product of Intelligence? I believe the latter is the case but I suspect that the answer is beyond science.

    Yes! I agree with you completely – that is a fundamental and mysterious question. My suspicion is that intelligence (and consciousness itself) is a fundamental aspect of reality. It is not that some intelligent being created physical reality; rather, that physical reality is intelligent in some way our minds are not able to comprehend.

    But this is all just so much late-night metaphysics, without any science to it at all. That is why I object to ID trying to sneak in (as we’ve seen in this discussion) various metaphysical assumptions (libertarianism, dualism) as though they were scientific facts.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  95. 95
    RDFish says:

    Hi mike1962,

    Soap doesn’t “solve” any problems. … I’m talking about what “solving a problem” is. What humans do when solving problems is nothing like what soap does when it obviously and deterministically follows its course. Solving a problem is a different sort of activity. Whether humans do it deterministically is matter of discussion, but that’s a different question.

    If you would like to provide an objective definition of “problem solving” that includes what people do and excludes what soap film does, then do so. Otherwise you’re just declaring your own personal opinion as though it was fact.

    Still, you keep bringing up the fact that soap acts “deterministically”, implying that is why it isn’t solving a problem. That is why I still think what you are really saying is that humans are non-determined while other “natural” processes are determined – and that is called metaphysical libertarianism.

    Soap does not “think”.

    Instead of using these mentalistic words and putting them in scare quotes, you need to actually say what these words are supposed to mean. Instead, we’re just arguing about definitions and not about matters of fact.

    It does not reason logically, process symbols, or run alternative scenarios about the future as humans do when they solve problems.

    Yes, I agree with that of course – nobody believes that soap film (or slime mold) processes information that way.

    That’s what “solving problems” is by definition.

    Well, that is your definition, and now that you’ve made that clear, we can agree that by that definition, neither soap film nor slime mold solves problems, but humans do.

    But if soap film and slime mold doesn’t solve the problem, what do you call it when the minimum Steiner Tree appears in the soap film, or when the slime mold finds the path through the maze? If a human did the same thing, you would call it “intelligent”, but when soap film or slime mold does it you say it isn’t intelligent.

    What this means is that things that we call “intelligent” when a human does can be accomplished by things we call “unintelligent” when something else does it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  96. 96
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry Arrington,

    Soap is not an agent. It does not “use.” It does not “solve.”

    As usual, you fail to make an argument, and believe that your semantic decrees (complete with scare quotes) are supposed to be taken seriously as debating points. Does that ever work for you?

    Why not try to actually debate instead of stomping your feet and waving your arms, Barry? Provide definitions of your terms so we can stop arguing about what these words mean and instead argue about what we can infer from our observations?

    Once and for all, stop hiding behind your ever-changing, ambiguous terms, and say what these words are supposed to mean in the context of ID, a supposedly empirical theory! Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!

    (hint: you can’t, which is one reason ID fails to be a scientific theory)

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  97. 97
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish:

    Provide definitions of your terms so we can stop arguing about what these words mean and instead argue about what we can infer from our observations?

    I would have bet a million dollars you would take that tack. You make an absurd assertion that ascribes to soap characteristics of an agent it clearly does not possess. Then, when I point out the absurdity of your position you say “let’s play definition derby.” Your assertion is absurd on its face. It would be a mistake to dignify it with a responsive argument.

  98. 98
    Barry Arrington says:

    RDFish:

    Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!

    Are you suggesting we cannot distinguish forensically between the causal forces that resulted in the international space station and the causal forces that resulted in a pile of rocks at the bottom of a landslide?

  99. 99
    mike1962 says:

    RDFish,

    Does soup reason? Does it use logic? Can it run scenarios of the future and make a choice? Answers: No. No. And No. If you insist on asserting that soap “solves” a “problem” in the same sense that humans solve problems, I have nothing left to say. Vice dimitteret populum decernere.

  100. 100
    StephenB says:

    Hi RD:

    Do you still hold that the act of creating the material universe would violate the Law of Conservation?

  101. 101
    RDFish says:

    Hi Barry Arrington,

    I would have bet a million dollars you would take that tack.

    It is hilarious that you can’t do it. Don’t feel bad – nobody else here can do it either. These terms don’t mean anything at all in the context of ID obviously – otherwise you could simply tell me what exactly what they are supposed to mean.

    You make an absurd assertion that ascribes to soap characteristics of an agent it clearly does not possess.

    Saying “clearly” is like stamping your feet harder – it doesn’t mean you’ve clarified your argument, or provided the definitions that you need to come up with.

    Your assertion is absurd on its face. It would be a mistake to dignify it with a responsive argument.

    Ah yes, always the last resort of a someone who has lost the argument 🙂

    Are you suggesting we cannot distinguish forensically between the causal forces that resulted in the international space station and the causal forces that resulted in a pile of rocks at the bottom of a landslide?

    And here you make the same mistake I have corrected thousands of times. HUMAN BEINGS built the space station. HUMAN BEINGS are what forensics experts identify as the cause of crimes, and anthropologists identify as the cause of ancient pottery.

    These HUMAN BEINGS are never identified as members of some abstract imaginary class of things called “agents” or “intelligences”. Rather, they are identified as members of the class of HUMAN BEINGS, which is a very concrete category, easily identifiable by specific criteria.

    Simply provide empirical criteria that will identify “agents” the way we identify “human beings” (and every other explanatory construct in science) and you may actually win this debate. If you don’t, however, it will remain clear that all this talk of “agents” and “intelligence” is scientifically meaningless in the context of ID.

    So one more time, Barry: How do you propose to specify an empirical inclusion criterion for the class of “agents”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  102. 102
    RDFish says:

    Hi mike1962,

    Does soup reason? Does it use logic? Can it run scenarios of the future and make a choice? Answers: No. No. And No.

    I’ve already made this perfectly clear to you @95, If you won’t read and respond to what I write, our discussion isn’t going to progress.

    If you insist on asserting that soap “solves” a “problem” in the same sense that humans solve problems, I have nothing left to say.

    I’ve made this perfectly clear too: Soap solves these problems in a way that is very different from the way humans solve them! Why can’t understand this?

    Soap film, slime mold, and human beings all produce the same result for minimum Steiner trees. All three use different methods to arrive at this result. Whether you choose to call one or two or all three “problem solvers” or “intelligent” is merely a matter of semantics, not of fact. You can define these terms to include or exclude whatever you like, but it doesn’t alter the fact that all three produce the same solutions.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  103. 103
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    It’s a shame you don’t feel able to join in the debate, and instead you’re still working on your confusion from some discussion long ago. As I recall, you were having trouble understanding that the concept of “creation” is problematic if there is no transition from a time before the created thing exists to a time after the created thing exists. If there was never a time before the thing exists (as is the case for the universe), then our usual notion of “creation” can’t apply.

    Anyway, I’m really not interested in explaining that any more – I can’t even remember how you sidetracked me into that discussion in the first place. As always, my interest is in the ambiguous and specious arguments of ID as a scientific theory, the problems with using “intelligence” or “agency” as explanatory concepts, ID’s smuggling in of metaphysical positions such as dualism and libertarianism, and so on.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  104. 104
    RDFish says:

    In case my central argument here has been lost in the confusion introduced by various folks, here it is:

    Imagine a maze or network where there are a multitude of possible paths, but only one corresponding to a specification that we can recognize (like the notion of “specification” in “complex specified information”). That one specified path may be the minumum distance joining all nodes (like the Steiner spanning tree) or perhaps it leads from the beginning to the end of a maze. Let’s call that one path the “solution”, and the maze the “problem”, and the act of somehow identifying or displaying the solution to the problem let’s call “solving the problem”.

    Now that we’ve dispensed with the confusion regarding what a “problem” or “solution” is, or what it means to “solve a problem”, let’s take a look at how different things solve maze problems.

    Ant and termite colonies can solve these problems by marking the paths with different chemicals. Slime mold solves these problems with a well-understood feedback process (http://guava.physics.uiuc.edu/.....artini.pdf). Pigeons solve the problems by remembering environmental features. Rats solve the problems by remembering geometic relationships. Soap films solve the problem by relaxing into a minumum-energy configuration. Humans solve the problems by a number of different means.

    What is the relevance to ID? Simply referring to “intelligence” solving the problem doesn’t mean anything – all it means is “the ability to solve the problem”. You can go on and give the term “intelligence” some other sort of definition (“not physically determined”, or “not natural”, or “the action of a living thing”, or “using free will”, or “using foresight and planning” or whatever else – but none of these definitions are scientifically useful because there is no empirical method to discover them in the context of ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  105. 105
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    It’s a shame you don’t feel able to join in the debate, and instead you’re still working on your confusion from some discussion long ago.

    You may recall that this thread was about between religion, atheism, and cults before you tried to hijack it and convert it into an anti-ID rant.

    As I recall, you were having trouble understanding that the concept of “creation” is problematic if there is no transition from a time before the created thing exists to a time after the created thing exists.

    No, I had no trouble understanding the relationship between time and creation, but it seems evident that you did (and do)–not to mention your rather obvious attempt to evade the question: Do you still believe that creating the material universe violates the law of conservation?

    If there was never a time before the thing exists (as is the case for the universe), then our usual notion of “creation” can’t apply.

    Please explain how bringing a universe into being violates our usual notion of “creation.”

    Creation

    Noun.

    “1.
    the act of producing or causing to exist; the act of creating; engendering.
    2.
    the fact of being created.
    3.
    something that is or has been created.
    4.
    the Creation, the original bringing into existence of the universe by God.
    5.
    the world; universe.”

    Anyway, I’m really not interested in explaining that any more – I can’t even remember how you sidetracked me into that discussion in the first place.

    You have never explained it.

    As always, my interest is in the ambiguous and specious arguments of ID as a scientific theory, the problems with using “intelligence” or “agency” as explanatory concepts, ID’s smuggling in of metaphysical positions such as dualism and libertarianism, and so on.

    I am well aware of your perennial talking points, which are unrelated to the subject matter of this post. Meanwhile, my question persists.

  106. 106
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    And here you make the same mistake I have corrected thousands of times. HUMAN BEINGS built the space station. HUMAN BEINGS are what forensics experts identify as the cause of crimes, and anthropologists identify as the cause of ancient pottery.

    These HUMAN BEINGS are never identified as members of some abstract imaginary class of things called “agents” or “intelligences”. Rather, they are identified as members of the class of HUMAN BEINGS, which is a very concrete category, easily identifiable by specific criteria.

    Simply provide empirical criteria that will identify “agents” the way we identify “human beings” (and every other explanatory construct in science) and you may actually win this debate. If you don’t, however, it will remain clear that all this talk of “agents” and “intelligence” is scientifically meaningless in the context of ID.

    So one more time, Barry: How do you propose to specify an empirical inclusion criterion for the class of “agents”?

    The reason Barry dismisses you is because this question has been answered for you hundreds of times. An intelligent agent is any entity capable of arranging or rearranging matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected. It is not limited to human beings, but it certainly does not apply to soap scum.

    Can you explain why you think that soap scum can arrange matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected? Can you define the arrangement of matter that it produces and explain how that arrangement qualifies as a detectable pattern?

  107. 107
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    That’s fine – since you have no rebuttals to any of my many other arguments, we can move on to this metaphysical kerfuffle with which you seem enamored regarding creation and time.

    Do you still believe that creating the material universe violates the law of conservation?

    Only if it could have been created; what I’ve explained to you endlessly is that since there was never a time before the universe existed, then our usual notion of “creation” is not applicable – it doesn’t make sense.

    Please explain how bringing a universe into being violates our usual notion of “creation.”

    I just did. Again: In all of our usual experience of “creation”, there is a creation event. There is a transition from (A) a time before the creation event, when the created thing does not exist, to (B) a time after the creation event, when the created thing does exist. Since there is no (A) in the case of the universe itself, our usual experience of “creation” does not apply.

    I’m well aware that philosophers and theologians have described other senses of “creation” that are atemporal; you’re welcome to specify that is what you are referring to, but these are certainly not our usual concept of creation that is in our experience.

    The reason Barry dismisses you is because this question has been answered for you hundreds of times.

    No, he dismisses me because he gets frustrated that he can’t win the argument.

    Anyway, it has been answered many times but (1) every time it’s answered, the ID proponent has a different idea of what those terms are supposed to mean, and (2) none of the answers satisfy the requirement for a meaningful, empirically accessible criteria in the context of ID.

    An intelligent agent is any entity capable of arranging or rearranging matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected.

    Ah yes, and when we last spoke you had repeatedly dodged my response:

    “Purpose” is not discernable by simply looking at the (re) arrangements of matter and without interacting with the cause. When water is rearranged into raindrops and dropped on a cornfield, the raincloud was not consciously aware of the purpose of watering the corn. When water is rearranged by a farmer and dropped on the cornfield, however, the farmer certainly can express his purposeful intention to water his crops.

    Thus, the same rearrangement of matter may be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”, depending on what did the rearranging.

    I could name any number of arrangements of matter that could be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”. For example, I think it’s terrific that there is an arrangement of matter into a Sun that emits high-energy protons, a metallic core of the Earth that produces a magnetic field that decreases in strength at the poles, and an atmosphere with gasses like oxygen and nitrogen. And all this for the purpose of giving us the Northern Lights!

    It is not limited to human beings, but it certainly does not apply to soap scum.

    Does it apply to slime mold? (don’t worry, you’ll have problems either way you answer)

    Can you explain why you think that soap scum can arrange matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected?

    Of course soap film isn’t aware of any purpose – it’s pretty ridiculous of you to think it might. Soap film does, however, solve the problem in question. As I’ve explained above, there are lots of ways to solve these problems; soap film uses one of them.

    Anyway, you’ve chosen one particular, ideosyncratic definition of “intelligence” which includes this stuff about “purpose”, but of course this differs from all the other ID supporters who have chimed in on this – and so many other – discussions. Here people think various other things, such as that intelligent agents are to be understood as a self-organizing relationship between parts and a whole, in which the parts are functionally subservient to the whole; or something that is not physically determined and has free will; or is alive.

    It would be so much easier if ID theorists would recognize the need to clarify what it means by this term “intelligence”, its sole explanatory construct.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  108. 108
    StephenB says:

    SB: Do you still believe that creating the material universe violates the law of conservation?

    RDFish

    I’m well aware that philosophers and theologians have described other senses of “creation” that are atemporal; you’re welcome to specify that is what you are referring to, but these are certainly not our usual concept of creation that is in our experience.

    It is obvious that this is the sense of creation that I am referring to. So much time wasted with evasive distractions. My question persists: How does the creation of the universe violate the law of conservation?

    SB: An intelligent agent is any entity capable of arranging or rearranging matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected.

    Ah yes, and when we last spoke you had repeatedly dodged my response:

    I have never dodged anything. You just ignore refutations and carry on as if nothing had happened. I guess I will have to take you through it all over again.

    “Purpose” is not discernable by simply looking at the (re) arrangements of matter and without interacting with the cause.

    Purpose can be inferred from a discernable arrangement of matter.

    When water is rearranged into raindrops and dropped on a cornfield, the raincloud was not consciously aware of the purpose of watering the corn. When water is rearranged by a farmer and dropped on the cornfield, however, the farmer certainly can express his purposeful intention to water his crops.

    Pure nonsense. Instances of poured water do not constitute a purposeful arrangement of matter that represents a discernable pattern. If you disagree, then tell me this: Which parts of matter do you think were arranged? How did you detect that pattern?

    Thus, the same rearrangement of matter may be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”, depending on what did the rearranging.

    More nonsense. Show me where the farmer displayed a purposeful arrangement of matter. Where is the pattern? Describe it.

    I could name any number of arrangements of matter that could be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”.

    Why don’t you try to come up with one? Buckets of poured water do not qualify.

    For example, I think it’s terrific that there is an arrangement of matter into a Sun that emits high-energy protons, a metallic core of the Earth that produces a magnetic field that decreases in strength at the poles, and an atmosphere with gasses like oxygen and nitrogen. And all this for the purpose of giving us the Northern Lights!

    Huh? Clearly, you don’t know anything at all about detectable patterns of matter arranged for a purpose. What patterns of arranged matter can you detect in the Northern Lights? How is that pattern arranged?

    Does it apply to slime mold? (don’t worry, you’ll have problems either way you answer)

    Slime mold does not leave detectable patterns.

    SB: Can you explain why you think that soap scum can arrange matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected?

    Of course soap film isn’t aware of any purpose – it’s pretty ridiculous of you to think it might. Soap film does, however, solve the problem in question. As I’ve explained above, there are lots of ways to solve these problems; soap film uses one of them.

    Of course, I don’t think that soap film is aware of a purpose. You must really be getting desperate. You are the one who is trying to convert soap scum into an intelligent agent–not me. I am still waiting for you to describe the pattern of arranged parts that you think can be found there.

    Anyway, you’ve chosen one particular, ideosyncratic definition of “intelligence” which includes this stuff about “purpose”, but of course this differs from all the other ID supporters who have chimed in on this – and so many other – discussions.

    My definition doesn’t differ from what other knowledgeable ID proponents say. It differs in texture because you continually inject new angles and contexts and moving targets that call for different kinds of answers. Then you try to set one against the other.

    Here people think various other things, such as that intelligent agents are to be understood as a self-organizing relationship between parts and a whole, in which the parts are functionally subservient to the whole; or something that is not physically determined and has free will; or is alive.

    No doubt you asked a question that prompted such an answer. However, my present purpose is to refute your claim @101, which has been accomplished.

    It is a sad fact that you still do not understand the paradigm that you presume to critique. Only someone who is totally disconnected to reality would propose buckets of poured water, slime mold, soap scum, the sun, and the Northern Lights as examples of detectable patterns of arranged matter. I mean, really, this is pathetic.

  109. 109
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    It is obvious that this is the sense of creation that I am referring to. So much time wasted with evasive distractions.

    Oooh, this one is rich! You fail to clarify the sense of the word that YOU are using, and complain to me that I did not clarify that sense for YOU? Hilarious!

    Why don’t you save everyone some time and try and be specific about your terminology? Tell us what you mean instead of making us guess? I’ll tell you exactly why you don’t: Because ambiguity and obfuscation are the only tools you have available to avoid seeing your position crumble.

    SB: Do you still believe that creating the material universe violates the law of conservation?

    Have you stopped beating your wife – yes or no?

    AGAIN: Only if it could have been created; what I’ve explained to you endlessly is that since there was never a time before the universe existed, then our usual notion of “creation” is not applicable – it doesn’t make sense.

    My question persists: How does the creation of the universe violate the law of conservation?

    Only in your confused mind I’m afraid; your question has been answered over and over again. Patient man that I am, though, I will try and help you one last time: The definition of a violation of the law of conservation is this: mass/energy is created or destroyed. This law uses the usual notion of creation/destruction, meaning that something that does not exist at one moment of time comes to exist at some later moment in time. I’m afraid if you don’t understand this by now you never will.

    Purpose can be inferred from a discernable arrangement of matter.

    What do you mean by “purpose”? Does “purpose” have to be consciously apprehended, for example? Does it have to be articulated, or consciously thought of, prior to this act of “arranging”?

    Instances of poured Water do not constitute a purposeful arrangement of matter that represents a discernable pattern. If you disagree, then tell me this: Which parts of matter do you think were arranged? How did you detect that pattern?

    Huh? You didn’t say anything about a “pattern” – all you said was that intelligent agents rearranged matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected.

    Again, why don’t you at least try to say what you mean? Why all the games? Is “matter arranged for a purpose” the same thing as CSI? Why make me guess instead of just saying it? What are you afraid of?

    I’m always perfectly willing to clarify my terminology, because I’m not afraid of saying what I mean.

    Of course it doesn’t apply to slime mold. Slime mold does not leave detectable patterns.

    Slime mold leaves a pattern of, among other things, minimum Steiner trees. The odds against slime mold producing these patterns randomly are astronomical. But of course since you haven’t actually disclosed what you mean by “detectable pattern” I have no way of knowing what you are talking about.

    You are the one who is trying to convert soap scum into an intelligent agent–not me.

    This is deeply confused. Pay attention. I am not “converting soap film into an intelligent agent”. Rather, I am saying that soap film demonstrably solves problems that we would say required intelligence if a human being solved the same problem. Then, I am asking you if you consider soap film to be intelligent, and why or why not.

    The only answer you’ve given after all this time is that soap film doesn’t detectably arrange matter for a purpose. But since you always fail to explain what you mean, we now have to go through this arduous process of endless miscommunication.

    My definition doesn’t differ from what other knowledgeable ID proponents say.

    Great! So you are saying that every single definition of “intelligence” I’ve seen from the knowledgeable ID proponents here apply in the context of ID? How about these:

    “Neither random nor determined”
    “Using free will”
    “Using foresight and planning”
    “Able to produce CSI”
    “Able to learn, reason, and use language”
    “Capable of conscious, rational thought”

    You think that ID can provide evidence that the cause of life had all of these attributes then?

    RDF: Here people think various other things, such as that intelligent agents are to be understood as a self-organizing relationship between parts and a whole, in which the parts are functionally subservient to the whole; or something that is not physically determined and has free will; or is alive.
    SB: No doubt you asked a question that prompted such an answer.

    Hahahahaha! It’s my fault that everyone who believes in ID has some completely ideosyncratic notion of what is supposed to explain life, the universe, and everything. It’s my fault because I ask questions! Hilarious!!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  110. 110
    Upright BiPed says:

    Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!

    An operational definition?

    If it can “send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth.”

    Are operational definitions valid?

  111. 111
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    In that case, most people (except for radio engineers) are not, per your definition, intelligent agents.

    Furthermore, ID’s central claim would be “certain features of the universe such as the origin of biological information are best explained by something that can send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, which is a very odd and unhelpful theory.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  112. 112
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    The one thing one cannot doubt is one’s own existence. I think therefor I am. Even when I doubt my existence, I have to exist — in order to doubt my existence. Even when I am being deceived, I have to exist — in order to be deceived.
    The fact of one’s existence is one’s most fundamental knowledge.

    This is not negated by the circumstance that one cannot formulate exhaustive definitions for “I”, “think”, “therefor” and “am”.

    It’s quite possible that RDFish is of a different opinion, so I am asking. Do you hold that cogito ergo sum is no knowledge, because of the lack of exhaustive definitions for the terms? Do you hold that therefor cogito ergo sum is no knowledge at all — zero knowledge?

    P.S. notice that the reality of intelligence is intertwined (presupposed even) with one’s most fundamental knowledge “cogito ergo sum” — not so much in the “think” but rather in the “therefor” — and notice also that matter is nowhere to be found.

  113. 113
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish is confused:

    HUMAN BEINGS are what forensics experts identify as the cause of crimes, and anthropologists identify as the cause of ancient pottery.

    It’s called knowledge of cause and effect relationships. And it is one foundation of science.

    AGAIN, if we see something that humans are known to do or something similar to it, if humans were not around we infer it was some other intelligent agency. We don’t say that mother nature magically got some power just because we weren’t around.

    Rather, I am saying that soap film demonstrably solves problems that we would say required intelligence if a human being solved the same problem.

    Except soap film doesn’t solve any problems. If anything soap film would be a tool that WE use to help us solve problems.

    RDFish’s purpose is to obfuscate not educate.

    So you are saying that every single definition of “intelligence” I’ve seen from the knowledgeable ID proponents here apply in the context of ID?

    You have been given the proper definition and you have choked on it. Now all you can do is play little games because you are an obtuse infant.

    Why are we feeding the obtuse and insipid troll?

  114. 114
    Virgil Cain says:

    It would be so much easier if ID theorists would recognize the need to clarify what it means by this term “intelligence”, its sole explanatory construct.

    We have. You are just an obtuse arse on an agenda. Too bad you won’t put your money where your mouth is and ante up for an actual, formal debate on the issue.

  115. 115
    Andre says:

    I’ll say it again;

    A hallmark of intelligence is the ability to both encode and decode environments.

  116. 116
    EugeneS says:

    Hi RDFish,

    I accept there are versions of ID and by ID various people mean various things. Here is a falsifiable variant of ID.

    I think that apart from saying this:

    1. All known information processing systems have intelligent origin;
    2. Living organisms are information processing systems;
    3. Consequently, living organisms have intelligent origin.

    to be falsifiable ID needs an extra corollary, if you like, that must be falsifiable independently, i.e. by observations.

    One such additional property is the presence of control over chemical synthesis of life. In other words, if chemical synthesis of life is at all possible, it must be controlled.

    My take on this is as follows:

    1. For system S={test tube, chemicals, external energy source} define system states to be a set T ={BEFORE, AFTER}.

    2. Define LIFE as a state possessing a set of properties including {semiosis, information processing, adaptation, decision making, growth, metabolism, replication, reaction to stimuli, etc as appropriate}.

    3. Define SYNTHESIS as an operator on T and S such that AFTER = SYNTHESIS(S,BEFORE).

    4. Define INTELLIGENT SYNTHESIS as a SYNTHESIS that requires control as per control theory (see e.g. here).

    5. Assuming:

    5.1. BEFORE = NOT(LIFE);
    5.2. For every state BEFORE there exists a SYNTHESIS that transforms BEFORE to AFTER,

    6. I claim that

    AFTER = LIFE => INTELLIGENT SYNTHESIS.

    In other words, falsification is possible whenever

    AFTER = LIFE AND NOT(INTELLIGENT SYNTHESIS)

    is observed.

  117. 117
    Upright BiPed says:

    #111

    You’ve become confused RD.

    You asked a question. I answered it with a valid answer. Rather than acknowledge the answer, you changed the question. How very typical of you.

  118. 118
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Oooh, this one is rich! You fail to clarify the sense of the word that YOU are using, and complain to me that I did not clarify that sense for YOU? Hilarious!

    Incredible. I use the dictionary definition of “creation” and even cite it for RD, but he claims not to know what the word means. Translation: RD cannot defend his irrational claim that creating the universe violates the law of conservation.

    Patient man that I am, though, I will try and help you one last time: The definition of a violation of the law of conservation is this: mass/energy is created or destroyed.

    First, you tell a big fib and say that I didn’t define creation. Then, you provide your own false definition of the LOC. Just so that you will know, the LOC pertains to “closed systems.” Funny that you would leave out such a critical element.

    Let’s face it. You are afraid to defend your ridiculous claim that creating the material universe would violate the law of conservation. In fact, there is no logical reason at all why the Creator could not bring the law of conservation into being without violating its principle of conservation, especially if he created that very same principle. Concede the point and move on. You have no chance of winning that argument.

    What do you mean by “purpose”? Does “purpose” have to be consciously apprehended, for example? Does it have to be articulated, or consciously thought of, prior to this act of “arranging”?

    No. The spider weaves his web for a purpose, but it doesn’t apprehend that purpose.

    SB: Instances of poured Water do not constitute a purposeful arrangement of matter that represents a discernable pattern. If you disagree, then tell me this: Which parts of matter do you think were arranged? How did you detect that pattern?

    Huh? You didn’t say anything about a “pattern” – all you said was that intelligent agents rearranged matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected.

    Oh dear, another big fib. At @106, I asked, “Can you explain why you think that soap scum can arrange matter for a purpose in a way that can be detected? Can you define the arrangement of matter that it produces and explain how that arrangement qualifies as a detectable pattern?”. Don’t you understand that it is the pattern of arranged matter that is detected? For someone who claims to understand ID, you certainly provide no evidence of grasping it–even at the most basic level.

    Meanwhile, you are avoiding my question: How do you detect the farmer’s purpose by observing poured water? What arrangement of matter are you referring to?

    Slime mold leaves a pattern of, among other things, minimum Steiner trees. The odds against slime mold producing these patterns randomly are astronomical. But of course since you haven’t actually disclosed what you mean by “detectable pattern” I have no way of knowing what you are talking about.

    A detectable pattern is one that can be detected as a purposeful arrangement of matter. How do you detect a purposeful arrangement of matter from “Steiner trees?” Take me from point A to point B.

    This is deeply confused. Pay attention. I am not “converting soap film into an intelligent agent”. Rather, I am saying that soap film demonstrably solves problems that we would say required intelligence if a human being solved the same problem. Then, I am asking you if you consider soap film to be intelligent, and why or why not.

    The confusion is all yours .I said nothing about “problem solving.” You just injected that idea into the discussion to distract from the issue, presumably to elevate slime mold and soap scum to the level of intelligent agents. Remarkable! Never mind that you didn’t define “problem solving” in that context, which could mean almost anything.

    The only answer you’ve given after all this time is that soap film doesn’t detectably arrange matter for a purpose. But since you always fail to explain what you mean, we now have to go through this arduous process of endless miscommunication.

    Soap film does not leave a pattern that indicates a purposeful arrangement of parts.

    Great! So you are saying that every single definition of “intelligence” I’ve seen from the knowledgeable ID proponents here apply in the context of ID? How about these:

    No, I am saying that you keep changing the questions so that you can get different answers so that you can claim that ID is not being consistent.

    “Neither random nor determined”
    “Using free will”
    “Using foresight and planning”
    “Able to produce CSI”
    “Able to learn, reason, and use language”
    “Capable of conscious, rational thought”
    You think that ID can provide evidence that the cause of life had all of these attributes then?

    ID always provides evidence for the presence of an intelligent agent, defined as one that is capable of purposefully arranging matter in a way that can be detected. ID sometimes produces evidence for many of those other things, but not always. Do I really need to explain that a spider does not have free will and cannot plan with an end in mind? Do I really need to explain that a spider is not conspicuous for its ability to use language?

    Hahahahaha! It’s my fault that everyone who believes in ID has some completely ideosyncratic notion of what is supposed to explain life, the universe, and everything. It’s my fault because I ask questions! Hilarious!!

    No, it’s your fault for either not understanding the ID paradigm or for pretending not to understand it. Oh yes, I forgot: Hahahahahahahaha!

  119. 119
    RDFish says:

    i Box,

    The fact of one’s existence is one’s most fundamental knowledge.

    Sure, OK.

    This is not negated by the circumstance that one cannot formulate exhaustive definitions for “I”, “think”, “therefor” and “am”.

    These are not offered anywhere as scientific explanations for anything. Scientific explanations always have empirically based terms. ID doesn’t, so it’s not a scientific explanation.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  120. 120
    RDFish says:

    Hi Andre,

    I’ll say it again;

    A hallmark of intelligence is the ability to both encode and decode environments.

    Ok, we can add this to the long list of disparate meanings that this word “intelligence” is supposed to have. How do we test for this ability of encoding/decoding environments? Imagine I have something here in my lab and I want to figure out if it is intelligent or not. How do I go about doing that?

    Scientific theories require clear, empirically based explanatory constructs. ID fails to provide one.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  121. 121
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    1. All known information processing systems have intelligent origin;
    2. Living organisms are information processing systems;
    3. Consequently, living organisms have intelligent origin.

    1. All known intelligent beings contain CSI and CSI is required for all known information processing and design tasks.
    2. Therefore the original CSI must not have been produced by an intelligent being.

    OK? These two syllogisms together tells us that we cannot solve the problem of the origin of complex form and function by merely extrapolating from our experience. So, ID is wrong to offer a “known cause” as the cause of biological information.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  122. 122
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    #111
    You’ve become confused RD.
    You asked a question. I answered it with a valid answer. Rather than acknowledge the answer, you changed the question. How very typical of you.

    You are the confused one as always: I never changed the question as anyone can see. I asked the question, then you answered, and then I showed why your answer fails to provide a scientific basis for ID. Thanks for that!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  123. 123
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I use the dictionary definition of “creation”…

    Don’t you realize by now that dictionaries capture common usage of words, and do not provide technical definitions for philosophical and scientific analysis? Have you ever actually gone to school of some sort?

    Then, you provide your own false definition of the LOC.

    Definitions are not true or false. This is perhaps one of your greatest confusions. If you understood this, we would not waste so much time with you pretending that your definitions are “true” while others’ are not.

    Anyone can define any word to mean anything, as long as they clearly explain how they are using that word. Philosophers and scientists are constantly providing technical definitions for terms in order to make their arguments clear. You on the other hand refuse to even try to provide clear technical definitions, and instead pretend that you have some sort of authority to tell other people what they mean by certain words. You are ridiculous.

    Let’s face it. You are afraid to defend your ridiculous claim that creating the material universe would violate the law of conservation.

    Face this: As I’ve explained to you endlessly, as I and everyone else on this planet understand and experience the concept, creating requires a creation event, which exists in time, so the spacetime could not be created. The fact that theologians have developed a highly unintuitive workaround for “creation” that has to do with logical rather than temporal relations doesn’t alter that fact one bit.

    AGAIN: DEFINITIONS ARE NEITHER TRUE NOR FALSE. THEY ARE SIMPLY CONVENTIONS OF MEANING TO ALLOW DISCUSSION. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO USE YOUR TECHNICAL DEFINITION OF “CREATION” THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TIME THEN YOU ARE FREE TO DO SO.

    You are manufacturing this controversy because you know you can’t counter any of my arguments, so you want to constantly change the subject. Pathetic!

    RDF: What do you mean by “purpose”? Does “purpose” have to be consciously apprehended, for example? Does it have to be articulated, or consciously thought of, prior to this act of “arranging”?
    SB: No. The spider weaves his web for a purpose, but it doesn’t apprehend that purpose.

    How do you know he weaves his web for a purpose? How do you know the raincloud doesn’t precipate for a purpose? What are your empirical tests to establish this “purpose”?

    I ask these questions as though I am speaking to someone who will respond in good faith, but we both know if you had answers to these questions you would have given them long ago. You have no answers to these questions StephenB. It must be awful for you.

    Meanwhile, you are avoiding my question: How do you detect the farmer’s purpose by observing poured water? What arrangement of matter are you referring to?

    You cannot detect purpose by observing poured water. You detect purpose by asking the farmer why he is doing what he’s doing of course. This option isn’t available in ID, which is why you can’t detect purpose in the context of ID.

    Never mind that you didn’t define “problem solving” in that context, which could mean almost anything.

    You are wrong (or lying) yet again. @104:

    RDF: Imagine a maze or network where there are a multitude of possible paths, but only one corresponding to a specification that we can recognize (like the notion of “specification” in “complex specified information”). That one specified path may be the minumum distance joining all nodes (like the Steiner spanning tree) or perhaps it leads from the beginning to the end of a maze. Let’s call that one path the “solution”, and the maze the “problem”, and the act of somehow identifying or displaying the solution to the problem let’s call “solving the problem”.

    Now that we’ve dispensed with the confusion regarding what a “problem” or “solution” is, or what it means to “solve a problem”, let’s take a look at how different things solve maze problems.

    Soap film does not leave a pattern that indicates a purposeful arrangement of parts.

    1) Says who? How do you objectively determine purpose from an arrangement of parts? (as though you could actually answer this questions, hahahaha).
    2) So what? Doesn’t matter if soap film is purposeful of course – it solves the problem anyway!

    RDF:
    Great! So you are saying that every single definition of “intelligence” I’ve seen from the knowledgeable ID proponents here apply in the context of ID? How about these:
    SB: No, I am saying that you keep changing the questions so that you can get different answers so that you can claim that ID is not being consistent.

    I ask different questions… as though that’s a bad thing?!? It is completely ridiculous to blame ID’s bad answers on my questions! ID provides no technical definition for its sole explanatory construct, and that isn’t my fault.

    ID always provides evidence for the presence of an intelligent agent, defined as one that is capable of purposefully arranging matter in a way that can be detected.

    That is YOUR definition – not ID’s definition. ID provides no definition, which is why everyone has their own very different meaning for the word “intelligence” in the context of ID.

    Do I really need to explain that a spider does not have free will and cannot plan with an end in mind?

    Apparently I need to explain to you that you cannot show that ANYTHING has free will – that is an article of pure faith on your part, and educated people realize that the problem of free will has not been settled by anyone.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  124. 124
    Virgil Cain says:

    Earth to RDFish- We can absolutely show purpose with respect to ID. We can do so by the nature of the design. For example, Dr Behe’s criteria allows us to do that:

    the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components

    That said, the following article by Wm Dembski explains the “intelligence” part- Intelligent Design is not Optimal Design:

    The confusion centered on what the adjective “intelligent” is doing in the phrase “intelligent design.” “Intelligent,” after all, can mean nothing more than being the result of an intelligent agent, even one who acts stupidly. On the other hand, it can mean that an intelligent agent acted with skill, mastery, and eclat. Shermer and Prothero understood the “intelligent” in “intelligent design” to mean the latter, and thus presumed that intelligent design must entail optimal design. The intelligent design community, on the other hand, means the former and thus separates intelligent design from questions of optimality.

    Looks like RDFish is eating crow, but I am sure it will deny it.

    And then there is “Nature, Design and Science”, by Del Ratzsch which answers most of your alleged objections.

    Then there is the dictionary: intelligence

    a (1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations and the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment – those apply to ID. But you have been shown that, you couldn’t find a snappy response, so you pulled your usual willful ignorance and kept your infantile charade going.

    And one more thing- You don’t have any idea what ID does and doesn’t say. So please stuff a sock puppet in it.

  125. 125
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    Box: The fact of one’s existence is one’s most fundamental knowledge. This is not negated by the circumstance that one cannot formulate exhaustive definitions for “I”, “think”, “therefor” and “am”.

    RDFish: These are not offered anywhere as scientific explanations for anything. Scientific explanations always have empirically based terms. ID doesn’t, so it’s not a scientific explanation.

    It’s the other way around: an intelligent agent — grounded by cogito ergo sum — is foundational to science. An intelligent agent is an indispensable part of the explanation for the existence of science. Without an intelligent agent there can be no science.
    More generally, an intelligent agent is foundational to any rational activity. So, if you are correct in your claim that science does not use an “intelligent agent” as an explanation for anything, then it follows that science doesn’t examine rational activity.
    Are you saying that e.g. literary studies do not posit an “intelligent agent” as an explanation for the existence of literature?

    You have not answered my question. Do you hold that cogito ergo sum is no knowledge, because of the lack of exhaustive definitions for the terms? Do you hold that therefor cogito ergo sum is no knowledge at all — zero knowledge?

  126. 126
    Mung says:

    RDFish @96:

    Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!

    Upright Biped @110:

    An operational definition?

    If it can “send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth.”

    Are operational definitions valid?

    RDFish:

    What was that? I must have missed it.

  127. 127
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    …and then I showed why your answer fails to provide a scientific basis for ID.

    So?

    That wasn’t the question.

    Unless you’re changing the question. But you already said you weren’t changing the question. So that leaves that out.

  128. 128
    mike1962 says:

    UB: If it can “send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth.”

    Or if it can create “coded information.”

    Since the DNA/ribosome system obviously contains coded information I consider “ET” to have already been detected. I just smile and think “how silly” when people deny it.

  129. 129
    StephenB says:

    SB: I use the dictionary definition of “creation”…
    RDFish

    Don’t you realize by now that dictionaries capture common usage of words, and do not provide technical definitions for philosophical and scientific analysis? Have you ever actually gone to school of some sort?

    Wow, you are really getting touchy. First, you claim not to know what creation means. Then, you reject the common meaning that everyone understands, which is perfectly consistent with the philosophical/theological technical meaning–to bring something into existence. You don’t do so well when someone takes you out of your comfort zone. You twist yourself into a pretzel to avoid my question. After all this time, you are still afraid to address it.

    Definitions are not true or false.

    Is that your creepy way of evading my corrective? The law of conservation applies to “closed systems.” Try to process that information. If you understood that simple fact, you would not be claiming that creating the law of conservation violates the law of conservation, which is insane. That you would double down on this is a clear indication that you are either unwilling or incapable of entering into a good faith dialogue.

    Anyone can define any word to mean anything, as long as they clearly explain how they are using that word.

    And heaven knows you have your own private definitions for just about every term with a common meaning that you would prefer to avoid. For you, create doesn’t mean create if you prefer that it should mean something else. For you, the law of conversion need not apply to closed systems if you would prefer that it does not.

    Philosophers and scientists are constantly providing technical definitions for terms in order to make their arguments clear. You on the other hand refuse to even try to provide clear technical definitions, and instead pretend that you have some sort of authority to tell other people what they mean by certain words. You are ridiculous.

    On the contrary, you are ridiculous. First, you deny the common meaning of create on the grounds that we should be using a technical definition. Then, you deny the technical definition of the law of conservation when a technical definition is clearly called for.

    SB: Let’s face it. You are afraid to defend your ridiculous claim that creating the material universe would violate the law of conservation.

    You are manufacturing this controversy because you know you can’t counter any of my arguments, so you want to constantly change the subject.

    I didn’t manufacture this controversy. You introduced it as in a futile attempt to avoid the principle of causation and the logical requirement for a first cause. The hole you have been digging for yourself is a creature of your own making.

    SB: No. The spider weaves his web for a purpose, but it doesn’t apprehend that purpose.

    How do you know he weaves his web for a purpose? How do you know the raincloud doesn’t precipate for a purpose? What are your empirical tests to establish this “purpose”?

    Good grief, you mean you don’t know that a spiders web serves a purpose. You think we need an empirical test to know that? I am glad that we have that one on the record.

    You cannot detect purpose by observing poured water.

    That is correct, which is why your example was inappropriate. It has nothing to do with the act of arranging matter for a purpose.

    You detect purpose by asking the farmer why he is doing what he’s doing of course. This option isn’t available in ID, which is why you can’t detect purpose in the context of ID.

    My heavens, your lack of familiarity with the subject matter is unbelievable. The option isn’t available in this case because you injected an inappropriate example into the discussion. If you want to test the ID process, you have to first know what it means to analyze an arranged material pattern. Pouring water all over the place doesn’t qualify as an purposeful arrangement of matter. Nothing can be inferred by observing the wet ground. Now that you finally understand that, you should drop the example. If you ask the farmer, you are not detecting anything. You are simply doing an interview. I am amazed that you don’t even know the meaning of the word “detect.”

    Imagine a maze or network where there are a multitude of possible paths, but only one corresponding to a specification that we can recognize (like the notion of “specification” in “complex specified information”). That one specified path may be the minumum distance joining all nodes (like the Steiner spanning tree) or perhaps it leads from the beginning to the end of a maze. Let’s call that one path the “solution”, and the maze the “problem”, and the act of somehow identifying or displaying the solution to the problem let’s call “solving the problem”

    You did not define “problem solving” in an ID context. There is no way to use that definition as a means of evaluating or even understanding the process of a design inference..

    I ask different questions… as though that’s a bad thing?!?

    No, that is a good thing. The problem is what you do with the answers.

    SB: ID always provides evidence for the presence of an intelligent agent, defined as one that is capable of purposefully arranging matter in a way that can be detected.

    That is YOUR definition – not ID’s definition. ID provides no definition, which is why everyone has their own very different meaning for the word “intelligence” in the context of ID.

    You don’t like my definition because you cannot criticize it or show that there is anything wrong with it. So, you are reduced to making the false claim that it conflicts with other ID definitions.

    SB: Do I really need to explain that a spider does not have free will and cannot plan with an end in mind?

    Apparently I need to explain to you that you cannot show that ANYTHING has free will – that is an article of pure faith on your part, and educated people realize that the problem of free will has not been settled by anyone.

    Obviously, you missed the point of my comment. I just refuted your claim that ID requires free will, planning, and intention of purpose.

  130. 130
    Upright BiPed says:

    I asked the question, then you answered

    RD, as crazy as it may seem to you, I do not read everything you post. The monotony of your dissembling would be excruciating to my tender sensibilities. I did however note a particular sentence you wrote. It was easy to pick out because you set it off by bolding it from the first word in the sentence to the last.

    You may recognize it:

    Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!

    That was the question I answered. The answer I gave you is valid for the context in which it was implemented, and it is one that you are already familiar with. But you ignored the context, and put my answer in a different context so that you could jump up and down on it. Your response was the typical stuff that propels you through most of these conversations.

    and then I showed why your answer fails to provide a scientific basis for ID.

    You did nothing of the sort. The answer I gave you is a well-known operational definition of intelligence, based on our universal experience of narrow band radio signals. It is widely accepted that such signals are the unambiguous result of a radio transmitter, requiring intelligent beings to arrange materials in that particular manner. It’s an operational definition endorsed by NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the British Royal Society, and university science departments around the world — and it is used, specifically, to detect the action of an unknown intelligence, without regard to who or what the intelligence is.

    Now about the question I asked: Are operational definitions valid?

    Are they?

  131. 131
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    Now about the question I asked: Are operational definitions valid?

    You’re just trying to change the subject.

    Ask a different question.

  132. 132
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDFish: These are not offered anywhere as scientific explanations for anything. Scientific explanations always have empirically based terms. ID doesn’t, so it’s not a scientific explanation.

    BOX: It’s the other way around:

    If you do not believe that scientific explanations must be unambiguous and empirically grounded, then we must agree to disagree.

    An intelligent agent is an indispensable part of the explanation for the existence of science. Without an intelligent agent there can be no science.

    We are not talking about explaining science; instead, we are talking about scientific explanations.

    If you have ever read a science textbook, you’ll note that it does not discuss cogito ergo sum in relation to any sort of scientific explanation.

    So, if you are correct in your claim that science does not use an “intelligent agent” as an explanation for anything,…

    It’s simple enough to determine: Just find any scientific, peer-review paper or textbook that presents a scientific theory where some natural phenomenon is explained by invoking, in the abstract, “intelligent agency”. (Hint: You will find no such thing of course).

    Are you saying that e.g. literary studies do not posit an “intelligent agent” as an explanation for the existence of literature?

    Of course not an “intelligent agent” in the abstract!!!! Why can’t you people understand this? Literature is invariably written by only one type of entity: a human being! There is no abstract class of “intelligent agents” with an empirical inclusion criteria, so that term is scientifically meaningless.

    You have not answered my question. Do you hold that cogito ergo sum is no knowledge, because of the lack of exhaustive definitions for the terms?

    That sentence has never been offered as a scientific explanation for anything. Rather, it is a statement by a 16th century philosopher who was embarking on a philosophical investigation of skepticism. I am not talking about philosophy. I am talking about ID’s specious claim to be a scientific theory.

    Do you hold that therefor cogito ergo sum is no knowledge at all — zero knowledge?

    This simply has nothing at all to do with anything I’ve been talking about. I’m talking about the fact that ID claims to provide a scientific explanation for various phenomena, such as origin of life and biological complexity, without specifying what it is that is supposed to be responsible.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  133. 133
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    First, you claim not to know what creation means.

    This is a straigh-up lie of course. You may search this entire page, and all of our previous discussions, and I never said anything of the sort.

    If you simply make things up we really can’t have a discussion. Go ahead – find the quote where I said that, or admit that you just lied. (Prediction: You will do neither)

    Then, you reject the common meaning that everyone understands, which is perfectly consistent with the philosophical/theological technical meaning–to bring something into existence.

    We disagree, and I would be very happy to let the fair reader decide who is right. I say when something is “brought into existence”, that means at one point in time it doesn’t exist, and then in another point in time it does exist. I also say that virtually everyone you ask would agree with this – except theologians trying to square the intuitive notion of “creation” with the scientific finding that there was no time when the universe did not exist.

    \Is that your creepy way of evading my corrective?

    What’s creepy is your use of the term “corrective”. You are virtually always incorrect, obviously.

    The law of conservation applies to “closed systems.”

    Uh, I’m the one saying the law of conservation doesn’t apply to the beginning of the universe in the first place.

    If you understood that simple fact, you would not be claiming that creating the law of conservation violates the law of conservation [sic], which is insane.

    What you wrote is pretty insane, I’d say. I think you meant something else, but this is getting so old and boring I won’t even try to guess what you meant. Again, any fair reader would see that I have been consistent and correct regarding the problems with imagining a creation event when there is no time that the created thing does not exist.

    First, you deny the common meaning of create on the grounds that we should be using a technical definition. Then, you deny the technical definition of the law of conservation when a technical definition is clearly called for.

    The only way you can try to argue against me is to lie and pretend I’ve said all these things I’ve never said. You never provide any quotes to back it up, for the simple reason that I’ve never said any of those things. Fortunately, people can read every post here and realize you are fabricating these straw men because you can’t address my actual arguments.

    SB: Do I really need to explain that a spider does not have free will and cannot plan with an end in mind?
    RDF: Apparently I need to explain to you that you cannot show that ANYTHING has free will – that is an article of pure faith on your part, and educated people realize that the problem of free will has not been settled by anyone.
    SB: Obviously, you missed the point of my comment. I just refuted your claim that ID requires free will, planning, and intention of purpose.

    You did no such thing of course.

    To win the argument regarding the objective detection of purpose, you simply need to provide an empirical test that will reveal if any particular observable phenomena is the result of purpose or not. Since you cannot provide such a test, you lose.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  134. 134
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    RD, as crazy as it may seem to you, I do not read everything you post.

    Going by your responses, you do not read anything I post.

    RDF: Give me the empirical methods for determining if something is an “intelligent agent”!
    UB: That was the question I answered.

    And I accepted that answer, and proceeded to show how that particular definition – just like every single other definition offered by ID supporters – fails to provide a scientific basis for “ID Theory”. And I thanked you for providing yet another example of a definition that cannot support ID.

    You did nothing of the sort. The answer I gave you is a well-known operational definition of intelligence, based on our universal experience of narrow band radio signals.

    Great, that is fine! Nothing is wrong with your definition! How many times must I explain this? You can use any sort of definition you’d like – there is no right or wrong answer.

    My point is simply that there is no definition that is (1) objective, meaningful, and empirically accessible, and (2) can be supported by empirical evidence as the likely cause of living systems, values of universal constants, and other things that ID purports to explain.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  135. 135
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish #121,

    Can I ask you to kindly read my comment #116 again, but this time carefully. You appeal to empiricism, there you go. I listed those 3 points you quoted in order to show they are not enough to qualify for falsifiability. You are preaching to the choir.

    When you have read my comment 116 carefully, tell me what you think is unscientific about what it actually proposes.

  136. 136
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    RDFish – on the elements of ‘cogito ergo sum’ – :
    These are not offered anywhere as scientific explanations for anything. Scientific explanations always have empirically based terms. ID doesn’t, so it’s not a scientific explanation.

    BOX: It’s the other way around: an intelligent agent is an indispensable part of the explanation for the existence of science. Without an intelligent agent there can be no science.

    RDFish: We are not talking about explaining science; instead, we are talking about scientific explanations.

    I introduced the issue of hierarchy of knowledge. Cogito ergo sum is one’s most fundamental knowledge. On principle scientific knowledge can never rise to this extraordinary level of certainty. IOW there is something very wrong with the notion that the elements of cogito ergo sum are in need of scientific empirical grounding in order for them to be “real” — like I said, it’s the other way around.

    RDFish: If you do not believe that scientific explanations must be unambiguous and empirically grounded, then we must agree to disagree.

    In order to have scientific explanations, one must presuppose intelligent agency. Any scientific explanation ultimately rests on intelligence. If “intelligence” is not scientifically “acceptable”, then science and scientific explanations have a huge problem — they are hovering in midair, so to speak.

    RDFish: If you have ever read a science textbook, you’ll note that it does not discuss cogito ergo sum in relation to any sort of scientific explanation.

    People tend to gloss over what is foundational to reality — scientific explanation included.

    RDFish: It’s simple enough to determine: Just find any scientific, peer-review paper or textbook that presents a scientific theory where some natural phenomenon is explained by invoking, in the abstract, “intelligent agency”. (Hint: You will find no such thing of course).

    How about the fact that the behaviour of rational choosing agents are the focus of social studies? Here’s Wiki on economics:

    Neoclassical economics studies the behavior of individuals, households, and organizations (called economic actors, players, or agents), when they manage or use scarce resources, which have alternative uses, to achieve desired ends. Agents are assumed to act rationally, have multiple desirable ends in sight, limited resources to obtain these ends, a set of stable preferences, a definite overall guiding objective, and the capability of making a choice. There exists an economic problem, subject to study by economic science, when a decision (choice) is made by one or more resource-controlling players to attain the best possible outcome under bounded rational conditions. In other words, resource-controlling agents maximize value subject to the constraints imposed by the information the agents have, their cognitive limitations, and the finite amount of time they have to make and execute a decision. Economic science centers on the activities of the economic agents that comprise society.[145] They are the focus of economic analysis.[146]
    [My emphasis]

    Box: Are you saying that e.g. literary studies do not posit an “intelligent agent” as an explanation for the existence of literature?

    RDFish: Of course not an “intelligent agent” in the abstract!!!! Why can’t you people understand this? Literature is invariably written by only one type of entity: a human being! There is no abstract class of “intelligent agents” with an empirical inclusion criteria, so that term is scientifically meaningless.

    Beside the point. I maintain the position that literary studies posit intelligent agents (intelligent human beings, if you will) as an explanation for the existence of literature — if that question would come up. This simple fact refutes your claim that science doesn’t offer intelligence as a scientific explanation.

    Box: Do you hold that therefor cogito ergo sum is no knowledge at all — zero knowledge?

    RDFish: This simply has nothing at all to do with anything I’ve been talking about.

    That’s, again, not an answer to my question.

  137. 137
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    I’m talking about the fact that ID claims to provide a scientific explanation for various phenomena, such as origin of life and biological complexity, without specifying what it is that is supposed to be responsible.

    You are either a willfully ignorant arse or a liar.

    My point is simply that there is no definition that is (1) objective, meaningful, and empirically accessible, and (2) can be supported by empirical evidence as the likely cause of living systems, values of universal constants, and other things that ID purports to explain.

    Your point has been refuted by reality.

    Thanks fer playin’…

  138. 138
    Virgil Cain says:

    Why do ID’s opponents, like RDFish here, think their willful ignorance is an argument?

  139. 139
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Selensky, may I have your permission to cite 116 with attribution? (I intend use in a BTB OP). KF

  140. 140
    EugeneS says:

    Kairosfocus #139,

    Yes, of course! But to be honest, it is not mine. Essential credit goes to Dr David Abel. The point he made in his “Primordial Prescription” (maybe not in exactly the same form as I presented here) is that Maxwell’s demon must not only be informed but also be capable of making actual choices towards achieving a goal state that is characterized by a maximum of some form of pragmatic utility. To create a heat differential (which is an example of maximizing pragmatic utility), there must be controlled (=intelligent) steering of events.

  141. 141
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I maintain the position that literary studies posit intelligent agents (intelligent human beings, if you will) as an explanation for the existence of literature — if that question would come up. This simple fact refutes your claim that science doesn’t offer intelligence as a scientific explanation. (emphasis added)

    You are almost there. Yes, literary analysts refer to human beings. Sociologists and psychologists and anthropologists and forensics scientists all study human beings.

    ID pretends that these sciences do not just study human beings, but rather some imaginary class of things called “intelligent agents”, that might be any sort of thing at all. That would be fine if ID proposed some empirically-based inclusion criteria for this set of “intelligent agents” so that we would know what exactly ID is proposing.

    But ID doesn’t do that – it leaves it up to the readers’ imaginations as to what an “intelligent agent” is and what it can or cannot do. And what ID readers imagine is completely unsupported by science. There is no science to show that anything – much less the cause of life on Earth – can transcend physical causality with libertarian free will. There is no science to show that the cause of life on Earth was conscious, or that it could solve novel problems, or that it had general linguistic abilities, or other traits of human beings.

    That is the problem.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  142. 142
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    Define INTELLIGENT SYNTHESIS as a SYNTHESIS that requires control as per control theory (see e.g. here).

    This is a clear definition of what you mean by “intelligent synthesis”, so thank you for that.

    I have no trouble with your characterization of a theory of ID that is falsifiable.

    As I understand it, you are proposing that control as described in control theory (including feedforward/feedback control loops, P-I-D input/output transforms, and so on) is required in order to produce systems displaying the characteristics of life (growth, metabolism, and so on). Perhaps you are correct; in any case your theory (or hypothesis) is perfectly meaningful.

    The point I am making is this: The word “intelligence” as used by people in the ID movement does NOT have anything like the meaning you are giving it here. ID proponents such as Meyer or people on this forum describe intelligence variously as “conscious thought”, “immaterial mind”, “free will”, and so on. Generally, the word conveys all of the characteristics that we subjectively experience in our mental phenomenology.

    So, for you to use the term “intelligent synthesis” when you really mean “synthesis involving control-theoretical processes” is completely misleading. The connotation is that your theory supports the notion that “intelligence” (with all of the phenomenological and metaphysical connotations of that word) is involved, when actually all you are really saying is that the perfectly deterministic and well-understood aspects of control theory is involved.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  143. 143
    StephenB says:

    SB: First, you claim not to know what creation means.

    RDFish

    This is a straigh-up lie of course. You may search this entire page, and all of our previous discussions, and I never said anything of the sort.
    If you simply make things up we really can’t have a discussion. Go ahead – find the quote where I said that, or admit that you just lied. (Prediction: You will do neither)

    You must be joking. You have claimed all along that the definition of “creation” is “problematic.”

    Let’s begin with these:

    the concept of “creation” is problematic if there is no transition from a time before the created thing exists to a time after the created thing exists.

    The concept of creation is “problematic?” insane. Everyone knows that to create is to bring into being.

    If there was never a time before the thing exists (as is the case for the universe), then our usual notion of “creation” can’t apply.

    Whose notion? Yours? No one else thinks the notion of creation can’t be applied.

    In all of our usual experience of “creation”, there is a creation event. There is a transition from (A) a time before the creation event, when the created thing does not exist, to (B) a time after the creation event, when the created thing does exist. Since there is no (A) in the case of the universe itself, our usual experience of “creation” does not apply.

    According to whom is the meaning of creation tied to a time A and time B? Apparently only to you.

    I’m well aware that philosophers and theologians have described other senses of “creation” that are atemporal; you’re welcome to specify that is what you are referring to, but these are certainly not our usual concept of creation that is in our experience.

    Oh, so now you finally confess that the meaning of creation is not necessarily tied to a time A and time B and is not necessarily tied to our experience in time.

    Oooh, this one is rich! You fail to clarify the sense of the word that YOU are using, and complain to me that I did not clarify that sense for YOU? Hilarious!

    This is a flat out life. I provided the dictionary definition. And I repeat the definition:
    1.
    the act of producing or causing to exist; the act of; engendering.
    2.
    the fact of being created.
    3.
    something that is or has been created.
    4.
    the Creation, the original bringing into existence of the universe by God.
    5.
    the world; universe.

    Does any reader observe any reference to time A and time B in that definition. Of course not. RD is just making that up to avoid the real debate.

    And then we get this:

    Don’t you realize by now that dictionaries capture common usage of words, and do not provide technical definitions for philosophical and scientific analysis? Have you ever actually gone to school of some sort?

    All this nonsense to avoid answering my very simple question: Why does the creation of the universe violate the law of conservation?

    RD has claimed that that “creating” the universe violates the law of conservation of mass/energy. Notice first that he has no difficulty with the meaning when he makes this illogical claim.

    But when he is asked to defend it, it’s time for definition derby. I have simply asked him to either defend his illogical claim, or concede the point that it cannot be defended.

    We disagree, and I would be very happy to let the fair reader decide who is right. I say when something is “brought into existence”, that means at one point in time it doesn’t exist, and then in another point in time it does exist. I also say that virtually everyone you ask would agree with this – except theologians trying to square the intuitive notion of “creation” with the scientific finding that there was no time when the universe did not exist.

    Well, that presents a little problem doesn’t it? You say that “everyone” would agree with you, but you dismiss the dictionary definition, which defines how “everyone” uses that term. Do you understand the problem here? I am sure that readers do.

    The larger problem, though, is that you also claim to know what theologians mean when they use that term, but you will not even answer the question in that context.

    So, let’s play the game your way: Explain why creation (as you perceive theologians to understand it) violates the law of conservation of matter/energy.

    Can anyone believe that I have to go through all this to get a straight answer to a straight question?

    SB: The law of conservation applies to “closed systems.”

    Uh, I’m the one saying the law of conservation doesn’t apply to the beginning of the universe in the first place.

    Uh, you are evading the point, as usual. Do you concede that the Law of Conservation pertains to closed systems or not? If so, then do you also concede that you should have included it in your definition.

    SB: Obviously, you missed the point of my comment. I just refuted your claim that ID requires free will, planning, and intention of purpose.

    You did no such thing of course.

    Clearly, I did do such a thing. A apider’s web is an example of an ID event. A spider does not plan with an end in mind or have free will. Case closed.

    To win the argument regarding the objective detection of purpose, you simply need to provide an empirical test that will reveal if any particular observable phenomena is the result of purpose or not. Since you cannot provide such a test, you lose.

    Obviously, I win. Everyone knows that a spider’s web has a purpose. No test is needed. Or. would you care to claim that a spider’s web serves no purpose?

  144. 144
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    The word “intelligence” as used by people in the ID movement does NOT have anything like the meaning you are giving it here.

    That is false.

    ID proponents such as Meyer or people on this forum describe intelligence variously as “conscious thought”, “immaterial mind”, “free will”, and so on.

    And another mischaracterization. I provided a quote from Dembski that describes it. And that quote refutes your childish ignorance.

  145. 145
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Sociologists and psychologists and anthropologists and forensics scientists all study human beings.

    Wrong. Forensic science studies the effects and tries to determine a cause. Forensic scientists do that via knowledge of cause and effect relationships. The same goes for anthropologists. They do not study the alleged humans who built Stonehenge. They don’t even know who they were.

    ID pretends that these sciences do not just study human beings, but rather some imaginary class of things called “intelligent agents”, that might be any sort of thing at all.

    Dude, if you are a dude, you have serious issues. Intelligent agents are not an imaginary class and ID does not study the intelligence. ID is not about the intelligence.

    Forensic scientists do not study the criminals. Archaeologists do not study the ancient people.

    That would be fine if ID proposed some empirically-based inclusion criteria for this set of “intelligent agents” so that we would know what exactly ID is proposing.

    ID has proposed exactly that. Your willful ignorance, while amusing, is not an argument.

    All one has to do is actually read the ID literature to see that RDFish is full of the smelly stuff.

  146. 146
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    To win the argument regarding the objective detection of purpose, you simply need to provide an empirical test that will reveal if any particular observable phenomena is the result of purpose or not.

    Forensic science does that. Even archaeology can do that. Or does RDFish think that Stonehenge and the all the pyramids were just people aimlessly cutting, dragging and placing stones?

    RDFish is a special kind of stupid. Thankfully RDFish isn’t a teacher, a scientist nor an investigator.

  147. 147
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    Thank you for your answer.

    We are almost there. The only bit that is missing in the puzzle, is the plausible origin of control systems. Intelligence is the only plausible origin of control, notably of programmatic control with measurement of state, which necessarily involves semiosis irreducible to the motion of particles of matter.

    For details, I can refer to David Abel’s “Primordial Prescription” and to Howard Pattee’s “The Physics of symbols: Bridging the Epistemic Cut”. Again, the point is that control is a synonym of agent-based choice guided by pragmatic utility considerations.

  148. 148
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD: there is no definition that is (1) objective, meaningful, and empirically accessible, and (2) can be supported by empirical evidence as the likely cause of living systems

    I already gave you a valid operational definiton of intelligence, but you ignored it –> Whereas the operational definition for identifying intelligent action from an extra-terrestrial source is “the capacity to send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

  149. 149
    kairosfocus says:

    Dr Selensky, thanks. KF

  150. 150
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    You have claimed all along that the definition of “creation” is “problematic.”

    Of course it is, and all knowledgable philosophers and theologians agree with me, because they all acknowledge (1) creation events in our experience entail temporal relations, and (2) the concept of creation without any temporal relation (but only logical relations) is not our usual conception of creation events. I have said this all along, but you are too dim to comprehend it.

    Everyone knows that to create is to bring into being.

    WRONG AGAIN. Everyone knows that if you bring something into being then there must be a time when it does not exist. Since there is no time the universe does not exist, it is problematic to imagine the universe being brought into being. I have explained this too many times now.

    According to whom is the meaning of creation tied to a time A and time B? Apparently only to you. No one else thinks the notion of creation can’t be applied.

    WRONG AGAIN. There are many people – and MOST physicists of course – who agree with this. You don’t know this because you read only religious tracts and not science. Here’s just a single example I found in a few seconds – you could have also if you knew how to look for things on the internet:

    STEPHEN HAWKING: You can’t get to a time before the big bang, because there was no time before the big bang. We have finally found something that does not have a cause because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means there is no possibility of a creator because there is no time for a creator to have existed. Since time itself began at the moment of the Big Bang, it was an event that could not have been caused or created by anyone or anything

    There you have it – you say nobody else but me holds this position? Well you’ve LIED again! I am very, very tired of you LYING.

    Oh, so now you finally confess that the meaning of creation is not necessarily tied to a time A and time B and is not necessarily tied to our experience in time.

    YET ANOTHER LIE, because I never said any such thing – I said the opposite of this. I said I was perfectly aware the theologians had introduced a notion of causality that doesn’t involve time, but that this was very different from our natural understanding of creation events.

    A apider’s web is an example of an ID event.

    Why?

    A spider does not plan with an end in mind

    You are finally right about something! Halleluah!

    …or have free will.

    Free will is a metaphysical speculation that you mistakenly take for scientific fact. This is because you confuse your religious beliefs with scientific results.

    Case closed.

    You have never provided any empirical method for objectively establishing what phenomena require purpose. And you never will, because there is no such method. All you ever do is say “everybody knows” or “obviously” and then make some sort of pronouncement. You are a joke. Case closed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  151. 151
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    We are almost there. The only bit that is missing in the puzzle, is the plausible origin of control systems.

    Isn’t that a bit like asking, “Who designed the designer?”

    If control systems are, in your view, sufficient to produce biological systems, that would seem to be the answer to the question “How did life begin?” Asking what in turn produced those control systems would be a different question, outside of the scope of our investigation. Again, it would be like asking what in turn produced the Designer that ID proposes as the cause of life.

    Intelligence is the only plausible origin of control…which necessarily involves semiosis irreducible to the motion of particles of matter.

    This is another problem with your attempt to make ID scientific. You claim that “intelligence” is something that is “irreducible to the motion of particles of matter”. Is there some research you are referring to that demonstrates something going on in our brains that somehow transcends physics?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  152. 152
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    I already gave you a valid operational definiton of intelligence, but you ignored it

    For the THIRD TIME: I didn’t ignore it. There is nothing wrong with your operational defintion. I simply showed that does not serve the purposes of ID theory.

    Please don’t say this again – it’s really getting very old. Three times!!!

    the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

    Great! Thank you! Yet another definition of “intelligence” to add to the long list of different attempts to find something that works.

    I assume this is the result of your original research, and not something that has ever been mentioned by any published ID author? In any event, as usual, there is nothing wrong with your operational definition, but it isn’t what anyone thinks of when they use the word “intelligence”.

    Your definition says nothing about solving novel problems, learning, adapting to environments, conscious awareness, generation and understanding of natural language, mathematical ability, or anything else that people normally associate with “intelligence. Since ID cannot – using your definition – claim to show the cause of life had any of those attributes, it would become very apparent that the theory is misnamed.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  153. 153
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Of course it is, and all knowledgable philosophers and theologians agree with me, because they all acknowledge (1) creation events in our experience entail temporal relations, and (2) the concept of creation without any temporal relation (but only logical relations) is not our usual conception of creation events. I have said this all along, but you are too dim to comprehend it

    This point has already been refuted. The dictionary defines our common understanding of the word creation such that it can be either a temporal or non temporal event.. Theologians and philosophers understand it the same way. No one understands it as only a temporal event and nothing else. That notion belongs to you alone

    Everyone knows that if you bring something into being then there must be a time when it does not exist. Since there is no time the universe does not exist, it is problematic to imagine the universe being brought into being. I have explained this too many times now.

    Then how do you explain the fact that theologians and all major monotheistic religions hold that God created the universe—and time itself? How do you explain the fact that all believers in those religions, who number in the billions, agree that God created the universe—and time itself? How do you explain the fact that no philosopher, theologian, or scientist agrees with your claim that creation always requires a time A and time B and can never occur outside of time?

    There are many people – and MOST physicists of course – who agree with this.

    That’s easy to say. Not so easy to demonstrate.

    You don’t know this because you read only religious tracts and not science. Here’s just a single example I found in a few seconds – you could have also if you knew how to look for things on the internet

    I don’t think you will convince anyone that you have read more books or more widely on the subject of creation than I have. So your argument from authority fails.

    STEPHEN HAWKING: You can’t get to a time before the big bang, because there was no time before the big bang. We have finally found something that does not have a cause because there was no time for a cause to exist in. For me this means there is no possibility of a creator because there is no time for a creator to have existed. Since time itself began at the moment of the Big Bang, it was an event that could not have been caused or created by anyone or anything

    Hilarious!!! This atheist is not defining creation (your way) as a before and after event. He is defining creation MY way and saying that it didn’t happen. Can’t you even read your own citation?

    No one defines creation the way you do, and no one ever will. Your position is totally irrational. (Of course, the claim made by this author is also irrational. Something cannot come from nothing. Also, causation is not tied to time, but that is another story. When scientists try to play philosopher, they always end up with egg on their face).

    There you have it – you say nobody else but me holds this position? Well you’ve LIED again! I am very, very tired of you LYING.

    Each time I refute your claims, you grow more hysterical. Try to calm down. I have proven my point yet again. No one is so irrational as to define creation the way you do.

    SB: Oh, so now you finally confess that the meaning of creation is not necessarily tied to a time A and time B and is not necessarily tied to our experience in time.

    (More accusations of lying) I never said any such thing – I said the opposite of this. I said I was perfectly aware the theologians had introduced a notion of causality that doesn’t involve time, but that this was very different from our natural understanding of creation events.

    Good heavens, you can’t help yourself, can you? I quote from RDFish on this very thread:

    I’m well aware that philosophers and theologians have described other senses of “creation” that are atemporal; you’re welcome to specify that is what you are referring to, but these are certainly not our usual concept of creation that is in our experience.

    So, clearly you are admitting that these philosophers and theologians reject your unsupported claim that creation, by definition, is necessarily tied to time.

    So far, I have billions of people on my side, both specialists and common people, all of whom agree that God’s creative act does not have to be tied to time and that time, in fact, was part of that creation. You have no one to support your crazy notion that creation, by definition, must be tied to a time A and time B.

    .
    SB: A apider’s web is an example of an ID event.

    Why?

    Because a web is a purposeful arrangement of parts, of course

    SB: A spider does not plan with an end in mind.

    You are finally right about something! Halleluah!

    I have been right about everything. You just don’t understand ID. .

    Free will is a metaphysical speculation that you mistakenly take for scientific fact. This is because you confuse your religious beliefs with scientific results.

    Wrong again. I know that free will is a metaphysical concept. I am simply correcting your misguided notion that ID requires free will. The spider proves it. You forget that injecting free will into the discussion is your gig, not mine
    .

    You have never provided any empirical method for objectively establishing what phenomena require purpose. And you never will, because there is no such method.

    You don’t understand. The point is not to show that a spider web “requires” purpose. The point is to show that a spider web is a purposeful arrangement of matter, which it obviously is.

    All you ever do is say “everybody knows” or “obviously” and then make some sort of pronouncement. You are a joke

    Everybody does know that a spider web serves a purpose. Don’t you?

  154. 154
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    So you believe, the universe is eternal? Really? Even though there is absolute evidence that it began to exist with actual mathematics! Not any Just so stories!

    http://now.tufts.edu/articles/.....-beginning

    You are too precious!

  155. 155
    Upright BiPed says:

    For the THIRD TIME: I didn’t ignore it. There is nothing wrong with your operational defintion. I simply showed that does not serve the purposes of ID theory.

    Please don’t say this again – it’s really getting very old. Three times!!!

    RD, when you get spun up, your reading comprehension goes to hell in a hand basket.

    Great! Thank you! Yet another definition of “intelligence” to add to the long list of different attempts to find something that works.

    Let’s hope that isn’t your best refutation.

    I assume this is the result of your original research…

    Did I research the subject? Yes. Did I organize the words in the definition I gave you? Yes.

    …and not something that has ever been mentioned by any published ID author?

    I accept the work of people like Howard Pattee, Francis Crick, John Von Neumann, Paul Zamecnik, Marshall Nirenberg, and others. Isn’t it interesting; you’ve swung the bat twice now, and your gut instinct has been to attack the person and not the details of the definition. This is called a logical fallacy for good reason.

    In any event, as usual, there is nothing wrong with your operational definition, but it isn’t what anyone thinks of when they use the word “intelligence”.

    No one “thinks of” intelligence as “the capacity to send a narrow band radio signal detectable from earth” either. Yet, as it turns out, that very criterion serves as an operational definition of intelligence in a scientific setting. So how does this happen? I think if you went from person-to-person, to all those “anybodies” who don’t normally think of intelligence in these ways, and explained to each of them the context of the situation, they would all understand it. It escapes me why you think this normal behavior – coming to understand the context of something — is somehow a problem. It’s not a problem for the definition, and it’s not a problem for those who understand the context. Surely you have something else.

    Your definition says nothing about solving novel problems, learning, adapting to environments …

    The reasoning behind the use of an operational definition is well-understood; it is specifically to produce reliable results by deliberately limiting the definition to universal correlates that can be observed. None of these things you’ve listed are included in either operational definition for precisely this reason. If they were, neither definition would be of any scientific use whatsoever.

    Obviously, you’ll want to develop a more persuasive counter-argument than this.

  156. 156
    StephenB says:

    Correction of a typo @153

    –“because a spider’s web is a purposeful arrangement of matter [not parts]”

  157. 157
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF, Kindly provide a case of creation of a tightly regulated process comparable to general metabolism and particularly code controlled protein synthesis that in our actual observation has arisen by blind chance and mechanical necessity without intelligent, purposeful, creative and skilled intelligent action. When you pass this vera causa challenge, we would then be interested in discussions on what sort of candidate entities could provide direction and control without being intelligent in some relevant way. KF

  158. 158
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    That’s the point where we go separate ways!

    Lots of people here provided you with a whole hoard of known examples where controlled systems have demonstrably and repeatably arisen by intelligent actions of agents.

    We also noted that there are no known examples of controlled systems arising other than by intelligence.

    This is why intelligence that is characterized, among other things, by:

    – decision making, planning, control and learning

    will remain the only plausible explanation of how decision making, planning, control and learning can arise in material systems, until such time as you or somebody else demonstrates a single example of bona fide organization capable of all the above arising due to the laws of nature and chance.

    You are simply denying the obvious, i.e. that intelligence is a separate causal factor irreducible to the law-like necessity and chance.

    Regarding the scientific research in the field, I have already mentioned some sources.

    “Who designed the designer?” is a distraction here because we are talking about one concrete problem relating to concrete observables. Skipping over from one unsolved problem to another does no good to anybody in science but exhibits lack of intellectual discipline.

    “Who design the designer” equally well applies to material causes: what caused material causes before any “what” came to be?

    BTW, it may just well be a logically flawed argument. It may well be that asking “who designed the designer?” is equivalent to asking “who painted the painter?”

    I don’t think that “who designed the designer?” or such like arguments, even if they are valid, are necessarily relevant to the immediate issue we are discussing, i.e. how intelligence observable in material systems in the form of control, learning, data processing, I/O, decision support, symbolic representation, goal stating etc. ever came to be?

  159. 159
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    This is another problem with your attempt to make ID scientific.

    ID is scientific by definition, meaning it has all of the characteristics of being a scientific endeavor.

    Is there some research you are referring to that demonstrates something going on in our brains that somehow transcends physics?

    Wrong question. Try this one:

    Is there some research you are referring to that demonstrates something going on in our brains that somehow reduces to physics?

  160. 160
    Box says:

    RDFish #141,

    You are being unresponsive to the points I have been making — specifically issues like hierarchy of knowledge and the foundational position of intelligence to science. You tend to speak of intelligence as if it’s something that science can do without — which is self-referentially absurd. Let me trim it down for you.

    Intelligence:

    1) Is grounded by cogito ergo sum, and is therefore part of one’s most fundamental knowledge.
    2) Is foundational to the existence of science.
    3) Has an obvious and undisputed status of a cause in e.g. social and literary studies.

    From (1) and (2) it follows that there is something very wrong with your notion that intelligence — or any of the elements of cogito ergo sum — is in need of scientific empirical grounding in order for them to be “real”. From (2) it follows that it’s the other way around.


    Meanwhile, my question persists: Do you hold that cogito ergo sum is no knowledge, because of the lack of exhaustive definitions for the terms? Do you hold that therefore cogito ergo sum is no knowledge at all — zero knowledge?

  161. 161
    RDFish says:

    Hi KF,

    You have asked me these questions many times, but you NEVER read my answers. Can you kindly READ what I write and try to understand it for once?

    RDF, Kindly provide a case of creation… by blind chance and mechanical necessity…

    1) The only things in our experience that produce complex form and function such as we see in biological systems are human beings. Do you agree?

    2) Human beings are complex, living organisms. Do you agree?

    3) Complex living organisms cannot possibly have been responsible for the origin of biological information. Do you agree?

    4) So, the origin of biological information must have come from something else – something that we are not familiar with. Do you agree?

    what sort of candidate entities could provide direction and control without being intelligent in some relevant way.

    HERE IS THE PART YOU NEVER LISTEN TO, KF. FOR ONCE, PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I AM SAYING!!!!

    Here are two things you might mean by “intelligent”:
    1) Able to produce biological information
    This is tautologically true of ANY answer to the question, and tells us nothing about what the cause of biological information was.
    2) Capable of conscious thought
    We have no reason to think that the cause of biological information was conscious, since consciousness is (in our experience) something that only biological organisms experience.

    So neither of those definitions of “intelligent” both explain biological information and can be supported by the empirical evidence. What definition of “intelligent” do you propose?

    Just because human beings use our conscious minds when we do something does not mean that is the only way it can happen.

    Just because we use our conscious mind to create a high-voltage electrical arc doesn’t mean that is the only way a high-voltage electrical arc can be produced.

    Just because we use our conscious mind to solve Steiner minimum tree problems doesn’t mean that is the only way a Steiner minimum tree can be found.

    Just because we use our conscious mind to build complex mechanisms does not mean that is the only way complex mechanisms can arise.

    If ID provided evidence that conscious minds can exist and act in the world without a biological organism, that would provide a known cause of complexity that we would infer as the cause of biological information. ID ought to focus on providing actual scientific evidence for that – otherwise, it is nothing but an ancient philosophical/theological argument that has nothing to do with science.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  162. 162
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    1) The only things in our experience that produce complex form and function such as we see in biological systems are human beings. Do you agree?

    2) Human beings are complex, living organisms. Do you agree?

    3) Complex living organisms cannot possibly have been responsible for the origin of biological information. Do you agree?

    4) So, the origin of biological information must have come from something else – something that we are not familiar with. Do you agree?

    AGAIN, ID is about the DESIGN. ID doesn’t say anything about the designing intelligence. The origin of life on earth, ie of biological information on earth, could definitely be via some other complex living organisms.

    Just because we use our conscious mind to solve Steiner minimum tree problems doesn’t mean that is the only way a Steiner minimum tree can be found.

    LoL! Without a conscious mind a Steiner minimum tree could never be found

    Just because we use our conscious mind to build complex mechanisms does not mean that is the only way complex mechanisms can arise.

    We can actually test that. And guess what? There are severe limits to what mother nature can do.

    If ID provided evidence that conscious minds can exist and act in the world without a biological organism, that would provide a known cause of complexity that we would infer as the cause of biological information.

    ID isn’t about the designer. We have the testable entailments for the DESIGN. We can test to see if the DESIGN exists.

    ID ought to focus on providing actual scientific evidence for that-

    ID has plenty of scientific evidence for the DESIGN. And that inference can be refuted if someone can demonstrate mother nature is up to the task. Science 101.

  163. 163
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    Lots of people here provided you with a whole hoard of known examples where controlled systems have demonstrably and repeatably arisen by intelligent actions of agents.

    Actually, by the actions of human beings. Nothing else.

    We also noted that there are no known examples of controlled systems arising other than by intelligence.

    Correct. And we also noted that there are no known examples of intelligent entities except complex biological organisms (namely, human beings). Why do you ignore that?

    This is why intelligence that is characterized, among other things, by:
    – decision making, planning, control and learning

    Are you saying that ID can show that the cause of life could learn? I agree that learning seems to be central to intelligence, although things without planning abilities can learn. Evolutionary processes, for example, do not plan but they do learn. How can you show that the cause of biological information could learn?

    You are simply denying the obvious, i.e. that intelligence is a separate causal factor irreducible to the law-like necessity and chance.

    That is a metaphysical assertion with no scientific basis. Just like materialism, this sort of dualism is nothing but metaphysical speculation, and there are no experiments we can perform to decide if human intelligence transcends physical law or not.

    Also, you are denying the obvious, that the only thing capable of designing complex mechanisms requires the operation of complex physical processes in the human brain.

    “Who designed the designer?” is a distraction here because we are talking about one concrete problem relating to concrete observables. Skipping over from one unsolved problem to another does no good to anybody in science but exhibits lack of intellectual discipline.

    You are the one who started it! You are the one who claimed that algorithmic control processes could account for living systems, and then immediately decided that we needed to account for those control processes! But of course when you propose an “intelligent agent” was responsible, nobody is supposed to ask to account for that intelligent agent! Nothing but ideologically-driven inconsistency.

    I don’t think that “who designed the designer?” or such like arguments, even if they are valid, are necessarily relevant to the immediate issue we are discussing, i.e. how intelligence observable in material systems in the form of control, learning, data processing, I/O, decision support, symbolic representation, goal stating etc. ever came to be?

    But that isn’t the question of course! The question that ID purports to answer is this: How did the complex form and function we observe in living things come to exist. You have answered that question: algorithmic control systems. I think that answer is just fine. Now you can wander off into religious questions and ponder why there is anything at all instead of nothing, or anything else you’d like to think about. There’s just no science to help you there.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  164. 164
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    You tend to speak of intelligence as if it’s something that science can do without

    No, I’ve said no such thing of course. Carefully, one more time: I’m saying that scientific explanations must be empirically grounded. They cannot invoke concepts that cannot be objectively identified.

    You would like to talk about the epistemology and philosophy of science itself. That is a different discussion.

    If you do not agree that scientific concepts must be empirically grounded, then we must agree to disagree.

    Is grounded by cogito ergo sum, and is therefore part of one’s most fundamental knowledge.

    Are you trying to say that our self-awareness is what is meant by the term “intelligence” in ID theory? If that is what you mean, that’s fine – everyone does in fact know what conscious awareness is. Would you like to define “intelligence” in ID as Descarte’s res cogitans, which is foundational to his statement cogito ergo sum?

    From (1) and (2) it follows that there is something very wrong with your notion that intelligence — or any of the elements of cogito ergo sum — is in need of scientific empirical grounding in order for them to be “real”.

    There are plenty of ways to ground “intelligence” empirically. All you have to do is pick one! Would you like to say that intelligence is conscious awareness?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  165. 165
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    Yet, as it turns out, that very criterion serves as an operational definition of intelligence in a scientific setting. So how does this happen?

    SETI is not a scientific theory attempting to explain some natural phenomenon by means of using the term “intelligent agency”. Rather, it is a search for life forms like us who might live on other planets.

    Instead of going around in circles, why are you afraid to actually confront my argument? Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    Don’t be afraid – just answer them, and we can actually move forward.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  166. 166
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    Don’t be afraid – just answer them, and we can actually move forward.

    E) had the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment– Yes, absolutely. And yes A is also correct.

    But AGAIN, all of that is irrelevant as science can be used to determine if intelligent design exists (or not).

    The science of ID pertains to detecting and studying intelligent design in nature. It is empirically grounded. We get to the Intelligent Designers by studying the Design. We do not have to know anything about the Intelligent Designers before determining intelligent design is present. And then it is small steps from there.

    Don’t be afraid to respond to that…

  167. 167
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    There are plenty of ways to ground “intelligence” empirically. All you have to do is pick one!

    Why just one? If you agree that “There are plenty of ways to ground “intelligence” empirically”, then it’s time to move on. ID is NOT about the designing intelligence. Design first, designing intelligence sometime after that.

  168. 168
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    For the THIRD TIME: I didn’t ignore it.

    You ignored it and changed the subject.

  169. 169
    Upright BiPed says:

    SETI is not a scientific theory attempting to explain some natural phenomenon by means of using the term “intelligent agency”. Rather, it is a search for life forms like us who might live on other planets.

    SETI cannot test for “life forms like us who might live on other planets”, which is precisely why none of that language is in their criteria for testing evidence. Instead, they search for intelligence by looking for one of its universal correlates.

    Instead of going around in circles, why are you afraid to actually confront my argument?

    Your attempt to position me as afraid is a lost cause, RD. Your arguments thus far haven’t stood up to even the slightest breeze. Right now you are stuck advocating for the misuse (improper application) of one of the tools of science. An operation definition is specifically used to limit the criteria of a test to universal correlates that can be measured or observed. Again, neither of these operational definitions includes your laundry list of criteria because a) it is not necessary, and b) doing so would render them scientifically useless. You really have to live in the real world RD. When SETI searches the radio cosmos, they do not test for the ability to learn. They do not test for adaptability to an environment. They do not test for problem-solving. They don’t test for biology at all. They test for narrow-band radio signals because the ability to create a narrow-band radio signal is a universal correlate of intelligence.

  170. 170
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    When SETI searches the radio cosmos, they do not test for the ability to learn.

    SETI scientists are largely astrobiologists. SETI is not a theory or a scientific discipline; it is a search. If SETI ever finds a signal, people will argue about what they can infer from it. The sort of thing responsible for the signal will be an inference based on the one sort of thing we know of that sends such signals – large-brained primates. So, SETI will likely assume that it is a civilization of life forms with well-developed brains.

    All of SETI’s discussions regarding what they are looking for, how likely it might be that they find it, and where they should look – all of this is based on the assumption that we are looking for big-brained organisms that have evolved on other planets. Once that assumption is made, other assumptions follow based on what complex organisms are like on Earth.

    SETI folks don’t believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of intelligence per se. Rather, they believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of civilizations of organisms with large brains, and large brains are correlates of intelligence (and consciousness, and learning, and so on).

    Here’s what one SETI researcher says:

    One of the fundamental questions of astrobiology is whether intelligence exists on other life-bearing planets. To study intelligence we must use quantifiable measures that are correlated with known characteristics of intelligence (problem solving, memory, etc.), amenable to comparisons across a wide range of organisms, and ideally, applicable to fossil as well as living organisms.

    The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) is one such measure. EQ is a number that compares brain and body sizes across different species and tells us how large or small a species’ average brain size is for its average body size. … Furthermore, although encephalization is a direct measure of brain size it is correlated with increases in brain complexity. So, using EQ, we can capture a general estimate of intelligence (which is a function of brain size and complexity) across a wide range of species.

    ID cannot make any such inferences, because ID does not assume that the Designer of Life was a large-brained organism.

    Biological organisms cannot be responsible for the origin of biological information, obviously, so in stark contrast to SETI, ID is not looking for (or attempting to infer the existence of) extra-terrestrial life forms. Rather, ID is attempting to infer the existence of something that could have pre-existed and created biological systems in the first place.
    We have no idea what sort of thing could do that – ID refuses to even speculate what it could be! Thus, there is nothing to go on when trying to imagine what sort of mental functions – if any – might have been involved when biological information was first created.

    You are clinging to this exceedingly poor analogy to SETI as your only hope to rescue ID from its proper status as religious apologetics, but it won’t help you.

    And yes, you are still afraid to simply answer my questions:

    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    Don’t be afraid – just answer them, and we can actually move forward.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  171. 171
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    “Actually, by the actions of human beings. Nothing else.”

    Are you saying that a chimp, for example, cannot make a simple artifact with a negative feedback loop? I simply don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But I would not tie myself to claiming human uniqueness here as you do. But even so, what does it change in principle?

    “And we also noted that there are no known examples of intelligent entities except complex biological organisms (namely, human beings). Why do you ignore that?”

    Because that is simply wrong. Are you denying intelligence in a dog or even in a virus? I think you are conflating intelligence with consciousness.

    Basic intelligence is just an {IF-THEN-ELSE} bracket. If something behaves in an if-then-else manner, it is already intelligent. It is a form of control, isn’t it?

    Again, that aside, even if you assume that there is only ONE example showing X -> Y, and NO other examples showing NOT(X) -> Y, the proposition still holds.

    Why do you ignore that?

    “Evolutionary processes do learn”

    Can you expound on that? What do you think they learn? And in what sense?

    In my view, a system can learn if it has the ability :

    1. to have a notion of a goal state Y.
    2. to analyze its current state X.
    3. to make decisions in order to steer itself towards a goal state from its current state X or stay in its current state if X=Y.

    Evolution by definition has no goals. How can it learn anything if it not directed anywhere? You are conflating facts with one particular interpretation of these facts. Evolution is not something that acts in an if-then-else manner, as there is no action in the “else” case on its part. Selection is passive and rather metaphorical.

    Regarding the beginning of everything, I think that whatever naturalistic scheme one proposes, it is circular. Science cannot cope with this problem.

  172. 172
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Biological organisms cannot be responsible for the origin of biological information,…

    Biological organisms CAN DEFINITELY be responsible for the origin of biological information ON EARTH. And that is what we are trying to determine- the OoL ON EARTH.

  173. 173
    Virgil Cain says:

    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?

    Yes

    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?

    Irrelevant

    C) could solve novel problems?

    Yes

    D) could learn from experience?

    Irrelevant

    E) had the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one’s environment

    Yes

    Don’t be afraid to respond to that, RDFish. But we all know that you are too afraid to respond to it. Heck we all know you won’t debate me in a public forum where everyone knew our names and who we are because you are afraid of being exposed.

  174. 174
    Box says:

    RDFish:

    That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, (…)

    I would like to go even further: brain function does not explain intelligent agency — consciousness and mental function — at all, and there is no way forward. No one has been able to come up with a concept of how physical processes in the brain can give rise to consciousness. There is no concept whatsoever of how non-rational physical processes can give rise to intelligence — see the argument from reason.
    Consciousness and mental function seem to exist in a non-physical realm — we can empirically measure neither weight nor size —, however they are undoubtedly real — cogito ergo sum! — and foundational to science and everything we know.
    Bottom line: the physical processes in the brain, or anywhere else, seem to be totally unrelated to the existence of intelligent agency.
    There is however an obvious relationship with functioning in the physical realm. The brain is, it seems, a tool for intelligent agency to steer the body, external perception and communication. IOW a brain appears to be necessary for our functioning in the physical world.

    RDFish:

    (…) but it does appear that it is necessary.

    Yes indeed. It may be “necessary” for an intelligent agent’s functioning in the physical realm.

  175. 175
    Upright BiPed says:

    And there you have it – deliberate deception in the face of actual historical record and objective physical fact. Does RD actually think that an astrobiologist’s beliefs about brain size changes the real-world methodology of searching for an unknown intelligence? Of course not, he knows better. SETI does not test for such things in order to infer the presence of intelligence. They don’t test for biology at all. They test for narrow-band radio signals because narrow-band radio signals are an observable correlate of intelligence. No matter how many times I repeat this undeniable fact about the actual methodology being used, RD will attempt to pivot attention away from reality.

  176. 176
    Virgil Cain says:

    Upright Biped- My apologies but you (we) are singing to the choir and you (we) have a deaf, dumb and blind person for an audience.

  177. 177
    Upright BiPed says:

    The interesting point is that it is not “science” that is making RD do this. It’s not about using proper methodology (indeed, as pointed out, his criteria represents a misuse of the methodology). This is not about seeking valid logic. Instead, it is pure ideology, which RD even lets slip in his last post. By allowing his ideology to take control of reason, he makes himself irrelevant on the science.

    And I think I’m done with this conversation.

  178. 178
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    RDF: “Actually, by the actions of human beings. Nothing else.”
    ES: Are you saying that a chimp, for example, cannot make a simple artifact with a negative feedback loop? I simply don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But I would not tie myself to claiming human uniqueness here as you do. But even so, what does it change in principle?

    No, not at all – I just meant humans were the only animal that can build highly complex mechanisms similar to what we see in biological systems. I think every living animal is intelligent, and every intelligent thing is a living animal. In fact I would say that “living” and “intelligent” have very close to the same meaning.

    Basic intelligence is just an {IF-THEN-ELSE} bracket. If something behaves in an if-then-else manner, it is already intelligent. It is a form of control, isn’t it?

    You and I agree about this. Most people deny it though! If you ask most folks here if computers can be intelligent, for example, they will say no! 🙂

    RDF: “Evolutionary processes do learn”
    ES: Can you expound on that? What do you think they learn? And in what sense?

    An evolutionary process is a trial-and-error learning mechanism. Trials are genetic variations which succeed to the extent they are reproduced in the population. Those variations are stored (remembered) in the population genome, which means that evolutionary processes can learn but not reason or plan ahead.

    In my view, a system can learn if it has the ability :
    1. to have a notion of a goal state Y.
    2. to analyze its current state X.
    3. to make decisions in order to steer itself towards a goal state from its current state X or stay in its current state if X=Y.

    I think this has more to do with reasoning than learning. Evolutionary processes do not reason, but they do learn.

    Evolution by definition has no goals. How can it learn anything if it not directed anywhere?

    You agree that intelligence is simply IF-THEN-ELSE; in the same way, learning is nothing but storing information that is subsequently used. There are lots of different sorts of learning algorithms; evolutionary algorithms are simple examples.

    Evolution is not something that acts in an if-then-else manner, as there is no action in the “else” case on its part. Selection is passive and rather metaphorical.

    Evolution is a generate-and-test algorithm. A variation is generated, tested in the environment, and remembered to the extent that the variation increases differential reproduction rates. That is how evolution learns over time what variations increase reproduction rates the most for a given environment.

    In any event, nobody knows what sorts of capabilities (learning? reasoning? general problem solving?) could be attributed to whatever caused living systems. ID pretends that human-like intelligence is the obvious answer, but there is simply no justification to believe anything of the sort was responsible.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  179. 179
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I would like to go even further: brain function does not explain intelligent agency — consciousness and mental function — at all, and there is no way forward.

    Consciousness is entirely mysterious, yes. Mental function, however, is not – a good deal is known about brain function, sensory information integration and perception, memory storage in the brain, and so on. We certainly do not understand how brains work en toto, but we do know that neural processes are responsible for our ability to store and recall memories, integrate sensory information, generate and understand speech, and all other mental functions.

    There is no concept whatsoever of how non-rational physical processes can give rise to intelligence — see the argument from reason.

    We’re not talking about the origin of intelligence; we’re talking about brain processes being responsible for mental function.

    Consciousness and mental function seem to exist in a non-physical realm — we can empirically measure neither weight nor size —, however they are undoubtedly real — cogito ergo sum! — and foundational to science and everything we know.

    Subjective consciousness is entirely mysterious. We can certainly measure mental abilities objectively, however. And we also know that both consciousness and mental abilities are dependent upon properly functioning brains.

    Bottom line: the physical processes in the brain, or anywhere else, seem to be totally unrelated to the existence of intelligent agency.

    Are you joking? We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    There is however an obvious relationship with functioning in the physical realm. The brain is, it seems, a tool for intelligent agency to steer the body, external perception and communication. IOW a brain appears to be necessary for our functioning in the physical world.

    This view is completely at odds with science and everyday experience. Our memories are stored in our brains, not in some immaterial ethereal plane. All of our mental abilities are critically reliant upon neural function. Have you never even glanced at the literature of neurobiology or cognitive science? You sound like you are stuck in the 16th century here.

    It may be “necessary” for an intelligent agent’s functioning in the physical realm.

    Hahaha… ok then, even with your medieval view that brains are only involved in “steering”, perception, and communication, and not in memory, reasoning, personality, and every other aspect of our mental life, at least you admit that brains are necessary for “intelligent agents” to function in the physical realm.

    Since there could be no brain before the first complex organism, it looks like even you are forced to admit that the first complex organism could not have been produced by an intelligent agent.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  180. 180
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Thank you for your comments. You ask:

    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    Very briefly: A) Yes; B) Yes; C) Yes, if by “novel problems” you mean “problems that hadn’t been put to it before by another agent”; D) Yes, if by “learn from experience” you mean “be [timelessly] informed about the world.”

    As to how there could be scientific evidence for A), see my post on Robin Collins’ paper, “The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability”:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ne-tuning/

    If there’s evidence that the universe was not only designed, but designed to be discovered, then that implies the Designer must be conscious.

    The Designer’s ability to use natural language could be inferred if there were features of the universe, such as its mathematical beauty, which can only be described adequately using natural language.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-designer/

    As to why the Designer would need to solve novel problems, see here:

    http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....html#flaw4

    Dr. Sheldon’s paper, “The Front-Loading Fiction” is no longer online, but you’ll find a summary of it there.

    The Designer’s ability to be [timelessly] informed by Nature would follow from His not being a predestinationist.

    Got to go now.

  181. 181
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    So you’re still too afraid to answer my questions? So sad. What are you afraid of? That God will punish you for using your brains to figure things out?

    And there you have it – deliberate deception in the face of actual historical record and objective physical fact.

    Hahahahahahahaha – I go to the trouble of providing a link and quote from a real live SETI researcher, who explains that it is BRAINS that SETI believe are correlated with intelligence, you accuse me of “deception”! You are deranged, and very obviously so, and I’m glad I could help put that into such clear relief here.

    SETI does not test for such things in order to infer the presence of intelligence.

    SETI tests for narrow-band radio signals, UB. I thought I’d already explained that to you.

    They don’t test for biology at all.

    Of course not – how could they? They assume (based on astrobiology) that civilisations of large-brained organisms would be responsible for narrow-band transmissions, and since we already know (from biological science) that large brains are associated with intelligence, they may make other inferences regarding what other mental abilities may be present. No such inferences are available in ID, of course, since ID is not based upon an empirical science like astrobiology, and does not actually refer to biological entities at all.

    I already gave you one quote from a SETI researcher that explains this. There are of course hundreds more – you can find them on the internet 🙂

    Here are those pesky little questions that you are too afraid to answer again, just in case you are actually brave enough to use your brain and try to understand what the issues actually are:

    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  182. 182
    RDFish says:

    Hi VJTorley,

    RDF:
    Do you believe that ID can scientifically conclude that the cause of biological information…

    A) was conscious?
    B) could read or write or speak in a generally expressive language (a so-called “natural language”)?
    C) could solve novel problems?
    D) could learn from experience?

    VJT:
    Very briefly: A) Yes; B) Yes; C) Yes, if by “novel problems” you mean “problems that hadn’t been put to it before by another agent”; D) Yes, if by “learn from experience” you mean “be [timelessly] informed about the world.”

    I thank you for responding to these questions! Now we can finally discuss the issues at hand, which is the empirical evidence for any of these specific, meaningful claims.

    As to how there could be scientific evidence for A), see my post on Robin Collins’ paper, “The Fine-Tuning for Discoverability”:

    (A) was the claim that the cause of living organisms was conscious – that it experienced conscious awareness. The evidence you offer, however, has nothing at all to do with consciousness! As I’m sure you know, consciousness is difficult to assess because it is a subjective experience. Scientists who study animal consciousness often give a series of behavioral tests (such as the “mirror test”) to figure out if an animal is self-aware; this and other behaviors (such as a human being verbally confirming that they are conscious) are the best indications we have that these other entities are experiencing consciousness (and even they are controversial, since a monkey recognizing itself in a mirror may still not experience conscious awareness).

    However, it is obvious that we cannot use even these sorts of tests in the context of ID!

    Moreover, since we know that consciousness is critically reliant on well-functioning brains in humans, then a priori we would have to assume that anything lacking a well-functioning brain would be unlikely to experience consciousness. Since the cause of all biological information could not logically have itself possessed a brain, then (again a priori) it is unlikely that it experienced conscious awareness the way human beings do.

    If there’s evidence that the universe was not only designed, but designed to be discovered, then that implies the Designer must be conscious.

    This is a philosophical argument that does not admit to empirical testing. I find the philosophy to be very weak, but in any event I’m only interested in empirical science here, not philosophy or theology. Empirically, our experience confirms that consciousness is restricted to animals with well-functioning brains, so unless you have empirical evidence that consciousness can be experienced by anything without a functioning brain, I’d say the science would most definitely not support the conclusion that the cause of life was conscious.

    The Designer’s ability to use natural language could be inferred if there were features of the universe, such as its mathematical beauty, which can only be described adequately using natural language.

    Again this is a (very weak!) philosphical argument, and has no science behind it whatsoever. The argument is weak because you happen to be wrong about the language: The mathematical beauty is actually ineffable in natural language and expressible in mathematics itself! But more importantly, the question is simply not answerable scientifically without specific evidence that the cause of life is capable of generating and understanding grammatical language. There is no such evidence to be found.

    As to why the Designer would need to solve novel problems, see here:

    The only way to empirically determine if the cause of life could solve novel problems is to present it with various sorts of novel problems and see if it could solve any of them.

    VJT, I hope you understand that the sorts of arguments you are putting forward are very ancient philosophical arguments that religious people have been arguing about for millenia. The reason such arguments continue without resolution is because they cannot be resolved by appeal to empirical evidence.

    Still, I do appreciate your good faith effort to engage the issues. In the end, ID cannot scientifically establish any of these properties applied to the cause of living things, which means that the term “intelligent” is scientifically vacuous in the context of ID.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  183. 183
    Box says:

    RDFish: SETI folks don’t believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of intelligence per se. Rather, they believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of civilizations of organisms with large brains, and large brains are correlates of intelligence (and consciousness, and learning, and so on).

    RDFish, you could not be more wrong. Forget about large brains:

    The Dominant Life Form in the Cosmos Is Probably Superintelligent Robots
    If and when we finally encounter aliens, they probably won’t look like little green men, or spiny insectoids. It’s likely they won’t be biological creatures at all, but rather, advanced robots that outstrip our intelligence in every conceivable way. While scores of philosophers, scientists and futurists have prophesied the rise of artificial intelligence and the impending singularity, most have restricted their predictions to Earth. Fewer thinkers—outside the realm of science fiction, that is—have considered the notion that artificial intelligence is already out there, and has been for eons.
    Susan Schneider, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut, is one who has. She joins a handful of astronomers, including Seth Shostak, director of NASA’s Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, program, NASA Astrobiologist Paul Davies, and Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick in espousing the view that the dominant intelligence in the cosmos is probably artificial. In her paper “Alien Minds,” written for a forthcoming NASA publication, Schneider describes why alien life forms are likely to be synthetic, and how such creatures might think.
    “Most people have an iconic idea of aliens as these biological creatures, but that doesn’t make any sense from a timescale argument,” Shostak told me. “I’ve bet dozens of astronomers coffee that if we pick up an alien signal, it’ll be artificial life.”

    It’s a no-brainer, actually.
    🙂

  184. 184
    Box says:

    RDFish: Are you joking? We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    It’s entirely possible that your irrational thoughts are produced by non-rational physical processes. However non-rational processes cannot account for sound rational inference.
    For those who are capable of rational thought I refer to the argument from reason.

  185. 185
    StephenB says:

    RDFish to Upright Biped

    Hahahahahahahaha – I go to the trouble of providing a link and quote from a real live SETI researcher, who explains that it is BRAINS that SETI believe are correlated with intelligence, you accuse me of “deception”! You are deranged, and very obviously so, and I’m glad I could help put that into such clear relief here.

    I hate to interrupt your venom spew with a few inconvenient facts, but you are in desperate need of remedial education. The correlation of the brain to intelligence has nothing at all to do with SETI’s methodology for detecting intelligence. It is a totally different SETI function, as is evident from the way that the institution is organized. In one way or another, UB has pointed this out to you several times. Do you think that indulging in gratuitous insults will cover for your inability to grasp the fundamental ID principles?

    SETI folks don’t believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of intelligence per se. Rather, they believe that narrow-band signals are correlates of civilizations of organisms with large brains, and large brains are correlates of intelligence (and consciousness, and learning, and so on).

    Thank you for providing yet another example of your inexcusable ignorance about ID principles and the SETI enterprise. You really do need to get up on this, so that you will stop embarrassing yourself. I will make it even more simple for you:

    Narrow-band signals represent the patterns by which SETI detects a purposefully built transmitter.

    Certain features in nature represent the patterns by which ID detects a purposeful arrangement of matter.

    Hint: A purposefully build transmitter is a purposeful arrangement of matter. An intelligent agent is one that is capable of arranging matter for a purpose. Consciousness, free will, problem solving and all your other obsessions are all add-ons; they have nothing to do with the detection process. Get it? (Probably not).

  186. 186
    Upright BiPed says:

    So you’re still too afraid to answer my questions?

    I answered your question RD: No one uses your list of criteria because it is methodologically useless and scientifically unnecessary. People who are trying to accomplish something are motivated to use tools properly so that those tools work as they should. You chose not to respond to these comments, other than to pretend that I never answered your questions.

    What are you afraid of? That God will punish you for using your brains to figure things out?

    RD, when you say things like this…wow. And this little stinger you bolted to your dishonesty about me not responding to your questions; an insult on top of a con. This is your defense, and you seem to be able to do nothing but double down on it.

    Hahahahahahahaha – I go to the trouble of providing a link and quote from a real live SETI researcher, who explains that it is BRAINS that SETI believe are correlated with intelligence, you accuse me of “deception”!

    SETI cannot test for brains, RD. Brains are either part of the methodology to detect intelligence, or they are not. They are not. It is irrational to pretend they are necessary to a methodology that they are not even a part of.

    SETI tests for narrow-band radio signals, UB. I thought I’d already explained that to you.

    The term “narrow band radio signal” appears on this page 11 times upthread. I introduced the term first (#110) when you asked for someone to give you an empirical method to infer the presence of an “intelligent agent”. I used the term a total of six times to defend my comment. Two other times I was quoted by other people, and the last three of those times are where you used the term in direct response to my posts. Your first use was to change the context of my comment in order to mock it. The second time was to tell me that SETI doesn’t use it as a correlate of intelligence “per se”, and the third time was to tell me it was actually a correlate of big brains instead. This is after I had already reminded you that big brains are not part of SETI criteria because they cannot test for them. So, in the end, this line of yours – your feigned exasperation of having already explained this to me – is simply removed from any grounding whatsoever in reality. One can then wonder what your comment was grounded in. I suggest it was grounded in your current inability to accept the simple fact that your criteria are not necessary to infer the presence of intelligence. I say this because when you made the comment, you were responding directly to me reminding you that your criteria are not used to infer intelligence. This is an understandably difficult position for you. If SETI (whose methodology you’ve characterized as meaningful and scientific) doesn’t need or use your criteria to infer the presence of an unknown intelligence, then it becomes duplicitous and deceitful for you to continue insisting that they are necessary to infer intelligence. The argument you’ve held here, for years on end, would necessarily go up in smoke. It’s a tough pill because it’s grounded in the actual reality of the situation. SETI doesn’t test for big brains in order to infer intelligence. It’s even a tougher pill if you have no motivation to accept that reality.

    They assume (based on astrobiology) that civilisations of large-brained organisms would be responsible for narrow-band transmissions

    If they assume it, then it is not part of the methodology they use to detect an act of intelligence. That is the reality you must deal with. They use a methodology to detect an act of design by an unknown intelligence without reference to big brains. Your argument is invalidated by this fact.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    One last thing about your big brains — SETI does not assume the presence of big brains from the reception of a narrow-band radio signal. They assume the presence of a “purposely built transmitter” (SETI).

  187. 187
  188. 188
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    The correlation of the brain to intelligence has nothing at all to do with SETI’s methodology for detecting intelligence.

    Nobody said it did. It has to do with what sort of thing we think would send a narrow-band signal.

    Detection isn’t the issue; we all agree SETI looks for narrow-band signals, and nobody needs to assume anything about the source to find those. The question is what can we infer based on empirical observation regarding how that CSI came to exist.

    Here is what SETI says:

    SETI: To study intelligence we must use quantifiable measures that are correlated with known characteristics of intelligence (problem solving, memory, etc.), amenable to comparisons across a wide range of organisms, and ideally, applicable to fossil as well as living organisms. The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) is one such measure.

    Do you not understand this? First, it says that the characteristics of intelligence are problem solving, memory, etc. Second, it says those characteristics are correlated with EQ (essentially brain size).

    SETI: So, using EQ, we can capture a general estimate of intelligence (which is a function of brain size and complexity) across a wide range of species.

    This means that intelligence is a function of brain size and complexity.

    That is what SETI thinks about intelligence – that it is a function of brains. They estimate how long it takes to evolve big brains in order to estimate the likelihood of civilizations of high-EQ life forms. That is why SETI scientists are astrobiologists, and not theologians or dualist philosophers 🙂

    Narrow-band signals represent the patterns by which SETI detects a purposefully built transmitter.

    If they detect a transmission, they will assume the sender to be a civilisation of organisms with a sufficiently high EQ.

    From SETI.ORG:

    SETI is an acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It is an effort to detect evidence of technological civilizations that may exist elsewhere in the universe, particularly in our galaxy. There are potentially billions of locations outside our solar system that may host life

    .

    There are innumerable references to the fact that SETI researchers assume that if we detected a signal, a civilization of life forms would be responsible. Why else do you think they hire astrobiologists? The meaning of “extra terrestrial life forms” comes from our knowledge of life forms.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  189. 189
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed

    I answered your question RD: No one uses your list of criteria because it is methodologically useless and scientifically unnecessary.

    Fine – in that case you agree that ID cannot scientifically conclude that the cause of living things had any of those characteristics.

    SETI cannot test for brains, RD. Brains are either part of the methodology to detect intelligence, or they are not. They are not.

    SETI detection methodology has nothing to do with anything except electromagnetic signals. Not brains, not biology, not intelligence – just radio waves. What SETI assumes would send those signals is a civilization of life forms with sufficiently high EQ.

    I suggest it was grounded in your current inability to accept the simple fact that your criteria are not necessary to infer the presence of intelligence.

    READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND MY ARGUMENT:
    The question is not if we can infer the presence of “intelligence”! The question is what does an inference of this so-called “intelligence” entail! As you’ve already admitted, in the context of ID, it entails nothing at all – not consciousness, not linguistic ability, and so on. In the context of SETI, it entails (by astrobiological assumption, as stated all over SETI literature) a civilization of life forms. Once we assume a civilization of life forms, we can generalize from our experience of life forms and posit similarities to life forms on earth. That is why SETI hires astrobiologists.

    In the context of ID, without the assumption that intelligence is associated with high-EQ life forms, we have nothing to base our assessment of what sort of thing is responsible – so we could not say what attributes it might have.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  190. 190

    One wonders if RDFish forgot what the acronym “SETI” stands for. Oh, the hilarious semantic contortions one must use to support their ideological bulwark against ID.

  191. 191
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish is pathetic. ID is NOT about the designer which means it is not about the intelligence behind the design. Yet RDFish is trying soooo hard to make ID about the designer/ intelligence. Not only that RDFish is totally and willfully ignorant about what the ID leadership has said about it.

  192. 192
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    Thanks for your next comment. I agree with many things in it, but not all.

    I cannot agree with you regarding evolution. Your treatment of evolution is very similar to your treatment of film “solving” Steiner tree problems.

    Learning is inseparable from and interdependent on reasoning. Where there is no reasoning, there is no possibility of learning. So abstracting learning away from a reasoner, if it is done anywhere, which I doubt, can only be a purely theoretical mental exercise for didactic purposes in textbooks.

    Learning is about how a system avoids making bad decisions having made them in the past or having been “told” about previous good or bad decisions. “Good” and “bad” necessarily involves pragmatic, not physicalistic, considerations. Consequently, deciding whether a state is good or bad is done on a logical, formal, not physical level.

    Yes, the system must have memory in order for learning to be at all possible. But learning involves a lot more than just memory. Learning is about making decisions. That evolution makes decisions is a very inaccurate and heavily ideologically laden popularization a-la Dawkins. That is so because evolution is free from a reasoner which and only which can do bona fide learning.

    Problem solving is an enterprise requiring a symbolic representation of the problem and a solver that takes those representations as input to produce a solution. That nature solves problems is only a metaphor in the popular literature about science. It is a metaphor.

    Again, you are ignoring a big difference between an algorithm (a programmatic model) and the actual modeled thing. That is the biggest flaw I can see in your argumentation.

    As a second level flaw, you are mistaken in assuming that acual biological evolution is modeled by genetic algorithms. Genetic algorithms model artificial selection, not biological evolution. This is a category error.

  193. 193
    mike1962 says:

    William J Murray: Oh, the hilarious semantic contortions one must use to support their ideological bulwark against ID.

    What do you expect from someone who asserts (with a straight face) that soap “solves” “problems” in the same sense that humans solve problems?

  194. 194
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    I think every living animal is intelligent, and every intelligent thing is a living animal”.

    While the first clause is true with regard to the operational definition of intelligence we have mutually agreed upon, the second one does not follow from anywhere. Moreover, you are self-contradicting here because you and I agree that computer code is intelligent but it is not living. It is intelligent because it can make decisions, which is all I require as an operational definition of intelligence. Speaking more broadly though, I think that logically there is a possibility for there being an intelligent agent that is not based on protein synthesis. Why are you denying that possibility a priori?

  195. 195
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Detection isn’t the issue; we all agree SETI looks for narrow-band signals, and nobody needs to assume anything about the source to find those. The question is what can we infer based on empirical observation regarding how that CSI came to exist.

    Detecting the existence of an intelligent agent is one issue, describing the nature of that intelligence is something else. SETI seeks to do both.

    Signals within a certain range indicate a purposeful arrangement of matter produced by an intelligent agent. SETI is concerned with the presence and the texture of intelligence; ID is concerned only with the former.

    Here is what SETI says:

    SETI: To study intelligence we must use quantifiable measures that are correlated with known characteristics of intelligence (problem solving, memory, etc.), amenable to comparisons across a wide range of organisms, and ideally, applicable to fossil as well as living organisms. The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) is one such measure.

    Knowing how intelligence works is a different issue than knowing if it is present in the first place.

    Do you not understand this? First, it says that the characteristics of intelligence are problem solving, memory, etc. Second, it says those characteristics are correlated with EQ (essentially brain size).

    Astrobiology includes many different kinds of scientists. some of which do not necessarily use ID’s scientific detection methods, choosing to extrapolate from what the learn about earthly biology. They simply “assume” that these characteristics will reflect ET intelligence. Other SETI researchers actually use scientific detection methods. For them, these characteristics are secondary questions to be asked after natural causes have been ruled out and artificial causes have been identified?

    SETI: So, using EQ, we can capture a general estimate of intelligence (which is a function of brain size and complexity) across a wide range of species.

    Irrelevant to scientific detection.

    This means that intelligence is a function of brain size and complexity.

    Irrelevant to scientific detection.

    That is what SETI thinks about intelligence – that it is a function of brains. They estimate how long it takes to evolve big brains in order to estimate the likelihood of civilizations of high-EQ life forms. That is why SETI scientists are astrobiologists, and not theologians or dualist philosophers 🙂

    Making assumptions about the artificial cause that is detected is a different project from detecting the artificial cause in the first place, which is not an assumption but rather a conclusion arrived at through scientific detection methods.

    If they detect a transmission, they will assume the sender to be a civilisation of organisms with a sufficiently high EQ.

    I am not discussing “assumptions.” I am discussing “conclusions” arrived at through a scientific detection methods. SETI, insofar as it uses scientific detection methods, concludes the existence of “ET” in this fashion. What some astrobiologists assume after that is a different matter altogether.

    From SETI.ORG:

    SETI is an acronym for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It is an effort to detect evidence of technological civilizations that may exist elsewhere in the universe, particularly in our galaxy. There are potentially billions of locations outside our solar system that may host life

    You are confusing SETI’s mission with its scientific methodology for detection. Assuming the existence of a civilization or a large brain is not the same thing as concluding the existence of E.T. by using ID methodology. You are conflating the former with the latter.

    .

    There are innumerable references to the fact that SETI researchers assume that if we detected a signal, a civilization of life forms would be responsible. Why else do you think they hire astrobiologists? The meaning of “extra terrestrial life forms” comes from our knowledge of life forms.

    Astrobiology includes a wide variety of scientists. Many of them are there to interpret the meaning of what has been detected. Others are there to do the detecting, using scientific methods. Still others simply assume that it is sufficient to extrapolate on our knowledge of earthly life forms. I am concerned only with SETI’s scientific detection methods.

    The meaning of ET comes from the Latin words that mean outside of the earth. It does NOT come from our knowledge of earthly life forms. You are making up your own private definitions again to serve your agenda.

  196. 196
    StephenB says:

    The reference to SETI’s primary design detection method is very clear:

    —“Narrow-band signals – perhaps only a few Hertz wide or less – are the mark of a purposely built transmitter.”

    Signals indicate a purposeful arrangement of parts.

    —“Natural cosmic noisemakers, such as pulsars, quasars, and the turbulent, thin interstellar gas of our own Milky Way, do not make radio signals that are this narrow.”

    An artificially produced signal is in a different category than a naturally produced signal. It is the means by which we detect the presence of an Intelligent agent, or for them, the presence of E.T.

    That is why SETI immediately changes the language from “technical civilizations” and “cosmic habitation” to “E.T.” when they begin discussing the design detection process. Researchers can guess all day long about what kinds of beings or groups of beings inhabit the universe, but they can use narrow band signals only to detect the presence of an intelligent agent, not an advanced civilization or a large brain. Those are mere astrobiological assumptions.

  197. 197
    StephenB says:

    To detect the presence of an intelligent agent as the source of life is far more important than detecting an intelligent agent as the source of a radio signal–even if the detection process is the same.

    It takes a lot more intelligence to design life than to design a radio signal, just as it takes a lot more intelligence to design a submarine than to design a spider’s web–even if the detection process is the same.

  198. 198
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    At least somebody here is actually trying to understand the issue and communicate about it! Most others simply try to stop the discussion, change the subject, insult and denigrate… thank you for your thoughtful comments.

    I cannot agree with you regarding evolution. Your treatment of evolution is very similar to your treatment of film “solving” Steiner tree problems.

    The point here is that we do not disagree about the matters of fact – we are simply disagreeing about the meanings of the terms “solve” or “learn”. We both agree that neither evolutionary processes nor soap film nor slime mold have any sort of conscious awareness, nor the ability to reason or to plan. I say that evolutionary processes learn and what I mean is that information is stored and used regarding what variations were most successful (at increasing reproductive rates). The information is stored in the genome of the population and influences the traits of successive generations. I also say that slime mold and soap film solve tree problems because the correct solutions to the problems are found – displayed – by these things.

    You take issue with using these words that way – you believe that “learning” must refer to more than storing, retrieving, and using information – it must include some component of reasoning. In that case, of course, evolutionary processes would not be said to learn. Likewise, you object to saying that slime mold or soap film “solves” problems, because for you “solving” entails a mental representation of the problem and the solution, and neither soap film nor slime mold appear to have mental representations of anything.

    Here are some references that talk about learning and solving problems in the sense I was using those words:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm.....MC3247862/
    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....1385a.html
    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....7.360.html
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physarum_polycephalum (P. polycephalum can solve the Shortest path problem.”, etc)

    and so on – there are endless references that talk about single celled organisms learning and solving problems.

    Again, we do not disagree about any of the matters of fact regarding soap film, slime mold, or evolutionary processes; we were merely using terms like “learning” and “solving” in different ways. At least 80% of the arguments in these forums are about the meaning of words like this, and not about matters of fact or reasoning.

    Again, you are ignoring a big difference between an algorithm (a programmatic model) and the actual modeled thing. That is the biggest flaw I can see in your argumentation. As a second level flaw, you are mistaken in assuming that acual biological evolution is modeled by genetic algorithms. Genetic algorithms model artificial selection, not biological evolution. This is a category error.

    Not at all – I did not mean that computer models were the same as physical phenomena, nor that evolutionary models were particularly good simulations. Rather, my point was that evolutionary processes are capable of learning, but not reasoning. This is something that can be understood at a very general level of description – selection (of any sort) acting on heritable random variation will produce changes over time in a population of replicating entities.

    RDF: I think every living animal is intelligent, and every intelligent thing is a living animal”.
    ES: While the first clause is true with regard to the operational definition of intelligence we have mutually agreed upon, the second one does not follow from anywhere.

    Yes, using the definition of “intelligence” we agree upon, that is quite right. It is unbearably difficult to discuss these matters because so many people here have completely different positions and what the word “intelligent” is supposed to mean!

    Moreover, you are self-contradicting here because you and I agree that computer code is intelligent but it is not living. It is intelligent because it can make decisions, which is all I require as an operational definition of intelligence.

    Again you and I agree with these definitions, but most others here on this forum will strongly disagree!

    Speaking more broadly though, I think that logically there is a possibility for there being an intelligent agent that is not based on protein synthesis. Why are you denying that possibility a priori?

    On the contrary!! My position is that an “intelligent agency” responsible for creating life may be radically different from a human! That is why ID is wrong to assume that human-like mental characteristics were involved in the creation of life.

    Here is a summary of my argument:

    1) The concept of “intelligence” is multi-faceted and complex. There are (a) phenomenological aspects, such as conscious awareness; (b) behavioral aspects, such as learning, or language use; and (c ) metaphysical aspects, such as whether mind transcends physical causation.

    2) ID claims to be a scientific theory, offering “intelligent agency” as its sole explanatory construct. However, ID fails to say what aspects of the concept of “intelligence” are supposed to be scientifically inferred.

    3) There is no justification for assuming that all aspects of human mentality would necessarily apply to the cause of living systems. If ID is supposed to be a scientific theory rather than a religious belief, then ID is obligated to say precisely what aspects of intelligence the cause of life is claimed to possess, and provide evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  199. 199
    Mung says:

    RDFish:

    At least somebody here is actually trying to understand the issue and communicate about it!

    Indeed. And that person is not named RDFish.

  200. 200
    Box says:

    RDFish: That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, (…)

    Indeed, and the Argument From Reason highlights the unbridgeable ugly chasm between brain states and rational inference.

    Reppert:

    . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as [C S] Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    The argument is clear and straightforward and leads to one conclusion only: the brain cannot think.

    RDFish: Are you joking? We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    How do your square your absolute certainty that “we” “think” with “our” brains with your admission that we do not know that “brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function?” and the strong arguments against your materialistic concept of rationality?

  201. 201
    vjtorley says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Thank you for your reply. I’ve been looking at your latest response to EugeneS, as well. I would agree with your claim that evolutionary processes are capable of learning, but not reasoning. Like you, I have no problem with ascribing learning to slime molds, although I wouldn’t say that they have mental states, of course.

    You are perfectly entitled to ask what the Intelligent Design movement means by the word “intelligent.” The minimum definition of the term is: capable of selecting appropriate means to realize one’s ends. In that sense of the word, the fine-tuning argument certainly supports intelligent design, and the abductive argument that an intelligent agent is the only cause which is known to be adequate for the task of generating genetic codes and programs, is non-problematic if “intelligent” is used in this modest sense.

    However, as you point out, this minimal definition does not tell us whether an agent is phenomenally conscious, or self-aware, or capable of using natural language, or capable of solving novel problems, or capable of learning from experience. Here again, I would agree.

    In my previous response, I proposed some methods whereby one might conclude on scientific grounds that an intelligent agent possessed these properties. You objected that my arguments were philosophical rather than scientific. I think we may have different conceptions about where the boundary between science and philosophy lies.

    As far as I’m concerned, if someone points out that if some of the constants of Nature were even slightly different, science itself (as an organized enterprise) would be impossible because we would be prevented from making the relevant discoveries, then that constitutes a scientific argument that the universe is fine-tuned for discoverability, as Dr. Robin Collins argues here. I wouldn’t call that philosophical argumentation, as it is based on strictly quantitative reasoning.

    You argue that the only way to test an entity for self-awareness is to interrogate it. That’s true, if you’re talking about direct testing. But one can also argue for the presence of self-awareness on indirect grounds, by appealing to the nature of the signals left by the agent. If some of these signals are sensitive to, or targeted at, the beliefs of the recipients of the agent’s message, then it is rational to infer on scientific grounds that the agent is self-aware.

    Regarding natural language: I have to disagree with your claim that mathematical beauty is describable within the framework of mathematics itself. There is no mathematical formula for mathematical beauty, and there cannot be. Nor can we calculate the beauty of one theory of physics (say, string theory) and compare it with another (say, Garrett Lisi’s theory). One has to use natural language to assess the relative beauty of the two theories.

    That’s all for now.

  202. 202
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    Many thanks for taking the time to clarify the issues. Your position is becoming clear to me and I now have less of an issue with what you are saying.

    My position is a bit different than what you think it is. The difference is that I think that mold does solve problems because it has built-in problem solving capabilities, whereas film does not.

    I do not know the details as to where exactly it is contained in the living organism but I can hypothesize that it may be represented as pre-programmed behaviour in the form of code responsible for innate instincts needed for survival and other key functions of life.

    Anyhow, I am convinced that living organisms do solve problems and learn, albeit in a majority of cases unconsciously. They do problem solving in much the same way as computer code does, i.e. via unconscious pre-programmed/built-in decision making routines stored in memory. Therefore I do not disagree on that account with the papers you kindly cited.

    Conscious problem solving and learning is perhaps yet another layer of complexity, which as far as science can tell today, only humans are characterized by. But all living organisms benefit from problem solving capability in order to live.

    As far as inanimate matter is concerned, it cannot solve problems even unconsciously. Inanimate nature is free from decision making completely. It can at best provide a substrate, a foundation for logic to be built upon. The laws of inanimate nature can at best allow for logic to be loaded in configurations of matter. Inanimate nature is indifferent to pragmatic utility, which is a focus of logic and control.

    The problem I see in what you are saying is that to have a single example (human thought, human agency) is not enough to draw conclusions from. I have to disagree with you because what ID claims is that the only experimentally warranted source of configurations of matter with very specific properties is human or animal intelligence. I can see nothing here that goes against logical inference.

    Based on solid and repeatable observations, we conclude that these specific configurations are caused in practice only by intelligence and nothing else. Then, when we see those configurations elsewhere whose origins are not known and cannot be observed directly, it is strictly scientific to hypothesize that they also must have been a result of intelligence capable of forethought and planning.

    In total, I agree with point 1 in your summary. As far as other points are concerned, I think that ID as I understand it (I may be wrong, of course) is not committing itself to intelligence as its sole causal factor. ID boils down to this:

    1. Functional/specified complexity is defined in (a) concrete particular way(s);
    2. Some configurations of matter characterized by high levels of functional/specified complexity are routinely observed being caused by animal or human intelligence;
    3. No unintelligent causes are observed to have generated configurations with functional/specified complexity beyond (a) practically established threshold(s);
    4. The conclusion is made that if a functionally complex configuration is observed, it has a high probability of being a result of intelligence (i.e. of agency generating these configurations with intent, purpose, planning, control).

    That is it. I think you are mistaken in thinking that ID assumes that intelligence behind protein life must have been human-like. As far as I am concerned, I haven’t seen this said anywhere. On the contrary, the Intelligence behind life must have been a lot more powerful than collective human intelligence and knowledge today.

    Again, many thanks for your patience with me discussing things.

  203. 203
    Virgil Cain says:

    Again RDFish proves it doesn’t understand science:

    My position is that an “intelligent agency” responsible for creating life may be radically different from a human!

    It could be. We don’t know and ID is NOT about the designing intelligence.

    That is why ID is wrong to assume that human-like mental characteristics were involved in the creation of life.

    We start with what we know. Science 101, again. We know what humans and other animals can do with nature. We know that nature cannot and does not mimic their actions and activity. Through that we have observed cause and effect relationships. And with that knowledge we can determine when nature operates freely and when it needs help from an intelligent agency.

    The science of ID is in the detection and study of INTELLIGENT DESIGN. The way to the designers is through the DESIGN and all relevant evidence.

  204. 204
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    How do your square your absolute certainty that “we” “think” with “our” brains with your admission that we do not know that “brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function?”

    What we know is that brain function is necessary for mental function, whether or not it is sufficient.

    …and the strong arguments against your materialistic concept of rationality?

    I do not hold a “materialistic concept of rationality”. I am pointing out that nobody can think, reason, or design things without using their brain, which ought not to be controversial.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  205. 205
    RDFish says:

    Hi vjtorley,

    The minimum definition of the term is: capable of selecting appropriate means to realize one’s ends.

    I’m guessing that you are packing a bit of libertarian metaphysics, however, into your concept of “selecting” here. Would you say that a river “selects” a path to the sea? Does soap film “select” the minimum Steiner Tree configuation? Most folks here would say no, because these “selections” are physically determined. That’s where the metaphysics comes in – because whether or not there is anything that is not physically determined is a metaphysical question.

    However, as you point out, this minimal definition does not tell us whether an agent is phenomenally conscious, or self-aware, or capable of using natural language, or capable of solving novel problems, or capable of learning from experience. Here again, I would agree.

    I am gratified that at least some people are capable of understanding this issue! Thank you!

    …that constitutes a scientific argument that the universe is fine-tuned for discoverability, as Dr. Robin Collins argues here. I wouldn’t call that philosophical argumentation, as it is based on strictly quantitative reasoning.

    Same problem: The quantitative reasoning has nothing whatsoever to do with what is supposed to have fine-tuned these constants, and just saying “fine-tuning” doesn’t imply that some conscious, rational agent was involved. It is the step from (a) computing the constraints on the physical constants to (b) imagining a conscious mind was involved in setting those constants where the philosophical speculation comes in.

    You argue that the only way to test an entity for self-awareness is to interrogate it.

    Actually there are two ways. First is to establish that the entity is sufficiently similar to a human being (with complex brain states) to warrant an inductive inference to consciousness. The second is to interrogate/interact with it.

    But one can also argue for the presence of self-awareness on indirect grounds, by appealing to the nature of the signals left by the agent. If some of these signals are sensitive to, or targeted at, the beliefs of the recipients of the agent’s message, then it is rational to infer on scientific grounds that the agent is self-aware.

    I find this a very far-fetched – and again, philosophical rather than scientific – strategy. I am not at all convinced that our beliefs are “targeted” by fine-tuning, etc, and there is certainly no empirical way to settle the question!

    Regarding natural language: I have to disagree with your claim that mathematical beauty is describable within the framework of mathematics itself. There is no mathematical formula for mathematical beauty, and there cannot be.

    Yes we disagree – I perceive the beauty directly from the mathematics, and can’t imagine using mere words to describe it!

    In any event, unless you provide some empirical tests for these ideas about mathematical beauty, “targeted” aspects of nature, and so on, you are making up creative philosophical arguments but certainly not scientific arguments. With such imaginative arguments and no empirical tests we could come up with all sorts of explanations for things – even a multiverse! – but they would not be scientific.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  206. 206
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,
    Thanks for your response. Sorry I’m short on time now; I will respond later tonight.
    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  207. 207
    Box says:

    RDFish:
    What we know is that brain function is necessary for mental function, whether or not it is sufficient.

    How do we know that? NDE research perhaps?

    RDFish:
    We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    How do we know that we think with our brains?
    Who or what is the person who thinks with the brain? How does one use brain chemicals to think? How are brain chemicals helpful when one wants to think?

  208. 208
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    My position is a bit different than what you think it is. The difference is that I think that mold does solve problems because it has built-in problem solving capabilities, whereas film does not.

    Are you aware that the physical mechanisms responsible for slime mold’s ability to solve the problem are well-understood? We have two systems – soap film and slime mold, both acting according to well-understood physical principles, and both of which finding the same solution to the same problem. Yet you hold that one (mold) “solves” the problem, and the other (soap) does not.

    I do not know the details as to where exactly it is contained in the living organism but I can hypothesize that it may be represented as pre-programmed behaviour in the form of code responsible for innate instincts needed for survival and other key functions of life.

    Now you are confusing the origin of an entity with that entity’s abilities. No matter how slime mold came to exist, it has the ability to solve this problem. Likewise no matter how soap film – or the very laws of nature – came to exist, soap film solves the same problem.

    Inanimate nature is free from decision making completely.

    Ok, in your terminology, what exactly are the requirements for a “decision”? Must it be “undetermined by physical cause”? In that case, why do you think slime mold makes decisions, when its action is determined by physical cause?

    Inanimate nature is indifferent to pragmatic utility, which is a focus of logic and control.

    “Indifference” seems to be an attribute of conscious minds, and we’ve already agreed neither mold nor soap have these.

    I have to disagree with you because what ID claims is that the only experimentally warranted source of configurations of matter with very specific properties is human or animal intelligence. I can see nothing here that goes against logical inference.

    Yes, humans/animals are the only experimentally warranted source of intelligence. So ID should posit human/animal intelligence as the cause of life, which makes no sense at all of course.

    Then, when we see those configurations elsewhere whose origins are not known and cannot be observed directly, it is strictly scientific to hypothesize that they also must have been a result of intelligence capable of forethought and planning.

    Just because human beings consciously consider their plans doesn’t mean that the mysterious cause of life would do the same thing. Something that is not a complex organism is going to be a radically different sort of thing that humans and animals. We have no way of knowing what sorts of things it can do (use natural language? learn from experience? see in the visible light spectrum? solve novel problems?) and what things it can’t do.

    ID boils down to this:
    1. Functional/specified complexity is defined in (a) concrete particular way(s);
    2. Some configurations of matter characterized by high levels of functional/specified complexity are routinely observed being caused by animal or human intelligence;
    3. No unintelligent causes are observed to have generated configurations with functional/specified complexity beyond (a) practically established threshold(s);

    Ok so far.

    4. The conclusion is made that if a functionally complex configuration is observed, it has a high probability of being a result of intelligence (i.e. of agency generating these configurations with intent, purpose, planning, control).

    But in our experience, intelligence is restricted only to humans and animals, which could not have existed before life itself. So a priori it seems unlikely that anything like human/animal intelligence could have been responsible.

    I think you are mistaken in thinking that ID assumes that intelligence behind protein life must have been human-like. As far as I am concerned, I haven’t seen this said anywhere.

    What? Of course ID does exactly that! ID proponents (like VJTorley on this very page) constantly assert that ID’s Designer could, for example, use natural language, was consciously aware, could solve novel problems, and had various other characteristics of human mentality. That is my whole point!

    On the contrary, the Intelligence behind life must have been a lot more powerful than collective human intelligence and knowledge today.

    What does “powerful” mean in this context?

    If you want to understand my argument, read my posts to VJTorley @201 on this thread, and read his posts back to me. He really is the only person in this entire discussion to understand and address my points. I think he’s completely mistaken to imagine the philosophical arguments he mounts against my point could be construed as empirical science, but at least VJT understood that ID really does have to come up with particular evidence in order to support any claim that the Designer had any particular mental characteristic whatsoever.

    Just as the Steiner Tree problem can be solved by very different sorts of processes (people, computers, slime mold, and soap film), the CSI we see in biology may arise from different sorts of processes too.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  209. 209
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDF: What we know is that brain function is necessary for mental function, whether or not it is sufficient.
    BOX: How do we know that?

    I’m not sure you are serious, really. Perhaps a short primer on brain function would help?
    http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disor....._brain.htm
    or
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQEiux-AOzs

    NDE research perhaps?

    What about NDE research? There was an effort to demonstrate that information not available to the patient could be retrieved during OOB experiences; that effort has thus far failed. Otherwise neither NDE nor anything else provides replicable evidence that mental function (including the ability to design things) ever proceeds without brain function. And there are mountains of evidence that brain function is required for mental function.

    How do we know that we think with our brains?

    It’s actually a bit alarming that you would ask this. I’ve never known anyone who doesn’t know this. Did you learn otherwise somewhere?

    Who or what is the person who thinks with the brain?

    Huh? You think with your brain, and I think with my brain. You digest food with your stomach, and I digest food with my stomach. And so on. You are a complex, sentient, biological organism, and so am I. OK?

    How does one use brain chemicals to think? How are brain chemicals helpful when one wants to think?

    I can only suggest you read an introductory text in neurobiology and cognitive psychology to begin to understand what has been learned about brains and mental function. I think you’ll find it quite interesting!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  210. 210
    Box says:

    RDFish:

    Quote from RDFish’s link:
    “The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”

    This is simply assuming one’s conclusion.
    My question persists: How do we know that the brain is “the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior?”

    RDFish: It’s actually a bit alarming that you would ask this. I’ve never known anyone who doesn’t know this. Did you learn otherwise somewhere?

    Kindly drop the clown act. Surely you must be familiar with e.g. (substance) dualism. Your statements boil down to the idea that we “know” that dualism is incorrect.
    Get serious and provide an argument for your view that “we think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.”

  211. 211
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    This is simply assuming one’s conclusion.
    My question persists: How do we know that the brain is “the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior?”

    In your opinion, then, human brains are not involved in these functions. OK! I’m happy to agree to disagree with you at this point; if you choose to not even glance at the introductory neuroscience then that is your choice.

    Kindly drop the clown act. Surely you must be familiar with e.g. (substance) dualism. Your statements boil down to the idea that we “know” that dualism is incorrect.

    You haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying, even though I have said it over and over again. I never said substance (or any other flavor of) dualism is incorrect. On the contrary, I have explicitly and repeatedly said that while we know that brains are necessary for human thought, we do not know that they are sufficient. That statement is perfectly compatible with dualism.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  212. 212
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    “Are you aware that the physical mechanisms responsible for slime mold’s ability to solve the problem are well-understood?”

    Oh, no. All over again…

    What is well understood?! That behind all things in this world there are four basic types of physical force acting?!

    Life is different from film even though it is composed of the same chemical elements as non-living matter. Life is symbolically controlled, non-life is not. Where in film is code and its processor? Where is control? Where is decision making? Where is maximization of pragmatic utility?

    It appears that I am talking to more than one person.

  213. 213
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish

    Making decisions is making purposeful choices between physically equivalent states (dynamic equilibrium states) in order to maximize pragmatic utility. A chessman is in equilibrium with the same forces acting on it regardless of the square it is positioned in on the chessboard. However, which particular square makes a lot of difference for the objective of a player to win the game.

    The same story is with computer code: computer code conceptually is nothing but postponed in time volitional decisions as functions of input. Computer programs are written to solve problems a lot of which have a well stated pragmatic optimization function to optimize. Life also optimizes utility, metabolic equilibrium, and it also does so programmatically. Hence the equivalence. Your claim that life is in this respect equivalent to film is totally empirically unsupported.

    Think yourself: what is different in your desktop computer with respect to its physical equilibrium states as a solid body mechanical system before and after you make an extra logical partition of your hard drive?

  214. 214
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    Box: My question persists: How do we know that the brain is “the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior?”

    RDFish: In your opinion, then, human brains are not involved in these functions.

    Indeed, that’s my opinion and I can back it up with arguments.
    You, on the other hand, have expressed absolute certainty that “we think with our brain” and moreover you have referred to a text which posits that the brain is “the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior”.
    I have asked you to back up your position with arguments.

    RDFish: I’m happy to agree to disagree with you at this point.

    Sure, but first show me some arguments for your position.

    RDFish: if you choose to not even glance at the introductory neuroscience then that is your choice.

    Did you even notice that I quoted from it? However I do not understand what I should learn from it. Where is the argument for your position? Can you help me out here?

    RDFish: You haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying, even though I have said it over and over again. I never said substance (or any other flavor of) dualism is incorrect. On the contrary, I have explicitly and repeatedly said that while we know that brains are necessary for human thought, we do not know that they are sufficient.

    Are you backing down? It’s obvious that your claims with regard to the position of the brain are a lot stronger from time to time.

    RDFish: That statement is perfectly compatible with dualism. (…)
    That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary.

    The brain is necessary for consciousness and mental function? God needs a brain in order to be conscious and have mental function? I hate to break it to you, but that is totally incompatible with substance dualism. You are kidding, right?

  215. 215
    Box says:

    // on neuroscience //

    When I have caused a conscious patient to move his hand by applying an electrode to the motor cortex of one hemisphere, I have often asked him about it. Invariably his response was: ‘I didn’t do that. You did.’ When I caused him to vocalize, he said: ‘I didn’t make that sound. You pulled it out of me.’ When I caused the record of the stream of consciousness to run again and so presented to him the record of his past experience, he marveled that he should be conscious of the past as well as of the present. He was astonished that it should come back to him so completely, with more detail than he could possibly recall voluntarily. He assumed at once that, somehow, the surgeon was responsible for the phenomenon, but he recognized the details as those of his own past experience. (76)
    (…)
    There is no place in the cerebral cortex where electrical stimulation will cause a patient . . . to decide. (77).
    (…)
    For my own part, after years of striving to explain the mind on the basis of brain-action alone, I have come to the conclusion that it is simpler (and far easier and logical) if one adopts the hypothesis that our being does consist of two fundamental elements” (80).

    [Wilder Penfield — The Mystery of the Mind]

  216. 216
    Box says:

    Dear onlooker, in the past I have asked RDFish several times to back up his claim that we know that brains are necessary for consciousness and mental activity. Up till now his response has been a general reference to neuroscience and the repeated remark that he is “happy to agree to disagree” with me at this point. For some reason he holds that there isn’t any need for him to provide arguments.

    RDFish: I am pointing out that nobody can think, reason, or design things without using their brain, which ought not to be controversial.

    I can only come up with one reason as to why RDFish holds that his position is not controversial: RDFish unknowingly conflates correlation with causation.
    There are several ways to point out that this is incorrect. Maybe Michael Murray’s explanation will show RDFish the light.

    (…) it is not at all clear that the correlations between mental activity and brain activity signal the identity of the two. Perhaps the problem can be illustrated as follows. Imagine that life on earth is destroyed. Shortly thereafter (very shortly), aliens descend on the planet. A pair of aliens stumble into an older home and find an old-fashioned antenna-equipped broadcast television set (on which there happens to be playing old reruns of the I Love Lucy show). Never having seen such a device, the pair decides to figure out “how it works.” They remove the back of the set and one alien stands in back fiddling with wires and electronic components while the other watches from the front to see the effects. After some time (and perhaps a few jolting electrical shocks) they notice that disconnecting the red wire causes the blue color to disappear from the screen. Disconnecting the green wire causes the bass sounds to cease emanating from the speaker. Etc. After a while, they have noticed a perfect correlation between the activity (and disruption) of certain circuits in the set, and the picture and sound that the set produces. Their conclusion: working the television set is to be explained entirely in terms of the activity of the electrical components within the set.
    WRONG! What the aliens did not realize (and perhaps could not realize given their experiments) was that the television also required the activity of the television station that was broadcasting the program signal. Without that, there would have been no I Love Lucy show for them to disrupt with their electrical shenanigans.
    Perhaps minds and brains are related to each other in ways that are similar to the relationship between television stations and television sets.

    [Michael Murray]

    Are the components in a television set “necessary” for television stations?

  217. 217
    EugeneS says:

    Programming is decision making that is postponed until execution and implemented as a function of data, which the code translated by the processor will take as input before or during execution.

    Life is a system capable of decision making, i.e. at the bare minimum life consists of persistent code + the processor. Neither code nor any processor for it can spontaneously or deterministically arise in non-living nature. The various programs implementing instincts in a living organism take as input stimuli from the environment coming in in the form of signals from receptors.

    Decision making is, by definition, a volitional purposeful choice from alternatives, in the context of planning with forethought, in order to maximize some form of pragmatic gain or utility. From the standpoint of physics, the alternatives are indistinguishable equilibrium states. Consequently, at the physical level of the implementation of life the alternatives are indistinguishable. The physical environment cannot choose from among them. It has no way to distinguish between them, nor can it realize planning with forethought.

    Decision making is therefore one of the fundamental characteristics of life setting it apart from non-life. Decision making does not require consciousness.

    The metabolic equilibrium is an example of pragmatic formal functions to maintain which life has been pre-programmed. The environment in the various evolution models selects from among already existing functions, not for a future and not yet existing function! E.g. in the long experiments by Richard Lenski bacteria learned to feed on citrate. This evolutionary behavioural adaptation was only a consequence of the already built-in decision making capabilities in bacteria. If they had not had it, no such behavioural change would have been possible!

  218. 218
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDFish: You haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying, even though I have said it over and over again. I never said substance (or any other flavor of) dualism is incorrect. On the contrary, I have explicitly and repeatedly said that while we know that brains are necessary for human thought, we do not know that they are sufficient.
    BOX: Are you backing down? It’s obvious that your claims with regard to the position of the brain are a lot stronger from time to time.

    You are very confused. All of my arguments are on this very page; you can look for yourself. I have been perfectly consistent in saying that in our experience, brains are necessary but not necessarily sufficient for consciousness and mental function. You would love it if I would “back down” because you hate the truth of this, but as everyone can see (anyone who can read, anyway) I have never changed my position on this obvious point. Go ahead – look for yourself, and find a quote where I’ve said anything else! Yeah, right.

    RDFish: That statement is perfectly compatible with dualism. (…)
    That is not to say that we know brain function explains or is sufficient for consciousness and mental function, but it does appear that it is necessary.
    BOX:The brain is necessary for consciousness and mental function?

    Apparently so, yes.

    God needs a brain in order to be conscious and have mental function?

    I have no idea what a god needs, has, or can do, because there are no gods for me to observe, study, or interact with. I’m not talking about religious ideas here; I’m talking about empirical knowledge, and in our shared and uniform experience (as ID author Stephen Meyer would say), there is nothing that is conscious and has mental function that does not also have a functioning brain.

    I hate to break it to you, but that is totally incompatible with substance dualism. You are kidding, right?

    No of course I’m not kidding. Substance dualism holds that conscious mind is ontologically distinct from physical cause, and that immaterial mind (res cogitans) somehow interacts with matter (via the pineal gland perhaps?) You claim this is inconsistent with my statement, but you are clearly mistaken: If I had said that brains were sufficient for conscious thought then you would have been right, but I didn’t and so you’re wrong.

    Substance dualism holds that people are composed of two substances – the physical and the mental – and not just one (as in physicalism or idealism). I am not denying that here (although I think it’s a bad metaphysics for various reasons). I am just saying that even if dualism is true, intelligent agents are evidently incapable of consciousness and mental function unless they have functioning brains.

    [Wilder Penfield — The Mystery of the Mind]

    Nothing in Penfield’s account contradicts anything I’ve said of course. And you may want to read up a little bit on some modern neuroscience – Penfield wrote his last book four decades ago! Why not just go back to Aristotle, who believed the brain’s main purpose was to cool the blood?

    Perhaps minds and brains are related to each other in ways that are similar to the relationship between television stations and television sets. Are the components in a television set “necessary” for television stations?

    Are you aware of any problems with this so-called “transmission theory” of mind? Do you ever allow yourself to read anything that doesn’t come from a religious website – something that perhaps presents opposing positions to what you wish to believe?

    Anyway, first of all, the quote you provide is not arguing against my position at all – it is arguing against mind-brain identity theory, which I have explicitly and repeatedly said I am not defending here (although for some reason that just doesn’t sink in for you).

    But let’s take this analogy to TV transmissions and TV sets seriously and see where it takes us, OK? In this analogy, the TV set – the circuit boards, display, and so on – represents the physical brain, right? Now, what is it that is supposed to map to our conscious experience? Is it the picture on the display and the sound coming from the speakers? If so, then your argument fails badly, since the TV set is obviously required for those things, and without a TV set there is no picture or sound at all.

    Or perhaps it is the TV transmission – the electro-magnetic waves – that is supposed to correspond to our conscious awareness? But how can that be? If you interfere with the functioning of your TV set, that doesn’t affect the TV transmission at all, but if you interfere with the functioning of your brain, your conscious awareness disappears. No matter how you map out your TV analogy, it fails to support your hope that conscious awareness can proceed without the physical mechanism of the brain.

    This is not hard to see – you can do an experiment to see for yourself. Simply interfere with the functioning of your brain: You can have some general anaesthetic administered, or drink a great deal of alcohol, or even hit yourself on the head – anything that is sufficient for you to lose consciousness. You know what happens? You lose consciousness! Your consciousness does not leave your body and float around. You do not retain the ability to think and solve problems and design things. Your conscious awareness simply gets turned off – it disappears. You become unconscious. Not conscious. You lose consciousness. So this whole “transmission hypothesis” nonsense just doesn’t hold up at all, sorry.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  219. 219
    Box says:

    RDFish: I have been perfectly consistent in saying that in our experience, brains are necessary but not necessarily sufficient for consciousness and mental function. I have never changed my position on this obvious point. Go ahead – look for yourself, and find a quote where I’ve said anything else!

    Okay. Here goes:

    RDFish: We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    In what way are stomachs not a “necessarily sufficient” explanation for digesting? In what way are hearts not a “necessarily sufficient” explanation for pumping blood?
    Next you refer to this website which states: “The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”
    Why do you refer to this website if you do not agree with its content?

    Box: God needs a brain in order to be conscious and have mental function?

    RDFish: I have no idea what a god needs, has, or can do, because there are no gods for me to observe, study, or interact with. I’m not talking about religious ideas here; I’m talking about empirical knowledge, and in our shared and uniform experience (as ID author Stephen Meyer would say), there is nothing that is conscious and has mental function that does not also have a functioning brain.

    “Shared and uniform experience” ONLY if you discard all NDE research, paranormal research, religious testimony of many millions of people and more. Don’t be ridiculous!
    Wait a minute … is that your argument? Is that how we know that the brain is necessary for consciousness and mental function?

    RDFish: I am just saying that even if dualism is true, intelligent agents are evidently incapable of consciousness and mental function unless they have functioning brains.

    I know, but that’s not what dualists are saying. Unlike you a dualist is not claiming that the mental is dependent on the physical. According to substance dualism, the mind exists independent of the brain.

    RDFish: Anyway, first of all, the quote you provide is not arguing against my position at all – it is arguing against mind-brain identity theory, which I have explicitly and repeatedly said I am not defending here (although for some reason that just doesn’t sink in for you).

    That is, because not only doesn’t one get to causation from correlation, one ALSO doesn’t get to necessary from correlation. That seems to be your blind spot.

    RDFish: But let’s take this analogy to TV transmissions and TV sets seriously and see where it takes us, OK?
    If you interfere with the functioning of your TV set, that doesn’t affect the TV transmission at all, but if you interfere with the functioning of your brain, your conscious awareness disappears.

    I have provided a link to the entire article by Prof. Michael Murray, who says regarding your comment:

    However, while this analogy is instructive, it is going to be far less than perfect. For one thing, if minds are distinct from brains, the lines of communication run both ways (unlike the television station and the set). But what this example shows is that merely finding strong correlations between neural activity and the “picture and sound” that constitutes our mental life is not enough to show their identity.
    [M.Murray]

    RDFish: This is not hard to see – you can do an experiment to see for yourself. Simply interfere with the functioning of your brain: You can have some general anaesthetic administered, or drink a great deal of alcohol, or even hit yourself on the head – anything that is sufficient for you to lose consciousness. You know what happens? You lose consciousness! Your consciousness does not leave your body and float around.

    Finally an attempt of an argument — resembling Churchland’s “argument from brain damage”. Well, thank you. The fact that some of the things that happens in our minds is influenced by what happens in our bodies was something known by the first self-conscious human beings — we don’t need neuroscience to tell us this.
    First, are you familiar with the fact that there are many testimonies of out of body experiences during anesthesia? The problem with anesthesia is that it could very well be that the person under its influence just doesn’t remember experiencing anything for that specific duration. We know for certain that this is mostly the case with dreaming. In fact, if NDE’s are valid, then it’s more likely than not that people under anesthesia do experience something.
    Second, what is rather baffling is that you seem to hold that dualism claims that there cannot be interaction between the brain/body and the mind. You seem to hold that when the mind is influenced by the body, that this constitutes a counter-argument. Obviously, the contrary is true, according to substance dualism, the two are in constant interaction with one another; the mind affects the brain/body and vice versa. Correlation doesn’t equal causation; simply because the activities of the mind are correlated with the activities of the brain/body doesn’t mean that the activities of the brain cause the mental states of the mind.
    On a more general note Craig states:

    It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly, I simply lose my vessel to interact with the road and road conditions. If the car breaks down I don’t cease to exist, I simply cannot move or interact with the world around me (or are aware of the world around me) until I get out of the car and walk.

    Much the same as a pianist whose piano is broken. If he communicated and experienced the world through music, the loss of piano would not spell his non-existence, it would simply spell his lack of interaction with the world around him.

  220. 220
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    …human brains [are] involved in these functions.

    Although humans will someday be free of that limitation, they are, insofar as they now live an earthly existence, embodied souls, which means that their brains are involved with their cognitive functions. However, that doesn’t mean that humans think with their brains. Not even close.

    On the contrary, the mind uses the brain in much the same way as a programmer uses a computer. The mind leads and the brain follows. A programmer can question his own program. A programmer can simplify complex ideas or functions. A brain or a computer cannot do those things.

    We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.

    Interesting. Let’s put it to the test: Provide your scientific argument to support the proposition that we “think with our brains.” Don’t forget to define what that phrase means and be sure to tell us where, in your judgment, thoughts originate.

  221. 221
    Upright BiPed says:

    ”You are very confused. All of my arguments are on this very page; you can look for yourself. I have been perfectly consistent” –RD

    That’s funny. Really.

    On this thread you have argued that SETI infers big brains directly from the reception of a narrow-band radio signal. This, of course, is completely false (as has been shown), but in any case, you all but suggest that the mere assumption of Big Brains is the very thing that makes their research viable.

    But only days ago…

    Things were different. You wanted to argue that there was no way that ID could test for an act of intelligence without dealing with your laundry list of attributes (adaptability, learning, problem solving, etc). After all, you suggest, SETI doesn’t even test for “intelligence”; they test for “lifeforms” instead. Way back then (just a few days ago) there was no way to actually infer intelligence. Your point was that the reception of a radio signal had no correlation whatsoever to anything that might resemble human-like or intelligent-like activity. Indeed, no such inferences could be warranted.

    RD: SETI looks for extra-terrestrial life forms, and has never found anything.

    UB: SETI does not look for “extra-terrestrial life forms” simply because there is no method available that would allow us to detect or measure such a thing. Instead, SETI is very clear about their methodology … they look for narrow-band radio signals because – in our universal experience – narrow-band radio signals are produced only by a radio transmitter, which makes the detection of such signals a reliable correlate of intelligent action.

    RD: You are quite right – SETI looks specifically for “the capacity to transmit a narrow band signal detectable from earth”. That is their operational definition of “intelligence”. Whatever other inferences might be made if a signal is ever received is currently outside the scope of SETI

    UB: [If a signal is received] they would have confirmed an instance of intelligent action; made valid without additional knowledge of the source.

    RD: Yes. And again, they make clear that by the term “intelligent” they mean nothing more or less than “capable of producing narrow-band transmission”. There may be something out in the universe that produces narrow-band transmissions but has nothing else in common with human beings – it isn’t conscious, can’t solve novel problems, can’t learn, etc. – but by SETI’s definition it would still be “intelligent”.

    UB: This is where you part from SETI, for what can only be personal reasons. You may envision the possibility of some distant planet containing a rock formation or some simple tube worm that emits narrow band radio signals …

    RD: Or some previously unknown effect deriving from quantum loops or non-local retro-causality – or most likely – something entirely beyond our ability to comprehend, just as quantum phenomena were unimagined 100 years ago and still defy our attempts at conceptualizing the underlying reality of these bizarre effects.

    UB: … but SETI is explicitly clear that they view the receiving of such a signal as evidence of a “transmitting civilization” and “technically-sophisticated beings” and “technological civilizations” that are at a “technological level at least as advanced as our own” (SETI).

    Your first response at the time was to downplay SETI itself (“which, after all, is not a theory nor a scientific discipline, but merely a search for these signals” – ?!?!) and you even go so far as to use your “folk” attribute (a dismissive insult which you normally reserve for laymen and ID supporters) saying that “of course SETI folks” posit civilizations! in direct opposition to what you just argued.

    But hey, after it soaked in, voila! Now SETI’s research program is meaningful and scientific merely because it assumes big-brained civilizations after it receives a signal from a purposely built transmitter.

    Unfortunately for you, the above leaves your perennial argument (that ID must answer your laundry list of attributes before it can even infer intelligence) in the dirt.

    I know that by saying this, I’ve set myself up for another exasperated tirade of insults, but it’s okay. I’m not the one forced to argue that soap scum solves problems, or that “non-local retro-causality” creates and assembles functioning radio transmitters sending signals out into the cosmos.

    🙂

  222. 222
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    RDFish: “Are you aware that the physical mechanisms responsible for slime mold’s ability to solve the problem are well-understood?”
    ES: Oh, no. All over again…
    What is well understood?! That behind all things in this world there are four basic types of physical force acting?!

    I certainly never said that, and don’t believe it, so I don’t know why you are starting to build these strawmen. What is well understood is how slime mold solves maze and tree problems. Do I need to provide you with a reference for this too? start with this: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/n.....marts.html and this http://io9.com/5950984/why-sli.....han-robots.

    Life is different from film even though it is composed of the same chemical elements as non-living matter. Life is symbolically controlled, non-life is not. Where in film is code and its processor? Where is control? Where is decision making? Where is maximization of pragmatic utility?

    Soap film, slime mold, computers, and humans all solve the Steiner problem, and they all do it in different ways. That is the fact of the matter. Not all problem solving is done with centralized control. Insect colonies produce complex artifacts and solve difficult problems too, without any centralized nervous system, code, processor, etc. You don’t like the truth here, but that doesn’t change the truth.

    A chessman is in equilibrium with the same forces acting on it regardless of the square it is positioned in on the chessboard. However, which particular square makes a lot of difference for the objective of a player to win the game.

    The best chess players on the planet are now computers. Computers play chess very differently than human beings play chess. This is true at the level of physical implementation (solid state circuits are different from neural systems), but the difference can also be seen in interesting cognitive psychological experiments. Both people and computers solve the problem of winning chess games, but computers do it very differently.

    Your claim that life is in this respect equivalent to film is totally empirically unsupported.

    Who said soap film and living things are “equivalent”? They are very different of course! But they both can solve the network and maze problems as we’ve seen – that is the point! There is not just one sort of “intelligence” that can solve problems – there are any number of different ways! In other words, intelligence can be centralized or distributed, digital or analogue, symbolic or non-representational, and so on.

    The physical environment cannot choose from among them. It has no way to distinguish between them, nor can it realize planning with forethought.

    Some things (like insects and slime mold and soap film) have no planning abilities or consciousness but can solve problems. Other things (like computers) have no consciousness but can generate novel plans. Still other things (like human beings) are both conscious and able to plan.

    I would like to know how living things came to exist. ID says “intelligence” was the cause, but as we’ve seen all that means is that it solved the problem of producing complex form and function that operates successfully in physical environments. It says nothing about how those problems were solved. Maybe the cause of life was conscious; maybe not. Maybe it could solve novel problems in general domains; maybe not. Maybe it could converse in natural language; maybe not. Nobody knows the answers to these questions.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  223. 223
  224. 224
    Mung says:

    Your point was that the reception of a radio signal had no correlation whatsoever to anything that might resemble human-like or intelligent-like activity. Indeed, no such inferences could be warranted.

    LoL. So true.

    Something smells fishy.

  225. 225
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDFish: We think with our brains as surely as we digest with our stomach and pump blood with our hearts.
    BOX: In what way are stomachs not a “necessarily sufficient” explanation for digesting?

    Who said it wasn’t? Stop with the strawmen! “We think with our brains” does not entail that nothing else is involved of course.

    In what way are hearts not a “necessarily sufficient” explanation for pumping blood?

    Who said it wasn’t? Why not argue against what I say instead of arguing against what I don’t say? (It’s because you can knock down straw men, but not my arguments of course).

    Next you refer to this website which states: “The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”
    Why do you refer to this website if you do not agree with its content?

    All of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it. That doesn’t say that there is nothing we don’t understand about the brain(!), nor that anyone has solved the mystery of consciousness! Nothing in that website that I saw implied that the neural processes we understand can account for subjective awareness, or that we understand if and how consciousness is causal in our mentality.

    Box: God needs a brain in order to be conscious and have mental function?
    RDFish: I have no idea what a god needs, has, or can do, because there are no gods for me to observe, study, or interact with. I’m not talking about religious ideas here; I’m talking about empirical knowledge, and in our shared and uniform experience (as ID author Stephen Meyer would say), there is nothing that is conscious and has mental function that does not also have a functioning brain.
    BOX: “Shared and uniform experience” ONLY if you discard all NDE research, paranormal research, religious testimony of many millions of people and more. Don’t be ridiculous!

    I’m not being being ridiculous. Provide any specific evidence you think shows that mental function occurs without a brain, and we can discuss it. What’s ridiculous is to tell me that anything millions of religious folks believe must be true: There are plenty of things that millions of religious people believe that you do not think is true also 🙂

    I actually follow parapsychology pretty closely and believe there is no replicable evidence available anywhere that shows mental function in anything without a brain.

    Wait a minute … is that your argument? Is that how we know that the brain is necessary for consciousness and mental function?

    No matter how much you wish it wasn’t true, we have huge amounts of evidence that mental function relies on brain function. Not correlation – it’s all quite causal. Degradation of brain function causes degradation of mental function. Damage to specific locii in the brain causes loss of specific mental function, common across human brains. Neuroscientists can predict decisions that you make using brain scans – even before you yourself are consciously aware of what choice you will make. And on and on and on- thousands of experiments that causally link brain function to mental function. Just give up on this – you are completely wrong. There is plenty we do not understand about how we think, and we understand nothing at all about how consciousness is tied to brain function, but that doesn’t change the clear empirical fact that mental function critically depends on brain function.

    Unlike you a dualist is not claiming that the mental is dependent on the physical. According to substance dualism, the mind exists independent of the brain.

    No, you’re just wrong about this too. What dualism says is that mind is of a different ontological category than matter. There are as many different flavors of dualism as you can imagine – because dualism (like physicalism or idealism) is nothing but metaphysical speculation and cannot be tested against empirical evidence. My point about brains being necessary to human thought is purely drawn from our empirical experience, and does not rely on any particular metaphysical ontology.

    However, while this analogy is instructive, it is going to be far less than perfect. For one thing, if minds are distinct from brains, the lines of communication run both ways (unlike the television station and the set). But what this example shows is that merely finding strong correlations between neural activity and the “picture and sound” that constitutes our mental life is not enough to show their identity.
    [M.Murray]

    My point was that the analogy shows that dualism is false, not true. While inactivating the TV does not alter the TV signal, inactivating the brain makes consciousness go away. You can’t even tell me which part of the analogy was supposed to correspond to conscious awareness! Was it the TV picture/sound? The TV transmission? What happens in the studio? What a completely lame analogy.

    The fact that some of the things that happens in our minds is influenced by what happens in our bodies was something known by the first self-conscious human beings — we don’t need neuroscience to tell us this.

    Yes you do, but you apparently refuse to read any neuroscience, so you don’t understand it. Changes in conscious experience can be directly measured by EEG, FMRI, and even single-neuron recordings; altering the activity of those neurons then produces changes in conscious experience. Damage the visual cortex and you lose the conscious experience of seeing – even though experiments reveal your brain still processes visual information. Evidence from comparative neurology shows that mental abilities correspond to varying development of brain structure and function. Brain surgeons believe that mental function depends on brain function, and repairs brains in order to repair mental function. And on and on and on and on….

    First, are you familiar with the fact that there are many testimonies of out of body experiences during anesthesia?

    Show me evidence that it happened. The experiments designed to do that have thus far failed. Nobody can gather information from their OOB experiences that would not be available to them in their body.

    The problem with anesthesia is that it could very well be that the person under its influence just doesn’t remember experiencing anything for that specific duration.

    And it could be nobody is conscious except for you – everybody else is a convincing zombie. And it could be that we are all just brains in vats on a distant planet and Earth is an hallucination. And it could be….

    When you lose consciousness, you lose consciousness, and that is the evidence that we have. You want to believe otherwise; believe all you want. Just don’t call it science.

    Second, what is rather baffling is that you seem to hold that dualism claims that there cannot be interaction between the brain/body and the mind.

    Baffling? That has been the problem with dualist interactionism for centuries of course. I’m not making any claims about what is possible or impossible; I’m making claims about empirical evidence. The evidence we have shows that mental function depends upon complex information processing that is, in human beings, accomplished in the brain.

    You seem to hold that when the mind is influenced by the body, that this constitutes a counter-argument.

    I didn’t actually say “the mind was influenced by the body”. That already implies dualism! The interaction problem is that no dualist has any suggestion as to how your immaterial mind somehow attaches to your body and physically controls it. You can speculate all you’d like, but speculation is boring. I like science.

    It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly, I simply lose my vessel to interact with the road and road conditions. If the car breaks down I don’t cease to exist, I simply cannot move or interact with the world around me (or are aware of the world around me) until I get out of the car and walk.

    Good grief, how bad an analogy can you imagine? Here is a car analogy for you: If your car wouldn’t start, would you imagine that some immaterial “locomotive substance” was missing? Or would you look under the hood?

    How do you know that the engine makes your car go, Box? Just because the gasoline ignites and the gasses expand and the pistons go up and down and the crankshaft turns… that’s all just correlated with the car moving right? That doesn’t prove causation, right? Just because the car stops if you break the engine – that’s just more correlation! Just because the engine slows down with less gasoline… just correlation! No causation going on there, right? What really make the car go is immaterial locomotion substance that can’t be seen, smelled, touched, measured or detected in any way whatsoever, right?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  226. 226
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Although humans will someday be free of that limitation, they are, insofar as they now live an earthly existence, embodied souls, which means that their brains are involved with their cognitive functions. However, that doesn’t mean that humans think with their brains. Not even close.

    Thanks for your religious sermon; when you’re ready to talk about science let me know!

    Provide your scientific argument to support the proposition that we “think with our brains.” Don’t forget to define what that phrase means and be sure to tell us where, in your judgment, thoughts originate.

    Try thinking without your brain – let me know how that goes.

    Read my response to Box for just a few of the many reasons scientists know that mental function relies on brain function.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  227. 227
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,
    I have been 100% consistent in all of my statements regarding SETI and ID. SETI assumes ET life forms, ID doesn’t. Forensics and anthropologists assume human life forms; ID doesn’t. Since ID doesn’t make the assumption that the cause of life was itself a life form, it has nothing upon which to base any other assumptions at all.

    The term “intelligence”, then, in the context of ID means nothing whatsoever. Maybe the cause of life was conscious; maybe not. Maybe it could solve novel problems in general domains; maybe not. Maybe it could converse in natural language; maybe not. Maybe it could solve mathematical problems; maybe not. Maybe it could understand music; maybe not. Nobody knows the answers to these questions. That doesn’t bother me – it bothers you, though 😉

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  228. 228
    StephenB says:

    SB: Provide your scientific argument to support the proposition that we “think with our brains.” Don’t forget to define what that phrase means and be sure to tell us where, in your judgment, thoughts originate.

    RDFish

    Try thinking without your brain – let me know how that goes.

    Strawman. I have already explained that we think with our minds, not our brains, and I explained exactly what that means. You don’t need to remind us that the brain is involved in the process, we already knew that.

    For your part, you have to provide scientific evidence to show that brain is the cause of thinking-not simply an indispensable player. You have to explain the relationship between the identity of the thinker and the thinker’s brain, and show that the brain is the user and not the thing being used.

    In keeping with that point, I have explained what it means to “think with the mind,” but you have not explained what it means to “think with the brain,” which would include an account of the origin of the thoughts.

    Read my response to Box for just a few of the many reasons scientists know that mental function relies on brain function

    So what? That argument doesn’t help you at all. I rely on my computer to write this sentence. That doesn’t mean that I think with my computer.

    I repeat my three-part questions: Provide your scientific argument to support the proposition that we “think with our brains.” Don’t forget: Define what that phrase means, describe the relationship between the thinker’s identity and his brain, and tells us where the thoughts originate in the first place.

  229. 229
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    You don’t need to remind us that the brain is involved in the process, we already knew that.

    In that case we agree, for that is all that I’ve argued about this. All known intelligent agents require complex brains in order to produce complex mechanisms.

    For your part, you have to provide scientific evidence to show that brain is the cause of thinking-not simply an indispensable player.

    Nonsense! Why would I argue that? Read this entire thread and you’ll see I have consistently made clear that I am not arguing that brain functions as we currently understand them are sufficient for thought, much less conscious awareness. Furthermore, I have always emphasized that consciousness is deeply mysterious.

    You have to explain the relationship between the identity of the thinker and the thinker’s brain, and show that the brain is the user and not the thing being used.

    Uh no, I really don’t have to explain any of that at all. I have always made clear that I do hold to any particular solution to the mind/body problem, as I consider it to be unsolved. What I do is to point out the implicit and unsupported assumptions made by ID theory, and I point out the facts of our experience regarding mental function and complex mechanisms (like brains).

    In keeping with that point, I have explained what it means to “think with the mind,” but you have not explained what it means to “think with the brain,” which would include an account of the origin of the thoughts.

    What I have steadfastly argued is that brain function is necessary for mental function. You seem to agree with this, but you really want me to – for some reason – defend the notion that brain function as we currently understand it is sufficient for mental function. I repeat: I have no interest in defending that position.

    I rely on my computer to write this sentence. That doesn’t mean that I think with my computer.

    Yes, that is correct! You got one right!

    I repeat my three-part questions: Provide your scientific argument to support the proposition that we “think with our brains.” Don’t forget: Define what that phrase means, describe the relationship between the thinker’s identity and his brain, and tells us where the thoughts originate in the first place.

    I’m happy to reiterate my position for about the 100th time, sure:

    1) In our experience, intelligent agents capable of designing complex (high CSI) systems invariably require a well-functioning, complex brain to do so.
    2) This would suggest that the a priori likelihood of a disembodied mind that experienced conscious awareness and could produce complex designs is very low.
    3) Thus, the a priori likelihood is very low that the first biological systems were caused by something that was consciously aware.
    4) Therefore, ID needs to provide evidence that conscious thought can proceed in the absence of a complex brain. But it fails to even try.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  230. 230
    Upright BiPed says:

    I have been 100% consistent in all of my statements regarding SETI and ID.

    You argued that SETI’s inference to intelligence could come from anything whatsoever, including something we have no experience with, and indeed, cannot even imagine. From your argument, it needn’t be conscious, it needn’t solve problems, and it needn’t be able to learn. Yet, you then turn around to insist that ID (in order to be viable) must posit something we are already fully aware of. From the standpoint of scientific discovery, your demands are frankly — just silly. Imagine science having to work under the premise that we cannot discover, investigate, or posit anything we are not already fully aware of. In any case, your claim of being consistent is spectacularly refuted by your own words.

    SETI assumes ET life forms, ID doesn’t.

    From an arrangement of matter, both SETI and ID infer an act of design by an unknown intelligence. They both reach that inference without reference to any other property of the source of the intelligence. Thus, your objections remain irrelevant to that process.

    SETI infers the presence of an intelligent agent from the presence of a radio transmitter, which they will assume exists after receiving a narrow-band radio signal. ID also infers the presence of an intelligent agent, and can do so from the presence of a particular type of translation apparatus, one that uses spatially-oriented representations to encode memory. Both narrow-band radio transmitters and spatially-oriented memory systems have entirely unambiguous physical signatures, and both are exclusively associated with intelligence.

    You can continue to avoid these facts, and indeed you will continue to do just exactly that (given your prior commitments) but it does not change the reality of the situation.

  231. 231
    StephenB says:

    SB: Although humans will someday be free of that limitation, they are, insofar as they now live an earthly existence, embodied souls, which means that their brains are involved with their cognitive functions. However, that doesn’t mean that humans think with their brains. Not even close.

    RDFish

    Thanks for your religious sermon; when you’re ready to talk about science let me know!

    You are confusing a religious sermon with a philosophical lesson. For the sake of onlookers, I am explaining why and under what circumstances and in what context, humans qua humans, use their brains to think. Since you mistakenly believe that humans do not use their brains, but rather are used by their brains, it is important to cite your error.

    Otherwise, lurkers might get the impression that humans could never think without brains under any circumstances–even in a state of disembodiment. That you don’t believe such a thing exists, or that you despise all truths that cannot be tested in a laboratory, or that you are unfamiliar with the philosophical methods for arriving at the higher truths, concerns me not in the least.

  232. 232
    computerist says:

    RDFish,

    I’m curious what you would think if I posit theoretically that the universe is either surrounded by or has an embedded complex “physical” “brain” (emphasis on the quotations).
    You feel that intelligence must be relative to a brain or is a necessary dependency.
    But a “brain” can also be relative to something else, ie: it doesn’t have to be a “brain” in the biological sense, therefore if that’s the case, intelligence isn’t necessarily only a function of a brain.
    And since we already know that other things (including things we’ve created, aka: non-biological things) can produce at least “intelligent-like” behavior, we can conclude that your brain-intelligence dependency argument is flawed.
    I admit it was a good argument, but I think it has reached the end of the line.

  233. 233
    computerist says:

    Intelligent Design
    to…
    Intelligent-like Design

    problem solved.

  234. 234
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    You argued that SETI’s inference to intelligence could come from anything whatsoever, including something we have no experience with, and indeed, cannot even imagine. From your argument, it needn’t be conscious, it needn’t solve problems, and it needn’t be able to learn.

    No, I didn’t. What I said was that something which was not conscious, etc. would match SETI’s operational definition of “intelligence”.

    Yet, you then turn around to insist that ID (in order to be viable) must posit something we are already fully aware of.

    Nope, didn’t say this either of course. Unlike VJTorley here, you are utterly uncomprehending of the simple points I’ve made. I never insisted that ID must posit something we are already fully aware of – where in the world did you get that from? What I’m pointing out is that in order to be considered an empirical theory, ID needs to describe what it offers as the explanation for living things (and the values of the physical constants, and universe itself) in empirical terms.

    RDF: SETI assumes ET life forms, ID doesn’t.
    UB: From an arrangement of matter, both SETI and ID infer an act of design by an unknown intelligence.

    Why don’t you acknowledge what I’ve argued instead of just repeating yourself? SETI assumes life forms, ID doesn’t. The assumption that SETI is looking for life as we know it is what gives meaning to the term “intelligence” in SETI – it is short for “intelligent life form”. Without that assumption, the term “intelligence” is without any clear meaning at all.

    I think we’ve taken this as far as it will go. I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it. There is no scientific theory where this is the case. In every scientific theory, the explanation refers to things that can be empirically and objectively identified.

    You won’t even try to argue against this; your entire argument is based on SETI, which is not a scientific theory at all. Furthermore, I have pointed out that SETI assumes life-as-we-know-it on other planets, while ID does not posit anything that is known to our experience, which is why you think SETI sounds like ID while it really isn’t like ID at all.

    Theories are of course free to introduce new explanatory concepts! But they actually have to say what they are!

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  235. 235
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    For the sake of onlookers, I am explaining why and under what circumstances and in what context, humans qua humans, use their brains to think. Since you mistakenly believe that humans do not use their brains, but rather are used by their brains, it is important to cite your error.

    Aside from sounding like a pompous buffoon, you are again reduced to lying about what I say in order to pretend you are winning. Pathetic! I never said people are used by their brains – that is your own bizarre idea.

    Otherwise, lurkers might get the impression that humans could never think without brains under any circumstances–even in a state of disembodiment.

    The evidence of our experience shows exactly that.

    It’s very, very funny that you religious folks love to cite science and evidence and pretend you’re doing science, like when you say “CSI invariably results from intelligent agency!” But you just HATE science and evidence when it goes against your religious beliefs, like “Intelligent agency invariably requires a complex brain!”.

    That you don’t believe such a thing exists, or that you despise all truths that cannot be tested in a laboratory,

    Your lies are getting ever more blatant and deranged. This time you pretend that I “despise all truths that cannot be tested in a laboratory”, which is just another of your toxic hallucinations. All I’m doing – all I’ve ever done here – is to demonstrate that there is no scientific basis for belief in anyone’s religious dogma.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  236. 236
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    I’m curious what you would think if I posit theoretically that the universe is either surrounded by or has an embedded complex “physical” “brain” (emphasis on the quotations).

    I don’t think this idea warrants being called a “theory”, but my beliefs run very roughly along these lines. There is some profound connection between consciousness and reality that we do not – and probably cannot – understand.

    You feel that intelligence must be relative to a brain or is a necessary dependency.

    Anything we might call “intelligence” is dependent upon complex information processing, which in turn requires complex physical states.

    But a “brain” can also be relative to something else, ie: it doesn’t have to be a “brain” in the biological sense,

    Absolutely correct. Computers are of course “intelligent” in the sense that they can learn and solve novel problems. They obviously have complex physical states, but are not otherwise like biological brains.

    therefore if that’s the case, intelligence isn’t necessarily only a function of a brain.
    And since we already know that other things (including things we’ve created, aka: non-biological things) can produce at least “intelligent-like” behavior, we can conclude that your brain-intelligence dependency argument is flawed.
    I admit it was a good argument, but I think it has reached the end of the line.

    Flawed? No, you’ve actually agreed with it entirely! In abbreviated form: Since intelligence is dependent upon CSI, the original CSI could not possibly have been produced by intelligence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  237. 237
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Nonsense! Why would I argue that? Read this entire thread and you’ll see I have consistently made clear that I am not arguing that brain functions as we currently understand them are sufficient for thought, much less conscious awareness. Furthermore, I have always emphasized that consciousness is deeply mysterious.

    Whoa, not so fast. If brains are not sufficient for thought, then what else is needed? You either agree that a mind is also required or you do not. You can’t just shrug it off as a mystery: There are no other candidates for that role: Its either brains only or minds and brains. When you say that “we think with our brain,” you are choosing the former–without evidence.

    What I do is to point out the implicit and unsupported assumptions made by ID theory, and I point out the facts of our experience regarding mental function and complex mechanisms (like brains).

    On the contrary, you make unsupported accusations to the effect that ID makes assumptions that it does not make. You literally redefine ID’s operational definitions.

    What I have steadfastly argued is that brain function is necessary for mental function. You seem to agree with this, but you really want me to – for some reason – defend the notion that brain function as we currently understand it is sufficient for mental function. I repeat: I have no interest in defending that position.

    When you say that “we think with our brain,” you are also saying, by implication, that we do not think with our mind. Otherwise, there would be no reason for making that statement, given the fact that everyone, including ID (and theists), already recognize that the brain plays a role.

    I’m happy to reiterate my position for about the 100th time, sure:

    1) In our experience, intelligent agents capable of designing complex (high CSI) systems invariably require a well-functioning, complex brain to do so.

    Just because these events seem to require a well functioning brain does not mean that the well functioning brain is responsible for the CSI. It is only the presence of an intelligent agent that is known to be a cause, which is not the same thing as a complex brain. Complex brains are not known to be the cause of anything. You already admitted that fact earlier.

    2) This would suggest that the a priori likelihood of a disembodied mind that experienced conscious awareness and could produce complex designs is very low.

    No, it wouldn’t. There is no logical or scientific reason why a disembodied agent cannot also be an intelligent agent. That option is open to any existent being, including those without brains. Our experience tells us nothing about a complex brain’s causal powers with respect to CSI. If you can produce any evidence that complex brains are responsible for producing CSI, then please provide it.

    3) Thus, the a priori likelihood is very low that the first biological systems were caused by something that was consciously aware.

    The premises that prompted (3 and 4) have already been refuted.

    4) Therefore, ID needs to provide evidence that conscious thought can proceed in the absence of a complex brain. But it fails to even try.

    Again, your premises have been refuted.

  238. 238
    Andre says:

    All that RDFish is saying;

    “I just can’t accept the immaterial”, which is funny because his mental states are all immaterial and he is using them to try and make his case that there is no such thing as the immaterial.

  239. 239
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Whoa, not so fast. If brains are not sufficient for thought, then what else is needed?

    NOBODY KNOWS!!!! How many times, StephenB, must I tell you this? The mind/body problem has not been solved. I’m not making the claim that something else is involved, NOR am I making the claim nothing else is involved, BECAUSE NOBODY KNOWS.

    My claim is that our experience confirms that brain function as we understand it is necessary for thought, and I make no claim regarding its sufficiency.

    You either agree that a mind is also required or you do not.

    For the 1000th time, I make no claim regarding mind/body ontology.

    You can’t just shrug it off as a mystery:

    Actually that is exactly what I am doing. Too bad for you. (I’m not actually “shrugging”, but rather quite emphatically pointing out that the mind/body problem has not been solved).

    There are no other candidates for that role: Its either brains only or minds and brains.

    That is among the most naive and ridiculous things you’ve ever said, which as you know is a very low bar to pass under. There are dozens of different proposals regarding mind/body ontology. You’ve failed to even mention neutral monism for example.

    When you say that “we think with our brain,” you are choosing the former–without evidence.

    You are being perfectly ridiculous. We think with our brain, and we cannot think without our brain. That doesn’t mean that nothing else might (or might not) be involved, so don’t pretend it does.

    We run with our feet. But we also run with our legs. Get it?

    On the contrary, you make unsupported accusations to the effect that ID makes assumptions that it does not make. You literally redefine ID’s operational definitions.

    Hilarious!!!!! ID has no operational definitions!!!!

    When you say that “we think with our brain,” you are also saying, by implication, that we do not think with our mind.

    Ridiculous!!!! Since I am not arguing for a mind/brain distinction in the first place, why would I imply we do not think with our mind?

    It must be terrible to be as confused as you are.

    Otherwise, there would be no reason for making that statement, given the fact that everyone, including ID (and theists), already recognize that the brain plays a role.

    Now, if by “plays a role” you mean “is apparently necessary for conscious thought”, then we are in full agreement, but of course that is not what you mean.

    And by the way, Box here has been arguing that the brain is not involved in thinking at all!

    You are zero for 100 this time, StephenB – you are exactly wrong about every single thing you say.

    Just because these events seem to require a well functioning brain does not mean that the well functioning brain is responsible for the CSI.

    Is this a typo? As it stands it makes no sense. Did you mean “not responsible”?

    It is only the presence of an intelligent agent that is known to be a cause, which is not the same thing as a complex brain. Complex brains are not known to be the cause of anything. You already admitted that fact earlier.

    I’m really, really done with you putting words in my mouth. I never “admitted” that brains are not the cause of anything. It’s just pathetic that you make up these ridiculous strawmen! I’m so tired of it! Brains cause all sorts of things! What do you think is causing you to breathe right now? Good grief.

    RDF: 2) This would suggest that the a priori likelihood of a disembodied mind that experienced conscious awareness and could produce complex designs is very low.
    SB: No, it wouldn’t. There is no logical or scientific reason why a disembodied agent cannot also be an intelligent agent.

    Nobody said there is a logical or scientific reason why there can’t be a disembodied mind. What I’ve said is that in our experience minds are never disembodied.

    You embrace the fact that in our experience CSI never arises without a mind. But you reject the fact that in our experience mind never arises without CSI.

    You want to do science? Then do science. Don’t just take the empirical facts you feel are consistent with your religious beliefs and pretend that you’ve given your religion a scientific basis. Either be satisfied with your beliefs and quit trying to make them sound science-y, or actually submit your beliefs to ALL of the empirical evidence and see where that leads you. The first place it leads you is to admit that the evidence against a mind operating without a high-CSI mechanism like a brain is exactly as strong as the evidence against a high-CSI mechanism arising without a mind.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  240. 240
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    Soap film, slime mold, computers, and humans all solve the Steiner problem, and they all do it in different ways. That is the fact of the matter.

    No, it is not a matter of fact. In the case of soap film “solving” problems you are trying to present your own interpretation as a fact. It is not a fact. Soap films do not solve problems. You are using a metaphor illegitimately here. They ‘solve’ problems in the same sense as a reel of composite material ‘remembers’ its state and rolls itself out when taken out of the reel box.

    You are saying you have not claimed anything regarding the four types of physical interaction. Ok, true. That was me asking a rhetorical question rather too passionately. Mea culpa.

    Not all problem solving is done with centralized control. Insect colonies produce complex artifacts and solve difficult problems too, without any centralized nervous system, code, processor, etc. You don’t like the truth here, but that doesn’t change the truth.

    Insect colonies are colonies of intelligent beings. This case has absolutely nothing to do with what you are trying to insist upon. So the case of colonies of decision making agents with preprogrammed behavioural patterns, collectively solving problems is entirely different from your claim and cannot support it. Ants are communicating with one another via a protocol (pheromone trail, scent and its processing).

    The best chess players on the planet are now computers. Computers play chess very differently than human beings play chess.

    So what?! Computers run computer programs that learn based on human designed algorithms. RDFish, I thought you were an AI professional…

    How does the fact that humans and human designed programs learn to win differently, change my argument that inanimate matter cannot solve problems?

    You keep disregarding the simple fact I have pointed you to time after time:

    Inanimate matter is indifferent to pragmatic utility. This is one of the reasons why it cannot choose from physically indistinguishable states and, consequently, is incapable of decision making.

    …as we’ve seen.

    No, you have not demonstrated anything, I am afraid.

  241. 241
    kairosfocus says:

    SB, I have long pointed out that contemplation is not contemplation. Beyond, our physical cosmos is contingent and evidently finely tunes in ways making C chem, aqueous medium terrestrial planet life possible; strongly pointing to purpose beyond the material on empirical evidence. RDF et al have every opportunity to know such, but choose to go another way. And the very act of responsible choice for good or ill cannot be wholly accounted for on a blind mechanical necessity and/or chance driven computational substrate. Which means that brain reductionism is inherently self-referentially incoherent on the mere fact of argument. So, the real issue here is why do we see clinging to absurdities. KF

  242. 242
    RDFish says:

    KF, as usual you completely miss the point. Sigh. Read VJTorley’s responses if you’d like to understand what I’m saying.

  243. 243
    RDFish says:

    Hi EugeneS,

    In the case of soap film “solving” problems you are trying to present your own interpretation as a fact. It is not a fact. Soap films do not solve problems.

    You don’t like the word “solve” in this context? Fine, no problem.

    The human, the soap film, and the slime mold are all presented with the tree problem – a set of nodes. The human and the slime mold and the soap film all produce the same minimum-length tree.

    Insect colonies are colonies of intelligent beings.

    None of the termites in a termite colony knows how to build a termite mound. They each have a small, fixed repertoire of simulus-response behaviors. Together they build complex structures. The intelligence does not manifest at the level of individual insects, but rather at the level of the colony.

    Computers run computer programs that learn based on human designed algorithms.

    Computers are designed by human beings. We build intelligent machines – machines that learn and solve problems on their own.

    After all, you think that humans solve problems and that humans were designed by an Intelligent Designer! Just as you think the Intelligent Designer designed human beings to be intelligent on their own, programmers design computers to be intelligent on their own.

    Inanimate matter is indifferent to pragmatic utility.

    Of course it is – inanimate matter is indifferent to everything, obviously. That doesn’t mean that solutions to problems cannot emerge from inanimate processes, as we’ve seen.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  244. 244
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    The human, the soap film, and the slime mold are all presented with the tree problem – a set of nodes. The human and the slime mold and the soap film all produce the same minimum-length tree.

    BWAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA

    As if soap film could respond to the challenge.

    None of the termites in a termite colony knows how to build a termite mound.

    Prove it, or shut up. Obviously at least one does, the queen. Otherwise a termite mound would never arise.

    Does RDFish really think that a marvel of engineering, ie a termite mound, just happens? Really?

    Since intelligence is dependent upon CSI, the original CSI could not possibly have been produced by intelligence.

    Again RDFish has confused a proximate cause with an ultimate cause.

    RDFish is a waste of skin.

  245. 245
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    SETI assumes life forms, ID doesn’t.

    They don’t know. They assume that they can detect an artificiali signal. And assuming a lifeform doesn’t mean it was a lifeform as we know it.

    Try thinking RDfish.

  246. 246
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    Box: You refer to this website which states:

    The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”

    RDFish: All of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it.

    Next some questions, because I want to make sure that I understand you correctly:

    When one states that the brain is the “seat of intelligence” and the “interpreter of the senses” does that mean that the brain is the one who interprets and understands the world? And isn’t the one who understands the world what we would consider to be the “I” — consciousness?
    When one states that the brain is the initiator of body movement does that mean that the brain initiates every movement of my fingers and therefore is typing this post? And if the brain is the initiator of each of my finger movements at the keyboard, does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?
    Also, when one states that the brain is the controller of behavior does that mean that the brain controls my thinking behavior? And isn’t it so that what we see as the controller of behavior is the “I” — consciousness?

    RDFish: I’m not being being ridiculous. Provide any specific evidence you think shows that mental function occurs without a brain, and we can discuss it.

    Ok, let’s start with Pam Reynolds’ NDE —BBC documentary here.

    RDFish: What’s ridiculous is to tell me that anything millions of religious folks believe must be true: There are plenty of things that millions of religious people believe that you do not think is true also.

    You claim that according to “our shared and uniform experience there is nothing that is conscious and has mental function that does not also have a functioning brain”, however the religious testimony by millions of people who claim to experience interaction with an intelligent immaterial God squarely contradicts your claim.

    RDFish: I actually follow parapsychology pretty closely and believe there is no replicable evidence available anywhere that shows mental function in anything without a brain.

    Where does it say that our shared and uniform experience is limited to replicable events?

  247. 247
    EugeneS says:

    RDFish,

    The human, the soap film, and the slime mold are all presented with the tree problem – a set of nodes. The human and the slime mold and the soap film all produce the same minimum-length tree.

    Actually even that is not quite right. Each of them doesn’t produce a tree. They produce a configuration of matter that can be categorized as a tree, i.e. as an acyclic graph. For that categorization you already need intelligence and a symbolic representation.

    Yes, they all can produce such configurations. So what? Likewise, soap and human beings both consist of the same chemical elements. And?

    Both soap film and the human body are acted upon by the same physical forces and are constrained to behave according to the laws of nature. So what?

    The real difference is that humans are capable of creating symbolically controlled systems. Remarkably, life can also be categorized as a symbolically controlled system capable of decision making. That is the real difference between the human and soap film and, in fact, between life and non-life.

    The intelligence does not manifest at the level of individual insects.

    I don’t think this is right.

    You are trying to show that something complex can emerge. My response to that is, it all depends. Take intelligence out of the equation and nothing will ever emerge apart from ordered or disordered states of matter. To conflate intelligent agents with inanimate environment is an ideologically laden position. The argument from emergence is a flawed argument. Emergence as a global concept is void of actual scientific meaning. It is a metaphysical position.

    Actually, as far as ants are concerned, it is a very interesting business. They have role differentiation in their society for the common benefit. But they also have dodgers who are supposed to work but aren’t. They ‘sit’ all day where they cannot be seen by others or imitate activity. So I suspect that thinking individual ants are not intelligent is just wrong.

  248. 248
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    RDFish: No matter how much you wish it wasn’t true, we have huge amounts of evidence that mental function relies on brain function. Not correlation – it’s all quite causal. Degradation of brain function causes degradation of mental function. Damage to specific locii in the brain causes loss of specific mental function, common across human brains.

    Things are not as clear as you want them to be:
    1) Consider cases where removing half the brain doesn’t affect neither the person nor mental functionality.
    2) Hydrocephalics with less than 5% brain tissue by volume and similar cases here and here .

    “There’s a young student at this university,” says [professor] Lorber, “who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.”
    “I can’t say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it’s clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms,” asserts Lorber, “and much of the brain he does have is in the more from primitive deep structures that are relatively spared in hydrocephalus”.
    [Lorber (PDF)]

    – – –

    RDFish: Neuroscientists can predict decisions that you make using brain scans – even before you yourself are consciously aware of what choice you will make.

    If you are talking about the experiments by Benjamin Libet, then you completely misrepresent them.

  249. 249
    Andre says:

    You give people like RDFISH the benefit of doubt only to be dissapointed by their utter ignorance…. sigh

  250. 250
    Upright BiPed says:

    No, I didn’t. What I said was that something which was not conscious, etc. would match SETI’s operational definition of “intelligence”.

    This is dissembling.

    I never insisted that ID must posit something we are already fully aware of

    So is this.

    I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it.

    Like SETI, the term intelligence is defined by an operational definition that relies on observable criteria. I gave you that operational definition in previous conversations. I gave it to you again upthread on September 30th, and again in the very post you are responding to now. In each instance, you have chosen not to engage that definition.

    Here it is again from #148:

    Whereas the operational definition for identifying intelligent action from an extra-terrestrial source is “the capacity to send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

  251. 251
    computerist says:

    RDFish,

    Anything we might call “intelligence” is dependent upon complex information processing, which in turn requires complex physical states.

    There is absolutely no conflict with ID and “complex physical states” as a possibility. CPSD – Complex Physical States Design, if you will, is totally consistent within the scope of ID, IMHO.

    All ID says is that intelligent-like design was required. This still opposes the blind-watchmaker, forces that mimic complex physical states but design nothing specific, and we’re right back to square one.
    Tell me why that isn’t the case RDFish, otherwise I still feel the argument is flawed, both logically and scientifically.

  252. 252
    computerist says:

    RDFish,

    Since intelligence is dependent upon CSI, the original CSI could not possibly have been produced by intelligence.

    No, I’m not reaching the same conclusion. “could not possibly” does not follow here since CSI can be the result of CPSD. And the type of CPSD can be evaluated and assessed as intelligent-like.

  253. 253
    Box says:

    RDFish needs to take a break …

    Box: The problem with anesthesia is that it could very well be that the person under its influence just doesn’t remember experiencing anything for that specific duration.

    RDFish: And it could be nobody is conscious except for you – everybody else is a convincing zombie. And it could be that we are all just brains in vats on a distant planet and Earth is an hallucination.

    I don’t understand the point you are trying to make here. My point is that anesthesia is inconclusive wrt brain/body – mind identity. Not sure what your point is.

    RDFish: When you lose consciousness, you lose consciousness, and that is the evidence that we have.

    Sure, and when you don’t lose consciousness, you don’t lose consciousness.

    Box: Second, what is rather baffling is that you seem to hold that dualism claims that there cannot be interaction between the brain/body and the mind.

    RDFish: Baffling? That has been the problem with dualist interactionism for centuries of course.

    Nope, that’s not what we are discussing.

    Box: You seem to hold that when the mind is influenced by the body, that this constitutes a counter-argument.

    RDFish: I didn’t actually say “the mind was influenced by the body”. That already implies dualism! The interaction problem is (…)

    Nope. What I’m trying to convey is that when you put forward a case in which the body influences the mind, that this doesn’t constitute an attempt to refute dualism. Dualism states that the body influences the mind and visa versa. Got it now?

    Craig: It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly, I simply lose my vessel to interact with the road and road conditions. If the car breaks down I don’t cease to exist, I simply cannot move or interact with the world around me (or are aware of the world around me) until I get out of the car and walk.

    RDFish: Good grief, how bad an analogy can you imagine? Here is a car analogy for you: If your car wouldn’t start, would you imagine that some immaterial “locomotive substance” was missing? Or would you look under the hood?

    I don’t understand your question. Obviously in Craig’s analogy the car is the brain/body and the driver is the mind. What are you talking about?

    RDFish: How do you know that the engine makes your car go, Box? Just because the gasoline ignites and the gasses expand and the pistons go up and down and the crankshaft turns… that’s all just correlated with the car moving right?
    That doesn’t prove causation, right? Just because the car stops if you break the engine – that’s just more correlation! Just because the engine slows down with less gasoline… just correlation! No causation going on there, right? What really make the car go is immaterial locomotion substance that can’t be seen, smelled, touched, measured or detected in any way whatsoever, right?

    You misunderstood Craig’s analogy and you completely forgot about the driver, RDFish … The driver.

  254. 254
    kairosfocus says:

    RDF, nope, to get anywhere you first have to ground responsible rational freedom, or else all disintegrates into blind mechanisms and chance. KF

  255. 255
    StephenB says:

    SB: Just because these events seem to require a well functioning brain does not mean that the well functioning brain is responsible for the CSI.

    RDFish

    Is this a typo? As it stands it makes no sense. Did you mean “not responsible”?

    Not only does it make sense, it destroys your entire 5 year obsession.

    It is only the presence of an intelligent agent that is known to be a cause, which is not the same thing as a complex brain. Complex brains are not known to be the cause of anything. You already admitted that fact earlier.

    I’m really, really done with you putting words in my mouth. I never “admitted” that brains are not the cause of anything It’s just pathetic that you make up these ridiculous strawmen! I’m so tired of it! Brains cause all sorts of things! What do you think is causing you to breathe right now? Good grief.

    Your getting a little excited, aren’t you? Yes, of course brains are known to cause bodily functions, but brains are not known to cause of CSI. Why didn’t you respond to the substantive point. I didn’t mean that brains are not the cause of anything at all. The point is that brains are not a known cause of any “thing,” that contains CSI. Only intelligent agents are known to be a cause of CSI.

    Your whole game is based on the false claim that, based on our experience, complex brains are a known cause of CSI. I am challenging that claim.

    Go ahead, answer my challenge: Provide empirical evidence to show that complex brains produce CSI.

  256. 256
    Box says:

    StephenB, RDFish.

    StephenB: (…) given the fact that everyone, including ID (and theists), already recognize that the brain plays a role [in thinking].

    RDFish: Box here has been arguing that the brain is not involved in thinking at all!

    I’m not the only one who holds that the brain is not involved in thinking … Meet my ‘kindred spirit’ atheist philosopher Alex Rosenberg:

    THE BRAIN DOES EVERYTHING WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT ANYTHING AT ALL.

    Science must even deny the basic notion that we ever really think about the past and the future or even that our conscious thoughts ever give any meaning to the actions that express them.
    Introspection must be wrong when it credits consciousness with thoughts about birthdays, keys, and bosses’ names. But the mistake introspection makes is so deep and so persuasive, it’s almost impossible to shake, even when you understand it. At first you won’t even be able to conceive how it could be a mistake. But it has to be. The mistake is the notion that when we think, or rather when our brain thinks, it thinks about anything at all
    We have to see very clearly that introspection tricks us into the illusion that our thoughts are about anything at all.
    Thinking about things can’t happen at all. The brain can’t have thoughts about Paris, or about France, or about capitals, or about anything else for that matter. When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong.
    Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort. There are just fermions and bosons and combinations of them. None of that stuff is just, all by itself, about any other stuff. There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter. So, when consciousness assures us that we have thoughts about stuff, it has to be wrong. (…)
    Therefore, consciousness cannot retrieve thoughts about stuff. There are none to retrieve. So it can’t have thoughts about stuff either.
    [Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide To Reality, Ch.8]

    Anyway, when one looks at the Reppert’s argument from reason one observes two incompatible processes. What role is there for brain chemicals in rational inference?

    Reppert: . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as [C S] Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

  257. 257
    Mung says:

    RDFish is fine with operational definitions as long as they don’t involve intelligence or otherwise support ID.

  258. 258
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung, the act of defining of course inevitably involves intelligent, responsibly free action. KF

  259. 259
    mike1962 says:

    Box: I’m not the only one who holds that the brain is not involved in thinking

    Box, I like most of what you write, but I have to take exception to this. Obviously you have never taken LSD, psilocybin, or been sloppy-ass drunk. If you have, I don’t see how you could believe what you believe about this. The brain has everything to do with thinking. Given my experience, I would would say that thinking and all human experience that consciousness experiences is the result of a cooperative bi-literal interplay between consciousness and its “host” brain.

  260. 260
    StephenB says:

    Box, @256, I don’t think that Reppert is arguing that the mind is totally independent of the brain. Mind and body interact, after all. Through biofeedback, the mind, or the individual using his mind, can literally change the alpha waves in the brain.

    What I understand Reppert to be saying is that our thoughts are not, as the naturalists claim, mere physical brain states. I wholeheartedly agree. Thoughts couldn’t be brain states for the reasons he mentions. Good for him. He gets it right.

    Unlike matter, thoughts have no mass or weight, nor are they extended in space. They are immaterial–that is why they are products of the mind, which is also immaterial. The immaterial mind produces immaterial thoughts; the material brain produces chemical charges.

    We think with our minds, not our brains. That doesn’t mean, however, that the brain plays no role. i would argue that the mind uses the brain the same way a programmer uses a computer. I used my computer to write that sentence. That doesn’t mean that I think with my computer.

    On the other hand, I think that Rosenburg’s comments are totally irrational. In keeping with that point, I think you may be misreading him. What I understand him to be saying is that we don’t “think” at all, either with our mind or our brains, which makes no sense to me.

  261. 261
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    When one states that the brain is the “seat of intelligence” and the “interpreter of the senses” does that mean that the brain is the one who interprets and understands the world?

    No, the person does. Likewise, the stomach is where digestion occurs, but the stomach is not “the one who digests” – the person is.

    And isn’t the one who understands the world what we would consider to be the “I” — consciousness?

    The “I” is the person. The “you” is the person. Not the brain, not the consciousness, not the heart, but the person.

    Rather than get into an extended reflection of the nature of mind and self, why don’t you just admit that human beings cannot think without using their brains? Nothing could be more obvious. Even StephenB accepts that!

    Ok, let’s start with Pam Reynolds’ NDE —BBC documentary here.

    You have failed to provide one single piece of evidence that thought occurs by anything without a brain. Nor is there any good evidence that thought occurs without a functioning brain (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16186035).

    Come on, Box. First I point out that our consciousness disappears by means of drugs, alcohol, trauma, and so on, you immediately claim that consciousness isn’t actually lost – we are perfectly conscious when we lose consciousness! – it’s just that we don’t remember it. But when somebody reports memories of floating around in operating rooms when they were flatlining, you hold that up as evidence that people don’t need their brains to think with. It’s clear that no amount of evidence or reasoning will convince you.

    Sorry, but when our brains are malfunctioning we lose consciousness – it simply goes away – your rather desperate mental gymnastics notwithstanding.

    You claim that according to “our shared and uniform experience there is nothing that is conscious and has mental function that does not also have a functioning brain”, however the religious testimony by millions of people who claim to experience interaction with an intelligent immaterial God squarely contradicts your claim.

    TRY THIS AGAIN: What’s ridiculous is to tell me that anything millions of religious folks believe must be true: There are plenty of things that millions of religious people believe that you do not think is true also.

    In any case, I’ve always said that ID is nothing but religious belief; you are proving this for me.

    1) Consider cases where removing half the brain doesn’t affect neither the person nor mental functionality.
    2) Hydrocephalics with less than 5% brain tissue by volume and similar cases here and here .

    I’ve seen all of these of course – a few weird stories culled from hundreds of millions of medical cases, on all the religious websites. Even here, there are precisely zero documented cases of anyone ever thinking without a brain. Sorry.

    RDFish: Neuroscientists can predict decisions that you make using brain scans – even before you yourself are consciously aware of what choice you will make.
    BOX: If you are talking about the experiments by Benjamin Libet, then you completely misrepresent them.

    First, as usual, you are fifty years behind the times in science. That’s because you get all of your “science” from religious websites. Try these:

    http://www.psych.unimelb.edu.a.....PNAS13.pdf
    http://www.nature.com/news/200.....8.751.html
    http://exploringthemind.com/th.....you-decide

    Second, we’re not discussing free will, which is the main focus of these sorts of experiments. The context here is that our conscious choices are not independent of brain function. How do you explain these experiments if conscious thought is not reliant upon brain function?

    Everything you think you know is wrong.

    RDFish: How do you know that the engine makes your car go, Box? Just because the gasoline ignites and the gasses expand and the pistons go up and down and the crankshaft turns… that’s all just correlated with the car moving right?
    That doesn’t prove causation, right? Just because the car stops if you break the engine – that’s just more correlation! Just because the engine slows down with less gasoline… just correlation! No causation going on there, right? What really make the car go is immaterial locomotion substance that can’t be seen, smelled, touched, measured or detected in any way whatsoever, right?
    BOX: You misunderstood Craig’s analogy and you completely forgot about the driver, RDFish … The driver.

    No, you misunderstood me. I was being facetious, showing how silly it would be for you to apply your reasoning to a car – you would conclude that the engine isn’t really required to propel the car; the activity of the engine is merely correlated with the motion but it doesn’t cause it.

    We can never observe causation of any sort at all, Box – we can only observe constant conjunction (correlation). One way we infer causation is by directly manipulating one variable and confirming variation in the other. What I’ve tried to explain to you is that there are innumerable examples of this in neuroscience. We manipulate the brain and observe corresponding changes in behavior and in conscious experience, and we manipulate our experience and observe corresponding changes in neural processes.

    For you to deny that mental function is not critically dependent upon brain function is as foolish as thinking a car’s motion is not critically dependent upon its engine.

    Anyway, when one looks at the Reppert’s argument from reason one observes two incompatible processes. What role is there for brain chemicals in rational inference?

    This is (1) a philosophical argument rather than a scientific investigation, and (2) a very bad philosophical argument. Thankfully I need only point out (1) here, because my purpose is to show ID is not scientific, not that ID fails as a philosophical argument as well.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  262. 262
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    There is absolutely no conflict with ID and “complex physical states” as a possibility. CPSD – Complex Physical States Design, if you will, is totally consistent within the scope of ID, IMHO.

    Excellent! Thank you for comprehending the issues, computerist. That is hard to come by here.

    CPSD is a hypothesis that is much older than ID. The reasons nobody pays any attention to it are many, for example:

    (1) It does not explain the origin of the CSI that we see in biological systems, or the CSI we see in the values of the physical constants.
    (2) Once you posit the existence of complex entities from which we came, it is simpler to imagine that we are merely descendents of those entities rather than the products of their engineering efforts
    (3) There is no evidence that complex entities exist anywhere in the universe, despite SETI looking for 50 years
    (4) In our experience, design does not require millions of years to implement, while the fossil record shows that it took (tens or hundreds of) millions of years for complex life to develop on Earth.

    All ID says is that intelligent-like design was required. This still opposes the blind-watchmaker, forces that mimic complex physical states but design nothing specific, and we’re right back to square one.

    The correct answer is that we have no empirically supported theory that explains the origin of CSI that we observe in life and the universe.

    RDF: Since intelligence is dependent upon CSI, the original CSI could not possibly have been produced by intelligence.
    COMP: No, I’m not reaching the same conclusion. “could not possibly” does not follow here since CSI can be the result of CPSD. And the type of CPSD can be evaluated and assessed as intelligent-like.

    Again, you are quite right. CPSD does not suffer from the same a priori improbability and incompatibility with our experience that ID suffers from. There is still no evidence that it is true, however. ID just tries to sneak in the possibility of disembodied design (god) along with CPSD, hoping nobody will notice that they are two very different hypotheses, and only the latter is consistent with our experience of the generation of CSI.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  263. 263
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Only complex biological organisms are known to cause CSI.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  264. 264
    Box says:

    StephenB: What I understand Reppert to be saying is that our thoughts are not, as the naturalists claim, mere physical brain states.

    So thoughts are not mere physical brain states? I take it that this means that thoughts are in part physical brain states.

    StephenB: Unlike matter, thoughts have no mass or weight, nor are they extended in space. They are immaterial–that is why they are products of the mind, which is also immaterial. The immaterial mind produces immaterial thoughts (…)

    I agree, but this is confusing …. If thoughts are immaterial in what sense are they in part brain states?

    StephenB: I think that Rosenburg’s comments are totally irrational.

    I agree. That’s what you get when you are a consequent materialist, like Rosenberg.

    StephenB: In keeping with that point, I think you may be misreading him. What I understand him to be saying is that we don’t “think” at all, either with our mind or our brains, which makes no sense to me.

    I agree. That’s how I understand him also. It follows that the brain is not involved in thinking.

  265. 265
    StephenB says:

    Box

    I agree, but this is confusing …. If thoughts are immaterial in what sense are they in part brain states?

    I don’t think that thoughts are brain states.

  266. 266
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Hi StephenB,

    Only complex biological organisms are known to cause CSI.

    Hi RD,

    I have no idea of what you mean by a “complex biological organism” I am not sure that even you know what you mean. You have provided no definitions, explanations, or boudaries.

    In what sense must the organism be complex? How complex does it have to be? What creatures, humans, animals, insects, plants, or molds would qualify or not qualify as a “complex biological organism?”

    How can this complex biological organism be a causal agent? Does the mere fact that it exists give it the power to cause CSI? Or, does that capacity reside in the organism as a property or attribute?

  267. 267
    Mung says:

    RDFish obviously believes he is intelligent. But what are the facts?

  268. 268
    Mung says:

    Sorry. Obvious faux pas. Asking for facts from an ID critic.

    Doh!

  269. 269
    Andre says:

    A single celled organism is a complex biological organism. I Have never seen a book written by one. Have you?

  270. 270
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I have no idea of what you mean by a “complex biological organism”

    I’m not offering the concept of “complex biological organism” as an explanation of anything. ID offers “intelligence” as an explanation of just about everything, from the existence of eyeballs to the size of the proton.

    But I did offer this as a scientific observation, so it should indeed be empirically grounded in a clear fashion. So sure, we can do this exercise, since this is obviously a last resort for you, and it may be instructive.

    “Complex biological organisms” is defined as “living systems containing high levels of complex specified information”. “living” is defined as “systems with the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.” “Complex specified information” is defined as ID defines it.

    I am not sure that even you know what you mean. You have provided no definitions, explanations, or boudaries.

    And I am happy to clarify what I’m saying, trying different ways to make my meaning understood, just like any scientist.

    In what sense must the organism be complex?

    In the sense that it has high levels of CSI.

    How complex does it have to be?

    How much CSI is required in order to produce CSI is an empirical question, and I don’t think it has been determined. It would be at least as much as is needed for ID to conclude it was “designed”.

    What creatures, humans, animals, insects, plants, or molds would qualify or not qualify as a “complex biological organism?”

    All of the ones you just mentioned qualify. Biologists have carefully catalogued all known examples of living things, divided into taxonomies. All living things are complex.

    See? No dodging, no complaints, no problem, no whining about having to explain what I mean. That’s because I’m not afraid to actually say what I mean as clearly as I can.

    A few of your questions, however, are not clear at all:

    How can this complex biological organism be a causal agent?

    What exactly is a “causal agent”? Something that causes things to happen? Is a river a causal agent? You’ll have to clarify this one for me.

    Does the mere fact that it exists give it the power to cause CSI?

    Not clear on this question either. We know from experience and observation that complex living organisms, and only complex living organisms, produce CSI. Different organisms accomplish this in different ways. All of the most complex organisms use specialized nerve cells for transmitting and processing information.

    Now it’s your turn. I’ll make it much easier for you, of course – I’m not going ask about how intelligence is supposed to work, or what “complex” means, or what “is” is. I’m just going to ask which aspects of “intelligence” does ID claim to empirically deduce as properties of the cause of living things, and what evidence there is that the cause of living systems had these properties?

    Different sorts of things solve problems in different sorts of ways. You think the cause of life solved problems the same way human beings do – with conscious thought. But you provide no evidence at all that whatever caused living things was conscious, and the only things we know are conscious are complex living organisms! Similarly, there is no evidence that the cause of life had any other particular capability, such as generating and understanding natural language, learning, or solving novel problems.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  271. 271
    Andre says:

    RDFish

    Seriously?

    But you provide no evidence at all that whatever caused living things was conscious

    How on earth do you hold out that an abstract can be the cause of anything? Is this your hope or do you honestly believe it possible? I am intrigued by your spectacular failure in reason and logic!

    Abstracts are casually inert.

  272. 272
    Box says:

    RDFish:

    Box: You refer to this website which states:
    The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”

    RDFish:
    All of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it.

    When one states that the brain is ”the initiator” of body movement does that mean that the brain initiates every movement of my fingers and therefore is (in effect) typing this post? And if the brain is ”the initiator” of each of my finger movements at the keyboard, does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?
    Also, when one states that the brain is “the controller” of behavior does that mean that the brain fully controls my behavior — including my “thinking behavior”?

  273. 273
    StephenB says:

    SB: How complex does [the organization] have to be?

    RDFish

    How much CSI is required in order to produce CSI is an empirical question, and I don’t think it has been determined. It would be at least as much as is needed for ID to conclude it was “designed”

    .

    We are not using ID’s definitions or conclusions, we are using your definition of an organism complex enough to create high levels of CSI. Based on your definition, how complex does the creature have to be? If you don’t know what you mean by complex, feel free to say so.

    SB: What creatures, humans, animals, insects, plants, or molds would qualify or not qualify as a “complex biological organism?”

    All of the ones you just mentioned qualify. Biologists have carefully catalogued all known examples of living things, divided into taxonomies. All living things are complex.

    So, once again, I have to ask: How complex does the organism have to be, in your judgment, to create CSI? For that matter, how do you distinguish between the complexity of a spider that designs a web and the complexity of a human that designs a space station? Are you saying that higher levels of CSI in the creature produces higher levels of CSI in the creature’s design.

    Earlier, you seemed to imply that the level of complexity required for high CSI Involves a well functioning brain:

    1) In our experience, intelligent agents capable of designing complex (high CSI) systems invariably require a well-functioning, complex brain to do so.

    Is that standard now off the table?

    A few of your questions, however, are not clear at all:

    OK, let’s take them on.

    SB: How can this complex biological organism be a causal agent?

    What exactly is a “causal agent”? Something that causes things to happen? Is a river a causal agent? You’ll have to clarify this one for me.

    No, a river is not a causal agent. A river does not arrange matter for a purpose.

    SB: Does the mere fact that it exists give it the power to cause CSI?

    Not clear on this question either. We know from experience and observation that complex living organisms, and only complex living organisms, produce CSI. Different organisms accomplish this in different ways. All of the most complex organisms use specialized nerve cells for transmitting and processing information.

    A complex organ without a highly developed brain (and I would also say mind) does not have the capacity to design a submarine. Hence, a monkey, though a very complex creature, cannot, based on its complexity alone, design a submarine. Only a complex human with a mind and brain cause that to happen. So, I am asking you to identify the thing that can cause that submarine to come into existence. Obviously, it isn’t just the complexity of the organism.

    I’m just going to ask which aspects of “intelligence” does ID claim to empirically deduce as properties of the cause of living things, and what evidence there is that the cause of living systems had these properties?

    ID doesn’t deduce aspects of intelligence. It simply infers the existence of intelligence, defined as the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose-as a better explanation than no intelligence.

    Different sorts of things solve problems in different sorts of ways. You think the cause of life solved problems the same way human beings do – with conscious thought.

    I don’t agree that the cause of life solved problems. What problem that could have existed would be solved by introducing life into the world? However, if you are asking me if that same cause used conscious thought “in the same way” as humans, I would have to say no. Humans must use the discursive reasoning process in order to solve a problem or even understand a problem. A supernatural cause, if infallible, omnipotent, and omniscient, would not need to go through such a process.

    But you provide no evidence at all that whatever caused living things was conscious, and the only things we know are conscious are complex living organisms! Similarly, there is no evidence that the cause of life had any other particular capability, such as generating and understanding natural language, learning, or solving novel problems.

    I don’t perceive any problem here. We don’t detect consciousness, we detect purposefully arranged matter. However, having made that detection, it would be reasonable to conclude that a conscious being was responsible for the arrangement.

    In terms of capability, it seems obvious that any intelligent agent capable of creating and designing a universe such that the planet earth can sustain life, and of coordinating the internal dynamics of developing organisms with the external environment, is certainly capable of handling smaller tasks, such as understanding language, learning, and solving problems. I can’t imagine why anyone would need evidence to figure that one out.

  274. 274
    Box says:

    RDFish: (…) why don’t you just admit that human beings cannot think without using their brains?

    Two reasons:
    First, the idea that non-rational brain chemicals are responsible for rationality doesn’t make any sense ; see e.g. the argument from reason. Second, there isn’t any empirical evidence for this incoherent and wildly speculative idea.

    RDFish: Nothing could be more obvious.

    Only to those who don’t think things through.

    RDFish: Even StephenB accepts that!

    Wrong again.

    StephenB:

    Unlike matter, thoughts have no mass or weight, nor are they extended in space. They are immaterial–that is why they are products of the mind, which is also immaterial. The immaterial mind produces immaterial thoughts (…)
    I don’t think that thoughts are brain states.

  275. 275
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    ID offers “intelligence” as an explanation of just about everything,

    Liar. But we all know that is all you have.

    Look ID is NOT about the intelligence and nothing RDFish can say will ever change that fact.

    Pathetic.

  276. 276
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Only complex biological organisms are known to cause CSI.

    And when we observe CSI and it could not have been via a “complex biological organism” we infer it was some other form of intelligence. We do not infer mother nature magically got the power to produce it.

    A child can make that judgement. So what is RDFish’s real issue?

  277. 277
    Box says:

    RDFish: Neuroscientists can predict decisions that you make using brain scans – even before you yourself are consciously aware of what choice you will make.

    BOX: If you are talking about the experiments by Benjamin Libet, then you completely misrepresent them.

    RDFish: First, as usual, you are fifty years behind the times in science. That’s because you get all of your “science” from religious websites. Try these: [for links see post #261]

    For an insightful take-down of RDFish’s rash conclusion, based on Chun Siong Soon’s experiments and others, I refer to an excellent article by V.J.Torley, “Free Will: Why reports of its death are greatly exaggerated”.

  278. 278
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    My argument here rests on the simple and obvious observation that human beings cannot think without using their brains. You deny this – calling it a “rash conclusion”, and an “incoherent and wildly speculative idea”.

    I’ve explained that manipulating neural function reliably alters our conscious experience and specific behaviors, and that, conversely, manipulating experience observably alters neural function, revealing an obvious and uncontroversial causal connection between brain function and perception, reasoning, emotion, and consciousness. You ignore this evidence and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    I’ve provided links to experiments that demonstrate decisions can be predicted by observing brain function well in advance of the subjects’ conscious awareness of their own decision, and you persist in denying that brain function has anything to do with mental function.

    I’ve explained why transmission theory (your “TV analogy”) fails to map in any way to the facts of our experience. I’ve pointed out that brain trauma or drugs cause us to lose consciousness, and you deny it, bizarrely claiming that even when we are unconscious we are still conscious.

    You believe that this organ inside our skulls – by far the most complex functional structure known in the universe, that uses by far more energy than any other organ in our body – this organ isn’t required for us to do anything except… what? You haven’t even said!

    In desperation you’ve appealed to the so-called “argument from reason”, which in no way attacks the idea that brain function underlies mental function; it merely attacks our rationality! And even if this argument proved that (a) we actually were provably rational and (b) brain function could not account for our rationality, that still would not undermine my simple observation that brain function was necessary for thought! It would merely suggest that something else was involved in addition to brain function, something I have never denied.

    It is at this point where we simply must agree to disagree. I believe what I’ve demonstrated in our discussion is:

    1) Since brain function is critical to mental function, it is unlikely that whatever was responsible for the first living organisms was something that had mental function and subjective experience.

    2) Religious belief is impervious to evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  279. 279
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I’ve made the observation that all known instances of thought requires brain function, and that all known sources of CSI comes from complex living organisms. You are trying desperately to deny these observations, because they undermine the claim that the first living things were created by something with mental function and subjective experience. (That is, they undermine ID theory).

    SB: How complex does [the organization] have to be?

    All known sources of CSI are living systems, and all living systems contain CSI.

    You have two choices here:
    1) You can deny that “CSI” is a clear empirical concept. In that case, you undermine ID’s arguments.
    2) You can accept that my observation is clear, meaningful, and true. In that case, you also undermine ID’s arguments.

    ID doesn’t deduce aspects of intelligence. It simply infers the existence of intelligence, defined as the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose-as a better explanation than no intelligence.

    In that case, ID makes absolutely no claim as to any of the following:
    1) The cause of life was conscious
    2) The cause of life knew what it was doing
    3) The cause of life experienced emotions or desires
    4) The cause of life could use language to explain what it was doing
    5) The cause of life could have chosen to do something else
    6) The cause of life could do anything else except produce the living things we observe
    7) The cause of life could solve a crossword puzzle or memorize a shopping list
    8) The cause of life could see, hear, taste, feel, move, or talk
    9) The cause of life had any understanding of morality
    and so on.

    VJTorley understood my point, agreed with it, and tried to respond to it with specific evidence for specific traits of the cause of life. I found that evidence perfectly unscientific, but at least VJT tried!

    I don’t perceive any problem here. We don’t detect consciousness, we detect purposefully arranged matter. However, having made that detection, it would be reasonable to conclude that a conscious being was responsible for the arrangement.

    As I’ve explained endlessly, just because a human being is conscious when it does something doesn’t imply that something very different from a human being (something that doesn’t even have a nervous system!) is also going to be conscious. Humans think about Steiner Trees when we solve Steiner Tree problems; slime mold produces the same solutions without thinking about them, and so does soap film. Humans need to understand electricity in order to produce high-voltage electrical arcs; rainclouds do it without undertanding. Humans plan complex functional structures consciously; termites build complex functional structures without any conscious understanding. And so on.

    If ID specified that some CSI-rich organism was responsible for life on Earth, we could infer that it would have properties similar to other CSI-rich organisms – like us. Instead, ID is claiming that something without a CSI-rich brain and body was somehow responsible for living things, so we have nothing to go on in terms of saying what sort of thing this might have been.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  280. 280
    Box says:

    RDFish: My argument here rests on the simple and obvious observation that human beings cannot think without using their brains. You deny this – calling it a “rash conclusion”, and an “incoherent and wildly speculative idea”.

    The idea that purposeless blind non-rational particles in the brain can cause rationality or has a vital contribution to rationality is utterly incoherent and indeed wildly speculative.

    RDFish: I’ve explained that manipulating neural function reliably alters our conscious experience and specific behaviors, and that, conversely, manipulating experience observably alters neural function, revealing an obvious and uncontroversial causal connection between brain function and perception, reasoning, emotion, and consciousness. You ignore this evidence and pretend it doesn’t exist.

    During this earthly life the brain/body is our connection to the external physical world. Obviously when the external world enters consciousness by means of perception it has impact. And this impact changes when the brain/body is altered or damaged. From this you conclude that the brain is responsible or has a vital contribution for rationality. It simply doesn’t follow.

    RDFish: I’ve provided links to experiments that demonstrate decisions can be predicted by observing brain function well in advance of the subjects’ conscious awareness of their own decision, (…)

    In response I have provided reference to an article by V.J.Torley which takes your superficial interpretation of the data down.

    RDFish: I’ve explained why transmission theory (your “TV analogy”) fails to map in any way to the facts of our experience.

    You have failed to understand the purpose of the “TV analogy”, which I explained to you in post#225, by quoting prof. M.Murray: “But what this example shows is that merely finding strong correlations between neural activity and the “picture and sound” that constitutes our mental life is not enough to show their identity.”
    Why am I not surprised that you still don’t get it?

    RDFish: I’ve pointed out that brain trauma or drugs cause us to lose consciousness, and you deny it, bizarrely claiming that even when we are unconscious we are still conscious.

    This is again an inaccurate summation of my position in the debate. I have provided several counter-arguments:
    1) Craig’s excellent analogies:

    It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly, I simply lose my vessel to interact with the road and road conditions. If the car breaks down I don’t cease to exist, I simply cannot move or interact with the world around me (or are aware of the world around me) until I get out of the car and walk.
    Much the same as a pianist whose piano is broken. If he communicated and experienced the world through music, the loss of piano would not spell his non-existence, it would simply spell his lack of interaction with the world around him.

    2) I have pointed out that there are in fact many testimonies of out of body experiences during anesthesia.
    3) I have pointed out that anesthesia is inconclusive because it could very well be that the person under its influence just doesn’t remember experiencing anything for that specific duration. We know for certain that this is mostly the case with dreaming. In fact, if NDE’s are valid, then it’s more likely than not that people under anesthesia do experience something.
    4) I have pointed out that dualism is fine with the body influencing the mind. I have explained to you that you are mistaken when you think it constitutes a counter-argument. Obviously, the contrary is true, according to substance dualism, the two are in constant interaction with one another; the mind affects the brain/body and vice versa. Correlation doesn’t equal causation; simply because the activities of the mind are correlated with the activities of the brain/body doesn’t mean that the activities of the brain cause the mental states of the mind.

    RDFish: In desperation you’ve appealed to the so-called “argument from reason”, which in no way attacks the idea that brain function underlies mental function; it merely attacks our rationality!

    You are absolutely clueless. I’m baffled by your stupidity.

  281. 281
    StephenB says:

    Hi RD,

    As noted earlier, your observation that all known instances of thought require brain function is not exactly a novel discovery, and your assertion that complex living systems is too vague to mean anything. Depending on one’s perspective, any organism can be complex, which is why I asked you to define complexity, which, as it turns out, seems to be any living organism.

    Your claim seems to boil down to this: CSI causes CSI, which, again, tells me nothing. Do increasing levels of CSI in the organism cause increasing levels of CSI in the designed object? Who can know? You don’t tell us. For the record, it isn’t the CSI that is doing the causing; it is a power of some kind such as a mind or brain. CSI as such, has no causal power, which means that CSI does not cause CSI.

    You might want to say that each time we find a designed object, an organism with high CSI was present on the scene, but that means nothing if the CSI is not doing the causing.

    SB: ID doesn’t deduce aspects of intelligence. It simply infers the existence of intelligence, defined as the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose-as a better explanation than no intelligence.

    In that case, ID makes absolutely no claim as to any of the following:
    1) The cause of life was conscious
    2) The cause of life knew what it was doing
    3) The cause of life experienced emotions or desires
    4) The cause of life could use language to explain what it was doing
    5) The cause of life could have chosen to do something else
    6) The cause of life could do anything else except produce the living things we observe
    7) The cause of life could solve a crossword puzzle or memorize a shopping list
    8) The cause of life could see, hear, taste, feel, move, or talk
    9) The cause of life had any understanding of morality
    and so on.

    It appears that you finally read something that I wrote. The design inference is a specific process that is very restrictive and can yield only one conclusion: Based on the observed pattern, it is more likely that object x came to be as a purposeful arrangement of parts than a naturally occurring event. None of those other 9 claims is part of ID’s design inference.

    VJTorley understood my point, agreed with it, and tried to respond to it with specific evidence for specific traits of the cause of life. I found that evidence perfectly unscientific, but at least VJT tried!

    I think VJ was saying is something to the effect that once the scientific evidence speaks, we can make second order deductions about what that could mean. I have indicated the same thing many times, and each time you misunderstood it. Such a conclusion is a different animal than the design inference itself. So it is with the big bang, which says nothing about a supernatural, omnipotent being as the cause, even though such a second order conclusion would be perfectly reasonable based on the scientific evidence. Accordingly, ID methodology, as such, can only indicate the existence of the designer; it has no way of establishing attributes. It wasn’t made for that. Indeed, it has been criticized for that very reason. I really don’t understand why you cannot grasp this point.

    In terms of consciousness, I think it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that anything that arranges matter for a purpose is conscious, however, that has nothing at all to do with design detection methodology. Whatever notions you may have about “problem solving” are irrelevant. Yes, humans plan complex functional structures by understanding their activities and termites build less complex functional structures without understanding their activities, and each is an ID event. What they have in common is not their levels of intelligence or their levels of conscious awareness, but rather the texture of their product–empirically detected arrangement of matter for a purpose. ID is about what they have in common. ID is not, however much you want to make it so, about their differences. Similarly, ID is about the patterns observed both in what animals produce, what humans produce, and what the designer of life produced. It is not, however much you want to make is so, about their differences.

    Again, ID does not claim, however much you want to make is so, that something “without a CSI-rich brain and body was responsible for living things.” You are simply making that up. ID says that an intelligent agent capable of arranging matter for a purpose was responsible for the origin of life. From that point, it would be reasonable to conclude that the cause of life was immaterial, not because ID says so, but because it follows logically from what ID does say. I really wish that you could grasp the difference, but at this point I must assume that you would simply prefer not to do that.

  282. 282
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    During this earthly life the brain/body is our connection to the external physical world.

    Does the brain contain memories?

    If this is the case, would a person who dies lose those memories contained in the brain?

    If so, you could never take any earthly memories into an “afterlife”.

    If instead, out earthly memories remain intact with our “minds”, why would we need a brain that is any different than the simplest mammal?

    Our “mind” could interface with a much simpler brain if our “mind” and “consciousness” was external to our physical bodies.

    The fact that our brains are so complex is evidence that the physical construction of the brain is responsible for everything we think.

  283. 283
    Box says:

    Carpathian: Does the brain contain memories?

    I don’t think so. Why? Because such a thing cannot be modeled.
    Egnor puts it like this:

    The brain is a physical thing. A memory is a psychological thing. A psychological thing obviously can’t be “stored” in the same way a physical thing can. It’s not clear how the term “store” could even apply to a psychological thing.

    What we see here is the same unbridgeable chasm which exists between brain states and rational inference — as pointed out by the Argument From Reason.

    Carpathian: If instead, out earthly memories remain intact with our “minds”, why would we need a brain that is any different than the simplest mammal?

    I’m not sure that we do.
    1) Consider cases where removing half the brain doesn’t affect neither the person nor mental functionality.
    2) Hydrocephalics with less than 5% brain tissue by volume and similar cases here and here.

    “There’s a young student at this university,” says [professor] Lorber, “who has an IQ of 126, has gained a first-class honors degree in mathematics, and is socially completely normal. And yet the boy has virtually no brain.”
    “I can’t say whether the mathematics student has a brain weighing 50 grams or 150 grams, but it’s clear that it is nowhere near the normal 1.5 kilograms,” asserts Lorber, “and much of the brain he does have is in the more from primitive deep structures that are relatively spared in hydrocephalus”.
    [Lorber (PDF)]

    Carpathian: The fact that our brains are so complex is evidence that the physical construction of the brain is responsible for everything we think.

    Even a brain the size of universe cannot be responsible for thinking because we cannot model how non-rational particles in motion can produce rationality:

    Reppert:

    . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as [C S] Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    In other words, brain states (brain chemistry) is submissive to physical law only. However rational inference is completely unrelated to the laws of chemistry. Rational inference is about logical laws and understanding propositional content.
    Conclusion: brain states cannot produce rational inference.

  284. 284
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    The idea that purposeless blind non-rational particles in the brain can cause rationality or has a vital contribution to rationality is utterly incoherent and indeed wildly speculative.

    Since you can’t defeat my arguments, you argue against straw men. You are trying to change the subject: I’ve made no claims about whether our mental function is rational or not.

    My claim has consistently been that human mental function – and our ability to design complex mechanisms in particular – relies on the information processing abilities of our brains. You have insisted that this well-known medical fact is wildly speculative. In order to preserve your religious beliefs, you are forced to deny that brains are involved with perception, memory, emotion, reasoning, language, and so on. I am quite happy to agree to disagree on this.

    RDFish: I’ve pointed out that brain trauma or drugs cause us to lose consciousness, and you deny it, bizarrely claiming that even when we are unconscious we are still conscious.
    BOX:This is again an inaccurate summation of my position in the debate.

    No, it’s perfectly accurate: Your response to the fact that we lose consciousness with drugs or trauma is that we remain conscious but fail to remember that we were conscious while we were unconscious. If you’d like to take that back, then simply agree with the facts: When we lose consciousness because a knock on the head disrupts our neural functioning, we do not somehow remain conscious all the while – rather, we simply cease to be conscious. Without a properly functioning brain, our consciousness disappears.

    It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly,

    Right – you aren’t being damaged, your car is. Your car stops functioning properly, but you are unaffected. This seems pretty obvious.

    Now, if you disable your kidney or your stomach or your gallbladder you do not lose consciousness (unless you are bleeding and your brain is starved of oxygen). You would be unable to process blood toxins, or digest food, or process fats, but you would still be able to think and experience consciousness (as long as you were alive). If you disable your brain, however, you do lose consciousness and you cannot think. The reason is clear: We need our brains to think with. We do not need our kidney, or our stomach, or our car in order to think.

    I have pointed out that there are in fact many testimonies of out of body experiences during anesthesia.

    I have explained many times there is no good scientific evidence for this. Paranormal researchers have TRIED to gather evidence that out-of-body experiences are real, but they have FAILED.

    Here’s the science:

    In 2014 Parnia issued a statement indicating that the first phase of the project has been completed and the results are undergoing peer review for publication in a medical journal.[127] No subjects saw the images mounted out of sight according to Parnia’s early report of the results of the study at an American Heart Association meeting in November 2013. Only two out of the 152 patients reported any visual experiences, and one of them described events that could be verified.[128]

    On October 6, 2014 the results of the study were published in the journal Resuscitation. Among those who reported a perception of awareness and completed further interviews, 46 per cent experienced a broad range of mental recollections in relation to death that were not compatible with the commonly used term of NDEs. These included fearful and persecutory experiences. Only 9 per cent had experiences compatible with NDEs and 2 per cent exhibited full awareness compatible with OBEs with explicit recall of ‘seeing’ and ‘hearing’ events. One case was validated and timed using auditory stimuli during cardiac arrest.[129] According to Caroline Watt “The one ‘verifiable period of conscious awareness’ that Parnia was able to report did not relate to this objective test. Rather, it was a patient giving a supposedly accurate report of events during his resuscitation. He didn’t identify the pictures, he described the defibrillator machine noise. But that’s not very impressive since many people know what goes on in an emergency room setting from seeing recreations on television.”

    There are thousands of stories of alien abductions, but no good scientific evidence that they are true. These people earnestly report alien beings taking them from their bedrooms, examining them in spaceships, and so on. Until we have well-documented evidence, rather than simply these people’s memories, most people (including me) are not convinced that these extraordinary stories are true. Stories are not science.

    Correlation doesn’t equal causation; simply because the activities of the mind are correlated with the activities of the brain/body doesn’t mean that the activities of the brain cause the mental states of the mind.

    I’ve already explained how we infer causation from correlation:

    We can never observe causation of any sort at all, Box – we can only observe constant conjunction (correlation). One way we infer causation is by directly manipulating one variable and confirming variation in the other. What I’ve tried to explain to you is that there are innumerable examples of this in neuroscience. We manipulate the brain and observe corresponding changes in behavior and in conscious experience, and we manipulate our experience and observe corresponding changes in neural processes.

    It isn’t simple correlation that has proven the causal connection between brain function and thought, perception, and emotion. It is the gigantic mountain of experience that medical doctors, neurosurgeons, and brain researchers have amassed doing experiments and observing how brain function affects thought, perception, and emotion, and observing how environmental stimulus affects brain activity.

    Denying this puts you in pretty much the same category as a flat-earther. But I do understand your motivation – really, I do.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  285. 285
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD, I answered your challenge in #250:

    RD: I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it.

    UB: Like SETI, the term intelligence is defined by an operational definition that relies on observable criteria. I gave you that operational definition in previous conversations. I gave it to you again upthread on September 30th, and again in the very post you are responding to now. In each instance, you have chosen not to engage that definition.

    Here it is again from #148:

    Whereas the operational definition for identifying intelligent action from an extra-terrestrial source is “the capacity to send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

    You have now returned to this thread twice without responding to my post. Do you need additional time to formulate a response?

  286. 286
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    your assertion that complex living systems is too vague to mean anything

    Again, if you would like deny that CSI is a valid empirical metric, I’m happy to agree.

    You are not serious when you pretend not to know what what it means to observe a “complex living organism”. Aside from the borderline case of a virus, there is no disagreement regarding what is and what is not a living thing. The definition of “life” I gave here is perfectly usable. And we both agree that all living cells are full of complex mechanisms – “CSI” as IDers like to say.

    In stark contrast, even people in ID – on this very page! – disagree about what consitutes an intelligent agent, and what the word connotes. Some believe that intelligence is compatible with determinism; others disagree. Some believe that intelligence is separable from consciousness; others don’t. Some believe that minds are what brains do, others believe brains have nothing to do with intelligence. And so on, and so on.

    Now, this would be bad enough if we were just talking about an observation, but ID actually tries to offer this single word as an explanation for things like blood clotting cascades, eyeballs, flagella, the size of the moon, the strength of the electroweak force, and many other physical phenomena. Such a broad, powerful theory needs to be clear about what it is offering as the explanation for all of these phenomena!

    In contrast, neither I nor anyone else I know of attempts to explain anything by referring merely to “life”. I am not a vitalist who attempts to say that “life” is what animates people and animals and enables them to move. If I was, then sure, I would have to be much more concrete about exactly what this “life force” was and how it makes animals move. But all I’m saying is that everything that can learn, solve novel problems, and experience conscious awareness (i.e. is “intelligent” by my working definition here), is in fact a complex living organism.

    If you want to deny that, or deny that it is clear, I will be very happy to agree to disagree, and you will appear ridiculous.

    Otherwise, I observe that all intelligent entities are themselves rich in CSI. What this does is undermines ID’s basic inference. ID attempts to say that since in our experience only intelligent things create CSI, then the CSI we see in biology must have come from something intelligent. But in our experience all intelligent things are CSI-rich organisms, so logically the first CSI-rich organism cannot have been caused by something intelligent.

    It appears that you finally read something that I wrote. The design inference is a specific process that is very restrictive and can yield only one conclusion: Based on the observed pattern, it is more likely that object x came to be as a purposeful arrangement of parts than a naturally occurring event.

    Well, there you go again: You are attempting to sneak in one of your metaphysical assumptions. I honestly don’t think you are even aware of it. The problem is this: You assume that a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is somehow not a naturally occurring event!

    Then you say, “Intelligent action is not part of nature”!

    And then we’re back to the beginning, where you sneaking in metaphysical assumptions along with your definition of “intelligence”.

    And I say, “Huh? That wasn’t part of your definition! As far as I’m concerned, there is not anything unnatural or supernatural about any arrangement of matter, including matter arranged by people!”

    None of those other 9 claims is part of ID’s design inference.

    EXCELLENT!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!

    I will be referencing this frequently to all of the other IDers here who believe quite differently!

    Accordingly, ID methodology, as such, can only indicate the existence of the designer; it has no way of establishing attributes. It wasn’t made for that. Indeed, it has been criticized for that very reason.

    ID is criticized for talking about the cause of life as though it was some sort of person or god, and pretending that science supports that conclusion.

    In terms of consciousness, I think it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that anything that arranges matter for a purpose is conscious, however, that has nothing at all to do with design detection methodology.

    And I think it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that anything lacking the physiological correlates of consciousness that have been found in human brains will not be conscious. So, there is simply no scientific way to conclude anything regarding the consciousness of whatever caused the first living things, and it is highly misleading of ID folks to pretend that there is. That is my main complaint.

    What they have in common is not their levels of intelligence or their levels of conscious awareness, but rather the texture of their product–empirically detected arrangement of matter for a purpose.

    Can you please clarify: When you say “matter arranged for a purpose” are you saying anything different than “matter arranged into high levels of CSI”? If not, could you please explain exactly how we detect “matter arranged for a purpose”?

    Similarly, ID is about the patterns observed both in what animals produce, what humans produce, and what the designer of life produced.

    Sorry, but while we can observe what animals (including humans) produce, we cannot observe the “designer of life” at all.

    Again, ID does not claim, however much you want to make is so, that something “without a CSI-rich brain and body was responsible for living things.”

    OF COURSE ID does not claim this! It simply makes no sense to say that biological information was first produced by something biological. My point is that that is what the so-called “design inference” actually concludes IF you are willing to look at the facts of our experience.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  287. 287
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    Box: The idea that purposeless blind non-rational particles in the brain can cause rationality or has a vital contribution to rationality is utterly incoherent and indeed wildly speculative.

    RDFish: Since you can’t defeat my arguments, you argue against straw men. You are trying to change the subject: I’ve made no claims about whether our mental function is rational or not.

    Do you have no shame?

    RDFish: My claim has consistently been that human mental function – and our ability to design complex mechanisms in particular – relies on the information processing abilities of our brains.

    You have claimed a lot more than that, but you refuse to acknowledge that — see #272.

    RDFish: You have insisted that this well-known medical fact is wildly speculative.

    So now it’s a “medical” fact that our ability to design complex mechanisms relies on the information processing abilities of our brains? Get a grip.

    RDFish: In order to preserve your religious beliefs, you are forced to deny that brains are involved with perception, memory, emotion, reasoning, language, and so on.

    We have discussed the involvement of non-conscious non-rational physical processes in consciousness and thinking. I have pointed out that your position cannot even be modeled and went on refuting each and every single one of your superficial arguments. You haven’t even begun to understand mine.

    RDFish: I am quite happy to agree to disagree on this.

    Sure you do. But you have got nothing to ground your disagreement.

    RDFish: I’ve pointed out that brain trauma or drugs cause us to lose consciousness, and you deny it, bizarrely claiming that even when we are unconscious we are still conscious.

    BOX:This is again an inaccurate summation of my position in the debate.

    RDFish: No, it’s perfectly accurate: Your response to the fact that we lose consciousness with drugs or trauma is that we remain conscious but fail to remember that we were conscious while we were unconscious.

    “While we were unconscious”?? Are you for real? Do you tell a person with amnesia that he was unconscious before amnesia hit him? When you fail to remember that you were dreaming, does it follow that you were in fact not dreaming (“unconscious”) while dreaming? What is wrong with you? Do I have to explain everything?
    You know what? I have enough of sifting through your bullshit. I’m done talking to you.

  288. 288
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

    Yeah I saw this. Again – I’d never seen this one in ID books – did you make it up? It’s just a little weird that this sophisticated science that people want to teach in schools and publish in journals is being defined by anonymous guys on the internet, no? But ok, sure, no problem.

    So fine, whatever caused the origin of life was able to encode memory using “spatially-oriented representations”. I agree arguendo. That means if evolutionary theory is true, then evolutionary processes are “intelligent”. And if some unknown unconscious, deterministic process is discovered that caused life, then (by your definition) that unconscious, deterministic process would be “intelligent” too – even though it could do nothing except produce the biological systems it invariably produces, and be utterly unaware of what it was doing.

    Whatever it turns out to be that caused living systems, either it was a complex living organism or it wasn’t. If it was, then we might infer that there are similarities to human beings, such as the ability to learn, to solve novel problems, and to experience conscious awareness. If it wasn’t, then none of these inferences would be supportable. Since ID refuses to restrict its hypothesis to extra-terrestrial life forms, we have nothing upon which to assume anything at all about the cause of life.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  289. 289
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    RDF: My claim has consistently been that human mental function – and our ability to design complex mechanisms in particular – relies on the information processing abilities of our brains.
    BOX: You have claimed a lot more than that, but you refuse to acknowledge that — see #272.

    Poor Box. You want so much for me to say something wrong, so you can be right about something. You want me to claim that dualism is false, that immaterial mind doesn’t exist, that libertarian free will is false, or that brain function fully accounts for mental function. If I said those things, you would pull out all your religious arguments and let me have it!

    TOO BAD I NEVER SAID ANY OF THOSE THINGS. HERE IS WHAT I HAVE SAID IN THIS THREAD, WHICH IS THE SAME THING I SAY IN EVERY DISCUSSION I EVER HAVE:

    RDFISH:
    @53: First, if you read what I wrote, I never claim that a brain is sufficient for consciousness or even for general intelligence. I point out that it appears to be necessary.

    @64: You are using the word “sufficient” here, while what I have pointed out is that physical brains appear to be necessary for mental functioning – both “high” and “low” mental functions.

    @179: Subjective consciousness is entirely mysterious. We can certainly measure mental abilities objectively, however. And we also know that both consciousness and mental abilities are dependent upon properly functioning brains.

    @204: What we know is that brain function is necessary for mental function, whether or not it is sufficient.

    @211: You haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying, even though I have said it over and over again. I never said substance (or any other flavor of) dualism is incorrect. On the contrary, I have explicitly and repeatedly said that while we know that brains are necessary for human thought, we do not know that they are sufficient. That statement is perfectly compatible with dualism.

    @218: I have been perfectly consistent in saying that in our experience, brains are necessary but not necessarily sufficient for consciousness and mental function.

    @225: Stop with the strawmen! “We think with our brains” does not entail that nothing else is involved of course.

    @284: My claim has consistently been that human mental function – and our ability to design complex mechanisms in particular – relies on the information processing abilities of our brains.

    Hahahahahahahahaha!!! How many times would you like me to say it? And still you pretend that I am saying something else. GOOD GRIEF!

    So now it’s a “medical” fact that our ability to design complex mechanisms relies on the information processing abilities of our brains? Get a grip.

    I have a grip both on the facts and on your psychological need to ignore and hide from them.

    RDFish: I am quite happy to agree to disagree on this.
    BOX: Sure you do. But you have got nothing to ground your disagreement.

    I’ve given you papers from experiments where brain function predicts conscious experience and decisions; arguments about what happens when we suffer brain trauma; arguments regarding experiments that alter brain function and observe mental changes; experiments that alter experience and observe brain changes; and arguments regarding how we infer causation from correlation. I’ve grounded my position quite securely. You just wish it wasn’t so.

    RDFish: Your response to the fact that we lose consciousness with drugs or trauma is that we remain conscious but fail to remember that we were conscious while we were unconscious.
    BOX: “While we were unconscious”?? Are you for real?

    Uh yeah – what do you call it when somebody loses consciousness? Do you say they are still conscious?

    When somebody gets knocked out and goes unconscious, you claim that they are still conscious. Then you get angry when I repeat it back to you, because it sounds so ridiculous. But it’s not my fault – it really is ridiculous.

    Do you tell a person with amnesia that he was unconscious before amnesia hit him?

    HUH??? NOT TALKING ABOUT AMNESIA!!! TALKING ABOUT LOSING CONSCIOUSNESS!!!

    When you fail to remember that you were dreaming, does it follow that you were in fact not dreaming (“unconscious”) while dreaming?

    NOT TALKING ABOUT SLEEPING AND DREAMING!!! TALKING ABOUT LOSING CONSCIOUSNESS DUE TO TRAUMA, ANOXIA, DRUGS, ALCOHOL!!!!

    What is wrong with you? Do I have to explain everything?

    You are trying to claim that people never lose consciousness, and you think there is something wrong with me? Seriously – ask a doctor if it is possible for somebody to lose consciousness from anoxia, trauma, drugs, alcohol, or other things that interfere with brain function. They’ll tell you yes – I promise.

    You know what? I have enough of sifting through your bullshit. I’m done talking to you.

    Yes, I was waiting for this. Thanks for the chat – it’s been beautifully illustrative regarding the extent to which people will say insane things to protect their religious beliefs.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  290. 290
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    Since ID refuses to restrict its hypothesis to extra-terrestrial life forms, we have nothing upon which to assume anything at all about the cause of life.

    Intelligent Design doesn’t say anything about the designer(s). ID is not about the designer(s). We infer at least one designer existed based on the strong evidence for intelligent design.

    We don’t even get to ask about the possible intelligent designer(s) until after we have determined intelligent design exists. That proves that ID does not need to say anything about the intelligent designer(s) as ID is only about the detection and study of intelligent design in nature.

    RDFish wants us to skip all of the required steps and pronounce our conclusion or else we can’t take the required steps!

  291. 291
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Again, if you would like deny that CSI is a valid empirical metric, I’m happy to agree.

    .

    In terms of design detection, CSI is a meaningful metric only for the designed organism, not for the designer of the organism.

    You are not serious when you pretend not to know what what it means to observe a “complex living organism”. Aside from the borderline case of a virus, there is no disagreement regarding what is and what is not a living thing. The definition of “life” I gave here is perfectly usable. And we both agree that all living cells are full of complex mechanisms – “CSI” as IDers like to say.

    The dispute is over which living things can produce a purposeful arrangement of parts and how we can know it. Slime mold cannot do that, nor can soap scum. Related to that point is the fact that the purpose of the arrangement is not always understood as a purpose by the designer. It is essential to understand all this before weighing in.

    In stark contrast, even people in ID – on this very page! – disagree about what consitutes an intelligent agent, and what the word connotes. Some believe that intelligence is compatible with determinism; others disagree. Some believe that intelligence is separable from consciousness; others don’t. Some believe that minds are what brains do, others believe brains have nothing to do with intelligence. And so on, and so on.

    You will have to narrow that down. (Too many interpretations of claims made by others. Too much conflation of ontology with epistemology)

    Meanwhile, you have not responded to my two points:

    CSI has no causal power.

    CSI is not an appropriate metric for the designer.

    Now, this would be bad enough if we were just talking about an observation, but ID actually tries to offer this single word as an explanation for things like blood clotting cascades, eyeballs, flagella, the size of the moon, the strength of the electroweak force, and many other physical phenomena. Such a broad, powerful theory needs to be clear about what it is offering as the explanation for all of these phenomena!

    All together now! Intelligence is defined as the capacity to arrange matter for a purpose.

    In contrast, neither I nor anyone else I know of attempts to explain anything by referring merely to “life”. I am not a vitalist who attempts to say that “life” is what animates people and animals and enables them to move. If I was, then sure, I would have to be much more concrete about exactly what this “life force” was and how it makes animals move. But all I’m saying is that everything that can learn, solve novel problems, and experience conscious awareness (i.e. is “intelligent” by my working definition here), is in fact a complex living organism.

    I am perfectly fine with it if you want to define life your own way. However, you will have to design your own detection methodology to go along with it since ID’s methodology is appropriately tied to its own understanding of life. You are not permitted to intrude your novel definitions unto ID’s paradigms, which were meant to serve another definition. In any case, I can’t agree with you that no one knows what the phrase origin of life refers to, especially when it carries the acronym—OOL, which is used by all the main players.

    If you want to deny that, or deny that it is clear, I will be very happy to agree to disagree, and you will appear ridiculous.

    Normally, when you become aggressive and start saying that someone else is going to appear ridiculous, it is a reliable indicator that some portion of your argument has just been refuted. That is exactly what happened in the previous paragraph.

    Otherwise, I observe that all intelligent entities are themselves rich in CSI What this does is undermines ID’s basic inference.

    Only in your dreams. And you have the same dream every night.

    ID attempts to say that since in our experience only intelligent things create CSI, then the CSI we see in biology must have come from something intelligent.

    And that is a perfectly reasonable argument.

    But in our experience all intelligent things are CSI-rich organisms, so logically the first CSI-rich organism cannot have been caused by something intelligent.

    That doesn’t follow for the simple reason that ID doesn’t define an intelligent agent as a CSI rich organism. An intelligent agent is many things and has many attributes. That doesn’t mean that you can define an intelligent agent as one of those attributes and run with it.

    It is the ultimate folly to demand that ID should adjust its methodology to conform to your arbitrary definitions. ID can provide evidence only for its own claims informed by its own definitions, paradigms, and methods. That is science 101.

    Well, there you go again: You are attempting to sneak in one of your metaphysical assumptions. I honestly don’t think you are even aware of it. The problem is this: You assume that a “purposeful arrangement of parts” is somehow not a naturally occurring event!

    No, and this is not the first time you have confused a definition with an assumption. If I assume that given object is a purposeful arrangement of parts even before the evidence has a chance to speak,, then that would be a metaphysical assumption. On the other hand, If I consider two open possibilities (and define them), such as purpose vs. non-purpose, and go on to conclude that a given pattern is purposeful because it has the same characteristics of other purposeful patterns that have been observed, then I am not sneaking in a metaphysical assumption. (By the way, I should have said a purposeful arrangement of “matter,” not parts].)

  292. 292
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,
    Before I embark on the laborious chore of correcting all of your misapprehensions, please respond to this question that you dodged:

    RDF @286:
    Can you please clarify: When you say “matter arranged for a purpose” are you saying anything different than “matter arranged into high levels of CSI”? If not, could you please explain exactly how we detect “matter arranged for a purpose”?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  293. 293
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Can you please clarify: When you say “matter arranged for a purpose” are you saying anything different than “matter arranged into high levels of CSI”? If not, could you please explain exactly how we detect “matter arranged for a purpose”?

    The two concepts are closely related, but they are not synonymous. When the reference is about arranged matter, the emphasis is less on measurement and more on the fact that there is a practical reason for the arrangement, which could also represent a relationship between parts and whole, as is the case with irreducible complexity, which is also related to but not synonymous with CSI. The basic idea is to help you understand the difference between purposeless matter in motion and matter discernably arranged for a purpose.

    It was necessary for me to emphasize the meaning of purposefully arranged matter, since you obviously didn’t grasp it when you wrote this:

    “Purpose” is not discernable by simply looking at the (re) arrangements of matter and without interacting with the cause. When water is rearranged into raindrops and dropped on a cornfield, the raincloud was not consciously aware of the purpose of watering the corn. When water is rearranged by a farmer and dropped on the cornfield, however, the farmer certainly can express his purposeful intention to water his crops.

    Thus, the same rearrangement of matter may be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”, depending on what did the rearranging.

    I could name any number of arrangements of matter that could be “for a purpose” or “not for a purpose”. For example, I think it’s terrific that there is an arrangement of matter into a Sun that emits high-energy protons, a metallic core of the Earth that produces a magnetic field that decreases in strength at the poles, and an atmosphere with gasses like oxygen and nitrogen. And all this for the purpose of giving us the Northern Lights!

    In this case, you were working with concepts that you mistakenly believed to be a purposeful arrangement of matter. So, I felt it was necessary to keep using that term until you understood what it means. This is especially the case when you argued that water turned into raindrops or water poured on crops by a farmer constitute a discernable arrangement of matter. You thought that you have proven that the same arrangement of matter can be both purposeful and not purposeful, but you didn’t understand the meaning of the terms you were using.

    We can detect matter arranged for a purpose in many ways:

    by recognizing the similarity of the pattern with other patterns known to have been designed,

    by observing a function,

    by measuring CSI,

    by recognizing irreducible complexity,

    by identifying counterflow.

    by knowing nature’s limits.

  294. 294
    Upright BiPed says:

    RD,

    Doesn’t it bother you at all that you once again lead off with a logical fallacy? At each turn in this conversation, your first response has been to take out a razor and try to cut me up. Okay, whatever floats your boat — but you keep losing the actual argument. Haven’t you ever thought about getting out in front of these choices you make?

    You asked if I made up the operational definition I gave you. I already told you “yes” I organized the words in the sentence, but the understanding comes from all of those who did the work and wrote it down.

    So fine, whatever caused the origin of life was able to encode memory using “spatially-oriented representations”. I agree arguendo.

    I’m confident that your conditional agreement stems from not knowing the subject matter. Spatially-oriented representations are one of four instances of arbitrariness that are required to organize the heterogeneous living cell. I can give you a very brief rundown. The first instance of arbitrariness is the discontinuity between the arrangement of a medium and its post-translation effect. Translation is a process where the products of the system are not determined by the physical properties of the medium being translated. This relational architecture – where one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, but another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be – is what enables the arrangement of a medium to actually be a representation within a system. The second instance of arbitrariness is the spatial arrangements within the representations themselves, where each individual arrangement is independent of the lowest potential energy state of the medium. This begins to enable open-ended information capacity (via combinatorial expansion) and it allows representations to be efficiently copied between mediums. Both of these capacities are fundamental to a self-replicator capable of Darwinian evolution. The third instance is required by the use of spatially-oriented representations. In order to actually function, such representations have to be read in the proper orientation, and those arbitrary dimensional constraints must be physically established in the operation of the system. The fourth instance is in the information itself; the actual sequence of individual representations that bear information to be translated. The minimum requirements for the origin of this system are thus established by what is physically necessary to record and translate the amount of information that the system needs to successfully describe itself into memory.

    And as indicated earlier, this type of system can be exclusively identified among all other physical systems, and is found elsewhere only in recorded language and mathematics – two unambiguous products of intelligence.

    The remainder of your comments are too muddled with assumptions to generate much of a response. My suggestion is that you read up on the topic.

  295. 295
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    We can detect matter arranged for a purpose in many ways:
    by recognizing the similarity of the pattern with other patterns known to have been designed,

    Since high voltage electric arcs are designed artifacts of human engineers, then lightning is arranged for a purpose.
    Since humans design paths that minimize the length of a Steiner tree, then the soap film that arranges itself into the same pattern is arranged for a purpose.
    Since humans design nuclear reactors, the internal structure of stars is arranged for a purpose.
    Since humans design ship locks, the tides are arranged for a purpose
    Since humans irrigate crops, rainclouds are arranged for a purpose
    Since humans build wind tunnels, wind is arranged for a purpose
    and on and on and on…

    Now, for once, don’t just say “You are mistaken, wind is not arranged for a purpose…”. You actually have to say HOW WE CAN TELL. Unless the answer is “whatever StephenB says is arranged for purpose”, you need to provide a way to objectively decide if something is arranged for a purpose or not.

    It can’t simply be because it reminds you of something that people design – that doesn’t mean a thing. Instead, it has to have complex form and function… this “CSI” that IDers talk about.

    by identifying counterflow.
    by knowing nature’s limits.

    It is impossible to know “nature’s limits”, or “counterflow”. The history of science is a progression of discoveries that what were thought to be “nature’s limits” were not “nature’s limits” after all. Claiming that some currently unexplained phenomenon will never be explained by “natural law” – and using that to justify invoking an “intelligent agency” – that is precisely what is meant by a “god of the gaps fallacy”.

    So this whole thing about “counterflow” and “nature’s limits” doesn’t help you at all in science. The only thing that makes any sense for ID at all is…

    by observing a function,
    by measuring CSI,

    These two make sense, and even though it’s pure hooey to imagine CSI can be quantified, I agree that complex form and function is objectively identifiable, demands explanation, and can’t be accounted for by evolutionary processes.

    In fact, there is only one thing in our experience that can produce CSI: complex living things. But obviously a complex living thing can’t possibly be the cause of the first living thing… so it must be something else. Nobody knows what.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  296. 296
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Since high voltage electric arcs are designed artifacts of human engineers, then lightning is arranged for a purpose.

    Yes, lightning was designed for a purpose. It provides nitrates to fertilize the ground. The Intelligent Designer of Earth thought of those details.

    Since humans design paths that minimize the length of a Steiner tree, then the soap film that arranges itself into the same pattern is arranged for a purpose.

    That is stupid talk as soap film A) wouldn’t exist without humans and B it cannot produce a steiner tree solution without humans.

    Since humans design nuclear reactors, the internal structure of stars is arranged for a purpose.

    Of course stars are designed for a purpose.

    Since humans design ship locks, the tides are arranged for a purpose

    Yes, they are. Again the Intelligent Designer took into account those required details.

    It is impossible to know “nature’s limits”, or “counterflow”.

    Perhaps to you but you don’t get to tell others their limitations. We do the best we can with the knowledge we have. Again, Science 101

    In fact, there is only one thing in our experience that can produce CSI: complex living things. But obviously a complex living thing can’t possibly be the cause of the first living thing… so it must be something else. Nobody knows what.

    LoL! Yes, RDFish, if complex living things could not have been the first Intelligent Designer we infer it was some other form of intelligence. So what?

    RDFish is apparently unable to think things through. Why is RDFish’s incompetence an issue for ID?

  297. 297
    Virgil Cain says:

    RDFish:

    Thanks for the chat – it’s been beautifully illustrative regarding the extent to which people will say insane things to protect their religious beliefs.

    Yes, you have exemplified the lengths to which one will go to save the strawman it created.

  298. 298
    computerist says:

    We may be talking about a creative creator, with creativeness that cannot be measured by any form of intelligence test.

  299. 299
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    Now, for once, don’t just say “You are mistaken, wind is not arranged for a purpose…”. You actually have to say HOW WE CAN TELL. Unless the answer is “whatever StephenB says is arranged for purpose”, you need to provide a way to objectively decide if something is arranged for a purpose or not.

    Perhaps the Socratic method will help to awaken your intelligence.

    What patterns of arranged matter do you delude yourself into believing that can you observe in the wind? Can you describe those patterns? Why not? Could it be because they are not there?

    It can’t simply be because it reminds you of something that people design – that doesn’t mean a thing. Instead, it has to have complex form and function… this “CSI” that IDers talk about.

    What patterns of arranged matter do you think you observed in water that a farmer poured on his crops?

    Let’s start at the very beginning. Do you understand why a sand castle and a written paragraph do qualify as matter arranged for a purpose?

    Now, for once, don’t just say “You are mistaken, wind is not arranged for a purpose…”. You actually have to say HOW WE CAN TELL. Unless the answer is “whatever StephenB says is arranged for purpose”, you need to provide a way to objectively decide if something is arranged for a purpose or not.

    How can you tell that a written paragraph is matter arranged for a purpose? Is it because StephenB says so?

    It is impossible to know “nature’s limits”,

    Well, let’s review one of my recent examples concerning a tornado and a burglar: Do you think that a tornado can ransack a room, run off with the jewelry, and sell it to the hock shop? Is that beyond nature’s capacity?

  300. 300
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    And as indicated earlier, this type of system can be exclusively identified among all other physical systems, and is found elsewhere only in recorded language and mathematics – two unambiguous products of intelligence.

    After all this, you still haven’t got a clue as to what we’re talking about here. Only VJTorley here has understood what the issue is.

    The issue is not what sorts of systems can be exclusively identified among all other physical systems. I’ve said all along that the complex form and function of biology is unaccounted for, as anyone who can read will know.

    The issue is not that what we see in biology has similarities to the things that human beings build. I’ve said that all along, as anyone who can read will know.

    My position is that we do not know what caused these things to exist.

    Your position is incoherent, because you pretend to be offering some sort of explanation, but you refuse to say what it is.

    As I’ve explained endlessly, just because a human being uses conscious thought when it produces something doesn’t imply that something very different from a human being (something that doesn’t even have a nervous system!) is also going to use conscious thought when it produces the same thing. I’ve given any number of examples to illustrate the truth of this.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  301. 301
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I asked you for an objective method to distinguish matter that has been “arranged for a purpose”, and asked that you not give me merely your subjective opinion about what is and what is not arranged for a purpose.

    You have failed to answer the question, opting instead to ask me to infer the method for you from some examples that you subjectively determine. This means that there is no objective method for determining what things are “arranged for a purpose”.

    You give me examples of things that human beings do (build sand castles, write paragraphs, rob houses, etc) and you imply those are “outside of nature’s capacity”. From this I infer that whatever human beings do are “outside of nature’s capacity”. Since human beings did not create life, one could conclude you believe that the cause of life was not “outside of nature’s capacity”. Since that is not what you assert, you are being incoherent.

    Here is where we are:

    1) You’ve admitted that ID is incapable of empirically supporting any inference to any attribute of the cause of life. You can’t infer that it was conscious, able to use language, able to learn or understand anything, solve novel problems, and so on.

    2) You persist in calling the cause of life “intelligent”, however, and you provide your own meaning for this term, which is “able to arrange matter for a purpose”. However, you are bluffing regarding an objective method for determining when things are “arranged for a purpose”, so you are back to where you started: No way of scientifically inferring anything whatsoever about the cause of life.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  302. 302
    RDFish says:

    Hi computerist,

    We may be talking about a creative creator, with creativeness that cannot be measured by any form of intelligence test.

    I would agree that we cannot use intelligent tests to demonstrate that the cause of life was intelligent. In fact, at this time we have no tests that can be used in order to establish any characteristic whatsoever of whatever caused life to exist.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  303. 303
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    I asked you for an objective method to distinguish matter that has been “arranged for a purpose”, and asked that you not give me merely your subjective opinion about what is and what is not arranged for a purpose.

    I provided you with a list that included three objective methods and three subjective methods so that you could understand the principle. Do you know which ones are objective and which ones are subjective? It appears that you do not. Please don’t try to evaluate anything. I would be better if you would just answer my questions so that I can help you.

    You have failed to answer the question, opting instead to ask me to infer the method for you from some examples that you subjectively determine. This means that there is no objective method for determining what things are “arranged for a purpose”

    This is more evidence that you don’t know the difference between object methods and subjective methods.

    You give me examples of things that human beings do (build sand castles, write paragraphs, rob houses, etc) and you imply those are “outside of nature’s capacity”.

    Do you think nature can build a hotel? Do you think that a tornado can ransack a room, run off with the jewelry, and sell it to a pawn shop? Do you think that purposeless matter stabs a crime victim in the back 27 times? word Do you think a word processor can write an original term paper without an intelligent agent?

    From this I infer that whatever human beings do are “outside of nature’s capacity”.

    Do you think that the above examples are outside nature’s capacity or do you not? A simple yes or no will suffice.

    Since human beings did not create life, one could conclude you believe that the cause of life was not “outside of nature’s capacity”. Since that is not what you assert, you are being incoherent.

    Here is your basic problem. You think that CSI can be meaningfully applied to the designer, as designer. CSI is a meaningful, accurate, or appropriate metric only when it is used to measure the designer’s product. Almost all of your problems stem from that singular error. Building on that illogical premise, you draw all kinds of irrational conclusions.

    1) You’ve admitted that ID is incapable of empirically supporting any inference to any attribute of the cause of life.

    Nope. Not even close.

    You can’t infer that it was conscious, able to use language, able to learn or understand anything, solve novel problems, and so on.

    Incorrect. I said you cannot infer those things using ID methodology alone. However, I forgive you because you don’t know the ID method. That you don’t want to know it is a separate problem.

    2) You persist in calling the cause of life “intelligent”, however, and you provide your own meaning for this term, which is “able to arrange matter for a purpose”.

    .

    Yes, that is correct,

    However, you are bluffing regarding an objective method for determining when things are “arranged for a purpose”, so you are back to where you started: No way of scientifically inferring anything whatsoever about the cause of life.

    We have already settled that one. You don’t know the difference between an objective method and a subjective method. I do believe, however, that you can learn if you will answer my questions.

  304. 304
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    I provided you with a list that included three objective methods and three subjective methods so that you could understand the principle.

    Since the topic here, as always, is science and not religion, don’t try and change the subject by introducing subjective methods. Thanks.

    I would be better if you would just answer my questions so that I can help you.

    Since you cannot explain yourself, you try and make me explain things for you, pretending that this is some sort of Socratic method. I’m not going to make this up for you; either provide your answers or admit you have none.

    Do you think nature builds sand castles?

    Human beings build these things. Since human beings are natural, then natural things build sand castles. To say “nature” per se builds them is to anthropomorphize nature, which is a fallacy.

    All of your examples are of HUMAN BEINGS doing these things you consider to be “arranged for a purpose”. I know you hate to hear that, which is why I have used BOLD CAPS to emphasize your problem. As far as your examples show, what “arranged for a purpose” means is “produced by a HUMAN BEING“.

    Do you think that the above examples are outside nature’s capacity or do you not?

    HUMAN BEINGS build these things. Since human beings are natural, then natural things build sand castles, rob houses, and so on. To say “nature” per se does these things is to anthropomorphize nature, which is a fallacy.

    Here is your basic problem. You think that CSI can be meaningfully applied to the designer, as designer.

    I think that CSI is a property of human beings and other complex living organisms. Don’t you?

    CSI is a meaningful, accurate, or appropriate metric only when it is used to measure the designer’s product.

    Well, you believe that complex living organisms are the Designer’s product, right? So even by your weird rules, CSI is a meaningful, accurate, and appropriate metric when applied to human beings and other complex living things.

    Here you go, just so you can ignore the truth once again:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are complex living things
    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  305. 305
    Carpathian says:

    computerist:

    We may be talking about a creative creator, with creativeness that cannot be measured by any form of intelligence test.

    That is very true.

    We also cannot compare any attributes of this designer to our own.

    We can’t use evidence of our own designs as an example of what the ID “designer” might do.

    Until someone can show empirical evidence of the ID “designer”, there is no way of judging what that entity is capable of.

    Once some design work of the “designer” has been identified, only then can we compare life to his other designs and come to some conclusion that he/she was responsible for designing life.

  306. 306
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    We can detect matter arranged for a purpose in many ways:

    by recognizing the similarity of the pattern with other patterns known to have been designed,

    But the only “patterns known to have been designed” are by us and other less technical life on Earth.

    I don’t think a beaver would understand that the Hoover Dam is a dam at all.

    In the same way, we might look at something on Earth as being random and not recognize any design it despite the fact that a very sophisticated entity may have consciously designed it.

    Whether biological ID is true or not, the arguments of the ID community fall far short of proving their case.

    The arguments for ID require a leap of faith that is not justified by the evidence.

  307. 307
    Upright BiPed says:

    After all this, you still haven’t got a clue as to what we’re talking about here.

    This is what you and I are talking about:

    RD: I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it.

    UB: Like SETI, the term intelligence is defined by an operational definition that relies on observable criteria. I gave you that operational definition in previous conversations. I gave it to you again upthread on September 30th, and again in the very post you are responding to now. In each instance, you have chosen not to engage that definition. Here it is again from #148:

    Whereas the operational definition for identifying intelligent action from an extra-terrestrial source is “the capacity to send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

    RD: So fine, whatever caused the origin of life was able to encode memory using “spatially-oriented representations”

    UB: And as indicated earlier, this type of system can be exclusively identified among all other physical systems, and is found elsewhere only in recorded language and mathematics – two unambiguous products of intelligence.

    And thus …

    The issue is not what sorts of systems can be exclusively identified…

    This is dissembling.

    The issue is not that what we see in biology…

    So is this.

    just because a human being uses conscious thought when it produces something …

    And this.

  308. 308
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    Carpathian: If instead, out earthly memories remain intact with our “minds”, why would we need a brain that is any different than the simplest mammal?

    Box: I’m not sure that we do.
    1) Consider cases where removing half the brain doesn’t affect neither the person nor mental functionality.

    In the case of seizures, half of the brain, one hemisphere has been removed without much impairment, but in this case, the other hemisphere was left intact.

    If you however, remove the front 50% of the brain, you will see a drastic impairment.

    If however our “mind” was separate from our brain, a lobotomy should result in no impairment at all.

    Carpathian: Does the brain contain memories?

    Box: I don’t think so. Why? Because such a thing cannot be modeled.
    Egnor puts it like this:

    The brain is a physical thing. A memory is a psychological thing. A psychological thing obviously can’t be “stored” in the same way a physical thing can. It’s not clear how the term “store” could even apply to a psychological thing.

    I disagree that a memory is a “psychological” thing.

    In a computer, memory consists of sequences of stored values.

    In a brain, memory consists of connections between neurons.

    From Wiki: “The human brain has a huge number of synapses. Each of the 1011 (one hundred billion) neurons has on average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons. It has been estimated that the brain of a three-year-old child has about 1015 synapses (1 quadrillion). This number declines with age, stabilizing by adulthood. Estimates vary for an adult, ranging from 1014 to 5 x 1014 synapses (100 to 500 trillion).[18]”

    If there was an afterlife, we would have have to download all this information from the brain in order to take it with us.

    If we didn’t we wouldn’t have any memory of our lives.

    If our memories are not in our brain, there is no point in having any complexity beyond what’s required for motor control.

  309. 309
    StephenB says:

    REFish

    Since the topic here, as always, is science and not religion, don’t try and change the subject by introducing subjective methods. Thanks.

    If I think that your knowledge is deficient in some area, I have to address that problem. Clearly, you don’t understand the meaning of observing a pattern that indicates a purposeful arrangement of matter. What is it about the word “pattern” that baffles you. Do you understand why poured water does not qualify? Do you understand why the Northern Lights do not qualify? Do you understand why the sun does not qualify?

    Since you cannot explain yourself, you try and make me explain things for you, pretending that this is some sort of Socratic method. I’m not going to make this up for you; either provide your answers or admit you have none.

    I have already provided the answers that you asked for. Since you don’t seem to understand that specified complexity, irreducible complexity, and counterflow are all objective methodologies, I have to find out why you take that position by asking pertinent questions. It hardly seems appropriate to keep repeating myself.

    SB: Do you think nature builds sand castles?

    Human beings build these things. Since human beings are natural, then natural things build sand castles. To say “nature” per se builds them is to anthropomorphize nature, which is a fallacy.

    Non responsive.

    All of your examples are of HUMAN BEINGS doing these things you consider to be “arranged for a purpose”. I know you hate to hear that, which is why I have used BOLD CAPS to emphasize your problem. As far as your examples show, what “arranged for a purpose” means is “produced by a HUMAN BEING“.

    Non responsive. Is a house produced by nature or was it produced by a carpenter? Is a sand castle built by wind, air, and erosion, or was it produced by a human being?

    HUMAN BEINGS build these things. Since human beings are natural, then natural things build sand castles, rob houses, and so on. To say “nature” per se does these things is to anthropomorphize nature, which is a fallacy.

    Non responsive. The question is whether a human–as a cause, can be distinguished from nature–as a cause. You appear to saying no, inasmuch as you are characterizing both as the same kind of cause, i. e., a natural cause. Is that your position?

    SB: Here is your basic problem. You think that CSI can be meaningfully applied to the designer, as designer.

    I think that CSI is a property of human beings and other complex living organisms. Don’t you?

    Non responsive. The issue is what CSI in human beings means and how it can be applied. CSI is a meaningful, accurate, or appropriate metric only when it is used to measure the designer’s product.

    Well, you believe that complex living organisms are the Designer’s product, right? So even by your weird rules, CSI is a meaningful, accurate, and appropriate metric when applied to human beings and other complex living things.

    Non responsive. CSI in humans is an appropriate metric only insofar as the humans are considered as “products” of a designer. CSI is about the product, not the designer of the product. It does not apply to humans as designers.

    Similarly, irreducible complexity is an appropriate metric for humans only insofar as it applies to their status as a designed product. It does not apply to humans as designers. In other words, IC is about the product, not the designer of the product.

  310. 310
    Box says:

    Carpathian,

    Carp: If you however, remove the front 50% of the brain, you will see a drastic impairment.

    Did you look at the cases where more than 95% of the brain is missing — see #248.

    Carp: If however our “mind” was separate from our brain, a lobotomy should result in no impairment at all.

    I’m sure a lobotomy doesn’t impair the mind at all, other than being disconnected from the physical world. Craig puts it like this:

    It’d be like if my car became damaged. I do not cease to exist when my car starts not functioning properly, I simply lose my vessel to interact with the road and road conditions. If the car breaks down I don’t cease to exist, I simply cannot move or interact with the world around me (or are aware of the world around me) until I get out of the car and walk.
    Much the same as a pianist whose piano is broken. If he communicated and experienced the world through music, the loss of piano would not spell his non-existence, it would simply spell his lack of interaction with the world around him.

    Carp: I disagree that a memory is a “psychological” thing.
    In a computer, memory consists of sequences of stored values.
    In a brain, memory consists of connections between neurons.

    How can we get from “connections between neurons” to a memory?
    Egnor puts it like this:

    Memories are not the kind of things that can be stored. Representations of memories can be stored, and representations of all kinds are stored on computers and in books and in photo albums all the time. Representations can be stored, but memories can’t be stored.
    Furthermore, representation in the brain is a highly problematic concept, because the act of representation presupposes memory and intentionality and intellect and will and all sorts of mental acts that are precisely the kind of things that materialists claim are explained by representation. By claiming that memories are represented in the brain, materialists presuppose memory to explain memory. If a memory in the brain were stored as a representation, one would have to presuppose a memory of the code or map that linked the representation to the memory and a memory of the location of the representation in the brain so it could be accessed. Representation presupposes memory, so it can’t explain memory.
    Materialists are also incoherent when they claim that the representation just is the memory. If the representation is the memory, it’s not a representation.

    Carp: If our memories are not in our brain, there is no point in having any complexity beyond what’s required for motor control.

    The largest brains are those of sperm whales, weighing about 8 kg. Why is that?

  311. 311
    Mung says:

    Perhaps RDFish believes that by a continual process of dissembling a relevant argument might be assembled.

  312. 312
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Do you think nature builds sand castles?

    Human beings build sand castles. “Nature” is not a cause, it doesn’t make sense to say “nature” built something.

    Is a house produced by nature or was it produced by a carpenter?

    Human beings build houses. It doesn’t make sense to say “nature” built something.

    Is a sand castle built by wind, air, and erosion, or was it produced by a human being?

    Human beings build sand castles. Wind/air and erosion do not build sand castles.

    I hope this exercise is helping you, because it certainly doesn’t help me or anyone else.

    The question is whether a human–as a cause, can be distinguished from nature–as a cause.

    “Nature” is not a cause. We can identify things that human beings build, because we know a lot about human beings.

    You appear to saying no, inasmuch as you are characterizing both as the same kind of cause, i. e., a natural cause. Is that your position?

    The word “nature” is used in two ways: First, it is contrasted with humans or human creations; second, it is contrasted with the supernatural. I was saying that humans are not supernatural, nor do we know that their intelligence transcends natural processes. However in the first sense they are distinct by definition.

    SB: Here is your basic problem. You think that CSI can be meaningfully applied to the designer, as designer.
    RDF: I think that CSI is a property of human beings and other complex living organisms. Don’t you?
    SB: The issue is what CSI in human beings means and how it can be applied.

    Here, let me help: CSI stands for “complex specified information”, aka “specified complexity”. It is a property which can be observed and measured, and refers to a pattern that is both complex (in the sense of low probability of occurrence) and specified (corresponding to an identifiable pattern). It is measured the same way in human beings as it is in anything else.

    Human beings – like all living organisms – have a high level of CSI. In fact, we are chock-full of the stuff!

    SB: CSI is a meaningful, accurate, or appropriate metric only when it is used to measure the designer’s product.
    RDF: Well, you believe that complex living organisms are the Designer’s product, right? So even by your weird rules, CSI is a meaningful, accurate, and appropriate metric when applied to human beings and other complex living things.
    SB: Non responsive.

    Oh, I get it! Every time I show that your question or point is completely ridiculous and leave you without a response, you say “Non responsive”!

    CSI in humans is an appropriate metric only insofar as the humans are considered as “products” of a designer. CSI is about the product, not the designer of the product. It does not apply to humans as designers.

    You can actually measure the CSI in anything at all – living systems, inanimate objects, whatever. It’s an intrinsic property of a thing, so it doesn’t matter what in context the thing is being evaluated (i.e. as a designer or a designed thing). I’m surprised you don’t know this.

    Here you go, just so you can ignore the truth once again:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things
    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  313. 313
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    Amazingly, you still don’t understand. How many times do you want to do this?

    In case anyone else is interested, I’ll make it clear what you do once again, but I have no hope you’ll pay attention:

    UB points to things we find in biological organisms that can not possibly arise by any known physical process, and are only known in human artifacts.

    I tell him, OK, so what do you conclude from that?

    UB falls completely mute, and never actually says what he thinks we can conclude.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  314. 314
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Even Egnor doesn’t deny that brains are needed for memory – he just denies that a memory is something that can be stored in a brain. He says the representation is stored in the brain, not the memory. Well, without the representation that is stored in the brain, you don’t have a memory in the mind. Even Egnor knows that!

    And of course we have all those experiments that show two-way causal connections between brain activity and mental experience, and those experiments that predict our decisions from our brain activity, and so on.

    But you’re still going to stick with this idea that the brain has nothing to do with our thinking, emotions, or perceptions? Still holding on to this idea that the brain actually doesn’t do much of anything – maybe monitors our breathing and heartrate?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  315. 315
    Box says:

    The saying goes that even a broken clock is right twice a day; however this doesn’t apply to RDFish, who somehow succeeds in getting everything backwards.
    How does he do it?

    Here is his latest gem:

    RDFish: Even Egnor doesn’t deny that brains are needed for memory – he just denies that a memory is something that can be stored in a brain. He says the representation is stored in the brain, not the memory.

    Here RDFish asserts that Egnor says that the representation of a memory is stored in the brain. Does Egnor say that? One has to wonder if RDFish even bothered to read Egnor’s short article, in which Egnor argues that the whole concept of storing representations of memory in the brain is “unintelligible”, “presupposes memory”, doesn’t explain anything in principle and leads to a “conceptual morass.”

    Egnor: By claiming that memories are represented in the brain, materialists presuppose memory to explain memory. If a memory in the brain were stored as a representation, one would have to presuppose a memory of the code or map that linked the representation to the memory and a memory of the location of the representation in the brain so it could be accessed. Representation presupposes memory, so it can’t explain memory.
    Materialists are also incoherent when they claim that the representation just is the memory. If the representation is the memory, it’s not a representation.
    The assertion that memories are stored in the brain as representations presupposes memory. The assertion that some memories and thoughts — historical facts, abstract concepts, mathematical truths — are represented in the brain is simply unintelligible. (…)
    It is also undeniable that memories per se aren’t stored, that representation of some memories, if it occurs, doesn’t explain memory because it presupposes memory, and that representation of concepts is unintelligible.
    This conceptual morass besets neuroscience. What philosophers and neuroscientists who understand this problem are demanding is mere conceptual hygiene.

    Is this misrepresentation of Egnor’s position by RDFish an unfortunate accident? Not at all, RDFish ALWAYS provides an incorrect depiction of the opponent’s position.
    But let’s focus on what RDFish does next. We are now going to see what he does best: getting things backwards.

    RDFish: Well, without the representation that is stored in the brain, you don’t have a memory in the mind. Even Egnor knows that!

    We can be assured that Michael Egnor does not know that. Anyone with half a brain understands that it is the other way around: one cannot have a representation of X without X. But RDFish, as per usual, claims the exact opposite: without the representation of X there can be no X .

    How does he do it?

    Like I said, getting things backwards is a pervasive pattern in RDFish’s reasoning. Another baffling example is that he insists on that CSI must explain the designer.

  316. 316
    Virgil Cain says:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    Please define “living thing”

  317. 317
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Whether biological ID is true or not, the arguments of the ID community fall far short of proving their case.

    That is only the opinion of an ignoramus on an agenda. And it is very telling that evolutionism doesn’t have anything to make a case with.

  318. 318
    Virgil Cain says:

    1) You’ve admitted that ID is incapable of empirically supporting any inference to any attribute of the cause of life. You can’t infer that it was conscious, able to use language, able to learn or understand anything, solve novel problems, and so on.

    ID is NOT about the designer(s).

    2) You persist in calling the cause of life “intelligent”, however, and you provide your own meaning for this term, which is “able to arrange matter for a purpose”.

    That is in a dictionary. and that means it isn’t his own meaning. Grow up already.

    However, you are bluffing regarding an objective method for determining when things are “arranged for a purpose”,

    Your ignorance does not mean other people are bluffing. Again, grow up. We can and do make determinations about “arranged for a purpose”. We can do so by looking at the specified complexity of what we are observing.

    RDFish must be one of the most ignorant people ever.

  319. 319
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Oh, Box, this is too rich! No wonder you have ended up with this insane notion that brains are not necessary for memory and other mental function! It’s because no matter what you read, it has no effect on your beliefs.

    Here is the article that you linked to. It is by Dr. Egnor, who is famous for (1) being a religious ID supporter and (2) saying anything (even if it is incredibly stupid) to preserve the notion of dualism. But even Egnor knows that mental function depends upon brain function!!!

    Here is what Egnor says:


    It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like. That is the proper purview of neuroscience.

    Read that again. Ready to change your position? No, of course not. You’ll say that Egnor is wrong, or that when he says brain function is necessary for memory he somehow means the opposite, or… well I’m not sure what you’ll say, honestly. But I know you’ll never accept the truth.

    Thank you Box – you really have done a service, showing how religious beliefs are absolutely impossible to change.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  320. 320
    RDFish says:

    All,

    Just in case anyone has missed my exchange with Box, it’s really worth a quick review. Box has insisted that mental function does not rely on brain function. After ignoring argument after argument, ignoring experiments and experience and observation, he cites his own expert source, Dr. Michael Egnor. Box thinks he’s finally proven his point, but Box has misread what Egnor said completely.

    Now, in Box’s defense, Egnor’s article is utterly confused. Egnor is always confused – he’s surely a competent surgeon but he has no clue about science, including neuroscience. His understanding of memory and representation is wildly incoherent.

    Still, Egnor could not have been more clear when he says that it is undeniable that brain function is necessary for memory and other mental functions.

    Now, if even Egnor admits this, you can imagine how a normal, intelligent neuroscientist would react if you said memory does not depend on brain function!

    OK, then! What does this mean for ID? It means that since mental function – including memory and imagination – are dependent upon brain function, it is highly unlikely that anything without something similar to a human brain will have mental function similar to a human being.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  321. 321
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish- No one cares about your posts except to show that you are an imbecile on an agenda. You don’t have any clue about science. You don’t have any clue how to conduct an investigation.

    You would lose miserably in an open debate about ID and science.

    Cheers,

    Virgil Cain

  322. 322
    Carpathian says:

    Box:

    How can we get from “connections between neurons” to a memory?

    Those “connections between neurons” are how memories are made in brains.

    In some cases, when damage to a certain part of the brain is made, the patients will recognize their parents or friends but have no sense of emotion when seeing them.

    This leads to a situation where the patient is sure that their loved ones have been replaced by duplicates who look and behave exactly like them.

    If the “mind” was separate from the brain, this situation should not arise since the “mind’s” memory has successfully identified the loved ones.

    If the “mind” and brain were separate, why would brain damage then cause a person to no longer feel emotion when looking at their loved ones?

  323. 323
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Hi RDFish- No one cares about your posts except to show that you are an imbecile on an agenda. You don’t have any clue about science. You don’t have any clue how to conduct an investigation.

    You would lose miserably in an open debate about ID and science.

    Cheers,

    Virgil Cain

    The irony is that you have lost every debate you have ever been in on this blog.

    I can see you feel the same way as soon as you start to post personal remarks like the one you just made.

    If you actually had an argument, you would fill your available bandwidth with that argument.

    You instead respond with personal attacks and hand-waving.

  324. 324
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    I take it that you prefer to change the topic?

    Here’s what you said:

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)

    Now this is an utter misrepresentation of Egnor’s position, in fact he argues against the concept that representations of memories are stored in the brain, as I have highlighted in post #315.

    You went on like this:

    RDFish: Well, without the representation that is stored in the brain, you don’t have a memory in the mind. Even Egnor knows that!

    which is simply getting things backward; see #315

    RDFish: (…) even Egnor knows that mental function depends upon brain function!!!

    Do you even notice that you have changed the topic? I wonder. That’s not what I quoted you for and not what I commented on.

    RDFish: Here is what Egnor says:

    “It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like. That is the proper purview of neuroscience. “

    Read that again. Ready to change your position? No, of course not. You’ll say that Egnor is wrong, or that when he says brain function is necessary for memory he somehow means the opposite, or… well I’m not sure what you’ll say, honestly. But I know you’ll never accept the truth.

    I do believe you when you say that you honestly have no idea what my response will be. It’s saddening actually, because it shows that you don’t understand what you are arguing against.

    Okay, here goes:
    First, in order to get some perspective, you should know that Egnor is a substance dualist, who elsewhere argues that “there will be some mental phenomena without brain function”. So, what does he mean by the statement, that got you all excited? I think that Egnor could (or should) have added the qualifier “during our stay in the physical realm”. Like this:

    Egnor: It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like [during our stay in the physical realm].

    Maybe Egnor, while writing his short article, decided to refrain from such a qualifier because he didn’t want the extra attention that it may elicit. I cannot speak for Michael Egnor, but I hold that it doesn’t make sense that Egnor is actually saying that without a brain there cannot be mental function. Obviously, that incoherent concept would be incompatible with his belief.

  325. 325
    Carpathian says:

    Box,

    In a case of hydrocephalus, brain tissue is not missing, but is rather compressed because of pressure from brain/spinal fluid.

    When the frontal lobes are removed, you get this:

    Form Wiki: The purpose of the operation was to reduce the symptoms of mental disorder, and it was recognized that this was accomplished at the expense of a person’s personality and intellect. British psychiatrist Maurice Partridge, who conducted a follow-up study of 300 patients, said that the treatment achieved its effects by “reducing the complexity of psychic life”. Following the operation, spontaneity, responsiveness, self-awareness and self-control were reduced. Activity was replaced by inertia, and people were left emotionally blunted and restricted in their intellectual range.[5]

    If the brain and “mind” are separate, why would their personalities change after a lobotomy?

  326. 326
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    The irony is that you have lost every debate you have ever been in on this blog.

    The reality is I have beaten the both of you to death with evidence and science. And you have choked on all of it.

    If you actually had an argument, you would fill your available bandwidth with that argument.

    Been there, done that. Why do you think that your ignorance is an argument?

    I have shown that RDFish is a mental midget. I have also shown that you are dishonest and an ignoramus.

    What else is there to do?

  327. 327
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    If the brain and “mind” are separate, why would their personalities change after a lobotomy?

    The brain is the hardware required for the mind to be able to function correctly in this physical world.

  328. 328
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    I have shown that RDFish is a mental midget. I have also shown that you are dishonest and an ignoramus.

    What else is there to do?

    Come up with a real argument.

    The brain is the hardware required for the mind to be able to function correctly in this physical world.

    The “mind” is to the brain, what a singing” is to the vocal cords.

    Both “mind” and “singing” are descriptions of biological activity.

    Neither exist independent of the biology that causes them.

  329. 329
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Come up with a real argument.

    Already have.

    Both “mind” and “singing” are descriptions of biological activity.

    That is only your opinion that “mind” is a description of biological activity. You need to come up with a real argument. 😉

  330. 330
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    I take it that you prefer to change the topic?

    The topic was if mental function depends on brain function. You said no. Egnor says yes. Sorry, but those are the facts, and everyone here can read them.

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)
    BOX: Now this is an utter misrepresentation of Egnor’s position, in fact he argues against the concept that representations of memories are stored in the brain, as I have highlighted in post #315.

    Can you literally not read? Here is what he says (your own citation):

    Furthermore, representation in the brain is a highly problematic concept…It is also undeniable that memories per se aren’t stored, that representation of some memories, if it occurs, doesn’t explain memory because it presupposes memory

    So sorry, but this is EXACTLY what I said. Even Egnor doesn’t deny that representations are in the brain!!! He calls them “problematic”, then admits that representations could occur in the brain anyway!!!

    Oh yeah. Then he (your guy Egnor) says this:

    It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like.

    Oh, I must admit it’s just a little bit fun to watch you wiggle, after you have chosen this particular expert to support your position 🙂

    First, in order to get some perspective, you should know that Egnor is a substance dualist, who elsewhere argues that “there will be some mental phenomena without brain function”.

    Oh yes, I’m well aware of Egnor’s views, which makes it hugely more satisfying that even he denies your basic claim, that mental function does not depend upon brain function. Squirm away, but those words on Egnor’s page just won’t change – even he contradicts you, period.

    So, what does he mean by the statement, that got you all excited? I think that Egnor could (or should) have added the qualifier “during our stay in the physical realm”.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha. So your response is to change what he said into something you believe!! I love it!

    Religious beliefs are utterly and absolutely impervious to reason and evidence. If your own expert contradicts your views, you STILL won’t give up! You simply change what your own expert says! This is too much.

    Maybe Egnor, while writing his short article, decided to refrain from such a qualifier because he didn’t want the extra attention that it may elicit.

    Or maybe he has a passing familiarity with neuroscience!

    I cannot speak for Michael Egnor, but I hold that it doesn’t make sense that Egnor is actually saying that without a brain there cannot be mental function. Obviously, that incoherent concept would be incompatible with his belief.

    Oh. My. Goodness. This has got to be the funniest response I have ever read here, and that is saying a lot.

    I backed you into a dozen corners with evidence, argument, and observation, and you still cling to your beliefs. Then you go and find the one religious ID person with a related credential and cite him to back you up, only to discover he directly contradicts what you’ve said. Your response? Well, he’s wrong too!

    Yes, Box. Everyone on the planet is wrong except you. Neuroscience is just so much hogwash. Even Dr. Egnor doesn’t know what he’s talking about. No matter what, you must be right.

    Thank you so much for the chat, Box! I really enjoyed it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  331. 331
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    “Nature” is not a cause. We can identify things that human beings build, because we know a lot about human beings.

    You have never heard of the laws of nature or the law-like regularity of nature? If the laws of nature did not cause the Grand Canyon to come into existence, what did? If the laws of nature did not cause the destruction of ancient Pompei, what did? Is there no such thing as death by “natural causes,” or are all deaths murders?

    The word “nature” is used in two ways: First, it is contrasted with humans or human creations; second, it is contrasted with the supernatural. I was saying that humans are not supernatural, nor do we know that their intelligence transcends natural processes. However in the first sense they are distinct by definition.

    Non responsive: Is the burglar a different kind of cause than the tornado or is it not? Is a murderer a different kind of cause than accidental death or is it not?

    You can actually measure the CSI in anything at all – living systems, inanimate objects, whatever. It’s an intrinsic property of a thing, so it doesn’t matter what in context the thing is being evaluated (i.e. as a designer or a designed thing). I’m surprised you don’t know this.

    CSI is a property that measures the probability that a thing could have been produced by natural causes (the existence of which you apparently deny). It cannot be used to measure a thing’s capacity or likelihood of producing anything. I am surprised that you do not know that.

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    The conclusion does not follow from the premise. I can’t wait to learn why you think that it does.

    By the way, I haven’t heard from you lately on your proposition that poured water, the sun, and the Northern Lights are observable patterns of arranged matter.

    I assume that since you dodged the issue, you now understand your error. Is that a fair assumption?

  332. 332
    RDFish says:

    Hi All,

    So what is the moral of the story with Box’s debacle? Even ID’s favorite brain guy, Michael Egnor, admits that brain function is necessary for mental function – including ‘imagination’!

    The property of “intelligence” depends upon the operation of the most complex physical structure known. Nothing we know of has more CSI. But ID still says that “intelligence” was somehow involved in creating the very thing that is needed to support intelligence!

    This is like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps – it happens in cartoons, but it’s not a reasonable scientific theory, much less the best explanation for the origin of life.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  333. 333
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish, Again all of your issues have been explained to you only to have to ignore them, time and again.

    It’s like arguing with a wall- it happens in cartoons but it isn’t reasonable to expect us to keep trying to get through to you.

    It is also very wrong of you to put words in Dr Egnor’s mouth. But we all know why you stoop to such tactics.

    Cheers,
    Virgil Cain

  334. 334
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    So there is no such thing as death by natural causes? All deaths are murders?

    Nope, you’re wrong again. Not all deaths are murders. Where did you get that idea? “Natural causes” refers to disease processes like cancer, heart attack, and so on. Read much?

    You have never heard of the laws of nature or the law-like regularity of nature?

    Uh, yeah, I have actually.

    If the laws of nature did not cause the Grand Canyon to come into existence, what did?

    Huh? Water erosion caused the Grand Canyon. Seriously you didn’t know that? Laws don’t move rock and dirt; water does.

    If the laws of nature did not cause the destruction of ancient Pompei, what did?

    Well, that would be a “volcano”, StephenB. Laws don’t spew lava, volcanos do. Natural laws are descriptions, not things that act in the world.

    Is the burglar a different kind of cause than the tornado or is it not?

    Every cause is a different kind of cause, obviously. “Burglars” are human beings, tornados are not. Burglars are living organisms, large-brained mammals, conscious beings; tornados are funnels of fast-moving air.

    Is a murderer a different kind of cause than accidental death or is it not?

    A “murderer” is a human being. Accidental deaths are caused by other things, like slipping on banana peels, or getting hit by meteors, or drowning in the bathtub.

    CSI is a property that measures the probability that a thing could have produced by natural laws (the existence of which you apparently deny).

    Of course I’ve never denied natural laws – that’s just another of your wild hallucinations. I said that it doesn’t make sense to say that “nature” – or “natural laws” – build things.

    I assume that since you dodged the issue, you now understand your error.

    I never dodge anything, since I don’t have to. You have failed to provide an objective method for discovering which arrangements of matter are “for a purpose”. There is no such method, which is why you cannot describe it.

    Here once again is the simple truth that you refuse to acknowledge:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    Check out my discussion with Box, too, where we find that even ID’s own brain guy, Dr. Egnor, admits that brain function is necessary for mental function. So tell me, how is that designer of brains going to design brains without having a brain?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  335. 335
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    You have failed to provide an objective method for discovering which arrangements of matter are “for a purpose”.

    1- the ordering of separate components to achieve an identifiable function that depends sharply on the components. Dr Behe

    2- The specified complexity of the artifact

    3- The workmanship required to reproduce the artifact

    That’s 3 and you will ignore them. And you will think that your willful ignorance somehow gets by any readers of this blog. Very strange.

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is an intelligence beyond ours.

    We follow the evidence for intelligent design and if it leads us to a non-biological intelligence then so be it.

    But that is irrelevant to the question of what intelligence is responsible for life on earth?

  336. 336
    Box says:

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)

    BOX: Now this is an utter misrepresentation of Egnor’s position, in fact he argues against the concept that representations of memories are stored in the brain, as I have highlighted in post #315.

    RDFish: Can you literally not read? Here is what he says (your own citation):
    Egnor:
    “Furthermore, representation in the brain is a highly problematic concept… It is also undeniable that memories per se aren’t stored, that representation of some memories, if it occurs, doesn’t explain memory because it presupposes memory, and that representation of concepts is unintelligible.
    This conceptual morass besets neuroscience. What philosophers and neuroscientists who understand this problem are demanding is mere conceptual hygiene.”

    Yes I can read, but you obviously cannot. What you are reading here is Egnor arguing against the concept that representations of memories are stored in the brain. What’s wrong with you? What part of “it presupposes memory”, “unintelligible”, “conceptual morass” and a call for “conceptual hygiene” do you not understand?

    RDFish: So sorry, but this is EXACTLY what I said. Even Egnor doesn’t deny that representations are in the brain!!!

    Egnor argues against the concept of representational memory. You falsely claimed :

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)

    How is that “exactly” the same? What’s wrong with you?

    RDFish: He calls them “problematic”, then admits that representations could occur in the brain anyway!!!

    Where do you read that he “admits” that? All he said was, if there are representations of memories in the brain (read: arguendo), then they presuppose memory and therefore don’t explain anything.

    RDFish: Oh yeah. Then he (your guy Egnor) says this:

    “It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like.”

    Box: So, what does he mean by the statement, that got you all excited? I think that Egnor could (or should) have added the qualifier “during our stay in the physical realm”.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahaha. So your response is to change what he said into something you believe!! I love it!

    I have solid reasons for believing that my proposed qualifier is apt and that Egnor is not talking about mental function in general — hence “some mental functions”. Here Egnor is writing about Near-Death Experiences. He takes them very very serious. Note that during NDE perception, memory and imagination all work fine without a brain. Tell me if you think that Egnor comes across as a guy who holds that all mental function depends on the brain. You have remarkable reading skills after all. But then again he is not saying that, he’s talking about “some mental functions”.

    And you already know that I have no problem with a role for brains wrt external perception in the physical realm. In post #174 I wrote:

    Box: There is however an obvious relationship with functioning in the physical realm. The brain is, it seems, a tool for intelligent agency to steer the body, external perception and communication. IOW a brain appears to be necessary for our functioning in the physical world.

  337. 337
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    “Natural causes” refers to disease…..

    Of course. Those are all natural causes (which you said didn’t exist).

    .

    Water erosion caused the Grand Canyon. Seriously you didn’t know that? Laws don’t move rock and dirt; water does.

    Of course, water was “a” cause (not the only cause). The point is that it was an act of nature as opposed to an act of a human being. That is why they call it a “natural” cause. Yet you deny that natural causes exist as natural causes. That is a remarkable claim to make in order to escape refutation. Can you point to another living human being that denies natural causes as a category?

    Well, that would be a “volcano”, StephenB. Laws don’t spew lava, volcanos do. Natural laws are descriptions, not things that act in the world.

    Everyone knows, I thought, that the word law is a human description of nature’s law-like regularity. So do you now concede that nature, (water erosion) acts as a cause, or are you going to continue searching for ways to avoid the issue. You do know that water erosion and volcanic eruptions are acts of nature, right?

    SB: Is the burglar a different kind of cause than the tornado or is it not?

    Every cause is a different kind of cause, obviously. “Burglars” are human beings, tornados are not. Burglars are living organisms, large-brained mammals, conscious beings; tornados are funnels of fast-moving air.

    Non responsive: tornadoes, volcanos, erosions, and water are all natural causes and everyone recognizes them as the same kind of cause. They can’t all be natural causes and also be something else.

    SB: Is a murderer a different kind of cause than accidental death or is it not?

    A “murderer” is a human being. Accidental deaths are caused by other things, like slipping on banana peels, or getting hit by meteors, or drowning in the bathtub.

    Non responsive: Is a murder a different kind of cause than an accidental death? Yes or no. Don’t forget that the forensic scientists are looking over your shoulder.

    Of course I’ve never denied natural laws – that’s just another of your wild hallucinations. I said that it doesn’t make sense to say that “nature” – or “natural laws” – build things.

    On the contrary. You said a lot more than that. You said that “nature is not a cause.” That is a direct quote. Your habit of walking things back is very time consuming.

    SB: I assume that since you dodged the issue, you now understand your error.

    I never dodge anything, since I don’t have to. You have failed to provide an objective method for discovering which arrangements of matter are “for a purpose”. There is no such method, which is why you cannot describe it.

    Yes, you are still dodging the issue. I provided three objective means for detecting matter arranged for a purpose.

    More importantly, the definition of arranged matter is a different issue that the means of detecting arranged matter. You claimed that the sun, poured water, and the Northern Lights are definitive examples of observable matter arranged for a purpose. Do you now understand your error?

    Also, I am still waiting for you to explain how your second statement follows from the first:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    It doesn’t follow.

    Check out my discussion with Box, too, where we find that even ID’s own brain guy, Dr. Egnor, admits that brain function is necessary for mental function. So tell me, how is that designer of brains going to design brains without having a brain?

    First, you said nothing about brains in your formulation above. Do you understand now why 2 does not follow from 1.

    Second, the temporary and conditional need for a brain in a human does not translate into a need for a brain in the Creator. Not even close. In fact, a brain is not always and unconditionally required even for a human, but that is a different story.

  338. 338
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Well you certainly get points for persistence.

    Yes I can read, but you obviously cannot. What you are reading here is Egnor arguing against the concept that representations of memories are stored in the brain. What’s wrong with you? What part of “it presupposes memory”, “unintelligible”, “conceptual morass” and a call for “conceptual hygiene” do you not understand?

    You really don’t know when to give up. I repeat, Egnor finds representations in the brain “problematic”, but never denies that they are stored in the brain or anywhere else. Read carefully what he says:

    EGNOR:
    Representations of memories can be stored, and representations of all kinds are stored on computers and in books and in photo albums all the time. Representations can be stored, but memories can’t be stored.

    He then goes on to incomprehensibly argue that certain things (historical facts, abstract concepts, mathematical truths) cannot be represented in the brain, only to admit that representation of other memories may indeed be stored in the brain.

    Finally, he makes it 100% clear that brain function is necessary for memory. And perception. And imagination. And “the like”.

    AGAIN: Egnor is perhaps the most confused philosopher of mind I’ve encountered anywhere (except here at UD of course). He thinks memories cannot be stored but “representations” can. And he apparently believes that some represenations can’t be stored but others can.

    But even Egnor knows enough about neuroscience to realize that it is undeniable that brain function is necessary for memory, imagination, perception, and the like.

    Tell me if you think that Egnor comes across as a guy who holds that all mental function depends on the brain. You have remarkable reading skills after all. But then again he is not saying that, he’s talking about “some mental function”.

    Yes, of course you’re right. Egnor believes in “life after death”, so of course he must believe that the conscious self can persist without brain function.

    That makes his admission that brain function is necessary for mental function all the more important: Even Egnor – who like you desperately wants it to be somehow true that our memories, personalities, and individual consciousness could persist when our brains are destroyed – even Egnor can’t ignore the fact that such beliefs contradict what neuroscience has proven in so many ways.

    It must actually be painful for Egnor to admit it, but even so, he doesn’t mince words. He calls it “undeniable” that brain processes are necessary for memory, imagination, perception, and other mental functions.

    You should admit this too.

    My advice to you is this: Maintain your religious beliefs, but stop trying to reconcile them with science. The science contradicts what you believe, but so what? It really is best for you to just believe what you believe anyway. Just stop trying to tell people that the science backs you up, because it really, really, really does not.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  339. 339
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    Of course. Those are all natural causes (which you said didn’t exist).

    Such a childish little taunt, but clearly a deliberate lie – I never said any such thing of course.

    The point is that it was an act of nature as opposed to an act of a human being.

    Yes, that’s correct. Very good! As I’ve explained, one of the two senses of “nature” is to distinguish the actions of human beings from other actions.

    Yet you deny that natural causes exist as natural causes.

    Here you are repeating your lie. I never said any such thing.

    (Remember, everything I’ve said stays on this page, so you really have no recourse except to admit you are lying).

    Can you point to another living human being that denies natural causes as a category?

    I have explicitly said the opposite, since I explained to you that the two senses of the word “natural” distinguish either (1) human action or (2) supernatural actions from natural actions.

    I have said that “Nature” is not a cause, and of course I’m right. “Natural causes” does not refer to nature as a cause, but rather it refers to all causes that are not human action. Please just read this a few times (maybe 20?) until it sinks in so we don’t have to go over it again.

    Everyone knows, I thought, that the word law is a human description of nature’s law-like regularity.

    Yes, that’s right! Good!

    So do you now concede that nature, (water erosion) acts as a cause,…

    Water is a physical thing and acts as a cause. “Nature” is an abstract concept that describes categories. The word refers to one of two categories: (1) all actions except human action or (2) everything that is not supernatural.

    You do know that water erosion and volcanic eruptions are acts of nature, right?

    Phrases like “acts of nature” and “mother nature” are metaphorical idioms, because “nature” is not a person. Nature is not a mother, nor does nature act. Water causes erosion, and volcanos cause lava flows. Nature is just an abstract concept, and it doesn’t make sense to say “nature” causes anything.

    tornadoes, volcanos, erosions, and water are all natural causes and everyone recognizes them as the same kind of cause. They can’t all be natural causes and also be something else.

    Huh? Are you denying that burglars are living organisms, large-brained mammals, conscious beings; tornados are funnels of fast-moving air? No, you can’t be. That is what these are. They are also “natural causes”, meaning they are not by action of a human being.

    That doesn’t mean that there is some thing called “nature” that causes things. There isn’t.

    RDF: Of course I’ve never denied natural laws – that’s just another of your wild hallucinations. I said that it doesn’t make sense to say that “nature” – or “natural laws” – build things.
    SB: On the contrary. You said a lot more than that. You said that “nature is not a cause.” That is a direct quote.

    Yes that is what I said! Very good! Nature is not a cause! There are all sorts of other things that are causes, and we classify the ones that have nothing to do with human action as “natural”. That is completely different from saying that “nature” is something that causes things!

    Nature is not a person. Nature is not a thing. Natural laws are not causes or things. These words refer to abstract categories, not things that exist in the world and make things happen. “Natural causes” are, by definition, all causes that do not involved human action (or, alternatively, supernatural action).

    Your habit of walking things back is very time consuming.

    Actually I’ve never walk backed anything. It is your pathetic refusal to walk back your mistakes that takes up so much time.

    Yes, you are still dodging the issue. I provided three objective means for detecting matter arranged for a purpose.

    And I pointed out that only CSI is an objective metric, and has nothing to do with “purpose”.

    Then you went off on some ridiculous claim that you can’t measure CSI in a human being depending on the context of the measurement. Still don’t want to walk anything back?

    Also, I am still waiting for you to explain how your second statement follows from the first:

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    It doesn’t follow.

    Ah, great! Yes let’s talk about this. (2) follows because according to our experience (and that is what science is based on) only complex life forms are intelligent (using the definition I’ve given). Since another life form cannot logically have preceded the first life form, it is not consistent with our empirically-based knowledge to hypothesize that the cause of the first life form was intelligent.

    First, you said nothing about brains in your formulation above. Do you understand now why 2 does not follow from 1.

    I don’t need to mention brains in my argument – (2) follows just fine, as I’ve explained.

    Second, the temporary and conditional need for a brain in a human does not translate into a need for a brain in the Creator. Not even close. In fact, a brain is not always and unconditionally required even for a human, but that is a different story.

    Read my discussion with Box and tell me where I, Dr. Egnor, and every neuroscientist on the planet goes wrong.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  340. 340
    RDFish says:

    Saying “nature caused the Grand Canyon” is a category error, like saying “Causcasian” caused relativity theory.

    Erosion is a cause that is not human action, so we say erosion is a “natural cause”. But nature didn’t cause the canyon, erosion did. Nature is just a category of the cause, and doesn’t itself cause anything.

    Likewise, Einstein was a Caucasian, but “Caucasian” didn’t invent the theory, Einstein did. Caucasian was just a category that included the cause, and doesn’t itself cause anything.

    Get it?

  341. 341
    Upright BiPed says:

    UB points to things we find in biological organisms that can not possibly arise by any known physical process, and are only known in human artifacts.

    I tell him, OK, so what do you conclude from that?

    UB falls completely mute, and never actually says what he thinks we can conclude.

    Really?

    Let’s not keep you in the dark any longer. It means that – in complete agreement with the logic of self-replication (Von Neumann, Polanyi, Pattee, Crick, Nirenberg, etc) – the biological evidence surrounding genetic translation fully validates the inference to design at the origin of life on earth. It then becomes an empirically-based datum for a historical event forever hidden in the unobservable past.

    That’s how science works in many instances. You test for a thing, and that thing is either confirmed or fails the test. It then becomes a point of reference in our understanding. In this instance it tells us that there are fundamental requirements dictated by the physical process itself. We may indeed consider these non-negotiable, as certain as we consider the transfer of thermal energy from hot to cool. Among these requirements is the existence of two irreducible sets of objects operating in a unique system of non-dynamic constraints, and in order to function, each of those constraints must be simultaneously encoded in the arbitrary relationships between the two sets of irreducible objects. But here is the test of those who fight the data. Do you have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that the test is indeed valid, and the results are indeed what they are?

    I can answer that question for you. You do not.

    a) you do not know enough of the topic to understand the critical nature of these observations
    b) you have prior commitments that do not allow you the freedom to acknowledge the science
    c) you do not care that you have this handicap

  342. 342
    Virgil Cain says:

    We say that the grand canyon had a NATURAL, as opposed to ARTIFICIAL, cause. That is nature, operating freely, produced the grand canyon.

    And even though nature, operating freely, can produce stones we say that Stonehenge is an artifact because it shows a purposeful arrangement of parts as well as signs of work.

  343. 343
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    ..fully validates the inference to design

    Our entire discussion revolves around what “design” is supposed to mean, yet all you talk about is how this or that supports the inference to “design”.

    If you want to debate the issue, say what is entailed by that claim, and stop wasting time and effort trying to support a conclusion that remains meaningless.

    That’s how science works in many instances. You test for a thing, and that thing is either confirmed or fails the test.

    But all you are testing for is whether or not our current theories somehow can explain what we observe. The answer comes back: No, we have no explanation.

    We agree up to that point.

    But then you start alluding a belief in some mysterious “agency” that you think is somehow empirically supported, without trying to say what that “agency” is or what attributes it has.

    But here is the test of those who fight the data. Do you have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge that the test is indeed valid, and the results are indeed what they are?

    I can answer that question for you. You do not.

    Again, I agree that our tests reveal that no currently understood process – including evolutionary processes – can account for what we observe.

    You just can’t get that through your head. I have agreed with you about that since the first time we argued. That is not what our argument is about. You go on and on and on and on till you’re blue in face wasting time on something we agree on. I keep telling you and telling you that, but you never listen. It’s incredible.

    We agree our scientific tests reveal biological phenomena that cannot have arisen by any known means.

    Please don’t ever revisit that. Just stop. We’re done.

    If you’d like to continue debating with me, then explain what it is you think was responsible for these things we observe in biological systems. My position on the matter is that we currently lack sufficient information to make any scientifically warranted inferences regarding what caused them, but we do have good reason to believe, a priori, that human-like mental abilities and attributes could not have been involved.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  344. 344
    Box says:

    RDFish,

    You have referred to this website which states:
    The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.

    and when on stating:

    RDFish:
    All of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it.

    Some questions:

    When one states that the brain is ”the initiator” of body movement does that mean that the brain initiates every movement of my fingers and therefore is (in effect) typing this post? And if the brain is ”the initiator” of each of my finger movements at the keyboard, does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?
    Also, when one states that the brain is “the controller” of behavior does that mean that the brain fully controls my behavior — including my “thinking behavior”?

    RDFish: Poor Box. You want so much for me to say something wrong, so you can be right about something. TOO BAD I NEVER SAID ANY OF THOSE THINGS.

    Your unequivocal endorsement by saying “all of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it” is good enough for me.
    Will you now answer my questions, or admit that you made a mistake underwriting the content of that website?
    – –

    RDFish: When somebody gets knocked out and goes unconscious, you claim that they are still conscious.

    No, I simply point out the well-known fact that we have no way of knowing whether a person is conscious or not. The problem is that awareness is a private subjective experience.

    RDFish: Then you get angry when I repeat it back to you, because it sounds so ridiculous.

    I have explained to you that even when a person informs us that she/he cannot remember anything wrt a specific time interval we still cannot be certain that that person was indeed unconscious during that period. This is what I wrote:

    Box: The problem with anesthesia is that it could very well be that the person under its influence just doesn’t remember experiencing anything for that specific duration. We know for certain that this is mostly the case with dreaming. In fact, if NDE’s are valid, then it’s more likely than not that people under anesthesia do experience something.

    Your summation of what I just said went like this:

    RDFish: Your response to the fact that we lose consciousness with drugs or trauma is that we remain conscious but fail to remember that we were conscious while we were unconscious.

    This misrepresentation of what I said is so thoroughly stupid that it set me off.

    RDFish: But it’s not my fault – it really is ridiculous.

    No it really is not ridiculous. Your summation is ridiculously stupid. And that it is your fault.

  345. 345
    Upright BiPed says:

    We agree our scientific tests reveal biological phenomena that cannot have arisen by any known means. [and even though the physical properties of the system are exclusively identical to my intelligent ability to write this paragraph, I am free to mock and belittle all people who do not ignore this fact, because my personal knowledge of ultimate reality renders it as an undisputable fact that the source of the system had nothing in common with my intelligence].

    Please don’t ever revisit that. Just stop. We’re done.

    Thank you for making my point in #341 with your usual clarity.

  346. 346
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish:

    We agree our scientific tests reveal biological phenomena that cannot have arisen by any known means.

    There is only one known means that can create codes and codes rule biological phenomena.

    Cheers,
    Virgil Cain

  347. 347
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    Seriously? After all this, you still won’t agree that brain function is necesary for mental function? What is it like to cling to these beliefs in the face of so much contradictory evidence, where even your own experts disagree with you?

    When one states that the brain is ”the initiator” of body movement…

    If you’d like to talk about free will we can do that, but not until you admit that the science is very strong that says mental function depends upon brain function. If you won’t agree with that, there really is just nothing to discuss.

    It’s like you want to start debating plate tectonics when you believe the Earth is flat.

    …does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?

    STOP IT. I went through this entire thread and collected all the times I have said that brains are not necessarily sufficient for mental function. Over and over and over again I’ve said it. Here it is again:

    RDFISH:
    @53: First, if you read what I wrote, I never claim that a brain is sufficient for consciousness or even for general intelligence. I point out that it appears to be necessary.

    @64: You are using the word “sufficient” here, while what I have pointed out is that physical brains appear to be necessary for mental functioning – both “high” and “low” mental functions.

    @179: Subjective consciousness is entirely mysterious. We can certainly measure mental abilities objectively, however. And we also know that both consciousness and mental abilities are dependent upon properly functioning brains.

    @204: What we know is that brain function is necessary for mental function, whether or not it is sufficient.

    @211: You haven’t been reading what I’ve been saying, even though I have said it over and over again. I never said substance (or any other flavor of) dualism is incorrect. On the contrary, I have explicitly and repeatedly said that while we know that brains are necessary for human thought, we do not know that they are sufficient. That statement is perfectly compatible with dualism.

    @218: I have been perfectly consistent in saying that in our experience, brains are necessary but not necessarily sufficient for consciousness and mental function.

    @225: Stop with the strawmen! “We think with our brains” does not entail that nothing else is involved of course.

    @284: My claim has consistently been that human mental function – and our ability to design complex mechanisms in particular – relies on the information processing abilities of our brains.

    But since your entire argument has fallen apart, all you can do is pretend that I’m saying something else, and argue against things I have not said. Can’t you tell that is being crazy?

    Will you now answer my questions, or admit that you made a mistake underwriting the content of that website?

    Oh good grief! Instead of reading what I’ve written, over and over and over and over again, you try and twist around somebody else’s website and pretend that it says something that it doesn’t and that I agree with it.

    Nothing that website said, as far as I can see, stated that we have scientific knowledge that currently understood brain function is sufficient for all mental phenomena. If you believe it does, then obviously that is not aligned with my position. I could not have made my position more clear on the matter, as I have repeated it explicitly over a dozen times to you.

    No, I simply point out the well-known fact that we have no way of knowing whether a person is conscious or not. The problem is that awareness is a private subjective experience.

    Ok, so you are denying that anyone ever loses concsiousness. Check.

    Honestly, you have never experience a loss of consciousness? Amazing.

    Your summation is ridiculously stupid. And that it is your fault.

    If you get knocked unconscious, a medical doctor will say you are “unconscious”. That is the word they will use. You are arguing that even when someone has been declared unconscious they are always conscious anyway.

    So when your brain is starved for oxygen, or drugged, and you are becoming more and more delirious, tired, confused, half-awake, and you finally succumb and fall into a state of dreamless unconsciousness, at that point you…. suddenly become conscious again, floating around the world perhaps, clear-headed? Is that what you think? And you think that is a scientifically supported position?

    And when you regain consciousness (that is what doctors call it), you really aren’t regaining consciousness at all, because you were never unconscious in the first place? Do you actually believe this?

    Box, even your own expert says it is UNDENIABLE that mental function requires brain function. Just get over it.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  348. 348
    RDFish says:

    Hi UprightBiPed,

    Sarcasm is not an argument. You lose, as usual.

    When you are ready to actually say what you believe the explanation for biological complexity is, we can then argue about whether or not your conclusion is scientifically warranted. Until then, you’re just making jokes.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  349. 349
    StephenB says:

    RDFish

    I have said that “Nature” is not a cause, and of course I’m right. “Natural causes” does not refer to nature as a cause, but rather it refers to all causes that are not human action.

    ?????? A natural cause is not nature acting as a cause? That’s crazy.

    You do know that water erosion and volcanic eruptions are acts of nature, right?

    Phrases like “acts of nature” and “mother nature” are metaphorical idioms, because “nature” is not a person. Nature is not a mother, nor does nature act. Water causes erosion, and volcanos cause lava flows. Nature is just an abstract concept, and it doesn’t make sense to say “nature” causes anything.

    Non responsive. Are water erosion and volcanic eruptions acts of nature?

    That doesn’t mean that there is some thing called “nature” that causes things. There isn’t.

    You forgot to explain that to the medical community and the criminal justice system, both of which speak of death by natural causes.

    Meanwhile, water erosion is an act of nature, and an act of nature is a natural cause. You are twisting yourself into a pretzel by trying to avoid that which is obvious.

    Just answer my simple question: Is a murderer a different kind of cause than an accidental death? You have been dodging it for days.

    1) The only known intelligent beings (things that can learn, solve novel problems, experience conscious awareness) are living things

    2) Therefore the cause of the first living things is unlikely to have been intelligent.

    It doesn’t follow.

    Ah, great! Yes let’s talk about this. (2) follows because according to our experience (and that is what science is based on) only complex life forms are intelligent (using the definition I’ve given). Since another life form cannot logically have preceded the first life form, it is not consistent with our empirically-based knowledge to hypothesize that the cause of the first life form was intelligent.

    That’s easy to refute. The Creator is not a life form. The Creator created life forms.

  350. 350
    Box says:

    RDFish: You really don’t know when to give up. I repeat, Egnor finds representations in the brain “problematic”, but never denies that they are stored in the brain or anywhere else.

    It is not required for Egnor to expressly deny the possibility of the concept that representations of memories can be stored in the brain. The point is that Egnor argues against the concept, while you falsely claimed that he endorsed it.
    This is what you said:

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)

    And this is simply not true. Egnor argues against that concept. He finds it “unintelligible”, a “conceptual morass” and calls for “conceptual hygiene”

    RDFish: Read carefully what he says:

    EGNOR:
    Representations of memories can be stored, and representations of all kinds are stored on computers and in books and in photo albums all the time. Representations can be stored, but memories can’t be stored.

    The fact that in the article he didn’t explicitly rule out the possibility that a representation of certain type of memory could in principle be stored in the brain is still a far cry from what you said:
    This is what you said:

    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)

    Also you forget to mention that Egnor immediately follows up by saying that, a representation of a memory in the brain, if it occurs, presupposes memory and therefore fails to explain anything.

    RDFish: Yes, of course you’re right. Egnor believes in “life after death”, so of course he must believe that the conscious self can persist without brain function.

    That makes his admission that brain function is necessary for mental function all the more important: Even Egnor – who like you desperately wants it to be somehow true that our memories, personalities, and individual consciousness could persist when our brains are destroyed – even Egnor can’t ignore the fact that such beliefs contradict what neuroscience has proven in so many ways.

    Here you go again with the misrepresentation. Egnor said: “It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like.”
    For no reason whatsoever you assume that by “the like” Egnor means “personality” and “individual consciousness”.

    And by the way, I’m in no way committed to Egnor’s opinion. He is not my hero. I’m not holding my breath or something.

  351. 351
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    That’s easy to refute. The Creator is not a life form. The Creator created life forms.

    Virgil Cain believes that life on Earth was a creation of an alien life-form.

    Do you believe this is possible?

  352. 352
    Virgil Cain says:

    Hi RDFish,

    Your willful ignorance and strawmen are not arguments. YOU lose, as usual.

    When you are actually ready to understand how science must proceed- intelligent design detection first-> intelligent designer follows from that- we can then argue if the design inference is scientifically warranted.

    Until then you are just a joke.

    Cheers,
    Virgil Cain

  353. 353
    Upright BiPed says:

    When you are ready to actually say what you believe the explanation for biological complexity is, we can then argue about whether or not your conclusion is scientifically warranted.

    Did you miss that part? We use observable evidence to test for the presence of intelligent action at the origin of life on earth. The test is spectacularly positive on multiple fronts. In what specific ways do your beliefs invalidate that test?

  354. 354
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Virgil Cain believes that life on Earth was a creation of an alien life-form.

    Most likely a colonization- that’s if you are asking the person you are paraphrasing. That’s my option to Special Creation- as it pertains to life on Earth.

    I am pretty sure this was covered in “Expelled” with Ben Stein.

  355. 355
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Most likely a colonization- that’s if you are asking the person you are paraphrasing. That’s my option to Special Creation- as it pertains to life on Earth.

    Then who “created” life?

    We have talked about this many times and I said it could only have been God according to ID and you said it was an alien life-form.

    Who created life?

  356. 356
    Virgil Cain says:

    Upright Biped,

    You are not understanding RDFish’s requirement. Only a meeting with the original designer(s) will do, as if RDFish will be able to comprehend what they offered.

    Evidence for intelligent design is not evidence for an intelligent designer if RDFish didn’t see said designer in action. And even then there are tests that need to be administered.

    In RDFish-world science is only science when there is absolute proof.

  357. 357
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Then who “created” life?

    One step at a time. Right now we are concerned with life on Earth. However, given the findings of “The Privileged Planet”, the earth and solar system were also intelligently designed.

    Who created life?

    Hopefully we find out when we get to that question. ID is about the DESIGN. I have told you that so many times it is sad that you still don’t understand what that means.

  358. 358
    RDFish says:

    Hi StephenB,

    A natural cause is not nature acting as a cause? That’s crazy.

    🙂
    A physical cause that is natural is not the same thing as nature acting as a cause. I know you understand this, you’re just so out of arguments that you’re grasping at straws and being ridiculous. “Natural” is a category, not a physical thing. Can categories make canyons? (Hint: no, they can’t)

    Are water erosion and volcanic eruptions acts of nature?

    Phrases like “acts of nature” and “mother nature” are metaphorical idioms, because “nature” is not a person. Nature is not a mother, nor does nature act. Water causes erosion, and volcanos cause lava flows. Nature is just an abstract concept, and it doesn’t make sense to say “nature” causes anything.

    Is “mother nature” a female animal who has given birth? No, it’s not – it’s just a metaphorical idiom. Stop humiliating yourself.

    You forgot to explain that to the medical community and the criminal justice system, both of which speak of death by natural causes.

    I’ve explained this too many times. “Natural causes” is nothing but a category of all causes that are not associated with human action.

    You are now humiliating yourself, and I’m done correcting you.

    Just answer my simple question: Is a murderer a different kind of cause than an accidental death? You have been dodging it for days.

    That’s just another lie – I’ve answered this each time. A murder is an act by a human being, so by definition is not a natural cause. Getting hit by a meteor is not an act of a human being, so it is a natural cause.

    Even a child can understand this. Why can’t you? Humans are physical entities that cause events. Meteors are physical entities that cause events. “Nature” is an abstract category – not a physical entity – and so it makes no sense to say “nature” causes something.

    That’s easy to refute. The Creator is not a life form. The Creator created life forms.

    I understand that is your religious dogma, but we’re talking about empirical science here right?

    In science, we make inferences based on our experience. Let me give you an example (where “intelligence” means “able to learn, solve novel problems, and experience conscious awareness”):

    The only known source of CSI as we see in living organisms is intelligent agency.

    This is cited as a key observation in “ID Theory”. See how it refers to our experience-based knowledge? That is science (at least when used with a specific definition of “intelligence”, such as the one I’ve provided)!

    Here’s another example:

    The only known intelligent agents are living organisms with high levels of CSI.

    Equally valid, equally true, equally scientific.

    Now, I accept both of these statements as valid scientific observations. Taken together, they allow us to conclude that whatever the cause of life was, it is not something we currently know of.

    You rely on the first observation because it matches your prior religious convictions, but you ignore or deny the second observation because it violates your prior religious convictions.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  359. 359
    Box says:

    RDFish: Seriously? After all this, you still won’t agree that brain function is necesary for mental function? What is it like to cling to these beliefs in the face of so much contradictory evidence, where even your own experts disagree with you?

    After all what exactly? I’m still waiting for evidence for your position. So far nothing of importance has been forthcoming.
    Egnor and I agree on the brain being necessary for external perception. According to Egnor there is also some obscure role for the brain wrt memory and imagination maybe. Obviously this is correlated with the temporal physical realm. Egnor and I don’t disagree on much, so it seems.

    RDFish: If you’d like to talk about free will we can do that, but not until you admit that the science is very strong that says mental function depends upon brain function. If you won’t agree with that, there really is just nothing to discuss.

    How can I admit to something that is conceptually incoherent and for which there is no evidence? I can give you external perception, but not much beyond that.

    RDFish:

    Box: if the brain is ”the initiator” of each of my finger movements at the keyboard, does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?

    STOP IT. I went through this entire thread and collected all the times I have said that brains are not necessarily sufficient for mental function. Over and over and over again I’ve said it.

    You also said: “All of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it” and you were talking about this: “The brain is the most complex part of the human body. This three-pound organ is the seat of intelligence, interpreter of the senses, initiator of body movement, and controller of behavior.”

    RDFish:

    Box: Will you now answer my questions, or admit that you made a mistake underwriting the content of that website?

    Oh good grief! Instead of reading what I’ve written, over and over and over and over again, you try and twist around somebody else’s website and pretend that it says something that it doesn’t and that I agree with it.

    Well, you are the one who said “all of that is perfectly true of course – I agree with all of it”. That’s an unequivocal endorsement.

    And I’m not pretending it says something that it doesn’t; I’m just asking you what it means.

    RDFish: Nothing that website said, as far as I can see, stated that we have scientific knowledge that currently understood brain function is sufficient for all mental phenomena.

    Okay, then I have some questions for you:
    When one states that the brain is ”the initiator” of body movement does that mean that the brain initiates every movement of my fingers and therefore is (in effect) typing this post? And if the brain is ”the initiator” of each of my finger movements at the keyboard, does that mean that the brain is fully responsible for the entire post?
    Also, when one states that the brain is “the controller” of behavior does that mean that the brain fully controls my behavior — including my “thinking behavior”?

    – –

    RDFish: Ok, so you are denying that anyone ever loses concsiousness. Check.

    No, I’m saying that we have no way of knowing. It’s a well-known fact of life.

    RDFish: Honestly, you have never experience a loss of consciousness? Amazing.

    Not remembering that I was conscious during a certain time interval is all I have to offer. And even that, as I have pointed out, is inconclusive. Maybe I don’t remember my experiences. Got it now?
    A person can be certain that she/he is conscious, but not that she/he is unconscious.

    RDFish: If you get knocked unconscious, a medical doctor will say you are “unconscious”.

    Yes, but there is simply no way for him to be certain. Awareness is a first-person experience and that’s a fact.

  360. 360
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    It is not required for Egnor to expressly deny the possibility of the concept that representations of memories can be stored in the brain. The point is that Egnor argues against the concept, while you falsely claimed that he endorsed it.
    This is what you said:
    RDFish: He [Egnor] says the representation is stored in the brain (…)
    And this is simply not true. Egnor argues against that concept. He finds it “unintelligible”, a “conceptual morass” and calls for “conceptual hygiene”

    You are just chasing your tail here. Egnor is completely confused, of course, but if you read him carefully what he is saying is that some representations can be stored in the brain, and other representations (for some wacky reason) cannot.

    You can try and parse Egnor, and other websites, and everything else in the world as artfully as you wish, but you are not going to overcome the gigantic mountain of evidence that shows brain function is necessary to mental function. This mountain of evidence is so huge that Egnor – a dualist neurosurgeon – is forced to admit that truth of the matter: It is undeniable that brain function is necessary to mental function, including memory, perception, and imagination.

    Here you go again with the misrepresentation. Egnor said: “It is undeniable that brain processes are necessary for some mental functions — perception, memory, imagination and the like.”
    For no reason whatsoever you assume that by “the like” Egnor means “personality” and “individual consciousness”.

    Grasping at straws, so sad. Obviously brain changes affect personality, and obviously individual concsiousness depends on brain function. But let’s not quibble – if only for memory, perception, and imagination, what Egnor explicitly said – brain function is necessary for mental function.

    And by the way, I’m in no way committed to Egnor’s opinion. He is not my hero.

    Right. Even the dualist neurosurgeon that you have been touting as providing knock-down arguments against my position… well now that you actually read him even he disagrees with you, so you choose to dump him now. Got it.

    Now: Did you read what I wrote below? Did Ignore it? Turn your head away because you just don’t want to think about it? Well, here it is again:

    RDF:
    If you get knocked unconscious, a medical doctor will say you are “unconscious”. That is the word they will use. You are arguing that even when someone has been declared unconscious they are always conscious anyway.

    So when your brain is starved for oxygen, or drugged, and you are becoming more and more delirious, tired, confused, half-awake, and you finally succumb and fall into a state of dreamless unconsciousness, at that point you…. suddenly become conscious again, floating around the world perhaps, clear-headed? Is that what you think? And you think that is a scientifically supported position?

    And when you regain consciousness (that is what doctors call it), you really aren’t regaining consciousness at all, because you were never unconscious in the first place? Do you actually believe this?

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  361. 361
    RDFish says:

    Hi Upright BiPed,

    We use observable evidence to test for the presence of intelligent action at the origin of life on earth.

    I missed nothing. You missed the part where you were supposed to say what that term “intelligent action” was supposed to mean in the context of ID. But you already knew that; you just can’t do it, and you refuse to admit it.

    I’m done asking you what you mean because you refuse to say.

    You have a theory – a scientific explanation for the origin of life!! But you won’t say what it is 🙂

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  362. 362
    RDFish says:

    Hi Box,

    After all what exactly? I’m still waiting for evidence for your position. So far nothing of importance has been forthcoming.

    1) Neural events predict behavior
    2) Altering neural events alters behavior and experience
    3) Altering experience alters neural events
    4) Reasoning requires information processing, which require complex physical states. Without a complex physical state machine (like a brain – the most complex physical mechanism known) reasoning could not proceed
    5) Even dualist neurosurgeons believe that it is undeniable that imagination requires brain function, along with memory.

    If this evidence is unimportant, it just shows what I’ve said all along: Religious beliefs are completely impervious to evidence.

    Cheers,
    RDFish/AIGuy

  363. 363
    StephenB says:

    RDFish>

    That’s just another lie – I’ve answered this each time. A murder is an act by a human being, so by definition is not a natural cause. Getting hit by a meteor is not an act of a human being, so it is a natural cause.

    I am sorry, but you are the one who is lying. I asked you if a murderer is a different kind of cause than an accidental death. For some reason, you are afraid to answer the question.

    I understand that is your religious dogma, but we’re talking about empirical science here right?

    No, you don’t understand. The Creator cannot be a life form at all. It isn’t logically possible. The Creator must be immaterial in order to create matter. If the Creator was already a life form made of matter, then it obviously didn’t create matter. Thus, the Creator of life cannot possibly be a material life form.

    The only known source of CSI as we see in living organisms is intelligent agency.

    Check.

    The only known intelligent agents are living organisms with high levels of CSI.

    Check

    Now, I accept both of these statements as valid scientific observations. Taken together, they allow us to conclude that whatever the cause of life was, it is not something we currently know of.

    Who said anything different? That is precisely what I just explained to you. The cause of life is not something we currently know of. It must be an intelligent agent that is not a complex life form. You are refuted again.

    You rely on the first observation because it matches your prior religious convictions, but you ignore or deny the second observation because it violates your prior religious convictions.

    I haven’t said a thing about religion. All my arguments are based on science and reason.

    Oh yes, I almost forgot. Do you understand your error concerning the sun, water, and Northern Lights as observable patterns of arranged matter. You have been dodging that issue for days. The unanswered challenges are piling up.

  364. 364
    Box says:

    RDFish: Egnor is completely confused, of course, but if you read him carefully what he is saying is that some representations can be stored in the brain, and other representations (for some wacky reason) cannot.

    What Egnor is saying is that a representation of a face of a family member might be digitally storable in the brain. However one needs something that can make a whole of it — to put it back together and make sense of it. However, Egnor argues, you cannot — in principle — digitize concepts like mercy, justice, humility, imaginary numbers or logical and mathematical concepts — Egnor’s examples.
    If I understand Egnor correctly, his argument is that many mental things are irreducible wholes that cannot be reduced to parts and stored up, because as soon as you chop them up they no longer make sense.

    RDFish: You can try and parse Egnor, and other websites, and everything else in the world as artfully as you wish, but you are not going to overcome the gigantic mountain of evidence that shows brain function is necessary to mental function. This mountain of evidence is so huge that Egnor – a dualist neurosurgeon – is forced to admit that truth of the matter: It is undeniable that brain function is necessary to mental function, including memory, perception, and imagination.

    Some mental functions, in the context of this temporary earthly existence , I have no problem with that view. Without a functional body I can no longer interact with the world — coma. As far as any outsider can tell I will come across as lacking any mental function. However, they cannot be certain.

    RDFish:

    So when your brain is starved for oxygen, or drugged, and you are becoming more and more delirious, tired, confused, half-awake, and you finally succumb and fall into a state of dreamless unconsciousness, at that point you…. suddenly become conscious again, floating around the world perhaps, clear-headed? Is that what you think? And you think that is a scientifically supported position?

    Yes. And yes. I’m absolutely sure of it.

    RDFish:
    And when you regain consciousness (that is what doctors call it), you really aren’t regaining consciousness at all, because you were never unconscious in the first place? Do you actually believe this?

    When I reenter my body I may have no memories about the previous time interval. That can mean two things:
    1) I was unconscious during that period.
    2) I was conscious, but I don’t remember it.

    Why is that so hard to accept?

  365. 365
    Box says:

    RDFish provides 5 arguments for the mind’s dependency on the brain:

    1) Neural events predict behavior

    Refuted by V.J.Torley and A.Mele.

    2) Altering neural events alters behavior and experience

    We experience the physical realm through the brain/body. A kick in the butt alters behavior and experience. Yes, we are sensitive beings. So what?

    3) Altering experience alters neural events

    What is the argument?

    4) Reasoning requires information processing, which require complex physical states. Without a complex physical state machine (like a brain – the most complex physical mechanism known) reasoning could not proceed

    Sorry, but this is incoherrent, I simply cannot envision a constructive role for non-rational physical processes wrt to reasoning; see the Argument From Reason.

    5) Even dualist neurosurgeons believe that it is undeniable that imagination requires brain function, along with memory.

    What kind of imagination? What kind of memory? And how does it work?

  366. 366
    Upright BiPed says:

    You missed the part where you were supposed to say what that term “intelligent action” was supposed to mean in the context of ID. But you already knew that; you just can’t do it, and you refuse to admit it.

    You’ve asked me that question several times before and I’ve answered it without hesitation. Allow me cut and paste where you’ve asked me that question, then my answer, and then your response. In doing so we can be certain that you know the answer. Then I’d like to return to the question you left unanswered from my last post.

    Again, here is the answer to your question:

    RD: I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it.

    UB:Like SETI, the term intelligence is defined by an operational definition that relies on observable criteria. I gave you that operational definition in previous conversations. I gave it to you again upthread on September 30th, and again in the very post you are responding to now. In each instance, you have chosen not to engage that definition. Here it is again from #148:

    Whereas the operational definition for identifying intelligent action from an extra-terrestrial source is “the capacity to send a narrow-band radio signal detectable from earth”, the operational definition for identifying intelligent action at the origin of life is “the capacity to encode memory using spatially-oriented representations” (i.e. representations whose arrangements are independent of the minimum total potential energy state of their medium).

    You have now returned to this thread twice without responding to my post. Do you need additional time to formulate a response?

    RD: So fine, whatever caused the origin of life was able to encode memory using “spatially-oriented representations”. I agree arguendo

    With that, I’d like to ask you to respond to the unanswered question from my last post:

    ” We use observable evidence to test for the presence of intelligent action at the origin of life on earth. The test is spectacularly positive on multiple fronts. In what specific ways do your beliefs invalidate that test?”

    I don’t know if you’re reluctant to answer this question or if you just don’t understand it. In any event, I think you should answer it because it’s critical to your argument.

    You’ve made it clear, from your perspective, that using this operational definition is invalid and meaningless if it does not also clarify a list of properties (problem solving, the capacity to learn, adaptability to an environment, etc) regarding the intelligence being inferred by the evidence. That evidence is substantial and unambiguous, which you’ve already accepted arguendo.

    My question is what is it you believe empirically invalidates that evidence? Living cells are heterogeneous entities that require discrete parts in order to function. To whatever extent information is required to organize those things, the system must necessarily be able to organize the capacity to translate the information. For instance, spatially-oriented representations play a critical role in enabling the system to record the type and quantity of information that it needs to describe itself in memory. Do you have something that makes this unnecessary? Those representations are also required to be read in the proper orientation in order to function. Do you have anything that alters this fact? If not, then in exactly what way does not knowing these other properties of the intelligence invalidate the evidence of that intelligence? It doesn’t. And if it doesn’t invalidate that evidence, then one wonders why you’re trampling on the methodology by asking an operational definition – which is specifically put in place to limit the test to observable criteria – to describe for you unobservable criteria?

    But you’ve already told us why you do it. You don’t want the wrong folks to “co-opt the imprimatur of science” to support their beliefs, right. Do you see the disconnect? You hold down the fort by ignoring methodology and asking for unobservable evidence, while you pretend to defend science.

    The point is that your argument is flawed. And you are going to have to care about that if you’re ever going to stop making it.

  367. 367
    forexhr says:

    RDFish to Upright BiPed: I have asked you to explain one, single, specific, objectively empirical thing that ID means by the term “intelligence”, and you can’t do it.

    Intelligence, in our case, is nothing but the ability to create semiotic relationship or in other words, the ability to arrange atoms into a state present in another arrangement of atoms.

    Let’s suppose that you create an idea in your mind about an entity that does not yet have physical existence in your room, for example Eiffel tower model made of clay. Since we are material entities, composed of atoms and molecules we can say that this newly created idea in your mind is a newly created arrangement of atoms(neurons in your brain)(AA_1). After that, you create a plan – scale showing of the Eiffel tower and a list of step-by-step actions to be performed for its modeling. This plan is written on paper and it is detailed representation of your previously created idea. Since we are living in a material world this newly created plan(ink on paper) is also a newly created arrangement of atoms(AA_2).

    These two arrangements of atoms(idea and plan) exist in a relationship or in other words, one arrangement of atoms contains information about other arrangements of atoms and vise versa. We will call this relationship, “semiotic relationship”. Now, you decide to implement plan you created, get a necessary materials, equipment and tools and start modeling your tower. Once modeling process is halfway through completion, you stop. Clay is also a material entity composed of atoms so we can say that this half-created model of Eiffel tower is also arrangement of atoms(AA_3).

    Now we have these three structurally completely different arrangements of atoms( AA_1, AA_2 and AA_3) but they are all semiotically conected. Semiotic relationship between AA_1 and AA_2 is complete, meaning idea is completely incorporated into plan. We will call this state “semiotic closure”. Semiotic relationship between AA_1 or AA_2 and AA_3 is incomplete, since Eiffel tower is half-created. We will call this state of incompleteness “semiotic gap”.

    Question A: are natural processes able to close semiotic gap between AA_1/AA_2 and AA_3? Or in other words: are natural processes able to finish the job you’ve started, and produce Eiffel tower model made of clay?

    The answer is obvious: no! Why? Because natural processes heads toward a state of minimum total potential energy(equilibrium) and not toward a state necessary to close “semiotic gaps” between material entities (AA_1, AA_2 and AA_3). Natural processes are determined by four fundamental interactions – gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear, and not by semiotic relationship between various physical objects. In short, there is no semiotic causality in nature. That is why nature can’t complete modelling proces of half-created Eiffel tower, although nature can, in a random fashion, change the shape of clay made objects, or any other material objects.

    Question B: is inteligent agent able to close semiotic gap between AA_1/AA_2 and AA_3?
    Yes. Why? Because he is able to create mental representation of one arrangement of atoms(half-created Eiffel tower or plan made to scale showing the clay model of the Eiffel Tower) and then, by using its cognitive faculties, arrange atoms(clay)according to this mental representation.

    Now, if people believe in evolution or in abiogenesis they believe that natural processes are able to close “semiotic gaps” and create “semiotic relationships”. Or in other words, they believe that natural processes are able to arrange atoms according to information written in another arrangement of atoms(DNA). Not only that, but they also believe that natural processes are able to build complex molecular tools and machines that are necessary to close “semiotic gaps”. Believing this is like believing that nature will build you an Eiffel tower model made of clay because you created arrangement of atoms called – plan or idea. Believing this is like believing, given enough time, nature will build you a house because you wish for a new one and you made a blueprint. In a nutshell, evolutionists believe that nature is an intelligent agent.

  368. 368
    Mung says:

    forexhr:

    In a nutshell, evolutionists believe that nature is an intelligent agent.

    Indeed.

  369. 369
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    One step at a time. Right now we are concerned with life on Earth. However, given the findings of “The Privileged Planet”, the earth and solar system were also intelligently designed.

    To make it clear, are you no longer saying that an alien life-form is the designer of life on Earth?

    Carpathian: Who created life?

    Virgil Cain: Hopefully we find out when we get to that question. ID is about the DESIGN. I have told you that so many times it is sad that you still don’t understand what that means.

    What you have constantly done is refuse to test your theory.

    The primary argument I hear from IDists is that “Darwinism” is so improbable it can be ruled out.

    “Darwinists” respond with arguments why “Darwinism” is not only probable but has occurred.

    However, when told that ID is improbable, the only response is to claim that no response is required.

    Why?

    Why is it valid to question the probability of one theory but not the other?

  370. 370
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    No, you don’t understand. The Creator cannot be a life form at all. It isn’t logically possible. The Creator must be immaterial in order to create matter. If the Creator was already a life form made of matter, then it obviously didn’t create matter. Thus, the Creator of life cannot possibly be a material life form.

    I’m glad to see that someone in the ID camp has actually stated his position, a position which most IDists here share.

    I just wish that Virgil Cain and the rest of the IDists here would be as open.

    If they did we could actually have a debate that made more sense.

    ID is about defending the validity of Creationism.

    Is there a scientific basis for Creationism?

    There might be, but anyone who tries to hide his reasons for belief in ID will never get there because their own arguments will be necessarily self-censored and thus not convincing.

    I agree with StephenB that the only entity capable of being a Creator of life, is a god-like one.

    Therefore, ID is a Genesis version of Creationism.

  371. 371
    forexhr says:

    @Carpathian

    Darwinism is not “improbable” but it is – impossible – in principle.

    Here are two of many reasons why:

    All cellular systems, processes and structures that enable the cell to live, grow and reproduce are temporally constrained by the speed of chemical reaction that can takes place in fractions of a second or minute. Complete series of chemical events that take place in a cell leading to its division and replication that produces two daughter cells generally lasts 12 to 24 hours in mammalian tissue.

    So, how could a proteins that are carriers of this events evolve over the course of many thousands or million years? Metabolic reactions, DNA replication, responding to stimuli, transporting molecules from one location to another…. all involve series of biochemical reactions that are connected by their intermediates – the products of one reaction are the substrates for subsequent reactions, and so on. So, this is temporally constrained, continuous process that cannot be stoped or freezed in order for evolution to produce some of its component in some random point in the future. If, for example, an enzyme is not present in the metabolic pathway when signaled by cell, resulting product will not be produced, cell will lose the ability to complete its cycle and die.

    In short, the effect(system component) responsible for the operation of temporarily constrained (12 to 24 hours) dynamical system cannot be caused by a temporarily unconstrained process(evolution).

    //

    Now let’s take reproductive sytem as second example. If we start from the idea that reproductive system of some organism, e.g. human(tempotal point n) were evolved through a gradual series of tiny steps and that the first self replicating organism(starting point of evolution) did not contain the genetic information needed to make three-dimensional structures and arrangements like penis, testicles, sperm, uterus, ovaries, ovum, etc., then certain things follow as a logical necessity.

    Evolution is a process that proceeds incrementally, one step at a time. One thing leads to another. This is true for all kinds of evolution. Living things evolve with small changes between generations. If that is true, than three-dimensional structures and arrangements like penis, testicles, sperm, uterus, ovaries, ovum… were also produced by evolution, incrementally, one step at a time. Incrementally means increasing in size, or adding on.
    If mentioned three-dimensional structures and arrangements of reproductive system were added on through time, then we can easily simulate the state of a system before “adding”, by reducing its current state, which means that we decrease the number of its components. So we can take one step back in “adding on” process(tempotal point n-1), or in other words, we can take one step back in “evolution of reproductive system” by removing(eg. by gene knockout) or by destructuring(eg. by gene mutation) one of its core component/subprocess/enzyme. But, we know from empirical science that this action will result in inability of that organism to either – produce germ cell, produce the sperm or egg cell, discharge the semen or releases a mature egg, produce the enzyme for egg wall penetration, unite egg and sperm, etc., etc, etc. Since organism in that state is not able to reproduce, evolution is not able to proceed. Hence, at an earlier stage of hypothetical evolutionary development of reproductive system, “adding on” procces is physically impossible since organism lacks components required for its execution.

    Now, if we start from the assumption that reproductive system of some organism is a evolutionary superstructure, which means that system is an upward extension of a previously existing and functional reproductive system, then logical necessity of component removal from this superstructure is retention of reproductive function or arrival at some simpler mode of reproduction. But experiments and countless medical examples have showed that is not the case. For this reason, the assumption that human reproductive system is a evolutionary superstructure, is false, it’s falsified by direct empirical science.

    The same is true for organisms that reproduce asexually. For example, most bacteria rely on binary fission for propagation. Before binary fission occurs, the cell must copy its genetic material and segregate these copies to opposite ends of the cell. Then the many types of proteins that comprise the cell division machinery assemble at the future division site. A key component of this machinery is the protein FtsZ. Protein monomers of FtsZ assemble into a ring-like structure at the center of a cell. Other components of the division apparatus then assemble at the FtsZ ring. This machinery is positioned so that division splits the cytoplasm and does not damage DNA in the process. As division occurs, the cytoplasm is cleaved in two, and in many bacteria, new cell wall is synthesized. The systems for order and timing of these processes are also needed.

    If we reduce core components of the systems that allows the execution of these processes – DNA replication, DNA segregation, division site selection, invagination of the cell envelope and synthesis of new cell wall… – the biological process by which new offspring is produced will be stopped, just like with sexual reproduction. Hence, this processes are not reducible.

    Standard response of proponents of evolution to this type of observation goes something like this: “this is a typical irreducible complexity argument. Irreducible complexity is debunked, and it does not exist. The reason lies in the fact that every single biological system that is deemed irreducibly complex, does in fact have in nature simpler or more complex forms. That means the said system is not, irreducibly complex”.

    It may not seem obvious at first glance but, from a logical point of view this kind of response is deeply flawed. It rests on the implicit assumption that the existence of different structural solutions for the same function automatically mean that a step by step path from one structural solution to another exists. The best way to understand these is by an example.
    Imagine if someone told you, that the car engine is not irreducibly complex, because motorcycle engine possess the same function of energy conversion from burning fuel, into useful mechanical motion. Since both engines can convert energy from burning fuel into mechanical motion, the car engine is obviously more complex form of a motorcycle engine . And vice versa, a motorcycle engine is obviously simpler form of car engine.

    But, what that has to do with the step by step path from one to another? Absolutly nothing. If we start to remove components of the car engine this action won’t result in motorcycle engine or some other less complex engine with retained energy conversion function. Component removal will result in nothing but malfunctioned engine. So in reality step by step path from one structural solution to another does not exist. If the car engine were the superstructure, the result of a step by step design process, with retained energy conversion funtction at every step then component removal would not result in malfunctioned engine but in a simpler engine with retained energy conversion funtction.

    Exactly the same is true for reproductive system. If reproductive system of some organism were evolved through a gradual series of tiny steps, by adding components one step at a time then removal of components would not result in infertility but in some simplest mode of reproduction. Since this is not the case, the assumption that the existence of different modes of reproductions in nature automatically mean that a step by step path from one reproductive system to another exists is nothing but non sequitur logical fallacy.

  372. 372
    Zachriel says:

    forexhr: Standard response of proponents of evolution to this type of observation goes something like this: “this is a typical irreducible complexity argument.

    Consider a canonical example, the mammalian middle ear. The three ossicles; malleus, incus, and stapes; are in a precise relationship with one another. Remove one, and the system fails. Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?

  373. 373
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    To make it clear, are you no longer saying that an alien life-form is the designer of life on Earth?

    To be perfectly clear- ID is NOT about the intelligent designer(s).

    What you have constantly done is refuse to test your theory.

    It is tested every day. Every day someone can possibly demonstrate that natural selection and drift are sufficient.

    I have told you exactly how ID is tested. Just because you constantly choke on my explanations doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  374. 374
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Consider a canonical example, the mammalian middle ear. The three ossicles; malleus, incus, and stapes; are in a precise relationship with one another. Remove one, and the system fails. Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?

    1- That isn’t the question

    2- No one can demonstrate such a thing- not speculate, actually demonstrate

  375. 375
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Therefore, ID is a Genesis version of Creationism.

    And yet if Genesis is refuted ID remains untouched. Creation is a specific subset of ID. If ID is refuted then so is Creation. If Creation is true then so is ID. And even if ID is true that doesn’t mean Creation is true.

    Not that we expect you to grasp that.

  376. 376
    Mung says:

    Zachrieks:

    Consider a canonical example, the mammalian middle ear. The three ossicles; malleus, incus, and stapes; are in a precise relationship with one another. Remove one, and the system fails. Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?

    Sure. Why not. But why would such a system evolve without any objective purpose?

  377. 377
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: But why would such a system evolve without any objective purpose?

    The objectively observable function is increased high-frequency hearing, a selective advantage for both predator and prey. (Think of the crunching of leaves or the snap of a twig when stepped upon.)

  378. 378
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    To be perfectly clear- ID is NOT about the intelligent designer(s).

    Read what StephenB has said.

    You cannot use a life-form as an explanation of life.

  379. 379
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Read what StephenB has said.

    ID is not about the designer. ID does NOT prevent anyone from discussing the designer

    You cannot use a life-form as an explanation of life.

    We can if we are limiting ourselves to proximate causes as in the explanation for life on earth could definitely be via some similar life form.

  380. 380
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian: You cannot use a life-form as an explanation of life.

    Virgil Cain: We can if we are limiting ourselves to proximate causes as in the explanation for life on earth could definitely be via some similar life form.

    Saying that life designed life is not an explanation.

    If the claim is that life is improbable without an intelligent cause, then the intelligent cause is what I want to examine in order to see if it is the cause of life.

  381. 381
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Saying that life designed life is not an explanation.

    Of course it is. And it also tells us how to investigate it.

    If the claim is that life is improbable without an intelligent cause,

    That isn’t the claim. The claim is your position doesn’t even belong in a probability discussion.

    then the intelligent cause is what I want to examine in order to see if it is the cause of life.

    Stomp your feet and hold your breath until you get that. Please.

  382. 382
    StephenB says:

    Carpathian

    I agree with StephenB that the only entity capable of being a Creator of life, is a god-like one.

    That is a philosophical argument based on reason. It has nothing to do with ID’s scientific inference, nor is it based on religious faith. It is what logic tells us, no more, no less.

    Therefore, ID is a Genesis version of Creationism.

    My disposition changes when people try to put words in my mouth. ID methodology says nothing about what the Creator or designer can do. ID is about the effects of design, not the quality of the designer. ID is NOT a “Genesis version of Creationism.” If you understood its methodology, or even cared enough to learn, you would not write such things. I really do wish anti-ID partisans could learn to make distinctions.

  383. 383
    Upright BiPed says:

    Consider a canonical example, the mammalian middle ear … Remove one, and the system fails. Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?

    Consider translation, a process whereby one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. If you remove one, does translation fail?

  384. 384
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Hey Upright, you never responded last time I brought this up, maybe you will this time.

    Recent research has shown that the second nucleotide of each codon correlates with the addition of amino acids of certain hydrophobicity. This means there is a chemical relationship between nucleic acid and amino acid sequence. What are your thoughts?

  385. 385
    kairosfocus says:

    AC, that there are some two dozen variants on the genetic code (and don’t forget DNA vs RNA versions) plus actual intelligent intervention to change is behaviour to put in additional effects, should suffice to show that there is not a physico-dynamic determination of the relationship between D/RNA triplets and the delivered AA. Actually, start from the tRNA, which is loaded with AA’s at a universal coupler CCA end (itself taking advantage of how AAs have an NH2 end and a COOH end which allows standardised chaining), and uses an anticodon at the opposite end when folded to control which tRNA loads its AA in sequence. Where, too, the standardised tool tip implies that AA’s are in principle reprogrammable, it is the tRNA loading process that controls which AA is linked to which anticodon through the universal coupler at the CCA tip. This, you must know; so the attempt to suggest to the contrary just above shows a questionable intent on your part not to actually look at the implications of the mechanisms involved. KF

  386. 386
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: Consider translation, a process whereby one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be.

    The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve, so any counterexample will suffice. The mammalian middle ear is a canonical example.

  387. 387
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: If you remove one, does translation fail?

    Is your claim that there is no simpler possible system that could act as a precursor to genetic translation.

  388. 388
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, strawman, also question-begging. The claim is that when an effect of complex function depends critically on multiple well matched parts such that each is necessary, then all must be present. This means that there is no simple incremental means to the function. Next, your assumption is that the middle ear “evolved.” Did you see this happen, how? No, but it MUST have happened by blind chance and mechanical necessity as you are determined to lock out the obvious alternative. Worse, you have never shown causal adequacy of the blind watchmaker mechanisms per actual observation, to originate significant body plan level systems. That is, you are in spectacular violation of vera causa and are imposing ungrounded ideological speculation dressed up in a lab coat. By contrast intelligence is a routinely observed source of technologies involving irreducibly complex functionality. And while we are at it, we exemplify intelligence but have no basis for inferring that we exhaust it or can demand that ours is the only architecture for its instantiation. KF

  389. 389
    kairosfocus says:

    Zachriel, origins science is not a licence for unbridled evolutionary materialist speculation. If you have a “simpler” mechanism, the labs are open for you to demonstrate e.g. a simpler code or simpler means of giving it force that developed into what we have today. But, the logic of coded communication will require co-ordinated encoding and decoding protocols, means of physical instantiation and transmission, with storage also involved, and means to regulate and coordinate the process. KF

  390. 390
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: The claim is that when an effect of complex function depends critically on multiple well matched parts such that each is necessary, then all must be present.

    The mammalian middle ear is made up of “multiple well matched parts such that each is necessary, then all must be present.” Remove one, and the system fails.

    kairosfocus: Next, your assumption is that the middle ear “evolved.”

    It’s not an assumption. It was a question, “Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?” Do we have evidence of a simpler system, and a possible incremental pathway?

    kairosfocus: But, the logic of coded communication will require co-ordinated encoding and decoding protocols, means of physical instantiation and transmission, with storage also involved, and means to regulate and coordinate the process.

    You’re saying it is impossible for the triplet code to have a simpler precursor, such as a doublet code?

  391. 391
    kairosfocus says:

    Z, your collective comprises educated people, who know that evolutionary materialist ideology has been imposed on science and who full well know or could easily know why Newton in Opticks, Query 31, insisted that ideas in science should have empirical foundation. And why he championed the vera causa principle in his rules of reasoning in Principia, trying to lock out empty speculative hypotheses from being imposed on science. If you want to make claims as suggested above, provide observational warrant. There is a known cause of FSCO/I and it is backed by the implications of beyond astronomical search spaces. If you want to overthrow that, show warrant that FSCO/I can and does readily come about by blind chance and mechanical necessity. KF

  392. 392
    Mung says:

    Carpathian:

    You cannot use a life-form as an explanation of life.

    Don’t be ignorant, of course you can. This canard of yours has been repeatedly refuted and yet you insist on chanting it over and over again.

    If humans ever create life in the lab, or create artificial life, there is no reason whatsoever that human as a life-form creating life cannot be used as an explanation.

  393. 393
    Mung says:

    Alicia Cartelli:

    This means there is a chemical relationship between nucleic acid and amino acid sequence.

    No, it does not mean that.

    What are your thoughts?

    That you still haven’t addressed the argument.

  394. 394
    Upright BiPed says:

    Alicia,

    The cell needs combinatorial expansion to be able to encode the type of information it needs to organize itself. Combinatorial expansion is enabled by spatial orientation. There is no such thing as a “second” nucleotide without the recognition of spatial orientation. There is also the issue of logic, and some might even say special pleading. In every single instance where we find translation, we find one arrangement of matter that evokes an effect, while a second arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. This is what gives the system the independence to specify something among alternatives. Are we to say that all instances of translation require this independence, except for genetic translation, where the effect is determined by the medium itself? And there is also the pragmatic issue. Let us say, under physical law, a nucleotide can have a latent mathematical correlation to amino acids of a certain hydrophobicity if it appears in a system where it’s the second of three nucleotides in a sequence and that system includes some other arrangement of matter to connect it to that amino acid — now what? And finally, there is the issue of Occam’s Razor. How does the cell specify an amino acid? As a matter of direct observation, the physical structure of the protein aaRS establishes the relationship between them.

    Would you mind answering my question:

    Consider translation, a process whereby one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. If you remove one, does translation fail?

  395. 395
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    I am not saying that the fact that it is the “second nucleotide” is particularly important, it is merely a chemical leftover from the original translational system. This original system depended on the chemical relationship between nucleotide and amino acid that has now been demonstrated to exist. The original system did not need to code for all 20 amino acids commonly used today, nor did it need to be as precise as to exactly which amino acids are added. The ability to associate nucleotide with amino acid simply based on structure of the base and hydrophobicity of the amino acid is a big step in the evolution life.

    Sorry, but your “translational system semiotics” argument seems to be dead in the water.

  396. 396
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    The mammalian middle ear is made up of “multiple well matched parts such that each is necessary, then all must be present.” Remove one, and the system fails.

    That is how it was designed. And yes that is one criteria for saying something is IC. The other is that it cannot have arisen via slight modifications of an existing system that has the same function. Behe 1996

    The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve,

    That is not the claim. The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve via natural selection and drift.

  397. 397
    Upright BiPed says:

    The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve, so any counterexample will suffice. The mammalian middle ear is a canonical example.

    This is an illogical statement, and it doesn’t answer the question I asked.

    Is your claim that there is no simpler possible system that could act as a precursor to genetic translation.

    Again, this doesn’t answer the question.

    Translation is a process where one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. If you remove a part, does the process fail?

  398. 398
    Virgil Cain says:

    Alicia Cartelli:

    Recent research has shown that the second nucleotide of each codon correlates with the addition of amino acids of certain hydrophobicity.

    That could be part of the code

    This means there is a chemical relationship between nucleic acid and amino acid sequence.

    No, it doesn’t. It could easily be a key to the code. There isn’t any physio-chemical connection at all.

  399. 399
    Virgil Cain says:

    Alicia Cartelli:

    I am not saying that the fact that it is the “second nucleotide” is particularly important, it is merely a chemical leftover from the original translational system.

    What original translation system And what is your evidence for it?

    This original system depended on the chemical relationship between nucleotide and amino acid that has now been demonstrated to exist.

    The original system that never existed? Your imagination is not evidence.

    Sorry, but your “translational system semiotics” argument seems to be dead in the water.

    Just cuz you can imagine something that doesn’t require a code? Really?

    You are a joke.

  400. 400
    Upright BiPed says:

    I am not saying that the fact that it is the “second nucleotide” is particularly important, it is merely a chemical leftover from the original translational system. [Assumption] This original system depended on the chemical relationship between nucleotide and amino acid that has now been demonstrated to exist. [Assertion] The original system did not need to code for all 20 amino acids commonly used today, [Assumption] nor did it need to be as precise as to exactly which amino acids are added. [Assertion]The ability to associate nucleotide with amino acid simply based on structure of the base and hydrophobicity of the amino acid is a big step in the evolution life.[Conclusion]

    You didn’t respond to a word I said, and still didn’t answer my question. You don’t need me for that.

  401. 401
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel’s non-starter:

    Consider a canonical example, the mammalian middle ear. The three ossicles; malleus, incus, and stapes; are in a precise relationship with one another. Remove one, and the system fails. Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system?

    1- Three parts. Even Behe’s mousetrap had 5. And you cannot show the minimal IC can evolve via undirected processes and extrapolate that into all IC can evolve via undirected processes.

    2- Zachriel treats the system as if the bones themselves are what get modified. Sorry Zachriel, you have to account for the step-by-step mutations required. Some testable evolutionary pathway.

    Evolutionists always forget that part. They think they can just remold existing systems into newer systems but forget that has to be accounted for on the genetic level, less they be preaching some form of Lamarkism.

  402. 402
    Alicia Cartelli says:

    Whatever you say upright, keep fighting the good fight!
    But unfortunately, as I said, it is now known that there is a direct “physico-chemical” (as you love to say) relationship between one arrangement of matter (nucleic acid) and the other arrangement of matter (amino acid) in the translation system.
    Your translation system semiotics argument is dead in the water.

  403. 403
    Virgil Cain says:

    Alicia:

    But unfortunately, as I said, it is now known that there is a direct “physico-chemical” (as you love to say) relationship between one arrangement of matter (nucleic acid) and the other arrangement of matter (amino acid) in the translation system.

    All you did is show there was a CORRELATION, deary. You did not show there is a direct “physio-chemical” connection.

    You are deluded. And if you don’t agree with that there is a $3.1 million dollar offer for anyone who can show a natural path to the genetic code.

  404. 404
    Mung says:

    All you did is show there was a CORRELATION, deary. You did not show there is a direct “physio-chemical” connection.

    Actually, Alicia showed no such thing. It was merely asserted to be the case. But even so, it deserves a huge so what.

    Let’s try this again:

    Recent research has shown that the second nucleotide of each codon correlates with the addition of amino acids of certain hydrophobicity.

    So? Why should anyone be surprised about that?

    What are your thoughts?

    I think that hand-waving isn’t an argument.

  405. 405
    Virgil Cain says:

    All you did is assert there could be a CORRELATION, deary.

    My thoughts is if such a correlation exists it is a key to the code.

  406. 406
    Mung says:

    There’s a correlation between the sequence of nucleotides and the sequence of amino acids. Therefore there must be a direct “physico-chemical” relationship.

    Upright BiPed’s argument is dead in the cytoplasm.

  407. 407
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: If you want to make claims as suggested above, provide observational warrant.

    Zachriel: The mammalian middle ear is made up of “multiple well matched parts such that each is necessary, then all must be present.” Remove one, and the system fails.

    There’s considerable scientific knowledge concerning auditory ossicles that are not well-matched or damaged.
    http://www.drjoannawalton.com/.....uloplasty/

    Could such a system have evolved from a simpler system? Do we have evidence of a simpler system, and a possible incremental pathway?

    Zachriel: The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve, so any counterexample will suffice. The mammalian middle ear is a canonical example.

    Upright BiPed: This is an illogical statement,

    It’s hardly illogical. If the claim is that A is impossible, finding an instance of A is a direct contradiction of the claim.

    Upright BiPed: Translation is a process where one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. If you remove a part, does the process fail?

    Yes, the current translation system is irreducibly complex. Are you saying that the current system couldn’t have evolved from a simpler system because it is irreducible?

  408. 408
    kairosfocus says:

    Zachriel, have you documented per observation the incremental, blind chance and mechanical necessity, unguided origin of a body-plan? Or, even of the inner ear? Etc? Or even just of FSCO/I in general? If not you are still simply failing the vera causa, observed adequate cause test, backed up by imposing a priori, question-begging evolutionary materialist speculation or its fellow travellers dressed up in a lab coat. No me fingo hypothesi. KF

  409. 409
    Zachriel says:

    kairosfocus: Or, even of the inner ear?

    To determine that we would have to show an incremental and selectable pathway. Do you think such an incremental and selectable pathway exists to the formation of the irreducibly complex mammalian middle ear?

  410. 410
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    To determine that we would have to show an incremental and selectable pathway.

    And you cannot do that.

    Do you think such an incremental and selectable pathway exists to the formation of the irreducibly complex mammalian middle ear?

    The mammalian inner ear does NOT meet Behe’s criteria for IC. Zachriel’s willful ignorance strikes out, again.

  411. 411
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    Yes, the current translation system is irreducibly complex.

    The current translation system is the only translation system we have evidence for.

    Are you saying that the current system couldn’t have evolved from a simpler system because it is irreducible?

    The current system could not have evolved via undirected processes. No one even knows how to test such a claim.

  412. 412
    Mung says:

    By the way Zachriel, when Behe speaks of IC he’s talking about molecular machines. Do you have any evidence that Behe things the mammalian inner ear is IC or could not have evolved in a step-wise fashion?

    If you remove the nerves in your arm your hand may not work too well, but that’s not what Behe is talking about.

  413. 413
    Mung says:

    Tryptophan is one of the 22 standard amino acids and an essential amino acid in the human diet. It is encoded in the standard genetic code as the codon UGG.

    Oh look. there’s a correlation between the codon UGG and the amino acid Tryptophan. It must therefore be the case that there is a direct “physico-chemical” relationship.

    Give it up Upright BiPed. You have no case.

  414. 414
    Zachriel says:

    Mung: By the way Zachriel, when Behe speaks of IC he’s talking about molecular machines.

    No. He’s talking about machines generally. His definition encompasses the mammalian middle ear.

    Mung: Do you have any evidence that Behe things the mammalian inner ear is IC or could not have evolved in a step-wise fashion?

    The mammalian middle ear is irreducibly complex, and Behe claims the evolution of irreducible complexity to be incredibly implausible.

  415. 415
    Virgil Cain says:

    His definition encompasses the mammalian middle ear.

    No, according to “Darwin’s Black Box” it doesn’t

    and Behe claims the evolution of irreducible complexity to be incredibly implausible.

    Also incorrect. Why do you insist on misrepresenting Behe?

  416. 416
    EugeneS says:

    Zachriel,

    All known life is formally organized. A biological function does not just appear out of nowhere by means of evolution.

    The evolution of the co-optation mechanisms themselves is incredibly improbable, i.e. the probability of such things to come about by evolutionary unguided means is an operational zero. In order for a function to co-opt, there must be a processor that decides when and how to switch between functions. I.e. it has to be complex enough to accept function A as input and produce function B as output. And that is impossible without a formal, logical protocol on which such bio-machinery would inevitably causally depend.

  417. 417
    Zachriel says:

    EugeneS: All known life is formally organized.

    Given a suitable definition of “formal organization“, perhaps; but so what? Are you claiming “formal organization” can’t evolve from a simpler precursor?

    EugeneS: The evolution of the co-optation mechanisms themselves is incredibly improbable.

    How so? Mouths are made for eating, but can be coopted for other functions; breathing, talking, kissing, whistling.

    EugeneS: A biological function does not just appear out of nowhere by means of evolution.

    In any case, that wasn’t the question, but whether there is an incremental and selectable pathway to the formation of the irreducibly complex mammalian middle ear from more primitive forms. If so, it means that an irreducibly complex structure can evolve naturally, refuting forexhr @371.

  418. 418
    EugeneS says:

    You did not get it, Zachriel.

    In order for something to be co-opted, the one who has the something must be intelligent enough. This is what I can’t understand in Ken Miller’s counter-argument against Michael Behe’s mousetrap. Miller said that he as a boy used his mousetrap as a catapult. What did not appreciate though was that he was a clever enough boy to be able to make that decision.

    No, Zachriel. In order for the complex machinery to come about, blind evolutionary search is not enough. You need to have intelligent guidance and forethought. Machines capable of decision making could have come about only by means of decision making.

    Be sure, the proper definition of formal organization does exist. The thing is that physicality alone cannot produce formal function. You can’t change that simple undeniable truth.

  419. 419
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    In any case, that wasn’t the question, but whether there is an incremental and selectable pathway to the formation of the irreducibly complex mammalian middle ear from more primitive forms.

    Dr Behe:

    “An irreducibly complex evolutionary pathway is one that contains one or more unselected steps (that is, one or more necessary-but-unselected mutations). The degree of irreducible complexity is the number of unselected steps in the pathway.” (A Response to Critics of Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe, PCID, Volume 1.1, January February March, 2002; iscid.org/)/

    You lose.

    Z:

    If so, it means that an irreducibly complex structure can evolve naturally

    It doesn’t show that natural selection and drift did it. That is the argument.

  420. 420
    Upright BiPed says:

    Zach: The claim is that irreducible structures can’t evolve, so any counterexample will suffice.

    UB: This is an illogical statement

    Zach: It’s hardly illogical. If the claim is that A is impossible, finding an instance of A is a direct contradiction of the claim.

    It’s illogical to suppose that a counter-claim against an individual proposition of IC invalidates all things that may be IC.

    UB: Translation is a process where one arrangement of matter evokes an effect, while another arrangement of matter determines what the effect will be. If you remove a part, does the process fail?

    Zach: Yes, the current translation system is irreducibly complex.

    Cells replicate proteins by means of prescriptive synthesis, where amino acids are individually specified and placed in spatial and temporal control. Amino acid A is added to a polypeptide, then amino acid B, then amino acid C, etc. To start a protein, then have amino acids A-B-C appear in order, and then end the synthesis, requires both specification and control.

    The cell accomplishes this by using an individual arrangement of a medium (a codon) to represent an individual amino acid to the system. It then uses a second arrangement of matter (an aaRS) to establish a systematic relationship between the arrangement of the medium and the amino acid it specifies among the alternatives, and it places that amino acid under systematic control. The product of the system (biological A-B-C) requires two things. It requires both objects in order to be assembled as a temporal effect of the system, and it requires the construction details of the system to be encoded in the sequence of codons.

    Are you saying that the current system couldn’t have evolved from a simpler system because it is irreducible?

    I am saying that the temporal product of protein synthesis requires the utility of representation. And that utility does not occur without an arrangement of matter to evoke an effect in the system and another arrangement of matter to establish what the effect will be. Indeed, that is exactly what is found. Crick didn’t propose the adapter hypothesis because it was aesthetic.

  421. 421
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    Crick didn’t propose the adapter hypothesis because it was aesthetic.

    Obviously the adapter hypothesis was proposed to explain the existence of the direct “physico-chemical” relationship between nucleotides and amino acids.

  422. 422
    Mung says:

    Zachriels:

    The mammalian middle ear is irreducibly complex…

    No, it isn’t.

  423. 423
    Zachriel says:

    EugeneS: In order for the complex machinery to come about, blind evolutionary search is not enough. You need to have intelligent guidance and forethought.

    No. Just fecundity and a selectable pathway.

  424. 424
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: It’s illogical to suppose that a counter-claim against an individual proposition of IC invalidates all things that may be IC.

    Claim: A is impossible.
    Observation: Instance of A.
    Claim is false.

    Claim: A is highly improbable.
    Observation: Class of instances of A.
    Claim is false.

    Upright BiPed: I am saying that the temporal product of protein synthesis requires the utility of representation.

    And you’re claiming that “representation” can’t evolve because it is irreducible?

    Zachriel: The mammalian middle ear is irreducibly complex…

    Mung: No, it isn’t.

    It’s complex and irreducible. Remove any part, and it fails.

    Behe: A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

  425. 425
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel is a willfully ignorant troll.

  426. 426
    Upright BiPed says:

    Claim: A is impossible/highly improbable.
    Observation: Instance of A/Class of instances of A
    Claim is false.

    It remains illogical to suppose that if a counter-claim is made against one individual proposition of IC, then all claims of IC are invalid. That was the statement I responded to.

    And you’re claiming that “representation” can’t evolve because it is irreducible?

    Read my words. There is a specific temporal effect that comes into being as the product of a particular process. I think I’ve been fairly clear on the requirements.

  427. 427
    EugeneS says:

    Zachriel,

    “Just fecundity and a selectable pathway”.

    Says who?

    In other words, you, following Dawkins, are claiming that the cellular machinery responsible for DNA error-checking and repair is entirely explainable by replication errors? Multilayer fail-safe error checking system is due to selection accumulating ‘just the right’ replication errors?! That nonsensical claim is not supported by any evidence, Zachriel.

  428. 428
    Zachriel says:

    Upright BiPed: It remains illogical to suppose that if a counter-claim is made against one individual proposition of IC, then all claims of IC are invalid.

    If the claim is that irreducible complexity can’t evolve, then a single counterexample suffices. If the claim is that it is vastly improbable that irreducible complexity can evolve, a sufficient class of instances would suffice. The latter is especially convincing if the examples show why irreducible complexity is not a barrier of any sort for adaptive evolution.

    Upright BiPed: I am saying that the temporal product of protein synthesis requires the utility of representation.

    As RNA can act as a catalyst and replicator, that’s not necessarily the case.

    EugeneS: Says who?

    Forexhr’s original contention was the irreducible complexity couldn’t evolve. The evidence indicates that if we have fecundity and a selectable pathway, evolution is sufficient for adaptation. The question then is whether such pathways are available for structures which are irreducible. The example under discussion is the mammalian middle ear.

  429. 429
    EugeneS says:

    “Mammalian middle ear”.

    Zachriel, before discussing such complex matters there must be a solid case of explaining how elementary blocks of life, i.e. molecular machinery, can evolve, in practice that is. In practice, Zachriel. I repeat, in practice. “In practice” means:

    – a complete and detailed account with figures, pieces of coherent text and pictures attached to it. “Complete” meaning from beginning to end: from the absence of functioning machinery to complete properly functional cellular core capable of replicating, growing, reacting to simuli, adapting and metabolizing.

    – this must be demonstrable and repeatable as in any other scientific discipline.

    – as well as in any other science, this account must contain quantifiable predictions. No story telling should any longer be tolerated, i.e. predictions must contain concrete figures, using which people who pay taxes can independently judge how accurate the predictions really are and decide for themselves, based on that, whether they want to continue funding individual research programs.

    This is how it must be done. This is how it is done in other disciplines. No exception must be made for evolutionary biologists. It is time they stopped lying to the gullible and blissfully unaware taxpayer.

    Until then no hand-waving about “middle ears” will be taken seriously. Why? Because first you have to satisfactorily explain small simple things and only then, provided the explanations of smaller things are scientifically sound, do you try and explain bigger and more complicated things.

  430. 430
    Zachriel says:

    EugeneS: before discussing such complex matters there must be a solid case of explaining how elementary block of life, i.e. molecular machinery can evolve, in practice that is.

    If we had to know everything to know anything, then science would never progress. It is quite possible to propose and test hypotheses about evolution without knowing the details of molecular biology. For instance, we don’t have to know about microscopic sperm and egg to understand that sex leads to babies.

    EugeneS: – this must be demonstrable and repeatable as in any other scientific discipline.

    That’s exactly wrong. For instance, Newton proposed a theory that explained the motions of planets without knowing how they formed. Mendeleev proposed a periodic chart, successfully predicting the existence of heretofore unknown elements, without knowing why the symmetry existed. And Darwin proposed a theory of evolution without a valid theory of heredity.

  431. 431
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    If the claim is that irreducible complexity can’t evolve,

    That is not the claim.

    then a single counterexample suffices

    Only if said example exhibits the max IC, ie produces a living organism using only matter and energy.

    Only an imbecile would think that a 3-part “IC” system is a counterexample to the claim a 40 part system could not evolve via natural selection and drift.

    As RNA can act as a catalyst and replicator,

    RNA is a most basic catalyst with limited capabilities. And so far only designed RNAs have replicated with the help of other RNAs.

  432. 432
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    And Darwin proposed a theory of evolution

    Darwin’s wasn’t a scientific theory.

  433. 433
    Box says:

    Z: And Darwin proposed a theory of evolution without a valid theory of heredity.

    And without a coherent materialistic concept of an organism. He literally didn’t know what he was talking about. Needless to say that even today there is no such concept.

  434. 434
    Upright BiPed says:

    As RNA can act as a catalyst and replicator, that’s not necessarily the case

    Every representation that has ever existed has been a material object that could do something other than serve as a representational medium. That fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to being a representation. Perhaps you should re-read the details of the process, then offer up your own details of what functions you think are resolved by a one-object system in place of the two-object system. I’ll get Gerald Joyce on the horn and advise him that he needn’t worry about developing a ribozyme, template, or subunits – one RNA can do it all because “RNA can act as a catalyst and a replicator”. I’m sure he’ll be impressed by that news.

  435. 435
    Mung says:

    I’m sure he’ll be impressed by that news.

    That’s only if he believes it.

  436. 436
    Mung says:

    Zachriel: The mammalian middle ear is irreducibly complex…

    Mung: No, it isn’t.

    Zachriel: It’s complex and irreducible. Remove any part, and it fails.

    What do you consider the parts to be?

  437. 437
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel quotes Behe:

    A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.

    And presents an example with 3 parts when Behe states “several” 3 = a few parts. Several > a few. Also the very next sentence in “Darwin’s Black Box” is:

    An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition non-functional.-page 39

    Zachriel gives us an example that is contrary to that.

    What about an indirect route? On page 40 Dr Behe says:

    Even if a system is irreducibly complex (and thus could not have been produced directly), however, one cannot definitively rule out the possibility of an indirect, circuitous route. As the complexity of an interacting system increases, though, the likelihood of such an indirect route drops precipitously. (bold added)

    And yet another refutation of Zachriel’s claims. The number of parts is key and showing that a three part system can evolve via natural selection and drift says nothing about four or more part systems.

    More from Dr Behe:

    In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.(1)

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.

    Of course Zachriel will ignore all of that so I suggest all pro-ID people to pound Zachriel with Dr Behe’s real claims.

    Thank you

  438. 438
    Virgil Cain says:

    And on page 41 Dr Behe states:

    …[T]he question is whether numerous anatomical changes can be accounted for by many small mutations.

    Magical mystery mutations can do anything, Dr Behe. 😉

  439. 439
    Zachriel says:

    Box: He literally didn’t know what he was talking about.

    Note only was Darwin one of the foremost biologists of his day, his theory has made many empirically verifiable predictions.

    Upright BiPed: That fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to being a representation.

    Using your own loaded language, RNA is both “representation” and that which is being “represented”.

    Upright BiPed: Perhaps you should re-read the details of the process, then offer up your own details of what functions you think are resolved by a one-object system in place of the two-object system.

    A one-object system is a plausible evolutionary precursor.

    Mung: What do you consider the parts to be?

    There are three primary components; the malleus, incus, and stapes, each of which is of complex character and must be in a specific relationship.
    http://s65.photobucket.com/use.....s.jpg.html

  440. 440
    Andre says:

    Zachriel

    Seriously?

    Darwin said black people are just above Gorilla’s and below white people. Is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin said the fossil record would prove his theory is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin said Sexual selection is how we come to mate is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin said survival of the fittest is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin said that small incremental changes over time produces new species. Is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin was wrong and he fooled a whole lot of superstitious people and filled their heads with utter nonsense.

  441. 441
    Upright BiPed says:

    Upright BiPed: Perhaps you should re-read the details of the process, then offer up your own details of what functions you think are resolved by a one-object system in place of the two-object system.

    Zachriel: A one-object system is a plausible evolutionary precursor.

    When you sum up all the details like that, it’s hard not to be amused.

    cheers

  442. 442
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    There are three primary components; the malleus, incus, and stapes, each of which is of complex character and must be in a specific relationship.

    And undirected evolution cannot account for any of them. You lose. Also three < several, so you lose twice.

  443. 443
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: Darwin said the fossil record would prove his theory is this an accurate prediction?

    That is largely correct. There is a vast fossil history supporting biological succession.

    Andre: Darwin said Sexual selection is how we come to mate is this an accurate prediction?

    You garbled that one.

    Andre: Darwin said survival of the fittest is this an accurate prediction?

    Yes, that is largely accurate.

    Andre: Darwin said that small incremental changes over time produces new species. Is this an accurate prediction?

    Darwin said that incremental changes resulted in adaptation. While less clear on speciation, he realized that species multiply.

    Upright BiPed: When you sum up all the details like that, it’s hard not to be amused.

    Are you saying it is not possible for a one-object system to be a precursor to a two-object system?

  444. 444
    Andre says:

    Zachriel

    Hahahahahahaha you are lost.

    Darwin himself hoped the fossil record would prove it one day guess what sugar? It still has not happened!

    Darwin’s sexual selection proven false

    Survival of the fittest is a circular argument.

    Your last answer makes no sense more gobbley gook from you!

  445. 445
    Virgil Cain says:

    There is a vast fossil history supporting biological succession.

    Only in your imagination.

    Darwin said that incremental changes resulted in adaptation.

    And he never tested that idea.

    While less clear on speciation, he realized that species multiply.

    They were intelligently designed to do so.

  446. 446
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

  447. 447
    Carpathian says:

    StephenB:

    My disposition changes when people try to put words in my mouth. ID methodology says nothing about what the Creator or designer can do. ID is about the effects of design, not the quality of the designer. ID is NOT a “Genesis version of Creationism.” If you understood its methodology, or even cared enough to learn, you would not write such things. I really do wish anti-ID partisans could learn to make distinctions.

    You previously said the following:

    No, you don’t understand. The Creator cannot be a life form at all. It isn’t logically possible. The Creator must be immaterial in order to create matter. If the Creator was already a life form made of matter, then it obviously didn’t create matter. Thus, the Creator of life cannot possibly be a material life form.

    You have made a statement about the designer and his capabilities.

    You have also made a statement about ID methodology.

    Everything you said in your first statement I agree with and so does Genesis.

    I really do wish ID partisans would analyze their statements more carefully.

  448. 448
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Zachriel is a willfully ignorant troll.

    Your frustration is not with Zachriel, it is simply that you don’t have a scientific response to “Darwinism”.

    All anti-ID commenters get the same response, but it is not we who are the problem.

    Follow the evidence, wherever it goes.

  449. 449
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian, Please buy a vowel. One ignorant troll trying to stick up for another is just entertainment. And your ignorance of ID and science is also very amusing.

  450. 450
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian, Please buy a vowel. One ignorant troll trying to stick up for another is just entertainment. And your ignorance of ID and science is also very amusing.

    So again, personal attacks, no science in this comment.

  451. 451
    Virgil Cain says:

    Science? You don’t know anything about science. Your posts never contain any science. Again, buy a vowel.

  452. 452
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain,

    StephenB: No, you don’t understand. The Creator cannot be a life form at all. It isn’t logically possible. The Creator must be immaterial in order to create matter. If the Creator was already a life form made of matter, then it obviously didn’t create matter. Thus, the Creator of life cannot possibly be a material life form.

    StephenB has made a statement about the designer.

    For ID to be possible, this statement by StephenB must be correct.

    What do you think?

  453. 453
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    StephenB has made a statement about the designer.

    Good for StephenB. He also clarified his statement yet you didn’t post that. Why?

    For ID to be possible, this statement by StephenB must be correct.

    That is a possibility. However ID is not about the designer and nothing you can say will ever change that fact.

  454. 454
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    That is a possibility. However ID is not about the designer and nothing you can say will ever change that fact.

    Of course it’s about the designer and StephenB recognizes that.

    Without an adequate designer, ID is less probable than “Darwinism”.

    That’s why our side wants to know about the designer.

  455. 455
    EugeneS says:

    Zachiel,

    You have a very distorted idea about science. Both Newton and Mendeleev proposed theories that led to explanations of repeatable observations and predicted something concrete and measurable. Later on these predictions were found to be very accurate, which proved the theories were correct. Remarkably, the theories laid a foundation of a fruitful research agenda full of new insights.

    It is not the case with Darwinian evolution. A valid scientific theory must be supported by evidence. There is only evidence of very small change in existing biological functions that certainly does not lead to the formation of new phyla. Fossil record does not present satisfactory evidence that Darwin’s ideas turned out right.

    Darwinian evolution cannot account for novel functions. It selects from among existing functions, not for future functions. All Darwinian evolution can ever describe is climbing to a local maximum. This amounts at best to selecting the best possible outcome from among the available outcomes under pressure. It has zero potential for invention and insight, which are critically needed for genuine novelty. Blind search is just incapable of that.

  456. 456
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Of course it’s about the designer

    Never was and never will be. Obviously you are an ignorant troll.

    Good luck with that.

    BTW educated people understand that you don’t even ask about the designer until after design has been detected.

  457. 457
    Virgil Cain says:

    EugeneS- Zachriel doesn’t know jack about science. Zachriel is a bluffer, equivocator and misrepresents ID.

    FYI…

  458. 458
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Good for StephenB. He also clarified his statement yet you didn’t post that. Why?

    I printed his “clarification” in #447.

    I prefer to call those two particular comments a contradiction since one does not complement the other.

    Go back and read it again.

  459. 459
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian- Then you are a dishonest and ignorant troll, Congratulations, loser.

  460. 460
    Zachriel says:

    Andre: Darwin himself hoped the fossil record would prove it one day guess what

    The fossil record shows a clear progression, from simple vertebrates to gnathostomes to land vertebrates to amniotes to mammals to ungulates, to name just a single thread.

    Andre: Darwin’s sexual selection proven false

    There’s a great deal of evidence concerning sexual selection. See Central High 2012. Also, see Lumley et al., Sexual selection protects against extinction, Nature 2015.

    Andre: Survival of the fittest is a circular argument.

    No. It refers to the fact that some adaptations can be shown to increase fecundity.

  461. 461
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Never was and never will be. Obviously you are an ignorant troll.

    There is no science in your reply.

    BTW educated people understand that you don’t even ask about the designer until after design has been detected.

    No science here either.

  462. 462
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian- Then you are a dishonest and ignorant troll, Congratulations, loser.

    I see I’ve discovered your limits when it come to a technical discussion.

  463. 463
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    There is no science in your reply.

    There wasn’t any science in what I was responding to.

    No science here either.

    Just facts, that is what has you so confused.

    I see I’ve discovered your limits when it come to a technical discussion.

    You are incapable of a discussion, let alone a technical discussion.

  464. 464
    Virgil Cain says:

    Zachriel:

    The fossil record shows a clear progression, from simple vertebrates to gnathostomes to land vertebrates to amniotes to mammals to ungulates, to name just a single thread.

    Except when it has tetrapods appearing before fish-a-pods! You lose.

  465. 465
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain,
    Your behavior is exactly the opposite of what students should be taught in schools.

    I believe they should be taught respect for fellow debaters.

    You don’t have to give me your position, I can see it from the example you’re setting.

  466. 466
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian- Please go soak your head as you have no idea what students should be taught in schools. You are not a “fellow debater”. You are a dishonest and ignorant troll.

    Students would actually understand that ID is not about the designer. Students would understand that you don’t ask questions about a designer until AFTER you have determined design exists. You are too stupid to be a student.

    Your position is bent over with your head up your arse.

  467. 467
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain,

    Students should be taught to respect others by example.

    Is this your example?

    Virgil Cain: Your position is bent over with your head up your arse.

    The theory you are trying to promote, i.e. biological ID, has no answers to anything related to the “design of life”.

    It is less probable than “Darwinism”.

    Prove me wrong with answers suggesting why it is possible, or simply continue to act like a frustrated child.

  468. 468
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    Students should be taught to respect others by example.

    Cuz you say so? That’s not an argument and it isn’t science.

    The theory you are trying to promote, i.e. biological ID, has no answers to anything related to the “design of life”.

    It has the answer that living organisms were intelligently designed. That is more than your position has.

    It is less probable than “Darwinism”.

    Again with the science-free uneducated opinion.

    Prove me wrong with answers suggesting why it is possible,

    The evidence says that the intelligent design is real. That means it was obviously possible.

    Prove me wrong by providing a model and testable hypotheses for blind and undirected processes producing living organisms. Or you will prove me right by not doing so.

    And thank you for ignoring the substance of my post. That alone proves that you are an ignorant coward. Is that what you would teach students? To be a belligerent coward?

  469. 469
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian: Students should be taught to respect others by example.

    Virgil Cain: Cuz you say so? That’s not an argument and it isn’t science.

    No, but it is required for civil discussion.

    Thanks for admitting ID accepts that disrespect is acceptable in their students.

    I can see that it doesn’t exist in you and most of the ID proponents here.

  470. 470
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    Carpathian: It is less probable than “Darwinism”.

    Virgil Cain: Again with the science-free uneducated opinion.

    Since ID has no scientific statements showing that ID is probable , then ID is science-free uneducated opinion.

    “Darwinism” however, has literally tons of data, supporting the probability of the theory.

  471. 471
    Carpathian says:

    Virgil Cain:

    The evidence says that the intelligent design is real. That means it was obviously possible.

    The fact that there is no evidence supporting a methodology that supports ID, there is nothing to suggest it was possible, then or now .

  472. 472
    Virgil Cain says:

    Carpathian:

    No, but it is required for civil discussion.

    Respect is earned. And you are incapable of a civil discussion.

    Since ID has no scientific statements showing that ID is probable…

    We have a scientific methodology showing that intelligent design is present, so obviously it was certain. And “Darwinism” still has nothing. It doesn’t even deserve to be part of a probability discussion.